APRIL 6th 2016

Bella D’s new album The Crystal Ceiling is set for independent release on May 13, 2016 and will also accompany a comic book illustrated to match the album’s concept. She and Charlie Zeleny (producer and drummer on the album) sat down with us and here is what they had to say!

1: Can you tell us the story behind The Crystal Ceiling?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
The Crystal Ceiling is a symphonic rock concept album that has a Victorian steampunk theme combined with an electronic cyberpunk theme running throughout it.  The layers in this album are massive in number and you won’t be able to catch all the intricate nuisances hidden throughout the album in one sitting.  Every time you listen to it I think you will find that there is something new you missed, which is what will keep listeners coming back to it over and over.

2: You have quite a long list of guest appearance that perform on the album. How did you come to find the musicians that make The Crystal Ceiling?

Charlie Z:
I am fortunate to have been rocking on the NYC and touring/session musician scene as a Pro Drummer, Music Director and Producer for a while and have played with all these amazing musicians before on gigs. When we had the material all tracked in Ableton and Protools, I hit them up to lay down their parts and they thought this was a major label affair when it is just an indie thing so far. Not a single musician tracked in the same room together, so this album really is a product of the future due to the internet.

3: I wanted to ask, out of all the people you have worked with over the years which have proved to be the most memorable and why?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
Well, I am a new artist and relied heavily on Charlie Z throughout the whole album recording process. Since Charlie has had more experience in the field I'll let him answer this. But this album itself was extremely memorable experience. The difference between the original demos to after these amazing top musicians on the album sent their tracks to us was such a giant drastic difference, it was insane. Each new layer brought life to each and every song and felt like it was Christmas Day each time we got a new track.

Charlie Z: Playing drum duets for The Drum Channel with drum legend Terry Bozzio was one of the most memorable gigs due to learning how to drum by watching his videos growing up. He wound up doing an hour long interview with me which was particularly surreal. Another really memorable artist I worked with was from my favorite band growing up: Dream Theater. I toured and recorded with Jordan Rudess and a particularly memorable tour was rocking Japan together. He is really popular there so it was a blast being recognized on the street due to him.

4: Is there one song that best represents the new album?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
I can honestly say “no” to this question, and I think that’s a good thing since this is a concept album.  We do have a song called “The Crystal Ceiling,” but in reality, every song on the album represents the album.  Each one reflects a message and story that we were trying to get out to our listeners. But if I had to mention one song, it would be "Invincible" since it is the song that shows the hero or heroine succeeding against all odds after the final battle.

5: How do you expect fans to react when the album and graphic novel get released?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
I think they will be intrigued and curious at first but then I think they will be very excited with the finished product.  True concept albums are rare these days and we really wanted to bring that back for the next generation. Each song on the album can stand by itself without any trouble. But if you have the time to sit and listen to the whole thing from beginning to end you’ll be able to take a fantastic and exciting journey with us. Having both a concept album and a comic book come out all at once is a little ambitious but I think Charlie Z and I rose to the occasion quite well.

6: You had to overcome a huge obstacle in beating cancer which has giving you strength to complete the album. How much support was given to by your family, friends and peers?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
I had amazing support from both family and friends. Especially my mother, who really kept me going through all my treatments.  No one expects to get a cancer diagnosis.  It just happens out of the blue.  It’s one of those surprise wars that life likes to throw at you. So, I put on my mental battle armor, worked with some amazing doctors who battled along with me, and I am happy to say I am cancer free and ready to live the rest of my life.

7: You worked with artist Patrick Andruskiewicz to art the graphic novels. How did you end up working with Patrick and were there other artist you had lined up to visualize your story on paper?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
Charlie and I reached out to a few artists that we knew. We had them do a few character sketches for us based off of my descriptions and we reviewed them all together.  We wanted an artist that was skilled with comic books but also had their own style to bring to the project. Patrick came along and when I received his character sketches I was blown away.  He really stuck to my character description but still put his own flair on the sketches.  He really seemed to dig the story and was really interested in drawing it. It became a labor of love for him.

8: What do you think are the keys to success in making The Crystal Ceiling a powerhouse in the hard rock scene?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
I think it is its uniqueness. The fact that it is a concept album. That it tells a story. That is has some of the most talented musicians in the business on it. The fact that it is truly an album for the digital age because not a single musician was  recording in the same room or the same time. All of this was done over the internet. What Charlie has managed to accomplish, I don’t think has ever been done in a serious capacity and so well. But with all of that…it still holds on to the roots and emotion that rock is known for.

9: Can you tell me who some of your musical influences were growing up and how that drove you to where you are now?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
My taste in music is extremely eclectic. I truly love listening to all kinds of music from classical to metal. However, growing up, my rock inspiration came from women like Pat Benatar, Blondie, and Joan Jett. I loved their attitude and their strength in the rock scene. They managed to get a lot of respect in a world where women singers are very rare. And their music was just so damn fun. I still crank them up while driving down the highway on a sunny day. I can’t help it.

Charlie Z: I had the most eclectic taste in music growing up which helped me be a successful genre-hopping NYC session drummer. But when it comes to rock, I love all things Muse, Imagine Dragons and Dream Theater.

10: What do you feel is the most major thing right or wrong with music today?

Bella D (Christie Oakes):
Personally, the biggest problem I have with the music industry currently is the willingness to over autotune everything.  I don’t mind a tweak here and there during a recording session but if the sound engineer has to turn your voice into something it’s not, then you aren’t doing it right. I think we are creating a world of false perceptions when it comes to perfection.  No one’s voice is perfect all the time. And sometimes the imperfections are what make them who they are.

Could you imagine someone autotuning someone like Janis Joplin or Bob Dylan?  It would remove the soul of the song making them unrecognizable. What I do like about the music business today is that there are plenty of opportunities for bands of all shapes and sizes to make their mark. Whereas previously you absolutely had to have a label backing you. Today you have a lot more options for bands just starting out.  You can get your music out to the ends of the Earth thanks to the magic of the internet. I’m a big supporter of the arts so I love this.

11: If Bella D was to have a motto, what would that be?

Bella D (Christie Oakes): Take life’s hits but don’t stop moving forward.

12: Is there a message you want to send to the fans?

Bella D (Christie Oakes): Absolutely. First I want to send my thanks to you for picking up the album and listening to it.  It’s your support that help keep the creative engines going!  And also, if you happen to be in the area, stop by Carroll Place in NYC on Thurs May 19th and check out the show. I’d love to see you there.