Interview: Melissa Bonny – Ad Infinitum

With a combination of ultra-clean vocals and full-on guttural growls, Swiss powerhouse vocalist Melissa Bonny is one of the rapidly rising stars in today’s metal scene.  As well as featuring in Rage Of Light, Bonny is also turning heads with her new band Ad Infinitum. The quartet has just released ‘Chapter I: Revisited’, an acoustic reimagining of their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Chapter I: Monarchy’, and Melissa was on hand to talk us through the difficulties of recording an album during the lockdown, the importance of creating a fanbase, as well as talking about how excited she is about joining Kamelot as a guest vocalist in South America next year.

The new album, ‘Chapter I: Revisited’, has just been released; considering how hard it must have been to record the album, with the band scattered across a few different countries, you must be pleased with how strong the album came out?

Yes, you know, we actually counted it the other day, we met (during the recording process) as a band all together only three times! It’s pretty cool the amount of work that we’ve been able to do remotely, so we’re very happy with the result. And, we’re also very happy with everything that we’ve been able to do this year because we were sad that all of our plans were cancelled because of the pandemic, but when we look back on it at the end of the year we will have released two albums, made six videos, one Livestream: and that’s pretty cool! We’ve been able to reach a lot of people with all of that. So, in the end, the year has not been so bad.

It’s fair to say that the band have not sat on their hands during the lockdown, and used the time wisely! How blown away were you when you heard the acoustic arrangements for the first time?

It’s funny, the first steps had been done by Adrian (Adrian Thessenvitz – guitar) and he went away and re-arranged everything with the guitars before passing the songs to the rest of the band to do their parts. I remember when I received the first bunch of songs, I was at home, and I connected my phone to the sound system and started to listen: and I was like…oh my god! This was like listening to new songs. It wasn’t just taking acoustic guitars and changing the chords, it was really something new: a new atmosphere.

Exactly, yes. One of the first things that people picked up on when the first video, ‘Marching On Versailles’, was released, was that it was almost like two entirely separate albums, with no connection.

We tried to make them different, and have the fans that already know the songs: rediscover them. Not just playing the songs with acoustic guitars and a Cajon, we really wanted to offer something new, so we changed up a bunch of things. Changed up some of the vocal lines, transferred some of the growls, and then hoped for the best!

Were there any songs that were particularly difficult to rearrange for the acoustic format?

That’s a question best answered by Adrian! For me, the tricky part was in deciding whether to transfer all the screams to clean vocals, or maybe just some of the screams and if so, where? I had to follow the lead of the instruments and adapt the energy of the vocals.

It was a fantastic surprise when your guttural vocals appeared on ‘Maleficent’. Totally unexpected.

Yes! I thought that this one required growls, so I just said…” Let’s do it!”. I was looking forward to hearing people’s reactions to it.

There is a whole different vibe on ‘Chapter I: Revisited’, the parent album ‘Chapter I: Monarchy’ is quite a dark album, but even though ‘Revisited’ features the same songs, the same lyrics, the same subject matter: it’s quite a light album…

Yes, there is some kind of “happy summer” feel on the album!

That comes across in the videos that the band has released so-far, especially ‘Marching On Versailles’ – such a happy vibe!

(Laughs) Yes! It’s funny, we were in Cologne the same weekend that we filmed the stream, and I remember sitting on those stairs boiling as we were filming the videos, and I was praying for a little bit of a breeze! It’s funny that it’s now winter and we are releasing the videos: like a clash of the seasons!

There is almost a folk-vibe on the new album, the guitars, in particular, was this something that you and Adrian came up with before recording the album?

I don’t think that we aimed to stick to a particular atmosphere in the arrangements. We focussed more on the musical aspect, we didn’t think…oh, we need to keep this dark because this is a sad song…or keep it melancholic. We just focussed on transferring the songs into something new and exploring a new path.

It certainly worked, that’s for sure. And it’s great to see the guys in the videos without their masks on!

(Laughs) Yes! That was something that we wanted to do, we also did it for the stream, the guys dropped their masks for the one acoustic song that we did. It just fitted better not having the masks. To make it a little bit more personal.

You must be worn down by the number of people making Covid jokes about the guys in the band wearing plague masks?!

(Laughs) Actually, we haven’t had many comments about that! In the beginning, we were thinking…” Oh shit! We didn’t think about this!”. Then we thought that it would either go okay or go very wrong and people would be offended by it! We filmed everything for the ‘Monarchy’ album before we had even heard of the virus, so maybe that’s why there weren’t many comments, and the comments that were made were quite funny.

We touched on your guttural vocals earlier, by the time that gigs return in 2021, you will have been off the road for some time. How do you look after your voice when you are not performing every other night?

I try to rehearse regularly. Right now I don’t even have to think about it because we are writing a new album and I am singing all the time! I know that when tour dates get closer, I’ll go to the rehearsal room and challenge myself.

Does muscle memory kick-in?

It does, but what doesn’t is that there are some vocal techniques like high belting and the growls that require a little more practice, and it’s these techniques that I need to “get back”.

You mentioned writing a new album, can you tell us anything about it?

I think we have four songs that are pretty much good demos, good candidates for the album. We are into song-writing mode now, so we definitely have a plan. Yesterday, for example, I had created some vocals and sent them to the band with just some drafts of guitars and drums and said: play with it! And Nik (Niklas Müller – drums) sent me something back and I listened to it on repeat for probably an hour because I loved it so much! So yeah it’s very encouraging.

Definitely! It must have been a blow that the band was gathering some momentum and catching people’s attention, then the pandemic put the brakes on touring?

Yes, but it’s the same for every band as no-one is touring. We’ve had to make the best out of the situation and everything that we’ve done this year with two albums, six videos, one stream, has meant that we’ve been able to reach more people than we would have had we been playing to 200-500 people per night on a tour. I think that the tour we missed was even smaller than that, so what we’ve been able to do might have made more impact for the band. For sure we really want to meet fans in person, and not through the internet, but by the time that we do get out there, we will have a stronger band, and probably even a brand new album.

The band has also been busy designing new merchandise: it must be quite humbling that so many people are supporting the band by buying the merch direct from you?

It is crazy because we didn’t know what to expect; we’re a newcomer, only recorded one album, and we created this merchandise ourselves. The only thing that we don’t do is print it: we design it, pack it, and send it. The first time we only ordered something like 100 shirts and they sold out in like a couple of days which was incredible. It was touching that so many people wanted our merch without having seen us live, they knew us through the internet and our songs. With this new one, the fall edition, we ordered more, and like the previous one, most of the sizes have sold out. It’s very rewarding that people are following us and wanting to wear our colours!

It’s also been a busy year for you personally, with special guest appearances, not just reprising your role as “Queen Of The Damned” with Warkings, but also appearing with Feuerschwanz on their latest album ‘Das Elfte Gebot’. And you’ve now just announced that next year you are going out on the road with Kamelot: that must be a dream come true for you, especially since you are such a fan of Kamelot?

I’m so excited about that because Kamelot is one of the bands that I’ve been listening to for many years now. They have influenced a lot of the sound with Ad Infinitum. I really love their songs, and it’s just a pleasure to learn these songs, I’m so impatient to perform these songs on stage!

It’s also a great opportunity because Ad Infinitum and Kamelot have so many similarities. People might discover me with Kamelot and be curious, and then listen to Ad Infinitum and like what they hear because it’s not that different.

This is something that I’m definitely looking forward to.

Especially since the dates where you will be appearing are in South America, where the fans are well known for being insane!

Yes! I’ve seen some footage of bands playing there and I was like…” Oh. My. God! This is wild!”

What do you take from the experience of being a special guest? Is it more fun for you because there perhaps is less pressure on you?

It’s definitely less stressful for me because I don’t have to take care of the administrative part of the work. It is still stressful because you are performing for another band and you what to deliver your best because you want them to be happy with your work. Besides that, I would say that it’s pretty easy.

I spoke to Peter from Feuerschwanz around the time that their album came out and he spoke very highly of your contribution to the cover of ‘Ding’. Especially the part where you seem to move up a gear and change from clean vocals to growls!

(Laughs) This was probably the coolest collaboration that I’ve done so far! First of all, I love the song so much, and it’s one of those songs where I don’t mind if I’m singing on it or not because I can still listen to it! I really love it! Also, we spent two days together in Germany, the first to film the video, the second was them filming another video but I stayed there as they are the kindest people and I had the greatest time. It was so much fun, I loved the entire experience.

The album was incredible and ‘Ding’ a standout moment for sure. What would be your album of the year? Or is that too difficult to chose?

Not difficult at all, I would say ‘Manifest’ from Amaranthe. I would say that it’s their best album to date. It’s definitely my favourite, and definitely a masterpiece.

Good choice!

 

Purchase ‘Chapter I: Revistied’ here

Follow Melissa on social media here.

Interview – Dave

Photo credits -Claudia Chiodi

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