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5th November 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: Vervain is well-known as a healing plant and it’s as well connected to the occult in many different connotations. Which one would you chose to describe your fifth release; was it more of a healing process or a discovery/remembrance of something that is deep inside you?
LIV: I would say it is both. As you pointed out, ‘Vervain’ is my fifth solo album. I see it as the logical step after ‘Libertine’, while ‘Enter My Religion’ and ‘Skintight’ were more oriented to New Age / Pop. ‘Vervain’ is much darker, heavier and more doom-based than the lighter but very emotional ‘Libertine’. I am definitely going back to the roots, which also includes my times with Theatre of Tragedy. Moreover, don't forget the fact that Black Sabbath and Ozzy was THE music I grew up with through my very young parents (by the way, I have the best parents on the planet).
(Liv Kristine on returning to her musical roots with new solo album, 'Vervain')
"I am very, very happy about this release, and I think many Theatre of Tragedy fans and followers will be, too. In my own personal evolution this is just a wonderful moment..."
Interview by Salomé Sequeira
Official Liv Kristine Website:
Deus Ex Machine (1998)
It seems Leaves' Eyes vocalist, Liv Kristine, is establishing something of a prolific solo career peripheral to her band, releasing her fifth solo album at the end of October. Harking back to her darker, doomier and gothic roots established during her time fronting Theatre of Tragedy, 'Vervain' heralds a more musically retrospective and introspective phase in her evolution as a solo artist. Metal Discovery's Salomé Sequeira quizzed Liv about the sonic regression discernible in her new suite of sublime music and her motivation behind this latest chapter in her artistically emotional journey...
Liv Kristine - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Uncredited
Official Liv Kristine Facebook:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Enter My Religion (2006)
‘Vervain’ is gothic, doom, with a killer sound and touching lyrics and melodies. I loved recording my vocals for it, as I was able to use my whole range of tones and singing manners. I never had any musical education - these two strong vocal chords and a perfect pitch and hearing was given to me, genetically, as a blessing...I don't know...somehow. I have been singing all my life. I just enjoy letting in all my experience and good moments in a retrospective but also creative light. It feels just great to release ‘Vervain’ at this point of my career! I felt that this was the perfect moment as I am always listening to my artistic heart and mind. I am very, very happy about this release, and I think many Theatre of Tragedy fans and followers will be, too. In my own personal evolution this is just a wonderful moment...
MD: You were one of the pioneers of the female fronted Gothic genre. I’ve come to realize that many other bands that found inspiration in you and were following a similar path are now delivering completely different material, and evolved to symphonic/progressive metal. How were you able to give us the blessing of being able to go back in time and listen to what I would call the early years of the gothic metal?
LIV: Thank you for your wonderful compliment...It's funny to think about it...20 years ago I was co-founder of the world's first gothic metal band with female voices, Theatre of Tragedy, in the early 90s and the "beauty and the beast" concept in metal. We had just no clue that we were this revolutionary up there in the Norwegian darkness! We were good friends, being into metal, getting together at a rehearsal room, being creative, combining contrasting elements like a first soprano angelic voice with doom metal and growls. We thought it was a great idea to combine contrasting elements. Initially people we were hanging out with and our families seemed to really like it, which surprised us. We recorded a cheap demo for a small fee nearby Stavanger, Norway, and sent it out (copying the cassettes and the inlay ourselves) to ten labels. A couple of weeks later we signed a killer deal with German Massacre Records, recorded our first album in Sweden with Dan Swanö and went on a support tour with our friends from Atrocity - our fist gig was sold out with 800 people, which was my first real gig ever...incredible! I am very proud to see that a handful of bands are doing really well and standing upright for this genre, keeping "the beauty and the beast/gothic metal" concept alive and in a good light!
Concerning the production procedure, I compose and record when I am ready for it. It's really great that we have our own studio, Mastersound, with two recording rooms and one rehearsal room. This means that Alex, Tosso, I and whoever is present at the studio may work on his or her own ideas separately. I would say we needed about a year. It went really smoothly! It was Tosso who mainly composed it, together with Alex, who also produced it at our own Mastersound Studio. We are such a great team and Alex and Tosso know my abilities and goals. When I told both of them that I had in mind to write compositions based on my "earlier" days, they loved it! Sometimes I think the two of them can read my mind!
MD: Looking at the current scene, you seem one of the few that are still able to keep that deep dark romanticism in your sound; this makes me believe that it’s truly important for you to express what you really feel without letting external influences drive your artistic outcome. Do you struggle with it?
LIV: I really try to avoid the impact of external influences when I'm in the studio. However, I wouldn't call it a struggle. So far it hasn't been much of a problem, really, because still, after all these years of singing and composing, I feel highly inspired on my artistic path. My colleagues and friends used to say that I am "artistically hyperactive", which probably is kind of true. When I was little I actually thought that every human being has music, colours, shapes etc. in his or her head or ears, constantly. Even today I dream some of my vocal lines and lyrical ideas. When I hear blue notes I get a headache and it hurts. Art, auditive or visual plays such a vital role in my life - to me, it is a personal expression of great, great importance. It also was when I was a toddler: I was a late talker; however, I was already singing long before I could talk. I still happen to be kind of nervous when I have to make an important phone call; however, on stage, in front of 60.000 Wacken-Open-Air fans, I feel absolutely no nervousness at all.
MD: I believe everyone has some sort of little ritual before they start bringing their creativity to a physical form. Do you have any? And do they differ between your solo work and Leaves’ Eyes?
LIV: The main rule is to concentrate on one album, one production. ‘Vervain’ was composed after the release of Leaves' Eyes’ ‘Symphonies of the Night’. It's important to finish one production before starting a new one.
Concerning rituals, I always focus on keeping the inner balance, which is incredibly important to me. In this way I can focus on my artistic heart, soul and mind. I can be myself and gain all the experience I need for my development. Over the years I have learned how essential inner balance and focus is, especially because the line between private life and music business sometimes dissolves. But, to be honest, I really am lucky to be totally healthy and full of power! There is only one way to be able to cope with all the traveling and touring: being on the road I do take good care of my health. My family needs me, my bands need me. First rule: my running shoes are always in my suitcase! Moreover, I totally abandon drugs, and I don't accept any on my night liner. I need a professional team around me, and rather enjoy a glass of wine or beer with everyone when work is done. I practice yoga before show-time or studio sessions. I love long-distance running, swimming, yoga...sports in general, nature (I grew up directly by a fjord in Norway...), vegetarian-vegan cooking, and, most of all, I gather strength when I spend time with my family, at our beautiful home, in pure nature or, for example, spending an afternoon in the sauna. On the road, I also try to take some "time out" to gain power for the stage.
MD: In 2004, your collaboration with Cradle of Filth was released; ‘Nymphetamine’ was a massive hit and still considered a hymn to thousands of people. 10 years later, on ‘Vervain’, you have two stunning ones with Doro Pesch and Michelle Darkness. What are the main differences between the collaboration that you did 10 years ago and the most recent ones?
LIV: I still think "Nymphetamine" was just a perfect collaboration, I love that song! I wish we could play it live together some day. I actually have only one criteria when it comes to collaborations: if I like the song, the band (famous or not famous - doesn't matter) and if there's time enough to finish on time, I will happily cooperate. I always feel very honoured to get a request! This also means new inspiration to me. I want to help promote bands and artists if I can. Moreover...Ozzy, Tori Amos, Liza Gerard, Nora Jones, and Kate Bush will always be high on my own "potential collaboration" wish list! Two dreams already came true, though, singing with Michelle Darkness and Doro Pesch! Both are first-class artists and really, really warm-hearted! What a true pleasure and honour having them at Mastersound studio. Doro Pesch, both as a singer, and as a person, is definitely a role-model for me. She is wonderful, just fantastic. We all have a lot to learn from her. She is the most down-to-earth and honest person and artist I know.
MD: And now you are touring with one of your most recent projects, in collaboration with Anneke and Kari - The Sirens. How do you have so much energy and keep challenging yourself every year? What kind of new feelings do you get from this project that you haven’t experienced in your career so far?
LIV: As already mentioned above, I try staying focused next to finding balance through sports and living a healthy life. I was lucky to meet Anneke at Masters of Rock (CZ) last summer. We had a few minutes only to talk in between our gigs; however, we agreed that we really should get together and tour together soon. We both had to smile then, thinking that we were, with Kari, the "originals" within our scene, having formed our former bands The Gathering, The 3rd and the Mortal and Theatre of Tragedy back in the early-mid nineties. The main focus was on the soprano voice in darker, doom metal, which was the beginning of what we today call "metal female voices" or "gothic metal". Importantly, the fact that all three of us are mothers and still highly busy in music and art.
Anneke told me that she had been in touch with Kari lately...and that was the "go" for the "Sirens"! I am more than excited and happy to soon be sharing stage with my ladies again! The second leg of the tour will take place in December. Our gigs are kind of magic. We also do have a really cool setlist which includes songs from our former bands, The Gathering, Theatre of Tragedy and 3rd and the Mortal, plus songs from our solo albums (also from ‘Vervain’), moreover, two own Sirens' songs. Fans have been waiting for this for years and years. All three of us know that experience comes only with hard work and reflection upon your own standing point and progress. I am very proud to share stage with Kari and Anneke.
MD: You seem to be surrounded by an amazing group of people, so is it easier for you now to reach and connect to new people than in your early years? Or has it calmed down and you’re allowing the world to work in its mysterious ways and lead you to wherever?
LIV: A really good question. Sometimes new colleagues enter my team, logically, when someone leaves, but it has calmed down over the years and that's all right. As mentioned above, the magical team at Mastersound studio, behind Leaves'Eyes, my solo band and Atrocity, are Thorsten Bauer, Alexander Krull and myself. We've known each other for more than 20 years. We are a killer team. Unbeatable. The "mysterious ways" that you mentioned, I'd say, lies in art itself. Music, melodies, colours, the phonetics of the sung word-pattern, the musical expression...all this fascinate me deeply. It takes me away and it's always present, in my mind, in my heart, like blood running through my veins. Alex and Tosso guide me on my artistic path in the best way they can. I am forever grateful towards both of them, moreover, towards my fans, who have supported me throughout all these years. The connection and exchange of energy with my fans is extremely important to me. Without you I would never be able to live my dream: to be able to combine both music and family. That's a blessing!
MD: ‘Lotus’ is a heart-breaking ballad, it woke up a dormant side in me, thank you very much! How do you feel when someone tells you that they deeply connect to your music? Especially to songs like ‘Lotus’?
LIV: Your words touch me, I thank you. It's nice that you mention the ballad ‘Lotus’, which is a very personal piece of music. It surely touches on my own spiritual growth, next to love for nature. The lotus flower has been used to indicate different meanings in different circumstances. In a relationship, it is normally used to mean being totally in love with someone and being forgetful of all that has happened in the past between you. It is also used in Asian religions, especially in India, to represent awakening to the spiritual reality of life. My lotus is all of this -"Tender but strong/Enlighten my soul/Shimmering lonely star"! To me, the lotus flower is an image of both pure love and spiritual growth. It is, next to ‘Silence’ (on ‘Libertine’), one of the most important and personal musical pieces I have written and released.
MD: And then you have songs like ‘Elucidation’ and ‘Hunters’ which are a big contrast when you compare them to ‘Lotus’. Do you believe that the atmosphere you create in your albums reaches a specific type of crowd? Do you experience a lot of diversity among your listeners?
LIV: I do. I have to say that my audience is very open-minded and diverse. Moreover, they expect me to follow my own artistic instinct. I am extremely happy that press, fans, friends and my closest AND new followers have given me the best critics I have ever had in my solo career. ‘Vervain’ is a milestone in my artistic development.
MD: You’re going to start touring with Leaves’ Eyes in a near future, but are there any plans to perform your solo material? We are aching to listen you perform here in UK!
LIV: When touring with The Sirens I do also play a few solo songs, also from ‘Vervain’, moreover, Theatre of Tragedy. I would love doing a UK solo tour, too! What about inviting me over soon? The Londoners seemed to have a killer time at The Garage with The Sirens just a few weeks ago. I absolutely loved it! Moreover, nearby, just before soundcheck, I found a LUSH store, a Gorilla-perfume shop, and a Sweaty Betty shop! What a perfect day;-)
MD: Thank you so much for your time, Liv! My last question for you is connected to the not so close future. Is there anything that you would like to try that you haven’t tried yet and you’re just waiting for the right time?
LIV: I would like to mention three things: travel to New Zealand or Iceland and stay there for at least a month; driving a monster-engine MYSELF at a rally cross race; crossing the Himalaya with my best girlfriend.
Skintight (2010)
Libertine (2012)
Vervain (2014)