Interview with Sharie Neyland
Interview conducted by Nagy Balázs
Date online: January 10, 2015
I had the privilege of interviewing one of my favorite vocalist, Sharie Neyland, the former member of the outstanding English doom metal band, The Wounded Kings. She split with the band last spring.
Nagy: Hi Sharie! How are you, and what have you been doing since you and TWK parted ways?
Sharie: Upon parting ways with The Wounded Kings in May of this year, I took the summer off... and it was a beauty! I visited some secret sites in Devon and Cornwall to restore myself and bring body and Soul back together, so to speak. I gardened a lot - I love to grow things-, and did some yoga.
Nagy: What are your plans in the near future? Any new bands, projects?
Sharie: My time with The Wounded Kings was a sacred contract and I await the next one. For now, I enjoy making music with friends, some folk, rock, and soul music.
Nagy: Where did you spend your childhood, what are your memories from those years?
Sharie: I spent my childhood in Surrey, England, except for two years in Africa from age six to eight. Surrey, I did not like, but Africa, I loved. The nature is spectacular, the mountains and sea, the whales and the elephants, I saw them all. Sadly, my parents broke up and we returned to England with my father. I believe that such an experience, in the end, will either be the making or the breaking of you... Though it is not until one is much older and wiser that the gift in such tragedy is revealed. For myself, I searched for Divine Mother everywhere until I found her within myself.
Nagy: When did you start to sing? Were you trained by a teacher?
Sharie: I returned to Africa when I was 23 with my three year-old daughter. I wanted to start a new life. Away from Surrey, England and her judgments, I felt I could do anything. I was working in a restaurant in Knysna when I first started to sing. I knew it was what I have been born to do and worked very hard at it. I guested in a cover band there until my return to England in 1990. I had one singing lesson with Sybil Esmore – who trained Ozzy Osbourne, too. But I couldn't afford to keep it up at the time, so I taught myself. In 1996 I had two years coaching to help with my expression and confidence – especially with performance to large crowds.
Nagy: Before TWK you sang in a folk band, Penda's Fen. How long were you a member of the band, and what are your sharpest memories from the time, and why did you leave?
Sharie: I was in Penda's Fen for seven years and have many happy memories from the time... I loved singing outside at festivals, I loved being part of a band. I resonated strongly with all the material and believed we would go all the way. Sadly, there was a division between us as to the direction we would follow and the founder, Rich Dwyer went into a crisis. He called for a break and immigrated to Ireland with his young family, I moved to Devon. We are still good friends.
Nagy: On Myspace (myspace.com/pendasfen/music/song) we can find a few songs from Penda's Fen, though not all of them with you as the singer, if my ears aren't lying to me. Are there any more recordings with the band?
Sharie: Rich put the songs on Myspace. I am pretty sure I sang all the songs on there, and no, there are no more recordings.
Nagy: Were you in any other band or on recordings after or before Panda's Fen?
Sharie: The only recordings I made before Penda's Fen were demo tapes of covers to get work on the Irish Pub circuit. I was in a duo at the time, and played all over the U.K.
Nagy: How did you get in contact with The Wounded Kings? Ever heard their music before?
Sharie: Steve (Steve Mills, founder, guitarist and songwriter of The Wounded Kings) lives in the same small town I do, on the edge of Dartmoor. I knew his partner well before I met Steve, we were friends, she said he was struggling to find another singer, but although I sympathized, I never gave it a second thought, nor did I listen to his music. George (Birch) had left the band and wanted to sell his multi track studio. My partner Martin bought it, and Steve offered to come up and show him how to use it. It must have been at least midnight before Steve asked me just to sing along to his guitar. This will sound strange to you, but I felt a distinct change in the atmosphere around us. I made up some words about sing King Arthur of Britain and sang them. I thought no more about it. A few days later we bumped into each other and he asked me to audition for The Wounded Kings, as I sounded right in the King Arthur, and he believed I could do it, despite my unfamiliarity with the genre.
Nagy: Your first album with TWK was the band's third album, In the Chapel of the Black Hand in 2011. Are there any lyrics or music you helped to write, or you arrived too late for that?
Sharie: As I said before, I feel my time with TWK was a sacred contract, three years of my life, in fact. I did not contribute to the lyrics on the album In the Chapel.... However, the music and lyrics written by Steve resonated so strongly I felt they were written for me, or perhaps to be more precise, written for whom I was to express. For me, this album acknowledges the darkness of the world when the feminine principle is suppressed – not the gentle, nurturing side of woman, but her true capacity as powerful creator Goddess, The Sacred Feminine.
Nagy: The critics from doom metal media were very impressed with the originality and naturalness of your voice and melodies. Did you follow the critics written about the last two TWK records?
Sharie: I have kept quite a few reviews from doom metal media critics but I couldn't keep track of all of them. I particularly liked the reviews by John Muskett of Terrorizer Magazine after the Garage gig (25th, May, 2013). Muse were playing up the road in London on the same night – the air was electric with a full moon over Highgate. It has great relevance for me as he said. I was note perfect live, which was a comfort to me when you see what happened later.
Nagy: After the album, TWK made some tours and concerts, one in the legendary Roadburn festival in Tilburg, Netherlands. How did you liked these concerts, and touring altogether?
Sharie: Touring with TWK was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Sure, some of it was very challenging, especially the very cold vehicle and long distances. I hardly saw a vegetable in ten days – they don't seem to eat them in Europe! However, some great memories, especially, Paris, Brussels, and the first gig in Germany – astounding, I loved it. The highlight for me though, was Roadburn, not the performance - I couldn't hear myself on stage as usual -, but everything else about it. It felt like coming home.
Nagy: You had a memorable meeting after the Roadburn concert with Tom G. Warrior (Celtic Frost/Triptykon), the legendary metal underground musician/songwriter. Would you tell me more about it?
Sharie: Yes, I met him at Roadburn in 2012, though at the time, I did not know who he was. He approached me with his beautiful girlfriend, Claudia, after the performance. He said he had driven 900 kilometers to see The Wounded Kings and I said I hoped he found it worth his while. He was very complimentary. I then directed him to our dressing room, but of course, he knew the way! He requested a photo with us – which we did. This was the pinnacle of my experience in the world of heavy metal.
Nagy: I know the noisy, chaotic concert sounds bothered you very much, has it got something to do with your split with TWK?
Sharie: Yes. Sound on stage or fold back if you like, is the only issue I have with this genre. Invariably someone would record the gigs on their phones and sure enough, I would be singing off key – which also happened at Roadburn. After Roadburn, I was so embarrassed, I nearly left the band then. The sound guys at every gig always said they could not give me any more sound on stage and I need to be able to hear my voice in order to pitch properly. Steve wanted me to have lessons in singing without hearing my own voice, which I refused to do. There is no magic in that for me, it is not why I sing.
Nagy: The album Consolamentum came out last February, which was even more praised by metal media than the previous one. In what conditions was the album made? Did you write any music or lyrics in it? Were you satisfied with the subjects of the lyrics, which in TWK are mostly about horror and the occult?
Sharie: Horror does not interest me... Real life for most people on this planet is the real horror, and I think the lyrics on both albums reflect this. As for the occult, this is just a word meaning anything out of the accepted or normal realms of man's experience on Earth: the mystical. We all possess the ability to tune into other realms of existence. Darker realms exist at the Astral level. I prefer working with the Etheric realms which I do on both albums. I feel strongly that all the lyrics I sing reflect the voice of the list feminine principle – not the Dark Goddess, but she who has been deliberately kept in the dark. Consolamentum was an album that wanted to be born. Recorded at the height of summer (July, 2013), in a remote part of Devon, everything about it is magical. We lived in a caravan and I cooked for the band. Working with Chris Fielding was amazing, he knows how to get the best from me.
Sharie: The concept and lyrics all came from my notes condensing three main influences:
1) The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan, which is the history of the Cathars.
2) The secret teachings of Mary Magdalene by Claire Nahmad and Margaret Bailey, which explains the concept of the Dragon Queen.
3) The O Manuscript by Lars Muhl, which Steve also read. All pertain to the Lost Bride or feminine principle.
Nagy: Before this year's European tour started, TWK made public that you were no longer part of the band. Could you please tell me what happened?
Sharie: I was so looking forward to performing Consolamentum live, words cannot express how much. We performed it first in Birmingham on 23rd May, and I believe the review was OK – the women at the gig loved it as I recall. The second gig at The Black Heart, Camden was excellent performance-wise, but the sound on stage was non-existent. I was told I would have to sing "blind" as they say. The response from the crowd was ecstatic and I thought no more about it. I will say though, that the creative magic between myself and Steve seemed to have disappeared at this gig. I questioned this later, but he never had gave me a reason for this. Three or four days after this fateful gig, it turned out someone had again recorded on a phone and I was, of course, out of tune. Another member of the band informed me of this, and I was devastated. I refused to go to the next rehearsal – I couldn't see the point. We had been rehearsing Consolamentum for ten months and it was perfect – but only if I can hear myself. Steve said the problem was insurmountable, returned my effects pedal and we have not spoken since. I was not consulted as to what reason he gave on the website in explanation of me no longer being in TWK. At the end of the day, I am as in the dark as you are as to the real reasons behind this decision. It is, after all, his band.
Sharie: I wish to apologize from the depths of my heart for not being able to perform Consolamentum live, in the manner it deserves. I would like to thank everyone`s appreciation of me whilst with TWK. Amor vincit omnia!
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