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22nd September 2012
Liv Kristine and technology don’t see eye-to-eye. Her husband, Leaves’ Eyes band-mate and Atrocity frontman Alex Krull is heading to his dressing-room before my interview with his wife. As I jokingly voice my fears that my dictaphone won’t work properly, Alex bursts out laughing, gesturing at Liv. She’s wide-eyed. “I tried to film [Alex] today in Covent Garden,” she explains. “There were all these comedians and performers there, and they picked him to go up. I thought I was filming…” “But look at this!” Alex protests, pointing to my dictaphone, “this has a RED light on it, and it’s recording!” “To me, red means stop, and green means go! We’ll never agree on technology!” In the middle of his big moment? Thank goodness Alex can make up for everyone missing his comedy debut when he’s onstage in Islington tonight!

Leaves’ Eyes are seasoned travellers of the music sphere. With four glossy and very different studio albums, plus more experience in previous bands than you can brandish a sword at, the world’s most international Viking quintet have secured many victories in their time. Their latest collaboration with Greek powerhouse Firewind sees them basking in the aftermath of Wacken 2012 – and at the top of their game. Getting slaughtered on the tour bus? The making of a Viking ship? Borrowing underwear from her drummer? Singer Liv reveals all to Metal-Discovery…
METAL DISCOVERY: I’d love to start by asking how you’ve been enjoying the tour with Firewind – are they the kind of band you could usually see Leaves’ Eyes pairing up with?
LIV: Absolutely. I mean, we’re different when it comes to music, but it’s a very good package, because we’re both melodic. Leaves’ Eyes has Alex’s male vocals contrasting to my vocals, and Firewind also invited me to do their second to last extra song, so we’re sharing elements, too. The people are just wonderful. It’s all good karma on the tour bus! We met Gus a couple of times and, at some point, we spoke about starting touring together. And then suddenly, we just hooked up for this tour. It’s been ten days, and it’s been fantastic! Best tour ever! I hope we can do more tours together in the future. The crowd seems really happy with the package as well.
(Liv Kristine on her affinity with nature)
"Sometimes, touring is quite hard for me, because a lot of things happen at the same time, and in the cities, it’s always loud. I go running every day to find something green: either a park, or water, or just anything to switch off my ears and head."
Leaves' Eyes - promo shot
Interview by Rhiannon Marley
Photograph copyright © 2011 Uncredited
Leaves' Eyes Official Website:
Lovelorn (2004)
Albums & EPs
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview
Leaves' Eyes Official Facebook:
Leaves' Eyes Official MySpace:
Elegy EP (2005)
Vinland Saga (2005)
Legend Land EP (2006)
My Destiny EP (2009)
Njord (2009)
Meredead (2011)
Melusine EP (2011)
MD: It seems like the tour is mainly European. Do you want to take it further afield, or are you happy staying closer to home?
LIV: Well, I’d like to go anywhere with these guys! It will be European, for now. I have a very humble group of people with me; everyone’s just lovely. It’s a family atmosphere. Normally, I take my son with me on tour, but he’s 8 years old and a schoolboy, so he couldn’t come this time. He was a bit disappointed. My band members and crew are used to behaving on tour, but this time, our tour bus is full of beer and all the red wine is practically gone. So after the show, all I can have is just a sip of red wine and that’s it! There’s nothing left!
MD: It’s not you that’s drinking it all, is it Liv?!
LIV: I have to confess, I do contribute to the red wine-drinking! [Laughs] But it seems that everyone on the bus loves red wine! And there’s tea all day long. I’ve never had that on another tour. On most tours I’ve done, I’ve been the only female travelling. And [for the Few Against Many dates,] they’ve placed me in the middle of the bus, because I love Lush and The Body Shop; my bunk smells of flowers, amongst all these men! Today, I went to Covent Garden, and I love the Lush shop there. Luckily there’s an Apple store to leave the men in as well. I can say to my husband, “Apple. Bye.” [Laughs]
MD: What does your son make of having such rock n’ roll parents?!
LIV: He would have loved to be on tour, because he adapts really well to it. He’s always been a very good boy on the road, and there’s never been a problem with him. He sleeps anywhere, and he doesn’t make any trouble. He just likes it; he likes seeing new places, and he picked up English very quickly. Our working language is English, and he learned it at a very young age.
MD: You’re all masters of reinventing yourselves with each new album. What do you bear in mind when breaking genre conventions? Changing musical tides, or changing personal preferences?
LIV: That’s a very good question. Actually, I never plan anything, I just go for it. Normally, it’s Thorsten [Bauer, guitarist], my red-haired guy, who comes up with most of the ideas. Then they just start recording, and I’ll have a listen to it eventually. The music itself inspires me to write my lyrics and my vocal lines. I never predict anything; I just follow my artistic heart and soul, and that’s what I’ve been doing since I was a little girl.
MD: Leaves’ Eyes have also been treading the musical boards as a group for many years. Do you think you’re at the most polished and confident point of your career now? Have you learned a lot along the way?
LIV: I’m always learning, especially since I don’t have any musical education. I’ve never had a single singing lesson in my life. I guess I was genetically given a singing voice. I didn’t talk much when I was a kid, but I sang all the time. Strange kid! [Laughs] I’m glad my parents didn’t listen to people who said, ‘That kid needs therapy!’ I’ve learned by ‘doing things’ my whole life, especially since I started touring when I was 18 and that’s so much work. I mean, you can be a good singer in the studio, but when it comes to singing live, it’s all so very different. You have to adapt to every situation and gig; every night, every audience, every piece of technical equipment is different. There are so many things you have to handle up there onstage. You have to look good as well! Put on some lipstick and nice shoes, and I’m good to go! [Laughs]
MD: On that note, I’d like to touch on your live work. Given your theatrics and infamous Viking long-ships on set, do you feel Leaves’ Eyes flourish more as a studio or live band? Which do you prefer?
LIV: I prefer being on tour, with live performance. It was amazing doing Wacken this year, with the ship. My drummer just started the intro, and I was waiting to get onstage; to walk across the Viking ship and start the gig. Then during the third song, I thought, ‘Fantastic! Nothing’s going wrong; the whole universe is cooperating,’ and everything went fine. That was such a good feeling, because we’d been practicing and preparing for six months. And the whole ship had to be lifted out of the neighbour’s barn! There were a lot of things to prepare! [Laughs]
MD: The neighbour’s barn?! How on earth did you go about making the ship?
LIV: A friend of ours… He’s quite crazy actually, to say yes to doing something like that! He was busy for 8 months building it. He’s a crazy guy, but I guess you’d have to be crazy to agree to build a Viking ship! [Laughs]
MD: I just love all your mythological epics and concepts behind your albums. Do you build the stories around the music, or the music around the stories?
LIV: I’d say the music decides. The music inspires me as to where to go, both lyrically and vocally. I’m a great collector of books, and I just love languages, especially Old English. I studied it; every time there’s a new album coming up or we’ve started a new production, I gather my books. My suitcase is full of books, shoes and Lush soaps! Actually, I have to tell you a secret: I’m borrowing underwear from my drummer, because I just don’t have enough at the moment! I wanted to find a Victoria’s Secret shop today, but I just didn’t have time!
MD: [Laughs] On the note of your legends, is Scandinavian folklore something that’s ingrained in Norwegian people from a very young age?
LIV: Yes, it is. I just loved history lessons, especially about Vikings. The world wars, second and first, didn’t interest me much, but Vikings are my kind of thing. Gods and goddesses of Nordic mythology are just something I’ve always been into. And since I left Norway, I’ve started realising how nice it is there. It’s beautiful. I grew up by the sea, in the middle of nowhere; there were mountains, forests and our little house, with the Fjords just in front of it. I grew up in a fairy-tale world. Sometimes, touring is quite hard for me, because a lot of things happen at the same time, and in the cities, it’s always loud. I go running every day to find something green: either a park, or water, or just anything to switch off my ears and head.
MD: Do you think it’s the natural world that attracts you to the Viking legends, then? Or perhaps the passion, or drama?
LIV: It’s the nature, especially the rugged Norwegian west coast. It’s just fantastic; you have to go there. And the weather, too; I love rain and snow, when it’s surrounded by nature.
MD: For Leaves’ Eyes’ 2013 album, can fans expect anything similar to what you’ve done before, or are you going for something completely different this time? Can you give us any clues?
LIV: I brought ten songs on tour, just to try thinking about lyrics and vocal lines. The next album will be a bit harder, rougher, heavier, but we’ll keep the folk sound. I just love the more traditional Scandinavian and Celtic sounds. I think we’ve found a path. My guitar player Thorsten plays any kind of string instrument, he’s just amazing. I’m very happy with what I’ve experienced, who I am and where I’ve been. You need self-contentment, because the music business is so hard. I just never got this ‘rock star’ thing. Sometimes, I really have to smile, because when I go running in the morning, everyone else is asleep. There are fans waiting in front of the tour bus, and they ask me to ask Liv for an autograph! I just love those moments! They’re wonderful.
MD: How would you describe the relationship between Leaves’ Eyes and your fans? Has there always been a strong dynamic between band and public?
LIV: Actually, I have to say first of all that I’m very grateful to my fans and friends, because they’ve always let me do what I wanted to do, which is a great honour and compliment. It’s always a matter of giving and taking. It sounds weird, but it’s all about the exchange and transfer of energy. I’ve always had my fan-base with me. There were times when I’ve thought, ‘Another court case, another stupid producer’; it’s all about money. I just got so sick and tired of it. My band is doing everything; we’re doing about 90% of the work you have to do to survive in the music business all by ourselves now. I’m just so tired of being disappointed by people around me. But then again, I’ve got my fans. It’s always good to know that if I fall, there’s somebody there, so they’re the reason I’m still here.
MD: How did you find working with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra and Victor Smolski? Are you fans of his work in Rage?
LIV: We’re good friends with Rage, and of course fans! Victor actually came along to Wacken; he joined us there. He’s an amazing guy. When you see him, you just think, ‘There’s only one Victor Smolski!’ [Laughs] He’s doing orchestra work for Atrocity at the moment. He’s lovely.
MD: In light of your new solo album ‘Libertine’ being released, and Alex’s continued work in Atrocity, your other projects remain very successful. What is it that you continue to get from Leaves’ Eyes that you don’t from your other musical ventures?
LIV: The folk, the linguistics, Norway – you need to go there! –, and metal! That’s where I came from. I grew up with Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Deep Purple, and Iron Maiden. My parents were very young when they became parents, so their interests were in music. It’s great for me having Gus around, with him playing with Ozzy Osbourne! Metal was the music for me then, later on, I discovered influences like Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Enya, Madonna, etc. But metal has always been there. In 1995, I just had this moment where I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have angelic female voices in doom metal’, and ping! There was Theatre of Tragedy. That’s where [the beauty and the beast vocal style] comes from.
MD: And finally, Liv… If you could take three albums with you to a desert island, what would they be?
LIV: ‘Black Sabbath’ – Black Sabbath, ‘The Best of Kate Bush’, and ‘Electra Heart’ – Marina and the Diamonds.