Interview by Erwin van Dijk
An interview with Liv Kristine from Leaves’ Eyes. This interview is all dedicated to the forthcoming album “Njord”.
“Njord” is the third full length Leaves’ Eyes album. (the other two were “Lovelorn” and “Vinland Saga”).
I am absolutely happy and satisfied with the album. We’ve never worked this hard before with a production, but we’ve reached our goal. I would even say, we even went further than we thought was possible, technically seen. It has always been important to me that our sound and art is authentic, i.e. that you can hear from the very first tunes that this is Leaves’ Eyes! We also want that our audience really get the feeling of being on a wonderful journey. I feel that our music needs a special well-written and interesting concept which is just as important as the sound, and “Njord” gives you all this.
“Vinland Saga” introduced the Viking elements in Leaves’Eyes. But “Njord” also seems to have some Irish themes, like the songs “Emerald Island” and “Irish Rain” . With “Njord” comes the EP “My Destiny”, which contains besides the song “My Destiny” in two versons also an acoustic version of “Scarborough Fair” and two non album tracks.
“My Destiny” is a song you can easily “tune into”. It’s a good way to introduce the album (out 28.08.), although you will of course have less commercial songs on the record, too. On “My Destiny” is actually an EP, for the price of a single, with four non-album tracks, and one extra album song.
“Vinland Saga” was a concept album. Is “Njord” written with the idea to tell a story or are it twelve individual songs?
The lyrics mainly deal with characters from northern mythology (e.g. “Njord”, “Fröya’s Theme”, “Nine Wave Maidens”, “Ragnarok”), or with places and historical happenings (e.g. “Scarborough Fair”, “The Battle of Maldon”, “Emerald Island“,“Irish Rain”, “Les Champs de Lavande”). This is why I found it necessary to deal with all these different languages. “Vinland Saga” is based on Leif Eirikssons discovery of America, even the EP, “Legend Land”, which followed soon thereafter. “Njord” has a much broader concept, travelling through history, and into Nordic mythology. It has always been important to me that our sound and art is authentic, and that our audience really get the feeling of being on a wonderful journey.The lyrics are written in 8 languages (english, middle-high german, old-english, gaelic, norwegian, icelandic, french and one “self-made” linguistic fictional phonetic sequence)… I even sat down to study a bit French to be able to write one French lyric. I did study Old-English and Middle-high German, so it was really nice to be able to use this knowledge. Gaelic is completely new to me, though, but fortunately I found a wonderful person who helped me. “Njord” is an album that demands an expansion in linguistic terms.
This is your third album. What are the differences between “Njord” and “Lovelorn” and “Vinland Saga”?
Our debut “Lovelorn” was very refreshing and a wonderful start for the band, also the press and the audience were surprised. However, you shouldn’t forget that we all have a huge experience and knowledge as musicians of Atrocity and former ToT (Theatre of Tragedy) to rely on. This brings Leaves’ Eyes a wide step forward, so we were really no newcomers in our genre. Moreover, I really have to say that Atrocity + Liv Kristine is a magic formula! I took my experience from my favourite ToT releases “Velvet Darkness They Fear” and “Aegis” as a basis for Leaves’ Eyes music. Our second album “Vinland Saga” was a manifistation of the music of Leaves’ Eyes – we had “settled” in the genre gothic metal with female vocals. “Njord” is the perfection of both our 2 former albums. Since the first demo recordings for “Njord” we have been able to achieve goals that we thought back in 2007 after the “Vinland Saga” release would be quite impossible. I am so proud of my band members – “Njord” is a dream coming true, and all the hundreds of sleepless nights were worth it. We all have developed as musicians and technicians and this is experience that is unpayable. “Njord” (producer: my husband Alexander Krull) has a power to it that even is more intense than any previous production I’ve been part of. Technically, we constantly have new ideas and aims. We have our own studio and therefore we have the opurtunity to specialize in technical tasks concerning album and DVD productions. “Njord” has even a more bombastic but delicate sound that “Vinland Saga”, because techniques allows it. We recorded the classical parts in Minsk (Lingua Mortis, supervised by Victor Smolski), we had a complete local choir (Al Dente) singing the choir parts, moreover, a special artist playing solos on special instruments like the uillian pipe and the whistle. All this makes this album a multilayered and highly interesting experience for our listeners, for your ears, hearts and minds. If I should describe “Njord” in four words I would say bombastic, emotional, contrastive, and pure.
Where do you get the inspiration for the songs. Some sources are clear, like Ireland and the Norse mythology but what really inspires you to write a song?
It’s first of all my love for my homecountry, the Norwegian Nature, history, my family, the culture – everything I grew up with! I feel that our music needs a special well-written and interesting concept, and I want to travel through time and space. For me history has always been extremely interesting, and even when I left my homecountry Norway and moved to Germany 12 years ago, I had more books about the Vikings with me than clothes and shoes. I have travelled a lot and been able to see a lot of the world. History, languages, and geography has always interested me. Thorsten is the main composer of Leaves’ Eyes, he works out his ideas on his guitar. “Irish Rain”, however, was an idea I had one early morning. I hurried to the studio and worked out the tunes with him. Sometimes, ideas just appear to my mind, like a complete “song”.
And can you tell us something about the songs on “Njord” and “My Destiny”?
We recorded 18 (eighteen!) songs, and all of them are placed on the single “My Destiny” (out now) or the album “Njord” (out late August). Our listeners will get a lot for the money. That’s a way for us saying “thankyou” to our fans and friends all over the world. To mention a few examples, “Fröya’s Theme” is one of my favourites on the album, too, next to “Irish Rain”. “Fröya’s Theme” is about eight minutes long, it includes five languages, inclusive two “speaking” parts done by Alex and myself respectively. It tells the story about Fröya, the Goddess of sex with her extreme power of beauty. However, her lover Od leaves her as he has “wandering eyes” for other beautiful women. Fröya travels around and through the worlds in Northern Mythology to find him. Her tears are made of gold and they heavily strike the earth. This song is an epic masterpiece composed by Tosso, our guitarist.
Is “Scarborough Fair” a Simon and Garfunkel cover and if it is, why did you choose this song?
I was an exchange student in the English town Scarborough, and I got very interested in their culture. This song is a folk song sung in the middle ages, also by the Vikings, on a trading market, in Scarborough. I wanted to rewrite the tune into a more heavy version and I am very happy with the result!
“Les Champs de Lavande” is a French title. Lavande means Lavender and the South of France (the Provance) is famous for its wide fields (champs) of lavender.
Can you tell us something about this song and why is it a bonus track?
As we had composed the instruments for this song, I thought about France immediately! I immediately sensed the smell of my favourite flower and scent, lavender! The Provance Lavender was famous already in the Middle Ages. I sat down and tried to put together a Franch lyric, and a friend of mine in France corrected it. This song just had to be about Lavender, and it sounds more authentic and special when it is sung in French.
While recording “Njord” you were supported by The Lingua Mortis Orchestra under the aegis of Victor Smolski and a classical choir. Most people will know Victor Smolski from his work with Rage. And this band does not exactly belongs to the same genre as Leaves’Eyes.
How did you find him and what was his influence on “Njord”?
We met Victor during a Rage/Leaves’ Eyes’ show in Greece in 2007. We are so happy that he liked the idea of working with us. It adds the important depth and bombastic character in our music.
The Special Edition will have a Drakkar (viking ship). What can we expect?
This is a way for us saying thank you to our fans and friends. Remember, many of them are collectors. I used to collect Madonna and Black Sabbath/Ozzy special merchendise objects.
One of the things that would make a lot of fans happy is a duet between the Espenæs sisters. (think of Beyonce and Solange Knowless doing a duet). Have you ever considered this for “Njord”?
It’s not that easy since my sister moved back to Norway a couple of years ago, however, I am planning a duet on our fourth album, which will be a folk-oriented album, planned to be released in summer/fall 2010.
Do you already have some details about an upcoming tour?
Europe in November 2009, USA/Canada December 2009, then Europe and Russia in the beginning of 2010, and another long tour in the Autumn of 2010. Moreover, we have planned an acoustic tour between 28.08.-02.09 (please check the news!). We will play a capella in some of the Media Markets, for free for our fans, and we will have a lot of time to make photos with everybody, have a chat with our fans and friends and write some autographs. I enjoy acoustic tours. It’s a nice way to keep up our close relationship with our audience, moreover, we are able to show that we are good musicians and can play live without a huge stage with a huge technical plan behind everything.
And which songs can we expect live?
A set-list still has to be decided on.
Although I think you will be very busy with the promotion of “Njord” this year and 2010 I would like to ask when we can expect a new Atrocity album and a new Liv Kristine solo album?
It’s been 3 years since “Enter My Religion”, and it’s always good to gain a different aspect of your own art after some time has passed by. Right now, I am just about to finish the final recordings of my third solo album, and I see things in a new perspective now. “Enter My Religion” was an expensive production on a major label, however I made the decision in 2008 to release my third solo album on a another label, with a smaller budget, but having more freedom about the whole process, from the very first demo track, until the final master. I am very proud of “Enter My Religion”, however I have developed as an artist and technician and my third album will be a huge step forward. I have put my focus on sounding just like myself, recording songs in one take, so you “get” me with everything I am, my character, my emotional level, my breathing, sometimes perhaps perfect, sometimes maybe not. I just want the audience to hear ME, not some singing lady with a pretty nice voice. I want to creep up inside your hearts and senses. I wrote all the songs together with Torsten (guit. Leaves’ Eyes), all the lyrics myself, and my husband Alex is the producer of the album. Atrocity are already finishing their next Atrocity feat. Yasmin “Calling the Rain”, which will be out end of 2009/beginning of 2010.