She has inflamed the souls and minds of countless listeners over the years; now, with her project Transgressive, she has released an incredible album: a rallying battle cry, a political manifesto, a tasty collection of riffs. She’s Alicia Cordisco, and we had a chat about her new album, Extreme Transgression.
Hello, Rick here. How are you doing today? What’s on your mind?
Hey Rick! I’m doing quite well – thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I just got done recording an interview with JudasPriestCast so I’m thinking about Judas fucking Priest right now!
With tons of writing credits and both past and active bands (Judicator, Project: Roenwolfe) you don’t need no introduction. Transgressive however is a newish project, started out in 2021: would you give me a summary of the band’s history and how it came to be?
Absolutely. Transgressive started out as a shitpost, basically. I wrote and recorded the song Incel Incinerator as a joke on my private facebook account and posted it for laughs. Enough people liked it and my friend Brett Windnagle – from Soulmass, Lascalle’s Shroud – offered to mix it properly.
I had another song lying around and that became Seize the Means of Reproduction which was much more serious in tone; it was about what was going on in Texas in the US at the time concerning reproductive rights, and unfortunately things would get much worse after.
We released that EP to raise charity for Abortion Funds, and then put it to bed. The EP got enough traction though that we decided to make it a real band and continue, and that’s how it became what it is today. I consider it my main band right now and where a lot of my big focus for the future is, because what is has become and the response is truly special for me.
Extreme Transgression is the band’s first album after a couple of EPs, whose songs don’t appear on this album. Why make an album now?
I really hate recording songs twice, to be perfectly honest! I write enough material regularly that I don’t enjoy repeating myself. And I am a big fan of the album format. And especially since the money in this project all goes to charity/mutual aid (minus some money raised for the limited CD pressing) it felt important to keep material fresh and new so there’s always a reason to contribute financially if one wants to do so. Additionally, it gives me the opportunity to speak about more topics lyrically and explore my vocals.
If I recall correctly, for quite some time Transgressive music wasn’t available on streaming services – later you changed your mind, and it is now available. What was your thought process regarding this matter? And, more broadly, what is your stance on streaming services?
I am a known Spotify hater, but me thinking so isn’t going to will it away, unfortunately. It’s pure garbage from an idealistic standpoint, but it’s the reality of being in a band that if you want people to hear your music, it needs to be available, and that means participating in things like exploitative streaming services.
I wish it were different, but one must be realistic. Ultimately, I decided that it was more important that our music and message be available and accessible, because limiting its exposure and especially potentially paywalling it just seemed to go against the message of the band. It’s better if the music is out there, and it’s better if people can hear it.
To the heart of the matter: Extreme Transgression is an extremely political album, brutal and direct. How do you go on about writing lyrics such that they will be read? How do you make sure they do not overshadow the music?
With lyrics I try, and sometimes succeed, I hope, to write songs that are still fundamentally catchy. I think that helps deliver the message, and I can certainly be longwinded and so writing Transgressive is more about putting those thoughts/feelings/etc into a succinct memorable package.
I want three to five words to hit like a truck. That’s why the band focuses more on concise song writing and hooks than being more musically adventerous like my other projcets, although there is a time and place for both – even in Transgressive. But I want the message delivered with impact and memorably at the end of the day, and the songwriting is in service of that.
Additionally, the themes you write about are certainly heartfelt themes and, by now, of life-and-death importance. But, and I believe one of the strengths of Transgressive lies here, your lyrics are just enough tongue-in-cheek that they do not feel like a spiel or a political rally. Was it intentional, and if so, how did you achieve it?
I find the tongue-in-cheek nature to be fundamentally needed for the success of both thrash and satire. There are moments that are dripping in irony, sarcasm, and bitterness, and I am known to throw some sass on my vocals. Very much intentional. There’s times to be straight-faced angry, and there are times to be sardonic – often when spitting in the face of the pomposity and arrogance of the things we are criticizing.
Listening to Extreme Transgression, it heavily reminded me of Death Angel, and obviously Kreator (Extreme Aggression, anyone?). Musically I felt this was a very cohesive album, yet it never bore me. What were your main musical influences? Why did you choose thrash metal, specifically?
Those two are big for me in thrash! Thrash felt like the proper vehicle especially given my vocal style – and I wanted to be the vocalist. It’s also where I cut my teeth as a young musician. It’s a very full circle moment for me musically to take what I was doing as a teenager and fully realize it with intentionality in my near mid 30s.
Metal has had a complicated history with politics in music, with the works and stunts of far-right musicians greatly overshadowing the left and far-left scene, which was already smaller to begin with. Why is that so, in your opinion? Why is metal so often exploited by Nazis, and how do we properly reclaim it?
I could say a lot here, but I will try to make it short and simple. Metal has always had a shock and countercultural element to it. It borrowed that from a few places and incorporated it into new contexts. Black Metal is part of that. Unfortunately, though, any time you have countercultural art, if it isn’t specifically defined, it leaves the door open to reactionary elements.
Metal has always had an anti-authority sentiment, but a lot of it is very vague, and borderline conspiratorial. And those ideas can come across as universally relatable. And that’s a wide open door for fascists to co-opt, unfortunately.
You came out in 2021 as a trans woman: not the first to do so, but by now probably one of the most recognizable. How was your coming out received and do you feel there has been an improvement in the metal community’s acceptance?
Also, do you think your creativity, your style of music and overall, your approach to art has changed since coming out and transitioning?
My coming out was received… not well by some people. A lot of people who may think themselves allies or who are carefully guarding bigotry revealed themselves to me. There are unfortunately certain ‘professional’ contacts who stopped responding or working with me. And a host of other things that come with the territory like I since enjoy getting harassment and death threats from people in response to my music.
Some from former fans, even, on the harassment part – but fortunately my old band Judicator was respectful of my transition (they didn’t know about it when I left, I wasn’t out yet) and doesn’t tolerate those fake ‘fans’.
And on that note – it’s not all bad! And nothing I didn’t expect, and some I’ve had experience with in other ways in my life. Fortunately many were supportive, some in key ways, and I found even more people to connect with and better more inclusive communities. We build our own spaces and leave behind the ones the run by shitheads.
I don’t really think much has changed to my approach to writing and making music much, it’s always been my biggest hyperfocus and outlet, but, being able to authentically express my experiences, beliefs, and person in my lyrical work and in presentation has been a huge bolster to me and something I currently really love putting into the world.
A perspective on touring: will you ever bring Transgressive live, eventually? Either hiring live musicians or with the original studio formation?
We will be playing our first show at Hyperspace Metal Festival in Vancouver, BC next April, 2024! From there, we will see how it goes – I have plans to relocate closer to Leona up in Washington state so hopefully we can play semi regularly after our first couple of fest appearances.
Rick is a physics student from Italy, who besides loving metal music, also digs books, movies and science. He plays the drums, guitar, and kazoo.