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THE BIZ : Discovering the Rocker Within

October 02, 1994|Kit Roane

Elizabeth Sabine's friends worry about her--she runs with such a fast crowd, they say. Megadeth, Malice, Sugartooth: Are these the kind of people a self-respecting 70-year-old wants hanging around?

Well, yes, since they're her students. Sabine is the voice guru to some of the toughest singing acts in town. With a regimen of tantrum therapy and tough love, she helps rock gods like Axl Rose belt out screaming highs and pounding lows.

Her curriculum has been tailored for the MTV generation. Scales are never part of her lessons and the words sharp or flat are never mentioned. Students are encouraged instead to get either "sad" or "happy" and to release the emotion within.

"I went to another guy once but he just told me stuff I already knew," said Jack Olivier, a grungy Valley rocker, who decided to come to Sabine after he found himself unable to use the full force of his generational Angst. "She doesn't dwell on technique. She's into what it's all about: acting like a kid and screaming and having emotion. You can have all the technique in the world, but without inspiration, you got nothing."

Sabine is serious about her lessons, so there is punishment when students like Olivier refuse to release their anger--Sabine is not above the well-timed rabbit punch if a student cannot seem to reach the proper octave.

"I can be stern," she said, "because I am a voice of enlightenment," says Sabine, who has been called the "Auntie Mame of Metal."

Sabine has been a voice coach in L.A. for 15 years, and when heavy metal rockers started knocking on her Studio City door she turned on MTV. After watching a few days of primal screams and hair tossing, she figured out what the men of metal lacked.

"Initially, I didn't know how I could help them, because I was classically trained. But then I could hear what they were needing. It wasn't exercise, it was tantrums," she says. "They were holding their breath like little kids and they needed to let it out."

Now she's tutoring up to five singers a day and sometimes teaches classes on the side. "I encourage people to be daring, to take a chance and imagine themselves as something they may not seem to be," she says. "I was sent here to help the planet, particularly young people, and the best way I can do that is with rock."

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