Nico interviewed Liv Kristine, the charismatic and Valkyrie-like frontwoman of Leaves’ Eyes in Sheffield on their UK tour, in support of the new album King of Kings.
Nico: Hi Liv, how are you?
Liv: Very good, how are you?
N: I’m great, thanks.
L: Good to see you again.
N: Good to see you too. How has the tour gone so far?
L: Really really well. We’re on the UK leg of the tour now and we have one third of the tour still to play. That’s going to be for the UK only. The first leg was for the rest of Europe which was really nice too. Paris: awesome, Belgium: awesome. But the UK is always something special, we have a very big and strong fan base here. We have fans and friends who follow us for every gig and that’s a privilege. I see that the market for our kind of music is growing here, and that’s maybe not the case in Germany. So it’s very good to be back, we’ve already played three gigs and it has been absolutely fantastic.
N: You’ve released a new album recently: King of Kings – which you’ve based on Harald Fairhair. Obviously Scandinavian history, old Norse history in general, is full of fascinating characters like Eirik Bloodaxe.
L: That’s one of Harald’s sons. You’ll find him in the first or second bonus track, it’s called Trail of Blood. That’s a song about him. So who knows what the next Leaves’ Eyes album is going to be about. We know that Harald had many sons and daughters.
N: There are so many other characters like Erik the Red or Leif Erikson. What is it about Harald Fairhair that stood out from the rest of all these great characters and infamous villains? What made you want to do an album based on his life and his legacy?
L: Because I grew up with the legacy of Harald Fairhair. The decisive battle that made him become the king of Norway took place in a fjord called Hafrsfjord, which is my birthplace. So Harald Fairhair has always been there. I’ve always been interested in history and it happened exactly two years ago, over a morning cup of coffee that Alex came up with this idea: what about king of kings? I started digging through all my books and I contacted my mother in Norway to collect stuff at museums and libraries. So it has been amazing to study Harald Fairhair’s life and to divide it into twelve chapters. Parallel to my studies, Alex and Thorsten composed songs at the studio. We’ve been very busy, it has been a very intense process but highly creative. We had so much fun and it means a lot to me to have this album released. It’s definitely a milestone in the career of Leaves’ Eyes. And as I said, it happened at my birthplace so.
N: I highly praised the album for Valkyrian Music..
L: Thank you very much! I read it, of course.
N:Good! Obviously it’s brilliant to see that you guys got back to how you originally started with tales of Viking warriors, going forth into battle, exploring lands and so on. How would you say that King of Kings compares to the rest of the Leaves’ Eyes discography?
L: I’d say King of Kings has a connection to The Vinland Saga, which was thematically about Leif Erikson and his discovery of America. So if there is a link to any other album, I’d say The Vinland Saga. You already mentioned the folky instruments and the folky touch and the orchestra and everything so it has been there all the time but every album has been different. Now King of Kings happened, it was great to see how everything came together. We worked on every song as if it were one individual piece of music. We added any instrument from London Voices to White Russian Orchestra, cello, flutes…everything. We worked on every song until all three of us, Thorsten, Alex and I being perfectionists, said okay let’s go for the mix, its fine.
N: On this album you added Simone Simons from Epica and Lindy-Fay Hella from Wardruna. What was it like working with those two women on the two tracks that they featured on?
L: Absolutely amazing. Of course I know of the series Vikings and I just thought the music is amazing, the soundtrack is amazing! Who is that girl singing? I found out she’s from Bergen! Through a common friend of mine and of Wardruna, I got Lindy-Fay‘s contacts. I contacted her and she said “of course, I know you and I would really like to work with you”. So I sent her Blazing Waters and we were blown away. A couple of weeks later I flew to Bergen and met Lindy-Fay. I presented her Blazing Waters and she loved it, it was definitely golden. She’s a lovely girl and a great musician.
Simone lives one hour away from us so it was about time to invite her to come to our studio. She’s been at our place before but it has been quite a while. She’s a mother now so she’s busy, but she came by and she listened to the song and…I’d say we are a perfect match. Lovely, lovely to work with her.
N: Obviously Epica and Leaves’ Eyes, despite falling into the symphonic metal genre, have got two completely distinct styles. Do you think there will be any sort of crossover between from the recent collaboration between you and Simone?
L: I don’t know. I have no clue, we’ll see. I love Simone and her work, she’s a lovely girl and we are both mothers… We live one hour away from each other so who knows. I’d love to further cooperate with Simone. It would be great.
N: Going back to Harald Fairhair. You obviously studied his saga, his life story quite extensively for the album. What would you say is the most fascinating aspect about the man?
L: We got a few facts about Harald through Snorri, but Snorri came about a couple of hundred years later. Next to that we got the sagas and the tales of the Norwegian kings, where you can find a lot of interesting written words about them to honor them. I think it is absolutely amazing to read the different approaches to his person, because he must have been exactly as unruly, wild like his son Eirik Bloodaxe. He must have been exactly like that himself. In many of the tales or poems about Harald it is told that he was beautiful and that he could have had any woman: he was very glorious. It’s fascinating to read other stories like the battle of Hafrsfjord; about blood being everywhere and the fjord burning or different sceneries, a different Harald.
N: He certainly sounds like an interesting figure. As a fan of both Vikings and Game of Thrones, which one do you prefer?
L: Vikings. Last time it would have been Game of Thrones but it’s Vikings now because of the music. Of course because of my friend Lindy-Fay who’s in there. Although it’s made in Hollywood, I think it’s very nice. It’s very nice to watch those great actors. I love it. And also because I’m Norwegian.
N: That’s very good. Thank you for your time. Have a lovely show tonight.
L: You’re welcome, thank you very much and thanks for coming.
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