Leave's Eyes Interview
Before their set in Manchester, Mick Birchall had a sit down and a chat with front woman, Liv Kristine. We talk about the new record King of Kings, touring the UK, struggles with the music industry and the personal connection with their music.
Mick: Just to break the ice, how has the tour been going so far?
Liv: We love touring the UK and we always make sure we tour the UK at least once a year. The market here is growing all the time and the fan base we have here is always so good to us. We always get the support we need and sometimes we will get bigger crowds here than other countries across Europe.
Mick: I was happy I got to see you headline Dames of Darkness Festival this year. How was that for you and how did it feel to represent the genre is such a big way in the UK?
Liv: Amazing! We had an amazing time and it was one of the first show where we got to play some of the newer songs and we got an amazing response from the crowd. We also had Pete (Guitarist) play with us for the first time. So that was a great experience too.
Mick: How is that shift in dynamic working out for the band? As it’s always a new sensation when you add new members.
Liv: It’s all worked out really well. We also have a new bassist, Chris, who I got to know through The Sirens actually. We haven’t had a bass player in such a long time. It’s almost impossible to find somebody to come along on tour and leaves their family, friends and studies behind. Obviously not for good but for the tour at least. You know? It’s not always easy. You have to be quite flexible to do this and with Pete and Chris.
Mick: I guess you also have to find someone who you will get along with as well.
Liv: Exactly. We could get someone like Bon Jovi’s bass player and he could be good but if you're not going to get one with them it more than likely won’t work out. You see, we really try to take care so we don’t have any “rock stars” in the band. We are touring as one unit, as a family, sometime I will even take my kids on tour with us. So it’s important that we keep it as a smooth, humble and well organised experience as possible.
Mick: On to the new album King of Kings, how has it been playing the new songs to the fans and what has been the overall reaction?
Liv: Amazing! You know we came to a point where we had rehearsed all of the new songs to see what would fit in a live situation and we couldn't get rid of anything. It come to the point where we had to consider which of the older songs we wanted to cut and really think what we needed to keep. That’s good though, it just means the new album is really dynamic and the audience really seem to like it.
Mick: When it comes to writing new music, how hard is it to write new songs that sound fresh but at the same time keep them familiar enough as to not alienate the current fans?
Liv: Well, I think we are just very lucky. We have had friends and fans who have been following us since… well since Theatre of Tragedy. I feel Vinland Saga is the album that most people know and I guess that’s the base. Yet, I think the fans are very open to the band's progression within art and in our compositions. What fans really seem to like is the Viking theme in there, which is my heritage and my birthplace. They just seem to appreciate the history and mythology. In that respect I feel that King of Kings is probably a milestone in the history of Leaves’ Eyes, it has a connection to Vinland Saga, which was about Leif Erikson’s discovery of America, and now King of Kings is about Harald Fairhair, who won a decisive battle in Hafrsfjord, where I’m from near Stavanger. So there is a lot of history in there but also a lot of me. That’s seems to be what our fans really want.
Mick: So it’s fair to say that it’s important to preserve your culture in your music.
Liv: Very important. I’ve always been highly interested in languages and music has always been there. My parents used to play band like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. The input I got formed me to become a singer in heavy metal. I've always brought in everything which I feel comfortable with.
Mick: Over your career, you have played a lot of shows. Do you prefer bigger shows, smaller shows or does it not matter as long as you’re playing?
Liv: It doesn’t matter. As long as I have enough room to move from the front of the stage to the drum set, I will be happy. We’ve played everything from Waken Open Air with 80,000 people to rooms where you can only get about 55 people in. We’ve done it all. However, at the smaller shows you get to say thank you to your fans. On tours like this we play but then we will say thank you in person because you make our dreams come true.
Mick: Speaking of the bigger shows, I really enjoyed the your show on the DVD “We Came with the Northern Winds: En Saga i Belgia”. Would you ever consider doing another taped live show for a DVD boxset?
Liv: Yeh. We are actually thinking about it for next year at Metal Female Voices Festival. If we could we want to bring in the viking ship, which is still currently parked at Waken. I hope the mice haven’t got to it [both laugh]. We would love to do a big show with the swords and a bunch of vikings. (Mick: Perhaps a choir as well) Liv: We would love that, maybe even an orchestra. We’ll see I have no clue if we can make this happen. It would definitely be cool though, we’ll see.
Mick: We’ve mentioned The Sirens and along with that we have Atrocity, your solo work. Whilst at the same time you all have families as well. How do you manage the time to deal with all of these projects and manage your personal life at the same time?
Liv: Well, it all comes down to good planning. There are lots of things to consider. The way we cope is we will do the touring in very short periods, giving us the time to go home and check that everything is fine. Our son knows that “mum maybe gone for five days but then she’ll be home for two weeks and we can have fun”. We have a very good support network, so it’s an absolute privilege to do this, being a full time musician and combine family and music. This wasn’t always possible, a few years ago I thought to myself that I would go back to teaching. Since we switched label to AFM records, thing have been going really well and it leaves me with the belief that this could actually work. That way I can concentrate on art and family.
Mick: So I ask my last couple of questions. Firstly what is the hardest thing professionally you have had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
Liv: Well, around the millennium up to 2002/03. I was stuck in a terrible court case that was basically about my solo rights. It was going really and then there were people sniffing around and they smelled money. In the end, I felt like a marionette and when I realised that I spoke out for the first time. It ended in disaster, I basically ended up saying “No, Mr Producer, that’s not the kind of music I don’t feel comfortable with it. Please Label, take care of my visions and views on music and my experiences. I can’t be a pop artist, I can’t be Shania Twain, and I don’t want to be either”. This went on for three years until I got my rights back to do whatever I wanted. I just lost so much faith in the business of music. The court case ended when I got pregnant and I just couldn’t take it anymore. They wanted money, I just thought, fine take the money. However, I got my freedom back and since then I’ve been very happy to do whatever I wanted. I would just encourage any woman in the music business to speak out for yourself before it’s too late.
Mick: Finally, what is the hardest thing personally you have had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
Liv: I think it would have to be when my grandpa passed away when I was five and my dog passed when I six. I grew up on the countryside, it was a beautiful place but a very lonely place so when you lose someone it’s very tough. However, I thought he had just gone away for a while and I went looking for him to see if I could find him, then I had my parents looking for me. That’s why I think if someone passes away it’s still important to tell you kids what’s happened and you can’t look for them, you can only remember. Yet when I’m on stage my grandpa and my dog are there, it’s all quite spiritual.
Mick: Thank you for chatting with me this evening. It has been wonderful.
Words & Interview: Mick Birchall