DATE OF INTERVIEW:
28th March 2010
METAL DISCOVERY: This will be the fifth show of the tour tonight…
ALEXANDER KRULL: Is it the fifth? Wait…no, it’s the fourth!
(Alexander Krull on producing/mixing latest Leaves' Eyes album, 'Njord')
"It was a really enormous work and I used three systems to finish the album…to get it all done. There were so many channels...I was freaking out!"
Alexander Krull in the Hope and Anchor pub, Camden, London, UK, 28th March 2010
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Sympho-epic metallers Leaves' Eyes are, as most will know, the alter-egos of German band Atrocity with the addition of Norwegian frontwoman Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull, ex-Theatre of Tragedy vocalist and wife to Alexander Krull, the Atrocity frontman. With three full length albums, three EPs and a live DVD released thus far since forming in 2003 after Liv's untimely and forced exit from Theatre of Tragedy, the multi-national band (which now includes a Dutch guitarist and Austrian drummer in their ranks) have built up a loyal and dedicated following in the scene. Last year saw the release of their most accomplished work to date, the sonically majestic 'Njord' which interweaves elements of mythical sagas and multi-lingual lyrics to the accompaniment of richly layered music. Main support act on Kamelot's 2010 European tour, Leaves' Eyes were in the London at the end of March for a single UK show, and Metal Discovery spent some time talking to Alexander Krull in the Hope and Anchor pub, just round the corner from Camden's Koko venue where the band were due to play later in the evening...
MD: Okay! How have audiences and the shows been so far? I gather Tilburg was sold out.
AK: Yeah, yeah, and I think Belgium was nearly sold out. Before that, we had a show ourselves in Moscow which was also almost sold out, so it’s going very good in this way. We’re just grooving in with our tour lineup because we have a change. First of all, Sander van der Meer, a Dutch guitar player came into Leaves’ Eyes after Mathias was leaving us for his…expanding family! [laughs] He couldn’t go on tour and said he couldn’t leave his wife as they have a kid already. I completely understand. Music-wise, he was never the main songwriter or something like that, it’s always Thorsten doing the music and Liv, but it’s bad because over the years we’ve always done music and formed Atrocity together. But Sander is perfect; he’s a motivated and ambitious guitar player. And then we had an American drummer, Seven Antonopoulos, who is a drum icon from America but, somehow, although we were working for almost three years or something, we came to a point where we said, “okay, now all this touring is starting, we go first to Europe and then summer festivals, and North America, South America, Asia and all that coming up”. He saw some things coming and maybe it was better to go without him. Not that we have bad feelings or something; the chemistry was just not figuring out a hundred per cent. If you’re going on the road for a long time and you see it’s not a hundred per cent, you might see there’s a problem coming up or something. But it’s great as we have Roland in, Roland Navratil…
MD: Yeah, I remember reading that on Blabbermouth. His first show with you was the start of this tour…
AK: [laughs] Yeah, it was, his first show…he only had a couple of days to practice! We went on tour together on the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ festivals last year and we got talking and, somehow, he started to play our songs by himself. Our booking agent and him are very good friends and, when they were talking, he heard that there might be some problems coming up so he started already to practice songs. Then he called me up…“oh, I know these songs”, and I said “wow, okay, we were thinking about you playing drums!” So that’s how we came together, and now we are on tour!
MD: So there was never a chance of getting Nick Barker back in?
AK: With Nick, there was no chance. Nothing against Nick, also good friends…
MD: An amazing drummer.
AK: Yeah, he’s a good drummer as well and has good ideas, and all of that is cool, but he had to sort this family thing, whatever it was….and that was three or four days before we were playing in a stadium in front of 56,000 people in front of a football game. That was really much trouble for us to work it out. I really understood the reasons but then we had to look for another solution. People have been asking me that, “is Nick coming back?”…that chapter’s closed, and in a good way as well. It was just a bad time for him, and he’s doing other stuff.
MD: Yeah, he always seems to be doing something, like with Testament, or Exodus, or…maybe he’ll even end up back in Cradle of Filth one day!
AK: [laughs] Maybe! I don’t know about the relationship between the guys but it seems to be okay…but if they could play in a band together, I’m not sure! [laughs]
MD: Of course, yeah! You first toured with Kamelot in 2007...around the ProgPower UK time…
AK: Yeah, that’s right.
MD: How’s this experience been so far compared to three years ago?
AK: Yeah, it’s funny, it seems…actually, it’s the third time; we toured the States together.
MD: Of course, yeah. That was in 2007 as well, wasn’t it?
AK: Exactly. It was three months altogether, or something like that, that we toured together. So we know them quite well and I also did the Mephisto parts at Wacken and in the US too. I haven’t done it on this tour though. Maybe I will, we will see. It’s crazy that the tour is starting and already so many people are appearing. It’s definitely progress there with both bands, and the fanbase has grown up. We are pretty happy to play together. Oliver, the keyboard player, he’s also a friend of mine. He has his own band, Sons of Seasons.
MD: Yeah, they’re on Napalm as well, aren’t they.
AK: Yeah, I connected him, and also was co-producing and mixing the album.
MD: He’s the guy who’s with Simone from Epica?
AK: Yeah, she’s also a very good friend of mine. I recorded her vocals for that album. So it’s a small world…
MD: A small metal world!
AK: Yeah! And it’s good to meet the people also from the crew. Some crew guys I’ve known for many years now.
MD: ‘Njord’ is a fantastic album…actually, I have to admit that I only gave it 7 out of 10 in my review and said it’s a “grower” and I’ve actually listened to it more since and realised I probably would’ve rated it higher if I’d reviewed it maybe three months after getting the promo…
AK: Yeah, it’s mainly because it’s more complex.
MD: Exactly. The production’s immense as well…you produced the album yourself, didn’t you?
AK: Oh yeah.
MD: And you recorded it in your own studio?
AK: Yeah, but not the orchestra. The orchestra was recorded in Minsk…it’s the Lingua Mortis Orchestra. Victor from Rage, Victor Smolski, we also know each other and we were talking about working together in this case, so he gave us the possibility to work with the orchestra. It was really cool. It was all arranged by us but he was looking for the partition and speaking to the conductor on how we wanted it and all of that. It was really cool and the rest of it was all recorded at Mastersound. It was a really enormous work and I used three systems to finish the album…to get it all done. There were so many channels! [laughs] I was freaking out! [laughs]
MD: So you mixed the album as well?
AK: Yeah, yeah.
MD: A great achievement to get all the layers of music sounding that good in the final mix.
AK: I’ve been doing this for many, many years and a lot of bands ask me if I can work with them and, of course, I do work. I’d also like to work with bands starting or something because I was also asked by bigger bands, like “do you have three months to work with us?”, and I honestly don’t have that time sometimes. Andy Sneap is a good example…he’s very busy with a lot of bands but if he was playing in Sabbat to be a big success, it would be hard for him as well to do all the stuff because you’re busy with your band.
MD: Does having your own studio give you more time now to spend recording or do you find you still have deadlines to meet to deliver an album?
AK: [laughs] Sometimes we stress out the label, of course! [laughs] Because if you have your own studio you can use the freedom and…if you are missing deadlines it’s your own fault. You cannot blame anybody else but yourself if you are not dependent on other people in the working process. The freedom we have is really good because the creative process is, from the beginning, connected with the production. So if you wrote out ideas we, basically, can tell to each other like “oh yeah, this will be a song on the album or we wait and see if we’ll use the ideas again”. If you are a regular metal band or rock band and you have some place or whatever, sometimes you write stuff and you don’t have so much under control if you have a real studio. If you want to have a spontaneous rock ‘n’ roll band you don’t need a fucking studio. You go in and rock ‘n’ roll!
MD: You have uilleann pipes on the album - on ‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘Irish Rain’ - obviously Nightwish have incorporated that instrument on metal on their last album using Troy Donockley, who’s a bit of a virtuoso on the uilleann pipes. Is he someone you approached, or did you find it easy to find someone else? Obviously Troy Donockley’s a big name in the world of uilleann pipes!
AK: Yeah, this one we used from Germany is also very well known.
MD: That was Christian Roch?
AK: Yeah, he’s one of the best in Germany. Some other bands did it before Nightwish. In Germany, there’s a big Medieval scene and you have bands like Subway to Sally and In Extremo. One of those bands, Saltatio Mortis is a top ten band in Germany. So there’s more of a connection. One of those guys actually connected us to Christian Roch. We called them and “hey, do you know anybody who’s playing the uilleann pipes?”, and “oh yeah, yeah, we know a guy”. We were thinking about an Irish guy too; we were talking to somebody else, but I’ve forgotten the name. But we actually used the German dude, and he’s really good. He was great fun. He will be on the next Leaves’ Eyes record too.
MD: More so, or…?
AK: Yeah, we have acquired, I would say, a folk-ish approach.
MD: In a heavy kind of folk way?
AK: Yeah, I would describe it like that. Liv came up with some great Norwegian traditional stuff and a lot of stuff which is connected always to traditional…sort of made up in the band itself. And we’re also using sagas from all other the world - from Ireland, from Britain, from Norway. It’s totally mixed up and it’s great Liv has some really good ideas. Let’s say a world music, folk-ish, whatever, metal album!
MD: ‘Njord’ is a very multi-lingual album as well, with lots of different languages on there.
AK: Yeah, that’s true. It’s like eight languages or something.
MD: There seem to be a few more death growls on the new album - was that purposeful to heavy it up a bit or to give yourself something more to do on stage when you do the songs live?!
AK: I’m maybe the wrong person to ask because I’m always more a guy who says “yeah, I should not do so much of these vocals in the band”. But, somehow, the others were pushing me. Also, with the songs, I have an old rule that I said I don’t want to appear more than fifty per cent in the live set. But when we toured the States we found out from the live situation over there it was cool to have the heavier approach. It just turned out like that on the album ; it was not planned like this at all. Maybe the next record, let’s say a more folk-ish album, it will be less of that. I think so! [laughs] I also go off stage when I don’t have anything to do. In the beginning I was thinking, maybe, to play some percussion and stuff but it depends on the songs, and I also always work the drumming ideas out for Leaves’ Eyes. All the basics actually - I sit behind the drums and play them first, in a rough way, and then the drummer does it. Maybe with the new drummer it will be a little bit different.