Tanith formed about two years ago, when Satan’s Russ Tippins decided to form another band with some people he had met during a show in Canada some years earlier, with whom he seemed to share a common interest in 70s rock and all that. They released their debut earlier this year and burst onto stages worldwide, mainly as the guests of Riot V (throughout Europe). We had a lot of questions and thankfully, not only Russ Tippins (guitars & vocals), but also Cindy Maynard (vocals & bass) and Keith Robinson (drums) felt in a quite talkative mood, and filled us in, on all things past and present, concerning the band. Read on…
Tanith band pic
Hi there; how did Tanith come about, both as a concept but also as a band, Russ is a Brit and the rest of the band American? Common friends – chance meeting?
Russ: A bit of both I suppose, we became friends through a chance meeting six years ago in Montreal. Satan were playing Wings of Metal fest and that’s where I met Cindy and Charlie. They were with a bunch of metalheads who had driven up there from New York for the festival. We’ve been friends ever since. I didn’t meet Keith until a few years later but the four of us do seem to be of the same mindset about certain things, especially when it comes to music.
Also how does this work? Is Russ flying over and staying for extended periods of time or does it happen mostly over the net?
Keith: Having Russ on the other side of the ocean complicates things for sure. The writing of music does start with ideas sent over the internet, and when Russ makes it to NYC, we try to get as much playing in as possible, both polishing up our current music and trying to put together the ideas for new music that we collaborated with over the net.
Satan got signed to Metal Blade; did you sign Tanith to Metal Blade too, because you were happy with the label, or to keep things more manageable?
K: When we first completed the initial recordings, Russ did hit up Metal Blade to gauge any interest from them and since they already had him signed with another band, they respectfully declined. Our deal actually came through the European branch of Metal Blade. One of their representatives was doing his weekly perusal of metal bands on Bandcamp and came across “Citadel” and became very interested in it. He sent it around through the channels at Metal Blade and it wasn’t until much later that they figured out this was Russ Tippins’ “other” project. So Russ being signed to Metal Blade with Satan had no bearing at all with Tanith signing with Metal Blade. For us it was validation that the music was good and that we were not riding on the coattails of another band. We were making our own way.
The word Tanith comes from a Phoenician goddess, but has some slang meanings as well, how did you settle on it?
Cindy: The name came from the Hammer horror movie “The Devil Rides Out”. Russ suggested it as he liked the way the name sounded. I watched the movie and thought it was cool and then we looked up the name “Tanith” and found the Phoenician origins referring to the goddess of fertility and war. So, the idea of feminine power certainly fit for us and seemed fit to rock out to!
Also the title of the album and its musical essence, seem to pay tribute to another time, do you consider yourselves purposely retro, or just channeling the sounds of your youth?
C: Our sound is inspired by the bands we love and want to listen to. Yeah we all grew up listening to 70s rock bands like Rush and Blue Oyster Cult, although I didn’t discover Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash or Uriah Heep until later. It’s the kind of thing I’d put on now more often than not and what Russ and I like to listen to when we hang out together. But when we decided to form the band it was a conscious choice to play this style since our voices are naturally suited to this more than say heavy metal, that took a while to figure out!
The whole dual vocals thing was it something conscious and decided beforehand, or did it just happen as you were jamming and thought – let’s try dual vocals here and just worked?
C: Russ has played music his whole life and sings all the time as a way of making a living. When he and I decided to play together for fun it just made sense to share the duties of singing – it just works when we harmonize together and trade lead vocals. One person doesn’t have to be in the role of frontman all the time and we can take breaks to focus on playing our instruments too. So, when we decided to form a band we always knew it would involve our voices in harmony.
Can you tell us where you draw the inspiration from – I mean some songs seem more thematic than others, which seem a little more abstract. (Don’t mind a song-song breakdown)...
C: “Citadel (Galantia Pt. 1)”: Russ basically woke up with this song in his head one day. Lyrically it was inspired by the last verse from Neil Young’s song “After the Goldrush”.
“Book of Changes”: The ideas for this one came from the I Ching.
“Wing of the Owl (Galantia Pt. 3)”: This song is the third in the Galantia thread; it’s more or less a continuation of the theme from “Citadel”, a projection of what became of those people.
“Cassini’s Deadly Plunge”: Lyrically, this is purely from Russ’ fascination with space and the actual story of the Cassini-Huygens satellite that orbited Saturn.
“Under the Stars”: Lyrically, this one came out of a frustration with the speed on modern life. It’s basically a fantasy about turning the clock back and throwing off the yoke of technology, all set to Thin Lizzy/Angel Witch kind of riffs.
“Mountain”: This one is an affirmation of sorts, of getting through life’s hardships and taking the reins of our individual power. It went through several iterations before we settled on the theme and musical direction, but basically came out of an old song Russ had written and an acoustic piece Charlie wrote.
“Eleven Years”: This comes from the feeling of wanting the clock to turn back to reconsider one’s path in life and what would happen in an extreme case where a person couldn’t move forward.
“Dionysus”: This is a confession story set in Greek myth. In fact the first lyrics were more of a Catholic slant and the title was “Father Leonard”; we quickly realized that needed reworking (haha).
“Under the Stars (Reprise)”: This was inspired by “Under the Stars” of course (haha). It’s kind of a screenplay version of the song. The vocal lines and sound were inspired by the song “Mouthful of Grass” by Free.
Russ, you started a band in the 80s and now you’re starting another band in the 10’s some thirty years apart. Similarities and differences in the two eras?
R: The biggest difference is there were more people buying music than making music in the 80s. Now the situation is reversed with so many people making their own music. Although recording nowadays is much easier and can be done at everyone’s convenience, one thing that hasn’t changed is if you are on tour you still have to rehearse, be in the same place, have your shit together etc. and put in the time to make the music happen. That won’t ever change.
You recently performed in Greece supporting Riot. What are your recollections from that gig?
C: We were really looking forward to Athens and now after having done it; we can say it was an incredible experience! Great crowd, venue and city! And playing “Dionysus” in Greece was a big highlight for sure.
Do you think a fan of Satan/Pariah can easily become a fan of Tanith?
R: Yes!
What are your expectations from your debut album, “In Another Time”, and where do you see yourselves a few years from now?
R: We would love to have as many people hear and enjoy the album as possible and to gain new fans on the road. The next step would be to make enough from this album to record a second album, to expand the touring schedule we’ve had for this year and to get more festival offers in the next year or so a little higher on the bill. Most of all though, we want the mutual vibe that we all have in this band to continue and grow.
It’s time for our “Weird Questions”!!! What are those things that you do not like in the music industry nowadays?
R: American Idol, X Factor or any TV talent show.
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in rock history?
R: Jon Anderson and Sandy Denny.
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
R: Iron Maiden’s first! I guess when I started off 39 years ago I was trying to write that record but they beat me to it! And hell, they deserve every success they’ve had just because of that one fantastic album.
Which are the top 3 Rock albums of all time according to you?
R: Led Zeppelin – “Physical Graffiti”, David Bowie – “The Man Who Sold the World” and Uriah Heep – “Salisbury”.
Fill in the phrase… “Rock wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
R: This is easy… Jimi Hendrix!
Which is the composer/songwriter who influenced rock music the most?
R: I can never decide between Jimmy Page or David Bowie.
Who is the sexiest female Rock Star of all time?
R: Stevie Nicks – are you kidding?!
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
R: The whole history of humanity’s music? It would have to be something that transcends the boundaries of Rock… something like “Going for the One” by Yes.
If you had the opportunity to invite any musician, living or dead, to play on your album whom would you choose and why?
R: Jon Anderson, I adore the sound of his voice and would love to write something that he might sing.
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
R: Since we already know what’s happened in the past, curiosity would make me want to go to the future. Maybe 1000 years – just to see what has become of humanity and this planet. Or on second thought, maybe just 11 years back in time...