Mayric’s to Wacken: Meet Lala Frischknecht, who found success in rock music in Europe

Rick Olivares

Posted at Apr 05 2021 03:50 PM

Mayric’s to Wacken: Meet Lala Frischknecht, who found success in rock music in Europe 1
Lala Frischknecht

“Hey, it’s Gene Simmons!”

Lala Frischknecht spotted the famous rock star of American band Kiss walking around during the 2019 Sweden Rock Festival. Along with her bandmates in Swiss heavy metal band Burning Witches, Frischknecht immediately swarmed Simmons and asked for a photo or two. 

Six years into Burning Witches – three records with a fourth one on the way on May 28, plus a few extended play singles and massive shows across Europe – the Pinay rocker, who hails from San Antonio, Nueva Ecija, still has to constantly pinch herself and ask herself or even the band’s manager if this is all real and happening.

It seems like yesterday that Lala Ortiz (her maiden name) left her hometown to study in Manila. It was in the capital where she found an outlet for her love for rock music and performed with bands like Cherry Bomb and Resurrected (with Fin Santos and Alvin Esperanza) at Mayric’s, John’s Place in Marikina, and UP Los Banos among others in the mid- to late-1990s. 

“I always felt like the odd girl out because I liked loud music and wanted to play it,” related Frischknecht. "Even this day when I meet fellow Filipinos here in Europe, I find it difficult to relate to them because we have different tastes."

After leaving her band, she went to Japan to work and it was there that she met Marco Frischknecht, an engineer who was in Tokyo for work and who she would later marry. From Japan, she moved westward to Zurich, Switzerland in 2011.

“I moved here thinking I’d just be a housewife and do other things,” she thought. 

It took the prodding of her father-in-law Urs Froelicher, who played with the Burning Blues Band and the Cleans, to play the drums once more.

“As I was starting my new life in Switzerland, my father-in-law urged me to return to music. How cool is that, right? When I did, my drum teacher Imad Barnieh said I had potential,” recalled Frischknecht. 

Three months non-stop playing, her drum coach informed her about this all-female heavy metal band Burning Witches was looking for someone to work the drum kit. “I auditioned for the job and got it,” said Frischknecht. “I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t.”

On the strength of their independently released self-titled album in 2017 that sold out, word spread among the metal music community about this all-female band that was kicking butt and taking names.

That led to Burning Witches being signed by the world’s biggest extreme music record company, Nuclear Blast, from Germany. The German label includes American hardcore punk heroes Agnostic front, French darkgaze pioneers Alcest, symphonic metal heavyweights Epica from Holland, Brazilian masters Sepultura, and Rob Zombie among many others.

Their Nuclear Blast debut "Hexenhammer" (2018) put them on the map with bigger sales (as the album and EPs hit the charts) and being featured in top industry magazines like Metal Hammer. This led to the band performing in bigger venues all over Europe. 

“We got to perform with bands like Kreator who I only listened to as a teenager and here I am next to them,” gushed Frischknecht. 

It was during the Wacken Open Air Festival in July 2019 where the Swiss crew got a taste of its biggest audience that was attended by 75,000-plus fans. 

“I am the first Filipino to perform there,” she noted. It is in that same festival where she connected with Filipino metal band Valley of Chrome, which also made their Wacken debut. 

The band’s rise can also be attributed to the support of Damir Eskic of the bands Destruction and Gomorra. Eskic is the husband of Burning Witches guitarist Romana Kalkuhl.

Frischknecht, on the other hand, has also been recognized for her stick work, and she endorses Istanbul Mehmet cymbals and Kim Custom Drums. 

Her parents Oscar and Lolita, back in Nueva Ecija, tell everyone who is willing to listen that their daughter is doing well as a musician in Europe. They show guests this well-read copy of Metal Hammer and other magazines that feature Burning Witches.

As much as Frischknecht feels embarrassed because she feels that she is still the same lass who left her hometown to see the world all those years ago, family and home remain dear to her.

Following Wacken, Frischknecht visited her family in Nueva Ecija for a long overdue vacation. In this last trip that bridged 2019 and 2020 right before the pandemic shut the world down, she was asked to judge a battle of the bands – on the condition that she not be introduced. But the organizers, proud of their own, still introduced her as the drummer of Burning Witches. 

“Sa bahay sa Switzerland, lalo ngayon pandemic, nandito lang ako nagluluto, naglilinis, lahat ng gawaing bahay. Pag-uwi ko sa amin, ang tawag pa rin sa akin ng kapatid ko na si Czarina ay ‘Annie Batungbakal’ – sa kanta ng Hotdog – kasi 'pag umaga parang dispatsadora na nagwawalis, naglababa tapos sa gabi nagbabanda.”

Her band may be one of the more popular ones in metal music now, but Frischknecht is hardly on social media. “Our manager, Schmier (who plays bass for German thrash metal band Destruction), always tells me I am the only one from Burning Witches who isn’t active on social media. So it is only recently that I began to post. But if I had my way, I’d post about doing the home stuff – cooking, cleaning, knitting,” she said.

With the pandemic putting all live events to a grinding halt, Frischknecht and her bandmates are home with a lot of time on their hands to work on their fourth album.

“This is a record where we spent a lot of time working on the songs,” she described. “And because we had time, I think we were all able to try out a lot of things and record it to the best of our abilities.”

For now, though, the band does interviews in anticipation of the new release. Prior to talking to ABS-CBN News, she was interviewed by a British site and other music journalists. 

“Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala sa lahat ng ito. It’s like a dream,” gushed Frischknecht. “It wasn’t long ago, I was performing in Mayric’s and watching shows at Club Dredd. I was working in Japan and buying all these albums of metal bands at Disk Union in Tokyo. Now, I am Switzerland and performing with Burning Witches. I guess the lesson is to keep going for your dreams no matter what. You’ll never know.”

Well said. After all the journey from San Antonio, Nueva Ecija to Manila’s Mayric’s and Club Dredd to Tokyo and now, Europe.

“I'm not dreaming am I?” laughed Frischknecht.