Interview by Alessandra Cognetta
It is with great pleasure that we once again feature the lovely Liv Kristine from Leaves’ Eyes for an interview here at Femme Metal Webzine. This time, it is to discuss their latest release, “King of Kings”. Liv brought us some exclusive insight into the massive work behind the album, such as the huge production efforts and the historical background of the concept behind the composition. Liv also describes how the band collaborated with notable guests, such as the London Voices, Simone Simons and Wardruna’s Lindy-Fay Hella, her dream duets and her and Alex’s involvement in fundraising projects. Keep on reading to find more about all of these things and more!
Hello, Liv! Welcome back to Femme Metal Webzine. How are you and how is it going for Leaves’ Eyes right now?
Thank you very much – I just returned from a long Leaves’ Eyes tour and a December Solo tour. I really needed a few days off with my family now. 2015 passed by like a lightening.
Let’s start off with a few questions on your latest album, “King of Kings”. It feels very much like a Leaves’ Eyes album, with all the core elements of your sound, but it also feels like something more. Listening through the whole thing, I felt like I was being guided through each song, much like a soundtrack. Did you have that in mind when you were writing the music?
Thank you so much for your compliment! It was a process of two years of 24/7 presence and hard work at our own Mastersound Studio. It’s true, there are a lot of spices in this production, next to core sound. All instruments were recorded by hand, in several countries, from Norway to Belarus. The expression of each of the 12 musical pieces is individual and this is exactly what we were aiming at: 12 strong, thematically bound, highly expressive and individual compositions. The basis for this fine, crystal-clear, broad and authentic sound was already obvious in the production of “Symphony of the Night”, however, “King of Kings” has an even bigger, broader, earthly and more authentic and soundtrack-oriented sound. The biggest production so far, I can tell you. We really wanted to make this album even more impressive. I would like to mention the broad aspect of the technical side of the production. Sometimes Alex had 300-400 recording channels to submit and mix in one single song! That’s incredible but Alex is the man for this. It’s fantastic to have our own studio with superb equipment and Alex‘ incredible knowledge about recording and production. This is the basis for everything we create and our artistic progress.
As most of our readers probably already know, “King of Kings” is a tribute to Norwegian king Harald I. You have always implemented elements from Norway’s myths and traditions, but why chose king Harald specifically? Could you tell us a bit more about this historical figure?
Yes, you are absolutely right. The concept of “King of Kings” is based on Harald “Fairhair” Hårfagre‘ life and a special event in the 9th century of Norway’s history. The story, divided into 12 chapters, centers around the Battle of Hafrsfjord and Harald Fairhair‘s siege. Hafrsfjord was a decisive battle, and the fame of Harald‘s victory was henceforward numbered among the dearest themes of the scald and chronicler in the Middle Ages. The battle paved the way for Harald to gain control over most of the western coast of Norway and rightly call himself king of the country. He placed a Jarl (earl) over each province to govern it. King Harald “Fairhair” is remembered and honoured by medieval historians as the first king of Norway, as in Haraldskvæði.
The album features many notable contributions, from the London Voices Ensemble providing choirs to Victor Smolski’s (ALMANAC, ex-Rage) White Symphony Orchestra. How did you work together to achieve this amazing final result?
At first we recorded “our own” Full Moon Choirs. The full moon choir consists of myself and a number of highly talented friends. We have sung on all Leaves’ Eyes albums and all of us are passionate choir singers. To make this album even more impressive we decided to record a huge professional choir in addition to The Full Moon Choir. Working with The London Voices (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) in Angels Studio in London was a unique experience! Alex and I flew to London that sunny April day with 14 kilos of note sheets in our hand luggage! Moreover, the White Russian Orchestra directed by Victor Smolski was also absolutely incredible. Victor is an insider in metal (Rage) and classical music. All of them are fantastic musicians and both choir and and orchestra added this special soundtrack feeling to our songs.
You have also brought two amazing voices as guests, Epica’s Simone Simons and Lindy-Fay Hella from Wardruna. Can you tell us a bit about their work on the album and why you chose them as guest vocalists?
“Blazing Waters” – This is Tosso‘s baby on the album, an almost 8 minutes long highly epic musical masterpiece. In the song’s intro and outro you can hear my special guest Lindy-Fay Hella (Wardruna) joining me brilliantly. Snorri tells about the great, decisive and final battle in Hafrsfjord. 20.000 men gathered to fight in Hafrsfjord. I know Wardruna and their excellent compositions for the Vikings series. I love her voice and I was very happy to meet her in Bergen during my latest Norway journey. Her voice is so soft and magic, like a fairy answering to my soft voices. Amazing to work with Lindy-Fay! She is just lovely!
For “Edge of Steel” I really needed a powerful voice. It was fantastic working with Simone. Our manners of singing complete in an amazing and powerful way. She is my perfect match for this song! I am happy she had the time to come to Mastersound Studio as she is also a very busy mother now like myself. We are a perfect match!
A making-of documentary was released over the weeks preceding the album’s release. It seems to be increasingly common among bands to release this kind of footage as teasers for fans and I think it’s amazing to have a glimpse on what happens in the studio. Who came up with this idea and what is your opinion on using it for promotion?
That was Alex‘s idea. We had so much wonderful and interesting film footage from our recording process! Moreover, we also have our own little video edit office in the studio, therefore it’s kind of nice to do it ourselves and we do it for our fans.
Anneke van Giersbergen and Kari Rueslåtten recently joined forces with you on The Sirens. What’s the difference for you, as a singer, working in a trio compared to what you usually do with Leaves’ Eyes?
It’s completely different working as a female trio, however, it has been fantastic touring with my ladies including the grand finale as the Sirens supported Nightwish in Norway this summer. What a show – what a party!
Obvious follow-up question: is there someone you would like to sing with? A dream duet, let’s say.
If I may unveil my dream to the universe that would be singing with Kate Bush or Ozzy.
I read on the Internet that you and your husband Alex are activists against AIDS/HIV. I wasn’t able to find any confirmation, so I thought about asking you directly. If it isn’t true (in which case I apologize), is there any kind of similar project you would like to be involved in?
Alex and I support a number of projects. The most recent one was an auction of a bigger painting of mine that we set online. We asked our metal fans and friends to come up with a donation. This was to help Celine from Germany, who is a young girl struggling with a seldom kind of cancer and her family. I am so proud of my metal community who always stays by my side at any time.
Leaves’ Eyes have announced recently their first gig in Israel. What are you looking forward to the most?
The concert in Tel Aviv will be a huge experience! It’s already almost sold out. It will happen on my birthday – Valentine’s Day, my 40th!
Also, you’re currently playing in some selected city these special shows dedicated to Theatre of Tragedy along with Raymond Rohonyi. After so much time how do you feel singing again and above of all, introduce to a brand new generation of fans, these amazing songs? Do you think a full European tour will happen in the future?
It was amazing having Raymond as my special guest during my recent solo tour. The magic of the old Theatre of Tragedy songs is still there – I can’t explain it, but our audiences in Russia, Poland, Belgium, Germany and Holland were fantastic! Every night was magic! I had no idea that this solo tour would go so well. I would love doing more shows. I am quite sure a Latin-American tour will be set up for September. I am also hungry for more shows in Europe – and Raymond and my band is, too!
That was our last question! Thank you so much for being again with us, Liv, it’s always a pleasure to have a chance to chat with you. You can leave a message to fans and readers here!
Love and kisses from me and all the best for you and your dear ones in 2016! Thank you for all your support and passion in metal!