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A Dirty Dozen with LIV KRISTINE – April 2023

| 17 April 2023 | Reply

Photo credit: M. Rohrbach

According to a recent press release: “Today, Liv Kristine presents the official video for the new single “Love Me High.” On the third single from the upcoming studio album River of Diamonds – which will be released on April 21st via Metalville Records – Liv Kristine presents an extraordinary duet partner in her sister Carmen Elise Espenæs (Savn, Midnattsol). “Love Me High” is one of the faster of the twelve songs on River of Diamonds and fascinates with a catchy hook that has all the ingredients for a real earworm: a song full of strong authenticity and unbound creativity. River of Diamonds, the sixth solo album by the queen of Scandinavian gothic metal, continues on the path set by the EP Have Courage Dear Heart (2021), which received great international acclaim. All tracks on the new album were composed by Liv’s long-time friend Tommy Olsson (Theatre of Tragedy, Long Night) at his Black Rider Records studio in Tau, near Liv Kristine’s birthplace of Stavanger, Norway. Carefully spending time with the compositions that kept coming out of Tommy’s studio in 2021 and 2022 felt just right, like a yin-yang experience: music & pre-mix (Tommy O.), own lyrics and melodies, the finishing touches (mix & master by Eroc) and visuals (photos by M. Rohbach) merged into exactly the album Liv Kristine had passionately longed for.” We get Liv to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Todd, it’s an honor and pleasure talking to you. Tommy Olsson, who is the composer of the album of River of Diamonds, is also the composer of Aegis, Theater of Tragedy’s third album. I’m still very proud of having been part of that production. I think it’s a brilliant album. Tommy and I got back together in 2015 as he contacted me and both of us had left Theater of Tragedy, so we lost contact. He contacted me with a couple of compositions, asking if I could have a listen to them. Now it’s eight, nine years later and the album is finished. Tommy’s been very patient with me, and the reason is that in 2015 and ’16, my life took a sudden change. I had to find a new home, to find a new financial source. I started working as a teacher for children with special needs and lots of things going on. Life was really, rough and stressful back then, and things started to calm down in 2018, ’19. Then that was the time for me to sit down and have a deep listen to his compositions, and I was amazed. The words, the lyrics kept coming, the melodies kept coming like a flow, a very productive flow, and it felt authentic, and it felt like writing all my experience into Tommy’s composition. If I wouldn’t have released River of Diamonds, I would’ve released a book. Every song is a chapter in a book, and it’s about experience coming home to yourself. I would say this album is the most authentic album I’ve ever written. It feels like my first album. That’s maybe because standing in the middle of my life being 47 years old and lots of things have changed for the better. My son is a grownup man, and it feels like it’s a new era for me and River of Diamonds marks this process of homecoming for me as a person, as a woman, and as an artist. And if you enjoyed Aegis, you will enjoy this album too.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Well, Black Sabbath, yes. My parents were very young when I entered this world. I was born in 1976 and my parents were 19 years old, and there was a lot of music in our home, especially Black Sabbath, and I loved singing along to Ozzy, but I knew that this music, doom metal, was not where you would find an angelic soprano voice back then. I started working with contrasts, like bringing my voice into doom metal, just spending time with doom metal and dark metal and heavy metal. When I turned 15, 16 and I met some guys who had the same interests as me, I decided not to be the keyboardist in a band. That was what girls were doing back then, being in dark metal bands. I decided to become the front singer, the front vocalist, and that was what impressed labels and the audience out there. I’ve always been someone who likes to work with contrasts and to work authentically, to work with contrasts in art and to appear where nobody expects you to appear.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

The band, Black Sabbath, of course, the opera singer Montserrat Caballé, and ABBA. The Swedish pop band, ABBA, because of their harmonies, they have heavenly harmonies, and that’s why I’m obsessed with lovely harmonies. Yes, those three and later, of course, Tori Amos and Kate Bush. And nowadays, I really do love Susanne Sundfør, a Norwegian artist, brilliant artist. I love the band Oceans of Slumber. I still love Paradise Lost, Amorphous. I have a very wide musical taste, and there are so many brilliant bands and artists out there, and every week I find something which interests me, which I find brilliant. I just bought myself one album of Oceans of Slumber and one of the Fares women, Ava. Two very, very different bands and artists.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Well, Ozzy retired. That’s a shame, so I have to leave those plans, although I met him personally. I love Ozzy, but I also do love the work of Kate Bush. And she’s through and through authentic, and the same with Susanne Sundfør and Ava. Wonderful artists. Yes, who knows? I’ve always been very open-minded towards projects, and there’s been wonderful collaborations with Cradle of Filth. “Amphetamine” is one pearl in my career. We were nominated for the Grammy, and I would’ve loved crossing that red carpet. But I think Lemmy of Motorhead got the Grammy, but he deserved it, so that’s okay.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

I used to be a runner, I used to run every day. Yes, that was something that cleared my mind, calmed my mind. I got rid of the monkey mind through running and sports. I still do sports, but it has turned more into to walking my dog, yoga, swimming. I do love sports, but the process of coming home to oneself, as I already mentioned also includes knowing how to shut off your mind and to really sit down and being in the moment, grasping the moment. It starts with breathing, it starts with trying not to sense every thought that comes through your mind, all those high-speed trains going through your mind every day. It’s a conscious choice to work on that process. Trying to be in the moment, not thinking, not wanting, just being in the here and now and thinking nothing. And being in that nothingness is a great relief, I think. Another way for me to heal, except from being in the nature and doing meditation and yoga and spending time with my family is of course also making music and being on stage. That moment when I’m on stage and I feel that the music in my performance is resonating with the audience, that’s a moment where I feel I’m in that moment and I’m healing. I was never sick on tour because I healed every night when I was on stage. And it’s a moment of bliss and I seek those moments of bliss to just be in the here and now. I forgot to mention painting, I love painting as well.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I would describe my music as gothic rock metal, and fortunately, I’ve been granted an enormous freedom from my fans and followers throughout these years, starting with Theater of Tragedy in the nineties. We were a doom metal band with female vocals and growls. Then my first solo album, Deus Ex Machina, was released in 1998, which was an electronic pop album. Since then, I’ve been active within any kind of music genre, from pure classical stuff through folk stuff. Cradle of Filth, I joined some black metal bands, some artists who were more in the direction of pop and electronic music, so I’m happy to be able to move in whatever direction I want to move within. That’s great, I never experienced that anybody, a reviewer, or a fan would disagree with me concerning the musical direction I should move within. I’m lucky. Yes, well, one reviewer said once he hated the album and I look like a fat pig, but that’s something we shouldn’t, and we can’t take seriously. But that’s many, many years ago, that was somebody who could not accept me moving into a more pop direction with my first solo album.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Okay, so who gets the drinks in? My drummer gets the drinks in. Who is the first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a sing along? Well, we rehearse and then we have a break, like eating something, we go eating somewhere. There’s no chance to cook in the rehearsal room, so we go to order something and then we have something to drink. But the drummer always has a full refrigerator, he fills up the refrigerator in the rehearsal room. But there is not much singing except from the rehearsal, because when we meet… I mean, we live in two countries. My band lives in Germany, I live in Switzerland, so whenever we meet up for a rehearsal, it’s three or four, up to five hours, so then it’s good to have some silence in the breaks.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

There is an artist, a female artist called Avert. When I first heard her, I just came across a vinyl of hers and I bought it. I thought, well okay, let’s have a listen. I was so amazed by her work and by her voice, and she’s also an artist who moves freely within different genres. Yes, I love Avert, and it’s great to see that artists grasp their freedom to develop as authentic artists. I think that’s a great thing. It’s a daring thing to do but she does it, Avert does it, and she has amazing voice. It’s just a one outstanding voice, and live, she’s amazing too. Singing on an album and singing live, that’s two different things, but she does it, she just nails it. I love Avert.

Photo credit: M. Rohrbach

9. What is the best part of being a musician?  If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Dream job, yes, I got my dream job. When my life was a mess in 2016, I started working as a teacher for kids with special needs, and that’s something I didn’t study. I didn’t study music, I didn’t study singing, I didn’t study teaching, so but that’s what I love doing. Both, teaching and singing. I studied something else; I got my master in Anglistics, and Germanistiks, and phonetics and phonology. But somehow, teaching and singing, both ways feel like an inner call. Now I’m doing both, I’m being a teacher for kids with special needs here in Switzerland. It’s a full-time job, as well as I’m being a singer. I have both and I need both, and it’s very important to have a good plan so that I’m able to have both in my life, I need both. Yes, so I consider myself being lucky, especially during the COVID times. Many artists were suffering, there was just no income. I could secure my income through my second job, or let’s say my first job, being a teacher. I consider myself to be lucky.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer?  Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

That’s a very good question. No, I can’t think of any. Well, I’ve never been asked about my age, so I mentioned that on purpose. I’m 47 years old and I’m starting in the middle of my life. River Of Diamonds feels like my first release in the second half of my life. Yes, I’m not afraid of talking about age, because I think age is a great thing, actually, to talk about. You are everything that you’ve experienced, all the stories, everything, that’s who you are, who you become. It feels great to be myself right now coming home, and life has calmed down a lot since I moved to Switzerland, so never be afraid of asking about my age, I’m blessed to be 47. Now, I will say the same when I’m 48 or 58. The question I’m tired of answering? No, I’m grateful towards any interviewer, any journalist, it’s very important that I got you to spread the news. I’m grateful that you’re around. But that question, can you tell us something about yourself? That’s a question I’m tired of answering because I think I would expect my interview partner to know who I am, because he or she’s doing the interview with me. That’s a tiring question.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Well, there have been moments where I thought I should have signed that deal, yes. But you learn by doing and there’s been occasions where I found myself sitting in front of court, and I didn’t even know what I was doing there, who had messed up because so many people were involved. You have to be careful where you sign, where you put your name, and you learn by doing. In 2016, I got my rights back, the rights of Liv Kristine, and I started from scratch, picked up the crumbles of Liv Kristine. Then in 2018, my husband, Michael, really gave me the kick to do everything myself. We started doing it ourselves, and then that was a new beginning for Liv Kristine. But yes, I have to say that one sore moment was losing Leaves’ Eyes. Especially the name Leaves’ Eyes because the band name is based on my own name. That felt sore, but there’s nothing I could do about it. Yes, that’s a closed chapter and I wish the band all the best of luck. But still, I feel like that. Especially the first album was a very authentic album, it has to do with my birthplace and the heritage of Norway and the nature of Norway. There’s so much of me in there, but it’s a close chapter and it was very important for me after that to focus on Liv Kristine. I’m so happy that Liv Kristine has been my solo band since my first solo album in 1998, Deus Ex Machina, I’m so happy that I never gave up Liv Kristine.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for anyone record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Well, any of my own records, if that would be the case, I would say that I would rerecord Libertine. Yes, but it’s not so much about the songs but about the production itself and we were under time pressure back then. If I ever would rerelease Libertine, I would have it remixed and remastered, if possible. But apart from that, I’m happy about every album I’ve released so far. Libertine has one of those songs, one of those compositions, which means a lot to me. Up until today, I play the song live and the track is called “Silence.” “Silence” has the same value for me as “Gravity,” which is one of the ballads on River Of Diamonds. “Silence” is a composition that kind of happened through me, I feel like the universe wanted to manifest something through me, the same with “Gravity.” I always play these two songs live, and every time I perform these songs, it feels like I’m in a magic bubble. Let’s stay in touch. I hope to tour the US, which I haven’t done so far as Liv Kristine, so it’s about time.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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