The Hellfreaks – Zsuzsa “Shakey Sue“ Radnóti

Hungarian band The Hellfreaks released their album Pitch Black Sunset on April 14 on Napalm Records. They start touring in Europe in May. The album includes the singles “Hit Me Where It Hurts”, “Chaos”, “Weeping Willow” and “PBSS”

THE HELLFREAKS on their album release ‘Pitch Black Sunset’:

“There is no way to express our excitement about the release of our brand new album and Napalm Records debut: ‘PITCH BLACK SUNSET’! Not only are we proud to start this new chapter in THE HELLFREAKS history, but it’s also our most introspective long-player to date. It’s a personal walkthrough about the best and worst parts in all of us – the past and the future, peace and chaos, hope and despair and everything in between. This time we pushed the pedal to the metal without mercy, and this record feels like a car ride straight off a cliff into a bottomless canyon. Only this time we survive…

The Hellfreaks are Zsuzsa “Shakey Sue“ Radnóti on vocals, József “Jozzy“ Takács on guitar, Gabi Domján on bass & Béla Budai on drums.

FEMMUSIC was honored to e-mail with Zsuzsa “Shakey Sue“ Radnóti about the album. For more info visit their website.

FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Pitch Black Sunset?

ZR: The biggest challenge was the timing of this album. We were hit by Covid very hard: we just released our latest album God On The Run and went on tour when the pandemic reached Europe. We literally just played 4 gigs to present the new album and had to go back straight from Germany to Hungary. And that was our album release tour … Normally, as a band you play countless gigs with your latest material before you start to work on something new, but this time we had to do it without this input. It really scared us back then, because changement between the albums is kind of the essence of our band.

But luckily, after we recorded Old Tomorrows, we saw the right lane and could calm down a bit.

FEMMUSIC: What was your vision for the album?

ZR: We’re not the type of band who lays down any kind of concept before we start the writing process. We always give the natural flow its space.  But I had a personal interest in making the music heavier as I focused my vocal training journey for years on metal screaming techniques. It took a while till I felt comfortable enough to use these, but now it’s simply so much fun to do it, and such a good spice to express feelings that I really wanted to bring it in as a new element in our music.

FEMMUSIC: This your first album with Napalm Records. What made you sign with them, and what did they bring to making Pitch Black Sunset?

ZR: We are based in Hungary, which is by far not the biggest market for rock music in Europe. Just a handful of rock bands make it to tour abroad on a regular basis, but even fewer get signed by big labels like Napalm.

We built up this band with a very strong DIY background. We were signed to smaller labels before, but we tried to hold as much as possible in our own hands. The wish to get signed to a bigger label was born only a very few years ago, when we felt like we had reached everything that we could on our own.

But the music industry always has its own plans and things never happen the way you think it could. Only through some crazy accidents we ended up working together with a management, who also manages bands like Jinjer and who were already in direct contact with the label. Back then we wrote our first single which made it to the new album called “Old Tomorrows”. That song was our door opener to Napalm Records in the end and from that moment we had their trust regarding the whole album.

FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique? How has it changed over time?

ZR: We’ve experimented a lot on that. But what seems to work the best is when the instrumental part comes first.

Usually Gabi puts together some first ideas for all instruments. The idea has to contain a verse and a chorus before I actually can start to work on the material. At this point I listen to this raw idea for a million times and start to work out the vocal melody. I think that is the part that I’ll never reveal to the world, as I have no lyrics at this point, which means that we are recording senseless words to play around with the vocal melody. And it sounds ridiculous. When we’re done with the main structure, Gabi starts to work out the details with our guitarist Jozzy and drummer Béla. And as the very last element I finalize the lyrics. But even after everything, it often happens that the song ends up weeks later in the trash. 

I think people expect bigger changes than we actually did to put this record together: Maybe I educated myself a lot this year and that’s why I had more “vocal tools” to use to express myself. And maybe we could involve Jozzy more into earlier stages of the writing process. But I think the most important factor was that we did not feel that we ‘own’ our younger selves anymore like we did with God On The Run. I’ve never felt musically so free like with this album.

FEMMUSIC: What song, not your own, has had the biggest impact on you and why?

ZR: What a good question! There are more than one. But I will pick an unexpected song: “Baptized By Fire” from Spinerette. This one dragged me out of a really bad mental space. Back then I’ve just ended an extremely toxic relationship where I absolutely lost myself. This song reminds me of the moment when I started to take back control of my life. 

FEMMUSIC:  As a woman in the music industry how have you dealt with discrimination?

ZR: I started this band 14 years ago. Compared to those times the situation is so much better!  Of course I have faced a million situations where crazy things happened. But it’s clear that it is them who behave improperly, not me. So I often speak out loud when it is a face to face situation. But with age I can also take it with more and more humor. Thanks to my bandmates I’m in an extremely safe environment, that’s why I can take it easy nowadays.

To be fair I do face way more discrimination outside of my musical surroundings. That’s why I’m really proud of the metal community: it is very open minded compared to some other genres. I love to be part of it, but there is still so much to do! Just check the headline names of all the bigger metal festivals, it is still far from equal. But it wouldn’t be realistic to force the process, time is needed to change any mindset, but I also see that it is already going in a good direction and the metal scene is doing great regarding that! Labels like Napalm Records are especially supportive!

FEMMUSIC:  What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?

ZR: The presence on social media. I love the fact that I can get in touch with our fanbase all around the world and I do appreciate that. It is extremely time consuming and musicians shouldn’t be all time marketers to get recognized.

#thehellfreaks #napalmrecords

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