Misstallica's Gina Gleason:
Metallica, with lady bits

Gina Gleason projects a sound of gravel, grit and sharp-edged shards of steel when she sings.

It used to kind of hurt, she admits.

"It doesn't really hurt any more," Gleason says. "It did in the beginning, but I learned how to channel it from my stomach. It's all good now."

The Philadelphia native, now 20, fronts the cover band Misstallica, an all-girl ensemble touted as "the Metallica experience but with BOOBIES."

Yeah, and they sound just like the band that -- with Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax -- comprises the big four of thrash metal ... maybe the biggest of them all.

Gleason, a metal head from way back, didn't really plan to sing in the band, which developed in 2008 out of Queen Diamond, an all-female tribute to King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. She started out as a guitarist, she says, but then the original singer left about two years back and, "once I took over, it became what it is."

"It sort of just started sporadically," Gleason adds. "When I took over singing -- I didn't really want to do that, but we didn't have a lot of options. I tried to embrace it. I was a little awkward at first. It was my first stab at being a lead. But what better place to start than Metallica?"

Gleason credits her brother with sparking her love of metal at an early age. "I definitely grew up on Metallica and old-school Venom," she says. "I grew up listening to that stuff. I like the old-school metal because it's so powerful. It's so energetic .. there's nothing else like it. It gives you a rush of adrenaline."

Gleason is serious about her craft. She began playing guitar at age 14, taking lessons at the School of Rock and later studying upright bass at the Girard Academic Music Program. She currently studies music theory and studio engineering at Temple University.

"We're all pretty well-rounded musicians, I think," she says.

When she's not thrashing with the girls, Gleason writes and produces her own material.

That includes some original metal that Gleason hopes to record this summer. She and Misstallica bassist Teddi Tarnoff are also partners in a country, blues and bluegrass project.

"So, that's at the other end of the spectrum," Gleason says. "Really, I'm down to play any kind of music. I'm not exclusive to metal."

But it's pure Metallica in a Misstallica show, she promises. "We do the first four albums," she says. "It's all old-school stuff." That means the audience can expect music from Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and And Justice for All -- with a few tracks from Garage Inc. for good measure.

Gleason doesn't have any special method for channeling Metallica lead singer James Hetfield. But she hopes her primary inspiration sees Misstallica perform someday.

"I think Lars (Ulrich, Metallica's drummer and founding member) knows about us. From what I've heard," she says. "And we've been in contact with Metallica's people. But I don't think they've ever seen us. That's kind of our dream, and our goal. ... Hopefully, they'll think we're doing them justice."

Besides Gleason and Tarnoff, the band features Leanne Martz on guitar and Kaleen Reading on drums.

"We're going to try to do this as long as we can do it," Gleason says. "I never expected for it to take off as much as it has."

Misstallica has done a couple U.K. tours, as well as a few headlining trips across the U.S. "We'll see how far we can ride it," she says. "We're totally shocked at the response ... we thought we'd do a few bars, have a little fun and then move on."

There are skeptics who doubt the ability of an all-girl band to emulate Metallica -- but Gleason sees them as a challenge, not an obstacle. "We get a lot of satisfaction putting on our best show and blowing them away," she says. "I try to feed off the crowd. I just want to make sure everyone's having a good time."

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interview by
Tom Knapp

14 July 2012

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