Interview by Ed MacLaren
In the European metal scene, Liv Kristine is an icon. From her years with the seminal gothic metal band Theatre of Tragedy to her current success with Leaves’ Eyes, she is the archetype to which all female metal singers are compared and measured against. With their fourth full-length album, “Meredead”, Leaves’ Eyes have created their magnum opus – a brilliant fusion of music, melody, rhythm and language that transcends categorization and redefines the definition of metal. After finishing a spring tour with Midnattsol and Tarja, Liv took some time to talk with Femme Metal about her creative process and the creation of “Meredead”.Since our last interview for your solo album, “Skintight”, you’ve returned once again with your fourth Leaves’ Eyes album – the brilliant “Meredead”. Could you actually get any busier without having to clone yourself? (Laughs) True, we’ve been very busy the last six years! However, I was born with a hyperactive artistic mind, so being creative – composing, writing lyrics, recording and performing – is something I really enjoy doing. It’s all a part of me and experience has made me become the person and artist I am. Concerning our latest production, we needed about one and a half years for the complete production of “Meredead”, which is only possible because we do have our own studio – Mastersound Studio. The composing process went overwhelmingly fast. It was one great pleasure writing and recording the album together with Thorsten and Alex. We actually just arrived back from tour, and I’m now looking forward to further shows and tours. In April we toured with my sister Carmen‘s band Midnattsol, and then in May we joined Tarja. Wow! Both tours were full of magic moments when the ladies got together! Busy, for sure, but very happy!
“Meredead” sounds fantastic – a full, rich musical experience from beginning to end. It has everything fans love about the band but expands the Leaves’ Eyes sound in some interesting ways. With each album your music becomes more progressively intricate and layered – complex and elaborate. Was “Meredead” a deliberate direction or an organic outgrowth of the writing and recording process?
I’d say it was an organic outgrowth of the process. We just started composing with an open mind. “Meredead” is our fourth album, and in my opinion there is no need to reduce ourselves to a certain style. The artistic development is the basic energy for the survival of an artist, and art as such. The press, fans and friends say that “Meredead” is “the most diverse, emotional and best-sounding production” by Leaves’ Eyes so far, moreover, “Leaves’ Eyes have created their own genre”. Believe me, this warms my heart! We never go with the commercial flow; we only go with the creative flow of the band! I prefer not to force Leaves’ Eyes into a specific already settled musical genre. I would rather say that Leaves’ Eyes’ music combines elements of gothic metal, classical music, folk music, with history and mythology.
True, Alexander, Thorsten and I are the songwriting and production team. Most of the time, music comes first, then vocal lines and words and then we work even more on the instruments until the three of us have a good feeling about it. Thorsten is our main composer, whereas words, concept and vocal lines are my area. Alexander is our producer meaning he’s the person in the band that gets only half of the sleep compared to Thorsten and myself. There is always a strict deadline, there a tons of different instruments in our music to take care of in the mix. Everything is recorded live in our studio except for the Lingua Mortis Orchestra from Minsk. Moreover, Alex is a perfectionist. I am really happy my husband didn’t suffer from a heart-attack yet – he’s incredible! Seeing that “Skintight” was such a departure from your band material, did it take you and the guys some time to switch gears and get into a Leaves’ Eyes groove for recording the new album? No, not at all. We compose and record in two different recording rooms. However, normally there is only one production going on at the time. Anyway, the mental “switch” is no problem at all. After all these years, doing everything by ourselves, there are enough reasons to call us professionals. I know very well that I’m surrounded by first-class musicians. You’ve also added some new members since “Njord”. How are their contributions adding to the core trio? The feeling within the band and between the band members has never ever been as positive, strong and inspiring as it is now since the latest line-up changes. That’s utterly important for the existence and the creativity of the band. I am so, so proud of my guys! It’s such a pleasure composing, recording and touring with them. We already knew Sander van der Meer and Roland Navratil for a long time before they joined the band. Sander replaced Matze on guitars, who quit because of family growth, whereas Roland replaced Chris Antonopoulus, who had different plans for his future. J.B. is our session player on bass, joining in after Alla Fedynitsch decided to pay more attention to her 9 to 5 job. After joining in, Sander and Roland were immediately members of the Leaves’ Eyes family. They travel from Holland and Austria to stay and work at Mastersound Studio as often as possible. We often hang out at my house after work, as I love cooking spicy Indian food and baking my special “Norwegian” cakes, moreover, sharing some bottles of wine.
“Meredead” integrates much more folk elements and melodies than previous albums. The pipes, fiddles, flutes – the more diverse instrumentation on “Meredead” really expands your musical palette.
For the production of “Meredead” it was highly important to us that each song had its own “face”, individuality and perfect, crystal clear sound to strengthen the emotional effect. We just let the music inspire us to add new and interesting “spices” to our music, like pipes, the nyckelharpa – a Swedish folk instrument – the fiddle, cello, classical orchestra or the flute. That’s what makes the album that diverse and exciting as you discover a different story, different instrumental combinations, different ways of singing even in various languages in each song. “Meredead” or “deadly sea” is the underlying theme of the album. How does that concept of death by water thread through the songs on the album? It’s an interesting contrast as water is also looked at as a giver of life.
The title is my own word-creation: To my grammatical knowledge, “Meredead” could mean ‘dead by the sea’, ‘or the deadly sea’. Poetically, we could add some imagination and lyrical sound and say “Sea of Death”. Secondly, the word “Meredead” sums up some of the themes rooted in my lyrics on the album. I grew up by the fjords, and I sense pure luck every time I return to my birth-place. Yes, you are so right, water is the giver of life. Again you find a whole palette of contrasts in our music, which has always been a feature for both Leaves’ Eyes and Theatre of Tragedy, my ex-band, that actually founded the “beauty and the beast” concept in metal back in 1995. Your lyrics generally look to the epic history of Norse literature and mythology for inspiration but on “Meredead” you’ve gravitated towards other cultures for inspiration. What was the genesis of that expanded outlook? I just let the music itself inspire me. If I chose a theme from Nordic mythology, I would include Norwegian lyrics. It was very intimate to sing in my mother tongue Norwegian, it makes the lyrics even more emotional and personal. Singing in Old-English meant digging my nose in my Old-English grammar books once again, however, I am very interested in historical languages, which I also studied. I think that Old-English has a very special “sound” phonetically. You’ll find Froeya, three-headed trolls, vampires, ghosts, witches, Vikings travelling on sea, Viking ladies mourning and of course many images from the Norwegian harsh weather and wild nature landscapes. I guess there is some homesickness towards Norway in my lyrics actually, it’s more than obvious that I miss my home country.
You’ve also expanding your use of language on “Meredead”. You obviously spend a long time working on your lyrics and the meaning and symbolism of the songs. Given your affinity for language are you taking the opportunity to experiment with phonetics to provide a different listening experience?
Yes, phonetics is a great help for me. I studied Old-English, Gothic, Middle-High German, phonetics, phonology, language acquisition, next to Modern English and Modern German at the university in Stavanger, Norway, and then following up at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. Sometimes I use lyrics existing only in the form of a phonetic string of sounds. Such a phonetic sequence has an important meaning: it conveys an emotional state provoked by that particular sound of my singing. My acoustic aim is not the words and a certain thematic content; it is the sound and the emotional effect of it in the listening experience.
What a wonderful idea! This would be fantastic! Let’s hope the universe hears this! I would love to do it. I have seen Elfenthal‘s “The Blue Elf’s Dream” and I am stunned. What an amazing show. Maite Itoiz and John Kelly are outstanding composers, musicians and performers. You’ve had much ongoing success in music appearing in two big bands – first Theatre of Tragedy and now Leaves’ Eyes. Does success with Leaves’ Eyes feel any different than what you achieved with Theatre of Tragedy? I always wanted to become a singer. Singing is a part of my nature. When I was little, I thought everybody was able to understand music and control their vocal chords. The fact that my parents were interested in music – listening to it – plays an important role: I grew up with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Edvard Grieg and Tschaikowsky, and female singers like Enya, Madonna, Kate Bush, Abba, Tori Amos and Monserrat Caballe. From the very beginning, I’ve followed my musical instinct: I wanted to combine a romantic, female, angelic voice with powerful, impressive music. Then suddenly, when I was 18 years old, I found myself in the middle of writing music history with Theatre of Tragedy, being one of the founders of “gothic metal with female voices” and “the beauty and the beast concept”! I am first of all grateful to our fans and friends all over the world, who have been there for me throughout all these years! This feeling has remained the same – my gratefulness towards my fans. Being thrown out of Theatre of Tragedy was perhaps bad luck; however, sometimes bad luck leads to good luck. Today I have Leaves’ Eyes; it’s like having a family, next to my own family. For me two dreams have come true: I am a full-time singer, and I am a mother. How do you manage such a busy career as well as being a parent? Do you have any advice for women in the business that are hoping to have children one day and still pursue a music career? You need a good plan in your daily life, you need your own studio not far away from your home, moreover, a family who is there for you. My plan is strict however, and effective: when I work I am working my ass off; when my family is around and needs me, I am only there for my family, keeping our rituals. In between work and family I do a lot of sports, sauna and yoga, which is my way to recharge my battery if necessary. And then, from the business point of view, find the right people to support you, honest people. And speak out if you have an opinion. Money can be such an evil means to make you forget about your inner voice.
You’ve recently finished a tour with Midnattsol and Tarja. When do you hit the road again and where will your travels take you? We do have a few festivals this summer, then hopefully a North American and an Asian tour, including India. Your music is reaching more and more people internationally – you even toured India recently. How are you enjoying your progression towards becoming a truly global band? There is this special feeling that gives me the energy and the inspiration to travel the world – I get caught up in every moment that I am able to share with my audience. Every performance is one process of giving, and receiving, I call it “exchange of positive energy” between the band and the audience. I really have to say that we do have fantastic fans. I am looking so much forward to every gig, and to meet our fans after the show! (Famous) Last words?
Give a little bit love, and you’ll get it back. My mother taught me that. Thank you, mother.
Photos by Stefan Heilemann
Interview by Ary R.
Cadaveria is one of the most famous Italian black metal bands ever. A new album will be released soon and I had the chance to exchange some words with the resolute frontwoman, Cadaveria, who has explained in short what Cadaveria means in the “horror metal” music scene and what’s music for her.
Hi Cadaveria, welcome to Femme Metal.net. How are you? You’ll release your new album this year and it’s called “Horror Metal”, it will be released via Baker Team. Would you like to reveal something about it?
Our new album entitled “Horror Metal” is already in stores, since January 31st 2012. We are really excited about it as we are very satisfied of how we worked and about the final result. Fans and critics seem to have the same opinion. All the tracks have been written with our new guitar player Dick Laurent. I can say this new entry brought new energy in the band and let us approach to Horror Metal songwriting with a great enthusiasm, as it was our debut album. This feeling can be perceived in the sound, that has been renewed, without distorting its nature. This is surely the most obscure, sick and complete album Cadaveria has even released.
Cadaveria is an italian black metal band, founded in 2001 and you come from a reality that was previously formed by Opera IX. Would you like to give us, shortly, a little biography of the band, for those people who still haven’t listened to your music?
When me and Marçelo Santos (aka Flegias) decided to start a journey into the Metal music it was 1990. After some clumsy hardcore efforts, we entered Opera IX, bringing the female growling voice to the metal scene’s attention. In that period just Sabina Classen from Holy Moses was known in the scene. In 2001 we split up from Opera IX and decided to found a new band, ‘cause we felt we had more different ideas to propose in this musical circle and wanted to unbound ourselves from the stereotypes of the genre we had played with our previous band. From that day on we have ever been in creative ferment and full of new initiatives. Even if in ten years we released only four albums, we think to have done our best and now we can look at our past albums with no regrets. We have got great satisfactions from the gigs we played abroad, in Europe and Central America, and from the fact the number of our fans is still growing day by day.
As I’ve said, this year your new album will be released for Baker Team. I know that, previously, you had a record deal with Scarlet Records and right after with Season of Mist, that have released your previous album, “In Your Blood” (2007). How was born the collaboration with this label?
When we recorded our debut album “The Shadow’s Madame” Scarlet Records showed an immediate interest towards Cadaveria band. With them the cooperation continued also for the second full length. When we were going to release our third album “In Your Blood”, we had a look around, to see if we could embrace a larger market and reaching more fans with a foreign and well structured label. Season of Mist answered it was interested in producing the album. It seemed a good idea, also ‘cause this label has a division in the US. But being a larger label it was less interested in a specific and targeted promotion. For this reason, with our fourth album “Horror Metal”, we decided to come back to Scarlet’s home, that in the meanwhile had created Bakerteam, a division of the main label, more focused on out style. Now we feel at home, we work with our friends and all is more simple. With renewed spurs we are now working better and all of us is doing his best to promote this new release.
Your style is coined as “horror metal”. Could you please explain who had the idea to stick this name to the sound of the band and above everything, the reason why about it?
To be honest I don’t remember exactly who used this definition for the first time to describe our sound, maybe Scarlet Records itself in the period of our debut album release… Anyway, what is sure is that, since then, all fans and critics started using this term to identify Cadaveria style. We liked this, ‘cause finally horror metal doesn’t mean anything specific, ad we love not to be classified and restricted inside a specific genre. If you listen to a Cadaveria album you can find many influences: from the first Black Sabbath to the most recent Tool, passing through Celtic Frost and Death. You know, every label is too tight for this, while a vague term like horror metal is perfect to play our game. Finally with this last album we have played with the word “Horror”: many lyrics have been inspired by horror movies, as well as the band pictures… and the atmospheres you can perceive in these eleven new tracks are surely dark, sick and horror-oriented! So, nothing better than Horror Metal to come back on the scenes after five years!
Cadaveria is surely one of the few italian black metal bands that became famous in a quite extreme and perhaps little-known music scene in Italy. How was the idea of creating a band that has your own name born?
Well, when we went and play abroad with Opera IX, fans welcomed us shouting “Cadaveria, Cadaveria…”. After the split for me and Flegias was simple and natural to use my nickname for the band. This created a sort of continuation, as the singer is always the same. For us it was important to be recognized by fans and that fans knew which were our origins.
You are a very curious band, since all members have the name of a “bad guy” or a movie title by David Lynch. Who started the idea of having an “alter ego” for the band? Especially, how the choice of various “nicknames” was born?
Also in this case we didn’t think about this so much. We are great fans of David Lynch and we love his movies. The ‘bad men’ of his movies have spine and are more interesting than good characters. They remain in your mind as Lynch is used to create a sort of caricature for bad guys. Our music genres is, for definition, bad, disturbed and sometimes abstract, exactly like Lynch’s movies. On stage, as well as on the cinema set, who is under spotlights is an artist and, as artists, we love to play with our image, we like transforming it and we like to be theatrical. So we used Lynch’s bad guy names as the role performed by an actor. Each Cadaveria band member chose the name according to his taste and considering the temperamental affinities with the movie character.
Ok, let’s go back to the album. I’ve got a little chance to listen to it and I was under the impression of having seen some references to atmospheric gothic metal, thrash metal, death metal and especially black metal; in short, there is a bit of everything. How did you decide to try all these styles on a unique album?
Well I have already explained this mix of genres, while I was talking about the term horror metal. This mix can be found in all our albums. Probably this time it is more tangible and evident.
You are known for your image, for being a resolute and powerful woman, but also for your kind of singing that is sometimes more melodic and sometimes it becomes “growl” and aggressive. How do you balance everything? How do you train your own voice?
When I started shouting on the microphone it was just a dirt and rotten growl. Along these twenty years I experimented new vocal solutions, shifting my limits, in order to use and mix the clean vocals and the growl in a more harmonious way, sometimes adding a third way, that is the screaming, a sort of middle stage between growl and clean (or, if you prefer, a more feminine growl sang doing a melody), that is more theatrical and emotional. In all these cases I’m in continuous studying and development. The balance is a question of mind, this duplicity reflects my way of being. My mind tells my body how to emit the voice.
I should admit that this album is very chameleon: there’s a lot of different genres, a very good production behind it, a good mixing, all elements that differ themselves to the previous albums, like “Far Away From Comformity” and “In Your Blood”. How the production of the album has been and especially how was the album born?
Yes, the composition process for this album was a bit different from the ones used fot the previous CDs. Dick Laurent, Marçelo Santos and I composed the most part of the songs. The following phase took place in the recording studios, where Frank Booth developed all the arrangements. We dedicated a lot of time to the production, with Killer Bob at the mixer, in order to create that powerful and rough sound you can listen in “Horror Metal”. All this requested hard work and long time, but we were not in a hurry and our final goal was to go near perfection.
If you could introduce the record with your own words, which words would you use to present it to the fans or to the press?
The most obscure and powerful album even released by the shadows’ madame!
What kind of meaning does this record have for you? What is it for you?
It is the umpteenth birth and like all child birth is the result of efforts and sacrifices, but finally the product gives you a great satisfaction and the memory of the efforts disappears. The more the result is good, the most satisfaction is amplified.
How do you think will it be the reaction of the fans for this new record? Do you think it will be appreciated?
The vast majority of the reactions are extremely positive, and this let us understand we worked the right way. Sure, the detractors are always under the corner, especially if there is a girl singing, but we are accustomed to this and, above all, without rumors you would not be nobody.
Have you already scheduled a European tour or something “big” right after the release of the album?
No, by now we are just doing some live shows and festivals in Italy. Foreign offers are arriving, but it is early to advertise them. We will spread them through our Facebook page and on our website as soon as all will be defined.
This was my last question. Thanks so much for your time. Would you like to tell something to Cadaveria fans and to our readers?
Thanks a lot for the space you dedicated to us. I would like to invite all readers to check out our new album “Horror Metal”. If you cannot find it in the music stores of your city, you can get it online, directly from our website.
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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