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‘Zen of Screaming’ Vocal Coach Tends to the Metal Stars

Melissa Cross If you met Melissa Cross — she’s tiny, boasts a mop of red curls and glasses — you’d never guess she’s one of the key reasons you favorite metal vocalist isn’t destroying his (or her) larynx. Cross, who released the ‘Zen of Screaming’ and ‘Zen of Screaming 2′ instructional DVDs, is a longtime artisan who just so happened to fall into the career of coaching growlers.

She’s worked with everyone from Lamb of God‘s Randy Blythe to Shadows Fall‘s Brian Fair. “I was a singer and I went to a high school of the arts, a boarding school in Michigan called Interloken,” she told Noisecreep about her pre-metal beginnings. “I’ve been a musician, actress, dancer, performer since I was [5 years old].”

Cross even went to acting school in England when she was 16 and still holds dual citizenship. She moved to California, worked as a music industry person by day while moonlighting in a punk band that opened up for legends like X and the Circle Jerks.

She prefers teaching to performing, as she revealed, “Teaching is like doing my own show every day. It’s instant gratification from teaching. When I’m performing, I’m only as good as my last gig.”

The diminutive Cross, who also works with non-metallers like Andrew W.K., admitted that the metal gig “fell into my lap. Way back in the early ’90s, there was a guy in Connecticut recording bands in his basement. These signers could not get through a session without losing their voices. I had no idea what he was talking about. He brought several singers to me, many of who became well known eventually. When I encountered this, I thought, ‘Oh my god, you want me to do what?’ Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage was one of my first clients. Other clients were Brian Fair and Jamey Jasta.”

Cross credited Jasta with being a bit of a springboard as well, saying, “Jamey made five appointments and canceled them all at last minute. He told people he was coming to see me and by virtue of that, I got Toby Morse from H2O and it blossomed. Then came Randy from Lamb of God. Then Roadrunner got involved.”

Even though it wouldn’t occur to most folks, the need for a metal voice teacher is crucial. Cross said, “These kids were doing this on the weekends and had the whole week to recover. Now it’s a business: day in, day out, using your voice. Some people function on their damage, but others have damage that is unmanageable. So I teach them for their business. You can’t use the ‘trash your room’ technique if you do it every day. You just need some skill, control and confidence. It’s about divorcing feeling from your throat while leaving the intent.”

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