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Leaves' Eyes

Happiest Person on Earth

With personalities as charismatic as Liv Kristine, its hard to talk about just one of their bands. They seem to be everywhere, they take part in all kinds of different collaborations, and they somehow manage to have families and children as well. In order to uncover at least some of the secrets of combining so many different occupations, we hooked up with Liv Kristine right before her Moscow show with Leaves Eyes and Atrocity. What did we talk about this time? Well, nearly everything
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How much is touring with Leaves Eyes different from touring with Theatre of Tragedy? What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Touring with the guys of Atrocity and Leaves Eyes is like touring with a family, because theyre my best friends. Its very comfortable, and they are real gentlemen. There are special things that women require a little bit of privacy, you know, and they really care about that. Theres also no smoking on the tour bus, so its easier for me. With Theatre Of Tragedy, everything was different. One of the reasons was that we almost made it to live off the music, but not really. It was always a struggle. And when a record didnt sell so well, the people in the band didnt feel very motivated, because they wanted to live off the music. I had a second job, I was working as a teacher, I was also a student and I had my solo project, so I had other sources of income, and they didnt. Sometimes it was a struggle for achieving a bigger economic status, and it was difficult for Theatre Of Tragedy. I would say that everything has changed. The only thing that stayed the same is myself. (laughs)

With Leaves Eyes you have been able to play in many countries Great Britain, the United States, etc. What countries or what cities on the current tour have been the most memorable for you?

Ohh Yesterday we played in St. Petersburg, and it was fantastic! And before that it was Great Britain. I played one show with Theatre Of Tragedy in Great Britain many years ago, I think in 2000, and now the British audience was great. Also Canada was great, and Mexico was great as always I played there a number of times with different bands. But yesterday St. Petersburg was fantastic.

How are you able to combine being a mother and touring so much? Do you take your son Leon with you when you are on the road?

(laughs) When I became a mother, that was actually my plan to take our son with us on tour. But then we had very sad experience in France, with French police attacking our tour bus and me personally. We didnt have our son with us thanks heaven! But that accident really made me think its not worth to take children on tour. Leon is with his grandparents, and its much better for him. Although I do a lot of touring, when Im at home Im trying to be just a mother. Its always a period of time, maybe four or five days, when Im away, then I stay home for one or two weeks, and then I go out on the road again. Leon knows that if mother and father are not there, grandparents are there. I think its good for children to have grandparents. Grandparents are very important.

Its obvious that the birth of a child changes every persons life. But how has this event influenced your music?

It changed a lot, especially because I was pregnant when we recorded the first Leaves Eyes album Lovelorn (2004). I recorded the last song for the album, we went to the hospital, and Leon was born two hours afterwards. It changed my anatomy, so my way of singing somehow improved. I felt more mature, I felt new muscles where I hadnt felt muscles before, and thats very important for singing to have a lot of inner strength and to have contact with your body. Also I became a more sensitive person, because the love that a mother feels for her son or daughter is unique, and being a parent fulfilled my life. Im the happiest person you can imagine, Im so happy! When you have the baby in your arms, its gonna be the best moment of your life.

Im looking forward to it myself! But now lets discuss your latest record Vinland Saga (2005). How did you come up with the Viking concept for it? What motivated you to write about vikings and their journey to Newfoundland?

I love my home country so much, and I like to write about the experience that I had when I lived in Nor
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way, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born there and grew up there, and even if I live in Germany and Im happy there, we dont have a coast or big mountains, so Im still very romantic when I think about my home country. This is what makes me want to write lyrics about it. Im also very much inspired by classical composer Edward Grieg, so theres a lot of inspiration coming from the North.

Did you come up with the concept before or after the music was written?

Mostly I have an idea about the concept, although I might not have everything in detail. We start composing music and then see how it develops, and I just have to listen to the music and hear what it tells me. It gives me a kind of input and feedback, and then I continue writing my concept. Music and concept are the two things walking hand in hand.

How much is making a concept album different from making a regular album with songs about all kinds of topics? Which is more difficult?

I think its more difficult not to make a concept album. If you have a complete story behind it, the story language you can follow, you already have a theme, and its easier to start writing. My next solo album, which will be released in February, has songs about treating different things, but they are all issues taken from my personal life, from my past and the experience I have gained, so even the solo album is a kind of concept album.

Vinland Saga was written very quickly, it came out only a year after the first record. Are you planning to release the next album as quickly, or will it take a bit longer this time?

I dont think it will be that quickly, because, as you said, we released the first two albums very quickly. But that was possible only because we have our own studio. We already started writing music for the third album, but we will slow down a little bit and play more gigs in the meantime. But next year there will be a new Leaves Eyes album.

Great! I have heard that Atrocity are also working on a new record

Yes, thats right, its gonna be a follow-up to Werk 80 (1997), so it will be a cover album.

What songs are gonna be on it? Old pop hits again or maybe something else?

Some tracks will be famous and well-known, some tracks wont be that famous. It depends on the opinion of the guys, on how they think they can translate a song into a cover song in the best way.

As you already mentioned, your second solo album will come out next year. And can you explain the album title Enter My Religion? What does it mean?

It has nothing to do with religion in the common sense, it has nothing to do with God and Jesus or certain kinds of religious groups. Its actually an invitation to come into my life. Every song treats an issue which has been or is important to me in my private life. So its actually Enter The World Of Liv Kristine.

But isnt it a bit scary to open yourself so much for the general public? Doesnt it make you more vulnerable?

(pause) Writing lyrics and dealing with music is something Ive been doing all my life. Even before I could talk, even in the womb of my mother, I heard tones and was inspired by music. Music is to be a way of communication. When I write something, it has to have a certain meaning to me, and I always think there is at least one more person on this planet who feels the same as I do. Even if its only one person, it doesnt matter. Of course, I could write lyrics for the masses, for everybody, something thats easy to sing along to like all the dance lyrics, but thats not my kind of thing. I like to go deeper, and I want to give something from myself. Also when Im onstage, Im myself all the time. Some other people change roles, when they go o
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nstage, theyre totally different persons, but Im not. (laughs)

How did you get Peter Tagtgren to work on this album? Nowadays he very seldom agrees to deal with something outside Hypocrisy and Pain

Yes, hes always busy. But hes a good friend of Alexander (Krull, Atrocity and Leaves Eyes singer and Livs husband ed.) and me, and its been many years since we started talking about a cooperation. I knew that Peter had a long of song material already recorded, but he didnt have any vocals on the songs, so he just gave me a couple of tracks and told me to listen to them, and if they would influence me in some way to write good lyrics and good vocal lines, I could use them.

I have read in the news that you recently shot a video for the solo album in very extreme conditions. Could you tell me what was happening?

We shot the video at three different locations. At first it was in a big hall, and it was cold, but it was OK, I could take that. Then we went into an old swimming hall, but there was no water there, it was closed. But it was all made of stone and marble, so it was even colder than the place before. I thought, OK, I can take it. But that was not the end of it. Then I changed my outfit and I just wore an evening dress. We went outside and it was snowing! We actually shot 24 hours without sleep and rest. Normally you think, The worst things come first, and then its getting better. But it was the other way around, it was getting colder and colder. It was very very cold. Even if Im a Norwegian girl and Im used to ice bathing and doing crazy things in the winter outside, that was on the limit even for me. I practice yoga and do a lot of meditation, so that was the only thing that helped me to forget about the cold weather. On the video it looks like its warm and sunny, but I was actually freezing so much that I had to concentrate to make sure that my mouth and my limbs didnt shake. Thinking away that Im freezing helped, but it was on the limit.

Oh God, its hard to believe actually!..

Everybody was dressed like in the Russian winter, and I wore an evening dress!

Enter My Religion will come out on Roadrunner Records. Why did you choose this label? Arent you comfortable with the label of Leaves Eyes - Napalm Records?

Actually I wanted to separate the two things. I see Napalm Records as a label more for metal, while Roadrunner has acts like Nickelback and artists who are more into rock/pop, which I also do with my solo album. We had contact with the boss of Roadrunner Records, and it was actually a matter of time. When we said, OK, we have songs, weve got material, weve got ideas, the contract came.

How do you view the audience of Enter My Religion? Will it be the same people that are listening to Leaves Eyes?

Mmm, thats a difficult question. I released my first solo album Deus Ex Machina eight years ago, and I was very surprised, because many of the people who knew Theatre Of Tragedy got this record, though it was pop music in the vein of Enya or Loreena McKennitt. Nobody was complaining or saying things like, Im only into metal, so I cant listen to your solo album, because its too soft. That was what I expected, but it didnt happen, they really appreciated it. In the meantime Ive got a lot of feedback from people knowing Theatre Of Tragedy and Leaves Eyes, and they were saying, Hey, its great, finally youre doing your second solo album! I really think that theres a great acceptance in the gothic metal audience.

As far as I know, after the release of Deus Ex Machina you had no right to continue working solo under the name of Liv Kristine

After the first solo album was released, I was going through a very difficult time. It was something I
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had only watched on television in American series suddenly I found myself sitting at court. It was nothing I wanted, but I was forced to do it. It took more than three years to get it solved, and it was a very negative period in my life, but finally I got my rights back for the second solo album and the future. I learned from that experience, too, even if it was tough. Imagine a girl coming from Norway there are four million people, you grow up in the countryside, youve got family around you, and you really believe that the world is full of good people. And when you are 18 and you enter the music business, you trust people. Thats what happened to me. I believed in the good in people, and I did a couple of big mistakes in trusting other people. I thought they were my friends, but they werent, they were just looking for a dollar sign on my head. I was just an object to earn money from. I learned from that, I still believe in the good in human beings, but Im just a little more careful.

Cradle Of Filth has announced that you will appear on their cover version of early 1990s pop hit Stay by Shakespeares Sister. Honestly I cant even imagine this song performed by this band. Have you already recorded it? What does it sound like?

I guess Im going to do the high parts, the very high ones, but I havent heard the song from Cradles yet. Its going to be recorded in the middle of January, and Im very excited about it. When I first heard Nymphetamine, I also thought, Well, Cradle Of Filth a ballad!? (everybody laughs) But it turned out excellent, I really like that track. And thats reason for me do to projects, like with Cradle of Filth when I like the song, when I feel inspiration, I start working on it, and it doesnt matter from which band the proposal comes. It just has to be the music that gives me something. What Cradle Of Filth has done for me so far has been great, so Im looking forward to do Stay.

Another very interesting appearance that you recently did is your duet with Mozart from Umbra et Imago on the song Ein letztes Mal from the remix album Motus Animi (2005). How did this cooperation come about?

That was through friendship. Mozart comes from the part of Germany which is not that far away from us. I really liked the song, it actually reminded me of Der Tanz der Schatten that I did with Theatre Of Tragedy. I thought it was the right thing to do.

Are you interested in what Mozart is doing musically-wise? And what do you think about the image of this band (naked ladies onstage, S&M elements, etc.)?

I think its a very daring thing what they do, and its for a special group of people. But I think Mozart is doing it excellent.

Do you have in plans any kind of cooperation with your sister Carmen?

Of course! Thats just a matter of time. If theres a track such as Into Your Light on the Lovelorn album, which was also done in cooperation with my sister, shes doing the backing vocals, there will be more coming out from the both of us for sure.

By the way, was it you who helped Carmens band Midnattsol sign to Napalm Records, or did they get their deal independently?

It was both, I guess. They had already recorded a demo tape and sent it to Napalm Records, and of course, Napalm Records called me straight away, Who is this? This is your sister, isnt it? I said, Yes, exactly!, and then we began talking. But the demo tape they did was absolutely great, and if Napalm hadnt signed them, somebody else would have. They have just done one record, and theyre a very young band, but the record is great!

Ive read in some interviews that it was your father who introduced you to Black Sabbath and other heavy bands. Did your parents encourage you to sing or to play, did they
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want you and Carmen to become musicians, or was it absolutely your own choice?

We were free to choose. There were no other musicians in the family, so we dont really know where it comes from, except the fact that we always listened to a lot of music at home. My sister and I had a lot of musical input, but to become a musician was absolutely my own choice. My parents never told me to go to the gymnasium, to study or to be good at school, but thats why I did all these things. I became a professional musician when I was 18, but Ive been singing all my life, and I still did the gymnasium, attended the university, I finished my masters degree some years ago, I worked as a teacher, I had different kinds of jobs, and it was all my choice. I guess if you put a lot of pressure on a young person, then the teenager will probably say, I dont like it! They wanna do everything else than what their parents say, very often its like that. But I was free to choose, so I did all these things.

A question from a linguists point of view. You have sung in English, Norwegian and German. What language is the most comfortable for you to sing in, and which one is the most difficult?

Its easiest to sing in English, I dont really know why. I grew up with Norwegian and Danish, later I learned English, and as I moved to Germany when I was 20, German became my second mother tongue. When we recorded the songs for Vinland Saga in Norwegian, first I felt that its too personal, that I cant do it. But the guys encouraged me to translate these parts and do it in Norwegian, and now I think they are the parts I like the most on the record. I had to get used to it.

I know that you are friends with Sarah Jezebel Deva. And do you maintain any relations with other female vocalists on the metal scene?

Yes, with Tarja from Nightwish, Sharon from Within Temptation, and Christina from Lacuna Coil. Sabina from Elis is a good friend of mine, of course, my sister, and theres also Steffie from Darkwell. There are a lot of nice girls in the scene.

Its an interesting thing back in the 1980s there were quite a few bands where only girls were playing, such as Girlschool, Rock Goddess, Vixen, etc. But nowadays bands usually have only one girl at the microphone or probably one more behind the keyboards. There are not many female drummers or bass players around, and if there are, they are not in the same band. Do you have any explanation for this phenomena?

I really dont know. (sighs) Often all-male bands are getting a female vocalist if they want to bring a contrast into their music. Thats the main thing, at least for gothic metal.

And would you be interested playing in a band where only ladies are present?

Hmm Well, there is one artist whom I would like to work with or maybe just meet someday. I guess its just an illusion or a dream but still Ive always been a great fan of Madonna, not only of the music and what she does as an artist. I think shes such an inspiring woman, and shes a very clever business woman, and shes a good mother. Im sure that she could give me some advice.

Weve talked about your parents and sister, but what about your son? Do you think he will become a musician as well?

I will do it as my parents did I will leave the choice with him. If he wants to become a banker, teacher, musician or tennis player, its his choice. But all the time since his birth hes been very musical. Hes singing more than hes talking, just like I did. His biggest idol at the moment and remember that hes not even two years old yet is Moritz, the drummer of Leaves Eyes. He can watch Moritz for hours, and if Leon is able to sit at the drum kit together with Moritz, hes in another sphere. Hes drumming everywhere, hes carrying his drum sticks everywhere he goes. And hes already now able to sing 10-15 songs all by himself, even though he doesnt speak that much. Thats amazing!

He hardly has any choice actually, with such a mother and father!

At least its in his blood, in his jeans and in his heart. (laughs)

Special thanks to Eugene Silin (Alive Concerts) for arranging this interview

Roman Maniac Patrashov
December 2, 2005
20 2006
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