February 28, 2018 Interview – Alexander Krull & Thorsten Bauer of Leaves’ Eyes
Known for their topical affinity toward Norse mythology and Viking lore, European outfit Leaves’ Eyes are a band who have sailed the seven seas for nearly fifteen years now, all while creating truly epic Symphonic/Folk Metal. Their impressive and detailed catalogue consists of seven larger-than-life albums, ranging from 2004’s debut Lovelorn to the brand-new Sign of the Dragonhead, a truly astounding production of epic proportions.
Now with Finnish siren Elina Siirala at the helm, Leaves’ Eyes are entering a new phase in their journey. With such a bright future ahead of the hard-working and talented band, what better time than now to sit down with Founding Member, Keyboardist, Vocalist and Producer Alexander Krull and Guitarist/Bassist Thorsten “Tosso” Bauer to discuss all things Sign of the Dragonhead, upcoming tours, spring and summer festivals, and, of course, Norse mythology and Viking reenactments.
CrypticRock.com – Though you are just now entering a brand new chapter as a band, Leaves’ Eyes have been creating luscious Symphonic Metal for nearly fifteen years now. What have been some of the highs and lows for you and Leaves’ Eyes throughout that time?
Tosso Bauer – For me, one of the best parts of being a musician is that you can travel all over the world and meet/greet interesting people and fans. We have toured in approximately 60 countries so far, including North America, Latin America, Australia, and Asia, just to mention a few. [Touring gives you] a wider perspective on life, you can explore and experience many different places and countries. That’s fantastic!
One of my personal, musical highlights was the Wacken Open Air 2012, where we played right before Iron Maiden with a huge stage-production including our big Viking ship. On our tour in North America, together with Sabaton, we had an incredible day off together in Florida with jet-skis, motorboats, and lots of beers at the coast. That’s a priceless memory, as well. On the downside, there were things like some planned shows not happening: that’s one of the most frustrating things, because as a Metal band we want to play live of course.
CrypticRock.com – Unfortunately, there will always be snafus like that with every touring band, and the shows that do go off without a hitch are what make it all worthwhile! Now, obviously we are here to discuss your phenomenal new album, Sign of the Dragonhead. This being the band’s seventh full-length, what was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Tosso Bauer – The writing and recording of a Leaves’ Eyes’ album is always very complex and time-consuming, even more since we write, record, and produce most of the instruments in our own Mastersound Studio. Basically, we have been working the last 2 years on this new, monster album. What really helped for the writing process were the many shows and tours we played in between the recordings: we toured through North America two times with Sonata Arctica and Sabaton, and also did many club shows as well as festival headline shows in Europe. We took the power and energy of all these shows into the studio and the recordings. Sometimes bands can get lost during an intense studio production, but we always had in mind how the songs would sound live, which added extra power to all. For me, the star of the album are the songs and the amazing thing is that they sound amazing as symphonic, epic tunes as well as kick ass Metal songs. Surely that is one of the strengths of the album and our band!
Alexander Krull – Production-wise, Sign of the Dragonhead is for sure the best and biggest album we did so far. We worked with some extraordinary artists, like the London Voices Choir – who are featured on a lot of great blockbuster movies such as The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars – and Victor Smolski’s Classical ensemble from Minsk/Belarus, as well as Folk, percussion and Classical solo musicians. I love to work with all these layers for such an epic Metal album. Also, lyric-wise, it’s very exciting to work out new concepts as well as amazing artworks for Leaves’ Eyes!
CrypticRock.com – Being able to put the band’s live energy into a recording is important and absolutely makes for an even better album, as do contributions from other stellar musicians. That said, did you consciously do anything different in the studio this time around?
Tosso Bauer – Alex and I have always been the creative backbone of the band, so the writing process this time was not so very much different to the albums before; Alex and I complement each other very well during all productions. While I take care of the guitars, orchestrations, and melodic side of the music, Alex is amazing with drums, overall arrangements, vocal lines, and ideas, and all technical aspects of an album production. Never change a winning team!
Alexander Krull – That’s right! We are a great team and have very good working flow within the band itself! Of course, you always want to improve and develop as an artist and also as a music producer, which I am too. I’m always looking for some new ideas sound-wise and giving the best for each album in every way.
CrypticRock.com – The fact that you are such a tight partnership and a winning team definitely translates to the final product that fans get to hear. Alexander, as you just mentioned, you produced the album yourself. What went into that decision and should we expect to see you producing more in the future?
Alexander Krull – I’m producing our bands, Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity, and also work for other bands at Mastersound Studio as a producer. I’ve been doing this for many years now and have worked with some great artists all over the Metal world, like Doro, Belphegor, End of Green, and Totenmond. A new Leaves’ Eyes album is always a new adventure for me, because such a huge production is very demanding and always a big challenge, too. On a song like “Waves of Euphoria,” I had to mix about 300 tracks.
Tosso Bauer – Alex knows the best what the sound and production of Leaves’ Eyes demands, and he also works with other bands at Mastersound Studio as a great producer. We are used to working totally independent in our own Mastersound Studio, which is far out and surrounded by forests. That helps us to stay focused and feel what we really want to do, express, and work on.
CrypticRock.com – Clearly the arrangement is working very well for Leaves’ Eyes! Now, let’s be honest for a moment, it’s often a bit of a suckerpunch to the chest when a band loses their lead vocalist. There’s no need for us to hash-out the departure of Liv Kristine, so instead let us focus on your lovely new frontwoman Elina Siirala. What has Elina brought to the table for Leaves’ Eyes and, particularly, what did her presence lend to Sign of the Dragonhead?
Tosso Bauer – Elina has been our female lead singer and front-lady for almost two years. She did a fantastic job in many shows, festivals, and tours in the last two years, but she is also great to work with in the studio. She is very ambitious and professional when it comes to singing and music, just like me and Alex are, as well. Elina’s voice and the music on Sign of the Dragonhead fit together perfectly.
CrypticRock.com – Elina does a beautiful job on the album and brings a new depth to Leaves’ Eyes. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that Sign of the Dragonhead maintains the band’s well-established affection for Norse mythology and Viking lore. What inspires you to incorporate these themes into your lyrics?
Alexander Krull – The Norse mythology always has a huge impact on the concept of Leaves’ Eyes. Sign of the Dragonhead starts with the title-track, which is directly connected to the album King of Kings. The Vikings reached out to new horizons like we do with the band ourselves! The sagas tell us about King Harald Fairhair, his longship called “Draken” (dragon), his legendary crew, and the king’s guard of wolf-coated Berserkers; but Sign of the Dragonhead is not a full concept album about just this one character.
We have a lot more of very interesting and different stories to tell on the new album! For example, the song “Völva” is about the magic women in the Viking age: the Vikings believed a Völva could foresee the future in their Pagan rituals, connect to the other world, and give important advice to the Jarls, the leader of Vikings, too.
CrypticRock.com – That is intriguing and important insight into the meaning of “Völva,” in particular. Do you have a favorite Norse myth? If so, are there any analogies between that tale and the career of Leaves’ Eyes?
Alexander Krull – There are great Medieval sagas which suit the band very well! The song “Jomsborg” is very personal to me: the track is about the legendary Viking stronghold and the Jomsvikings. My father and his family are rooted from this area, so it’s very special for me to write a song about it. Nowadays, there is the biggest Viking reenactment group called “Jomsborg,” and I’m a member of honor in this Viking group, too. The song is also a homage to the whole Viking reenactment scene worldwide! When I have time and we are not on tour, I also do trainings for the battles and go to the Viking and Medieval events to join my brothers and sisters out there. We also have Vikings on-stage at our shows; on some of the shows in the USA and Canada, we had great support from the Jomsborg Viking groups in North America.
CrypticRock.com – It is wonderful that you are able to actively partake in this piece of your heritage and add that additional dimension to Leaves’ Eyes in the process! Now, this is admittedly somewhat random, but one must ask: are you a fan of History Channel’s Vikings series? How does that compare to the Viking raids that you envision in your mind?
Tosso Bauer – I really like Vikings the TV series because it’s very entertaining, but you shouldn’t see it as an accurate, historical documentary according to the sagas; rather just enjoy the show.
Alexander Krull – I think songs like “Rulers of Wind and Waves” would suit very well in the TV show Vikings.
CrypticRock.com – Very important point, Tosso, and yes, Leaves’ Eyes are a shoe-in for the Vikings soundtrack. How do we make that happen? Back to the music. On “Riders on the Wind,” are there bagpipes? If so, that seems like an intriguing instrument to bring into the mix. What inspired that?
Tosso Bauer – I am especially happy with that song and its vibe; I like the Celtic/Irish feel of the whole song very much. You can hear Uilleann pipes in the song, played by the amazing Christian Roch, who has worked with us on every Leaves’ Eyes album since Njord. “Riders on the Wind” takes you on a journey across the sea to ancient places and is also a great party song above all!
CrypticRock.com – It’s a wonderful track and the album is full of great songs! In fact, there is a lot of history behind “Jomsborg,” in particular. Are you a history lover and is that something you are hoping to spread through your music?
Alexander Krull – Yes, Tosso and I, we are both kind of history nerds, but you don’t have to be a history lover to enjoy the music of Leaves’ Eyes! (Laughs) Like I mentioned before, the legend of Jomsborg has a personal meaning to me as my father’s family is from the area. The Jomsvikings stand for an unbeatable brotherhood and strong unity. No wonder that their name is used for the modern Viking scene, too!
Viking reenactment is like a passion for living history or even a lifestyle, similar to the Metal world. In fact, there are many Metal fans involved in the scene where people try to reproduce everything, from jewelry, clothing, the whole lifestyle, to houses, to ships, to replicas of old weapons. It’s like a time-out of modern life. With the music of Leaves’ Eyes, it is a kind of the same spirit: we want to create epic pictures with our music and take the people on a journey with our songs; shut off daily life and enter the world of Leaves’ Eyes!
CrypticRock.com – There is a definite allure into escaping into the past, that is for sure. That being said, realizing that songs are much like children and you can never pick a favorite, what are some of the tracks that you are most proud of this time around? Which songs do you most look forward to performing live?
Alexander Krull – We already played new songs on 70000 Tons of Metal and our release shows, which was a blast! “Sign of the Dragonhead,” “Across the Sea,” “Jomsborg,” and “Riders on the Wind” were all really great live songs and we got great reactions from the crowd!
CrypticRock.com – That’s wonderful! Speaking of your live performances, should we expect to see Leaves’ Eyes on the road shortly and, assuming that this is the case, when can we expect to see you on North American stages in the coming months?
Alexander Krull – In April we will start our Tour of the Dragonhead through Europe. We are looking forward to presenting our new album to our fans around the globe, and we have great feedback and requests from everywhere. So, we hope to come back to the U.S. and Canada as soon as possible!
CrypticRock.com – We would love to see you in North America soon! Similarly, you are performing in your native Germany’s famous Wacken Open in August. What other festivals will Leaves’ Eyes be gracing this spring and summer?
Alexander Krull – Yes, we will play Wacken in the summertime and we are looking forward to playing there again and to meeting the fans at the biggest Heavy Metal event in the world. Before that, we will play Ragnarök Festival in the springtime and some more festivals which are not announced yet!
CrypticRock.com – So, fans should definitely keep their eyes peeled for additional festival dates then. On that topic, many bands approach festival shows differently, as it is an opportunity to introduce your band to new audiences, and yet there is a certain creative stifling that goes into playing an all-day festival. How do Leaves’ Eyes approach festivals?
Tosso Bauer – Festivals are great to meet and see other bands and friends. Sometimes it can also provide you a chance to blast out a really big production; so you can sometimes create some really epic moments and shows. On the other hand, you often have to deal with only-line-check-situations and also outside weather changes. We always try to enjoy every festival the best we can and deliver the best possible show for our fans, that’s the main focus.
CrypticRock.com – That is the most important thing: giving the fans your best. So, with a brand new album available, a wonderful new vocalist, and the future shining so very bright for Leaves’ Eyes, what should fans expect from the band throughout 2018?
Tosso Bauer – You can expect a lot of powerful and bombastic shows and tours throughout 2018, and we will continue this way all over the world in 2019!
CrypticRock.com – We look forward to every moment. Last question, at CrypticRock, we cover music as well as films, particularly those in the Horror and Sci-Fi genres. From our 2013 interview with you, Alex, we recall you saying you were a fan of classic Horror movies. Have you seen anything new in either the Horror and/or Sci-Fi genre in recent years that you enjoyed?
Alexander Krull – Yes, true. I enjoy the old Horror classics the most, but I like the TV show The Walking Dead and also the spin off, Fear the Walking Dead. Gravity (2013) was a great Sci-Fi movie with a great performance by Sandra Bullock. (Yes, she has German roots!) With my son, Leon, I watch all the Star Wars movies, of course. (Laughs)