Interview with Liv Kristine

Interview with Liv Kristine

- in Written interviews

Hello Liv, nice to meet you! Your 6th album “River of Diamonds” is set to release on April 4th, 2023; can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this record and what your fans can expect from it?
Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure and an honor to talk to you. So, let’s turn to question number one.

The inspiration behind this record? Well, the composer of this album is Tommy Olson, who is also the composer of Aegis, the third Theatre of Tragedy album, which is one of those productions that I am really proud to have been a part of. I think the album is brilliant. Tommy and I reunited after many years in 2015, and he started sending me songs. Although I was impressed with his music, my life was really busy back then, and music was not my first priority. I had to take care of my family, find a new home, and resettle myself, so I didn’t have much time for music. But Tommy was patient and waited for me for eight to nine years until the album was finally finished.

It was actually Tommy who gave me the inspiration to continue singing because I was worried about whether I would ever get back on stage and feel the passion again when singing and composing. Tommy and my now-husband, Michael, encouraged me to get back to music, and when my daily life became less stressful, I sat down with Tommy’s compositions and realized that they are real diamonds. Tommy gives me the space I need to feel free in my artistic process, and it was great to have him back me up during this process.

So, River of Diamonds is a very important step in my life, a beginning of a new chapter in my life, actually the second half of my life, coming home to myself in a private, personal sense, as well as returning as an artist in an even more authentic way than ever before.

You have achieved a lot of success with your music career since your early teens, how did you first get interested in music and what inspired you to pursue it as a career?
Early on in my teens, I grew up with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and the Swedish band ABBA. My parents were very young when I entered this world, so there was a lot of music in our home, basically metal, and that’s the music I grew up with. That’s the main musical genre where I found the inspiration to gather some guys I knew who would play the guitar, do some growling, and play the bass and drums. So I gathered some boys and we called ourselves Theatre of Tragedy. We were all lovers of doom, dark metal, Paradise Lost, Black Sabbath. We were students of analytics back then, and we loved Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Emerson. We just loved poetry, so we put poetry together with doom metal. And since I didn’t play the keyboard back then, you know that’s what girls basically did in metal bands back then. If your name wasn’t Doro or Lita Ford, your role was basically to play the keys. But I didn’t, and I really enjoyed developing melodies for the lyrics together with Raman. And that’s how we turned into a gothic metal symphonic band with female angelic voices, something like that. So yes, Black Sabbath is still the biggest thing for me and my biggest inspiration.

You have been involved in different bands and musical projects throughout your career, how do you choose which projects to be a part of and what do you look for in a musical collaboration?
It depends on the music, actually. It doesn’t matter if it’s a doom metal project, a pop metal project, or a classical project. It depends on the music itself, if it gives me inspiration, if I like the lyrics. If I have a problem with political views, that’s never been my theme when it comes to writing lyrics. So I try to avoid political stuff. But apart from that, I’m very open-minded, and I think it’s a great challenge to adapt to different genres.

So to me, it has also been an important part of my development as an artist to be able to deal with different musical directions through these projects. But of course, Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, that was a really golden moment. I have to say, yes, I will never forget being nominated for a Grammy. I think Motorhead got it, but they deserved it. So that’s okay. But I would have loved to walk across the red carpet once.

What was your experience like working with Cradle of Filth on the Grammy-nominated song “Nymphetamine” and how did this collaboration come about?
Oh, Cradle of Filth. Okay. Um, that was actually Roadrunner Records contacting me back then, and they were in a hurry. Well, first of all, I thought it was a joke, you know, just spam. So that email ended up in spam. But then Roadrunner contacted us again, and then I thought, okay, it seems to be serious. So I talked to Danny directly over the phone, and he just said, “Just use your honey voice. That’s what we need.” And I got into the studio and recorded the vocals, and I just felt that magical bliss because everything melted together. There was such a big contrast actually between our vocals, but still, it felt like melting together, like yin and yang. Yeah, it was perfect. After that, we met in London’s dungeons to shoot a video for “Amphetamine,” and we had a really, really good time together.

Can you tell us more about your creative process when it comes to composing music and writing lyrics? How do you draw inspiration and what techniques do you use to bring your ideas to life?
Yes, bringing ideas to life is actually about hearing a musical piece. It might just be a verse or something. Normally, all my melodies just appear. Sometimes it feels like the melodies are coming through me as well as the words. I don’t sit there and hope and pray that I will find the perfect words. It just happens, but I have to be in the right mood. If you have ten high-speed trains going through your mind, that monkey mind day, it’s not worth it to try to sit down and write lyrics and develop melodies. I set aside time to be creative, and I do it in surroundings where I feel comfortable and where I have enough light. I have my favorite pen, and I do it by handwriting. I love to do that. I just melt into the song and dive into the song, and then the words in the middle disappear. This time, for “River of Diamonds,” I would say if I wouldn’t have released the album, I would have released a book. There’s so much, yeah, all the songs on the album are like a chapter from a book, the book of my life about coming home to myself as a person, as a woman, and as an artist.

You have toured extensively and performed in over 50 countries, what has been your most memorable experience on tour and why?
Oh yes, I have taught in over 50 countries. Touring is very rough, it’s a hard business actually. And I kept myself fit through sports, running and yoga. So I was actually never sick on tour and I loved going on stage. I feel like I’m healing in that magic bubble when I’m on stage. But apart from that, staying on a night liner sounds great, but you have only a few square meters. Especially when you’re traveling with your family, like I do, there are so many roles that you have to fulfill – being a mother, a wife, the person who takes care of the press, maybe the bookkeeping, or taking care of the rest of the band. If you’re the only woman on the tour bus, you have a special role, and you probably are the one cleaning up the dirty socks and all the stuff that was left after the after-show party. So it’s really something I prefer – being on tours with people who are tidy, because you don’t have much private space. Having a tidy toolbox is something that makes life easier on tour. But now, in the second half of my life, I have a 9-to-5 job. I love working with children with special needs. So there is not much space for touring now, except for when schools are closed. But that’s how I prefer it now. But you never know in the future. We never know if there will be a nice tour offer. Why not? I never played solo outside of Europe, actually. Well, except for Mexico and Chile. But apart from that, I would say it’s about time to move and play solo shows outside of Europe.

Of course, every night was a special experience for me, being in my bubble and feeling the resonance between the audience and me. That felt great, that felt healing. But when we found out there were drugs on board and we crossed the Canadian border, and realized it wasn’t anyone in the band or crew members, we had spooky bus drivers. And thrice, we experienced crashing on the highway. But that’s all, basically. Most tours were really cool, but we had a couple of insane bus drivers.

Your music has been described as a delicate dance of color-and-light, how do you incorporate these elements into your music and what do they represent to you?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I love contrasting elements in my music. This was highly present on my second-to-last album, Vervain, where I played with the contrast between light and darkness and sweetness and roughness. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed, and it’s also one of the basic elements in the early musical Theatre of Tragedy.

For example, combining dark doom metal with angelic female vocals is something that I’ve always loved. This probably stems from my childhood love of Black Sabbath, where I enjoyed singing along to Ozzy’s rough voice while also appreciating the soft soprano voice. Although you don’t typically find angelic voices in doom metal, I learned to look for contrasts in art, and that’s something that I still love to do today in my music.

On my latest album, River of Diamonds, you’ll still find this play of contrasts. I believe that it’s in darkness where diamonds shine their brightest light, so I love exploring this duality in my music.

I’m grateful to have an open-minded audience that allows me the freedom to develop in any musical direction. Since my very first solo album, Deus Ex Machina, in 1998, which was a pure electronic pop album, I’ve never felt boxed in or forced to stay within a certain genre. This is a great compliment from my audience, and it’s something that I truly value.

You have mentioned that your music is highly inspired by romanticism and the many facets of life, can you tell us more about how you infuse these themes into your music and what messages you hope to convey to your listeners?
Romanticism, yes. Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare. Love is always the biggest theme for me to write about. It has to do with love in relationships and self-love as well. The purest love comes from the place of self-love. If you know how to love yourself and take care of yourself, you can love another person in the purest way. Love is freedom, and freedom is love. You can find a lot of poetry on this subject. Since we were students back then in the 90s, studying English literature, Romanticism was the biggest influence for us. Theatre of Tragedy also got its band name from that period. So, love is always the biggest theme for me, especially in those times with Theatre of Tragedy, where we used romantic poetry as one of the main inspirations for our lyrics.

Regarding the messages I hope to convey to my listeners, life is about coming home to yourself. And for this, you have to recognize how important self-love is and taking care of yourself. That means going inside, sometimes digging really deep into your soul, the dark night of your soul. It’s a path you have to walk if you really want to get to know yourself and if you want to get to know self-love and how to love somebody else unconditionally and on the basis of freedom. Coming home is the message. That’s what we’re actually meant to do between birth and death. We have to learn and accept that life is both broken and beautiful. If you can learn to accept both, I think you can find your path. Maybe that’s what some people call enlightenment, coming home. That’s my message. If you can feel this safety, freedom, and love, I think the universe is ready to manifest through you. It’s essential for me to feel authenticity in everything I’m doing. To achieve that, you need to have an open heart and to have come home to yourself. We got quite philosophical there.

As a vocal coach and teacher at a special school, how do you balance your career in music with your teaching responsibilities and what lessons do you hope to impart to your students?
As a vocal coach, I teach special singing techniques, such as Baroque classical soprano singing, but we can also look at your voice in a more holistic sense. Many people come to me because they feel blockages and friction when trying to develop their voice, not just as singers, but as individuals.

If you strengthen your inner voice, you can also strengthen your outer voice, but we need to take a holistic approach to address any blockages or traumas. This is also part of my work as a vocal coach.

Although I have a master’s degree in other subjects, I love working as a teacher at a special school, especially with children with special needs. Teaching and singing are two things I didn’t formally study, but they are what I love doing the most.

It feels like an inner calling, and I feel like the universe is trying to manifest something through me. Working with people and themes that I love the most is a great feeling. However, to maintain balance, it’s essential to plan well. If there are more live shows coming up, I may have to reduce my teaching hours, but we can discuss that then. For now, there is a fine balance between both singing and teaching, and it’s a great privilege to me.

First you need to strengthen your inner voice, and then you can strengthen your outer voice. So if you go out there and look for traditional singing lessons, that might help you if you know your singing voice well, but not everything is helpful. For me, it’s very important to have a look at a person with everything that makes up their personality, their stories, the whole package. Then, we can find the best way to build up an authentic, strong voice. It doesn’t mean that you have to sing in a loud way, but the best voice you can have is the one that feels comfortable and most authentic. When you start from there, you can learn any singing technique. It’s a fine system of muscles, and you can train them. But first, you need to know how you would like to sound, how you would sound when you’re the most authentic.

What advice do you have for aspiring musicians who are just starting out in their careers, and what do you think is the most important quality for a musician to possess in order to succeed in the industry?
Of course, be careful with the music business, labels, and people offering money and contracts. Make sure that you have somebody to look at offers. I could write three books about this because I’ve had my experience. I’ve been there, and there have been moments where I was in front of a court, and I didn’t even know why I was there. Such a mess. You have to be really careful with whom you’re working with, what you’re signing, and where you put your autograph. It’s essential to make sure that you have some safety. I learned from that, and you learn by doing. Now, being 47 years old and just entering the second half of my life, I feel like I have enough experience to do it myself, and it feels much better this way. Of course, it’s great to have Metalville on board. That was a conscious step. That’s why we chose Metalville. Before that, we picked up the bits and pieces, the crumbles of Liv Kristine. We got the rights back and started from scratch, and that felt great. But now, having Metalville on board, that’s just the best match we could have for now.

Thank you so much! Have a nice day!
All right, thank you so much for wanting to do this interview with me. I’m sorry we couldn’t Skype, maybe we can do that next time. I wish you a Happy Easter, take good care, be safe, and lots of love to your family.

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