CINDY MAYNARD OF TANITH
Tanith is solidly keeping the spirit and sound of '70s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal alive these days.
Formed in 2017, the band embraced that era wholeheartedly, resulting in 2019's aptly titled In ANOTHER TIME, which instantly earned cult status and put them on the map. Now, they return with VOYAGE, picking up where they left off and once again demonstrating their mastery when it comes to this niche. "I wanted more of the same but different in some marginal way," explains vocalist/guitarist Russ Tippins (also of the band Satan), "Voyage is the sound of the universe speaking to mankind through the medium of Tanith. Or, if you like, twin-guitar heavy rock with dual singers which, if you grew up in the 1970's, will make you want to bounce over to the nearest record store. On a space hopper."
While their debut came together easily, this time around there were hurdles to overcome. First and foremost, the COVID-19 lockdown, which geographically split up the band; Tippins living in the UK while vocalist/bassist Cindy Maynard and drummer Keith Robinson resided in Brooklyn. Once life finally returned to "normal" and they were ready to record, they were hit by another bombshell with guitarist Charlie Newton abruptly bowing out of the band the day before tracking began."Speaking as one part of a two-guitar band, it felt like trying to fly with one wing," says Tippins. "It happened so suddenly we were dumbstruck. I guess we sat around for a few days thinking he was sure to walk through the door at any moment. But soon enough we realized we'd have to try to find a way to make this record without Charlie, and I’m not just talking about laying down his lines. It’s about the shared dream we had with him. The conviction he brought to that dream. The four-way belief now reduced to three."
"Returning to Brooklyn's Excello Recording and engineer Hugh Pool — the same combination used for tracking In Another Time — the band produced the album themselves, with Pool mixing. The sessions were a fun time for Tanith, again recording to tape, rather than digital, and utilizing vintage amps and speakers to find the best possible sounds for the instruments. "Just having the time every day all day to be in the music was a big deal and all of our energy went into this project even after leaving the studio." says Maynard.
Given that they established themselves as a twin-guitar band on their debut they also brought in an extra player, Andee Blacksugar, best known for touring with Peter Murphy and as a member of KMFDM, now also a member of Blondie, whom Robinson had played with before. With the record fully realized, the band is eager for people to hear it and experience it - in its old school glory. Tippins says, "I can think of only two other rock bands in the entire world right now that record onto 24-track analog tape. If all you've ever known is digitally produced music, you really need to listen to Voyage on vinyl and experience the difference. And I'm not talking about vinyl pressed from masters recorded on Pro Tools. At no point from tracking to pressing has any of the music on Voyage been digitized. It will open your eyes."
By Kreig Marks, May 2023
KM: Hi Cindy. A big congratulations to you and the band on the new album, Voyage. Take us through the production of the album.
CM: Thanks so much! The whole album was an analogue production , meaning we recorded to 2” tape, mixed everything down to ½” tape and brought the mixes to Scott Hull at Masterdisk in Peekskill for the mastering. We recorded using a lot of vintage amps, mics and equipment that Hugh Pool at Excello has in his studio there. We were able to get some amazing sounds that way.
The mastered version of the record was cut directly into vinyl with a lathe. A computer was never used to create the vinyl version of the album. I should note though that the digital version is a separate master - it is not just a digitized version of the vinyl master. Once the vinyl master was complete, Scott used the mixes to create another master from scratch for the digital versions of the record.
KM: How would you say this album compares to the last album?
CM: The last album “In Another Time” was our first full length. Before that we self-released a single for the song “Citadel”. To me, Voyage feels more driven and musically adept. IAT has a real innocent quality to it, which I love. But I sing and play a bit differently now. Half the time I didn’t know what I was doing on the last record. It was all very freewheeling, at least from my perspective. Keith hadn’t joined the band yet so that felt different as he hadn’t spent as much time with the songs. With Voyage, the material took longer to get under my fingers as I found most of the songs harder to play. And with Charlie not showing up for the sessions, we had to get through the recording by really focusing. I think the end product reflects that willpower in some ways, to its benefit.
KM: Who is the primary writer in the band or is it a full collaboration between the three of you?
CM: Russ is the primary songwriter but we all contribute. If the song sounds like a Tanith song, it doesn’t matter who it comes from and Russ is very happy to collaborate. Keith was the primary writer of a song called "Never Look Back" on the new record. I’ve come up with several song ideas and will often rearrange Russ’ ideas, so there is alot of back and forth. Other times he leaves things open ended for me to come up with lyrics or melodies.
KM: You’re a pretty bad ass bass player. When did you first pick up the instrument? Was bass your first choice?
CM: Aw thanks, man! I probably picked up a bass guitar 10 or 11 years ago. A friend gave me her boyfriend’s old bass since he didn’t want it anymore. I used to mess around on keyboards and guitars but was never very good at either. Forming the chords would hurt my hands on guitar, and keys are just complicated, LOL. I found I was better at playing lines, so when I picked up a bass everything just made sense.
KM: Do you come from a musical family?
CM: Not at all. I’m the creative free spirit of my family.
KM: Very cool. The band was initially formed in 2017. Over the past few years, you guys have had your share of obstacles to overcome. COVID being one, and then another when Charlie (Charlie Newton, former guitarist)left the band right before the first album was to be completed. How much of a shock was it when Charlie said he was leaving the band?
CM: Charlie let us know he wasn’t coming the day we were all supposed to go into the studio to set up for the next day- for the first recording session for Voyage. He plays on IAT and even wrote some material that appears on Voyage. It was a big shock, one we still haven’t quite gotten over. However, we are so happy that Dino Destroyer from Natur joined us on guitar for our first gig back, and hopefully will continue going forward! And Andee Blacksugar, who played guest guitar on Voyage was a pleasure to work with as well!
KM: Was it difficult for the 3 of you to pick up from there and get things settled to complete the album?
CM: Yes, we held out hope for a few days while laying down the basic tracks, leaving room for Charlie since we thought he’d show up at some point. When we realized he wasn’t coming, we had to scramble- Russ learning the second guitar parts and then trying to find someone to play the second guitar solos. That's where Andee Blacksugar came in- at a moment’s notice and never having heard any of the material. He came up with some amazing solos on the spot. It was really amazing to work with him.
KM: Listening to the new album, I hear Iron Maiden and Dream Theater influences. Collectively as a band, are you all fans of those two bands? Who were you listening to as a kid growing?
CM: Well, I grew up in Florida, but we all like Iron Maiden. I don’t really listen to Dream Theater, not sure about the other guys. We talk a lot about RUSH though, Wishbone Ash, and Blue Oyster Cult.
KM: Who in the band is the most high-strung when it comes to writing? What about performing?
CM: Haha. Well, I'm probably the pickiest when it comes to writing by far. I want the arc of the arrangement to make sense and tell a story without getting too ‘musically indulgent’ if that makes sense. Not too proggy or bluesy. Melody is king. With regards to performance, we all have the same high standards but Keith is always the most prepared, (LOL) and expects everyone else to be, as well.
KM: Let’s hear a great band story from recording. Has there ever been any axe throwing or stick breaking?
CM: Not per se haha. We do drink a lot of beer though! I think the best thing about recording in someone else’s space is that you can randomly pick up objects and see what they do. Sometimes you get inspired and something you never planned for makes its way onto the track. Russ used a glass slide for a part on Olympus for example and I know we used some instrument we found on the last record too at the end of Cassini. (It was a lap steel!) Now that I’m thinking about it, there were a couple of times we had a really good take of something and had to redo it because it got messed up. Either with a botched punch in or some other technical mishap. We didn't throw anything though!
KM: Well, that's good to hear there was no bodily harm. Now, let’s hear about one of your most memorable shows. Good, bad or whatever comes to your mind.
CM: The most memorable show is probably the Athens gig from 2019. We had played London the night before and had to head straight to the airport afterwards. No time to sleep. And once we got to Athens the next day, we were all really delirious with sleep deprivation. There was no time to sleep before we had to go on. Somehow it ended up being an amazing gig! It was a real turning point for us on that tour.
KM: Before joining the band, what were you doing professionally?
CM: I was and still am a horticulturalist.
KM: Now that's a profession you don't hear much about. If you could go back five years, is there anything you’d do differently within the band?
CM: Oh I don't know, I mean it’s all a learning experience. We have a lot of care for everyone. I'd probably delegate more to others so I don't have to do so much myself. For performance, I would have gotten my in-ear monitors way sooner since I simply can’t hear what's happening without them.
KM: Musically, where do you see things going from here? What would you like to see happen?
CM: Good question. I wouldn’t mind having a few even catchier songs going forward. Thinking of RUSH and BOC who had some really great and timeless songs. I think the reality though is that we come up with what we come up with and that’s okay, too. I’m always game to try out new ideas though, to see how things sound. The other aspect is the tall order both Russ and I gave ourselves with having to play some pretty difficult lines while singing. I might be nice to simplify things a little bit just to make our lives easier!
KM: What’s on the schedule for the rest of the year?
CM: We are hoping to tour this fall and next spring.
KM: Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give a shout out to?
CM: I want to thank all of our amazing fans for supporting us and coming out to shows!
KM: Thanks for your time Cindy. Good luck with the new album and hopefully we'll catch you guys here in Asheville.
Kreig Marks, Publisher / Founder TRR
Kreig Marks is the Founder/Publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
Rock music has always been his passion, and promoting musicians. In is spare time he is an internationally recognized neuro-fitness trainer/ kinesiologist.