Ralf Manitta | Damian Saint | JoJo Saint | C.K. Young
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Goddess is Human
interview and album reviewreview and interview © Russell W Elliot 2004 | all images © Goddess-is-Human 2004 | used with permission
click on images to visit artist's website | formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows | Last updated: 03 October 2004
Goddess Is Human is a four-piece band that we came across opening for Lennon at Northern Lights, a small venue in upstate New York. Entranced by the power and range of their stunng lead vocalist, JoJo Saint, we longed to hear more and present them to our visitors. Their 2002 album Being Human, just re-pressed, captures their sound adequately despite being produced on a modest budget, and we can safely attest that their live performance is superb although both the acoustics and engineering at Northern Lights did the band far from the justice they deserve.
JoJo has the power and and range of Heart's Ann Wilson but the vocal dynamics of Nexx' Patricia Tapia. The band's material will certainly appeal to progressive and adult oriented rock enthusiasts. Their one set long support performance for Lennon included three favorites from their album and three songs from the forthcoming album due out in 2005. Read our exclusive interview with JoJo and Damian and our reviews of their live performance and debut album below.
Musical Discoveries: Can you tell us about the formation of Goddess Is Human?
Damian: GiH as we tend to call it, started in upstate New York, just north of Albany in 1998. JoJo had just finished college and was looking to get her own project started. She came across Ralf Manitta--our original bassist--through a mutual aquantence. Ralfie was working at the time with me on another side project. During that same side project, the we needed the help of Ralf's old friend form yet another previous band, and so C.K. re-entered the picture.
While we were playing under the name Inductive Kick, JoJo came out to a show and, after some careful negotiations the core of the band was formed. The band though also had several members immediately after its ealry inception. I had pulled in another singer/songwriter from another project that was working on, and added another female backing vocalist, making the band a six-peice, called Midnight Silhouette.
Eventually after some musical growth, and tons of rehearsal time, the band streamlined the line up and came back to the core four members, under the new name The JSJ Project. Sometime around December of 2000, C.K. departed from the band to work on his solo project.
What happened then?
Damian: After a very frustrating time trying to replace C.K. on guitar, the band eventually aquired two very good guitarists in thier own rights. One, who soon departed as well, for personal reasons, and the latter who was a successful solo musician when he joined the band. Though very talented, the chemistry was not quite there. None-the-less the band attempted to re-unify and press on, changing its name in the process to JoJoSaint. The band became quite well known throughout upstate New York during this time. Yet, sometimes even the best seeming situations don't always work out, and so during a local support tour for the yet un-released four song demo, our good friend C.K. had come out to help roadie and hang with the band. Unbeknownst to C.K. the bands inner termoil of hosting two very solid lead people, had started to pull the band apart, and this inevidibley led to the "letting go" of the guitarist, since the project was begun by our miss JoJo.
C.K. at this very same time had become aware of the fact that although solo projects can be rewarding at times, sometimes you just need to be with your friends. This realization, during a discussion at dinner one night brought about the opportunity to allow the "family" to get back together. So once again the original core members were back and headed to the studio to re-track the debut album. Once the tracks were almost finished recording, the band decided to re-name yet again for the integrity of the songs. JoJoSaint was typically thought of as a "party band" and so the search was on for a name that would fit the newer heavier sound.
Well, one day on the way to the recording studio, JoJo and I affectionately discussed that our fans often make the same silly assumption ... that the members of the band are higher up on some imaginary pedestal than the fans themselves. Primarily, fans would react to JoJo as if she were a "goddess." We concluded that when people get caught up in the world's vanity, they fail to recognize that all are created to be equal in the image of God. As JoJo gave her two cents, she temporarily lost control of her salivary functions and a tiny bubble of spittle shot-gunned to the steering wheel. Startled from the poignancy of the conversation, JoJo exclaimed, "I have been doing that all week!" Damian snickered and replied, "Ah! ... the goddess is human." It seemed like an appropriate observation. Thus the name of the band was born.
Please tell us about your musical training.
JoJo: The only musical training I have really had was a teacher that showed me the basics of guitar. I took some band classes in college but that really had nothing to do with my influences. My song writing started during college before the music classes. Just me and my red Takamine in my dorm room in front of my mirror. Then I joined the band and got all my training through practical experience. My band has some major talented individuals and I would have to say I owe them for my musical up bringing. As for vocal training, I did the typical chorus since elementary school, and in high school I was in the Octet. That is where I got most of my real technique from. Some of my influences are musically, Queensryche and Melissa Etheridge. Vocally it has to be Anne Wilson, Pat Benetar, and Gloria Estefan.
And how would you characterize your singing style?
JoJo: The first word that comes to mind with my singing style is versitile. I don't think there is much that I can't do vocally. I don't see singing as a talent more than it is a muscular skill, coordination, and endurance. The style of the band I feel is also versitile, in their individual musical genres, coming form all different styles and influences, though we all have a similar progressive influence-- think Dream Theater. They work well together because they are the same. Versatility is our key, and though we only minutely touch upon our similar prog influence with some songs. We tend to bring the vastness of our differences together and hold them tightly with our one common attitude. The whole attitude of the band, is that of cooperation.
Can you tell us about the recording of your debut album?
Damian: LOOOOOOOOOOONG!!!!! The process was a long one just for the "getting to" the actual recording. The writing was mostly done before we went in and the recording went rather quickly. Though the wait between each track was strenuous. As I said earlier we went through a few guitarists and removing thier tracks and then re-recording took the most time. We were also having to contend with our producers way over booked schedule. Chad (Lenig) was very busy with several other projects at the time and so it took a back burner for a while, then when he was ready, some times we weren't. Waiting for guitarist, snow storms, power outages. There were several times when it looked pretty bleek. But we kept plugging along and finally got to the post production. We did utilize the time that we had in between sessions by actually surprising Chad with new songs. There were a total of eleven songs actually recorded. Only nine made it to the album due to some production gliches, and a couple that were just not quite the way we thought they should sound. Re-issueing the songs really didn't change much, other than maybe getting a better arrangment of songs as to not bore the average listener. We like to keep the album moving and keep ones attention.
How would you characterize the range of material included on the album?
JoJo: The songs range from driving power songs like "No Other Way" and "Dreams Of We," to the more subdued meaningful songs like, "Pretend" and "Buried and Burned." We also tried to show some of our fun side with throwing a punk song on the album--I'm referring to "Too Late." That song has a funny history. The song was originally recorded way back with Midnight Silhouette. At that time it was a very deep ballad-esque song. One day I couldn't make it to rehearsal, and so I left orders with Damian to have him and the guys work out the arrangement on "Too Late" for the album. Well, they did alright. Damian had suggested to go punk and Ralf was right there to encourage it. C.K. added his thoughts and so when we headed to the studio to record it I was in for a shock. That's why if you listen to it, you may sense some wierd viocings by me. That is merely me trying to sound tough and yet keep back my laughter. These guys can be pretty histerical at times.
What other musical work have you done besides the live performances and recordings with GIH?
JoJo: I did alot of school live shows, and I have recorded some vocals on the Ascention Theory- Regeneration album www.ascensiontheory.com. Damian and I are also working on a side project due out sometime around fall of 2005, called Kid Bluto, another progressive project. This one should be even more fun because I get to work with Damian in a different atmosphere other than GiH. I think most will be surprised by his dynamics, and a new side to his drumming that many never get to see.
Do you have day jobs or is music your full time thing?
Damian: Yes we still do the day job thing. Still have to pay the bills you know. Being an original band in upstate NY doesn't product the millions you would think Haha. So we do the local cover gigs to put some money aside to eleviate some of the "up front money" that we need to pay for posters and CDs etc.
Can you tell us a little more about what's planned for the new album?
JoJo: This album could not come soon enough, we are very excited about this one. The album will be a bit different, in that it will have quite a heavier sound. Both in the actual musical composition, but also in the lyrical content. I think the band has gone through some major events personally over the past 2 years, and so you will see a more mature writing style. The album which is slated to be out in Fall of 2005, may actually be pushed back for this reason. We will be taking our time with this one in all aspects of it. We have alot to say and will not comprimise the albums integrity one iota.
How do the audiences react to your live performances?
JoJo: Our audiences tend to get fired up, especially with the new songs that we are doing at each show. We like to try out the next albums songs to see if our fans will like them. Our fans are very dedicated and they deserve to get the first dibs on the new stuff in my opinion.
What venues do you think give your sound the most justice?
JoJo: Personally, I think this band is an arena band. We have been fortunate enough to have played in a local arena and I thnk our songs fit the sound. We tend to write BIG in our structure and so the larger venue really helps with the powerful sound we are trying to achieve. I also must say that for the little rooms that we play locally, when Damian runs sound ffrom the drum kit, it tends to be very reminesant to the larger venues. He does a good job with what little he has to work with.
Describe the transformation you undertake as you go onstage.
JoJo: Well, I feel that I am just being me when I hit the stage. Though I have been told many times, " man I can't believe that's the same little girl that I just spoke with before the show." I just laugh. I guess when I take the stage that I just try to convey what Damian says in our pre-show prayer. That is that I try to let God sing and play through me, and try to show the audience a way out from the world's darkness, with authority, not ego.
And how does it make you feel?
JoJo: Hmmm, I guess it makes me feel energized and ready to put on a full out show. This band does not like to go on stage with out giving it our "full out". Even if one person comes to a show and we have just spent two hours setting up and have three hours tear down and another two hour drive home, that one person deserves to get the full out show with all the energy we can muster. That's why even when we do a one set show, I tend to get wiped out. I am always trying to give the best performance of my life. You never know when or if the there will be a next show. So give it your all always and enjoy it as your doing it.
How has the internet influenced your musical career thusfar?
JoJo: Talk about empowering the little guys! Back in the 80s you only could hope that some one would come along with the proverbial "deal" and you could get "signed" but for us women that meant most times having to comprimise our morals. This day and age you have the opportunities to get your songs to everyone, and your safe at your home. Away from the "hey baby's", "we are destined to be together" haha why because you saw me sing? haha Though the offers still come as they did in the industry prior, "ya know, I have a hot tub, if your interested in working on your music..." yikes, that one is a direct quote.
I guess with the internet, you can get not only the knowledge of how to get your music done, but you get the opportunity to sell it ot the world. Sheesh, other than taxes, why would you want to give a record label 80% of your royalties, when they did nothing but book you in a bar, that you could do yourself? Now if the majors come calling, at least I can have a choice. Do I take the offer they have presented or am I ok with where I am?
What are your hopes, plans and dreams for 2004-2005?
JoJo: To establish the band on one path and to get the recordings done in a timely manner, without losing any integrity. Also as always with me, to grow both in my faith and my life, musically and as an entertainer. Goddess is Human - Surrendered Rock "...God resisteth the proud but giveth grace unto the humble."- James 4:6
Live at Northern Lights(08 August 2004). As the opening support act, the first of three it turns out, for Lennon (Murphy), Goddess Is Human had the unenviable position of not only taking the stage without a proper soundcheck but also providing the initial warmup for the venue's Sunday night attendance. Northern Lights most likely isn't the best of venues even with good engineering. The PA was far too loud--in fact, at one point JoJo introduced one of their new balladesque tracks as one "for those of you whose ears are bleeding." Regrettably there wasn't enough of this type of material and loud was the fare for the entire evening. Poor sound quality lacking imaging, we knew Goddess Is Human was a band that should be discovered further. That the band loaned us a soundboard recording of the evening along with our review copy of their album clearly demonstrated their passion and talent for live performance.
The band opened a faithful live reproduction of the fast paced tune "No Other Way" and then segued into "Real," the first of their new tracks. A guitar-laced hard--almost metal-edged--rocker, JoJo's rapidfire lead in the verse and powerful soaring and reverbed vocal in the choruses is most reminscent of Heart. "Dreams Of We" followed, again faithfully performed live with rich guitar licks and crisp percussion soaring JoJo's melodic vocal line. The band then brought it down a bit with the stunning standout track "Walls" which transitions from ballad with progressive power as it develops towards the ultimate climax. We adored JoJo's vocals, especially the evocative delivery of the chorus. GiH continued their set with "Lifted," another powerful progressive, albeit shorter, new track. The song transitions between quiet and power moments, has a lot of potential and is certain improve with further live performance. JoJo, now fully warmed up, was able to soar to the upper edges of her range in the vocalise as the song concluded. The band finished with their trademark--Heart-like and varied tempo--track "Being Human." JoJo's extremely passionate delivery is perfectly supported by the instrumental section and is accentuated by the soaring vocals at the end of the number.
Being Human. The 2002 album, re-pressed and remixed for this 2004 release, is comprised of nine mid-length tracks. It is packaged in a cardboard sleeve with the artwork pictured here and a band photo on the back. Individual tracks are well-produced and the remix has delivered a good result with JoJo's vocals presented atop quality arrangements. Backing self-harmonies--the main difference, in addition to the mix, between the live performance and this recording--add texture and richness to the overall sound; C.K.'s guitar is prominent in the overall mix but never overpowers the vocals. The listener is drawn in to the material immediately by "No Other Way" and the guitar solo in the song's mid-secton is especially notable.
JoJo's solo vocals in the straight up rocker "Dreams Of We" are way up--almost strikingly so--and carry the tune's memorable melody. "Buried & Burned" is a down-tempo, keyboard and acoustic guitar-led ballad, sung torch-style, JoJo's vocals soaring evocatively in both verse and chorus. The instrumentals build and crisp percussion shines through. With supporting vocal harmonies, it is most certainly an album standout. "Back From This" shows the band's funkier edge, especially in C.K.'s guitar licks and the sharpness of the vocal delivery. The blend of styles continue with "Pretend," a self-harmonized soft rocker that demonstrates the virtuousity of the band and range of their lead singer. The stadium rocker "Too Late" continues in sharp contrast with thick guitars supporting JoJo's powerful vocals.
"Pretty Eyes" is performed in the vein of "Buried & Burned and "Pretend." Another standout, sung solo and building in power, the radio-friendly power ballad continues to illustrate the range, clarity and power of JoJo Saint's vocals. C.K.'s electric guitar solos complement JoJo's vocals perfectly. The studio version of "Being Human," complete with well-produced soaring vocalise and sung parts that explore the lead singer's vast range is followed by the concluding and everso powerful rocker "Right There" serving as the perfect bookend to the album.
The album is available from the band's website alongside tour dates, additional photos and further information. Damian and JoJo Saint's commitment to their craft is underscored by involvement in several side projects that we hope to cover here as they are completed. Clearly a band with tremendous promise as they move towards their second album, Goddess Is Human have produced an incredible debut album and regularly deliver an equally well-played live performance.
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