Interview by Adrian Hextall (Writer\Reviewer\Photographer – MyGlobalmind Magazine)
Photo Credit: Adrian Hextall (MindHex Media)
A new album, a new record label, a return to British shores for some pillaging, sacking and a few live dates thrown in as well with support from ‘local’ Viking re-enactment groups as well. Leaves Eyes, when they set their mind on a concept, really see the whole thing through from start to finish. Hollywood actors take note. You’ve never managed to get into character as well as Alex Krull does when dressed as Harald “Fairhair” Hårfagre, first King of Norway. I would not, repeat not, want to meet him in a dark alley!
MGM spoke to lead singer and founder (and King Harald’s wife) Liv Kristine before their show in London.
MGM: Let’s start with the new album, King of Kings. What’s the reception been like?
Liv: Oh, it’s been fantastic and it’s so good to have this album released with the help of AFM records. We had a record label switch and that was absolutely that was of vital importance because if we keep releasing albums and there’s not much support it kind of… we thought of our musicians and we do this with heart and soul. And we need to work with somebody who really believes in us and we found new partners. AFM have been absolutely wonderful and journalists all over the world, friends all over the world got to… have listened to the album and many have already seen us live and it’s got fantastic feedback. So touring is really, really fun at the moment because we see that especially here at the UK, I have to say the market is growing very fast for our kind of music. Yeah and that’s good to see because Germany, Italy, they have kind of stick with native bands maybe because there were all you know, huge festivals and a couple of really, really big bands. So people you know, they have to save up and they have to decide…
MGM: Yeah. So they wait for the festivals to see more.
Liv: Exactly and going to Metallica or Machine Head and then you know. And that was smaller fishes swimming in between or you know.
MGM: Yeah, you have to work a lot harder.
Liv: Exactly! Absolutely! But here in the UK, things are just you know going very smoothly and I’m really happy towards my fans, grateful towards my fans and friends here in the UK. You know, it really make things happen.
MGM: Oh definitely. I mean venue wise you seem to be going up with every tour as well and you get a good size venue you’re in tonight.
Liv: I love it. I love it. Absolutely! It’s good to be here.
MGM: Definitely! Well what can we expect from you guys tonight?
Liv: A lot of… many, many songs from our new album almost, all songs. We left a couple of songs from earlier albums because yeah it’s just…
MGM: Is it a risk putting so many in from the new album you think? Or does it work because it tells a story?
Liv: It does! It’s a pity to leave out any song from the album I think but we don’t have enough time to play everything and we should play a couple of old ones, some songs from our former albums. But tonight we’ll have I think 13 Vikings on stage coming from all over UK. So we have you know… we can’t travel with Viking ship and we would need a much, much bigger stage even if we would bring along only swords. Only the swords, the burning swords that would you know would need a much bigger stage. So we decided that we just made it officially that okay if there are any Vikings around, please come and see us and please feel free to enter the stage, you know. So we’ve had Vikings coming here and the real ones, professional ones. Whatever weapons and armors and that would be fantastic. And tonight we have 13 so it’s going to be pretty full, pretty crowded on stage.
MGM: Well then, will the guys make it on stage early on in the set or is that something they come to later on?
Liv: First song and last song. If you’ve seen the artwork of the album you’ll see that there are Vikings in the artwork and those guys and girls you that you see in the artwork, they are from a group in the southwest of Germany.
So they came from all over within the area and joined just in stage and it was amazing. And that’s why we thought well, why don’t we just invite Vikings to come and join us at every place where we play. So here and there we’ve had visitors and it’s been fantastic.
MGM: Fantastic! So it’s one of those things as you’re touring around you’re actually picking up the locals that are really into it.
Liv: And even you know, sometimes there were groups I know like oh, we’re not talking to them. We’d rather we see them in battle. We see them on the battlefields. So we don’t want to… you know, we don’t feel the connection to them. But you know, we’ve had Vikings from different groups and they gathered here to our show and we’re like “It’s alright, it’s okay.” and then you know they just thought “We can do this.”
MGM: I would imagine there’s been a rise in popularity with the music because that [Viking] scene is growing as well, isn’t it?
Liv: It’s true! It’s true! I’ve really liked that. I’ve really enjoyed the attention that our kind of music and with the… you know, it’s not only music. There is always a concept, a theme behind it, sometimes also facts, a lot of history. That’s something we’ve been doing with Leaves Eyes for 12 years. And it’s good to see that the interest for this whole package is growing and it’s funny when I do press for the US, I especially remember comments about our second album which was about Leif Eriksson’s discovery of America. “Ah, nice story you invented there Liv.” Sometimes you can learn by listening to this music.
If you want some facts on this take a look at the History Channel’s page on this famous explorer:
MGM: Given the amount of history you have to work with, what was the inspiration for the latest album about Harald?
Liv: You won’t believe me. It’s happened exactly 2 years ago over a cup of morning coffee. It was Alex because we had just released Symphonies of the Night and you know Alex produced it. He, Thorsten (Bauer) my guitar player and main composer, myself, all three of us are perfectionists. So we just released Symphonies of the Night, which was a relief. Great relief but then we stopped and said how are we ever going to do things better. Now that’s what… because you know if you’re always giving a hundred and ten percent at least, what’s going to happen next? And then Alex said “What about King of Kings?” Drinking coffee and I said, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s that battle, that decisive battle which was fought in the field called Harald Fairhair’s Field, my birth place. So you know I started thinking through this and it’s King of Kings, that’s him! That’s the first king of Norway and everything’s connected to my birth place. So I just started taking my notes into my books. I’ve had these books with me you know dragging them around you know wherever to a place I’ve moved to. And it’s been very, very interesting to make this album. I started collecting information about Harald Fairhair’s life, facts, a few. I loved the fiction and I loved the Mythology.
MGM: Yes. I was going to say I imagine there’s a lot mythology in there.
Liv: Of course. Starting with [inaudible 0:10:16.6] who started writing or who lived a couple of hundred years after this decisive battle but still he mentions Harald Fairhair and I divided everything into 12 chapters. Parallel to that was then Alex composed the songs. So you know’ “Okay this is about Harald Fairhair’s father. Halfdan the Black Gudrödarson. Okay we need an aggressive song. It’s the first song on the set list.” So we’re going back in history starting with Halfdan the Black in the show which is really interesting. So you know to optimize the expression and to have our listeners visualize when listening to our music that was very important. This clear strong expressions and we added spices from here and then. So you don’t have 2 songs sounding that the same on the album. You have 12 individual pieces, musical pieces.
MGM: That’s why it has to be heard as a whole.
Liv: Exactly. Ending with I think 2nd to the last song, Trail of Blood which is about Harald’s oldest son Eric Bloodaxe who became King of York (Northumbria) , I think King of York twice. He was the unruly son, a terrible, terrible king. It was so funny to see because I had a few fans asking me about this “We’d want the next album.” I guess the connection to UK is in really there in the bonus tracks.
MGM: So you’ve now got the King of Northumbria with Eric Bloodaxe that can be covered and there’s an album in its own right there, isn’t it?
Liv: Exactly, exactly. We’re good to go.
MGM: So the next one, we can agree now that the inspirations here another cup of coffee.
Liv: Well, in my case it would be a morning cup of tea. Coffee is later in the afternoon (laughs).
MGM: In terms of your other recent appearances and other music you’d be doing, would be playing the… was it the Dames of Darkness?
Liv: Yeah, yes.
MGM: And you also play the Female voices of Metal in Belgium as well. There’s a similar connection there between the two obviously in terms of the female vocalist and the bands. Is that something you feel very strongly about trying to get women in metal and rock notice more an outlet?
Liv: Absolutely. There is one singer, one female singer for which I have a lot of respect and I really admire her. And she’s a fantastic musician-singer but she’s a fantastic person as well. That’s Doro Pesch and she was there first and I met her many times. She’s just amazing and she opened up a lot of doors and many doors for the rest of us. And even I came in to metal when I was little, even in… I was born 1976 and my parents were 18 and 19 years old, very young and still in that black Sabbath party bubble. So that’s the kind of music I grew up with. And then when I was 17-18 I founded Theatre of Tragedy with my friends up there in the darkness of Norway. And that was even then it was in the beginning of the ’90s, something very, very illusionary to have like the Beauty and the Beast vocals, you know soprano in front of a metal band, do metal band. But instead many things have happened, look today we have Nightwish, one of the biggest bands we have in this genre.
MGM: We have them headlining Wembley Arena soon. A first for a Finnish band.
Liv: Exactly and that’s fantastic. So I’m really happy to see even if Nightwish came a couple of years later. I think it’s fantastic.
MGM: Looking at your tour schedule. Has it been difficult to juggle family and bring your son out with you?
Liv: I do sometimes when possible. Whenever possible I do take my son on tour. And so it’s very important to have people around me who I can really trust and where you do feel like your family and they’re guys. They would never ever have drugs on board or we don’t even have a cigarette on board. We’re all like really, really confident and really friendly to each other and we’re taking care of each other and that makes touring so much easier.
MGM: I remember when I spoke to Alex when I interviewed him. You played at the Garage (London) a couple of years ago and speaking to Alex then about when you were able to bring your son on tour with you. Is that a difficult one to juggle around?
Liv: It is difficult because of the German school system. They’re very strict. Well first of all home schooling is forbidden and I’m a teacher. Whenever I have the time I do teach. So that’s, you know it’s crazy, because I could easily teach him and I do when we’re on the road. But in Germany, your child has to be inside of school building and that’s you know impossible. But there is one amendment which concerns circus families travelling around the world so we were circus family, alright, as long as there is something for us. But then my degree on a couple of weeks a year, it’s difficult.
But being on the road, that’s not a problem. That’s all fine you know when you’re just taking care of everything and you know being a singer-mom-boss of everybody. That’s alright but it’s just the situation we have in Germany with the school system.
MGM: And it’s in term time at the moment? So he’s Germany now?
Liv: He’s in Germany now, yeah.
It’s a shame because he loves travelling and he’s so good on tour and he’s so adaptable. He’s been on the road for 1/3 of his life. So you know, he sleeps everywhere and he doesn’t wake up because the bus is moving and he sees new places and he loves London. And I’m going to call him afterwards to tell him that I’ve got an impressive friend.
But yeah, I wish he was here. When I’m going solo, Alex would stay home and that’s alright.
MGM: And that will be in December?
Liv: Solo touring, yes, in December.
I’m going to be in the Underworld in London. There’s one UK show for my solo tour and I’m having a special guest with me and that’s Raymond, my co-founder of the Theatre of Tragedy and we’ll do a little reunion. And we’re going to do a lot of old songs from the Theatre of Tragedy.
MGM: I was going to say that’s going to take you way back.
Liv: Yeah, back to the early mid ’90s.
MGM: Does that make you nervous having to revisit music from 20 years ago?
Liv: I’ve had so many requests from fans all over the world to try and make this happen and it has been kind of impossible to do this because the other members of Theatre of Tragedy would have been in the reunion. They would have the singer that who came after me. But the fact is I founded this the band with the male singer of Theatre of Tragedy, Raymond. So I thought, “Well do I really need the others? No, I only need Raymond.” So I’ll just travel with my solo band and invite Raymond to be my special guest. And it feels like a…
MGM: You’ve come full circle?
Liv: Exactly. And I’m fine with what happened and I’m fine with… It feels good and that I’m doing it for my fans. And I will be in the Underworld on the 20th of December. It’s a day after Nightwish.