A Conversation with Hellion’s Ann Boleyn – HuffPost 10.29.14

Mike Ragogna: Ann, you are closely associated with the term “speed metal” since, well, you invented it. You’ve been a major KROQ personality, you owned the New Renaissance Records label, you’re an icon for women’s empowerment, and your group Hellion released a double disc — not a single disc — anthology, To Hellion And Back. Oh, and your latest release is the new Karma’s A Bitch project. It seems like you’ve got achievement issues.

Ann Boleyn: Necessity is the mother of invention. When you find yourself backed up against the wall, you have a choice to make. Are you going to start complaining? Or, are you going to take action and try and make things better? It’s as simple as that.

MR:Karma’s A Bitch is being called a “mini-album.” First of all, why did you take that approach and what was it like working with Ken Scott? What did he bring to the mix that made the process different or enhanced?

AB: Hellion first worked with Ken Scott in 1985. In the 1980s, musicians came together in a recording studio and it was the producer’s job to capture the magic moments. Today, however, most bands create their albums on home computers without the live interaction of the musicians. When we started work on Karma’s A Bitch, it was very important to Hellion to capture the spirit of the musicians performing together, as opposed to simply emailing music files over the computer. Ken Scott was the perfect person to help. Recording in a traditional studio is expensive. We decided we’d rather have five songs that were recorded in the traditional way, than have a full length album recorded on a computer. Ken Scott helped by bringing out the best performances out of everybody.”

MR: What are you looking for out of the writing/recording process these days that differs from the early days? Do you miss those early days?

AB: I prefer the “old-school” process of having live musicians in a recording studio. While technological innovations are a good thing, there is no substitute for the magic that occurs when a group of like-minded people are playing music at the same time.

MR: Where do you think Hellion fits in the history of metal? What do you think is its significance and what separates it from other bands?

AB: When Hellion started in 1982, most music business people in the US viewed female-fronted heavy rock or metal bands as nothing more than a gimmick. I remember being asked, “So exactly what is it that Hellion does? Do you come on stage in lingerie? Do you blow-up TVs? Are you available for fun and games after the show?” Early on, we were approached by Ed Leffler, who managed Van Halen. Ed said that before he’d manage Hellion, that I would have to agree to breast enhancement surgery, bleach my hair, fix my teeth, fire our guitarist because he as too tall, and to perform pop-rock music that was written by outside writers. These demands were typical of the offers and we received. Despite the ’80s stereotypes and sexism, Hellion eventually moved forward by performing outside the US and by signing a record deal outside the USA. Later, when we couldn’t get a record deal in the USA, I formed my own record label, New Renaissance Records.”

MR: Of course, I was kidding earlier with that list of your achievements, but you’ve been a contributor to the field of music for many years. What drives you and do you take a moment to appreciate the bigger picture and what you’ve done to this point?

AB: I am not a happy person unless I am involved in music. During the periods of time when I had problems with stalkers and could not perform, I was absolutely miserable. Having the opportunity now to tour is something I appreciate very much. I don’t take anything for granted.

MR: At this point, would you and the band ever consider morphing into another kind of music, like incorporating the blues, etc.?

AB: The people who come to see Hellion expect and deserve to hear heavy rock and metal. However, at the same time, its important for every member to have the freedom to explore other styles — myself included. I just received an offer to perform in Europe next year with four other female metal singers, on a tour with a symphony orchestra. However, when it comes to Hellion, metal will always be our main focus.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

AB: My biggest career mistakes were caused by my own fear about asking questions. It was not until years later, that I learned that some of the people I considered to be my biggest enemies, were actually my biggest supporters. Likewise, I learned that some of the people who I considered to be my friends, weren’t. If something feels wrong, it is important to go to the source and ask — even if you are afraid of getting the wrong answer.

MR: What’s the tour going to be like?

AB: Hellion has our best line-up ever with Simon Wright — formerly of AC/DC, Dio, and UFO — on drums, Scott Warren — formerly of Dio, Heaven & Hell, Warrant, and Type-O Negative — on keyboards, Greg Smith–formerly with Rainbow, Alice Cooper, Wendy O. Williams, and more — on bass, Maxxxwell Carlisle on lead guitar, and Greg Dolivo — of Rhino Bucket — as our special guest on rhythm guitar. It is an honor to have them in the band. Hellion just completed the first few shows of the tour and it is going really, really well.

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