Death Metal Icon Terri Lewis

Terri Lewis Music Magazine for Women Best Woman Drummer DrumsetTerri Lewis cut her fangs in the late 80’s with the perennial Death Metal outfit, Derketa, a band she recently returned to for their massive 2012 album: In Death We Meet. Terri founded Mythic in 1991 alongside Mary Bielich (also of Derketa) and Dana Duffy. Terri can boast a rich legacy of uncompromising death metal that spans over two decades. In the predominately sweaty, male dominated metal scene of the late 80’s/early 90’s, Terri Lewis and her brutal sisters of Derketa, defied tradition to become the first all female death metal band. 

Name: Terri Lewis

Age:  Getting up there

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Lives in : Pittsburgh

Past Bands: Derketa, Mythic, Slag 9 (project), then Derketa again

Current Bands : None at the moment

Gear Set Up: Ludwig 4 piece set (Accent–cheap) I miss my Yamaha’s!,   Sonor snare, DW 3000 double petal, Zildijan cymbals mostly.

Favorite Food: Tie between Indian and Sushi

Now listening to: Godflesh, Helmet, COC, Bad Brains, Fishbone, Deftones, Gojira, Faith No More, Quicksand, Mr. Bungle, Entombed….

Terri Lewis Music Magazine for Women Best Woman Drummer Drumset

Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing drums? What was your motivation for beginning to play?

Terri Lewis: I would say 1987.  Bought my first kit which was a Pearl Export series in 1988. I ALWAYS wanted to, but my parents wouldn’t allow it. My brothers played guitar and my sister played bass. Even though there were “jams” at my house, I never felt drawn to guitar. I was constantly going to concerts and listening to music growing up, but it wasn’t until going to the heavier underground shows that I was able to watch most drummers up close.

What got you into playing death metal specifically?

Ah, the underground was really a cool place to be then! Any money I had went to buying all the latest and heaviest vinyl. People were tape trading or just self-promoting and you could really get some interesting music. The double bass was what I really gravitated to. I grew up with all the heavy rock bands, but when I heard bands like Kreator, Destruction, Sacrifice, Venom, etc. it was just such a natural progression. I can also say hearing the live Massacre tape was a mind blowing transformation for me into serious death metal.  We formed Derketa because we loved the heavy, doom bands that had mood and feeling, like Candlemass & Paradise Lost. Immolation and Revenant were our friends and we met many great bands through them. You become like the people you hang around the most, right?

Name some of your biggest influences?

Of course, Bonham, Nicko McBrain – Iron Maiden; Chris Riefert – Autopsy; Bill Andrews-Death; Igor – Sepultura; Sean Rienert – Cynic; Scott Lewis- Brutal Truth; Fish – Fishbone;  John-Helmet; Earl – Bad Brains; Reed – COC; Pokey – Leeway; Nicke – Entombed; Jensa -Grave; Mario – Gojira.

Terri Lewis Music Magazine for Women Best Woman Drummer Drumset Tom Tom Magazine

Your drumming is fierce. You come across as a confident, unforgiving, soul crushing force on your recordings with Derketa and Mythic. Please explain your approach to drumming. What goes on for you during the song writing process?

My feet were always faster than my hands. So using double bass was my thing. I’d put in fills more with my foot work. Well, for one, I never learned or studied properly. I did have 1 1/2 years of real lessons after Mythic. Just watched and listened the best I could. The other girls would help me out with parts if I couldn’t get the timing or was clueless on what they heard would possibly fit. Most of the time I just want a recording of just guitars so I can memorize the song and then figure it out when practicing.

You have been part of what is repeatedly reported as the “first all female death metal band.”  Would you care to elaborate on this?

Back to the old days… there were only a few women in the metal scene that were on  recordings. Some played and some sang, but the Derketa recordings got a lot of support in the magazines. Sharon covered the guitars and vocals, me on drums, and Kim August did bass. That was the rehearsal demo. It was death metal. Now I’m SURE there were other all female  bands out there – we just never heard of any like us. Terri Lewis Music Magazine for Women Best Woman Drummer Drumset Tom Tom Magazine

Why did you decide to leave the band?

Recently, it truly was not in line with my well- being.  Went above and beyond for the recording and shows. More important things in my life were being affected because attention given to one area takes away from others. In my life and responsibilities, Derketa wasn’t high on the list.

What advice would you give someone interested in starting on the drums?

Be honest with yourself, play what you like, and never give up. I’m really excited for the future of this magazine and to see other women play loud and crazy!

By Ashley Spungin for Tom Tom Magazine

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