“I am a lover of the night.” – Interview with Mikaela Attard

Setting out on a solo journey, Malta’s renowned metal artist Mikaela Attard is armed and ready to dominate the world of heavy music. With her debut album “Nocturne In Red” just around the corner, we caught up with the red goddess herself and discussed the new material (and more) in detail. The effect of nighttime on songwriting, classical and metal influences, inspiration behind “Bring Me Blood”, state of metal in Malta, zodiac signs and its traits… the following lines cover it all. 

MG: Hello, Mikaela! How are you doing? It’s so good to be catching up with you. So, there’s quite a lot going on in your music universe currently. Let’s start with the recent transition from being a band member to solely focusing on your solo career. You were quite vocal about not being happy in your previous band and the way they acted towards you. It must be a liberating feeling to be on your own, following your own vision without any restraints and limitations. How do you feel about it? 

Mikaela: Hey Metal Goddesses! I am doing fantastic, thank you for having me! Well, simply put, it definitely feels great to be working on this new project. It is liberating indeed. And it feels right.

MG: Your debut full-length album “Nocturne In Red” is on the way. Can you tell us more about it?  

Mikaela: For sure! “Nocturne In Red” will be officially released on Wednesday October 28, 2020 on all stores as digital and physical album, it premiers at 6PM CET / 10 AM PDT / 1 PM EDT!  Album pre-orders are already out in fact, together with bundle offers all available on the official online store. It has been so fulfilling working on the album, all throughout the process really. So it comes without saying that this is a moment I have been waiting for so eagerly as well. I’m so thrilled with the feedback that this project is getting already even before the release date, the awaiting and reactions that I am so honored to be finally presenting these pieces to you and to be finally sharing this work with our metal brothers and sisters. We are now really just a few days away from full discovery. After “Bring Me Blood”, the first single release from the album followed by the second “Chaotic Mind” which was out just yesterday, there is still a lot more that lives in the shadows, hides in the light, speaks in grooves and rhythms that “Nocturne In Red” has sewn within.

The overall dynamic and experience of the album resides beyond what you heard already, it’s a great fraction exposed but there is more. A lot more. The album artwork, just announced this week, speaks of the story behind the concept of the album in imagery. The pivotal concept of the album speaks about different states of the mind, our perception and it depends on us on how we see things. It could be just how we are biology manufactured or it could be just our choice really. Every song speaks about different states, different situations all with the same underlying concept. That we are who we are no matter what. How we see, how we feel, how we sense is us, all us. So this is my nocturne, a “Nocturne In Red”. “Nocturne In Red” came to me as a phrase right after we finished with the mastering actually. I am a lover of the night, I like how the world speaks to me in the dark, when the world doesn’t rumble much, but there’s solitude within the stillness that’s so comforting. It’s really a pity that for the most part it is tucked away because, well, routine. I find myself most inspired to write during this stillness, I could hear myself focus, it is really fascinating. The album was for the most part written at night. I think undeniably it gives it that tone already. I feel a sense of horror, too. A nocturne literally means a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night. It dates back to its first use by Mozart’s Notturno in D, K.286 and also became popular by Frédéric Chopin, who wrote 21 of them. Nocturne in C sharp minor and in Eb major are definitely my favorite pieces of his. I have been introduced to the classical world from my classical training since childhood, it really just became part of me without noticing. I am a lover of the night and I am also a sapiosexual, I just really find the brain, the mind to be a fascinating thing, I am attracted to intelligence. The brain is really everything, the powerhouse that homes states of mind and their paths. A dear friend once told me you have a beautiful brain, and that is really the best compliment I ever had. I felt real warmth inside.

So proceeding onto the latter part of the title, – in Red, “Nocturne In Red”, still keeping the classical terminology in mind, a nocturne is given a musical key, different keys give different moods and colors. Some hear music in colors, too. Apart from my red aesthetic, how people relate red to me, I actually see keys in color, some may know this as synesthesia. Most of the tracks on the album are actually variations of the key of A and for me A, is red. Therefore, the chosen phrase in full seemed to be the perfect candidate for this collection of music, or rather a long piece of one, “Nocturne In Red”. 

MG: Does the whole album fit into a particular musical genre, or does it borrow from multiple forms?

Mikaela: It is a fully fledged metal album, with varying degrees of a number of sub-genres. Nonetheless, everyone will relate to it in their own ways and perspectives which I’d love to hear about. I don’t really like to categorize music in real life as it is really all good music when it is, independent of genre. But it helps to give a direction. There is a heavy percentage of nu-metalcore and deathcore in the broth, progressive and some black and death metal nonetheless and also a classic side. It plays out everywhere, you just have to hear it. I even wanted to speak in my own native language on the album, so there is also a bit of Maltese in there. On the lyric booklet with the album, you can even have a look at how we write it. So there is really quite a few things to enjoy and to look out for. I had the utmost of pleasures to work on this album with my dear friend Marco Minnemann, he features exclusively on drums for the entire 10-track album, as well as Kyle Farrugia, who has been fantastic to work with and he features on all guitars and bass guitar and it was certainly an honor to work with Tue Madsen for this project. It was an incredible experience and really a dream come true. From my production studies at Berklee and even beyond, I used to watch him mix and master a lot of bands that I love, I really liked how he does it all and to have worked with him on this album was really just a great honor. 

MG: What are some of the key influences? 

Mikaela: As per influences, I listen to a lot of music all the time. It is really hard to pick from where I got certain musical traits but I definitely keep getting inspired by Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Opeth, Janis Joplin, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Lamb of God, Otep, Gojira, Slipknot and I definitely listen to a hefty lot of Thy Art Is Murder, Whitechapel, Jinjer, Bring Me The Horizon, Suicide Silence, Northlane, Chelsea Grin, Behemoth, After The Burial, Emmure, In This Moment, Arch Enemy, Wage War, ERRA, Ded, to mention a few. 

MG: How long have you been working on the album for? When was the point you realized it’s time to release a debut solo album and put it in motion? 

Mikaela: I’ve had the idea of writing a full-length for a while but have always been preoccupied with other projects. After finishing with my degree in music production at Berklee, I really wanted to give it a go at producing the album myself, for it’s a different kind of authenticity and transparency of heart and mind that comes through. And that’s what happened this year. I’d say I’ve been working on this album for the past two years.

MG: You’ve written all the music and lyrics for the album but there’s also an amazing team of professionals that helped you bring “Nocturne In Red” to life. Marco Minnemann on drums, Kyle Farrugia on guitars and bass, Tue Madsen who mixed and mastered the album. How did you get this superb team together? 

Mikaela:They all wanted to collaborate on this project upon listening to the songs and that is what brought everyone together for this really. It was great working with Marco Minnemann, Kyle Farrugia and Tue Madsen on this project, for which I am not only grateful and honored but so pleased with how the album has been handled and how the final product sounds. 

MG: The first single off the album is titled “Bring Me Blood”. The song has quite a strong message. What was the inspiration for the lyrics? 

Mikaela: Well, the main concept behind this was inspired by an extreme event I went through myself. It’s like I wrote the song and sealed it for good. Actually, the lyrics didn’t take too long to write for this, as it was mostly spontaneous. It was like a vent off. In 2018, I was attacked by a random stranger with a knife, to my throat and to my stomach. I felt the blade cold. The shock not only stayed but it took a while to really accept it, and move on. As a victim, I felt pained with the injustice that was served, too. The only justice out of that all is that I lived. It brought me and my family a lot of blood, it could really put you in a dark place but even there you start to feel comfortable, and then you rise. You kind of start to live with it and then I come out of it stronger than I ever thought. Enough to finish this album. That day was day one of my second life.

MG: There’s also a really complex music video for it with multiple locations, outfit changes, a lot of cast and crew involved…How was the shooting?

Mikaela: Exciting and hectic to say the least. I was thrilled to have such a great team behind it, family and friends all so supportive and actively helpful and so many fans to be part of the music video, too! We had quite a number of shooting hours, not to mention stacks of preparation hours surrounding the concept. A video like that took a lot of discussions and concepts on the table to be perfectly translated how we wanted it to be, so I was and still am so pleased with the feedback that the song is still getting.

MG: You are a Taurus. I’ve just checked some of their traits and this is what I’ve found: Tauruses value honesty above all else. They don’t shy away from hard work, they’re ambitious, patient and can be huge perfectionists. They are famous for their stubbornness and enjoy all things luxurious and cosy, the comfort of their homes. How much of that would you say corresponds with your personality? 

Mikaela:Haha this is funny because it is absolutely fucking 100% correct. Honestly, I do not know what more to add to that because it is spot on. Perhaps, that I am very passionate about everything that I do, I value independence, I feel very artistic and that I always go for the maximum potential something can get, but you’ve already mentioned Tauruses are perfectionists so, you’re all set. 

MG: Speaking of zodiac signs, I’ve also found that your colour should be green or pink. However, your colour is totally red. I can’t even imagine you not being shrouded in red. It’s become your signature sign. And I don’t mean just your hair. It’s a huge part of your aesthetics and now album title, the first single… Why this colour? Can you imagine it not being red but a different one?

Mikaela:That’s true! Along the years, it really has become a part of my identity. I think it’s red for different reasons. Pretty sure it started because I love this color a lot, along with black. Match made in hell and I’m down. It represents a lot of things, as I said before so there’s that, too. Or perhaps?! Sure, one crazy day, you’ll perhaps see me in another aesthetic, but I can tell this is sticking very well with me haha, so it is probably staying? 🙂 

MG: You’ve got quite many achievements in your portfolio. You started with music when you were only 8, won Pop Idol when you were 13, received awards for Best New Artist, Best Female Artist, Malta’s Export Artist, Best Metal Band… You studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, have a degree in Music Production… What do you consider your biggest achievement so far? 

Mikaela:This album, “Nocturne In Red” ❤️ All these moments you mentioned are all important milestones, one builds on another, all so vital, so satisfying and extremely beautiful achievements and experiences to me but really, the creation of the album tops it all. Perhaps a better way of describing it is that the album really puts everything together, all that I have been working for and at to date, what I am about, my personality, my experiences, my achievements, my story, my life, all in one place. It really is an accumulation of it all, all dancingly intertwined together in one final piece to date, so ready to be shared with all of you.

MG: There are many TV performances of yours on Youtube, especially your collaborations with a philharmonic orchestra at Rockestra. How people embraced your style? Wasn’t this kind of performance a bit controversial for the Maltese audience? Do people recognize you? 

Mikaela: Those are actually really cool collaborations and concerts, even in front of 13,000 attendee count. It is really a great concert experience in Malta and people like it very much when I’m there it seems, from the messages, photos, videos, comments that I get. Well, metal is controversial in Malta, yes, but I get a lot of feedback that they’re listening to metal because of me too, so I guess it’s not all bad. It is a very catholic country, or pretends to be, and sometimes it’s that kind of judgement you keep getting. You know, sometimes still connected solely to bad connotations, things you would hear in the 70s but you just have to get used to it to live on the island, honestly. Take it with a pinch of salt if need be, otherwise you can just keep getting tired of listening to the same things. Even musically. I’m not saying to conform or give up what you like, never, but actually get up, believe in yourself and do your thing anyway. Don’t get pulled down to judgements that resonate to a personified height of understanding. People will come around if something’s good. I believe that.

MG: How would you even describe Maltese metal scene? You don’t get to hear about metal bands coming from Malta every day, so what is it actually like? 

Mikaela: There is a lot of great bands with potential on the island, but there is no proper market or industry, really. I feel that it’s actually a bigger first step for artists to make it. Not impossible of course, because nothing is, but definitely harder, first trying to get your music sound overseas as charity hardly starts at home.

MG: At the moment, what’s your professional goal? What can we expect from you in the near future?

Mikaela: I’m an artist and that’s always my professional goal. Well, in the very immediate future, it’s the release of “Nocturne In Red” on October 28, 2020 out on all stores worldwide that you’ll be expecting, just a few days away actually, and so this event’s dropping and all the fire that follows. I await all your reactions, your thoughts, perhaps even your favorites from the album and I hope you enjoy this piece of work that I passionately prepared for you with my team. 

MG: Thank you so much for your time. All the best with the release. 

Mikaela: Thank you so much Metal Goddesses and thank you all for the love and support, for being such an army and for the incredible responses on the singles, the announcements and the pre-orders already. Let’s get it!

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