Maria Brink of In This Moment is one of the most influential women in metal music right now. Check out our interview below:
What is the true definition of an artist?
In the olden days, an artist was known as a master of the liberal arts, but the modern definition of an artist is something much broader: someone who is skilled at a particular task or occupation. This definition becomes incredibly relevant when we discuss the blurred line between ‘musician’ and ‘artist’, and the exceptionally talented band, In This Moment, who combine the two worlds effortlessly. The theatrical and highly visual band carries an artistic presence that is spearheaded and coordinated by the band’s very own enigmatic front-woman, Maria Brink.
Credited as the band’s principal lyricist and co-director of several of the band’s music videos, Maria brings a unique and creative element to the band’s already impressive visual spectacle. Her work on their latest record, Black Widow, offers a vulnerable and, at times tortured, look into her demons and internal battles fought as a female front-runner in the heavy metal scene.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Maria during a short break before the band’s Black Widow tour in Europe. Read ahead to find out Maria’s thoughts on the upcoming European Tour (which starts February 17th, check out dates here), her creative process, and what inspires her to create her art on and off the stage.
AltWire [Ed Oswald]: With the Black Widow tour having played multiple dates, the reviews are already starting to come in and they all seem to be very positive. How does the band feel about the success of the tour so far?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: We are so grateful. We worked really hard on the visuals in the show, as well as the pre-production and I was very excited to bring it out there and show everybody what it is about. I am so happy with the outcome and the way the fans are becoming a part of the show and how they are dressing up. The whole thing has been super perfect. I’m happy!
AW: The upcoming European swing is fast approaching you seem to have a strong International following overseas the band must be looking forward to it is the band ready for it and is this the first time In This Moment has toured Europe?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: We’ve been over there before, and we’ve done some festivals and opened up for other bands, but as far as doing a headlining tour like this, yes this is our first time. It’s definitely scary because you don’t know what’s going on with your band over there, but so far our England show has sold out and our overall ticket sales have been great. I can’t believe it – well I can because positive thoughts right? [laughs] But at the same time, I am really, really excited to go over there. We are going to Paris, Italy, England and we are headlining it’s a dream! You know you have to be grateful and excited for all that.
AW: I’d imagine headlining your own international tour carries a lot more responsibility, do you ever feel that it could distract from the bands ability to perform at its highest level?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: Well no, I think when you are headlining you are performing at your top-level because you have the time limit that you want, so you can do the exact show, and give people the journey that you want them to see because you are calling the shots. So it’s you creating that night, that’s your moment to shine, nobody’s putting any boundaries on you. When you are opening for someone else you can’t use all your gear and you cant have all the bells and whistles. When you’re headlining it’s up to you and you’re in charge of captivating everyone that evening. I love it!
AW: So it must be a real thrill for you to be headlining and controlling the stage setup considering you really like to express yourself?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: I’m OCD [laughs], so I’m literally obsessive and compulsive, and this is a good example of how you can take your flaws and turn them into something beautiful and powerful. I apply my obsessive compulsive-ness to my career. I direct our live shows so the way you see the visuals, the wardrobe charges, and the flow, that’s me really obsessing over the entire show and every little piece to it. The same with our music videos, the same with anything you see, that’s me obsessing and creating this big master plan and then trying to make it all work at the same time. I co-directed our last two videos and directed our new video Sex Metal Barbie by myself, so I am really obsessive over it and I am all about trying to bring what is in my head to life.
AW: During the recording of Blood the band seemed to have found a sound that works and with Black Widow you really have taken it to another level. Were there any influences during the band’s history that influenced your unique sound?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: We’re all definitely influenced by different things. Chris and Randy actually both love Kiss and of course Ozzy and Judas Priest. I love all the heavy stuff, but I’ve also always loved Nine Inch Nails and more of the electronic side of music. I also love Johnny Cash and Stevie Nicks, so I’m really just a music lover [in general]. I love the spectrum of it and so does our producer Kevin Churko. I think that when we do these albums though, we try not to keep ourselves in a genre of anything, or in a box and that’s something magical we let happen with us. I used to get stuck in “is that too this or that too that” or “will they like this”, and you really got to let go and find truth in yourself and find something that YOU love and that you’re passionate about and that’s when other people will truly feel that.
“I kind of let myself go into these different realities and different characters within myself, and let it go from there.”
AW: With today’s society being so distracted by cell phones and social media, I feel that for a band to keep people’s attention they need to balance their musical talent with an outstanding theatrical presentation, how does your band carry out the theatrical elements of its persona?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: We work with a lot of talented people who help us make these things happen, and I’m so grateful that the boys in the band all play their own individual parts, and they all become their own characters when we come on stage. Chris has been my partner from the beginning and he has really let me take the visual ideas that I have and let me go with them, and he’s been really supportive of that. Chris is like Pantera heavy in every way you could think of, and when I came to him and said “Hey I want dancers and performers to perform with me”, you could imagine his reaction.
“What are you talking about? We’re a metal band what do mean you want performers!” But you know he is really like me, and I think we really evolved and learned that to not be afraid of what other people are going to think. He has learned to trust me that if I am going to do dancers, that I am going to make it our way. I am going to make it grimy, I am going to make it artistic and not just us standing up there like barbies and doing pop dance moves. It’s grimy, scary, it pulls you in and it’s captivating….the show really evolved all the way around. For me what it’s about, is when you listen to the CD in the dark and you don’t see anything, you know I want people to feel something, and feel these different emotions and go on that roller coaster. But when you come to our show I want visually what you are looking at to also evoke those same emotions. So you’re being stimulated in all those different forms. I think like you see people like Kiss, Michael Jackson, and these larger-than-life people, they all joined music with the visuals in a way that really is exciting.
AW: As you’ve created songs throughout your career, did you ever envision the whole picture from an artist’s perspective not just with the sound of the music but what you want to put out visually as well?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: When I do the songs sometimes I naturally just start to build a visual, and build this artistic extension of the song itself, with different characters. For Sex Metal Barbie when I was in the studio doing it, I pictured this sort of dark, creepy beauty queen and it’s sarcastic and she has the crown and the whole nine yards. So I was actually visually picturing that in the studio, and it was the same with Black Widow. We were doing the album and I was really focused on this. I kind of let myself go into these different realities and different characters within myself and let it go from there.
AW: All your songs seem to very personal and they seem to be about experiences you’ve had, is it difficult to constantly be reminded of these experiences?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: That’s the kicker because I do believe that a song has to be a truth in you, from one way or another. So if it is something that deals with hurting or suffering, I do have to have my own personal experience connected somehow or in some way, so I can feel it. And I think that’s the magic in music when you can feel somebody. You can listen to someone sing like an angel and get those goosebumps and shiver from it, but then you can also have someone like Johnny Cash who didn’t necessarily sing like an angel, but he still hit right to the core because you felt it. Connecting is important, and it can get sometimes emotionally exhausting in the studio because you almost have to dig down into your skeletons sometimes for certain songs, to bring yourself there emotionally in order for it to be true.
The same goes for performing live. Sometimes when I get off the stage at I’m at a hundred because you do have to go through that roller-coaster of emotions each night on stage – I’m not complaining…I love it and this is what I live for – but sometimes it can bring on a bit of a psychological roller coaster.
AW: One of my favorite songs/videos for this cycle is Big Bad Wolf. Could you give your perspective on this song and the video?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: I love Big Bad Wolf. I think that it’s one of my favorite songs that we’ve ever done. There’s something about it that is just exhilarating for me. The meaning of the song is basically about the struggle that we all go through with battling what’s inside ourselves. I’d like to say the Piggy and the Big Bad Wolf are different parts of myself. It goes along with the saying of ‘you become what you focus on’. So whatever animal you choose to see, is the animal that you will become, and it’s kind of about learning to embrace those different animals within ourselves, and that we all have different ones for different reasons. Even if it’s a terrifying animal or a scary one, maybe that’s the one you have to pull out in a life or death situation, because it’s the one that will protect you. So that’s what the song is all about. That inner struggle of “which one is going to take me over” and the fear of that and wondering “how do I control it”.
The video we shot in one day and I came up with the concept and the visuals for it all, like the cages and the girls in the wolf heads, just by obsessing over it and not sleeping. I really wanted to use a fisheye lens, to capture that weird look where the head is really big. The concept itself is about locking yourself in a room and going through that journey, and going through that internal struggle, and I think you can feel it.
AW: With the appearance of the band members, does everyone kind of do their own thing visually or is it all collectively a part of your artistic concepts for the band?
Maria Brink / In This Moment: I’m so lucky to be in a band with these guys because they’re not just amazing musicians, but amazing people [as well]. All of them have very vivid imaginations, and they’re all artists within themselves. They come up with these cool ideas and they paint themselves before the show because they’re all really into the idea of transforming themselves before they go out to play. They’re like my dirty graveyard protectors when they come out on stage, these ghouls circling around me.
They all have really great imaginations, and they let me go along with my ideas but they play their own parts perfectly as well. I love it.