Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
Since the bio on the Midnattsol website (www.midnattsol.com) is writen in German, can you tell us something about the band?
Everything started some years ago, in 2002, when I moved from my hometown Norway to Germany because of different reasons, e.g. my longing for my sister and for learning more about the German culture and language. I was at a new stage in life, wanted to bring the little melodies keep circling around in my head to grow up to real songs by instruments as well. The coincidence was that I told my friends and family about my wishes for founding a band, about the same time Chris H. told about his wishes for founding a band too. So thanks to nice friends, we met in a metal-disco in the nearby of Stuttgart and talked about our plans and wishes. And luckily, we had some of the same ideas. From that point on, things went very fast. Chris talked with some of the earlier members of their Ex-Band Penetralia, Chris M. and Daniel F., and they were curious about finding out what this was. Chris contacted Birgit and we saw that we functions well together as a band, and with this formation we started to make some songs. The writing process went very fast, it was like the ideas popped out of us, it was a great time. But it didn`t stop there, it was only the beginning: in a very short time we made a demo, Daniel D. became a member of the band, we got a record deal with Napalm Records and then it just went up the hill, hehe.
About how you describe your music: what are the differences between the ‘Nordic Folk Metal’ you make and all the other folk metal bands like Korpiklaani, Battlelore and Cruachan?
Cool questions! And great bands indeed! I think that the main difference lays on the main focus; after my opinion Midnattsol has its main focus on metal with folk elements, while the other bands have the main focus on folk, which means that our music is quite heavy and dark. They use real folk instruments as well, which make a big difference for the sound, while the folk elements in our music mainly appears in the melodies, in our concept and in the lyrics. We also stress the word Nordic folk metal and use Norwegian titles and lyrics. So I think that are the main differences, but of course, that is only my opinion.
What made you decide to become a singer? And, who are your big influences?
It is difficult to say why I started with it, but I think I can say that it is my love for music and the great thing by coping with my thoughts and experiences. I use the writing and the lyrics for dealing with all these things, it gives me so much. I started as a little child singing, writing lyrics and stories and making songs, so I sang and made music almost my whole life, but not in a professional way. When I became a teenager I slowly started to get the feeling of founding my own band and when I was 18 I felt ready for it. But I have to say that my aim was never to be a famous singer, earning a lot of money or getting much attention. I work over 100% as a teacher, what I absolutely love, I have two studies, so I don’t try to live from the music, even if I had the chance, I can`t stand the thought of letting money decide which kind of music and lyrics I should make and write, how I should sing, how I should dress, I want to do my thing, just as Midnattsol as a band want. Big musical influences are Anathema, Amorphis, Dead Can Dance, Paradise Lost and Norwegian folk music.
You are Liv Kristine‘s sister. She is very famous in the Gothic scene for her work in Theatre of Tragedy, Atrocity, her own band Leaves’ Eyes and numerous guest apperances. Like on Cradle of Filth’s “Nymphetamine”. Does that make things more difficult for you? People will always compare you with your sister?
I would have lied if I said that I never would have thought about it, in the beginning I got totally shocked, everywhere you can read about the comparison between us. In the beginning I felt a bit sad as well, because people didn’t see me as the person I was, only as a sister and I thought that people wouldn’t take me and Midnattsol serious for what we really are. But luckily, I saw after I while that it has much more positive effect than negative. My sister is well known in this business and is touring a lot, so through her a lot of people got to know about us, with other words, for the promotion it opened many doors. And of course, it is positive to have the connections, through her I have since I was a teenager the chance to meet great people in the music business. So I think all in all you can say that it was much more positive than negative for Midnattsol. On the other hand, we hadn’t come where we are now, if we wouldn’t work hard every day, burning for what we are doing and having that quality of the music, lyrics, artwork and so on. It is so difficult to get a good record deal today, it is definitely not enough just to have the same last name as a well-known person, it is the whole package that you have to deliver. Additionally I have to say that I have grown a lot since then and I seldom read what people write about me. I think positive and try to enjoy life as good as possible and I am proud to have such a lovely sister!
Can you tell something about the other members of Midnattsol?
Yes, love to, Daniel D., who plays the guitar, acoustic guitar and also sang on our bonus track October is just exploding of great music ideas and melodies, I love to sit together with him and do some improvisations for new songs. He is also taking care of the organization of transport when we are on the road. Daniel F. is our keyboarder and at the same time he is taking care of the organization of our homepage and myspace. He always wants to try different things out and has a lot of creative ideas; Christian H. is playing the guitar and acoustic guitar and mouth harmonica and is also doing a lot of managing and is taking care of the financial stuff in the band, he knows the music business very well and has good connections. Chris M. is playing the drums and knows a lot about graphic design and does a lot of planning and organization of the concerts and the merchandise. Birgit plays the bass and acoustic bass and is helping Chris with the concerts and me with some interviews.
The lyrics of your last album “Where Twilight Dwells” are partly written in English and partly in your own language. Can you tell us what made you decide to do this?
I have to say that my feelings of the individual songs play an important role for the chosen language, and as on the debut, the languages I sing in is English and Norwegian. I can’t really describe why I do it, it is like you indicate just a feeling that I get when I write a text for a certain song. It comes some text lines in my head and then I often can’t change it, I just have to continue. It has a lot do with intuition, it has to fit with the atmosphere. When I sing in Norwegian, it is very personal for me, it is more close because it is my mother tongue. I also sometimes combine it with songs with folk elements, it fits well together, like perhaps “En Natt I Nord”. It wouldn’t give the same feeling in another language. But at the same time Norwegian is very difficult to sing, and English gives me more opportunities to experiments with words, because English has enormously more words than Norwegian.
Can you tell us how you get the inspiration for a song?
My main inspiration is the mystic and wonderful Nordic nature and the nature creatures in the Norwegian tales. In this clean untouched nature I feel real, I feel alive, I feel that everything flows. The sight of beautiful waterfalls, deep dark green woods, powerful waves of the ocean makes my thoughts escape from this industrial material focused society in kind of another world where these things don’t matter. So the wonderful nature inspires me a lot, and direct description of the nature like e.g. the northern light, magical rivers of powerful winter landscapes, you can especially find in the songs “En Natt I Nord”, “River of Virgin Soil”, “Wintertime” and “Northern Light”, and in the rest of the songs you can find it more indirect. But not only the nature inspires me, a great part of the influences are my thoughts, experiences, happenings in life like and feelings like frustration, loneliness, anger, sadness, but also happiness, hope and love. With other words, the music and the lyrics come from deep within, it’s real, it comes from my soul.
You where responsible for the lyrics on “Where Twilight Dwells”. How does the band Midnattsol write the music. Is it teamwork or is there a mastermind behind the writing process?
Yes, you are right and I have written all the lyrics for “Nordlys” as well, besides the lyrics for the song “October” on the limited edition, Christian H. wrote that one. The writing process of Midnattsol is really a big teamwork, we don’t have a leader or a mastermind that is doing everything or deciding everything. Every band member has the right to say his/her opinion and we always discuss about things together. It takes much time and sometimes nerves, hehe, but it can also be very interesting, all the ideas, we can be pretty creative together! This way of thinking is also very important for us as a band, every individual is important and has something to say. We also don`t keep songs on the records that one member wouldn’t like. So then everybody can identify with our songs 100%, that is a great thing. Mostly someone has a melody or a special idea, each member give their special part to their music, we are reviewing it, we make some changes, new ideas and then the lyrics are written and sometimes vice versa.
Midnattsol means Midnight Sun. What does “Nordlys” mean in English?
“Nordlys” means the northern light in English and is for me to be seen as a perfect symbol for the beautiful but mystical site of the nordic nature, which is a great inspiration for both the music and the lyrics of Midnattsol. This light shows the real beauty of the world, far away from material and industrial things, which only take us further away from the real meaning of life after my opinion. At the same time, the northern light, which appears because of the energetic connection between two extreme poles, the sun and the earth (like you see on the cover, Birgit and I are symbolizing these two poles and the connection between them) stands for diversity, it is made of two extreme poles, and stands as a symbol for treasuring different sites of life, both rain and sunshine. Like I sing in the song “Wintertime”: “How could I ever recognize the light, without dark clouds?.” Everything in the nature is special and beautiful in their way and shouldn’t be seen as negative. The title is also strongly connected with the musical site of the album; the songs are diverse like the northern light as well, they content beautiful and melancholic melodies with inspiration of the folk, but at the same time complex song structures, heavy guitars and loud drums with a lot of double bass are central elements in the music. So the title was chosen because of its perfect fitting to the music and the lyrics on the new album, but also to the general band concept and style. So every element on “Nordlys”, from the title to the layout and so on, is strongly connected, like a whole package, so to say.
And, can you tell us something about the new album. What are the differences between “Nordlys” and “Where Twilight Dwells” and about the songs.
You know, it is really interesting to hear about all the different opinions about the differences, some are like the night and day, so I don’t think there is a 100% answer, it has a lot to do with personal opinions, which are great, because it would be quite boring if everybody would think the same. We in Midnattsol actually think that “Nordlys” is heavier and darker than the debut which I think is connected with the fact that we developed a lot as musicians in these three years. When we started to make the new songs we noticed that we could play and sing more complex and diverse stuff, it was a fantastic feeling, just looking how the band had grown. We wanted to create something new, and the result is what you hear on the new album, there are some differences; more quality and variability from both the vocals and the instruments, more details and extras, which you perhaps don’t notice after only one time listening, more guitar melodies, more complex drums and bass and keys, the vocals have more volume and a lot of different matters to sing are used. Additionally I think the song structure is more progressive than before and the sound is more natural and warm. But even though there are differences, there is a strong the red line to the debut, e.g. the folk inspired melancholic melodies.
Like “Where Twilight Dwells”, “Nordlys” is recorded the Mastersound Studio (www.mastersoundstudio.de) by Alex Krull. Was the whole recording process easier this time?
I have to add some information here. We decided to let different kind of studios with different producers give their best to our new album, so besides the recording of my vocals by Alex Krull at the Mastersound Studio in Fellbach in Germany, the recording of the instruments took place at the Studio E in Mellrichstadt in Germany by the producer Markus Stock. Tue Madsen at the Antfarm Studio in Aarhus in Denmark was responsible for the mix and last but not least the well-known Mika Jussila at the Finnvox Studio in Finland did the mastering. So which you understand, we had a lot of great and professional producers with a lot of experience to give their best into the new album, which we all think they did in such a great way, we can`t describe how satisfied we are! And yes, I think it was much easier this time, I grew a lot during these three years, both musically and personal. I got a lot more experience after recording the first record, you have to remember that Midnattsol is my first real band, before that I only sang and made music on my own. So I feel that after these important experiences, I am on a totally different level now and everything is easier.
“Nordlys” will be released at 28th march in Europe and 1st in North America. The first tour dates of 2008 are Metal Female Voices Fest (18th of October at the Oktoberhallen in Wieze, Belgium) and Summer Breeze Festival (14.08 – 16.08, Germany) MVFV will be the third time in Belgium. Any plans for a tour in Europe and/or North America?
Right now we are in the planning phase regarding live activities, so I can’t say so much about it yet, unfortunatly. But we will come with more information on the new homepage which we just have put online, so you can keep yourself updated there! See you on the road!
And the last question, are there things the reader should know that I haven’t asked?
I want to use the opportunity to thank all the fantastic people out there for the amazing support!! I hope you like the new album, we are so excited about your reactions! Take good care of yourself and have a great new metal year!
And the question from Lithium that won the competition on Femme Metal Forum… What are your thoughts concerning the recent popularity of female-fronted metalcore (The Agonist, In This Moment)? Do you feel that this poses a threat to more-traditional bands such as yours?
Wow, congratulation to you Lithium, how nice of you to ask me that question, it is a really good one! Actually, I never feel threatened in any way, no matter which band. I think that these are great bands and it would be so boring if every band would sound the same, I think it cool with variety. I can’t speak for the other bands, but I have to say additionally that we in Midnattsol do our thing independent of what people think or say, we don’t try to be fashion or something like that, we do what we always wanted to do and what we burn for, and the listeners decide whether they want to listen to us or not. And fortunately until now I have to say that most of the reactions and response were in fact not only good, but overwhelming, which of course we are very grateful for. We just hope that the music of Midnattsol can give the listeners something special like its giving us and the future will show what will happen.