The Story of Dohrn, or How Kate Nash Got Into Death Metal
Alicia Warrington has played with everyone from Kelly Osbourne to Miley Cyrus to Selena Gomez. Stream her crushing new track "Levels of Hate" from her new death metal project, Dohrn.
Photo courtesy of Dorhn
One of the sweetest little pleasures a dedicated music fan can experience is the moment when you find out that you've successfully gotten someone you love interested in one of your favorite bands. It's both a triumph—"See, I told you they were awesome!"—and a bonding experience, and it's something that holds particular weight for those of us who spend our time listening to music that most would find challenging. It's also how Kate Nash got into death metal.
"It’s pretty funny because she never listened to death metal in her life until she met me!" chuckles Dorhn mastermind Alicia Warrington, who's been Nash's drummer for the past year. "We did a show in San Francisco and had a day off the next day. It was rainy and she was like let’s just stay in and rent a movie... so I made her watch Until the Light Takes Us. We’re cuddled up on the couch, it’s raining and I’m introducing this British pop star to the world of black metal and death metal. And she was like ‘But wait, why are they burning churches? I don’t understand!’ [laughs] She’s like ‘You’re psycho! This is how you grew up? This is what you did as a teenager?’ I’m writing and recording the Dohrn EP by myself and so I’ve been sending her the rough mixes like ‘Hey can you check out this mix for me before I send it off?’ and she’s like, "Well, I am the death metal expert now!"
Warrington's new project is a far cry from the kind of beats she hammers out for Nash and a constellation of other high-profile clients. She's appeared on American Idol, The Tonight Show, MTV, Top of the Pops, The Ellen DeGeneres show, popped up in movies, toured the world, and played in several of her own bands, as well. Her resume spans a who's who of pop stardom—Kelly Osbourne, Selena Gomez, Tracy Chapman, Wn Vogue's Dawn Robinson, a smattering of reality show winners like American Idol's Colton Dixon and The X Factor's Chris Rene, and even a young Miley Cyrus, back in the Hannah Montana era. She totally saw Miley's metamorphosis coming, by the way.
"I predicted that she was going to get kind of crazy. When I worked with her I was like this little girl, give it two more years and she’s going to be crazy!" Warrington laughs. "Totally called it. Twerkin’ away. It’s funny, I worked with her for two years doing all the Hannah Montana stuff. I think she was 15 or something at the time, and it’s funny seeing her blow up. I knew she was going to be big, and she’s doing her thing. I’m not mad about it." Warrington never quite managed to turn Miley into a metalhead and doesn't really advertise her music tastes to most of her clients in Pop Land, but she says that she bonded with Kelly Osbourne over her metallic background, and of course, there's her current employer's newfound death metal appreciation. "I got Kate Nash, that’s all you need!"
Dohrn is Warrington's new death metal project is old-school without being regressive, inspired by the kind of bands she grew up with as a teenage hesher back in Saginaw, Michigan. She started touring at 15, playing for bands like Purgatory, Consumed, and Dropping the Messiah, with whom she released an album in 1995 that got traction in Metal Maniacs and Sounds of Death magazines. She was also an avid tape trader, citing rare gems from Amputus and Sarcophagus (whose members went on to play in a dizzying array of underground greats, from Broken Hope and Krieg to Dying Fetus) among her prized possessions, and describes growing up in a household where her Mortician and Immolation albums rested comfortably alongside her sister's Quiet Riot tapes and her mom's R&B albums.
"I actually started playing drums to Queensrÿche and Dokken," she recalls. "Rockin' with Dokken! I’ve always listened to everything from Dolly Parton to Suffocation, but metal’s my favorite That’s just kind of what I was built on—built on metal. I've been drumming for 20 years, but I play everything in Dohrn. I hated lessons on guitar. I just wanted to sit down and be able to play all the Testament solos and stuff, and when I couldn’t do that right away I kind of got discouraged. So, my uncle—who was a total 80s hair metal guy, built a stage in my grandparents basement. And when I was eleven, I walked downstairs one day and it was like a concert—he had a fog machine, a PA system, a 16-piece stainless steel Ludwig drumset with the 28-inch bass drums and I was like ‘what the fuck.’ I had gone over there to play with him and I just put the guitar down. He put on a tape. we just started playing along to all of these songs and I just picked it up right away. And then I begged my mom for a year to buy me a drumset. Then, I discovered Obituary and Cannibal Corpse when I was twelve!"
Her mom is still a big influence, too—and a big metalhead. "She’s always on Liquid Metal, that's her station. She likes a lot of older thrash too, she likes Sepultura, she likes Six Feet Under. She definitely went through the phase of ‘That’s evil, I don’t want that in my house’ and then she started coming to my shows and stuff, and she’s right up front with her camcorder," Warrington shares. "So I sent her the last couple songs I wrote for the EP, and she said that they sound scary, which I took as a compliment. [laughs] She said my vocals sound scarier than ever before. And I was like ‘Great! They’re perfect."
It took a few years before a teenage Warrington mastered the blastbeat, but now she makes it look easy. Dohrn's sound harkens back to the mid-Nineties, copping more influence from Six Feet Under and Amon Amarth than the -tion bands who have come to characterize the "old-school death metal "sound.
"It’s riffy, it’s guitar-heavy. I’m very influenced by Bleed For Us To Live by Gutted and Entombed's Left Hand Path, and earlier Hypocrisy stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of that so some of that I think is coming out in the next few songs. I wanted to make a record that I want to listen to, more like the original metal stuff that I miss," she says. Dohrn sounds exactly like what you'd expect from diehard, tape-trading death metal fiend who came up in the 90s returned to the fold and casually drops Hacked Up For Barbecue into conversation. The track we're premiereing today has more of a black metal bent, and both come off Dohrn's upcoming debut EP, End of Days.
Warrington's been kicking around the idea of stepping out from behind the drumkit and launching her own band for the past year or so, but a gap in Kate Nash's touring schedule provided a golden opportunity to get to work.
"I just was getting angrier with music and the state of the music industry and the state of the world— racism, sexism, anti-feminist stuff. I wanted to represent some of that, and bring a bit of feminism to metal because it’s lacking," she explains. "I want to see more girls doing this. You see it a lot in pop music and stuff but in metal, I don’t see it, especially girls of color. I just wanted to kind of get out there and be more in the forefront, and be a positive voice, if you will. Someone has to pave the way, and I think the media has to help. I spoke on a panel recently about women in music in general, and it asked, 'how do we get more girls to play?' Well, the audience I was speaking to was 90 percent female, so there’s obviously an audience for it; mainstream magazines aren’t really giving it the coverage that we deserve, though, so people don’t think we’re in certain areas that we really are."
As she noted, it makes a lot of sense to be angry now, and to want to do something with that anger. "With all this crazy stuff going on right now—police beating up people, they always beat up people, but we’re seeing a lot of it now being highlighted in the news—I wanted to sing about that stuff. People are very dumbed down right now with the music that we’re fed on the radio and mainstream media and stuff. In the 90s, you had the riot grrl movement and different periods of time has other movements. I feel like right now, people have been lazy for most of the 2000s, and it’s time for a change."
Dohrn's 'End of Days' EP will be out soon; for now, keep an eye on the Bandcamp and Facebook pages for more news.
Kim Kelly is recruiting for the feminist metal mafia on Twitter: @grimkim