Johannesburg, South Africa: in South Africa, Women’s Day is celebrated on the 9th of August and the Gauteng Metal scene will be paying respects to women within the local music industry. The Sirens music festival will take place at the new Rumours Rock City at Hillfox.
We caught up with some of the ladies who will take to the stage at Sirens to find out about the role within their bands, as well as the local music scene.
Sonja Ruppersberg-Blom: Terminatryx
Sonja Ruppersburg-Blom is one of South Africa’s longest standing female front-women; having been the vocalist of Cape Town’s Industrial Gothic three-piece, Terminatryx, for a whopping seventeen years and still counting. Sonja is also a member of the Macabre Ensemble and Isobel.
The Macabre Ensemble typically performs once a year, at Halloween, as part of the HorrorFest film festival. It adds live music soundtracks to old silent horror movies. Isobel is a dark folk project in which Sonja joins long-time friend and fellow musician, Nerine Dorman.
Sonja tells us that her journey into performing and creating music began when she and friend (model / actress Christina Storm) wanted to form a band:
“We were drawn to the fun and glamorous idea of being in one, and with our more alternative music taste and the glaring lack of more extreme female-fronted bands globally – but especially in SA – we wanted to create something different.” ~ Sonja Ruppersburg-Blom
Under the guidance from her husband, Paul Blom (instrumentation for Terminatryx, former member of Voice of Destruction), the duo soon came to realize the incredible amount of work and dedication it would take to continue the project. This lead to the departure of Storm to focus on her acting career. Sonja continued on with Paul in Terminatryx. The band, music and art have all become an integral part of their lives.
Being a woman versus a man in the live music entertainment arena
When asked about any differences between herself and the male members of the band, Sonja says that they are pretty equal; however, her husband and Ronnie (drummer) are old-school gentlemen and don’t allow her to carry any heavy gear. Of course, when it comes to touring, they share separate bedrooms; which most all-male bands tend not to do. It certainly makes it easier that two members of the band are a couple.
We asked the band how supportive they felt the South African Metal scene was toward female musicians.
While they believe that in modern times the scene is generally more supportive of female musicians, this has not always been the case; especially in the early Terminatryx days where stereotypes were rife.
“I think the SA Metal scene, specifically promoters such as Witchdoctor, metal4africa and Emalyth have been super supportive. No discrimination at all from my experience.” ~ Sonja Ruppersburg-Blom
“The metal community is quite outspoken and doesn’t really entertain intolerance. Sure, you get ignorant douches in all walks of life, but over the years it has improved. Either that, or we just look past the noise! I think when people have something disparaging to say – unless it’s chickens trolling on-line – they keep it private, as they know someone will very quickly jump to the defense of those being attacked. You can’t expect everyone to like your style of music, but I reckon most in the scene see everyone as part of the community’s whole and need to stand together, whatever your gender.” ~ Paul Blom
Paul reflects on aspects of the journey where there were some painful prejudices in the fledgling days:
“In the early days there were the ignorant few that condemned the band as using a beautiful female vocalist as an eye-candy gimmick. Many of those were leveled from other bands as well… and where are they now? 99% have dwindled into obscurity or disappeared completely. Instead of bitching about other bands, spend time on perfecting your own identity.” ~ Paul Blom
Appearances: to be judged or not to be judged
Sonja admits that identity and image are a large part of her role as a front-woman and musician. However, the gender aspect is not key. She, and the band, have sought to paint a much larger picture than that, in terms of the band’s visual identity.
“I think us ladies might get judged and critiqued more on how we look than guys. It took some years for me to not care about ‘comments’. I think, for the most part, I receive huge support from guys; be it fans or members of other bands.” ~ Sonja Ruppersburg-Blom
Paul expanded on how the image does not rely solely on Sonja, saying that one of the aspects of a good band is one with a clear identity; something which Terminatryx members have all paid attention to right from the start. So, as a band, they do not feel pressured into having their visuals integrated into their audio; it’s already a part of the all-round Terminatryx experience.
We asked Sonja to tell us about some of her annoying experiences as a female member of a rock band; the sort of things which shouldn’t be happening:
“When we opened for Ministry on their SA tour, I was not allowed backstage by security, even though I had an all-access pass. The security treated me like a groupie! That really pissed me off big time. Paul and the stage manager had to instruct him that I needed to be on stage. I had a similar experience many years ago, backstage when another band member who opened for us asked me what I was doing backstage and that it was band members only – It gave me great pleasure to advise him that I was the vocalist of the band his band was opening for!” ~ Sonja Ruppersburg-Blom
We asked the band why it was important for events like Sirens to occur and why more woman should be performing.
“Diversity is good. It is needed. It creates balance and it makes for a more colourful scene. I can say the same for a need for more Metal and Alternative bands from different cultures, religions and races.” ~ Sonja Ruppersburg-Blom
The band looks forward to connecting with friends and fans at the Sirens Women’s Day festival; Terminatryx being a rare treat for Gauteng audiences and a welcome addition to the festival. Catch Sonja and Terminatryx in action at Emalyth’s Sirens on the 9th of August at Rumours Rock City. Join the facebook event page for further details and updates.