Interview with Hellcats
(Questions compiled by Paco Altur)
How did you both come up with the idea of creating a metal band?
Sasha & Sonja: The band Hellcats was formed by the two of us, we are also the authors of the lyrics and music, while Sasha also manages the band. Due to the small size of Slovenian music space it took us a while to find the right female musicians willing to play and create music in such a genre. The thing that motivated us and still does is love and dedication to the music in general. We started to perform together early in childhood when we were still in music school. Sasha played classical guitar and Sonja flute. Later on she switched to drums and Sasha to bass guitar. We started searching for the other band members in 2003, but we needed some time to realize it, and in 2006 we had our first gig and that is the real start for us.
I guess you both must be very proud to be the only female metal band in your country; and the first metal band from that part of Europe. Do you both feel any added pressure on it?
Sasha & Sonja: It is not easy to form a female band, especially in the country of 2 million inhabitants. There are not a lot of girls who play instruments such as drums, electrical guitar and bass. We are the first and still the only all-female metal band in our country. We have a lot of supporters, but in the past there were some skeptics among metal men in Slovenia who thought that women can't be as good musicians as men. Rockers are more enthusiastic about everything we do. But as we can see, the things are getting better in Europe, there is many more female musician and our supporters, especially in the northern countries.
How did you both come up with the name of the band?
Sasha & Sonja: We were looking for the name for quite a long time, for about two years. Then the name came out by our good friend Bico who is a guy who knows an awful lot about airplanes. He named us after The Grumman F6F Hellcat, a carrier-based fighter aircraft. But for us the name means much more than just an airplane.
You both have had several changes in your line-up in the band, especially to the vocals. What did each of them bring to the band? How was the choice of Karmen, the current vocalist?
Sasha & Sonja: Since the beginning of the band there was several changes in line-up. It is hard for some people to discover what the thing they want to be dedicated to is. For us that was never the question. We always knew we want to make music and Hellcats band is our life project. Anyway, every member of our band brought something in and the band developed. We learned a lot about relationships. We know from the beginning what we want from our members. But in such a small country is hard to find always the right person, with similar ideas. So we stopped limiting ourselves and started to look outside of the box. If someone truly wants to be a part of our band, there is always the way to make it happen. We met Karmen in 2014, when she came to our concert with a friend we also knew. At first we became friends. At that time we had a singer and didn’t really think about changes. But with Karmen we became better and better friends, we spend a lot of time together and found out, we are good for each other. We have great time at rehearsals, share interests and are all dedicated to music.
Karmen, like every musician, everyone has their own style and way of doing things; but what can you say about the work of the previous vocalists? Apart from Hellcats have you previously been in any other band? Also as a vocalist?
Karmen: About the work of previous vocalists I’d say, that everyone has their own style and way of doing things ☺
Music is a big part of my life, so I did have quite a few bands before Hellcats. I’m also a singer of Slovenian band called Rock Partyzani, for more than 7 years now. I think my singing and performing experiences are also the reasons, Sasha and Sonja invited me to be a part of their band, besides friendship.
Sasha, you studied and played classical guitar in school , why the change to playing bass? Do you still play the guitar?
Sasha: I still play the classical guitar, the classical education helps me while composing new songs but in a band I love to be a bassist.
What can you all say about the female music scene in metal music in your country? What do you all think about the female music scene in metal music in the world? Is there a female band that has inspired you all?
Hellcats: In Slovenia the female music scene in metal music is really poor. We are still the only all-female metal band here. There are only few female metal individuals in male bands, but we think it should be more of them. Girls love to go to metal concerts, they just don’t decide to start playing instruments. Or they start and soon they quit, when they see it is not as easy as they thought it would be. Having a metal band is still mostly male occupation here. When we started in 2003 there were no other bands like us in this part of Europe. But we are noticing that there are more of metal female musicians all over the world that it used to be, when we started to play. There are some female bands and female musicians that had influence on us – Rock Goddess, Vixen, Girlschool, Pat Benatar.. We were and still are inspired by their power, music writing and dedication.
I understand that to encourage and promote the women of your country in music, you both have created a festival dedicated exclusively to female artists. Whose idea was it, how was the process? Has it been well received in your country?
Sasha & Sonja: Dan Rock Žena (The day of woman in Rock) is a music festival which has an all-female line-up, that means that for one day only girls are allowed to hit the stage. The festival supports female musician by giving them the place in music they deserve and encourages them into music and also helps them to present their original music. Dan Rock Žena takes place in Ljubljana around 8th of March - the International Women's Day which is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and is a focal point in the movement for woman's rights.
We are supporting women in music, we are always glad to see girls who play electrical guitar, bass and drums. That was the main reason to create the festival back in 2015, to dedicate it to women in music. It was always well visited and well accepted by the audience. Last year we had to cancel it due to the Covid-19 restrictions but we already make plans for this year. We hope we could make it, since the Covid restrictions are still present.
Like many bands you sing in your language, Slovenian and English as well. Have you both been inspired by bands to sing in your language, since normally, almost all the bands usually sing in English?
Sasha & Sonja: When we started to create songs we had some songs in Slovenian and some in English language. Since we have a lot of fans here and in other countries, we decided to make everything in both languages. It became important to us to be able to create music in Slovenian language and show it to the world. We are proud to have our own language since we are a small nation. Some fans prefer English, some Slovene. The meaning of the songs in both languages are the same.
In 2011 came out your first EP, "Hellcats"; and later, in 2013, your debut album "Divja Pot" was released (in my opinion it's a great old school Heavy Metal LP. Among my favorite songs are "Heavy Metal", "Prerojena", and the title track: "Divja Pot". I would like ask you both to talk about how the whole process of creating the album was? (what inspired you both to compose, the recording stuff...)
Sasha & Sonja: The authors of the songs are both of us. The thing that motivated us and still does is love and dedication to the music in general. But the main thing is that we, besides that we are sisters; we are also the best friends. We are motivating each others from the childhood when we started to perform together, when we were still in music school. We always listen to each others and talk about everything what we wanted to do.
The process of creating starts with the lyrics and the classical guitar actually. We both, have classical education in music and that really helps in the composing process. So we sing and play till we like it both. We work by the feeling and inspiration. A lot of songs were written at the seaside where we like to go as often as we can. We need peaceful environment, where we can create without disturb. When the song is written we record a demo and send it or go to rehearsal space and show it to the girls. We rehearse until we are ready to hit the studio. The two of us are present at each recording, we always record everything by ourselves, we don’t hire professional musicians to record songs instead of us, which many of people do.
After such a long time, I guess all of you already have new ideas and new material for your second album. Can you give us any news about it?
Sasha & Sonja: We are working on a new album and some other projects. As soon as situation about Covid19 will be normal, we will release a single with a video. Then we will release a new album. If it will be full-length or EP is too soon to tell. After that we are going on a tour.
What are your musical influences? What musical styles do you like? What bands/musicians inspired all of you to be a musician? Your top10 all-time favourite bands/albums are?
Sasha &Sonja: There was numerous of Thrash, Heavy Metal and Hard Rock bands that had a big influence on our band. Our favorite bands are Pantera, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Mötley Crüe, AC/DC, Sepultura, Warlock and many more. We grew up with them. They helped us to become who we are today.
Karmen: I grew up with with classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones, Queen, CCR, Dire Straits, Eagles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Beatles, ZZ Top etc. For me It’s so nostalgic listening to those bands. I was also always a huge fan of 80’s glam rock bands, like Mötley Crue, Skid Row, Whitesnake, Def Leppard etc. In high school I discovered Iron Maiden and since then I’m in love with heavy metal. Iron Maiden is still one of my favorite metal bands. I also love Pantera, Slipknot, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Dio and many others. To be honest, this world has so much of amazing music, It’s really hard to pick just a few bands☺ I listen to other genres too. Can’t imagine my playlist without classical music. Tchaikovsky for example is one of my favorite composers since I heard his music for the first time, which was in Disney movies, when I was a child.
Has the public left aside all the prejudices they could have about your image and focus solely and exclusively on your musical quality?
Hellcats: Actually we didn’t really hear prejudices about our image. We were always showing people who we are, why we are and what we are showing to them. And that has always been our dedication to music. We are always saying: “We are Hellcats from Slovenia- all female Heavy Metal band, who writes, records and performs the music by ourselves!” We believe we are always taken serious, because we are serious about what we do. We are thankful to everyone who gives us opportunity to be able to go on with our work. We would like people to be optimistic and to enjoy life, to be more aware of their values and to believe that they have a right to do whatever makes them happy. This thinking helps to get rid of all prejudices.
This damn Pandemic has upset everyone's plans. All of you, like any band, already had plans and dates confirmed (in U.K. and some other place). And it seems to be (at least that's what we hope and wish everyone) that in 2022 "normality" will return and events and big festivals will return. Do all of you still have, at the very least, the same plans and keep the dates all of you had confirmed? Have all of you added more dates for Europe?
Hellcats: Covid-19 affected musicians and everybody in music industry. All the events are being canceled again, so there is no live performances in which we enjoy the most. We just hope all this will end asap, so it will not affect musician industry too much in a long term. We had to cancel quite a lot of tours this couple of years – UK tour, Switzerland, all Europe tour, Croatia etc. But fortunately they are still waiting for us, so nothing was cancelled, just postponed, so we are looking forward to do it in near future.
All of you have played in small pubs, local radios and televisions, and also in big festivals. Where do you all feel most comfortable playing? Where do you all like to play the most?
Hellcats: We played in many clubs and in festival all over Europe. Each one of them has its own charm. Small clubs are more intimate/personal, you connect with public more, but on the other hand big stages are attractive because of you can really show a performance and see how crowd reacts. It is wonderful to hear bunch of people sing your songs. We like both. Small and big venues.
Do all of you have any special hobbies?
Hellcats: We have our own special hobbies and one in common which is dancing. Since Sonja is a dance teacher she formed a dancing group named Showcats and we were all training every week. It is great to do more things together, it brings us closer together. And we do something good for our bodies and souls.
Which places and metal festivals do all of you recommend us to visit in Slovenia?
Hellcats: We recommend the best club in our country named Orto bar which was kind of a ‘second home’ to us in one period of our lives. We played there numerous of times and it is the best place to relax and drink a beer with a friend as well as going to a great concert. It is a rock bar, but also has metal nights and concerts in different genres. The best and biggest festival in Slovenia is Metalcamp/Metaldays festival which is held annually in Tolmin a small town near beautiful Soča River, since 2004. The festival has been more popular every year with more media coverage and in order to not let it grow too big, in 2010 the tickets were limited to 12,000. It is best relaxation, metal vacation for many people from all over the world. We performed there twice. In 2010 and in 2011.
Do all of you keep all equipment from what you started with from the very beginning?
Sonja: I still have my first set of drums which are waiting to be renovated. But I’m still saving them.
Sasha: Yes, I still keep my equipment and my first bass guitar Ibanez 1989 RG 760 special edition.
Karmen: Well my first wish actually wasn’t singing. When I was about 5 years old I wanted to play the piano, because I saw on TV, how Jerry Lee Lewis did it. And I thought It was amazing, with setting the piano on fire and playing with feet haha ☺ In Slovenia you can’t start studying in music school before you’re 7 years old. So I had to wait for another two years, to get my piano. I will never forget that huge pink bow on top of that black piano, that I got for my birthday. I finished music school with that piano and it’s still a part of my living room. With singing there’s not much equipment, except microphone and IEMs. Unfortunately I don’t have my first stage microphone anymore. I also got it as a birthday present from my band members but somebody stole it, after one of my gigs. I have to admit, my heart was broken.
What has been your favourite gig from all these years?
Sasha & Sonja: Our favorite gig was at Metalcamp festival 2010 and later in 2016 at Metal Frankonia festival near Würzburgh in Germany.
Karmen: It was one of the smallest, but was a very special gig for me. We were playing in some village in Austria, but it was such a nice adventure. We were laughing all the time on our way there and we had a special guest on stage, who spiced the music up a bit with keyboards.
Which bands from your country would you recommend to me?
Well Sasha, Sonja, Karmen; it has been a pleasure to be able to do this interview with all of you. I leave all of you these last lines so that all of you can add and say something else. Thank you very much for your time.
Hellcats: We would like to thank our fans who are supporting us all these years: Thank you all! Stay as you are, believe in what you do, don’t listen to people who want to change you too much and enjoy every minute of it!
For others who just heard about us:
You can find our music on