Musical Discoveries: Please tell us about the concept behind the new record, Vinland Saga.
Liv Kristine: The story concerns the Viking's discovery of America about 1,000 years ago. Our story starts at the West coast of Norway as a group of long ships leaves the coast, heading for Greenland. They plan to visit the father of Leif Eriksson, the boss/leader of the crew. Due to bad weather however, they fail to find Greenland. They keep on sailing and end up discovering America instead, which is a very nice coincidence I think! (laughs) We were 500 years ahead of Columbus.
After we had composed and recorded 8 or 9 songs, I said, "Okay, it's time to start to really think about the concept." I just let the music speak for itself. I felt really inspired to write about such a theme. Before we started composing the music all I had really thought about was that the concept would be deal with Norwegian nature, culture, and history. It was the music itself that inspired me to write about the history of the Vikings and their discovery of America.
Your sister Carmen's band, Midnattsol, and your husband Alexander's band, Atrocity, also like to write about history, nature, mythology, and things like that. Is this something that runs in the family?
I think so! (laughs) To speak for my sister and myself, we Norwegians do learn a lot about the history of the Vikings in school. It is definitely something you grow up with. Alexander though has always been interested in Latin and Roman history and so on. (laughs) You are definitely right!
Since you knew that their would be a concept, when the songs began to take shape what kind of challenges were there when trying to put it all together?
Well, as we had recorded a couple of songs we realized that this album would be a bit more complex. The song structure is more complex on this album and moreover we wanted to replace the classical samplers with real classical instruments. That was quite a big challenge. We needed about half a years time to make this album, which is 2 months longer than we needed to make Lovelorn, our first album. There is also a big difference between each song on this album. For me, as a singer, this was challenging because I have to be able to follow the atmospheric changes in the music. I had to go a little bit further concerning how I sing and discovering new ways of singing. I don't take any singing lessons so it was a discovery that I had to make by myself. I had a lot of fun doing it though. It really comes from heart. I just let the music speak for itself and I feel inspired by it.
One of the things that really stands out on this album is the fact that you decided to more or less develop your own language for one of the songs. What led to you doing that? That's a big task to pull off.
(laughs)Well, I had actually planned to write it in Gaelic, old Irish. I was looking for a teacher to help me with the wording because it is a language that is dying out. I couldn't find a teacher; I was even searching the internet trying to get help from people who knew things about Gaelic. I just couldn't find anyone so I ended up just sitting down and combining the knowledge I did have about Gaelic and combined it with old English and old Norse. My aim was to create a certain sound of tones and of the letters, so I would have a certain sound pattern. It was a new challenge but it was very nice. In the end the song, not only the instruments but also the words, follows the music. It was a nice experience but I'm not able to tell you what every single word means! (laughs)
The lead single from the album is the songs “Elegy.” Can you tell our readers a little about that song and how it fits into the album?
"Elegy" was one of the last songs written for the album. We hadn't really planned to release a single at all. We decided though to try it and we shot a video for “Elegy.” When it turned out really well we decided then to officially use it as the single. It was nice because we had more material leftover from the album so we decided to turn the “Elegy” single into a mini-album with new tracks which you can't find on the album. We had about 16 tracks all together so we decided to give the fans more than just a single. I don't think it's very useful for a metal band to release a single with the songs and like 5 remixes of the same song. We just wanted to say “Thank You” to our audience.
Since the release of Lovelorn and your "dismissal" from Theatre of Tragedy you have experienced a lot of success. This all must feel really good.
Kicked out you mean? (laughs) Kicked out by reading it on the band's webpage without anyone warning me or telling me? That was bad luck and I was really sad about it. It was really hard to get over it but thanks to my family and my friends in Atrocity and my fan's leaving wonderful messages on my homepage, I have accepted it and it's a new beginning. Leave's Eyes is definitely my good luck. I'm so happy about the way things are now! Like I said, it was bad luck to be kicked out of Theater of Tragedy but Leave's Eyes is definitely my good luck now.
The success of yours European tours probably gave you some needed confidence. Do you believe that that played a part in you tackling such and ambitious album this time around? The album is so strong and so intense.
Yes, you are not the only one pointing that out and as I think about it I'm sure that the touring had something to do with me feeling more comfortable with the whole thing. I feel that things are going in the right direction now. I had actually thought that when the tour was finished the band members would go on Christmas holiday with their families, but one after the other turned up in the studio even before Christmas, right after the tour. (laughs) So I guess everybody felt inspired to write music after the tour, not just myself. It's all of the rest of the guys feeling happy about the way things are as well!
I would imagine that the guys from Atrocity are very tired by now since there was a new Atrocity album and then two Leave's Eyes albums with a tour in between on which they comprised both bands!
They are! (laughs) As soon as we finished the production for Vinland Saga I ordered tickets for myself, my husband, and our son to go to Norway for 10 days, just to try and get some distance from the album so we could listen to it with fresh ears. That morning I told Alex that I had packed everything and that there was a cab waiting downstairs. He was like “I can't do this! I can't believe that the production is finished! I need to listen to the album ONE more time!” I kept telling him that it was no use and just to bring a copy of the album with him to listen to by the fjord or something! We really needed a holiday. It really was necessary at that point. The other guys went on holiday with their families as well and now we are back! The guys are already working on a new Atrocity album and I am working on my second solo album, so we are busy as ever!
Speaking of your new solo album, how did you hook up with Roadrunner Records?
(laughs) For me, that was like a dream coming true. It has been 8 years since I released my first solo album and that's a long time. I didn't intend to wait so long but I had to, to put it short, go to court to fight for my rights. I could no longer trust the people that I had been working together with concerning the first solo album. All I wanted was to get my rights back and under my control again. I felt like it wasn't me anymore because I was being told how to sing, what to sing, not even writing me own lyrics. I was being told how to dress, when to sing, how to behave- I'm not some kind of Barbie doll. Music is something which comes from my heart so I don't want other people to take control over this. So, there was a court case going on and it took 3 or 4 years to solve everything. When it was done I was finally free to sign a solo contract with Roadrunner Records and make my second solo album. I'm very happy about it!
How will it be different from Leave's Eyes?
Well, it will follow in the footsteps of my first solo album. I will work with different composers, like Peter Tatgren from Hypocrisy/Pain. The album will be very atmospheric and personal but still it will be more pop then what I'm doing with Leave's Eyes. It will be more in the direction of artists like Enya, Loreena McKennet, Dead Can Dance and those types.
So now you will have a decade worth of Theater of Tragedy albums, 2 Leave's Eyes albums, 2 solo albums, and very successful European tours. Will you, at long last, be coming to the U.S. to tour?
I hope! (laughs) I REALLY think it's time to tour the American continent. We had planned to come in the spring of this year but there were some things going wrong with the concerts planned in South America so we decided to stay here and finish Vinland Saga instead. I think it will be even better to tour the states with this album in our pockets because it deals with the discovery of America. I really think now is the time to go over and we are about ready to plan a tour for over there for this fall. So everybody cross there fingers that it will come true this time!
Will you perform just Leave's Eyes songs or will you also do Theater of Tragedy songs or your solo material?
It will just be Leave's Eyes materials. I think there should be a strict line between Leave's Eyes and my solo material.
I think that's about all I have. Thanks so much for your time. It was wonderful to talk to you. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers?
I just want to say "Thank You" to our American audience and to people like you who have been following what I have been doing for the past 10, 11, 12 years. I am really really grateful towards you all and I think it's time to tour the American continent if for no other reason than to show how grateful I am. I read every single message in my guestbook and there are lots of American people writing. I feel really really grateful.