Maria Brink proves she’s ‘Mother’ of metal on new In This Moment album
“I’m gonna bring a little heaven/I’m gonna bring a little hell,” Brink alternately croons and snarls on the chorus of their lead single, “The In-Between.” But she revealed to AltPress that “heavy” is just one part of the record, which will expand and reset fans’ expectations for the eye-popping metal squad.
The enigmatic vocalist let us into her mysterious world for a chat about the new record and how their rescheduled tour will likely make 2020 the group’s biggest year yet.
Brink talked to AP about the benefits of meditation and self-medication, women's role in shaping metal and her total 180–her first solo performance behind a piano.
How would you describe yourself outside of music?
I’m like a cat: I hide in corners, in the shadows. I have dimmers on all the lights in my house. I’m a super-reclusive type of person. I don’t know if the word is “shy,” but I really love my privacy.
Doing what I do, I give so much of my soul, heart and energy. And I like to balance it with my privacy, you know? And I think there’s something so amazing about mystery. It lets your imagination work on the exciting stuff.
You’re a big fan of Nine Inch Nails, who were [recently] announced as an inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
They’re one of my all-time favorites. I have so much respect for [Trent Reznor, NIN mastermind] on every single level. I love his soundtracks. Everything he [does] visually, musically. He’s so intelligent. He’s a big inspiration for me. Hats off to them all day long.
You have a lot of outlets. You sing. You paint. When you’re not on tour and not working on a record, how do you decide what you’ll accomplish that day?
I have a routine. I’m a hard-working woman. I’m a very passionate woman with my work. I could get obsessed with it. Some days I need to make myself stop, honestly. I do yoga. And I meditate.
What’s your self-care regimen on the road?
My bus is all crystals and tapestries everywhere. Candles on the bus and pillows all over the floor. I’m doing yoga [and] meditating. I’m creating a feeling around me that’s peaceful, a sanctuary, even when we’re rolling down the highway. It keeps me centered, and it keeps me whole. I get massages a lot to keep me healthy and strong. I drink a lot of water and smoke my herb.
Smoke, not edibles?
I smoke. You can’t control edibles as much. To me, it’s like medicine. I’ve had really bad anxiety throughout my life. I used to be on all kinds of medications. I’m not on anything anymore. Herb really helps to calm. I’m OCD, and I get neurotic, and I can’t stop. It really chills me out. I’ve actually never tried any other drugs, ever.
What does meditation do for your creative practice?
It helps me to calm, stop and connect. To let go of everything and recenter, like when you have too many apps open on your phone. But then you turn all the apps off and turn it off. I need to shut off. I go for walks in the woods, too. It’s really centering for me. And then I can be healthy and strong. I’m always worried about the people I love, too. I’m one of those women: I love my son, my family and work.
This will be your seventh album in nearly 15 years. In this era, that’s a prolific level of output. Have you been that productive despite being a parent or because of it?
I think my son motivates me to push hard and to be the example, to show him that he can create anything he wants to create. I want to be an example for him. My son’s very artistic, as well. He’s opening an art gallery. I work very hard to balance my personal life and my work life.
And you’ve always had to put bread on the table. You’ve never been able to take it easy for a year.
The problem with this band is: We have this big, giant vision. We’re so passionate about the visual show that we bet all of our money back on ourselves. We really believe in bringing it to that next level [and] making the shows spectacular. We’ve been pushing it all in. And we’re ready to come back now.
How much can you say about the stage show?
It’s a co-headlining tour, but we go last every night. We’re bringing our production. We’re really excited.
Is it an all-new show?
A lot of it is. There’s new choreography, new songs [and] new lights. All kinds of new surprises. And we’re playing Red Rocks [the legendary Colorado outdoor venue] for the first time. It’s huge for us. So we’re trying to build something special. We want to record that.
Will your backup dance troupe the Blood Dancers still be a part of it? Is that the preferred name for them?
We used to say “Blood Girls.” Lately, we’ve been calling them our Blood Goddesses. [It’s] the same with me: I’m a woman now. When I came into In This Moment, I was still a girl and finding myself. And now we’re all women and strong. So we like that word better.
In metal social media, there’s a growing conversation around the phrase “female-fronted is not a genre.”
I think music is music. It’s so silly. It’s not a genre. It’s all different aspects, just like any other song would be. It’s just a matter of what energy the song is.
In 2007, you were a part of the Hottest Chicks In Metal tour alongside headliners Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation and others. Looking back, was that a base way to present things?
I mean, their concept was always “hottest” as in “what’s hot right now, what’s happening”—not necessarily “hot” as in the visual. But who I am now is where I am now and how I hold myself now. And also, my [sense of] worthiness has really grown. And I’ve learned to empower myself. For me, personally, I probably wouldn’t do that now. But back then, it’s where I was. I was getting exposure. And I didn’t think it hit me as personally as it would now.
What’s the value of putting on a production?
It’s just a matter of what’s right for our band. Some bands don’t need all that production—what they do is perfect. I’ve always just loved to create…I want to create one-of-a-kind visuals that nobody has seen before. The visuals evoke emotion, just like the music does. Even if you would press mute on the music, you would still feel those feelings. To me, they both play a really big part.
How involved are you in the choreography and the visual aspects of the band?
I just directed our new music video, “The In-Between.” Stage concepts that you see, I brainstorm and bring to light and get Chris [Howorth, guitarist] involved.
When we go to do an album, I show [the band] a visual layout, as well, for the music and what I want it to be. All the colors, what I feel. I show them pictures of swamps or different things that [express what] it’s going to feel like. Chris lets me artistically drive. I come up with all that stuff.
For this album, what was the division of labor in the creative process?
It all melds together. Sometimes while we’re writing and creating the album, I’m already thinking, “It would be cool if I was 30 feet up [above the stage].” It all works together.
There’s no standard way it comes together. Sometimes, it’s me on my piano, coming up with something, and we turn that into a song. Or sometimes, somebody will write a really cool sample or guitar thing. And I’ll say, “That’s beautiful,” and I’ll write on top of that. It’s never a full song, and I sing on that. We work more from a stripped-down point of view. And then we build around it.
This is your sixth album with producer Kevin Churko. What does he bring to your work?
He’s a really exceptional man [and] an exceptional artist. The way he makes things sound. He surrounds you with the sound and gets inside of it. He’s so creative—him and his son, Kane Churko. They’re really like a duo now.
Your vocal style has a very physical dimension to it with the raspy parts and the screams. Do you save the hard takes for last?
Different songs you go about in different ways. Some songs, I’ll record from the beginning to the end. I want to get an organic, full thing. Other ones, I might rig up different sections. But I actually have a very strong voice. I’m really lucky: I can scream for a long time, as long as it takes, as many times as it takes, until my producer feels he got the emotional take. He wants to get goosebumps.
Why was the album delayed?
We didn’t delay the album. We delayed the single. Our touring wasn’t going to start until March. So we just wanted to make it all lay out, so it made sense the way it came out.
In your words, what’s “The In-Between” about?
I think it’s about the different sides of myself. I have this extreme duality. I have a side that’s loving and gentle, an angelic side. Then I have a side that builds up, and I have to let it out, a darker side that I love and I find beautiful…my fire, hell. So a balance between the two. People always want the hell side of myself, and it’s this back-and-forth pull between everything and how I got to be like that.
You’ve been playing “Legacy” live.
That song was really a sacred song to us, real special. Right before I went in to do the album, my grandfather passed. My grandfather played the role of father in my life—I didn’t have a father…I had a dad, but he wasn’t around. So he was the one. And he was also the father to my son, who didn’t have a father. So all the football games, everything—he was one of those exceptional men who was a World War II veteran, a Marine [and] a hero to the whole family.
And right before that, Chris’ father, who was his hero and also in the military, passed. And right after we got to the studio, Randy [Weitzel], my other guitar player, his father passed. So all of us had this moment where we were mourning but also creating at the same time. So each [of them] does a solo on the song for their fathers, too.
What else can you say about Mother?
I’m really excited for the whole album. It’s a new level. It’s empowering. It makes you want to hold your head high. I have guest singers. We’re covering a song. It is fire. It’s very powerful. And it’s such an honor to come together with these beautiful, powerful, talented, diverse people.