May 15, 2019 Interview – Amanda Gjelaj of The Machinist
In the ever changing crazy world we live, most of us are just looking for somewhere to call home. Something that can be different for everyone, Amanda Gjelaj found her place within Heavy Metal. Growing up a part of the NYC Metal/Hardcore scene, through the years Gjelaj was led to creating her own music a part of various bands, but never one as complete as The Machinist.
A blend of Metal and Hardcore, the band has continuously honed their sound, earning a record deal with Prosthetic Records, and recently releasing Confidimus in Morte. Aggressive, real, and at times quite dark, The Machinist are a band to be reckoned with. Taking the time to discuss the roads traveled by the band, Amanda Gjelaj herself took the time to chat about her love for Metal, her unapologetic approach to the lyrics, squashing the stereotypes of women in Metal, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – A New Yorker, out of Queens to be exact, you have been a part of the Metal scene for some time now. Everyone has a different story of how they were turned on to Metal. Tell us, what brought you into the world of Metal?
Amanda Gjelaj – I was first brought into the scene when I was about 12 years old. I actually started listening to Punk and Jrock with bands such as Anti-Flag and Dir En Grey. Then I started watching Headbangers Ball on MTV2 and I was opened up to Metal. My first albums were Slipknot’s Iowa (2001) and System of a Downʼs Toxicity (2001). I got more into Deathcore, Death Metal, and Slam in high school and just kept on listening to Metal. I joined my first band, With Mercy In Mind, when I was 15 and have been in 5 different bands since; but, The Machinist has definitely been one the most amazing bands I have ever been a part of.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool, it sounds like your love for Metal runs deep. Formed around 7 years ago, The Machinist is a Metal band filled with fury. Releasing an album in 2016, you are now signed with Prosthetic Records and recently released Confidimus in Morte. What has the journey of the band been like to this point?
Amanda Gjelaj – The journey has been very crazy to say the least. I would have never thought we would’ve gotten this far! Being signed to a label is something I only dreamt of ’til now. We were just a bunch of kids playing Metal and having fun. This is something I’ve always done and something I’ve always wanted and Iʼm so glad that itʼs become my life. Although the work never stops, myself and the band can both say weʼre extremely grateful to be in the position weʼre in after all these years of grinding on the road.
Cryptic Rock – It is great to see all the hard work has paid off! The band’s sound is heavy, thick, and laced with attitude. A mix of Metal and Hardcore stylings, what inspired the musical direction of The Machinist?
Amanda Gjelaj – We wanted to be different from everything that was happening musically around us. The style of music we wanted to play wasn’t really being done, or at least done right. So we took it upon ourselves to try and stand out and just play what we felt defined the sound we were going for. Fast forward to this past year, and Iʼd say we’ve accomplished the sound we’ve been chasing for quite some time.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like the band’s vision of yourselves has come fully into focus. As a vocalist, you have a blistering style that is furious at times, but also haunting at others. How have you developed your vocal approach through the years?
Amanda Gjelaj – I’ve always pushed myself and practiced a ton. Itʼs hard work and requires a lot of dedication, but if itʼs something you really want you will work at it and be the best you can be. I always practice listening to different vocalists and even tried mimicking their voices, but in more recent days I’ve been able to find my own sound. Itʼs been hard with all the judgement I have gotten, but that just makes me want to push myself beyond my own limits.
Cryptic Rock – There is no substitute for doing your own thing. The latest album, Confidimus in Morte, came out on April 12th and is quite a powerful punch to the gut. What was the writing and recording process like?
Amanda Gjelaj – Vocally it was one of the best recording and writing processes I’ve had so far. We worked with Ricky Armellino, and let me tell you, this guy pushed me to get this new vocal style out of me. It was a lot of emotions between learning a completely new vocal style and with what I wrote about but in the end it was truly an awesome experience. As for the overall experience, it was a breeze and itʼs great to work with someone who sees the same vision the band has and is willing to build upon that.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. All of these songs are quite intense musically. Let’s focus on the lyrics, what inspired the lyrics to the new music?
Amanda Gjelaj – The new lyrics are all very dark and absolutely filled with a hell of a lot of emotions. I wrote them about many things, but the main detail is death. I struggle with depression and I want whoever listens to The Machinist to know they are not alone. There are lyrics that dive heavily into dark past demons. For example, in the song “No Peace,” I achieve revenge upon my rapist. Other songs go into what happens in religions such as Catholicism and with politics as well. Overall, I wanted our listeners to feel my sadness and pain, or relate to it.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, it sounds very personal and intense. That said, the music of Confidimus in Morte also sounds like a very mature effort from the band; both heavy and subtle qualities at the same time. Would you say this is the direction you envisioned for the band, and where could you see the sound going in the future?
Amanda Gjelaj – Absolutely. Itʼs actually amazing to see the direction we’ve had in mind for so long come to fruition. We want to continue to build upon the current sound we have, but also continue to push the envelope for us as a band to make the best music that we can possibly make. As for the future goes, guess youʼre going to have to wait and see. (Smiles)
Cryptic Rock – It will be interesting to see where things go. There certainly is a lot of anger unleashed within a The Machinist song. That said, do you find performing the music to act as a therapeutic release?
Amanda Gjelaj – 100%. I feel like with most of Metal musicians, we all struggle with our inner demons and have been through some dark times. That said, writing and performing our songs is absolutely an amazing therapeutic release. Itʼs also a great way to let others know that they are not alone in their struggles.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely, it helps you and it helps others too. The term female-fronted Metal band is such a blanket statement. You would not call a band led by a male vocalist a male-fronted Metal band. Besides, there are so many forms of Metal and Rock music out there, it really is a limiting marketing title. That said, as a woman, what are your thoughts on this broadly overused label?
Amanda Gjelaj – I am not a fan of that label. I’ve always wanted people that listen to my music to just simply enjoy it and not just because it was a female fronting a band, but because they genuinely think that The Machinist sound good. So many times I have been harassed for being a woman in this scene and itʼs never once made me want to back down.
Women in Metal are sick of the labels and stereotypes. We are all coming up and finally not taking that shit anymore. We are proving these stereotypes wrong over and over again. Weʼre here to prove that weʼre a Metal band, no other labels attached to it.
Cryptic Rock – Well said! Last question. Beyond music, Cryptic Rock also covers movies, particularly the Horror and Sci-Fi genres. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites and why?
Amanda Gjelaj – I definitely love Horror! Iʼm mainly into paranormal films, but I love gore as well. A few that have stood out to me and some favorites are Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), The Witch (2015), Begotten (1990), Rosemaryʼs Baby (1968), As Above, So Below (2014), Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh (1985), The Conjuring (2013), Sinister (2012), The Devilʼs Rejects (2005). Each of these are different from one another. I like them all because, not only am I weird, but these are all pretty disturbing and they definitely scare the crap out of me. What more do you need then that in a Horror film?