Kristen Randall Speaks: The Former Winds of Plague Keyboardist Comes Clean — Exclusive Interview
Kristen Randall has been playing the piano since she was in her single digits, but it wasn’t until she joined American black arts wizards Abigail Williams that the keyboardist started living the heavy metal dream. Her classical influences and knack for crafting lush soundscapes eventually helped her land a gig with Southern Californian deathcore titans Winds of Plague in 2008.
After recording one album, and going on several tours, with the group, Randall split from WoP. The keyboardist didn’t give that many details on her reasoning behind the move during the time of her departure, and naturally, rumors started flying across the Internet. It didn’t help that around the same time, topless photos of her made their way onto several websites. Since then, Randall has stayed out of the spotlight, and away from the trash-talkers. But after a few years away, the keyboardist is ready to jump back into the music grind again.
In this Noisecreep exclusive, Randall opens up about her upbringing, her time in Winds of Plague and her future plans.
Where did you grow up and how old were you when first started playing keyboards?
I grew up in Milwaukee, Wis, and the surrounding area. The land of beer and cheese. Yep. No, I’m not really into the Packers. Just to clear that up [laughs]. I started playing piano when I was like two, and I played by ear for years until my parents finally realized my love for the instrument wasn’t just a phase. So I took lessons starting at the age of eight through 18. I wrote my first song when I was four, after my great-grandfather died. Shortly after I started playing the piano, I started singing, and picking up other instruments including percussion and eventually going to college for audio engineering.
What were the first bands you obsessed over?
The Descendents is my favorite band of all time. I listened to a ton of punk rock growing up. Bad Religion and The Misfits were staples. Then I listened to s— like Hot Water Music and Alkaline Trio. I still love all those bands. I had a pretty eclectic range of music that I grew up on, and continue to listen to. As far as metal bands, I liked Between the Buried and Me, Darkest Hour, Zao, Cave In, Converge, Dimmu Borgir, and then you’ve got classics like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and Megadeth. It’s so hard narrowing it down to so few, because I have listened to such a variety of genres and bands throughout my life.
How did you end up joining Winds of Plague?
Well, I was briefly in Abigail Williams, and we weren’t doing any tours for a bit, and Winds of Plague needed someone to fill in for a couple tours, and since AW’s manager was the same as WOP’s at the time, he asked me if I’d do it. So I went to Los Angeles to practice with them and they kept asking me to join. Ashley [Ellyllon] who was the original keyboardist of Abigail wanted to join back up with the band, so I just stayed with Winds.
The band toured a lot, what was that like for you? Was it tough being away for long stretches of time?
Touring is hard for anyone. It’s hard on your mind and your body, and extensively touring can be brutal. Being around the same people day in and day out for months at a time can get on your last one. Sleeping in the cold or hot ass van, driving long shifts, eating ramen noodles… it all sucks. But as a female on the road, you have to figure out how to take care of yourself, eat right, and not look like you’ve had lack of sleep for months and showerless for days. Guys don’t care about how awful they smell, but I definitely cared. Sink showers were my savior.
Being gone for a long time wasn’t so bad for me because I’ve been known to move around a lot anyways. You get used to always being on the go too. Plus when I was touring with WOP I wasn’t really grounded anywhere, didn’t have a place to live, so I wanted to be on the road. I think coming back to California worrying about where I was gonna stay was way worse than how much longer I had out on the road.
What was the chemistry like between the band members when you were off stage?
Well, the guys all grew up together and went to an all boy’s high school together, so they were tight. It was tough breaking into their crew. When Jeff [Tenney, drums] was gone, Art [Cruz] came in, so I wasn’t the only outsider anymore. But Art fit right in with them. I never really felt completely gelled with the band. So the chemistry between the boys was fine cause they had known each other forever. With me, I thought it was good for a while, we had fun together. But at the end of my time with them, I didn’t even feel comfortable on our bus, and eventually when being on stage was awkward, I knew it was the end.
Was there are a lot of drinking and drugging on the road?
Not really drugging, but then again I don’t consider smoking pot to be “drugging”. There are a lot of drunks and potheads out there in bands, yes. Hard drugs I definitely saw, but only occasionally and I never indulged in that myself. However, I did drink. You really don’t have many responsibilities on tour except getting your ass on stage at a set time. There’s also so much time spent driving or sitting. So yeah, drinking kinda takes up some of that down time. Since then, I have really chilled out and feel and look so much better. It was fun while it lasted, but I figured it was time to grow up a bit.
A lot of rumors circled around the metal and hardcore message boards about your exit from Winds of Plague. Now that I have you here, I would love to hear your side of the story.
Well to clear the air, I quit the band. The last tours I did with the band were brutal for a lot of reasons, and I’d rather not get into those reasons cause it’s not worth it to stir shit up again. The last summer of touring for me, we did 100 days of straight, which in itself is hard. I was broke, homeless, and very unhappy. My final tour in Japan was so uncomfortable and I was so depressed the whole time… I felt it was time to move on. Since my departure, I have reconciled with those dudes, and I think everyone is better off now.
Have you kept in contact with anyone from the band?
Yeah, I talk to Art every so often, and I’ve spoken with Jon [Cooke, vocals] since the split too. Art is the only one that keeps me laughing to this day remembering the hilarious things we did on tour. Thank you Arturo!
How do you view your time in the band now that you’ve had some time to reflect about it?
I feel like my time in the band was amazing in so many ways, and I learned a lot about the industry and I met so many amazing musicians and made so many incredible friends. I wouldn’t have it any different, because everything in life… good or bad, leads you to where you are. And I’m pretty happy with where I’m at now.
While you were still in the band, some topless photos of you surfaced online. A lot of people made a big deal about it at the time, but now there are sites like IsAnyoneUp.com posting photos of naked musicians on a daily basis. At the time it happened, did you lose a lot of sleep over it?
I never lost sleep over it. I just couldn’t believe someone I trusted would do something like that to me. But when it became such a big deal and came up in every interview, even this one, over three years later [laughs]. It just didn’t bother me anymore. What’s the point in worrying? I can’t control everything. S—happens, you know?
What have you been up to since leaving Winds of Plague?
Well, I moved to Richmond, Va., shortly after I quit. I’ve been here for over two years, just trying to live life. I have to say I’ve come a long long way since WOP, mentally and musically. Here in RVA, I’m just a normal person, working my ass off and hanging with some good dudes to pass the time.
What are you doing for a living?
I am a professional makeup artist, and I work for MAC cosmetics. I also bartend and work at a health food store. I tend to have multiple jobs at a time. I’m a real go-getter [laughs]. I am also in school for holistic nutrition as well. I’m a super health nerd believe it or not.
What are you up to, musically speaking?
I’d like to officially announce that I am playing keys and doing some vocals in A Cancerous Affair, alongside Kris Norris and Ryan Parrish [ex-Darkest Hour]. We are currently demoing material and are set to release an upcoming video with interview and rehearsal/writing footage.
I’m also working on something else, but I can’t give out the details yet. Stay tuned!