News & Reviews
Revolver Magazine Interview
this review posted on: Thu., May 12, 2005
METALCORES VOCAL ZEN MASTER RELEASES AN INSTRUCTIONAL DVD

What do Lamb of God’s Randall Blyth, Shadows Falls’s Brian Fair, God Forbid's Byron Davis, and Every Time I Die's Keith Buckley have in common?For one, they all front top-notch extreme-metal bands. For another, they’ve all entrusted the care of their throats to vocal coach Melissa Cross, a little red-haired lady whose New York studio has seen more tattooed talent come through it’s doors than a backstage Porta Potty at Ozfest.
Cross, whose clientele is almost exclusively made up of metalcore’s elite, didn’t plan on becoming a self described “scream queen.” She originally studied Shakespearean theater and opera in the United Kingdom, then moved to Los Angeles to front a punk-rock band. She fell into her current gig in the late Nineties, when Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta scheduled a lesson with her. "Jamey never showed up for his lesson," she says. "But he kept meaning to, so he kept telling people what he was going to do. And all of those people actually did come to lessons."
As it became clear that her teaching style was suited to vocalists who howl and screech, Cross realized she could help more people than she actually had time to see. So she set about making The Zen of Screaming: Vocal Instruction for a New Breed (available now at melissacross.com), an exceptionally well-conceived instructional DVD that is essential viewing for any extreme-music vocalist.




Have a lot of your students irreparably damaged thier vocal cords by the time they come to you for help?
MELISSA CROSS It depends on whhat you call damage. Damage is to me when your voice is so far gone you can't order dinner. Whereas damage to a doctor may be a bunch of nodules-which are like little blisters-on the vocal cords. But sometimes that's part of somebody's sound. I'm not sure whether Jamey Jasta has nodules on his vocal cords or not, but it doesn't matter, because he is getting exactly the sound he wants. I don't tell people to be in denial and not deal with their nodules, but if you start out as a kid and you scream your lungs out for years and years, you get this caloused scar tissue on the vocal cords. The problem comes if you want to change the type of music you're doing and go in a more melodic direction. There's some behavior modification necessary to get your voice back to that point.

What's the best way to recover if you've already blown your voice out
The only thing you can do is use steroids or practice voice rest, which is making no sound. It's really hard for a lot of these party guys, but they learn, because on tour they don't have an option. It'slike being an athlete - you have to be in peak shape.

How about hot tea? I always hear singers asking for that when their throats hurt.
Tea and throat lozenges don't do anything. The problem is in your windpipe, where you breathe and speak from, not in your esophagus, where food and liquid goes. If you put a lozenge in your windpipe, you would choke to death. You can certainly put a lot of warm fuzzy things around the throat to make it feel better, but if your cords are swollen, that's like using a throat lozenge to fix a sprained ankle. It's a swollen muscle, and it's not going to do any good unless you stop using it temporarily so that the swelling goes down.

Is it difficult to get these dudes, who make their living being tough guys, to let their guard down when they come in for lessons?
Most of them come in because they already know from one of their friends in another band that the exercises work. They know they're going to have to come and lose their ego, and they've seen other singers backstage at shows they've played walking around doing the exercises. As tough as these guys are - and, I mean, I was freightened when I first saw Byron - They are the kindest, nicest, most considerate and polite people I have ever met. I call them the Guys From Planet Nice Guy. These are really intelligent, compassionate, smart people - very sensitive, and sometimes pretty screwed up as well. Fortunately, most of them get the opportunity to express their feelings onstage.

The other night, you and I were both at the same Lamb of God show, and Randy Blythe expressed his feelings onstage in a pretty extreme manner.
That's what I'm talking about: Randy lost it so much that he put a cigarette out on his arm. But you'll notice that he did not lose his voice![Laughs] He still maintained proper technique and diction. TOM BEAUJOUR



PHOTOGRAPHY BY EDDIE MALLUK


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THE ZEN OF SCREAMING

THE ZEN OF SCREAMING

"...the Bible for extreme vocals. Don't open your mouth 'til you've watched this DVD." Tom Beaujour, Editor, REVOLVER MAGAZINE > MORE INFO
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