Attention metal vocalists:
Singing like Cookie Monster ain't as easy as it looks and can do permanent damage to all kinds of stuff. Sure, it's fun to just wail, but take a cautionary example in The Family Guy's Stewie's blood vessel-bustin' fart.
See, it's all connected, and that's part of the Zen that gets explained in a very cool how-to DVD, The Zen of Screaming, from flame-haired instructor-to-the-Metal-Gods-and-Goddesses, Melissa Cross, who delivers an easy-to-get explanation of the interplay between muscles during extreme vocal strain.
One hilarious example of Cross' real-world approach to teaching singers how to hold their body in order to best capture and manage their breath finds her suggesting to a young chanteuse ''Imagine your bra is falling off and you wanna keep it up with your ribs'' instantly providing an attainable frame of reference which enables the singer to localize an area on her body and gain a newfound control of her emerging voice.
Cross is certainly a rock and roll survivor, having herself once been a bra strap-fixing punk vixen, who'd fronted a band or three.
Now she looks like somebody's very cool aunt, and she comports herself with a joyous insistence and presence of mind that is indeed, very Zen-like. The footage of a petite Cross positioning herself around the mammoth frames of the Extreme Metalheads who comprise the bulk of her pupils is hysterical, but above all, Cross's sublime encouragement will enable even the mildly curious person who wants to sing and NOT just metal to get the most of themselves, via a healthy and tactile corporeal self-awareness. The accompanying audio CD has 84 voice lessons, 14 for each of the six vocal ranges.
Merge caught up with the very busy Melissa Cross for a Q&A to find out what makes her scream.
Q: Who are your strangest non-musical clients?
A: I can teach anyone. Bankers on the trading floor, aerobics teachers, cheerleaders, school teachers, road-ragers, overly zealous sports enthusiasts and other Anger Management Class drop-outs. Crusty rock stars who think it's too late basically anybody who needs to use their voice, but keeps trashing it!
Q: Any singers that you would like to work with that you think could use your help?
A: LOTS of them.
Q: Care to name any candidates?
A: Put me on the spot, eh? OK. Jim Cramer (that Wall Street maniac on MSNBC every night). Robert Plant, Ozzy Osbourne, Alicia Keyes, Kelly Clarkson, Ashlee Simpson.
They can all sing great, but I hear an impending damage factor and I want to make it easier for them.
And Chris Cornell and Tom Jones because they could teach me a few things, too (as do all of my clients!).
Q: What's the male-to-
female ratio of your students?
A: 75 percent to 25 percent.
Q: Who are you currently working with?
A: Slipknot, Andrew WK, Lamb of God, Melissa Auf der Maur, Shadows Fall, Every Time I Die, Killswitch, God Forbid, Hazen Street, Candiria, Gizmachi, The Agony Scenes, A Static Lullabye, Madball, The Audition, Stretch Armstrong, Underoath, Strength in Numbers, Full Blown Chaos, Arch Enemy, Spaulding Rockwell ...
Q: What kind of damage does a singer face if she/he doesn't pay attention to the mechanics of screaming?
A: Nodules, polyps and cysts that obstruct the vocal chords and make it difficult to make a phone call, order dinner, finish a major tour.
Q: Do you do primal scream therapy?
A: Absolutely not. A lot of personal issues do tend to come up, though!
Q: Can anyone sing?
A: Sure. Step one: Open your mouth. Step Two: Let it rip. Can anyone sell CDs? No, But even that is not necessarily based on merit. It's not like sports where the MVP is an obvious winner. The rules of this game are in the eyes of many beholders, and the rules are always changing.
Q: How did this DVD come about?
A: Sooo many clients were sent to me with passion in their hearts and an expiration date on their vocal chords (because of the way they were singing). I needed to get the 411 out so they could keep going. It was clear to me that there were more people that needed this info than I could possibly teach in a lifetime, so this was the best way to spread the word.
Kind of a Florence Nightingale in the war zone vibe, ya know?
Q: You're a former punk chick, right? Did you know then what you know now?
A: No way. I screamed my guts out at CBGB's because there wasn't any knowledge acquired in opera study that related to the sound I wanted to make. I threw everything out the window to ''make it more real.''
It is because I trashed and healed myself without surgery that I figured out a way to translate the classical training into a more relevant method.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun