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Queen of Noise: Royal Thunder's Mlny Parsonz

‘Post-apocalyptic blues’ from third-time SXSW showcasers
Raoul Hernandez, 3:07pm, Tue. Mar. 12, 2013
Royal Thunder band members: Mlny Parsonz, Josh Weaver, Josh Coleman, and Evan Diprima

Last year, Witch Cross cast a spell on Decibel magazine by pulling a nine rating out of 10 for a reissue of the Danish metallers’ only LP, 1984’s howling Fit for Fight, the insidious spawn of Mercyful Fate and the Runaways. That’s a fitting description of Atlanta’s Royal Thunder, showcasing twice this week at SXSW.

Unlike Witch Cross, however, Royal Thunder’s led by a woman rather than a singer that sounds uncannily like one. Mlny (Melanie) Parsonz makes Heart’s Wilson sisters sound like Wilson Phillips on Royal Thunder’s 2012 full-length debut, CVI, for Relapse Records.

Parsonz made her own impression on the extreme periodical, landing on its cover last year in a triumvirate with Kylesa’s Laura Pleasants and Cretin’s Marissa Martinez as the “Queens of Noise.” Crossing Canadian mountains on Valentine’s Day, the leather-loving tattooed twentysomething projected only personable and polite – someone with their feet on the ground – in stark contrast to her vortex vocals, a whirlpool of stormy damnation a mile deep.

The band’s two SX showcases, Thursday, 10:35pm at the Dirty Dog Bar and Saturday, 11:55pm at the Red 7 Patio, plus Friday panel “Women in Metal: Why Is This Still An Issue in 2013,” on which Parsonz appears, keep her Ides of March cry busy this week.

Austin Chronicle: How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Mlny Parsonz: How will I be celebrating Valentine’s Day? I will be driving and then going to a club and playing. I got a lot of chocolate the other day, so that was good.

AC: Listening to Witch Cross made me realize how effectively singers with high screeches – Robert Plant, Rob Halford, King Diamond – cut through the din of heavy metal.

MP: Sounds like the first time I heard Humble Pie.

AC: Exactly, Steve Marriott! What are your musical influences?

MP: I grew up playing piano, and I was in dance. I listened to a lot of R&B – Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Prince, George Michael, Mariah Carey. All that stuff. Stuff my mom was listening to. My dad listened to a lot of rock & roll, but I didn’t really hear a lot of that from him growing up. I later found out that he was into it, but I never really saw that side of him when I was younger.

I think growing up with that and then growing up in the metal scene, I was never really concerned with what females were doing. The music that they were listening to just wasn’t my thing – the things that they liked. I spent a lot of my time with guys, and by default, a lot of time with metal heads, getting exposed to metal and rock.

AC: Despite the label you’re on, do you consider yourselves a metal band?

MP: No. I mean, I think we’re accepted by the metal community and people “get it,” but I don’t know if that has to do with our roots being in metal growing up. I think I can feel the metal. I don’t really hear it. It’s a very similar emotion that comes up when you’re playing metal and when you’re playing this kind of music. Our original drummer used to call it “post-apocalyptic blues,” which I thought was really cool.

AC: You mentioned some of the soul singers in your mother’s record collection. Do you identify more with a Tina Turner than the “post-apocalyptic blues” of Robert Plant?

MP: Absolutely, yeah. I can relate more to the stuff my mother was listening to. Like George Michael. I grew up listening to him. When I was younger, it was just a case of this is what’s on in the background, but as an adult, I’ll grab one of his albums by choice and listen to it. I think he’s an incredible vocalist. I still like Prince, Tina Turner. I find myself going back to those albums. I do enjoy that music a lot. I think there’s a lot of soul in that.

AC: Going back to Witch Cross, these guys with high, almost operatic voices makes me wonder whether it makes more sense for a woman singer to lead a metal band.

MP: That’s an interesting perspective. I never actually thought about it like that. Yeah, obviously I am a female, but it’s hard for me to focus on that or even consider it when I’m singing or playing. I think a lot of people want me to look at that and think it matters, but I don’t know. This really doesn’t answer anything that maybe you’re asking, but I really feel like my heart is just to be real and be who I am. Despite what sex I am, it’s really important just to be real with your music and be authentic. You can tell when people are faking it. It’s gonna sound like shit when they do. That’s where my heart is. I don’t ever think because I’m a woman what can I do to affect the music in a more feminine way or whatever. Not that that’s what you’re saying, but it just makes me think of that stuff.

AC: Do you feel like a minority out there? Not many bands have that epic quality that y’all have with a female out front. Do you encounter a lot of women out on the road?

MP: I don’t. I really don’t. I don’t see a lot of women out on the road. When we get to the club and we’re playing with other bands, if there’s a female there it’s rare. Most of them that I meet are incredibly talented. I guess I’ve never really felt like a minority even though I grew up playing music with dudes mostly. I’m used to it. It’s the way I’ve been and I’ve always been accepted, for the most part. I guess that helps make me feel like I’m not a minority.

AC: Is a musician’s life harder on women than it is on men?

MP: No. I don’t think so, no. I’m trying to think if it is and how, but I don’t really feel like it’s harder. I guess it just depends on the individual. It can be hard if you put energy into playing the girl card. I can see how it could be.

AC: If anything, I’ve always thought of women as tougher than men thanks to their biological roles, but when I see bands like Landmine Marathon, I just think, “That’s gotta be a tough life for a woman.” Maybe it’s an unforgiving genre.

MP: Being on the road is tough on your body and mind, your spirit. And that’s not just females. It’s hard. It’s not easy. But I know who I am and I know what I like and I like the challenge. I like getting on a stage, busting your ass. I’m sure of who I am and I’m sure of being real with myself in those moments. I think that’s what gets me through. I don’t care if someone’s offended by me being a female, because you do see that sometimes. Some guys will stand right in front of you when you’re playing and look at you like, “What the fuck are you doing onstage? Get off.” I don’t ever do anything to prove anything to anyone. This is about me expressing myself right now.

That’s what gets me through it, and knowing there’s a job to be done. You gotta get your shit on and off the stage. You gotta go down those 40 stairs right now with that giant cabinet that’s taller than you. You gotta do it. You gotta go out in the rain. You gotta go out in the snow. You gotta get out there and sweat. You don’t complain, you just go for it.

If you know what you’re doing and stay focused, I think that gets you through it. For anyone, if you just start complaining and being miserable about it, it’s gonna be harder on you. You just gotta be true to yourself and do your job. I like doing it. I love the lifestyle, I really do.

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