Liv Kristine Interview by Beth Avison
In the ever-similar pool of symphonic metal, there are only a few bands which truly stand out. One such band is Norway’s Leaves’ Eyes, who have managed to command an impressive legion of fans since their inception in 2003. Now releasing their fifth studio album Symphonies of the Night, the five-piece are preparing for a string of tour dates in 2014, including a stint in the UK. I had an email exchange with well-grounded frontwoman Liv Kristine to find out more.
Hello and thanks for taking the time to chat to us. How are you doing lately?
Liv: Thank you, all is well, we are on our way to Russia, actually sitting on the plane right now. I am happy that Christmas is knocking on our doors. That means a few days off with my family. We will spend a week in snowy Austria at a cottage with a few friends – skiing, cooking, sauna, relax – perfect!
Firstly, tell us a bit about the idea behind your latest album Symphonies of the Night.
Liv: Our final release Symphonies of the Night has just been released. I feel very comfortable where my band and I are standing right now. My members and I have been gathering experience in the studio and on tour for 20 years, some more. Moreover, we just arrived from a three-weeks-long European-Asian tour which was absolutely amazing! Symphonies of the Night is a very special album. We are really looking forward to the release of our up-coming album, which has its roots in both the Meredead and the Njord productions, however, it is another impressing and innovative step in the history of Leaves’ Eyes. Symphonies of the Night sounds heavier and more powerful than our post productions. “Hell to the Heavens” for example, is a strong, rough song that really kicks, as well as it draws the attention of the audience that this is a very interesting, solid and innovative album which unites 10 years of a Leaves’ Eyes history: dedication to metal and experience.
I’ve heard the album title is inspired by Symphony of the Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. Is this true and if so, what is it about this that struck you with inspiration?
Liv: It was actually an evening on the coach with my husband, watching The Swan, when I started memorizing my own ballet-lessons 30 years ago. My favourite ballet performance was Swan Lake. I grew up with Black Sabbath and Ozzy, and some classical composers like Edvard Grieg and Tchaikovsky. I have been singing for as long as I can remember, even before I was able to talk. I have never had a single singing lesson in my whole life. Creativity and love towards music is the force behind my artistic work, as well as thankfulness towards my audience and fans all over the world. The adventure will go on for many years, I can promise you that! All of this is my life! There is only one thing being more important to me: my family.
As with previous albums, you sing in many different languages, including English, Shakespearean English, Irish, Norwegian and French. Why do you choose to do this?
Liv: Phonetics, phonology and historical languages were my favourite themes at university. However, it is the music itself which inspires me to write in certain languages. Mostly I start with a ‘nonsense’ lyrical layout consisting of simple syllables or phonetic patterns. Then I re-write everything into real words expressing the emotional state I am heading for being the ‘expressional goal’ of the song. I am always aching to achieve the optimal sound of the words being sung. I want the lyrics to smoothly assimilate to and melt into the music.
Such a repertoire of languages is pretty impressive. Do you just pick them up on the road or do you have to study?
Liv: The good thing is that I speak three languages fluently, Norwegian being my mother tongue! Plus a few just a little bit. I studied Old English and Gothic. Sometimes English is the best language to express my story, setting and emotional peak, whereas for some songs I would prefer a different linguistic approach i.e. phonetic variations. I just happened to meet an Irish native speaker, which is fantastic, because I always wanted to sing a complete song in Irish. However, my pronunciation must be perfect, so I would need some professional help. I still need to learn French in a proper way. So far I have just picked up some phrases here and there on the road. Grammar, phonetics and semantics interest me a lot.
Leaves’ Eyes are usually placed in the ‘symphonic/gothic metal’ genre. Do you intentionally create music to fit into this genre?
Liv: I do not see Leaves’ Eyes in one certain genre with other current bands. I’d rather say we are a very unique composing and producing team. I have been around since I founded my own genre ‘gothic metal with female voices’ and ‘the beauty and the beast concept’ in the early/mid nineties. Leaves’ Eyes is one of its kind rooted in the gothic metal genre with female, angelic voices, of which my ex-band Theatre of Tragedy was the initiative founder. I have been composing and singing for as long as I can remember, but neither studied music nor music theory. I prefer not to go with any flow or commercial movements – I need to listen to my own artistic heart and mind. I need to be able to stand 100% behind my work and creative ideas, in the studio, on stage and in my private life.
The artwork to Symphonies of the Night is also suitably gothic. What made you pick Stefan Heilemann as your artist of choice?
Liv: I am very happy with how the artwork turned out, moreover, that dress (featured on the cover) made by the company Struppets in Berlin is a masterpiece! Alex and our long-time friend and artist Heile (www.heilemania.de<www.heilemania.de/> ) are the masterminds for both ideas, pictures and artwork design. I would use the same words as you, which was also the goal for the artwork: we wanted it to be captivating, natural, mystical, dark and feminine…I mean…it has a tiny little bit of sex appeal, I’d say 😉 The cover of the album reflects the album’s title. In this picture we wish to underline the feelings and emotions that your senses are evoked by when listening to Symphonies of the Night.
How are the preparations going for your Symphonies world tour, are you excited to head out on the road?
Liv: The recently played tour for Leaves’ Eyes went through Belgium, Bulgaria, Romania, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Austria, China, Taiwan, and Thailand. Ahead of us is Russia, this weekend. Next year begins with a handful of UK shows, followed by 70.000 Tons of Metal through the Caribbean and a US tour. Solo shows (exclusive ones!) are scheduled for December this year. I hope to see you soon at one of our gigs!
What do you like to do during your down time on tour?
Liv: I get up early before the rest of the tour bus wakes up. Normally I go for a run or do some yoga exercises in the early hours. Then I take a shower and get myself some breakfast. Mostly the others are still sleeping. Until suncheck I do my interviews, call my son, go for a walk, visit a cafe, or do some necessary shopping. After sound check I get prepared for the show with a cup of tea, some yoga exercises, then I get dressed. After show it’s time to meet and greet with my fans and friends…and a glass of wine. As soon as the Nightliner engine starts rolling I will fall asleep in my bunk. When my son joins us on tour we pay visits to museums, we go for a swim, or look for some nice toy stores or playgrounds. It’s a little bit different then, of course.
And how is your solo work going? Surely it must be nice to take your own direction and have a break from all those men.
Liv: I have 20 years of experience. I have to admit that I actually prefer working with men. We have rules on the Nightliner and we respect each other. There are no divas or rock stars, and definitely no drugs in my band. I focus on friendship, professionalism and respectful behaviour. I don’t mind driving the van with the gear to the next gig, I don’t mind bringing food from the catering to my crew, and I would NEVER cancel a show if there are just 5 people in the venue. However, my band and crew also respect the fact that I need some privacy on the road, like going for a run, be the first one in the shower (when it’s still clean) etc. They are used to “Liv Kristine standing on her head, doing yoga backstage”, hehe!
Thanks for your time Liv. Do you have a parting message?
Liv: My pleasure! thank you for all your love and support through all these years – I hope you enjoy Symphonies of the Night! I hope to see you next year! Love and happy holidays, Liv.