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HARPTALLICA


Harptallica - Pluck 'Em All


Interview by Dark Starr

Harp is such a lovely ethereal instrument, painting pictures of beauty with airy wisps of sound. It certainly doesn't make you think of Metallica,does it? Well, that's because you haven't heard Harptallica.

Patricia Kline and Ashley Lancz Toman are the two ladies who make up Harptallica. I got the chance to ask them what drove them to come up with such a unique conglomeration of sounds, the art of the harp and a lot more. It's definitely an insightful look at a unusual musical act and their inspiration.


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: We might as well start with the obvious question - what made you think of doing Metallica music and performing the songs as a harp duo?

Patricia Kline: Ashley's idea really, so I'll let her talk about that..

Ashley Lancz Toman: I'm a harpist who happens to be a metal fan. I would listen to some of the Metallica songs such as "Orion" and "Fade to Black" and wanted to play them myself. Some songs work for solo harp,but with the two harps you can include all the parts easier. For example,when one harp plays the guitar solo, the other can do the rhythmic guitar part. I also thought it would be fun to just have another harpist to play along with, since I play solo most of the time - something new.

WC: Have you heard from Metallica at all in terms of their reaction to your version of their songs?

ALT: No.

PK: Not as of yet. Hopefully they like our renditions if and when they hear them ,though.

WC: What do you think harp arrangements bring in terms of new territory to the music?

PK: Obviously it's a very different sound and I think it really allows you to listen to different aspects of the songs. Because we can't be as loud or use distortion and we don't have lyrics, our versions have to focus more on the lines and layers themselves and on the changing textures in the music.

ALT: In some parts, such as in the guitar solos, I did have to take some artistic freedom since the harp can't do the same effects that an electric guitar can. I kind of have to translate it to what the harp can do. As far as harp music, there isn't a ton of stuff out there. We have to borrow from piano music a lot. Now harpists can have a little heavy metal added to their repertoire.

WC: I've heard that harp is one of the most difficult instruments to play. How did you get started playing harp and do you play other instruments as well?

PK: I fell in love with the harp when I was five, after playing it at a musical petting zoo, and ended up nagging my parents about learning to play for quite a while.I started taking lessons when I was 11. Before that I played piano, which is a great jumping off point for anything in music and I played flute as well. I never had the passion for either of those instruments like I do for harp though, so I never practiced and as a result I'm not very good at them.

ALT: I was 14 when I started. I saw it on TV one night and thought it looked cool. Plus harpists always get to wear pretty dresses; it seemed fun, and different. I wasn't really doing anything else at the time. After a few months of nagging for lessons, my parents bought me a small, little, toy harp to get me started. I had never tried playing an instrument before. In music school they made us take piano, but I was absolutely abysmal at it. I never practiced for my piano lesson.

WC: What's ahead for you?

PK: As for Harptallica, I think we're just going to go as far as we can with it. We've talked about branching out into
other band's catalogues and we've both noodled around with composing some original works for the duo, which has been a lot of fun. We'd like to do some more live shows (We just finished our first tour) and record another CD as well.

Personally I'm also continuing to go after a more classical sort of career... to be specific, auditioning for orchestras.

ALT: We're definitely going to do a tour of the U.S. west coast in the spring. I'm very excited for that. We're also talking about doing a Japan tour. I really loved the touring, I never got tired of getting to perform the music every night. That hour we played on stage always went by so fast. I can't wait to do it again. Also I just finished an arrangement of Megadeth's "A Tout le Monde," and Patricia and I are working on collaborating on an original piece.

WC: Are there musicians you'd like to play with in the future?

PK: No one specific comes to mind at the moment, but I'd definitely be open to the idea. Collaborating is almost always a lot of fun and a great way to grow and learn as a musician.

ALT: I'd love to play with Metallica of course. I think an Opeth piece with some harp in it could be very cool. I'd also love to play a piece with Apocalyptica. That would make my life.

WC: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?

ALT: At this point, I just want as many people as possible to hear our music. We just need to get it out there. We're not on a label, so our music in only distributed on our website and sites like Itunes, so for us the internet has been a Godsend in getting people to hear about us.

PK: I think that downloading is actually a help to musicians, especially groups or soloists who are starting out. Anything you can do to get your music heard helps. In a lot of ways music is really about communication, and any medium that allows you to do so is useful.

That said, unauthorized downloads obviously can make it much more difficult to make a living off of recordings. I do think downloading could have something to do with lower record sales. So could the ease with which someone can record, produce and market an album on their own using the availability of new technologies. So could the general state of the economy.

WC: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

PK: Being a small group, I'd say it's probably mostly a positive thing for us. At this point in our growth process, we're not trying to sell a competing product, so it's no skin off of our back,financially speaking. Plus it's another way for our music to be shared. That said, our feelings might be very different were our situation other than it is,and I would certainly never say that it was necessarily that way for other groups or should be.

ALT: I love fans recording shows and trading them.I want as many people to know about us as possible, so every bit of spreading the word helps. I've been introduced to some great bands myself that same way, just through people showing me a video they took at a concert, or burning me a CD.

WC: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?

ALT: The last CD I bought was Pantera Cowboys from Hell. I've been listening to the new Megadeth United Abominations album and some older Ozzy stuff with Randy Rhoads.

PK: Not to be a complete classical music geek, but the last CD I bought was a recording of Bartok violin concertos.I've been listening to a lot of stuff lately. Ride the Lightning is my current Metallica CD hang up. Several harp recordings. Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique. A compilation of classic 80's hits. I've been spending a lot of the time in the car, so mostly I've been doing a lot of radio station surfing.

WC: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?


PK: I saw Pat Metheny and his jazz trio a couple of weeks ago. They were fantastic. Absolutely blew me away.

ALT: I haven't been to a concert in a long while. We usually have to travel a ways to see some of the bands that we want,and being a freelance harpist my weekends are usually already booked up. I think it actually might have been Gigantour in Sept of 2006.

WC: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

PK: I can't really come up with a good one, although I'm sure there is. The world of rock and roll type performances is very new to me, so I have had a fair number of fish-out-of-water episodes.We did play a show at a venue where one of the proprietors also made and sold sock monkeys. So rather than Spinal Tap and Puppet Show we had Harptallica and Sock Monkeys.

ALT: I guess in Virginia Beach at the Lunatic Luau the sound people kept having technical difficulties with Patricia's harp because we were outdoors and the wind kept blowing through her strings causingthe harp to make sound. Then that sound would be coming back through the monitors and everything. We also both had a knack for plugging the cables into our preamps backwards.


Harptallica's Official Website