Heavy Metal for Beginners with High Tension Frontwoman Karina Utomo

November 20, 2015
High Tension

HEAVY METAL IS A FORCE OF NATURE I’ve always loved guitar-driven music. But growing up in Indonesia, we were so limited to what made it to the one cassette store we had. I think our choices were Guns n’ Roses, Ugly Kid Joe and whatever. It wasn’t until I turned eighteen in Canberra that I went to my first hardcore show and it completely just blew my mind. It was this band called 4 Dead and it was a really quiet Tuesday night. There weren’t that many people at the show, but as soon as they came on, it was like a tsunami. Eventually that band became bigger and bigger, but at the time it was like, this is fucking Canberra. Why is this happening? So I think from then on I was very much, I have to learn how to sing like that. Seriously, I don’t know how, but I’m going to try.

LADIES ARE WELCOME I always felt really safe and really welcome at hardcore and metal shows. And I think a lot of women would agree. It’s an incredible feeling. I haven’t had a bad experience. There’s respect. I mean, you’ll always get creeps, but there’s not too many. And there’s a huge amount of trust. Especially if you’re in a mosh pit. But I never feel like anyone’s going to cross the line, because everyone has that sense of respect for one another.

BLOKES CAN BE LOVELY There’s a lack of female protagonists in the heavy metal scene. It’s a boys club without meaning to be. The guys in the band respect that I’ve got a pretty clear vision. I’m focused on what I want the band to do, what kind of songs we’re going to produce, even down to the riff. Basically, we all sit around, play out some riffs and I tell them to make it more brutal. The funniest thing that I’ve dealt with was when we landed in Brisbane for a show and I had really bad period pain. I try not to be a diva and help carry things. But I disappeared and had to tell them, “Look, I’m not trying to get out of carrying amps, but I’ve got to go and get something from the chemist, because I’ve got period pain.” And the response was just like, “Oh my god, are you all right? Are you going to be okay to sing tonight?” I was like, “Dude, it’s just period pain. I’ll deal with it.” They made such a big deal out of it. They’re sometimes bigger feminists than I am.

YOU NEED TO POWER UP I’m all about health. I learnt from my previous band [Young and Restless] that the first thing to go when I get sick is my throat. That’s what makes me lose my voice. It’s not singing. It’s the talking shit after shows and drinking too much. Because [heavy metal vocals] aren’t actually utilising your throat. It’s relying on your muscles, coming from your stomach. That power is needed. And in order to have that power, I’ve got to be really super healthy. I do vocal warm-ups pretty much every day in the car or in the shower. And if I’m on tour, the guys just pretty much have to cop forty minutes of vocal warm-ups in the van.

IT’S YOUR GUIDE TO GLOBAL POLITICS Heavy metal music thrives in places in the world where there are big areas of concern within that society. Have a look at places like Indonesia, where there’s a huge metal scene. Even the President is a Napalm Death fan. A lot of great heavy music comes from that area and a lot of Indonesians are really passionate about heavy metal music. I think it’s because, especially in Java, it’s very much a passive culture, very submissive. So that’s why heavy metal is important there. You get so much insight into these places, because of heavy metal.


This article first appeared in Frankie Magazine issue 67 (Sept/Oct 2015).

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