Interview with Crystal Viper lead vocalist Marta Gabriel

Date: January 13, 2021
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda

Crystal Viper landed on Sleaze Roxx reader’s radar when they heard the cover of “Dream Warriors” in 2019 which was featured on their ‘Tales of Fire And Ice’ album. Crystal Viper, the polish power metal act formed in 2003 by singer/guitarist Marta Gabriel, have made a name for themselves across Europe with their energetic, melodic and catchy power metal. Sleaze Roxx caught up with Gabriel on a Skype call on January 13th, 2021 as she and the band gear up for the world wide release of their latest opus titled, ‘The Cult.’ The album is due on February 12th, 2021 on Listenable Records. She’ll give us the lowdown on the album amongst other things. Enjoy the interview.

Sleaze Roxx: You covered Dokken’s “Dream Warriors” on the last album, which caught my attention. I know you’re a fan of the horror genre, but are you also a Dokken fan?

Marta Gabriel: I am a fan of horror films and a Dokken fan! “Dream Warriors” is one of my favorite songs from Dokken. As you know, in Crystal Viper, cover songs have been kind of a tradition. We have been doing this since the beginning of Crystal Viper. I think by doing this, it shows people where Crystal Viper is coming from and what our music DNA is. I know you discovered Crystal Viper through our cover of “Dream Warriors.” I think that if you like Dokken, you will like our version of the song and then you will check out our album. When we record a cover song, we are also paying tribute to some of our favorite bands. We take the time in picking the songs that we cover. In Crystal Viper, everyone has their own favorite bands and artists and we have hundreds of songs to choose from. It’s never easy to choose just one [laughs]! When we pick a song, we select a song that best suits or fits the climate of the rest of the album.

Crystal Viper‘s “Dream Warriors” track (from Tales of Fire And Ice album):

Sleaze Roxx: You have amassed quite the back catalog.

Marta Gabriel: Yeah, we are about to release our eighth album [laughs]! It’s just incredible… I just can’t believe that time has been running so fast. We released our first album in 2007. It was 14 years ago [laughs]! I can’t believe it [laughs]!

Sleaze Roxx: The new album is ‘The Cult.’ You have a lyric video for “The Cult” which is fantastic. I have to admit, when I got the record I had to jump right to “Welcome Home” to see if it was the King Diamond cover! I wanted to see if the tradition continued on this album! How did you go about selecting that one? Was that similar to “Dream Warriors” where you always wanted to cover that? That’s just such a demanding song vocally.

Marta Gabriel: I always wanted to do some King Diamond on a record. We finally recorded an album where we could include a King Diamond song, specifically “Welcome Home.” I love this song! I can watch the music video over and over, five-six times in a row [laughs]! I love it that much [laughs]! The right time has come and it matches the theme of an album, so we recorded it. ‘The Cult’ has this kind of horror kind of vibe. Vocally? I’m not going to lie. It was vocally challenging for me because King Diamond is a genius and he performed this song in such a theatrical kind of way. I also wanted to put a lot of emotion into this song vocally. I also wanted to do it in this theatrical kind of way. When I set out to record this song, I didn’t know how it would sound because I was learning as I recorded it. I was trying new things with my voice. There were points where I had to sit down and start laughing at myself [laughs]! There’s all of these weird noises coming out of my mouth [laughs]! They were just so unexpected! I like how it sounds and I’m proud of my performance. I learned a lot in recording that song and it’s stuff that I can use on the next Crystal Viper album.

Sleaze Roxx: I imagine you’re going to get requests by the fans to do that live at some point. What kind of preparation are you going to do to be able to do that? It sounds like that song was challenging for you.

Marta Gabriel: Right now, I feel confident that I could do that live. I say this because I have already recorded the song and learned how to sing it. I think I could get onstage and do that song. I have to say that I’m not sure if we will perform it, but it would be fun for sure. It’s an amazing song!

Sleaze Roxx: ‘The Cult’ came together relatively quickly after the release of ‘Tales of Fire And Ice.’ Did you have material that carried over from the last album? This came together pretty quickly.

Marta Gabriel: The main reason was that there was such a short period of time between ‘Tales of Fire And Ice’ and ‘The Cult.’ The last album was released at the end of 2019. We only played eight live shows before the pandemic hit. We played shows in Spain and in Germany, then we started receiving information about concerts being canceled or postponed. We didn’t play any more live shows, so we decided to not just sit at home doing nothing. We agreed that it would be best to just work on a new album. This was the only thing we could do together as a band. The record was recorded very quickly. We started working on the album in March [2020] and in August [2020], everything was completely done. Lyrics were done, songs were done and recorded. We really wanted to do that because musically we weren’t able to do anything else. It was difficult because Crystal Viper members live in neighboring countries here in Europe and we didn’t see each other. We speak to each other. We talk just about everyday either on the phone or on messenger. Working on this album allowed us to keep in touch.

Sleaze Roxx: So you’re telling me that ‘The Cult’ was recorded by each member recording their parts from wherever they reside?

Marta Gabriel: Yes. This is the first time we have recorded an album like this where we are not in the studio together. We recorded all of our tracks from home. There’s some pros and cons doing recording like this. The good thing about this is that you don’t have to hurry. You can take your time. If you are tired today, you can do it tomorrow. If we were in the recording studio, we would not be able to do this. The good thing about being in the studio with your bandmates is that you are sharing your passion with your bandmates. There is this magical musical climate that takes place when you are together in the studio creating music. Some people have told me that they can hear new energy on this music that they didn’t hear before. So maybe we tried even harder on ‘The Cult.’

Sleaze Roxx: Being that this is the first time you’ve recorded like this, would you do it this way again?

Marta Gabriel: We will see. We will see. I don’t know. Maybe we will probably do that in the future. I don’t know how long this pandemic will last. We don’t have any other options at the moment. Then there are the borders… Today, you can go to Germany and tomorrow, you cannot. Every week it’s different. We have professional equipment to be able to record in a professional way. It was also important to work with a producer as you do this. I think we will do that again. We will do that again. For me, it was nice to have a nice, long beautiful sleep and then wake up fresh in the morning and get the best performance possible. If you didn’t get some good sleep the night before, you can record the next day.

Sleaze Roxx: What’s your proudest moment on ‘The Cult’?

Marta Gabriel: [Long pause] Maybe it’s not my ‘proudest’ moment, [but] I really like the song “The Cult.” It has this ’70s and ’80s vibe to it. I have always wanted to create a song like this. I think the inspirations were right and here it is. There are four songs on this record that our new drummer Cederick Forsberg composed these great vocal lines that I sang, wrote lyrics for, that I think worked perfectly. I got a chance to sing stuff that I didn’t compose, which was new for me. I think I became a better singer because of this record, so I’m proud of that. I am proud of myself and the guys in this band. They are amazing musicians and it is fantastic working with them. I think we recorded our best work on ‘The Cult’.

Crystal Viper‘s “The Cult” lyric video (from The Cult album):

Sleaze Roxx: You’re also a guitar player. How much guitar do you contribute to albums or this album in particular?

Marta Gabriel: It’s hard to say exactly how much we used but I can tell you that it is rhythm guitar. In this band, we have Eric [Juris] and Andy [Wave] who are amazing guitar players. They play amazing solos! I stay away from anything like that because it is their job in this band. I also play piano and bass guitar. On some of the previous Crystal Viper albums, I played bass guitar. I didn’t learn to play guitar until after the band was already formed!

Sleaze Roxx: Funny you should mention you play piano. I just watched the video of you playing “When The Crowds Are Gone.” That was well done.

Marta Gabriel: Thank you very much! Piano was my first instrument. I started playing piano when I was seven. I remember I was six years old and I saw an orchestra on TV and I told them that I wanted to play that [laughs]! I knew I wanted to be a musician. They sent me to music school. I finished school studying piano. When I started playing guitar, I was playing piano chords on the guitar. I never had any intentions to play the guitar on stage. It was for writing songs and sharing ideas. I saw myself more as a composer, more than a guitar player. I remember my husband had bought me a guitar and we were in the studio. We wanted to hear what it sounded like in the studio. That was the first time that I played guitar in front of the guys. At that time, Crystal Viper was looking for another guitarist and the guys liked my playing and said, “We didn’t look for another guitarist. When you can play guitar [laughs]?” That is how I started playing guitar at times in Crystal Viper. I didn’t want to play on stage. I wanted to use it to compose songs. I didn’t think I was good enough, but they wanted it. So I did it.

Marta Gabriel‘s “When The Crowds Are Gone” video:

Sleaze Roxx: Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Marta Gabriel: Glenn Tipton from Judas Priest. Everything he does on stage is great. The way he stands on stage. The way he moves on stage. The way he holds his guitar while he plays. He is a very good guitarist! The second would have to be Tony Iommi, but Glenn Tipton is my ‘Metal God.’

Sleaze Roxx: I agree with you as far as Tipton having this great stage presence. Having seen them a number of times, he just looks so cool on stage.

Marta Gabriel: It is a pity that I have not seen Judas Priest live. Right now, Glenn Tipton isn’t in Judas Priest so I will probably never see Glenn Tipton [play live] in Judas Priest.

Sleaze Roxx: Priest played a couple of shows in my area a year apart on the ‘Firepower Tour’. The first time, he came out for the three songs on the encore. The next time, he wasn’t even traveling with the band.

Marta Gabriel: Have you seen Judas Priest with both of them? With K.K. and Glenn?

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, my first Priest show was on the ‘Turbo Tour’ with Dokken opening…

Marta Gabriel: What a line-up! I’m so jealous [laughs]!

Sleaze Roxx: I saw them twice on the ‘Painkiller Tour’ and I have to say that was probably the best. The first leg of the tour had Megadeth and Testament opening. It was a great package. I have to say that I appreciate the ‘Turbo’ album and tour more now than I did back then. I think ‘Turbo’ got a lot of heat because of the synth-guitar, but it’s a lot better than I thought back when it was released.

Marta Gabriel: I agree. I hear a lot of this. I hear that when ‘Turbo’ was released, that a lot of people were disappointed, but now it is like a lot of people are starting to love this album! I’m surprised that you’re saying that.

Sleaze Roxx: I think a lot of that had to do with the image change. They added colour to their leather. They added synth-guitar to the new material and [Rob] Halford grew his hair out and combed it back. They wanted to change with the times and some fans went along with it and others fought it. In the end, Rob Halford is the ‘Metal God’ and that is a metal vocal on ‘Turbo.’

Marta Gabriel: Yes, of course [laughs]! I love him too [laughs]!

Sleaze Roxx: Last thing, in listening to Crystal Viper and your melodic vocal, have you ever considered doing a straightforward rock record?

Marta Gabriel: I can tell you one thing, in addition to working and recording ‘The Cult’ album, I have been working with some of the guys from my band on something else that might be similar to what you just said. We will announce something pretty soon. Stay tuned! I wish I could tell you more about this, but I cannot right now. We are working on something and it’s not just one thing or two. We’ll have some cool news for you very soon!

Crystal Viper‘s “When The Sun Goes Down” video (from Queen of The Witches album):

Crystal Viper‘s “Still Alive” video (from Tales of Fire And Ice album):