Chicas of Corrosion: An Interview with Walls of Jericho Frontwoman Candace Kucsulain
Part tomboy, part femme fatale, Zeena Koda is a SiriusXM DJ, vocalist, journalist, and lover of all things hardcore. You can catch her radio show Monday through Saturday on SiriusXM Liquid Metal and watch her inquisitive feminist side via her video web series Boxx Talk and Ask A Bombshell. Rot and roll, baby!
A woman's strength can be tested in many different ways, whether it be through the rigorous daily physical challenges of having lady parts, dealing with social assumptions or shooing off the adoring masses. Honing in on a higher purpose within the confines of the madness is certainly no small feat. For one of hardcore's most recognizable frontwomen, Candace Kucsulain from Walls of Jericho, her sense of balance has been discovered through the male-dominated sport of power lifting.
"When I first met my husband in Europe while on tour in 2009, he told me about a power-lifting program," Kucsulain recounts. "Now I'm moving to Ohio with him and our daughter to train with one of the top women in the country." Not a romantic gesture for many, but for the strength-driven Kucsulain, lifting has cemented her love for fitness and was the catalyst for a new stage of her life post full-time musicianship. "I have never wanted to be weak, whether it be weak of the body or mind," she confidently states.
It is that exact fire that led her from the music road to the fitness lane, a path often carved out by her male counterparts but rarely addressed and conquered by the femme faction. "One of of the last Ozzfest tours, someone had weights and they'd work out," she recalls. "I'd jump in because you're looking for something to kill the time in-between. I hated that the guys in my band could dead-lift 300 pounds and I couldn't, but I finally dead-lifted 310 pounds at my last meet!"
Consistently defying boundaries while still maintaining those beautiful characteristics that define a strong woman has been Kucsulain's M.O. since her band's inception over 15 years ago. Never one to take anything for granted, Kucsulain notes that "strength takes time and dedication."
Dedication is something she has plenty of at this turn-key point of her life and career. Kucsulain is a multitasker who understands the value of giving the task at hand your all. Her inner strength is perfectly manifested in her standing as frontwoman of Walls of Jericho. "In 1998, I was living on my own, playing shows with the band, and eventually had to drop out of high school to continue touring because I wanted to do the band--it was my passion," she readily admits. During a time where social networking and digital communication was at an inception stage, Kucsulain offered endless fodder for the now infamous hardcore message board communities. Recognizably one of the only female vocalists in a machismo-filled community of musicians, she immediately realized that even her presence alone offended some deeply. "people did not like there being a female vocalist in hardcore," she says. "I was shocked."
Never one to be discouraged or back down from the mission at hand Kucsulain arose like a crowned champ, clocking in years of international and national touring, including on notable festivals such as Ozzfest and Mayhem, as well as releasing multiple successful albums, all while keeping grounded. "In the U.S., in order to survive as a hardcore band, you have to travel," Kucsulain readily admits. "I was lucky to be in a band with those guys. They were smart about touring and the lifestyle. We rarely got hotels early on." As their career flourished in the late '00s, the band finally decided to put out for some extra accommodations, a move fueled by one rather disturbingly telling situation. "One morning, while we were staying at someone's house on tour, I woke up to a letter in my shoe from a guy staying at the house as well," she laughs. "He said that he watched me sleep, and I said to my bandmates, 'We're good. I'm drawing the line,' and we were done with that."
Yet, considering her rare talent and energy, it's not difficult to see how any human would be infatuated with Kucsulain's presence. Even mainstream metal powerhouse Corey Taylor, of Slipknot and Stone Sour fame, couldn't resist her musical charms, helping to produce one of her band's most adventurous melodic undertakings in 2008, the Redemption EP. As a band best known for their in-your-face brutality factor, it was a bold step to take on such a melodically-driven project, but after meeting Taylor on the Family Values tour and being inspired to write after the death of her mother in 2006, Kucsulain took on the challenge. In a span of two weeks, the band pumped out a heartfelt EP that was "in memory of someone I loved," Kucsulain gratefully remembers. "To be able to record something like that was beautiful to me." The EP gave her a chance to revisit a love of clean singing that had previously only appeared in glimpses on prior releases. "I love singing and grew up singing," she explains. "In high school, there was one year that I was actually in two choirs, but I came into hardcore because I was angry and lost. Hardcore was my savior."
Through time, Kucsulain has found many more saviors and has been, herself, a positive figure to many women who are involved in music and yet want to also experience the joys of normal family life. Many active band members have children, but it is a true rarity to see a female try to balance motherhood with the touring heavy-music artists' life. Kucsulain notes that once she met her husband and had her daughter, her life took an extremely different and nurturing turn, offering her love she had never known. Always one to walk the walk, Kucsulain says that "if you want to see a change in the world, you have to start with the kids." Perhaps it is that sense of duty and higher purpose that continually fuels her desire to excel at both motherhood and power lifting, as well as ramps up her need to create new music with Walls of Jericho. As someone who admittedly is not a fan of small talk and surface interactions, instead opting for close relationships, she will have have endless fuel for writing this time around. "We're writing a new song for the 10-day European tour coming up in August," she says. "It's exciting because I'm ready to write about my life now. At first, they sent me some songs and I just couldn't focus--it wasn't the right time."
We all know timing is everything, and with Kucsulain's clock aligning hands, it will be exciting to see what is next for Walls of Jericho sonically. In a world full of strife and challenge, Kucsulain amply rises to the occasion time and time again, exemplifying hardcore heart. "We chose this music," she playfully laughs. "That says something about us."