It was a real honor for me to conduct an interview with Sharon Bascovsky (vocals/guitar) of Derkéta. She was super kind and talked about the upcoming album, her lyrical inspirations and memories from the past amongst others. So dive in and discover all the hidden gems yourself!!!
Hi Sharon! How are you and what are you up to with Derkéta lately? Am I right to suppose there's some new material in preparation? What should we know about it and when should we expect it to be released? Is it going to be your second full-length album?
- Hello! I'm doing well thanks for asking. Hope all is well on your side. Yes, we're working on our second full length album. I think we have about 6 or 7 songs in the works right now, hard to say when we will get around to recording them. 2020 has been a tough year for me personally starting with the death of my mother, a bad accident with my father, and then of course Covid. Other band members also had some twists in life that they too needed to tend to. We're now into October and I'm at a point where I'm able to get my focus back onto writing. Escape out of reality for a bit. I'm expecting to have a 2021 release, so fingers crossed life doesn't have any more bad surprises for us. It was supposed to be released in 2020.
Your highly appreciated debut long play "In Death We Meet" was first released independently back in 2012 and then re-released in 2015 by Ibex Moon Records with the songs of "Darkness Fades Life" 7" (2014) as a bonus. How do you feel about it from an 8-year perspective? Will the new songs continue the musical path of "In Death We Meet"?
- Thank you. Funny you mention that. Every once in a while I'll listen to a couple tracks off of "In Death We Meet" to see if I have any regrets and for the most part I'm satisfied with the songs and production. Especially with the 2015 remix that Ola Lindgren engineered. There are some vocals parts that I think I could have done better, but as a whole I think it's a good representation of us. We're pretty basic, a no thrills kind of band. I don't feel the band will ever change musically as far as writing goes. I'm still the same person, my writing thoughts still fall down that same path.
Could you please talk a little about the recent reissue of your very first 7" EP called "Premature Burial", originally released in 1990 by Seraphic Decay Records? How did you hook up with Seven Metal Inches Records from Germany? Any plans from their side to reissue more stuff from your back catalogue in the near future?
- Andreas from Seven Metal Inches Records contacted me on Facebook about the 7" series he was doing. It's a follow up to a book that he had released about those early 7 inches. But yeah, the Seraphic Decay releases became a collector thing. I personally think that is one of our worst recordings. I can't make it through 30 seconds of listening to it, literally makes me cringe, but the artwork is fantastic and it's a cool looking release. Yes, I do have plans of releasing "The Unholy Ground" 1990 demo on vinyl. I'm still happy with that recording, sentimental to me as well.
How the current line-up of Derkéta looks like? What kind of jobs you do besides the band? How often do you rehearse together?
- When life is "normal", we rehearse every Wednesday, which we named "Wicked Wednesdays". Current lineup is me on vocals/guitar; my day job I work in the IT department of a large financial corporation. Trish Bill is on second guitar; she is a stay at home mom of 2 adorable little girls. Robin Mazen is on bass; she is touring full time with a lot of the well-known great acts, either selling merch or tour managing. Mike Laughlin is on drums; he works application technical support with speech software for the disabled. This is a slight change to our lineup as Mary Bielich has stepped down as our guitarist to pursue a business venture that we're all excited about. She was concerned about her availability for live shows and thought it was best. It was sad news, but we understand. Trish was already a part of the band as Robin's back up for live shows and switched over to guitar.
Let's go back to late 1988 when you've established Derkéta along with Terri Heggen (drums). What (or who) motivated/impacted you to form your own band and to start playing doom influenced death metal? By the way, you've been known as the first all-female death metal band at the time. How do you felt about that fact? What was the Pittsburgh underground scene back then? Did you play live a lot?
- Shortly after I started playing guitar I stumbled into song writing. It was actually 'cause I struggled to play cover songs of my idols, like Randy Rhoads. I still struggle with that and take lessons now, but it was a rude awakening at age 15. They make it look and sound so easy, but very frustrating when you realize there's years of work to get anywhere near that kind of level. The first original that I ever wrote was the ending of the song "Time of Awakening", I felt that it sounded like a funeral march and was intrigued to continue on writing. "Time of Awakening" was the first song that I ever wrote and when I would pick up my guitar I got more satisfaction out of writing versus trying to play somebody else's stuff. Looking back, I wish I still tried to play cover songs as I'm finding out now that it is really great playing practice. Then again, I'm always chasing song ideas and my guitar is more of a tool to piece together these mental puzzles. When you start down that song writing path, it's only natural to want to hear it fully with other instruments. That is how Derkéta came about. I was fortunate to meet Terri at a party and we had common musical interests. We didn't set out to be a "female band", it just happened that we were females that had a band. I'm a very shy and insecure person and I think I felt more comfortable working out a band with her, because we had become best friends. We were both new to our instruments and developed it all together. When we were looking for additional members to complete the lineup to perform live, our friends would recommend other girls that they knew played instruments. The all-female thing was somewhat guided to us. Ross from Immolation introduced us to Kim August, Vincent Crowley from Acheron introduced us to Heidi, Don from NunSlaughter introduced us to Mary Bielich, Paul Masvidal from Death/Cynic introduced us to Robin Mazen. It was like our friends were having light bulbs that we should keep the band all-female as that was something different. Terri and I were cool with it, as we just wanted to complete the lineup to play live. Unfortunately, we never played live back then. As soon as we had a full lineup, Terri and I weren't getting along. She wanted to rush playing live, but I felt we needed a lot more practice before any of us set foot on stage. I knew we would be critiqued more, because we were females and our rehearsals were still very sloppy. There were also other circumstances going on and Terri and I weren't communicating very well with each other. That is one of my regrets in life that her and I let our friendship get to that point. The Pittsburgh underground scene was great back then. We had a lot of great local bands, Dream Death/Penance, DoomWatch, Nun Slaughter, Eviction, Bird of Prey, Rottrevore, Chaotic Plague, Half Life, just to name a few. We were all friends, lots of local and touring shows, and it was such a cool time in life.
Your music sounds pretty much like a well-balanced mix between the early records of Immolation, Incantation, Asphyx and Death. How do you see it? What kind of music do you listen to with pleasure these days? Please list us your Top-10 albums of all time.
- Oh wow, thank you. I personally can't compare myself to other bands. I feel the bands you mentioned are on a much higher level than us. Between being friends and also a fan of them, I see them as "real bands" and Derkéta is just a weird mental puzzle of non-sense ideas. Maybe, because we're in the same age group, molded musically in a similar fashion from growing up listening to rock and metal that we share a writing connection? We all progressed to death metal from the same musical background really. I'm quite flattered by your comment though.
I primarily listen to the music I grew up with, 70s rock and 80s heavy metal, as well as early death metal releases. I'm really a fan of music in general and not trapped into only listening to extreme music. Recently I've been listening to Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Jethro Tull, Gerry Rafferty, Van Halen to give you an idea. Top 10 albums of all time will be hard, that list can change based on my mood, so here would be my picks for today. I'll keep it mostly on the heavier side.
Bathory Blood Fire Death
Morbid Angel Altars of Madness
Bolt Thrower The IVth Crusade (and the rest of their catalogue)
Candlemass Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
Entombed Left Hand Path
Carnage Dark Recollections
Argus Boldly Stride the Doomed
Rush Exit...Stage Left
Ozzy Osbourne Diary of a Madman
Pink Floyd Animals
You've been familiar with Chuck Schuldiner and Death from the early stages. When and where did you met Chuck for the first time? I bet you have a lot of special stories from that era, haven't you? Could you please pick one of your beloved occasion and share it with the readers? By the way, when did you see Death playing live for the very first time? Tell your impressions from that particular show, please.
- I met Chuck and the other guys in Death at an In-Store appearance at our local record store Eide's. They would tour a lot back then and played Pittsburgh often, so we just got to be acquainted with each other. We never dated or anything on those lines. I think some might suspect that we had a fling or something from all of the old photos together. I was just a huge fan and it became regular hang out. I don't think I ever told this memory before in an interview. One time they were in town and needed to do laundry. Terri and I took Chuck, Terry Butler and Bill Andrews to the Oakdale laundromat. Oakdale is where I grew up and I knew there was a laundromat so that is where we went. The laundromat had these laundry buggies and we were physically in them pushing each other around racing. Just being goofy. They're comical people, always a blast to hang out with. One of my most fond and treasured memories of Chuck was at that laundromat. He used to wink when he was about to pull a joke on someone. I remember hearing Chuck quietly saying "Hey, Sharon" and I looked over and he's winking his eye to alert me he was up to something. Then he went on to say something off the wall to Butler, but the winking was so endearing it made me melt. I can't explain it, but it wasn't common for young people to wink. It was like an old man thing, and when Chuck did it, it was absolutely adorable. Chuck was an attractive guy and I remember privately saying something to Terri like holy fucking shit, Chuck's winking! It would get me every time, even though I knew there was no meaning "like that" behind it. It's just what he did. I have so many great memories with them, got to go to some Death rehearsals in Chuck's parents garage. I mean, that was an incredible experience for me with being such a huge fan. I truly am sad that I will never run into him to reminisce. And I regret not writing or calling him when I heard that he was sick. I never thought he was really going to die, and didn't want to bother him. I figured everybody else was contacting him and I'd catch up with him once he was feeling better. I'm proud that he left such a fantastic legacy 'cause I really thought he was the bee's knees. The very first time I attempted death metal vocals, which I guess was my try out to my own band, was to Death's song "Pull the Plug". He was a major influence to me. The first show I saw of them was at a local club The Electric Banana, a small dive bar that was here in Pittsburgh. I have pictures from that show, it was packed, crowd went nuts, and they were fucking awesome.
Regarding the lyrics of "In Death We Meet", they are fully dedicated to the dark sides of life, i.e. death, darkness and suffering. What inspires you to write about such obscure themes? Would you please list some of the books you've read out not long ago?
- I guess it's a combination of getting a chill from horror stories and also having trouble dealing with death and losing people. So many close to me have died and I feel like I'm dying inside from the sadness of losing them. Maybe it's 'cause those thoughts/fears are always looming in my mind; death is such a harsh reality. It sneaks up on ya and the feeling just gets worse as time goes on. I'm a real life of the party, eh. I don't think it's possible for me to write about any other topic. I never get lyrical thoughts on other things. I don't have the concentration to read books, my mind roams too much. Ironically, the last book I started to read was about brain cognitive health. My bookmarker shows I made it to page 21 so there ya go. Lyrical lines pop in my head as I'm writing riffs, and that determines that song topic. From there I'm just completing the story with phrases that seem to fit. That's why it takes me a while to write songs, it's hard to zone in on one song at a time. Although, the song "Premature Burial" was first drafted by Terri, then I spun it after a TV show episode I saw. I think that's the only song inspired like that. Mostly the lyrics are just random phrases put together to resemble a story to fit over riffs.
You've managed to record a pretty rad cover of Sepultura's "Troops of Doom" for the "Darkness Fades Life" 7" vinyl. I would say it became even darker than the original one. Did you play it live as well? Do you plan to record some other covers for any of your future releases? If so, which ones would be the right option for you?
- Thank you again, I appreciate that comment. I'm not a fan of covers, the originals are always the best, but it was a requirement for that "Darkness Fades Life" 7". One side had to be an original, other side a cover. Sepultura "Morbid Visions" album didn't have the best production so it seemed like we had a good shot of doing it justice. We haven't played it live, but we've discussed it. I have to really practice it to be honest. The picking is complicated for me in that middle section, ha, and figuring out Max's broken English/lyrical phrasing will take some time to memorize. I'm a stickler with keeping it as organic as they had it. I don't recognize "Troops of Doom" off of "Schizophrenia", by the way. Strictly worship of the "Morbid Visions" version here. There is a cover that Robin wants to record; it's a song that she and I love. I don't want to say what it is just yet. We'll see how it works out and if we do it well.
Many thanks for answering my questions. At the end, please unveil the most intriguing news from the Derkéta camp.
- Thank you for thinking of us and interviewing me. There isn't much intriguing news going on, but we are focused on song writing, and I'm happy with how it's all developing. Like I mentioned above, we're aiming for a 2021 release for a full length. We have an online store on our website www.Derketa.com if anyone is interested. I do need to restock some merch though. Thank you again, and I hope everyone is keeping well and safe.