By Nicholas Jason Lopez
For the longest time since she could recall, it’d always been Lisa Mann’s dream to produce a metal record that showcased her teenage roots of doom and classic metal, when she worshipped acts like Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
On Feb. 22, 2020, the hopes became tangible. ‘The Poisoner,’ Mann’s debut album under the solo moniker of White Crone, was released. Along with help from talented guests, Mann performed vocals, guitars and bass on the album, a callback to her musical versatility in her days as a successful blues artist.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk to the Portland, Ore. based musician about ‘The Poisoner’ and other topics.
Music Bugle – Looking back on it, are you happy with the way your LP ‘The Poisoner’ came out?
White Crone – Yes, I am quite pleased with how the album turned out, especially when I look back at the very long process of songwriting and pre production. During that home recording process, I was able to scratch out all the parts, including guitars and drums using my Roland V-Drums. I could, of course, track the bass and vocals with ease, but had to teach myself both guitars and drums in order to write those parts. The drum tracks I laid down got the ideas across for the man who would eventually lay down the final ones, but my scratch performances were embarrassingly atrocious! Until I heard Larry London’s final drum tracks, I couldn’t imagine how good the songs would really turn out. Vinny Appice played on one doomy track and it sounded, well, like Vinny Appice! As for the final master, I knew that would be stellar. I have worked with Kevin Hahn at Opal Studio here in Portland, Oregon for many years and he can be counted on to do major label-worthy mix and master.
Music Bugle – From a creativity standpoint, do you feel that writing and performing most of the music yourself made it come out to your vision better?
White Crone – Good question! The songwriting itself drove the vision of what would eventually be called “White Crone’s The Poisoner.” The parts that made up the songs arose in my head piece-by-piece over the course of a year or more. I installed a recording program and learned to use it with the help of my husband, fellow bassist Allen Markel. I bought V-Drums and a 7-string Schecter guitar and got to work. Engineer and co-producer Kevin was very encouraging as I slowly crept my way through recording the guitar parts. He knew I intended to teach the parts to a “real” guitarist, but he agreed that if I laid down my own parts and wrote my own solos, they would turn out far closer to what my original intentions were for the songs. Also, as a somewhat demanding bass-playing bandleader, having guitar parts that stick rhythmically in my same pocket is very important and of course, I was able to play guitar in exactly the same pocket as my bass. There were two songs that greatly benefited from having the experienced hand of a bona-fide guitarist, as former Glacier guitarist Mehdi Farjami did some incredible leads on “The Dream of Tiamat” and the Venom cover “The Seven Gates of Hell.” I could never have played those solos! However, I am glad that I was the one who ultimately translated most of the sounds I was hearing in my head into the final guitar parts, despite the many blisters and cracked fingernails that resulted. It was a satisfying feeling of accomplishment to hear the finished product.
Music Bugle – Do you feel it is easier or harder to stand out in your particular genre?
White Crone – It has been difficult to stand out in the metal scene, mainly because there are so many incredible artists right now, but also, trying to break out as an independent artist in metal has been a real eye-opener about my relative position as an unsigned blues recording artist. I’ve been blessed to win many awards and achieve some national and international notice in the blues genre, so when I put out this new White Crone album, I had naively assumed I would simply replicate what I do when releasing a blues album. What an eye-opener that was! I could not get any of the larger PR firms to even respond to my emails. I guess that makes me an “underground artist,” which is humbling, but oddly kind of cool. Through Twitter, I kind of stumbled into a guy from Australia that runs an underground metal and hardcore site, NoobHeavy. He said he was also promoting bands through his separate PR service and I’m very glad I reached out to him and I would recommend his services to others.
Music Bugle – How would you describe the “scene” in Portland, Oregon?
White Crone – I call myself the “Unfrozen Cavewoman of Metal” because I haven’t been in the metal scene ever since I was the original bassist in a crossover band called Dead Conspiracy a million years ago. Now, there are a lot of great bands out of Portland – Red Fang, Toxic Holocaust, Bewitcher, Idle Hands and Witch Mountain have been kicking ass and taking names, or at least were until COVID-19 hit and took away everybody’s gigs. There’s also a great NWORNR scene here, with bands like Time Rift and even Black ‘n Blue has made a resurgence. There’s a small core group of people in Portland that support local music and even do metal meet-ups to hang before shows and shoot the shit. I joined a group in Portland called PDX Metal Deathbusters soon after I fell back in love with metal and have made some good friends that way that enjoy a lot of the same music I do. It’s been a real blessing.
Music Bugle – Which of your musical influences do you feel shine the most in your work?
White Crone – My most obvious influences are Iron Maiden, Dio, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Mercyful Fate. I also have lots of influences in different songs from artists like Manowar, Destruction, Accept, Megadeth, Rush and Celtic Frost. All of these are bands I listened to “back in the day,” and still do, but oddly enough, it was Ghost who influenced me to write ‘The Poisoner’ to begin with. I first heard them when they were in the Grammy nomination process. I started checking out more of their music and it had so many bizarre disparate influences. Then, one day as I listened, it just occurred to me – “You mean, you can just write and record whatever the fuck you want?” Soon after, I started hearing all these metal melodies reverberating in my head and I felt compelled to get them out.
Music Bugle – Has the COVID-19 outbreak affected you in any way directly?
White Crone – It has completely eliminated my main source of income, which is as a performing blues artist. I’m also the band leader, so I’ve watched my bandmates suffer as well. My husband is a full-time working bass player too. He performs with soul blues artist Sugaray Rayford all over the world, so he lost all his gigs too. At least we get to see each other more, but my income is now down to download and streaming income of my blues catalog, as well as sales of ‘The Poisoner,’ although I’ve been able to make some dough doing live-streaming shows. It’s been totally surreal. I miss my fans and friends, but I’m trying to be productive during this time. In fact, I joined the band Splintered Throne after their vocalist left last year and we are in the process of writing a brand new full-length trad-metal album. It’s been hard not being able to be in the same room, but we’re writing through the process of Zoom meetings and file sharing. We’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s difficult when there is still so much uncertainty. Eventually, we will need to get into the studio together, but not until we’re sure the coast is clear! Money and gigs are important, but they’re not worth dying for and that’s another way it has impacted me. Many fellow blues musicians, who often tend to be older and people of color, have been taken by the virus. This shit is real. People need to take it seriously.
Music Bugle – What has been your proudest moment as a musician?
White Crone – That would be hard to say, having had so many great moments. However, to have heard this album in my head, piece-by-piece and to have facilitated it into coming into being through sheer determination, I believe this has been my biggest accomplishment as a musician and it took many, many years of experience piling up behind me in order to get there.
Music Bugle – What are your future plans as far as the rest of 2020?
White Crone – Live shows in either blues or metal will be very limited in 2020, I’m afraid, so I’m looking forward to releasing a Blues-Americana EP, as well as finishing the album Splintered Throne is working on. Once that is accomplished, the band intends to start gigging as much as feasible.
Music Bugle – How did you come up with the name “White Crone”?
White Crone – I had intended to name the project after the Mayan king who is the subject of the final track, “18 Rabbit,” but I found that there is already a band by that name. I was going to remain anonymous, like Ghost’s Tobias Forge, but decided I am going to own it as Lisa Mann, so White Crone is a character along the lines of Ziggy Stardust or Papa Emeritus and it’s a descriptor. I’m old enough to have seen Metallica live with Cliff Burton and I have very pale skin, so voila – White Crone.
Music Bugle – Did you have any material that didn’t make ‘The Poisoner’?
White Crone – Yes and no. There is another doom-based song that Vinny Appice tracked for me along with my bass lines and vocal parts. However, I have yet to flesh it out and it would not have fit considering the similar flavor of “Under Hag Stones.” I may release it as a single, or perhaps there will be another White Crone album yet to come!