Interview with Liv Kristine
10th November 2015
Interview by Jacob Ovington
Leaves’ Eyes have become well known for their epic, Norse themed take on symphonic metal. Prior to their London show, we had the chance for an impromptu interview with Liv Kristine, one of metal’s most influential women. We talked about conquering the UK and Harald Fairhair’s link with the British Isles, balancing musicianship with family life, the golden era of gothic metal and her upcoming solo tour with special guest and former bandmate, Raymond Rohonyi of Theatre of Tragedy.
Welcome back to London, how has the tour gone so far?
Really really good, it’s the last show tonight which is a real shame.If I could do ten more shows in the UK I would. I see that the market here is really growing for our kind of music. Here I feel almost like I’m coming home, because I just feel that you’re really interested in history, and the history of the British Isles and we have a very strong connection. It even starts with one of the songs of Harald Fairhair. We’ll come back to the concept of the album but King of Kings is about Harald Fairhair. His oldest son Erik Bloodaxe actually became king of York (Northumbria) twice. There is a very strong link to the British Isles even on this album because there’s one bonus track about Harald’s son, the unruly one, “Trail of Blood.” So, I just had a sense that you guys are really interested in history and you love metal too. We have a really strong fan base here. Some of them have followed us around the UK for this whole tour. That’s amazing, I’m really grateful and thankful to all of my fans here. You make it happen, I want to come back.
As you said just now it’s only recently that your type of music has become more popular here, why do think that’s changed?
That’s a very good question, because I’ve been around with the Viking inspiration and we’ve been doing this for 12/13 years so it’s good to see that people are picking up what we’re actually doing and that’s really nice. On the other side of the world, in South America they’ve never heard about such a thing before, never heard such music before. It’s really nice to tour at the moment, especially here. In Germany I see that the market has stagnated a little bit because people are saving up for the big festivals and the big bands, so the fish are swimming in-between. It’s hard work, but here in the UK scene things seem to run much more smoothly.
Going back to the subject of your latest album, what more can you tell us about its theme?
The title of the album is “King of Kings”, and it’s about Harald Fairhair who became the first king of Norway. He won a decisive battle in the field called Hafrsfjord which is my birthplace, and it happened exactly two years ago over a morning cup of coffee where Alex, my husband said “what about, King of Kings? Isn’t that a cool title!” Yes, that’s Harald Fairhair, right? Alex, he’s basically a German version of Harald Fairhair (everybody laughs). It sounded like a brilliant idea, so I started digging my nose into my old books and I got my mum up in Norway to go and gather documents and facts about Harald Fairhair from museums. It was a very intense but fruitful process, this whole production was. I was digging my nose into books, gathering information, dividing everything into 12 chapters about Harald Fairhair’s life. Parallel to this Thorsten our guitar player and Alex composed the songs in the studio. We worked song by song, and we worked on each song as an individual musical unit and really tried to trigger the expression of the underlying message of the song by adding different spices, different instruments, the London Voices. So every song on the album is like a unique piece of music, there’s no song that sounds like any other song on the album. Yes, it’s been really fascinating to work on this album and even more so to have it released and see the reaction of our fans and friends.
Later on this year you’ve got the solo tour with Raymond from Theatre of Tragedy coming up, how did that come about?
One phone call. I haven’t seen him for a while. He moved to Brazil after Theatre of Tragedy died, I really wanted to talk to him about what happened back then. It’s actually the same story as what happened to Tarja. Their message to me, you’re out of the band, was posted on Theatre of Tragedy’s Facebook. It wasn’t a written letter like Tarja had it, but it was the same kind of thing. I really wanted to end this story and ask him if he would like to join me on my solo tour as a special guest, so we can keep the spirit alive because I do get a lot of requests from people.
A lot of people do want that era back, because they see it as the golden era of gothic metal.
Exactly, even if Theatre of Tragedy kind of disappeared, there was a peak and then it disappeared. It was just gone, like this, and it’s a shame because we could have done so much more. It was all because of a couple of people in the band, they just turned into rockstars and they took over the whole thing, it destroyed the original idea. I really would like to keep the spirit alive because I have played, as you heard last time we met with The Sirens, I played a couple of Theatre of Tragedy songs and I was seeing how people reacted to it. I will return in December with a much longer set list, and at least half of the set list will be Theatre of Tragedy songs. Raymond is really looking forward to it, and it’s a nice way for me to wrap up this whole thing that happened and to be cool with everything. I might see you there, that’s at the Underworld on 2oth December.
Maybe I’ll see you again.
I hope so. A lot of gothic metal fans will be around for Nightwish the day before, so people might like to come and see me for a nice after-show, a Nightwish after-show party, come to the Underworld.
Speaking of Nightwish, in lots of interviews Tuomas has said that without Theatre of Tragedy, his band wouldn’t have existed and become what it is. How does it feel to be that influential?
It’s amazing. I’m blushing right now. It is amazing, it’s such a huge compliment, really. The Sirens got to support Nightwish in Norway this summer and Tuomas was watching the whole show and Raymond was there too because it was in Trondheim, where he’s living now. And we all met, and it was a very magic moment. One of the best moments in my career.
You said that you recorded each song slightly differently this time, as a unit, do you normally record like that, what’s different?
Well, we’ve never produced and recorded an album following a title. The title usually comes later, you know this is the best song of the album so that should be the title. This time we got the title first and worked towards it. It’s been amazing. We’ll also play the title track tonight, and 4/5 of the setlist is from the new album. We have a few old songs on the setlist too. The setlist has been working so well so far, and I’m really looking forward to tonight, it’s the final show of the tour. I wish we could keep going for another 10 shows, only here in the UK. This is the best place to tour.
People have been queuing here for hours.
Some of them came before at 12 o’clock, and I said I know a pub just down there where you can keep warm, I might come back there and have a pint with you before or after the sound-check. I sometimes do that, it’s so nice to meet fans and friends, they are fans AND friends. It’s so nice, and I really owe all of you a big, big thank you because you make this happen. I’m a full time musician and I’m able to combine music and family, and that’s a dream come true. You make it happen.
You’ve said it all. Not many people can do that. Most people have to choose one life or the other.
Absolutely, we’ve had many roller-coaster rides. Sometimes, when money is short I’m a teacher. Sometimes it’s just, ok, we don’t know what’s coming in financially next month so it helps to have something else.
You’ve got Leaves’ Eyes, The Sirens, your solo work and another tour coming up. How do you fit so much in? Is it hard?
It is hard, it’s all down to good planning. I have a family, lots of cats and dogs.
It must be quite difficult leaving them then.
Yes, always. After I talk to you I’m going to call my son and ask him how his day has been so far, how was school?
Is it hard for him, you being away so much? Or is he quite used to it?
Yes, but when I’m at home I’m all his. I might pick him up from school at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and we’ll go for a swim.
So more quality than quantity?
Yes, we have a lot of quality time when we’re at home. When I’m traveling, if he can’t join us he’s like “Ok mum, when you’re home we’ll do this and that.” So I make up for it, we have really good quality time. I did have him on board for the first leg of the tour because we had a Nightliner. It’s not possible if we do a splitter hotel tour, because he can’t hang out, he shouldn’t hang out backstage. So we need a Nightliner if he’s coming along, and we have to do a lot of schoolwork. The German school system is very very strict, we’re basically not allowed to travel with our son, because in Germany kids have to be taught in a school building and nowhere else. But I found out there is an amendment for circus traveling families.
You could say that.
Well, you could say that. But they hardly ever agree that we can take him on tour, but this time we had so many interesting cities and he hasn’t been on the road for almost one and a half years so they said yes. That’s really nice. Traveling is education, he speaks three languages fluently. He’ll be like I know the capital of France, I’ve been there, done this, seen that. It is education, and his antennae go really really far. Normally at that age you’ve been once or twice abroad, or once or twice on an aeroplane but he’s been all over the place. It’s a good thing, and when we come home tomorrow I can sit and think about all the good times I’ve had here with my fans and friends.