VANESSA NOCERA: "Mistress of Macabre Mayhem"

By Derelikt Waugh

Vanessa Nocera is an extremely prolific and massively talented metal head, to say the very least. Not only is she co-CEO of Razorback Records along with her husband, Billy Nocera, she’s also in a slew of killer bands (Wooden Stake, Scaremaker, and Skeletal Spectre). She writes and performs her own material and handles ALL of the vocal duties. I said ALL of the vocal duties, damn it! Sorry. I had to make this clear though, as it seems that some folks just can’t comprehend the fact that these hellacious howlings were produced by a “mere female”. Yep, it’s all her, folks with no studio trickery to be found.
Vanessa’s not just another gravel-throated growler though. She also handles the melodic side of the vocals, plus handles riff duty. It’s quite an impressive array of talents, but Vanessa is quite simply an impressive individual (and an all around kick ass lady). She’s been a horror hound since age two and a metal fanatic since age seven. What more needs to be said? Well, quite a bit actually, but I think I’ll let Vanessa do most of the talking from this point on.  

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Hey, Vanessa! For those not in the know, tell us a little bit about yourself and about the numerous bands you're currently operating in? What's your primary role within each of these bands?

VANESSA NOCERA: Hey there! I am Vanessa Nocera the front-lady of a few bands and co-owner of RAZORBACK RECORDINGS with my husband Billy. My bands are SCAREMAKER, WOODEN STAKE, and SKELETAL SPECTRE. SCAREMAKER is my baby in a way because I am the driving force behind it pretty much. I write all of the music, some of the lyrics and I perform all guitars, bass, and lead vocals. In WOODEN STAKE, I perform ALL vocals and bass, and I write most of the lyrics and conduct all of my vocal arrangements. As for SKELETAL SPECTRE, I perform ALL vocals and write most all of the lyrics. I also play bass in LOATHSOME and I have contributed lyrics and vocals to various other projects. I’m hoping this year sees a few new musical endeavors from myself as well.  

Whew! I didn’t expect that first answer to be so long. Ha!

WC: As you are an extremely productive metal head with various projects on your plate, does any particular band hold a special place in your heart, or are they all of equal importance?

VN: I can’t pick a favorite. It would be like picking a favorite child in a way because they have their own significance. I have a different role in each band and it provides variety for my creative side. SCAREMAKER is awesome, I admit, because I am writing all of the music and I play guitar. It’s my most creative outlet really.

WC: I think you're an extremely talented bass player. Who are some of the biggest influences on your playing/technique? How old were you when you first started playing and what lead to you choosing the bass as your weapon of choice?

VN: Thanks for the compliments! I hate to disappoint, but I’ve only just picked the bass up in the last few years, haha! I don’t really like playing the bass too much to be honest. The first time I ever really played a bass guitar was with my black metal band WOLFHOLLOW and it was to record one song. I hated it at the time and didn’t pick up another bass guitar until I was recording the SCAREMAKER album. My weapon of choice is DEFINITELY my guitar! I started playing guitar when I was 9 and seriously started learning and writing songs when I was 11. So, I really don’t consider myself to be a bass player at all since I’m not comfortable with it yet still and it’s unfortunate that it’s what I seem to be known for.

WC: When playing your music for the uninitiated, I find that one of the first responses is: "there is no way that a chick is doing these vocals." Believe it, suckers! You handle both the melodic and growling vocals. How did you discover that you were adept at both styles?

VN: THANK YOU for being one of the few that recognize my vocals. I get slighted so much that it has made me want to just quit what I’m doing, but I can’t quit over people’s inability to read liner notes. Haha! It does create resentment, but I keep going to prove people wrong and to do what I love which is to create, write, record and immortalize music. To answer the question, I was a thrasher from age 7 and when I entered age 10ish I wanted something with a heavier, more aggressive sound and attitude. My uncle introduced me to Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel and I was in love! I’m guessing I was about 11 when I started thinking that this was what I wanted to do. I was naïve and didn’t think that idiots would have a problem with me being a woman. I think I perfected my death growls when I was 13, though I had been singing since I could talk really.

WC: Who are some of your all time favorite vocalists (metal and beyond) and how did their style impact your own?

VN: I have such a list. Glen Benton, David Vincent, Jeff Walker, Chuck Schuldiner, Chris Barns, Ihsahn, just to name a few in the metal world, then it goes into vocalists such as Peter Murphy (of BAUHAUS), Stevie Nicks, Kate Bush, Siouxsie Sioux…haha! I have a wide variety of influence and I think that is what contributes to my unidentifiable style. I’m definitely a death metal vocalist and this is what I prefer, but when I’m doing clean singing I try to not make it bland and boring.

WC: Your lyrics could be best described as horror obsessed. In terms of horror (film, literature, artists, etc.), what creators have had the biggest influence on the way you write?

VN: I’m a pretty horror-obsessed gal. haha! I mean, you’re talking to someone who claimed Freddy Kruger was her boyfriend at age 2 and wrote her 3rd grade “When I grow up” paper about wanting to be the female Vincent Price. I have always been drawn to the dark side, or the shadowside of things. I’ve been called morbid and weird all of my life and now that I’m older I revel in it! I would definitely say that Wes Craven, from “People Under the Stairs” back to his first films has been a huge influence. Also, my fellow Kentuckian, John Carpenter, has been a hero of mine since I was a child. The list goes on and on.

WC: Most of your bands/projects are on the fantastic underground label, Razorback Records. Could you tell us about some of your favorite bands on that label and about your collaborations with some of the other Razorback freaks? How did you first come into contact with Razorback, anyway?

VN:  I will always love FONDLECORPSE and CRYPTICUS because Sly and Patrick of these bands have treated me with much respect and have been great guys to communicate and work with. Obviously I have always liked DECREPITAPH and had respect for Wayne as a musician and it’s been great to work with him because we think similarly on many things. FESTERED was another release that I was around for that I really love and I hope there is more coming from this band.

Currently, I am also IN LOVE with BLIZARO and I think that John Gallo’s talent blows away so many people in the underground; I can’t wait for the new album that should be coming real soon. I’m also looking forward to releasing SEPULCHRAL, DEATHCULT, and GUTWRENCH because these bands are perfect for the direction we’re heading with the label.

IMPETIGO is not a RAZORBACK band, but we have constant communication with Mark and Stevo, and I will always listen to IMPETIGO with fresh ears. CIANIDE as well and hopefully we will be repressing “Death, Doom, Destruction” soon.

Speaking of Stevo, we can’t go without mentioning TOMBSTONES. When this was coming together, I was able to write some lyrics and all of the intros to the songs on the album. I’m looking forward to more from TOMBSTONES because, again, I have great respect for Stevo and Patrick (CRYPTICUS).

WC: Pretend that you're being forced at gunpoint to pick your top five biggest musical heroes. Who would they be and why?

VN: I have been held at gunpoint and asked this question before. Haha! Just kidding! I can easily answer that one. My first one is Ihsahn. I have GREAT respect for his work and it has influenced me from the first time I ever heard Emperor. Jeff Walker and Bill Steer are the next ones because of their crazy vocal exchanges. That was really influential to me as a young gal. Next would be Tony Iommi because I saw live footage of him playing when I was a kid and his finger was going so fast in a solo I turned to my dad and asked, “was that real?” haha! Also, I play a Gipson SG which is what he plays, so that shows a lot of admiration as well. Last, but certainly not least is Chuck Schuldiner. My first Death tape was "Leprosy" when I was 14. The guitar work, the concepts, the vocals, everything was a blueprint for what I wanted to do with music.

WC: Do you feel that it's still a "big deal" to be a female who's involved in the metal scene, or have the misogynistic attitudes become a thing of the past?

VN: Definitely NOT a thing of the past and that’s unfortunate. It’s actually harder than I thought to be a female in the metal scene. I’m not intimidated in any way because I can certainly hold my own, but it fucking sucks when I’m not credited and when I ask for a correction they act like it’s not a big deal that I do all the work. Well, not all of the time, but I do get a snooty attitude and I hate it. I work and I would like to be known for it.

WC: You were in a black metal band called Wolfhollow. Do you have any plans for the future, as far as black metal is concerned? Also, there aren't many Razorback bands that play in the live setting. Why is that? Do you plan on any of your own bands playing live any time soon?

VN: I would love to do another black metal band because I have a lot of songs written that were never recorded for
WOLFHOLLOW. The project was abandoned because I wanted to go in a heavier direction and the other member just wanted to do ambient folk.  Nothing wrong with that, but to have a whole album like that was not what I wanted.

WC: Vanessa it's been awesome talking to you! Do you have any last words for our readers here at Wormwood?

VN: Thanks so much for the interview and the support! I hope everyone digs what they hear and looks forward to what’s to come because there is PLENTY more ahead! I am easily accessible for questions that anyone may have so feel free to contact me! Thanks again!