Interview with Morten Veland
November 27, 2016 – O2 Academy Islington, London
Interview by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Graham Hilling
Morten Veland, mastermind behind the Norwegian symphonic metal act Sirenia was kind enough to talk to Metal-Rules before going on stage for their final show of this years European tour in London. Morten talked about their highly anticipated new album, Dim Days of Dolor, changes in the lineup, and the glamorous touring life. Read it all below!
First of all, congratulations on the successful release on your new album, Dim Days of Dolor.
How has the album been received so far, by both fans and critics?
From what I’ve seen so far it’s been received very well. We’ve had some really good reviews for the album by critics, and with the fans you know, there is of course the fact that we recently changed singers, so there will always be some reactions to that, people missing the old singer and applauding the new one and so on. It’s been mixed of course, as expected, but I really feel now that the album has been out for a few weeks and the fans have had the opportunity to listen to the whole album, I’m sure it will grow on them.
I think the album is a really strong one, and the best one we have done so far, and Emmanuelle [new singer] has done a really fantastic job with the vocals. I think the people who are sceptical at first will come to love the album eventually.”
You called this album “the most diverse Sirenia album to date” on Facebook. What different musical approaches can be heard on this album as opposed to previous ones?
Well for example the ballads on this album are a lot softer than ever, and some of the aggressive parts are more aggressive than ever, and I just try to have as much diversity in the songs as possible. The basic musical concept in Sirenia has always been for me as a songwriter to take elements from a lot of different musical styles and put everything together as a big concept.
Also with Emmanuelle on the team now, she has musical education and she knows how to sing a lot of different styles; the opera and classical stuff she does perfectly, and the more modern vocal techniques as well. She is a really diverse singer and has a really good vocal range also, and I think she also really contributed to the diversity on the album with her singing.
What’s your favourite track off the new album?
Difficult question, I really like them all. Each song on the album had to kind of earn its place, and I think “Treasure N’ Treason” is a song I really love, and of course the title track, a very melodic song.
I’ve had the melody for that one stuck in my head for days now.
Yeah, it’s a very catchy song I think, and we noticed that on this tour already that the crowds respond really well to this song, it seems that they really like it. It’s really cool to see so good reactions to the new songs, we didn’t really expect it because the album was released one day after the tour started, so it’s just been out for two weeks, and I thought people wouldn’t have time to really listen through the album and getting into it, but it seems already that they are really liking the album and that’s really cool to see.
You released a music video for the title track, do you plan on doing any more of those for other songs on the album?
No, I think it will be only that one for this album. The record company also made a lyric video for the first single, “The 12th Hour”, so I think that will be it from this album. It’s kind of expensive to do music videos [laughs].
How does the recording process for a Sirenia album typically go? How long did you spend writing the songs for this album?
Composing an album usually takes about two years. I think this album was actually released one and a half year after the previous one [The Seventh Life Path], but even before I finished that one I started writing material for this album. I constantly write new songs, so I always have a lot of stuff in the works. I’m writing for Sirenia of course, which is my first priority, but I also have my solo project, Mortemia, which I’m also writing some new songs for.
I also have a musical project going on with a friend of mine called Joachim Ness, who’s also been singing on our last three albums, great singer from Norway. We have more of like a 90s rock thing going I would say, it sounds really nice, so hopefully we’ll be able to do something with that next year. For now it’s just him and I, so we would need to get some more people on board if we wanted to tour , but that should be possible to arrange.
Emmanuelle Zoldan is your new singer now. Obviously she sings a little differently than Aylin, how do you adapt your songs to your new singer?
So with the album that we just recorded, it was all written when she joined the band, and it was of course with Aylin’s voice in mind that I had written the songs. We did a few changes on some of the songs to adapt them perfectly to Emmanuelle, but most of the songs sounded really good right away so there wasn’t really much need to do anything. Emmanuelle is able to sing really well in the low range also, with the really silky kind of voice, so we changed some parts that were really high and just made them calm and mellow instead. It worked out really cool.
You also have Roland Navratil filling in as your live drummer until Jonathan returns in January. Are you guys in Sirenia a tight knit group at this point? Do you hang out together at all, or is it more of a professional relationship between you guys?
We are really tight, like best friends. The thing is though, that both Jonathan and Jan Erik have daytime jobs, so sometimes it can be difficult for them to get time off work to go on tour, so this is why we have Roland with us new. He has been stepping in several times before also, this is the third European tour with him actually, so he’s like a part of the team as well. Jonathan has been our drummer for 13 years now and he still is, but sometimes it’s problematic for him to go on longer tours.
That’s understandable. I was at your show in Oslo in January, and I remember you played “In My Darkest Hours” live for the very first time. Besides the new songs, are you planning on bringing out some older, more ‘unknown’ Sirenia songs as you continue touring?
Possibly, yeah. We always look at the set list and see if there’s something we can mix up, but it’s getting more and more difficult making a set list these days, with eight albums and an EP to choose from. It’s always been our philosophy to try and play a little bit from each album and try to make everyone happy, but it’s getting tough with this much material, especially when you play festivals where you get shorter sets. We try to play a good mix of old and new material, and pick out the songs that we see the audience responding well to live and so on.
Do you think any of the songs from the new album will become live staples?
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that “Dim Days Of Dolor” is already a given, it seems like the audience really like that song when we play it, and that’s cool to see. Since it’s so new, it’s only been out for two weeks, it’s really cool when people go really crazy for it. I think it’s certain that this one will be played for many years to come.
You recently announced that the Artery Foundation has taken over your live tour bookings. Does that mean you guys will play in places you haven’t been to before?
I’m quite sure about that, yes. We signed up with them about two weeks ago, and they are really professional, hardworking guys, and they already have a lot of projects in the works for us next year. We’re gonna do a Central and South American tour in March, and they’re working on a North American tour in May, and a new European tour in the Fall again, and of course festivals.
Do you think you will come back to the UK then?
I’m sure about that, yes. Hopefully we could get a festival here, Bloodstock would be cool.
Back to the Oslo gig really quick, I seem to recall you had a dancer on stage for one of the songs as well. That obviously adds a little bit of a theatrical touch, is that something you would consider doing more in the future?
Maybe [laughs]. Our guitar player got that idea, so yeah, why not, we could try. It seemed like the audience really liked it when something new, unexpected happened.
I definitely wasn’t expecting it when it happened.
I think nobody was expecting to see that! [laughs]
So arguably there’s been some bumps in the road this Fall for you guys with a few cancellations and some protests in relation to Týr’s stance on whaling. But all in all how would you sum up this tour?
As you said, these protests and stuff were actually able to create some problems, especially in Germany where a few shows got cancelled and rebooked, and it cost a lot of confusion among the fans I think. They didn’t really know if the shows would happen or not, so in the end the shows in Germany were not that crowded unfortunately. For the other countries, its gone really well, several shows have been sold out and we’re also expecting quite a good amount of people tonight. I’m sure it’s gonna be a nice evening.
Sirenia and Týr are two very different bands with different fan bases. How did you guys end up touring together? Did you know the guys from before?
No, I didn’t know any of the bands on this tour actually, not personally at least. I had heard a few Týr songs from before. The tour was actually booked with a different headliner who cancelled, and we got the offer to step in. Xandria cancelled and we just accepted the offer and stepped in [laughs]. We’re quite different bands, all of us on this tour, and fans of Týr for example aren’t necessarily fans of Sirenia, but on the other hand we can play for some new people.
How have the folk metallers showing up for Týr been treating you guys?
I think some of them like us, but I also think a fair amount of them don’t have our kind of music as a favourite, but that’s just the way it goes when you have a very diverse lineup on tour. I think all bands on this tour are really good, and even though I didn’t know all of them from before, I really have become a fan of all of these bands on this tour, listening to them playing every night. They are all really professional, good musicians, and it’s cool stuff, so I would recommend everyone to check them out. Good stuff.
This is the final date of your European tour this year. Are you guys gonna be celebrating after the show?
Unfortunately there is no time for celebrating [laughs]. After the show we just have to pack all our stuff and leave the venue really quickly and get dumped off at the airport in the middle of the night.
So much for the glamorous touring life, hah?
It’s kind a brutal end, but oh well [laughs]. I’m sure it will be a very great last show, and we had a big party yesterday [in Bristol] so that was kind of the celebration for this tour ending.
Anything you would like to add in the end?
Just for everybody out there to check out the new Sirenia album, “Dim Days of Dolor”, and give it a chance, I think it’s a great album that can appeal to a lot of people.
All right, thank you very much for your time, and good luck with the gig!