Name: Alissa White-Gluz
Location: Quebec, Canada
Bands(s): Arch Enemy, ALISSA
How and when was your interest in music sparked?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a family of music lovers. We had access to musical instruments and a great vinyl collection from a very young age. I also have an older sister, Jasamine, who is also a touring musician with her band, No Joy, and we are both completely self-taught. So, all around, I have a very supportive and creative vibe in my family.
Was it always a given that you were going to sing?
Not necessarily. I excelled in basically every subject in school from art to math to science to sports. I really enjoyed school and I still love learning. I also love theatre and for a while I worked in theatre, but not on stage – behind the stage, painting and building the set design. It wasn’t a given that I would become a singer, but I feel more and more attached to this career and my voice with every show.
If you had to single out one vocalist that inspired you the most, who would it be? Is there a specific artist or album that made you go “this is what I want to do”?
I think the answer to this question probably changes with time, but right now I would say Freddie Mercury. His stage presence, extreme emotive character in his voice and beautiful natural tone evoke so much inspiration in me that I truly feel the love of singing in his songs.
Some may not be aware of your career prior to joining Arch Enemy. Talk a little about your recording history!
I started my first band when I was 17, back in 2002. It was a progressive metal band with clean singing and death metal vocals and really, really long songs. Then I went on to create two more bands with whom I played a few local shows and did a couple basement demos. Eventually, I was able to land a record deal with one of those bands and released three albums with them as well as completing years of worldwide touring. I then went on to sing as a guest with Kamelot, which I still do, occasionally, and participate in TONS of guest appearances. It has been an amazing journey that not many people realize I have under my belt, in fact, not many people even know I have a clean singing voice. I really did a hard, slow climb from the bottom to where I am now and I have no plans of stopping – I want to keep climbing forever.
You tour a lot with Arch Enemy, so you spend a lot of days out of the year in a tour bus. Walk us through a typical day ”in the life of” when NOT on tour!
When not on tour my life is still very much focused on music. I will normally wake up and allow myself a couple hours of chill time before getting a solid workout in with my home gym. Then I usually jump into my studio and start writing and working on music for my upcoming solo album under the name “Alissa”. If I’m not inspired musically I will take some time to paint or draw or revisit some of my other hobbies like home renovations or learning Swedish. I also always make time to see my friends and family since that is a rare luxury.
…and seeing as what most touring musicians say is the biggest challenge on tour isn’t the 1,5 hours they are on stage – it’s the other 22,5 they’re not – what does a typical day ON tour entail for you?
Totally. Time off stage on tour is typically spent travelling. Right now we are completing a tour of South America, which is one of the territories (the others being Australia and South East Asia) in which you have to fly from city to city. People might not realize it but we often travel 20 hours a day just to get to their city to perform. Sometimes there are only 3-4 hours allotted in the schedule for sleeping between shows. It’s extremely exhausting!
Worst experience ever on stage?
That would have to be when the riser I jumped onto collapsed and I fell down onto shards of steel and wood, breaking two ribs, smashing my head on the monitors and scraping the hell out of both legs. It was really bloody and painful but adrenaline gets you through that kind of stuff… and through months of healing time in this case.
You have released super successful records, grazed the cover of major magazines, played to massive crowds and toured every corner of the world. Sometimes, however, the biggest achievements on a personal level aren’t always what people on the outside would guess. If you look back on your career today, what are some of the stand-out moments and events that you think you will remember and cherish forever?
I try to always look forward and not back – I’ll have time for that later. I really appreciate all the life experience I’ve accumulated since I started my musical journey, exactly half my life-time ago. I take the bad along with the good because I have grown SO much from those experiences as well. I really do love playing huge shows and releasing new music. I could go without the photo shoots but I know they are a necessary evil.
Aside from singing in Arch Enemy, you’ve been working on a solo project. What’s the status of this right now?
Yes! My solo project entitled “ALISSA” is something my manager, Angela Gossow, thought would be a great way for me to express some other aspects of my musical taste. I have been working on this since mid 2016 any time I had a break from Arch Enemy, but in fact, we haven’t had a break yet! The rare times we were off tour between then and now were always spent doing promo, filming music videos, writing and recording Will to Power, etc. I’ve still managed to build a studio for myself, teach myself guitar, teach myself how to engineer my own songs (with lots of help from EZ Mix), program drums (thanks to EZ Drummer) and write most of the album. I have a team of people I am working with to get the album fully finished over the winter – but time will tell when I will release it, since I also have Arch Enemy music to record and release!
You are likely most associated with your death metal voice, but you actually also sing rock, blues, jazz etc. Is this something you will be showcasing in your solo project?
Absolutely. The songs are MOSTLY showcasing my “other” voices. I don’t feel the need to write death metal since I already get those rocks off with Arch Enemy. The music will still be heavy and dark, but I’m withholding any genre labels because I am allowing inspiration to steer this ship. As a first album, I really have the ability to make anything I want so I’m allowing myself to do exactly that.
For your solo album, what has the creative process been like as far as writing songs? Knowing that you’re an avid user of Toontrack’s products, what role have they played?
So far I have taken a few different approaches. Some of the songs have been written starting with the guitar, some starting with piano, some starting with vocal melodies and some starting with lyrics. I use EZ Drummer to accompany my guitar riffs and bring them to life; its funny how much more exciting it sounds once you have that drum beat you envisioned actually being played along with you. I also use EZ Mix to mix my demos – I especially love digging through the Andy Sneap pack and finding guitar tones such as “Michael” and “Nemesis” – might as well go with what I know! Toontrack’s products have really taken the whole process of going from zero to self-sufficient studio to a far less intimidating level. I also find the online tutorials (often featuring my peers) very helpful.
If you had to give one advice to anyone just starting out writing songs and dreaming of one day doing what you’re doing now, what would it be?
Go with your instinct. If you don’t love it, chances are you won’t have the confidence to deliver a performance that will make others love it. Make music first and foremost for yourself.
FIVE ALBUMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE – AND WHY!
The Distillers “Coral Fang”: An all around spectacular album with such a badass icon fronting it. I must have listened to this album 1000 times.
Chris Cornell “Euphoria Morning”: Really a pinnacle of excellent song-writing with outside-the-box production and beautiful vocals. This album triggered my interest in writing more mellow music.
Soundgarden “Badmotorfinger”: An album I grew up loving with super interesting musicianship. One of the first tapes I bought.
Doyle “Abominator”: This album had just come out when I met my now partner, Doyle. Really unique production and crazy musical style. I have yet to hear another guitar tone like that.
Arch Enemy “Wages of Sin”: This album came out right around the time that I started my first band. Still one of the best albums ever, in my opinion.