Interview by Robin Stryker
Femme Metal spoke with Leeni-Maria Hovila, frontwoman of Finnish extreme fantasy metal band, Kivimetsän Druidi, six months ago. Since that time, the band has completed a massive North American tour and released its sophomore album, “Betrayal, Justice, Revenge” (Century Media 2010). We are delighted to chat with Leeni-Maria again and get caught up on Kivimetsän Druidi’s whirlwind of activity.Hello, Leeni-Maria! We’re glad you could join us today.
First things first, please tell us about Kivimetsän Druidi’s new album, “Betrayal, Justice, Revenge”.
“Betrayal” is our second album — the first in which I have made most of the lyrics, and the first in which we have tracks composed also by our drummer Atte and lead guitarist Rinksa.
If you had to describe the new album’s sound in three words, what would they be?
Massive, symphonic, complex.
The title, “Betrayal, Justice, Revenge”, has a nice ring to it. Where does the name come from?
It is simply a summary of the things and ideas happening on this album.
From earlier interviews, it sounds as though the band was not completely satisfied with its debut album, “Shadowheart”. How much of the harder, more aggressive sound on the new album comes from a natural evolution in Kivimetsän Druidi’s music, versus lessons learned from the first album?
The compositions are all natural evolution which was not even as fast as it would seem by listening to these two albums. All the elements of the tracks on “Betrayal” were already present in the few new songs of “Shadowheart”, but most “Shadowheart” tracks were both very old and some very new material which sound quite different from one another. On the other hand, the harder, more aggressive sound in general is all about making “Betrayal” sounding how we wished “Shadowheart” would, so that was about a lesson learned.
As I understand it, you are a classically trained soprano. Did you ever consider pursuing a career in opera, instead of metal?
I don’t have a great desire for that. The opera world seems a rigid place to me, also I do not have such a big voice. If I do classic genre and I do study it at the present, I am a lied-oriented performer, that is an other-than-opera- kind of classic vocal style. I see myself in the future as a performing cross-over soprano artist, who is most probably chronically broke.
Would you introduce your bandmates, and tell us what you like best about each person?
Joni Koskinen is something of a leader amongst us, if at all it can be said that we have one. I like and sometimes even envy his confidence. He is one of the two of our main composers, who used to do all of the lyrics in the past. He is a founding member and does the growls as well as rhythm guitar. Antti Koskinen, the former’s little brother, is our keyboardist and the other main composer. Antti is also a founding member, is somewhat multi-talented, and is very much self-educated as a musician. He is very empathic. Rinksa, our lead guitarist, is also a founding member, although the original idea of Druidi was Joni’s and Antti’s. But Rinksa has been aboard from the very beginning. He is quiet and conscientious. Simo-Pekka, our bassist, is big and reliable and older than his young years would say. He is always sensible, speaks the utter unquestionable truth, and others never have to worry for him. But, if he gets hungry and there’s no food around, you’d better come up with some. Quick! Atte, our drummer, is as far as I remember the last line-up change before myself. He is very good in his area, and the only member besides myself who has at least some classic studies. He used to play the faggot – hold on, I have to check if that, in fact, is how it is written … err, no. I meant to say fagotto. Or bassoon, my dictionary seems to claim they mean the same. Atte is funny. The joker of the band. And open-minded.
“Shadowheart” was inspired by a fantasy story that Joni has been working on. What is the inspiration for “Betrayal, Justice, Revenge”?
I think it still is the same story actually, regardless of the fact that most lyrics are mine or even the fact that most stories of those lyrics I had thought about well before I joined the band. I simply decided — when Joni said I should try writing lyrics and I decided I should try using my old ideas — that fine, now all these things are going to happen in the world he made to happen and that’s it. And the truth is that in those stories, both the ones Joni wrote and the ones I’d had in my head before, some very basic things always remain the same. It is the nature of stories regarding where and when they happen. The same things, the same big truths always are the ones that people write stories about or fight wars over. Love. Honour. Justice. Betrayal. Ideals, be they false or true. Religion is the only “big thing” we haven’t touched and have no desire of doing so in the future, but I think that if you take religion down to the little pieces to find what it has eaten, what you will find are all those smaller things I already pointed out and some more of their kind. Like pride. Fear. Especially fear.
You wrote many of the lyrics for “Betrayal, Justice, Revenge”. Does singing your own lyrics feel different than singing lyrics written by someone else?
Yep. I sometimes feel pretty stupid about them, and this time I can only blame myself.
Are you a fan of fantasy? If so, what is your favourite work of fantasy?
Indeed I am. From the works of Tolkien, I prefer “The Silmarillion”. The first books I ever read from the genre were the first “Dragonlance” trilogy. Perhaps my all time favourite is Orson Scott Card’s strange little one-of-a-kind story “Hart’s Hope”.
Is “Betrayal, Justice, Revenge” mainly for fantasy fans, or does it have broader themes with universal appeal?
All the themes in our fantasy, as well as fantasy stories in general, are ultimately universal. They are always about the same things which make people move: love, ambition, ideals — betrayal, justice, revenge. Among others.
If you could select any Kivimetsän Druidi song for a soundtrack, which song would you choose and which movie would you put it in?
“Desolation: White Wolf” would be my pick — actually, we made a video for that one lately. Hasn’t been published yet. Don’t know about the movie, though … maybe it hasn’t been made yet. Maybe we should make it. A full-length Kivimetsän Druidi fantasy adventure.
Most of the songs on “Shadowheart” are in Finnish, while most of the songs on “Betrayal, Justice, Revenge” are in English. Was the language switch intentional or happenstance?
Happenstance, actually. I sort of regret that, and hope to make more Finnish ones on the Number Three, whenever that may happen.
In November 2009, Kivimetsän Druidi performed at the Heathenfest Tour in North America, playing 20 different cities and covering 15.000 kilometres in the nightliner. What stands out in your mind from the tour?
Hollywood Boulevard. Giant turkey legs. Helmuth of Belphegor making me drink whiskey. Hilly views. Ridiculously good-looking night liners. Sushi places in NYC. A university campus cafe in Cleveland. Being slightly afraid at Detroit.
When you have a hectic tour schedule far from home, do you do anything special to make sure you stay sane and healthy?
Stay in my bunk whenever I feel bored. Go for a walk outside the bus when possible. Alone! Always, always have good and reliable ear plugs which damp out as much of surrounding noise — preferably talk — as possible. I can’t always go for a longer run, sometimes I just jump or run on spot in the backstage or the hall before audience is let in. I go out, if only around the corner, to get a cup of coffee and look and listen to the local people.
Just reading about Kivimetsän Druidi’s schedule in 2009 – a Russian mini-tour, writing songs for the new album, recording, going on the North American tour, and back into the studio to finish recording – exhausts me. Were you able to relax some after all that?
We did a little too much relaxing in the summer when we were supposed to be writing songs — or at least I did a little too much “relaxing” when I was supposed to be writing lyrics — so we ended up having to hurry in the studio, again. But it was not too stressing. It’s not that all the band activity was overwhelming. It is this stupid thing called “normal life” like going to school, having to work alongside the school, paying the bills, having at least some hobbies and getting to see friends that makes things difficult.
What are the band’s plans for the remainder of 2010?
Promoting “Betrayal, Justice, Revenge”, doing as many shows as we can, perhaps getting to make a tour later in the autumn, also we have already lightly touched the idea of the Number Three Album if and whether there’s going to be one. So writing new songs.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Leeni-Maria. Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal?
Beware of fragile old bearded guys in strange looking clothes. They are bound to be wizards or something of the kind. Do not piss them off. Come check us out live. Get the new album, it really rocks. Rock ‘n Troll.
Interview by Robin Stryker
After more than six nail-biting months of anxiously awaiting the sophomore album from Dutch progressive rock band, Kingfisher Sky, I finally got a copy in my grubby paws on “Skin of the Earth”. There is no second album slump here … the songs are tighter than ever, with plenty of the progressive elements and folk influence that made their debut album such a joy to listen to. Femme Metal webzine caught up with vocalist/songwriter, Judith Rijnveld, to get the inside story on Kingfisher Sky.
Have you ever considered trying your hand at painting the cover art for Kingfisher Sky?
Thank you all so much for your support, it means the world to us!
Interview by Miriam C.
Transcription by Robin Stryker
This was my second phoner interview that I’ve made in my life, this time I was more calm and relaxed. Enjoy this funny interview (sometimes during the interview she has got line telephone problems and I was going to repeat the questions) with a kind and relaxed Jonsu, vocalist and violinist from rock all female band Indica.
Let’s start, “A Way Away” is coming in the stores the 25th June on Nuclear Blast. Why choose this label? I mean Nuclear Blast isn’t the typical label that sign rock melodic bands.
When we were touring with Nightwish, Nuclear Blast was the label that was interested to do the English album, and they had showed some passion towards our music. I loved the way they worked and how they put their whole soul and heart to it. So it made us be sure that it is the perfect label for us. Also I have to say that it was a good thing that Tuomas told me before – you know Tuomas [keyboardist] from Nightwish, they have been with Nuclear Blast for many many years – and he told me that “I have no bad words to say about that company”. So it was a good recommendation.
Obvious question, how’s born the collaboration between Nightwish mastermind Tuomas Holompainen?
It was great. The first thing I did with them was “Erämaan Viimeinen” (The Last of the Wilds), one of their songs. After one of our shows, Tuomas came to ask me if I would like to sing that song, and he said he has been a fan of our band since it started. And I said like “yeah, yeah, let’s try it”. It went well and then they asked later if we would come on the Scandinavian tour. I think Tuomas and the whole band is great. Tuomas is a really talented musician and composer, so it was great to work with him. And later, of course, to do albums with him. Also on “A Way Away”, he wrote lyrics to one song, “Precious Dark”.
I found a bit strange to publish an entire album with translated lyrics in English, when take for example such metal acts like Ensiferum, Korpiklaani,they publish without problems album in Finnish language. Why take this decision?
Why did we do an English album? When we started about nine years ago, we did songs in English and in Finnish, but then we had to choose one language. Finnish sounds more natural, but we knew that someday we probably will do anyway an English album. When we started touring abroad, the fans started to request if we could do some songs that they would understand too. There was only really crappy YouTube versions they could listen to. So that was the main reason why we did it now. I think it was a big challenge for us, too, because we have seen every single corner of Finland and every single club, and we have been working there and touring there and doing albums like “Ikuinen Virta” in 2004. So it was a big challenge for us, and also really interesting to see new places and meet new people. Also with the language, I would say that the English language is maybe, when sung, it sounds more beautiful and it’s flowing totally differently. Maybe Finnish is more exotic, but anyway the music sounds totally different, so we found it really interesting.
Your last album was called “Valoissa”, right? And if I’m not wrong the English translation is “light”.
Yes, you can say “in the light”. In the song, we are really talking about like traffic lights. It is a little bit ironic text about “what if I die in the traffic light” and you can’t just mourn. Don’t be sad.
Are “Valoissa” and “A Way Away” titles connected?
“Valoissa” and “A Way Away” … no, there are a couple of songs from the “Valoissa” album in “A Way Away”, but otherwise those albums aren’t alike. Those aren’t connected anyhow.
If I ask you to define Indica‘s music style what do you reply?
It’s a funny question because, as a composer, it’s really hard for me to describe the music because somehow I think it’s impossible to describe music in words. But, I can say what other people have told. So, some people – like all reporters in Finland – call it like mystic-romantic pop rock, and it was funny how it started. One reporter just said like, “oh, this sounds like mystic-romantic” and suddenly all the reporters were writing it’s mystic-romantic. Yeah, one interviewer also said, “it sounds like Disney on acid.” (laughs) I think it was a funny description. I’m sure there is some films, movie soundtracks and a lot of movie composers.
On 30th April you’ve published out the videoclip “In Passing”, what is the story behind the video and how was work with Patric Ullaeus Team?
Yeah, in Sweden in Gothenburg. You are talking probably of the “In Passing” video. The story behind the song is that it is kind of a letter from an older sister who is dead to her little sister, and she is trying to encourage her and telling her that “you must go on with your life and move on”. It was great to work with Revolver Team, and Patrick Ullaeus I think did a great job. We shot it two videos in Gothenburg. “Islands of Light” I think it isn’t published yet, but it will come out soon I guess.
Watching your promo shoots I was astonished about your dresses. Who’s the creator of it?
Sometimes we are using different kinds of designers, but there is one Finnish, Anne-Mari Pahkala, who has done many of our dresses. Some dresses we are found from our grandmas’ closets or somewhere, like anywhere where we go. But Anne-Mari Pahkala is a girl with whom we have worked the most.
Before “In Passing” video there was another one video called “Snakes and Arrows”, I’ve seen it, have you shooted it in Tokyo?
We had one. It was kind of, you know, zero budget. We deal with just one friend’s photographer wanted to do one because he wanted to do some photo shootings there, and we had a show in Tokyo. We spent there a week, so we were shooting the video at the same time. But it was a great experience. I really liked Tokyo, but I couldn’t believe that I would live there.
Which is your favourite song from “A Way Away” and why?
My favourite song from the album is, I guess, the ending track “Eerie Eden” … “As If” is also one of my favourite tracks. I always fell in love with the slow songs, so that is why maybe “Eerie Eden” and “Children of Frost” and “A Way Away” are one of my favourites. The girls are always angry to me because I always try to do a slow album where there is only slow songs on there like that. “You are killing the audience! They will fall asleep”. (laughs) So, it’s good that we have different opinions in our band too, because otherwise it would be only 10 slow songs on the album.
I know that’s very very early to talk about that but are you working for the next album with brand new songs?
Composing is my lifestyle, and I’m all the time composing something. But we really haven’t sat down yet with the band and talked about what we are going to do, what kind of direction we are going to go in. Maybe after this album comes out, we can sit down and talk about that with the people that we work with and do some planning.
What are the next band planes?
In the near future we are going … tomorrow [the interview was done on the 20 May 2010] we are in Italy doing something and going to Rome, then we go to Leipzig to do one gothic festival and then I go back to Finland to do some TV programmes. Then we are playing in Rock am Ring and Rock im Park (it’s in Germany).
It’s a very famous festival, with groups from every genre, and MTV is there.
It will be interesting and I think they said that they are shooting the show too. So we are doing some festivals in summer, but mainly touring will start in the autumn. Then the plan is to tour pretty much before Christmas and go around Europe. Let’s see, I have a meeting with my gig agents next weekend, then they tell us some ideas.
Italy is in your plans?
Yeah, I’m sure Italy will be on the list. But really, I would love to, I’m waiting to come back to Italy. These days we are doing some acoustic performances in the radios but to do a real live show because I think Italian audiences are great. They are so free and open.
Greet our fans freely!! And thanks!
Thank you very much for the interview! It was really nice to talk with you, and I hope to see you somewhere.
Kiitos! [Finnish word for thanks]
Oh, you know it! Great.
Interview by Robin Stryker
Two years after releasing their debut album “Reversing Time”, Greek/Turkish progressive symphonic melodic metal band, Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki’s Neverland, returns with its second album “Ophidia” (AFM Records 2010). Femme Metal sat down with Greek female vocalist, Iris Mavraki to get the inside story on the band and its new album.
Welcome, Iris, and thank you for joining us today! Would you start off by telling us why you joined forced with the Turkish band, Dreamtone, to form Neverland? What was it about Dreamtone’s music that caught your attention?
First of all, hello Robin; it’s a pleasure to be with you! Well…. A few years ago, my son Orpheus Spiliotopoulos, who was at that time reviewing for the Greek site MetalTemple.com, suggested I listen to a CD entitled “Unforseen Reflections” by a band called Dreamtone. I was immediately, tremendously impressed by the power of their compositions and the symphonic elements in their music. Then I found out that they are from Turkey; a nice surprise to me as I was then also singing with the Turkish Symphony Orchestra, so I suggested we get in touch. There was something in their music, something really different.
Neverland was born as a project to combine metal with a symphony orchestra for live performances. At what point did Neverland mature from a concert project into a full-fledged band?
That didn’t take long really! As I mentioned above, that’s how it started in my mind for sure, the metal band working with an orchestra and being about the live performance. It was certainly our first idea for it, but we quickly realised that there was so much more interesting material and potential that could be shared, and that it had to be right to start a new band recording our own music! We decided to unite forces and become Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki’s Neverland, and we’ve never looked back!
For someone who has never heard “Ophidia”, how would you describe the album’s sound? And, for fans of “Reversing Time”, what are the biggest differences between the two albums?
I think “Ophidia” has the more powerful sound of the two but it also combines, in some parts, an Anatolian, Mediterranean, spicy touch, Medieval parts, symphonic parts and bombastic melody too. I think it goes further than the first one! “Reversing Time” was maybe more symphonic; we had The Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra play on it, but both albums ultimately have the identity of Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki’s Neverland because they’re written with all the musical styles present.
Which bands have influenced Neverland’s sound the most?
Hard to say as I think each and every one of us have different influences. But, if asked specifically, I would say: Blind Guardian, Jon Oliva’s Pain and many others!
What does “Ophidia” mean, and does the title play into the album’s overall theme?
Well, “Ophidia” basically tells the story of how the evil inside every one of us slowly corrupts anything and everything. Our title track is basically a semi-electronic, semi symphonic, mid tempo piece with its subtle change of pace as well as some nice guitar tricks. The song covers the theme from the perspective of “evil” as having a tongue and speaking. The song presents evil as a “snake”, slowly crawling inside our minds. “Ophidia” means worshipping the snake or following the path of the snake. Since humans almost always lie, the song suggests that we are all Ophidians… In the album, there are a lot of different meanings in the songs as well though, I don’t think we had a total concept of “Ophidia”, but just tried to represent just a few of them.
Please tell us a bit about your musical training and background. Also, who are your personal musical heroes?
Well, I studied classical piano and had singing lessons at the National Conservatoire And Hellenic Conservatoire of Greece in Rhodes. I was a member of the Municipal Choir of Rhodes for about 10 years, and a member of an amateur theatrical group there. I have been singing alone and with bands for many years and with Symphony Orchestras from Turkey and elsewhere, at numerous concerts for the “environment”, “against racism”, “antiwar concerts”, “for human rights”, etc. I had many different influences, starting with: Joan Baez, Maria Callas, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Leonard Cohen, Blind Guardian, East West Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim, plus Mikis Theodorakis who you might know? I was very lucky back in the 80’s to have had an audition with David Gilmour (Pink Floyd). I think that all these years of experimenting with many kinds of musical styles and in several different languages, have given me a wide range of repertoire and experience.
With your background participating in human rights concerts and given the historic tension between Turkey and Greece, how important are politics to Neverland?
It’s not really about this, but there is some aspect of it to think about I suppose! If you think about it, our countries have had bad relations for many years and are slowly recovering from these wounds of the past, so it is important that we help promote such a conscience, especially in the young. To build a cultural bridge through music is the best way to spread messages of hope and peace, as music is a universal language, no? “Politics” in the narrow sense of the word, is for Politicians. I think, for us, it’s a matter of keeping eyes open helping people to be more aware of things. We, as people from Greece and Turkey, have far more to share than those who try to divide us can take away! We share the same sun, and that means “light”. It’s politicians that create the problems, not us!
The new album has fantastic guest appearances by metal vocalists Jon Oliva (Savatage, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Jon Oliva’s Pain), Edu Falschi (Angra, Almah) and Urban Breed (Pyramaze, ex-Bloodbound, Tad Morose). How did these collaborations come about?
Oganalp and our band members contacted all of them and asked them if they would accept an invitation to be our guests basically, and it’s so wonderful that they all accepted. It’s really wonderful having people like this on our new album. It’s humbling!
Neverland will be touring Europe with Jon Oliva’s Pain in October. Is the tour a direct result of his guest vocals on “Ophidia”?
We were planning to go on tour anyway, but, I think Jon’s appearance on our album definitely played a role. I think the general reaction to the album from the fans is also so great that that plays its role too and is the main reason for us being accepted on the tour.
One of the most touching songs on the new album is “Places Unknown”, a farewell to Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) who passed away in 2008. During the upcoming tour, will Neverland perform “Places Unknown” or “Reversing Time” (feat. Mike Baker) — the title track from Neverland’s debut album, which was also Mike’s last official release before his death — or are emotions still too raw to sing these songs during a live performance?
Emotions are, of course, still present and raw. It was such a shock for us, and especially for the Dreamtone guys, who were in touch with Mike for a long time. But the fact that he sang “Reversing Time” and that this was his last song recorded; you know the lyrics of the song? Well, it seemed to me, very strange. There are sometimes things you simply just can’t explain in words and that is one of them, sorry! Yes, we will be playing these two songs, definitely! May Mike rest in peace and in our memories.
Speaking of tours, how was ProgPower Europe 2009? What is your best memory from the festival?
It was a terrific experience; bands from different countries, a fantastic audience that came just for the Festival. It was amazing. I was impressed by Evergrey’s acoustic performanc. We had lots of fun and good memories. We hope to be there soon, once again. Promoters, audience and bands were all awesome and very friendly to us!
Congratulations on the video premier of “This Voice Inside” on Headbangers Ball (MTV Greece)! Why did Neverland pick this song as the album’s first music video?
Well, “This Voice Inside” is about the main character of “The Wheel of Time” series, Rand Al’Thor, one of the main characters of the book. It mainly tells of Rand’s unwilling turn into an anti-hero, whilst constantly trying to battle with the voices inside his head. It’s a powerful song. You’re right. It had its premier on Headbangers Ball (MTV Greece)! In fact, they will be presenting it again, as we have a concert in Rhodes at the Colorado Club (Rhodes) on June 10th. We picked the song because it was powerful, of course, but also because it somehow defines the album’s sound. There are more complex and alternative tracks than that one, but it shows generally, what to expect from the album!
Which is your favourite Neverland song of all time, and why do you feel a strong connection to the song?
Mine is actually “Black Water”, off “Reversing Time”. It talks about, black water; oil, or more specifically petrol and reminds us of the eternal fight humans seem to need to have to keep control over it. It is a lovely song also, from the pure musical side!
If you could design the perfect Neverland gig, what would it be like (venue, guest appearances, etc.)?
I would love to do this! First of all, I would design it with a Symphony Orchestra, of course, live with Neverland. I would have all our guests appear also, in memory of Mike Baker. I’d do two big concerts. One in Athens and one in Istanbul. And I would give this the title, “Connecting Bridges”!
How is 2010 shaping up for Neverland?
So far, it looks very exciting. In Rhodes, the concert is organized by the Road Knights, the MCC of Rhodes (The Harley Davidson Club of Rhodes) and my son Orpheus will present “Ophidia” and us. Orpheus presents Headbangers Ball (MTV Greece) now and is also writing for Rock Hard (Greece) and they will be our Media Sponsors. Then we’re preparing for our European tour with Jon Oliva. It will be great. There are many shows booked, and we will visit several countries. I believe we’ve just added two more gigs, one in the Czech Republic and one more leg in Germany? It will be a great experience,w e will have a real chance to connect with our European listeners, and I’m so looking forward to it. 2010 is probably going to be our most active year to date.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Iris. Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal?
I thank you also, it was a pleasure to speak to you. Thank you for some really good questions. I send our greetings from this part of world and hope to perform somewhere close to you soon, hopefully in the UK? Keep listening and supporting Metal Music; it’s a good way of life and it rocks!
Interview by Robin Stryker
Illuminata is a new band from Graz, Austria with two multi-talented female singers, Katarzyna Nieniewska and Lisa Tomantschger. Illuminata’s three-song EP, “A Frame of Beauty”, has a lushly symphonic sound with the added beauty of passages featuring the piano, guitar and flute. Read on to learn more about this exciting new band.
Hello, Katarzyna and Lisa! We’re glad you could join us today. Would you tell us a little about Illuminata’s history and how you became involved with the band?
Well, the band was founded in 2006 by Luki, who played bass then and Dave. The guitarist of their former band joined and, as they had a pretty clear concept in mind, they auditioned two female singers and a keyboarder. The current line-up exists for about half a year now. We’ve released three records: the two EPs “Lachrymal” and “A Frame of Beauty” and one full length album “From the Chalice of Dreams”.We have played concerts together with Elis and Grossstadtgeflüster and are currently looking forward to performing our first festival. That’s Illuminata in a nutshell.
Katarzyna: After a long, tiring and unfortunately fruitless search for a band that would suit my style and ambition, I almost reached the point at which I wanted to abandon the thought of being in music altogether. At exactly that moment, I came across Illuminata’s ad and it instantly clicked.
Lisa: Since Illuminata’s search for a new singer was quite active, they rather found me than the other way round. One day they contacted me via a social network website and we arranged a meeting where Katarzyna and I noticed that we had already seen each other at university (and an exam we both failed). We instantly got on well and that’s pretty much how I became a member of Illuminata.
Who are the other members of Illuminata?
Besides us (the singers), the band consists of Lukas Knöbl on guitar, Dave Slut on drums, Chris Vide on Bass and, for the moment, Sabrina Supan on keyboards.
I was sorry to read that your keyboardist, Sabrina, is moving to Germany. How is the search for a new keyboardist coming?
As said above Sabrina will, for the time being, remain with us as a guest musician so we can be on stage until we find a replacement. So far, we cannot say anything definite about a new keyboarder. We don’t want to rush this decision as we are not just looking for some hands to play the keys but for a proper new member of Illuminata; so character is very important to us.
What does the name Illuminata mean?
Our name means, translated from Latin, “the illuminated one”. In essence it expresses what we are trying to do, to illuminate people with our music. The female form underlines the influence female musicians and especially we singers have on the whole concept of Illuminata and it also fits to our ideal of the band as a unit.
How would you describe the music on “A Frame of Beauty”?
Although the songs are a bit slower than on the previous album we think they are much more powerful and focused. We are always trying to push our boundaries so it’s got a lot of progressive elements in it, yet it is packed with emotion and passion. It simply is Illuminata.
Which bands influenced your sound the most?
We guess that all our favourite bands have influenced the way every single member contributes to the sound. The general style of our sound is however inspired by classical composers like Wagner on one hand but also modern composers like Hans Zimmer on the other.
The third song on the EP is an acoustic track in Polish called, “Czlowiek bez twarzy”. What is the song about?
Katarzyna: The English title would be “Man Without a Face”. This character in the song is afraid to show his true self, not recognising that he in fact hurts himself and others by always trying to manipulate in order to avoid being hurt. He represents that paradox in human character in general.
In 2008, Illuminata released its full-length debut, “From the Chalice of Dreams“. Why was “A Frame of Beauty” released as a three-song EP?
One reason was our technical resources improved a lot at the time compared to “From The Chalice Of Dreams” so we could create orchestration as it sounds on “A Frame of Beauty”. However, it took us quite a lot of time to get confident with these new possibilities. As we really wanted to improve in terms of sound with this release, we decided to concentrate on fewer songs in order to do them properly. After all, it took the band and our tireless Master of Sound, Mister Mac, almost a year to finish that record. It wouldn’t have been possible to do a quality full-length album straight away. Another reason was that, for the first time, we did not copy the record ourselves. So we wouldn’t have been able to realise anything other than the EP financial-wise without the quality suffering.
Of all the songs recorded by Illuminata, which is your favourite and why?
Katarzyna: It’s a difficult choice, but one of my favourites is definitely “Czlowiek bez twarzy”. The song is based on personal experiences, so it has a great emotional intensity for me.
Lisa: I like “Arnediad Lôr” from the “From The Chalice Of Dreams” album best. Maybe because the song was written before I joined the band and, as we have so much new material already, I don’t have to practice it as often as our new songs which means I’m not sick and tired of it yet Just kidding… I like it because it’s a really powerful song, it has a very catchy melody and for me it creates a very special atmosphere.
You have both been involved with music since you were small children. Would you tell us about your musical backgrounds and training?
Katarzyna: Ever since I was a little girl, my family sang a lot at home. At school I sang in choirs and later performed in a musical. During High School I started taking vocal lessons in popular as well as classical singing. Presently I am improving my technique further with a speech-level-singing instructor.
Lisa: When I was young I experimented with a lot of different instruments like the violin, flute, drums, guitar and piano. I have always been singing in addition to that and finally settled for it. I’ve received professional lessons in classical singing for three years now and an additional five years of training in popular singing. Like Katarzyna I’m currently broadening my horizon with speech-level-singing.
When did you first become interested in metal?
Katarzyna: At the age of 19 which is in fact quite late, I suppose.
Lisa: I think it started at the age of 13. I had braces and a lot of pimples then, so I guess it helped me a lot. I could release a lot of anger and frustration by listening to metal.
What percentage of your music is driven by passion versus technique versus inspiration?
Katarzyna: Technique is a prerequisite of for making quality music but for me passion is even more essential. In my opinion passion is a means for transporting emotions. It’s that certain spark that makes music genuine. Inspiration plays a major role in the writing of music. In general these three components have to add up to at least 100%.
Lisa: In my opinion all three factors are equal and it depends on mood and condition; we compose them differently every day but in the end they always amount to 100%.
How has the audience response been to Illuminata’s live performances?
Usually the reaction ranged from “Hell, yeah!!!” to “Show us your tits!!!” . No, seriously, so far we’ve never received a single negative response to our performance. Of course, people sometimes compare us to bands they think are similar, after all the concept of female fronted metal with classical elements is not exactly new. But overall we think people appreciate the “I haven’t heard anything like this before” experience we provide.
What are the biggest challenges for a new band like Illuminata? Is metal considered underground music in Austria, or has it entered the mainstream?
It is very difficult to be recognised when you are a young band nowadays. You literally need to grope for all the presence you can get which is often quite tiresome and difficult financial-wise. At the moment we finance everything we do from our own pockets. As a band we actually pay equipment, transport, merchandise and new releases quite through our nose. Another challenge is, of course, the search for gigs which often results in “You can play concerts when you’ve got a name but you can’t get a name without playing concerts”. Another challenge for new bands is the establishing of a network. We found that especially for a new band it is vitally important to have as many connections as possible. It might not sound romantic but often it matters who you know rather than who you are. However, we think the most important challenge is not to be caught up in all those “problems” and not to forget the music over them. We always wanted our music to determine who we are as a band and we will stick to that. Although metal is a quite established scene, not only in Austria, we think that the flair of underground is in a way essential to metal. It will always be something different or more extreme no matter how many people like it. As for ourselves, we think that in this respect we are pretty much underground of the underground. There are not many Austrian bands that are in a similar vein, though we have many, many young metal bands. Oh, well at least that way no one can accuse us of running with the pack .
If you could go back in time, what would you change and what would you leave the same?
We wouldn’t change anything. We think that every phase we went through with this band was a phase of development towards our current level.
What can we expect from Illuminata in 2010?
One thing we can confirm is that we’ve just been invited to perform at the Newcomer Stage of this year’s Metalcamp Festival. So you can definitely expect an overwhelming show there. In general we will be playing more gigs this year than ever before, just check our websites for dates. Furthermore, we are looking forward to release our second long-player “A World So Cold” (that’s actually the first time we reveal the title to anyone) this year which is doubtlessly going to be the biggest thing we’ve ever done in terms of both sound and writing. Currently we are working on the last details within the songs and we will kick off the recording as soon as possible. Again do check our blogs and websites for updates.
Thank you both for taking the time to chat with us today. Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal?
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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