Stepping Up: Tiina Teal From Détente

July 15, 2010

It’s kind of an understatement to say that Tiina Teal — the current lead singer of LA-based, punk-influenced thrash metal band Détente — has a lot to live up to. Not only is she the newest member of the 26-year-old outfit, but she’s also stepping into the frighteningly big shoes left by former front ladies, Ann Boleyn (from Hellion) and the late Dawn Crosby.

“For sure, there was quite a bit of pressure,” Tiina says, matter-of-factly. “Not only was I following Ann, who is pretty legendary in her own right, but Dawn was and still is immensely loved.”

Tiina may have the utmost respect for her predecessors, but that doesn’t mean she’s intimidated. “Stepping into a role that was created by two already famous, talented women was not easy at all, and still isn’t sometimes. But I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to give Dawn’s legacy the due credit she deserves, and to have this opportunity to play with such amazing musicians.”

And, if the reception that the band’s received on its latest tour is any indication, Tiina’s certainly been more than up to the task. “There have been some fans who did not want to accept anyone besides Dawn and I understand that. But 98% of the people have given me the opportunity to prove myself and have been incredibly supportive and cool. I just think the world of our fans.”

Starting out as a drummer when she was in her 20s, Tiina soon switched to guitars and eventually began singing (“When I finally got the guts to try it out!”). After her first band Burn the Empire, Tiina worked on several projects with a variety of different musicians, before that one very fateful soiree.

“I met [Détente’s guitarist] Caleb Quinn at a friend’s party. At that time, Ann was still with Détente, so I didn’t think anything of it. Three months later, I got the call from the band to audition and was totally surprised and excited!

“I was a fan when I met Caleb, so when this all happened, it was like a dream come true — and pretty intimidating at times. I was basically auditioned right there in the studio, and they kept the tapes rolling.”

Decline, Détente’s latest release, was the first album that Tiina recorded with the band, and it’s been met with the same, almost-unanimous praise as Tiina herself. “Any new person in a band or situation brings their own personal experiences, style and attitude. I’ve received comments that perhaps my sound is maybe a little more aggressive than Dawn’s and I do some actual singing as well on the album. I would hope that she would be proud.”

Tiina approaches her ink with a similar aggressive respect. “They all have deep meaning to me,” she says of her tats. “There is a lot of metaphysical and archetypal imagery in my ink because it reflects my interests and beliefs.”

Her first tattoo, an Ouroboros with the Flower of Life inside of it, symbolises for her “the infinite, immortal energy” that she believes runs through all of life. The spiritual theme continues on her forearm with a Medusa tat being guided by “a higher spiritual female being”. This piece, in turn, connects to a dragon/dog image taken from the Chinese zodiac.

But it’s not all mysticism for Tiina. “One of the most beautiful, detailed works I have is a copy of a painting by the great James Waterhouse called Circe Invidiosa on my left upper arm done by the now-infamous portraiture tattooist Mike Devries.

“The rest of my left arm was done by the amazing Lantz Huston from Shoebox Studios. Lantz created a DNA strand made out of around 300 individual eyeballs. He had to literally draw and ink 900 tiny circles, the poor guy! That swirls up my arm and connects to these HR Geiger-ish alien mermaids. Lantz also did my most personal piece: A tribute on my forearm to Nina, a dear cat of mine who passed away.”

Besides all of those, Tiina’s friend Ronald Bianco from Lone Wolf Tattoo in Bellmore, New York, inked for her Jean Cocteau’s Astrologie on her inner upper right arm and contributed to some of her other pieces too.

“Ronald and Lantz are my favorite artists on both coasts. It’s so important to find not only talented artists, but people who listen to your needs and are oriented to the artistic styles you personally are connected to.”

It goes without saying that Tiina’s planning to get more ink done. The only things limiting her right now are “time and money”. And while saving up enough for her next tat is definitely in the cards, she might be a little short on time in the foreseeable future.

“We’re hoping to do some of the bigger European metal festivals next year, as well as more dates internationally. I’m also part of an artists’ collective here in Los Angeles called the Omnific Society. We do gallery showings every October, and our second annual one is coming up soon. I always create some art, drawings or other contributions for these events,” says Tiina.

On top of all that, she’s also hoping to release a book of her writings within the next year or so, “if all goes as planned”. It seems like one hell of a task, this list, but Tiina’s approaching it with the same appreciative calm that she’s handled her role as Détente’s front lady with.

“I’m hoping to just work hard, enjoy life and connect with more wonderful people who love music around the world. I have met some of the best people within the tattoo and music communities. I’m extremely grateful and honoured.”

Head over to Détente’s site to find out how to order their albums.

(Tiina’s photos are © Liz Huston, band photos are © Miguel Cima)

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