There is an old saying that everything in life happens for a reason. For Norwegian vocalist Liv Kristine, that moment of clarity came months after being fired from goth metal band Theatre of Tragedy. Disenchanted and discouraged by this turn of events, Kristine picked herself up and formed Leaves’ Eyes with members of German death metal band Atrocity.
Combining a variety of symphonic and gothic elements for over a decade now, Leaves’ eyes have become a well-established band beloved by fans and are celebrating the release of their fifth studio album Symphonies of the Night in 2013. For what seemed like the probable end of a promising musical career has blossomed into something more successful than one could ever imagine. Recently we sat down with Kristine for a personal look at her music career, the formation of Leaves’ Eyes, balancing family with music, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in metal music for twenty years now. You were one of the first female vocalists in metal to be part of what we now call the “beauty and the beast vocal styling”. This style has been adopted by countless bands such as Tristania and After Forever. Looking back now, could you have ever imagined this hybrid would have become as popular as it has?
Liv Kristine – No, not at all. The thing is, twenty years ago we were having a party and my friends and I were listening to our favorite bands. My favorite band of all-time was Black Sabbath. We were having a good time, then we thought why not get together some people and make some music and involve female vocals in doom metal. So that is what we did; two months later we recorded a cassette, back then, and we sent it out to 10-15 different labels. One month later we got a deal, that sounds like a dream. In the beginning we didn’t realize what we had founded; we founded this genre. Angelic voices in gothic metal, some call it beauty and the beast concept, some people call it romantic metal. Back then, up in Norway, far out in the countryside, this came to life. We had no clue back then (laughs), now we know.
CrypticRock.com – It really is quite amazing that it happened, and look at where it is today. You spent a decade as part of Theatre of Tragedy. When it was announced that you’d no longer be part of the band, this came as a shock to many fans. Was this a difficult time for you being you spent a great deal of your professional career with the band?
Liv Kristine – Definitely, I read it on their homepage. I had already moved to Germany, it was my mom calling me and said, “Do you know about this?” I had no idea, I got an email from them two days later. I tried calling everyone. I thought they were my friends; no one answered the phone, no one had the guts to tell me. I never found the reason for it. I never intended to leave the band and it was my band. That was something I had been quite upset about, yes. Nothing happens in vain though.
When it happened my friends supported me and the guys from Atrocity told me, “If you want to continue someday when you feel more comfortable with the whole music business again we are here, and we will be there for you if you need musicians”. I knew they were great musicians. It took me a month and the idea of Leaves’ Eyes popped up. I asked the guys of Atrocity and they said yes straight away of course. We got a deal straight away, we recorded an album straight away, and went on tour straight away. Sometimes I have to translate this from Norwegian to something my mom always said “There is always something good, even if it is really bad”.
CrypticRock.com – That makes perfect sense. You departed from Theater of Tragedy and you started something bigger and better. Did you have a feeling of fear and excitement at the same time diving into a whole new project where your artistic visions would be most pronounced?
Liv Kristine – Yes, it was actually the whole music business that made me think twice about going back to the studio, composing music, and getting a band together. I was so disappointed by the music business. At the same time I was thrown out of Theater of Tragedy and I had a court case concerning my solo project. To tell the short version of the story, some producer wanted me to be Shania Twain, which is not my thing. They sued me because I said no. I had to start from scratch, I was so disappointed. I have fans and friends all over the world so that is what keeps me going. The music business is really tough, but every time I am on stage and see the reaction of the audience it is a matter of give and take; you give and you receive. That is the best thing about all of this. Twenty years and I am still going strong (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is really a great accomplishment. Since forming Leaves’ Eyes, each album has seen the band become more dynamic in sound. With that said, you released your fifth full-length studio album Symphonies of the Night last year. What was the writing process like for this record?
Liv Kristine – Actually, I basically told my band members to just let any influence into the recording process. To be open-minded and go with a creative flow. That is what we did, Symphonies of the Night sums up ten years of Leaves’ Eyes history. I say all the best things about Leaves’ Eyes are on this album. I like to compare it to Vinland Saga (2005), if they know about Leaves’ Eyes they know about Vinland Saga. I feel very comfortable where I am standing with my band right now. We have just basically been very open-minded about the whole thing. Without sounding very arrogant, I don’t pay that much attention to what is going on around me and the moment. Of course I pick up some things, some bands like to go with a commercial flow and be more modern, I just want to do my thing.
CrypticRock.com – You really should stick with what you want to do and not be influenced by what outsiders are doing. There are many tracks on the album in which your voice takes on different textures than albums past. Was this your intention going into the album?
Liv Kristine – I let the music influence me in the matter of singing. It is always the music which tells me in which language I should write my lyrics. It is always the music which comes first. For this, I felt I needed a different dynamic in my voice. I tried to pick up some influences here and there like Montserrat Caballe, or a couple of female singers in the classical area. I have a very good friend, Maite Itoiz, from a band called Elfenthal. Her band is not that famous, but her voice is famous. She has been studying music theory for years. She comes from a family where everyone is a musician.
I was just born with this, I consider myself to be very lucky. Two strong vocal chords and that is it, I never had any singing lessons. I never went anywhere to ask for advice, but I asked Maite for some of her dirty tricks. I played the instrumental music of a couple of songs from the album and she said this is what you do, and that changed everything and I practiced that. It is all about gathering energy and power from somewhere, you just have to know where to get it from, that is it. Everything is there, my instrument is there, everything is working perfectly. That was just very enlightening to realize this works and just go for it. I sing a lot in the shower, in the car (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – It definitely comes from the emotion inside along with the natural talents you possess. Besides Leaves’ Eyes, you have also released four solo albums with your most recent being Libertine in 2012. Your solo material has more pop and rock elements. How important is it to keep things diverse for yourself, and having these two musical outlets with Leaves’ Eyes and solo to express yourself in?
Liv Kristine – Oh yes, absolutely. One thing is the financial side of it. If you are not top ten in the charts no one is going to play your music, you are just lucky if you are heard on the radio. That is one thing, if you have more musical options it is easier to do this for a living because I am a full-time musician. This is my life apart from my family. I need to be creative in various ways. I am full of ideas, I even have music in my head when I am sleeping.
CrypticRock.com – That is great that you’re so full of music. What are some of your musical influences?
Liv Kristine – As I already mentioned I grew up with metal; Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Iron Maiden. I had young parents, they were 18 and 19 when I entered this world. I became exposed to all their influences in the 70’s. Then later on when I was teenager I listened to music my friends were listening to like Madonna and a-ha. I have always been very open-minded when it comes to music. I love classical music too; like Ludwig and Wagner. I am very open-minded about it, but still my heart belongs to doom metal, basically Black Sabbath.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like you have a nice broad range of tastes. Now as part of Leaves’ Eyes you work with your husband, Alexander Krull, of eleven years now. What is it like working with your husband so close with music?
Liv Kristine – The greatest thing is we have our own studio which is just across the house. So when I say music is my life, yes it is. We are in the middle of everything (laughs). I even take my family on tour. Having my husband around, he has even more experience than I have, we complement each other in a perfect way. It is great to have him with me on the road because he knows all the technical aspects. He is a fantastic dad and husband. We are lucky to have found each other.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds really special. Being that you tour so often, is it difficult to be on the road with a family?
Liv Kristine – That is difficult. We decided when we tour with Leaves’ Eyes, everyone is coming along as far as possible concerning school, that is something we have to consider as well. When I am doing solo shows I basically go alone. When Alex is touring with Atrocity he goes alone. In the past everyone went everywhere, but that is just not possible anymore because of school.
CrypticRock.com – My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Liv Kristine – Actually horror is not my type of thing. I am too realistic about things, it gets too personal in ways. When it goes into the psychological area that is when it gets tough for me. I like Alien, it is great. That is what I can take. I like more historical bound movies such as Gladiator (2000).