Derkéta started as an all-female death metal band in 1988, with Sharon Bascovsky on vocals and guitar and Terri Heggen on drums. The band made quite a splash in the underground and released a demo, The Unholy Ground, and a 7-inch called Premature Burial. Just from the titles alone, the band sounded doomy and gloomy, and that’s what they were, as well as crunchy, dirty and terribly heavy. Fast forward to 2006, and Bascovsky and Heggen put together a full lineup, adding Robin Mazen on bass and Mary Bielich on guitar.
The band announced in 2012 that drummer Terri Heggen left the band, and Mike Laughlin (ex-Creation is Crucifixion and Cattle Decapitation) replaced her. What’s good for us is that Derkéta played in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend, 2013, and D.U. was able to catch the band before walking over to Maryland Deathfest. Before leaving, we grabbed an interview with the friendly and good-natured Mary Bielich.
Our interview on Derkéta began with Bielich explaining that when Heggen left in 2010, the band wasn’t concerned with keeping the gender of the band the same.
“No, not at all, actually. Terri was like, ‘Playing a couple shows was awesome’—that was more than we thought we were gonna do—‘[but] I probably extended myself; you guys wanna do more. I got my own stuff I gotta take care of.’ So it was super-amicable. Nothin’s off limits, ’cause it’s all good.”
Bielich has been playing music for many years, but Derkéta is the first band in which she plays guitar.
“I’m a bass player by trade—not by profession, unfortunately. When Sharon decided, ‘Ah, heck, I wanna record a record with Terri after all these years,’—specifically, because they were Derkéta, Terri and Sharon—I had kinda come into the picture by default, because when they were looking for a bass player [in 1991], I joined, but then the band broke up. But technically, since on the 7-inch it says, ‘We have added a bass player. Her name is Mary Bielich,’ I kinda got it on a technicality, just the way that I look at it.
“So Sharon just wanted to get back together. … She wanted to do some recording. It was more of like a friendship thing. We’ve all been friends with Robin for so many years, so Robin said, ‘I’m a bass player. I want to play bass. Mary, you have to play guitar.’ And I was”—Bielich paused with a smile—“I’m trembling to this day. I’m not a guitar player. I don’t play [bass] with a pick, it’s awkward, everything’s small, y’know …”
And yet she played a guitar lead on a Slayer cover during Derkéta’s set.
“It was my first lead ever, it was chromatic, and it was bad. I was stressin’ about that for the last two days. I was like, ‘Are you kiddin’ me?’ So they were like, ‘Just wing it.’ So I just made some noise, I suppose.”
Being a bass player, Bielich talked about her instrument of choice.
“It’s an old Fender Jazz copy. It’s an ESP, but it’s the first 5-string I ever saw, so I got it. And I still play that thing, so I’m used to that. I’m not used to how this guitar’s set up. It’s actually my husband’s guitar. Or [I use] Sharon’s guitar, so everything I’m taking in this band is on loaner.”
As for effects, she said, “No pedals. I’m trying to steal Terry Weston from Dream Death and Penance’s [sound]. [He uses natural distortion] but he’s got the heaviest sound known to man. I wish I woulda learned more when I played in Penance from Terry, but I’m doing the best I can, so we’ll see. Put a little effort into it. … [The guitar is] still like a foreign thing to me, you know?”
Having said all that, Bielich didn’t look like she was “struggling” on the guitar at the show.
“You know what, it’s fun, and I’m having a great time, but it’s a little nerve-wracking when it’s not your instrument. I play in a couple of other bands, so then when I jump back to the guitar, I’m like, OK, I have to reset myself. It doesn’t feel natural.”
Bielich ran down the bands she’s played with. Besides Derkéta, Wormhole and Mythic:
“I did Novembers Doom when I lived in Chicago, and those guys are awesome. And that was a blast. That was a really fun time for me.
“I played in Penance when I moved back to Pittsburgh, which was also great. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to play with those guys. Loved it.
“I played in a band called Behind Enemy Lines, which was like a political crust band with some of the guys from Aus-Rotten, which is a well-known Pittsburgh crust band. And once again I was really excited to be able to play with those guys, ’cause I’ve been friends and a fan of theirs since they started in like 1991, ’92.
“Filled in for Submachine from Pittsburgh, which is another punk band who are great.
“Did a couple of other things here and there. Now I’m a band called Mud City Manglers, which is a real AC/DC, Stooges-y, like that type of rock ‘n’ roll, Flamin’ Groovies … . It’s just real high-octane punk rock ‘n’ roll, heavy on the rock ‘n’ roll side, though.
“And then Matt and I are in a band called Del Rios, which I attempt to do vocals for, which is just like a hard rock kinda thing. It’s kinda hard to classify, but it’s riffy. It’s very riffy.”
Mary Bielich rocks too. Look up Derkéta on Facebook.