For the first edition of this column, I could think of no better way to kick things off than speaking with someone I truly admire, who is indisputably one of the most badass ladies in metal and an equal rights warrior goddess besides: Marissa Martinez. This San Francisco, CA-based guitarist and vocalist lends her raw talents to legendary grindcore OGs Repulsion as well as her own long-running band of grindfreaks, Cretin. She’s been wonderfully forthcoming and open about her journey as a transsexual woman, and serves as an inspiration for so very many people worldwide. Bright, funny, and genuine, Marissa is a class act – and can shred like a madwoman! Check out our interview below, and up the irons!
Kim Kelly: You’ve been a busy, busy lady this year! Can you tell me a bit about what’s going on with Cretin?
Marissa Martinez: We’re in the middle of learning the new songs that Matt (Widener, bassist of Cretin) and I wrote for the next album. We’ve got a good base so far of 7 to 9 songs, which would be a little over half an album. So, there’s still more writing to be done. But it’s great to be in the rehearsal studio again.
These new songs are a little more quirky than the last album. We’re exploring the unique cretanic sound that can be heard as an undercurrent in our earlier songs, and trying to bring it forward, rather than trying to adhere to a strict Repulsion sound like we did with the first album. The new songs are also a bit more dark. I wrote a good portion of them five years ago when I first started my transition. I was really struggling to find myself at that time, and I think the frustration that I was going through kind of comes through. But, our overall ethic is still there to keep it sounding really old school, with simple song structure, and a straight forward delivery.
It’s really fun to see these songs take shape. I’ve been picking at them here and there for a while now, and I had a serious fear for a couple of years that I might get raped and killed before these songs could ever see the light of day…
KK: For those who don’t know you yet, could you give me some background on your musical adventures, and tell me what the relationship is between you and Repulsion?
MM: If there’s one thing that’s been at the heart of my musical adventures, I’d have to say that it’s always been the sincere friendships I’ve been so fortunate to make along the way. When Matt and I became friends with the guys in Exhumed, not only did we gain lasting friends who would contribute and be a part of our lives in and out of music to this day, they also helped to increase the caliber of our playing.
When it came to getting Cretin signed, and our album “Freakery” released, we made amazing friends with the folks at Relapse. Not only do they believe in our music, but they also stood by me while I was going through one of the biggest challenges in my life. Friends from the label actually came to see that I was released from the hospital, and relocated to my hotel room after my surgery.
The boys in Repulsion are no different. We’re all very close friends. Matt (Olivo, lead guitarist of Repulsion) and I met online years ago, due to my (then) job in the video game industry. From there we started a friendship that would include Scott (Carlson, bassist/vocalist of Repulsion). They both loved Cretin and regarded us as the “2nd Coming” of Repulsion, and because of that they recruited Col (Jones, drummer of Cretin) to be the permanent replacement for Dave Grave (original drummer of Repulsion), who wanted to retire from the band.
They played a couple of shows that I was able to attend, and asked me to make a guest appearance on guitar to close their sets, the most prominent of those being the Maryland Death Fest 2010. I guess you could say those were inadvertent mini-auditions, in a way… I naturally match the Repulsion sound when I play guitar. So, because of that, and our close friendship, I think the guys just felt like I was a perfect fit for the band. They asked me to on second guitar last year, and we played our first gig together at the Roxy, on the Sunset strip, last summer. It’s been amazing!
KK: What is your day job? How did you get involved in that field, and what do your colleagues think about your bands & involvement in metal?
MM: I manage an internal Software Quality Assurance department for Industrial Light & Magic. I was hired to develop this group after working for nine years in the Compatibility department for LucasArts. Before that, I spent two years working in the graphics card industry, testing to make sure that the cards would work with video games that were popular at the time.
I’ve always been a huge Star Wars fan. So, when the opportunity to work for LucasArts came up, I jumped at it. I’ve been working for Lucasfilm for over 12 years at this point…
My colleagues like to tease me about my music, but I think they respect that I play in bands. They just aren’t fans of extreme metal…
KK: What’s your favorite book?
MM: I’m not a big reader to be honest. I mostly just read news blogs regarding LGBT social issues. But, I recently got “Murder in the Front Row, Shots from the Bay Area Thrash Metal Epicenter,” and I love it. It’s mostly a collection of photos, but it’s extremely nostalgic and heart-warming for any fan of old school metal.
KK: What’s in your purse right now?
MM: Hmm… Let’s see… Wallet, makeup bag, car insurance, checkbook, dental floss, headphones for iPhone, scrunchie, eye drops, lip gloss, gum, house keys, and a match book. Nothing exciting…
KK: You’ve been grinding it out for years, onstage and in the front row. How did you get into metal in the first place, and what inspired you to pick up an instrument?
MM: I guess you could say “music has always been in my blood.” My biological father was the lead guitar player for an acid rock band called “The Underground Railroad” back in the ‘70s. He died when I was five and, as a result, my family always pushed me to grow up to be like him. I guess they expected me to fill the void left in their hearts by his passing… Anyway, I inherited his 1967 Gibson SG so, once I found metal, it just made sense to learn guitar.
I was actually way into skateboarding when I first got into metal. We built a mini ramp in one of my friend’s backyard, and he would throw on a lot of Metallica and some hair metal bands while we’d skate. But, eventually he got into the skater punk bands.
I was hooked with Metallica, especially “Kill ‘Em All” and “Ride the Lightning.” I started playing guitar more and skating less… In mid high school Widener and I reconnected around music (we’ve been friends since 4th grade). He had started playing bass, and was already more or less “over” thrash. He introduced me to death metal through bands like Carcass, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, and Dismember. Honestly, it took me a little bit of time to warm up to the music but, once I did, that was it. Particularly after we went to our first death metal show. When we saw the bands headbanging and playing their hearts out, we knew that’s what we wanted to do.
We started our senior year of high school the next day, and I was tasked with the job of approaching the one metal drummer we knew of, to see if he wanted to join our band. He did. And so began Cretin…
KK: Your love of latex and fetish fashion is pretty well known by now (and you look DAMN good!). Can you tell me about how you got involved in this scene and a couple of your favorite stories relating to the world of fetish fashion?
MM: I’ve been a fan of kink and latex since I’ve been sexually aware. I dabbled with it here and there in the past, dressing up ex-girlfriends, and doing some light play. But, I never really felt comfortable with it. I hated my body, and I was embarrassed to express myself sexually. Once I started to transition, and things had progressed to a point where I had gained some confidence, I went wild! I decided to indulge myself in everything that I had shied away from, or was too embarrassed to explore previously. Latex fetish was forefront in my interests.
The day after my 34th birthday, I went to my first Latex Fetish Ball. It was hosted in SF by Erik Von Gutenberg, who is a well-known photographer in the scene and publishes his own glossy magazine. The ball was great and I met a lot of fun, kinky people there. There was an open casting call at the party, where people could get their photo taken, and you’d be entered into a competition. The winner of the competition would get a professional photo shoot with Erik that could possibly get published in his magazine.
I didn’t want to try out, but one of the photographers talked me into it. Long story short, I won the competition, had an awesome photo shoot, and made it into Issue #1 of Von Gutenberg magazine. That was something I never thought I could do…
KK: It seems as though metal has a very tribal mentality when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender – we accept our own, no matter what. Rob Halford, Mina Caputo, and yourself seem to have been accepted fairly easily for who you are, though I’m sure you’ve also had to deal with many challenges. Would you agree with that idea, or am I way off?
MM: Well… Obviously, there are ‘phobes out there, and metal can be a hyper-masculine, anti-politically-correct shock fest. But, for a lot of us, we’re castaways from society to begin with, and we’ve all faced some sort of prejudice or adversity that attracted us to metal as somewhere we could let off our aggression and excel through the music. I think that helps to create a bonded community. Plus, it’s always been a belief in metal that “no one is going to tell me who to be or how to live my life.” Because of that, I find that a lot of metalheads actually respect their LGBT sisters and brothers for being “out,” and being proud. Provided you can prove you know your shit about metal… Heh.
KK: You’ve been very open about your life as a transwoman, and done a lot to raise awareness and promote acceptance. Have you gotten any letters from other young metallers struggling with their sexuality or transitions?
MM: Yes! I get contacted from LGBT metalheads from all around the world. It’s great, and I love talking with them. They usually reach me through facebook at this point. There’s a lot of people out there struggling to define themselves, and I feel very fortunate that I can help to be a source of inspiration in their lives… It’s a huge honor that I do my best not to take for granted.
KK: How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
MM: Oh… about an hour and a half. But, I dilly-dally a lot, and I like to take my time. When I first started to transition, though, it would take me 4 hours. I was a perfectionist and felt like I had to do everything to the fullest. It was insane… I was over-compensating for missing out on my girlhood…
KK: What’s your favorite non-metal record? Your favorite metal album?
MM: Honestly, I don’t have a favorite non-metal record. I mean… Of course I do like music that isn’t metal, but I don’t have a favorite record there. I guess I just don’t feel interested enough to spend the time to rank that stuff…
My favorite album of all time is “Horrified” by Repulsion.