Interview by Ed MacLarenPortugal’s Factory of Dreams is not a band to rest on its laurels. After releasing three consecutive prog-metal classics, producer/multi-instrumentalist Hugo Flores and vocalist Jessica Lehto may have surpassed them all with the sublime and sonic grandeur of “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction”. An epic concept album of the highest caliber, “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” weaves effortlessly between soaring melodies and savage riffs, tearing at the fabric of its musical universe with searing solos and breathtaking vocals. Hugo and Jessica took some time to talk to Femme Metal Webzine about the remarkable concept and development of “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction”, how to out-epic an epic album and the strange and fascinating impact of lip piercings. With the success of “Melotronical”, expectations surrounding “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” were understandably high but the new album has delivered another essential sonic experience and then some. Epic is becoming almost an understatement.
Jessica: I’m thrilled that you think so! Hugo has written such excellent music for this album. Of course that goes for all albums, but this is my favourite release so far. Every single track on “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” has that special something, a nice atmosphere, lovely instrumentation and an interesting story to tell. Continue reading »
Interview by Roberta Ilaria Rossi
We’ve got to know them thanks to their debut album “Divanity”. Now the Swedish band The Murder of My Sweet comes back with a new record, “Bye Bye Lullaby”, released via AFM Records. To introduce better this new effort, the lead singer Angelica spoke with us and she explained with details something concerning this new record and her own work inside the band.
Hi Angelica and welcome to Femme Metal. Let’s begin this chat talking about the band you sing in: it’s the gothic metal band from Sweden called The Murder of My Sweet, which has been founded in 2007. Would you like to tell us something about your biography?
Hi guys! Yes, it’s true that we started out in 2007. I got a phone call from drummer Daniel Flores that September and he asked me to come by his studio and listen to a couple of songs. I instantly fell in love with the project, and about two years later we released our first single shortly followed by our debut album “Divanity”. We spent 2010 and 2011 playing festivals and venues and combined that with writing and composing for our second album “Bye, Bye Lullaby”, which we recently released!
The band’s name refers to a noir movie of the ’40s called “Murder, my sweet” by Edward Dmytryk. How did happen the choice for the band’s name? Are you a fan of noir movies?
Yes…. When Daniel and I started to work together and got to know each other better we soon realized we had a common interest in movies and movie scores. One of our passions is the art form ‘film noir’, so we wanted to include that element in our music and our appearances.
You’re currently promoting your second record, “Bye Bye Lullaby”, that has been released two weeks ago. What could you share with us about this latest album, starting f.e. from the original title of the album?
Well, it was hard at first… I had to struggle to get back into writing mode and to feel inspired ‘cause we’d been really busy in the intervening years. The time before and after the release of our debut album was so intense and we wrote so many songs, both for our own band and for other bands and projects, that I felt I had nothing more to write about. It’s really silly but I guess I was slightly burnt out? “Bye Bye Lullaby” sort of represents my way back; finding inspiration and joy again! We came up with an album that is a bit more contemporary but darker and in my opinion, heavier at the same time.
This is your second record. Your debut album, “Divanity”, came out in 2010 and it has got a good success. If you were to describe this album with your own words, which adjectives would you like to use?
Aware, heavy, contemporary and dark, with an artistic twist in the last three songs.
Your sound style is described as “cinematic rock”. Could you provide some more information?
I think the “Cinematic” rock description evolved from the fact that when we compose the symphonic parts of the songs, we do it in the same way that they do it in movies so that every song on a given album could also be part of a movie. The fans have picked this up too and there are a lot of fan made videos on youtube, where our songs are featured with video games and TV series…
Your label allowed us to take a listen to the album. From the premises offered by the card presentation, it seemed that this album had many innovations, which, unfortunately, I have not seen since the first listening. Actually, the sound seems a normal gothic metal sound combined with a touch of symphonic metal, instead of being “cinematic rock”. What did cause the choice of adding electronic effects into your sound?
If you have been to the movies lately and seen, for instance “Tron; Legacy” or “Inception”, there are a lot of electronic sounds and effects going on. We got hugely inspired by that. Going to the movies is a big part of our research for writing new songs, so I would say we still do Cinematic rock. The art form is evolving though and so are we…
As I’ve seen in some other bands, you’ve put some little orchestral arrangements in your sound. Will we ever see a third chapter of your discography that will star a real orchestra, like many bands like Epica or Nightwish did in their career?
It would be a dream come true to record and perform with a real orchestra, but sadly that sounds really expensive. Considering the situation in the music industry today, I don’t see that for us. But you never know!
There are some great guests in this record: in fact we could notice the presence of Jesper Strömblad (In Flames), Peter Wichers (Soilwork) and Fredrik Åkesson (Opeth). This last guest really made me curious. How did you feel like working with these people and, especially, with Fredrik?
It can be a really mind blowing journey, or a completely flat feeling, inviting other musicians into your creative sphere but this time it definitely was the former. These guys are 3 very talented and experienced musicians, all, top of the line. You might say I was a bit star struck!
Will we ever see a bizarre duet between Opeth and The Murder of My Sweet?
Wouldn’t that be sweet? Again, you never know…
Originally, there were 30 tracks composed for this new album, but they were reduced to 13. Was it hard to choose the 13 tracks that would have create your second album?
It is always hard to kill your own ‘darlings, but it has to be done. Eventually, when you listen to all the songs together you soon, naturally hear which match together and which don’t.
What happened to the remaining tracks? Do you think that you will use some of them in one of your future work, perhaps as bonus tracks?
Well, we have a great plan for our next album that will take off from right where we ended “Bye, Bye Lullaby”, so keep your eyes posted. We intentionally composed the last three songs, “Waiting for the 27th”, “Black September” and “Phantom Pain”, as a mini saga that will bloom into full grace on the next record…
We can find a bit of everything in this record. There’s a ballad (“Meant to Last Forever”), groove songs like “I Dare You” and so much more. What could you tell us about the song-writing and about the music process? How did you create these songs?
Either Daniel comes up with a groove or an idea for a chorus (and we start working from that perspective), or I come up with a story or an interesting sentence and we get off from that. And of course, as I’ve already said, we spend a lot of time doing research by going to the movies, etc…
To better promote this album, you have also shoot the video for the single “Unbreakable”, which will be out soon. Can you please reveal us something about it?
We actually shot the video in an abandoned rail tunnel and that put a really magical atmosphere on the set. It was freezing cold in there and we shot for about two days, which gave me a really bad cold afterwards, but I would do it again and again because it was so much fun. You can watch it here.
How are you living this great music experience? Do you have any expectation for the future?
I have great hopes and dreams for the future although the music industry is going through some rough times. I will try and stay floating and hope that our fans will continue supporting and sharing our web sites to everyone they know. The power of the fans is not to be underestimated!
Do you have several different projects on the go? You mentioned a lot of writing…
No, at the moment we all focus on The Murder of My Sweet and our latest release; and then, it’s time to start composing the next album, so we’re all concentrating on this!
This was my last question. Thanks for your time, Angelica. Feel free to share something with our readers and your fans!
Thank you for following us and reading this interview. You know we love you all and cherish the support and feedback you give us. Help us get our music out there and visit us at www.themurderofmysweet.com…. The sweetest rock and kisses!!
Interview by Ed MacLaren
In the evolution of metal, one of the most lastingly popular genres is arguable the glam metal sound of the 80s. While the look of those bands is long gone, their pop metal sound and melodic influence is still felt decades later. Turn the spotlight from LA’s Sunset Strip to Oslo, Norway where Isabell Oversveen aka Issa is turning heads with her second album, “The Storm”. Brimming with catchy hooks with a roughly polished sheen, “The Storm” gives a subtle nod to the past while driving headlong into the future. Femme Metal got a chance to talk to Issa about “The Storm”, growing as an artist and avoiding the sophomore slump.
Congratulations on “The Storm”! It must have exceeded all your expectations – you’ve gotten pretty close to creating the perfect pop metal record.
Your music is anthemic and high energy with a real positive vibe to it. What do you want people to hear when they listen to “The Storm”?
I want people to really just enjoy the music first of all, but as I’ve written some on this record I feel like that’s been extra special this time – they’re songs from the heart and it’s been nerve wracking to see how it would be received.
There’s always talk about the “sophomore slump” where second albums don’t live up to the promise of the debut. It’s certainly not the case with “The Storm”. How do you think you’ve progressed as an artist and how is that revealed on “The Storm”?
Well, I think when it comes to music you just have to follow your heart – you can’t always please everyone but as long as I follow what I believe in I can’t go wrong. I also think everyone has their own view on how I should do things but it wouldn’t be an Issa album if I just did everything to please everyone else when it comes to me as an artist. I think this album shows more of a personal me – you’ll see songs written by me and I even produced my own vocals on “The Storm”.
Did you have any worries that “The Storm” wouldn’t live up to expectations after the success of your debut, “Signs of Angels”? There’s a lot of pressure for a new artist in this highly competitive market.
Yes – like everyone else you do sit with this feeling that hmmm is it good enough and does it live up to the first album? But all in all you have to try to stay focused on the important thing – making good music that you like.
You’ve been actively pursuing a career in music since your teens. Have all your experiences over the last 10 years been a build up to now? Is there anything you would have or would have done differently?
Yeah. I’ve been working so hard all these years and I just wouldn’t do without it. It’s part of me and it’s made me just who I am today. (Laughs) Just looking back makes me smile – and I think for sure I’ve done it the hard way sometimes but then again if I didn’t have the “I’ll do it all” attitude I wouldn’t have been in contact with Frontiers and I wouldn’t be writing this right now.
Is there one moment in your career that would stand out as your “big break”?
Well I can say that my first album was the first time my name was put out there – but I’m so realistic that I know it’s hard to get that one big break that will make you world-famous overnight. I’m not really sure I would have liked to be in the spotlight all the time but if the music can be heard I would definitely love that more than anything.
On “Signs of Angels” your record label shopped songwriters to contribute to the album. On “The Storm” you’ve started to actively contribute to the songwriting. How do you think your songwriting skills have progressed since “Signs of Angels”?
I’ve always loved to write music and I have lots of songs recorded at home – but when it came to “Signs of Angels”, I didn’t feel like they were as good as I wanted them to be. On “The Storm” I was more prepared and I did work with the Martin brothers that year writing and singing songs for other acts. To be honest we didn’t have any songs for this album as we had given them all away – lucky for me Frontiers pulled my favorites at once from the albums they were placed on for me to have them myself. I was so happy for that.
When you were writing for the album did you have a point of view or part of your personality that you wanted to show? Did your writing input have an influence on the overall feel and tone of the album?
Yeah it has. When we decided to do an album I’m in constant contact with the record label – and we both want to find the songs that will suite me and that we both like. As far as personality, I had a crazy year last year so the songs I’ve written on are taken straight out of my life. (Laughs) The title “The Storm” tells you just how last year was.
What was your experience working with producer and label-mate Daniel Flores on “The Storm”? He’s had more than a bit of experience working with a female vocalist in his own band, The Murder of My Sweet.
I can’t say anything else then a pleasure – Daniel was just fantastic on every point. I loved how Daniel knew just how to make a female voice sound just right – many producers today can run over you a bit with their opinions leaving the artist feeling like its produced how they personally want it rather than how you want it. That was not the case with Daniel – he wanted me to be happy with everything and we were in constant contact making sure we agreed on the progress.
A duet with TMOMS’s Angelica Rylin would have made for a great bonus track. Have you thought about working with any other vocalists?
Yeah. The thought is there all the time – I think when I got asked to sing “Hold On” on the same album as Robin Beck I couldn’t resist saying yes. I’ve always wanted to do something with Robin and who knows maybe in the future we could work more together. (Laughs)
You’ve gotten a lot of development support from your label Frontiers Records. Many companies have a “sink or swim” attitude towards new talent but they really got behind you. How important is it to have that kind of support from your label?
It means everything to me – I look at Frontiers as my own family. They have taken so good care of me and I love working with them. I also had the pleasure preforming live for them in Napoli when they had a meeting with all the European label managers last year and what more can I say – it was fantastic!
You’re a young woman learning your craft with the support of many talented people. With that said, do you have any long-term goals in terms of the control and independence you want to have over the direction of your music?
Well, for now I’m just concentrating on an album at a time but my biggest goal for the future would be to be as blessed as I am now and do music and more albums to come. It takes time to build up a reputation and I hope over the years that I’ll only get stronger as a writer and singer.
You work with a lot of well-connected members of the metal community yet lyrically and melodically your music has a real pop sensibility. How do you reconcile the two?
Well I look at it as I’ve always had a love for songs with attitude and guitars but combining those two makes it just a little bit different from all other albums – I think the production has a lot to say because even though some songs might be more poppy as an demo we sure know how to give them that little extra… (Laughs)
You walk that tightrope between pop and metal like a gymnast. In a way it brings back the pop/hard rock sounds of Bon Jovi and Heart from 25 years ago. What music do you enjoy and what elements of those influences do you try to bring to your music?
(Laughs) You just mentioned some of my favorite artists here – I love Heart and Bon Jovi! I love their music and that feel they have performing their song – its energy and feelings all the way. I believe these artists will never just fade away like some might in this pop culture we have now – they have something that just can’t be forgotten about.
Tracks like “Looking for Love” and “Black Clouds” have one foot firmly in pop territory and the other in the rock/metal vein. Have you ever thought about moving in a more pop direction and make a run at international top 40 successes?
Well from a young age I have always had a love for a bit more rock/metal vibe on things and I just don’t think I can move on from that just for the sake of being a top 40 success. (Laughs) Don’t get me wrong – I would love to have a song on top 40 but I believe in sticking with what I like might get the same result. I have to say as a live performer I love having the rock/metal feel.
You’ve said that you feel most at home touring and performing on stage. What is it about live performance that excites you?
Ah! There’s just something very special with preforming live. Doing an album gives you the chance to read what people say but live you can see on their faces just what they think – it’s just amazing.
Does performing your songs live bring out different elements of the songs than on the album?
Yeah, in a way it does because seeing someone preform live can be a stronger experience then an album – it’s like a story being told. The songs are being influenced by the people playing the songs and you can give it that little extra.
Do you think that live feel gets captured on “The Storm”?
Well, I’ve tried to not make a perfect smooth album – but have a bit of the blemishes there. With that I mean that sometimes a feeling in how you sing things can be stronger than a perfect line. That’s so important to me.
How would describe an Issa show? Do you get a mix of pop and metal fans?
Yeah, definitely. I think with me you will get a good mix. I love to focus on having a strong show – not a show where the middle is “let’s go and get a drink” time. (Laughs) I think I’ve performed so much live in my time that I know just how to keep the crowd hanging around until the bitter end. I love big songs and big outfits and its worth watching as much as listening.
Where are fans going to hear the new songs live?
Right now I’m already planning my next album leaving a little time in the middle but my Facebook will tell everything so please go to Facebook and you’ll get all the info there..
(Famous) Last words?
I just want to say thank you to everyone that supports me – it means the world to me! I just couldn’t do without you! Thanks so much!
Interview by Ed Mac Laren
Portugal’s Factory of Dreams make it clear from the first molar-rattling power chord that they’re ready to make your head explode with their incredible new concept album “Melotronical”. Musically and vocally epic in every way, it’s a 60-minute sensory assault that leaves you exhausted wondering what the hell just happened – just as you’re reaching for the play button again. Easily one of the strongest albums of the year so far, vocalist Jessica Lehto and composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Hugo Flores – seriously, what can’t this guy do – took some time to talk to Femme Metal about the concept of “Melotronical”, what makes their ongoing collaboration work so well and coming into their own as a top-tier band.
“Melotronical” is one of those albums that you can hardly believe when you hear it for the first time. You’ve beefed up the sound but lost none of your instrumental intricacies and trademark atmospherics. Were you as amazed at the result as the fans were?
Hugo: Yeah, the idea was to impress the audience from the very first track “Enter Nucleon” with an explosive and original sound. The initial synth from “Enter Nucleon” is very aggressive and then with the soaring guitars and blown up drums it’s all settled in for the ride! You know, the story and concept demanded a much more aggressive approach this time, so in the end the sound would really have to be much more powerful. I wasn’t that much surprised simply because I followed the album’s evolution every day, from composing to mixing. But I must admit I was indeed surprised after seeing the whole package and listening to the mastered version. I wanted to convey into music the idea of Tronic – or mechanical motion. “Melotronical” combines the atmospherics and simplicity of “Poles” with the progressiveness of “A Strange Utopia” and adds edge and vivacity to the sound. I’m very proud of “Melotronical”. I think we’ve really made our best album this far.
Jessica: Hugo definitely is a very skilled songwriter and on this third Factory of Dreams album the tracks do feel a bit different compared to earlier releases. The tracks are a bit heavier, the sound might be a bit richer. I was definitely impressed when hearing these tracks for the first time.
You’ve raised the bar for yourselves on this album – and everyone else for that matter. Musically and vocally this album is killer from beginning to end. When did you realize that you had something special on your hands?
Jessica: To be honest I don’t really reflect about my vocals as something special. I just do a job that is as good as possible at that moment, and if others find it special I’m very happy to hear that. (Smiles) As for Hugo’s song writing I have always found it special and it has kept growing with each release, which is very lovely indeed.
Hugo: Jessica is just too humble, I must say that her voice is indeed very special and the album is somehow a unique combination of her vocals with my music. I actually started realizing that it was special once I had my compositions laid down and the concept and lyrics written. And that was even more evident once “Whispering Eyes”, the main single, was taking shape with the recorded vocals. Very powerful music, appealing, yet quite progressive in its own way. But it’s also like Jessica mentions, I do what comes to mind and shape the sound according to that. Maybe for a fourth album I might pursue this line of songwriting, because “Melotronical” is definitely asking for a follow-up album.
What was the conceptual genesis of “Melotronical”? Was there a sudden epiphany or had the ideas been floating around for a while in the backs of your heads?
Hugo: It started because I wanted to play with a ‘robotic’ sound and that kind of material. So, I began writing and thinking about an album title that could represent a whole nature vs. mechanic feel. In the end, what came to mind, was a symbiosis between machine, organic and music. “Melotronical” is actually melody combined with mechanical motion as I mentioned. It was quite sudden, yes; I don’t recall having this concept going around for many times in my mind. However, the robot vs. human issue was present. I enjoy many films of that kind, such as A.I and books like Isaac Asimov’s. Also, my Project Creation trilogy is based around a mechanical dragonfly. So, it was always very present. The album was also a chance to revive two older songs that I had composed a long time ago. One was “Something Calling Me”. The first version was done in 2000 and I was the lead singer on that track. The second was part of “Protonic Stream”, much much older; I figure I was like 15 when I composed it on my dear old commodore Amiga, can you believe it?
Given the complexity and density of this music – and the fact you play all the instruments yourself – where do you start, Hugo? What was your process for building up the tracks?
Hugo: The process hasn’t changed much from my approach since early this decade. But I’ve learned new ways to mix and produce music. As far as the process and how everything begins? Well, it depends. It may be from a title or from an idea for a story, or even simply by just playing around with the synths and trying out melodies and sounds. Once I find a melody that pleases me, I start developing that melody, changing it and making it evolve. Usually I just let my thoughts and ideas go and when I run out of ideas I stop since that means that the track is complete. I don’t like to ‘force’ ideas or to make a track longer once ideas are unnatural. After that, I begin recording the guitars, the bass and later vocals. I also lay down my drums along with the synths and orchestrations, before the actual guitar recordings. Then it’s mixing time. Very time consuming but still pretty cool and creative. As far as mastering is concerned, I prefer to leave that to a mastering engineer, and ”Melotronical” had a brilliant mastering process done by Mr. Chris Brown, who worked on so many of my albums and several others from Progrock Records as well.
Hugo, your musical influences are far ranging but there seems to be a little extra nod to 1970s electronic music on “Melotronical”. Were you listening to any Vangelis or Jean-Michel Jarre while composing the album?
Hugo: “Back to Sleep” or “Protonic Stream” are good examples of how I enjoy a powerful synth sound. It’s all about an epic feel to the music, a wide and full of body approach to sound. Even though I don’t listen too often now to Vangelis, he has been quite an influence. I’ve grown up listening to synth based music. I’m grateful to that because synths enable me to do whatever pleases me. Nowadays it’s simply mind-blowing to see the possibilities, and you can have several orchestras right at your hand, ready to play at your command 24 hours a day. How’s that for a musician, huh? (Laughs)
Jessica, you dug deep and provided the album with a tour de force vocal performance, soaring, swirling and morphing from one song to the next. How did you prepare for recording the vocals for “Melotronical”?
Jessica: Thanks! (Smiles) I did not really prepare much before recording. Most of the time, when recording stuff for a new track, I listen to the track once or twice before I start working on it. Other times I just feel very spontaneous and start working right away, without listening to the track at first. It really depends on how inspired I feel. Sometimes I have tons of ideas at once when hearing the intro and other times I need to feel the atmosphere of the track a bit more. However, it was really hard work for me this time around. My father unexpectedly passed away in December 2009 and by the time I started recording for ”Melotronical” things were still really difficult to deal with. I lacked inspiration and motivation and I had to dig real deep to come up with most of the vocal lines I wrote. I’m not yet sure about my work in some of the tracks, but on the other hand I never am, I’m always hard on myself and I’m never fully pleased with what I do. I just think I did the best I could do at that time and then it’s okay.
Hugo: Let me add that I fully agree. Jessica‘s work on ”Melotronical” couldn’t be better, period. All the other albums are great, but this time, I don’t know, it was perfect. Maybe the fact that she was in a very emotional state may have helped. Or maybe the fact that she thought she would perform worse, Jess consciously lifted her spirit and she told herself to do that extra effort, thus surpassing what would have been a great performance from the start. Kudos to her!
You’ve really come into your own vocally on this album, Jessica. In our last interview for “A Strange Utopia” we talked a bit about vocal comparisons but on “Melotronical” it’s all Jessica Lehto! Your voice has become as individually identifiable as your influences Anneke, Sharon and Tarja.
Jessica: Thanks a lot! That’s just about the nicest thing a vocalist can hear! Of course influences will always be there, but as long as you’re not just a pale copy of them that’s nice.
Hugo got some great vocals down on the album as well and the two of you complemented each other very well. Thanks for letting Hugo record some vocal parts this time, Jessica!
Jessica: Well he’s free to do that at any time for sure! (Laughs) And I’m glad he did this time around, his voice fits great with the tracks and he’s really a skilled singer too, among so many other skills he has.
Hugo:Yes, I’m a good juggler too, and hamster tamer, as long as they’re friendly, and tamable. I already lost a finger due to one of those little things…damn hamster.He was delicious though… Jessica told me several times, “Oh no, you’ll ruin the whole thing!” but I said, “Come on please lemme do it, lemme do them vocals, I can’t just do the music, you’re the one you gets noticed and I’m an egocentric narcissist freak, please please!” and she was kind enough to grant me this little thing here.
Interview by Ed MacLaren
“A Strange Utopia” is the latest progressive metal release from Lisbon-based Factory of Dreams. Combining dramatic vocals with intricate guitar lines and atmospheric keyboards, Factory of Dreams creates an epic journey into chaotic worlds of broken perfection. Not without a sense of humour, multi-instrumentalist Hugo Flores and vocalist Jessica Lehto join Femme Metal for a candid conversation about alligators, lip piercings… and, of course, music.
The CD focuses on the divisions between and within us while “A Strange Utopia” projects a more unifying intent. How did the concept for the CD develop?
Hugo : “Poles” had a well defined concept of exploring dark and light and the good and bad struggle within us, absolutely. The new album, even though it does have a defined concept throughout its 70 minutes, was basically done with the intention of exploring rather strange and impossible worlds which turned out to be strange Utopias. So, in the end, a universe called Utopia was thought of and the lyrics were written according to that perspective. What’s curious is that these some of these places are pleasant Utopias and some are definitely bad visions such as “Dark Utopia”. You can definitely think that “The Sight of a Better Universe” from “Poles” can be planet Utopia in a way, but the good side only. So, indeed this album is more unifying and I think the overall feel of the album transmits that idea and also provides a sense of connection to the previous album. As for the development of the CD, like most of my music, it started with the basic musical compositions and later the lyrics and concept started to revolve around the music. At a certain point, the music and probably the vocals were also influenced by the lyrical themes and moods.
Two albums in two years is considered prolific in music today. What inspired this creative outburst? Did you have some incomplete ideas from “Poles” that you built on or was it a fresh burst of creativity?
Hugo : “Poles” was concluded, totally. However, as soon as “Poles” was done, new ideas started to build and slowly the composition process began. We even managed to make a connection with “Poles” at the end of the track “Slow Motion World”! It was indeed an outburst of ideas and also the hunger to compose, and I also felt like making an in-between album featuring both Project Creation’s complexity and “Poles”’ simplicity. So, I basically took the previous album’s genre and decided to provide an epic and heavier feel to it – more progressiveness too – and make it a bit more complex in terms of performances and structures. So our fans will definitely find the “Poles” sound there, but with a much more open and epic feel to the music. If they hear it several times, they’ll be embraced by the music I’m sure – more than with “Poles” perhaps. As for the inspiration, I really can’t recall but inspiration comes just from playing with my keyboards and that was it. I had two tracks that were not used in “Poles”, however these were not used in “Utopia” either. In the trash with those!
“Poles” contained many elements of 70s-style prog rock along with strong electronica influences while “A Strange Utopia” feels much heavier with less ornamentation. Was this a conscious decision to reflect the CD concept and lyrical content or was it how the music organically developed? Did the lyrics shape the music or vise versa?
Hugo: I agree, even though it is more proggy than “Poles”. There’s less ornamentation, yes, but there’s a definite focus on the main melody while some tracks tend to have several arrangements around the main melody or several melodies. I love that feel – having a peaceful part and then a sudden burst or a more chaotic approach. Some people out there don’t get this type of sound approach. Well, try to get the overall picture of the concept – that’s the whole idea behind “A Strange Utopia”. “Poles” is a very unique album, It was made in a time when I really wanted to simplify my music, I suppose it really reflects that, and with that in mind, I love “Poles” and the more I listen, the more I really enjoy it. The simple things tend to be immediately likeable, but may not last long. “Poles” contradicts this to me because it also grows within the listener while being simpler in terms of structures, but more dense in ornamentations. “A Strange Utopia” was deliberately more progressive, more band-like sounding and more chaotic. Plus, I really wanted to use much more real drums instead of a deliberate electronic feel just like “Poles” had. I was also determined to add much more diversity to the songs too and I think that is audible. The lyrics began to take shape soon after the early compositions were made and I just started writing and writing and when I looked at the overall picture, I realized that I was really exercising my imagination with several fantasy worlds. Diversity is a word that comes to mind when listening to “A Strange Utopia”.
Since this is your second collaboration, did your personal and professional relationship change after the success of “Poles” and how is that reflected in “A Strange Utopia”?
Hugo : Yes! Now I enjoy playing pranks on Jessica more than before and teasing her pets too, especially her alligator that she keeps in her room hidden from the public. (This part may not be true… heh heh… really?). People are always evolving, and yes, when we did “Poles” we already had a good chemistry I suppose, however as time passed we became friends. Professionally, we collaborate basically in the same manner as with “Poles” but things are faster now because I know what she can do more easily, and she knows better what I usually like in a song as well.
Jessica : He’s always trying to take a swim with my alligator – yes! I don’t know what’s up with that. Despite that fact, yes, the friendship bond is stronger now than it was during the “Poles” recordings and by now we have even met face-to-face which was very lovely. When it comes to the music, this album has been easier for me to record than the previous one since I’m now more familiar with Hugo’s way of writing and arranging.
Hugo : Note the last time I checked the alligator was gone… (I was hungry…)
The vocals on “A Strange Utopia” are a big standout on this CD. The vocal overdubs and effects are well-placed and shaped a very strong compliment to the music. What was the vocal approach when recording “A Strange Utopia”?
Hugo: Better for Jessica to speak about this one. My idea was really to let the vocals stand-out, however, and as you listened, this time the instrumental parts are much more predominant than with “Poles”. So it’s not totally vocally focused like “Poles” was most of the time. One must recall that “Poles” has about 50 minutes, a bit less music, and this one takes up a full CD, so, it’s natural!
Jessica: Just like I did on “Poles”, I wanted to contribute to the atmosphere of each track, and at the same time I wanted to challenge myself a bit more by arranging vocals in a way I’m not used to. This approach resulted in, for example, the vocals in the ending parts of “Garden of all Seasons”. In general, I think I’ve played around a bit more on this CD than on the previous one. I did some arrangements in “A Strange Utopia” that to me somehow felt quite unexpected and I don’t really know where those ideas came from.
Hugo: Yeah, “Garden of All Seasons” – that’s some crazy tune.
Jessica, your vocals can range from the operatic to a soothing caress. I could hear what seemed to be a more than passing nod to Kate Bush in “Broken”. Who are your vocal influences and how much of an impact do they have on your own style?
Jessica: I have heard the Kate Bush thing before, although I must admit I’m not familiar with her work. Perhaps I should change that! My main vocal influences are Anneke van Giersbergen, Sharon den Adel, Enya and Tarja Turunen. It’s hard to say what impact they have on my own style. I suppose that’s up to the listener to decide since it’s too tricky for me, but I started singing before I started listening to these singers (apart from Enya, she was there many years before I started singing) and I found “my” voice pretty quickly. What I’ve done since then is to mainly polish it up and learn to be more versatile. So I suppose you pick up a thing here and there when listening to other singers.
Hugo, has Jessica‘s vocal perspective changed the way you approach the compositional process?
Hugo: That’s always a difficult question. I can say – without a shadow of a doubt – that for “Poles” the music was done independently and vocals were thought of after. I knew, however, that I wanted an operatic feel to them, or, if you will, a rock/operatic voice. So even though the music was pre-composed, I had that in mind. Now, for the new album “A Strange Utopia” that might have changed. I mean “Sonic Sensations”, “Slow Motion World” – I believe I thought of Jessica‘s voice for those and maybe for a few other tracks. This time we even had some guests too, so I also had to think of how to mix those parts with the lead vocals from Jessica. It was fun, and hard work too.
The dream-like imagery of the videos for “Weight of the World” and “Sonic Sensations” are beautiful to watch. How much input do you have in their creation? Do you find videos add a new dimension to the musical experience or are videos merely a necessary evil? Maybe they’re a way for Jessica to show off close ups of her lip piercing?
Jessica : Yes! I actually, and very, very, honestly, wanted to do those clips and focus only on my awesome lip piercing, you know. It should be the only thing visible for the viewers throughout both videos; the piercing and then darkness. So of course now I’m very bummed out that I actually was appearing in the video too, I thought the director was shooting my lip piercing only!
Hugo : (Laughs) No, it’s not at all a necessary evil – on the contrary – I love cinema and video, and making this type of art along with the music is just a way of complimenting everything so it definitely adds a whole new dimension. It only makes big seem bigger and epic much epicquier…erara. Heh? A lot, I really mean a lot, of work and production was placed in these clips. Actually two clips. I consider that a luxury, because only one would already have been a lot to produce really. So, I really, really, hope people will be aware of the work put into those and, most of all, like the videos. Yes, the piercing! Emil [Jonsvik] is a director that looks to every detail so I suppose he just likes her piercing – or maybe he’s afraid and wants to exorcise his fears? Hmmm… now I’m a bit afraid of that piercing! Really, Emil is very talented, and the way he works is just so much fun. Working with the crew, with Jessica, and all was just a fantastic experience. People not familiar with our clips should perhaps begin by watching the first one, “The Weight of the World”, and then the second one to get an overall picture. “Sonic Sensations” is a very mysterious video… As for inputs, just check http://www.youtube.com/projectcreation. People are really nice and do comment regularly, and love the videos.
Jessica : I agree with Hugo, making these videos was nothing less than two of my loveliest experiences within music so far and I’m very happy to say my video camera fear is now cured. I was very nervous before the first video shoot because I totally hate video cameras and I didn’t know if it would really work out for me. But during the first take I felt very comfortable and the camera did not feel like a problem at all. Many kudos to Emil, he’s a great director and I very much liked working with him.
This is your second consecutive Factory of Dreams CD. Has Factory of Dreams become less of a side project and more of a full-time focus?
Hugo : That’s a good question; it’s a main band for me, a main focus now, even though Project Creation is also on my thoughts, of course, for the near future.
With that said, Hugo, with your musical ability and production skills is there a full-blown metal opera in your future?
Hugo : I don’t have anything else in mind apart from Factory of Dreams and Project Creation really. I have a few projects that are waiting, but standing still on the shelves. I’m not that enthusiastic with those right now. I may, however, take those concepts and use them in my main bands though.
Together you’ve created two excellent CDs of progressive rock. Has your successful collaboration reached a logical conclusion or will Factory of Dreams go for the trilogy?
Hugo : There are no limitations, so I hope to keep going as long as we both want to do music and people keep following us, and ultimately, buying the albums. That’s the only way to get things going. So, leave those torrents, P2Ps, and alikes alone and buy the stuff. There is no trilogy, just a band or project, if you will, that makes music. As long as it’s fun, like it’s been up to now, it’s just great to be able to do what we do for as long as possible.
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
- Chaostar – “Anomima” (2013)
- Helalyn Flowers – “White Me In Black Me Out” (2013)
- My Ruin – “The Sacred Mood” (2013)
- Belladonna – “Shooting Dice With God” (2013)
- Visions of Atlantis – “Ethera” (2013)
- Upon Wings – “Afterlife” EP (2013)
- Maxine Petrucci – “Back to the Garden” (2013)
- Masterforce – “Until the End of Time” DEMO (2011)
- COURAGE MY LOVE return with “Becoming” EP
- Maledia – “Your Angels Cry” EP (2012)
- Lumus – “Bacchus’ Curse” (2012)
- Lightless Moor – “The Poem – Crying My Grief to A Feeble Dawn” (2013)
- Hurtful Witch – “Spectra” (2013) [DEMO] [REISSUE]
- Ivalys – “Lumen” (2013)
- Hydrogyn – “Private Sessions” (2012)
- Heart Shaped Rock – “Brought it On” SINGLE (2012)
- Igorrr – “Hallelujah” (2012)
- North Diamond – “По Ту Сторону Бытия” ["On the Other Side of Being" - "Po Tu Storonu Biytiya"] (2012)
- Kvitrafn (Einar Selvik) – Wardruna
- THE EDGE OF PARADISE @ The Mix, Seattle, WASHINGTON, USA – 27/04/2013
- Jessie Ware – “Devotion” [The Gold Edition] (2013)
- Hugo Flores & Jessica Lehto – Factory of Dreams
- Carter Tutti Void – “Transverse” (2012)
- Jennifer Borg – Divine Ascension
- Black Sun Aeon – “Blacklight Deliverance” (2011)
- Black Heaven – “Dystopia” (2011)
- Fourever – “Solitarium” (2012)
- Embassy of Silence – “Antler Velvet” (2013)
- Shiori Vitus – Eleanor
- KARMIC LINK announces new line up addition and album updates