Metal Chick of the Month – Tina Guo

A true metal cello Wonder Woman!

She might not be a pure Heavy Metal woman, but her superior skills and her passion for music truly make her unique. Armed with her flammable cello or with her whimsical erhu (the same two-stringed bowed musical instrument used by Taiwanese metallers Chthonic), she has been embellishing stages, movies, television and video game scores with her refined technique and stunning looks since around 1994, when her unparalleled career kicked off. Born on October 28, 1985 in Shanghai, China’s biggest city, a global financial centre and transport hub and one of the most populous cities in the world with a population of more than 24 million as of 2017, but currently residing in Los Angeles, California, United States, here comes the internationally acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Chinese-American cellist, erhuist, recording artist and composer Tina Guo (or 郭婷娜 in Chinese), a woman with a multi-faceted career and mastery in a wide range of genres, showcasing a deep and strong passion for musical exploration, artistic expression and technology. And of course, among all that, there’s still time for her to demonstrate her appreciation for our good old heavy music.

Tina Guo was born in Shanghai to father Lu-Yan Guo, a concert cellist, and mother Fei-Fei Soong, a concert violinist, both artistic directors of the California International Music and Art Festival, an annual event held in San Diego, California. She began playing piano at the age of 3 in China, but once she moved to America at the age of 5 with her family, she began violin lessons with her mother. At the age of 7, she began studying the cello under the instruction of her father, with both her parents forcing her to practice 6 to 8 hours a day. She then continued her professional cello studies with Slovenian cellist Eleonore Schoenfeld (1925–2007), one of the most influential cellists of the 20th century (who also taught Guo’s father), at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music on full scholarship.

During her freshman year, Guo started dating a guitar player of an 80’s-style classic Heavy Metal band, and after attending one of their shows one night at The Whiskey in Hollywood, she started to think about how she could incorporate the cello into the metal style, experimenting with pedals and different techniques while trying to figure out how to play the cello and sound like a guitar player. While the fingering for both instruments were virtually the same, it took her three years and many YouTube videos to figure out what she was doing. She eventually left USC in her junior year, despite having a full scholarship to attend, after she found it increasingly difficult to balance performing and going to classes. Her parents were very angry and didn’t understand her decision at the time, getting used to the idea after a while. As a matter of fact, she claims to hold a Bachelors in Metaphysical Theology with a focus on Eastern Philosphy from the International College of Metaphysical Theology, but this is an unaccredited distance learning degree mill.

Her career has reached such a complex and diverse level I’m pretty sure you’ve listened to the cello by our Asian virtuoso at least once in your lifetime in a movie score, in a video game, or in a multitude of other media platforms. Known for her distinct videos showcasing her talent against theatrical backdrops and elaborate costumes, she has already appeared in her career as a soloist with the San Diego Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra in Mexico, the Thessaloniki State Symphony in Greece, the Petrobras Symphony in Brazil, and the Vancouver Island Symphony in British Columbia, not to mention her participation in the Civic Youth Orchestra at the age of 10, her performance with violinist Midori Goto in Dvorak’s American String Quartet at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and her four national tours of Mexico and Italy performing the Shostakovich, Dvorak, Haydn, and Saint-Saëns Cello Concertos. Tina endorses Larsen Strings, Yamaha, Line 6, Sennheiser, Focusrite, ENGL Amps, Voodoo Lab Pedals, Coffin Case, Samson, Reunion Blues, Analysis Plus Cables and Apogee Electronics.

Among her countless other projects and appearances as a special guest musician, some of the most interesting ones are her performance with the Tenerife Symphony and Choir in the Canary Islands performing Batman: The Dark Knight; her 2017 Australian tour with an all-girl crossover band named Metaphor; her 2008 Grammy Awards performance with the Foo Fighters; her 2011-2013 tour as the featured electric cellist with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour; her performance for the League of Legends World Championship to a sold out arena at Staples Center in Los Angeles and an audience of 33 million streaming online; playing the electric cello in a super-band with The Crystal Method, Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Danny Lohner (NIN), Joe Letz (Combichrist) and the Hollywood Scoring Orchestra; playing with Brazilian guitarist Victor Biglione in a Jimi Hendrix Tribute Concert at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro; performing as soloist on music from Vikings, Dexter, Game of Thrones, and Chicago Fire with the Krakow Symphony and Polish Radio Choir at the Krakow Film Music Festival; and completing an acoustic tour and two sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall in 2016 with Blues Legend Joe Bonamassa, as you can see in the song Black Lung Heartache.

Furthermore, Tina has already shared the stage in her career with The Tenors, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Josh Groban, John Legend, LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak, Il Divo, Ariana Grande, Lupe Fiasco, and Michael McDonald, among others, and has been featured as a soloist on the scores of several movies such as Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Inception, Clash of the Titans, Olympus Has Fallen, Escape Plan, Sleepy Hollow, Hancock, Battle: Los Angeles, Predators and X-Men: First Class, as well as TV shows like  The Mentalist, Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, commercials for Apple, Under Armour, and countless video games. As a solo artist, Tina has already released 8 albums, those being Autumn Winds and The Journey (both in 2011), Eternity (2013), Ray of Light and A Cello Christmas (both in 2014), Inner Passion (with Peter Kater) and Cello Metal (both in 2015), and more recently Game On! (2017). Furthermore, you can enjoy some very interesting videos on YouTube where Tina shows all her skills with her erhu, such as “Tina Guo plays music from Uncharted 2 on the Erhu with the GSPO”, and “Tina Guo and Michael Barry Random Jam: Danny Boy on Erhu and Piano”, or simply enjoy some of her official videos and songs like World of Warcraft, Dragonborn, Forrest Gump: Feather Theme and Genesis Rising.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In regards to Tina’s contributions to the metal scene, she has been featured as a guest cellist in numerous distinguished bands and projects since 2009. For instance, in 2009 she played the cello in the songs The Lone Spaniard and So Far Gone, from the album Molecular Heinosity by American Progressive Metal/Rock keyboardist Derek Sherinian; in the song I Am the Nothing, from the 2014 album The Beauty of Destruction by  American Metalcore act Devil You Know (now called Light The Torch); in the 2017 album Störtebeker, by German Heavy/Power/Progressive Metal band FB1964; in the single Let Down, from the 2011 album Secret Passion by Dutch Symphonic Gothic Metal group Imperia; in the song Duet for Electric Guitar and Electric Cello in A Minor, from the 2010 album Speed Force by American shredder Maxxxwell Carlisle; and in the 2015 album The Life I Remember, by American Groove Metal act Once Human.

Among her main influences in music, we’ll find the most diverse range of bands and artist like Rammstein, Jacqueline du Pre, System of a Down, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Lady Gaga, Apocalyptica, Metallica, Sevendust, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, just to give you an idea of how eclectic our stunning cellist is. Moreover, when asked about what music means for her, Tina said that playing music requires an intense emotional connection, and that she didn’t always have such level of creative freedom in her life due to her strict childhood with her parents, who lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution and who consequently didn’t allow her to listen to any other types of music at home besides classical music. However, it was through a critically acclaimed album by one of the aforementioned influences, the classic Antichrist Superstar by the iconic American rockstar Marilyn Manson, that she got her first taste of Industrial Metal and heavy music in general, getting to know the rebellious music by bands like Daft Punk and Guns N’ Roses from then on.

The indomitable Tina Guo is not our metal chick of the month in vain, having released in 2015 a majestic album of heavy music titled CELLO METAL, with Tina obviously on the electric cello and featuring Wes Borland and John Huldt on the guitars, Marty O’Brien (We Are The Fallen) on bass, and Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper, Alcatrazz) on drums, as well as guitarists Al Di Meola, John 5 (Marilyn Manson) and Nita Strauss (The Iron Maidens). Tina and her henchmen delivered ass-kicking cello-infused cover songs for some of the biggest metal classics with this album, which by the way took around three years to be ready, those being Iron Maiden’s The Trooper, Slayer’s Raining Blood, Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell, and Metallica’s Sanitarium, together with five original songs (Child of Genesis, The God Particle, Eternal Night, Forbidden City and Queen Bee). By the way, Tina spent her entire life savings (a little under US$ 6,000) on the official video for Queen Bee, a metal-inspired take on the orchestral interlude “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and that risk paid off as what’s probably her “most extreme” music video to date (it got an 18+ restriction on YouTube) caught the attention of Hans Zimmer, who at that time was searching for a cellist to play on the score of Sherlock Holmes. “I wasn’t trying to get into the soundtrack world. Actually, I was hoping that Rammstein would see the video and invite me to play with them”, said our skillful cellist in one of her interviews. Anyway, you can have a very detailed listen at Cello Metal on Spotify, and see why this Asian bombshell is respected and admired by the entire world of music, including the always-demanding metal scene.

And Tina is not only an accomplished cellist, but she’s also a writer, a philanthropist and a very successful businesswoman. As a writer, her first published work was called “Event Horizons of Yin and Yang”, a collection of philosophical prose and poetry. As a philanthropist, Guo is a passionate supporter of the Academy of Music for the Blind, Partners in Health, Animal Welfare Institute, Homes for our Troops and Child Find of America. For instance, in 2015, she released a Charity album with 13 composer friends called Tina Guo & Composers for Charity, with 100% of the proceeds from the album going directly to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation in support of music education. And last but not least, as a businesswoman, she runs a Los Angeles-based venture named Tina Guo Contracting, which provides exclusive musicians and entertainment for live performances, recording and corporate events; she has a sample library that composers and producers can purchase and use; and above all that, she started her own music instrument line, named Tina Guo Strings, selling custom acoustic cellos, carbon fiber cases, and colourful “unicorn hair” bows for the violin, viola, and cello, with her first products available being the Tina Guo Model 300 cello, the Tina Guo Elite Master Art Model 600 cello, and a full line of custom Tina Guo bows. As a matter of fact, she has been self-managing her career since the beginning, having only signed an exclusive recording contact with Sony Music in 2016, as she thinks it’s very important to understand the business aspect and see everything that’s going on, especially because managers are always going to have other clients they’re dealing with.

However, despite being a successful musician and entrepreneur, she hasn’t been immune to sexism yet, noting that image sells in the performing world, and as a young Asian-American woman she’s more than familiar with the challenges that come with working in these two very white male-dominated spheres. “As a performing artist, we don’t only listen with our ears”, she said in one of her interviews. “If I look different or wasn’t as young, I might have a very different experience.” You can get a sense of all the awesomeness surrounding Tina as a musician and as a woman by watching several videos on YouTube where she’s either playing her cello or talking about her career and skills, such as “Tina Guo and her troublesome cello”, an interview with Tina Guo on classical and electric cello, or a mini-tutorial on playing fast, proving she’s more-than-ready to conquer the entire world of music and arts no matter how sexist that world might be.

Equipment
Gand & Bernardel Cello (Paris, France, 1878)
Custom Tina Guo Model Yamaha SVC-210
Erhu (Shangai, China)

Tina Guo’s Official Facebook page
Tina Guo’s Official Twitter
Tina Guo’s Official Instagram
Tina Guo’s Official YouTube channel

“When I make music, I am completely pure, naked, and open. I long for the moments when my outer shell no longer matters. I hunger for every genuine tear of sorrow, joy, or understanding shared. When you can hear me for who I am, and see me in a way that doesn’t involve looking at me, but rather looking through me, only then can I be satisfied.” – Tina Guo

Advertisements

Metal Chick of the Month – Daísa Munhoz

daisa01

How dare you look at me in the eye?

Time to fly back to South America, more specifically to the municipality of Bariri, São Paulo, Brazil, located about 300km from the city of São Paulo (and about 700km from the city of Rio de Janeiro), to talk about another Brazilian Heavy Metal diva, Daísa Munhoz, the beautiful and talented frontwoman of Brazilian Progressive Metal band Vandroya. If you’re simply fanatic for traditional Heavy Metal, I would say she might be the girl of your dreams.

Owner of a very powerful and melodic voice, Daísa started singing when she was only 9 years old, and at the age of fourteen she was already part of a “travelling band”. Our diva said that although she never actually took any singing lessons, she grew up surrounded by every kind of musicians, rehearsals and jam sessions every single day, as her parents are musicians too. That helped her a lot in terms of getting used to how the world of music works, and she learned a lot from every musician that was close to her, especially her mother. She also plays the piano, but “in a mediocre way” in her own words, mainly because she ends up using it more like a guide during her writing and composing process, or sometimes just as a distraction or to relax a little.  Daísa said she never really had any interest in specializing herself in the piano, nor the patience or discipline to do so.

It was when our Heavy Metal bombshell was around 18 or 19 years old that she founded Vandroya, having recorded so far with the band a 2-track demo entitled Within Shadows, in 2005, and more recently their first full-length album, One, in 2012 via Spiritual Beast Records and in 2013 via Inner Wound Recordings. And stay tuned, because the compositions for the next Vandroya album are 100% finished and the recording process will start really soon. By the way, Daísa explained the word “Vandroya” means nothing specifically: it was just a suggestion from a friend back in their early years, based on a character in Avantasia who is called Vandroy. The band just loved the way it sounded.

In addition, you can also see our diva in action in many other different bands and projects. She has been performing for years, including her one time all female band called Inlakesh, as well as a Led Zeppelin tribute band named Black Dog. Not only that, she recorded the vocals on track Song of Deliverance, from the 2013 album Exodus by Slovakian Progressive Power Metal band Signum Regis, as well as the vocals as “Judith” or “Judith, The Princess” in three different albums by Brazilian Melodic Power Metal band Soulspell (a Metal Opera project created by Brazilian drummer Heleno Vale): A Legacy of Honor (2008), The Labyrinth of Truths (2010) and Hollow’s Gathering (2012), winning the Best Female Vocalist award from Whiplash.net in 2010 for her work with Soulspell.

There are so many awesome songs with Daísa on vocals on YouTube you can spend hours and hours just listening and watching to our diva kicking ass, so in order for you to get a delicious taste of her unique voice and the mighty metal music played by Vandroya, my recommendations are the beautiful ballad Why Should We Say Goodbye, the Helloween-ish Power Metal tune The Last Free Land (which I’m pretty sure will inspire you so much you’ll buy Vandroya’s debut album after the first listen), the smooth acoustic version of No Oblivion For Eternity, a live performance of one of their first songs, Within Shadows, as well as their recent cover version for the song Heaven, by Canadian icon Bryan Adams.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In regards to her main music influences, it’s important to say that Robert Plant is her biggest idol of all time, with the way he sings and moves having a huge impact on her onstage performance, which by the way is beyond superb. However, there are so many awesome artists and bands that it’s hard to name just a few. Sacred names such as Dio, Freddy Mercury, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Russel Allen, Robert Plant, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Doro and Ann Wilson are among her biggest idols, being also highly influenced by Iron Maiden, of course, and many German metal bands, especially Helloween, with the unique voice of Michael Kiske leading her into the world of heavy music. Vandroya playing one of my top Helloween songs of all time, the classic March Of Time, is truly outstanding and an amazing tribute from Daísa and her band to the best Teutonic metal band of all time.

In one of her interviews, Daísa stated she has so many idols it’s very hard to choose just a few for a “dream tour”, but that she would truly love to be part of a festival only formed by female-fronted metal bands. It’s about time someone from the Metal Female Voices Fest invites her and the other members of Vandroya to be part of any future editions of the festival, don’t you think?

Lastly, although Daísa grew up listening to a lot of classic rock and hard rock bands, always being completely fanatic for Led Zeppelin, when asked about the top 5 Heavy Metal albums that changed her life, she listed the following ones: Pink Bubbles Go Ape (Helloween), Cowboys from Hell (Pantera), …And Justice for All (Metallica), The Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden) and Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath), I guess not necessarily in this order. Take a good look at this list and answer me if this is not enough awesomeness to consider Daísa a true badass metalhead!

Daísa Munhoz’s Official Facebook page
Vandroya’s Official Facebook page

“…I actually started to search for more female singers and I discovered a lot of amazing and brave warriors that faced this male-dominated market and won it. You know what? I just realized I know so many female singers I could write a book about their careers!” – Daísa Munhoz