quinta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2022

Interview: Morten Veland - " I am very happy to have been a part of gothic metal from the very beginning."

Multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, the Norwegian Morten Veland was one of the forerunners of Gothic/Symphonic Metal, a style that emerged in the 90s, along with several other novelties and transformations that Metal had been going through. (Versão em português)

Founder of one of the main bands of the style at the time, Tristania, where they helped to define striking characteristics, such as the use of female lyrical vocals in counterpoint with the guttural, uniting the weight of the guitars, melancholic melodies of the keyboards and symphonic incursions.

After the successful first two albums, Tristania broke up in 2001, and Morten created Sirenia, a band with which he has released 10 albums so far. In addition to Sirenia, the musician has his solo project, Mortemia, with which he released a full-length in 2010, and has recently been releasing new songs, launching several singles on platforms, with guest vocalists - like Liv Kristine, Marcela Bovio and Melissa Bonny, and with a sound that intends to rescue those main features of Gothic/Sympho Metal from the early 90's.

We caught up with Morten at the end of last year to talk about these new singles from Mortemia, and sure, about Sirenia, Tristania, your career and about Metal in the 90s and nowadays. Check it out:

RtM: You recently announced that you would return with your project Mortemia, 11 years after the first album.
Morten Veland: Yes, it has been a very long time since the first Mortemia album, and the reason for it has been that I could not find the time for it. Sirenia which is my main band basically took up all my time, and it always felt right to make Sirenia my top priority. When the corona pandemic broke out, a lot of things were turned upside down.
All out touring plans were cancelled, and we just had finished our new album. So all of a sudden I had a lot of time on my hands. My first thought was to do something with Mortemia again, so I could keep myself creative and busy. 

RtMInstead the first one, this time you decided to include female singers. Tell us a little about these changes.
MV: Due to the all the travelling restrictions etc it proved complicated to do another album with the choirs this time. So I had to think of a new concept for this album, and inviting a different guest singer for each song seemed like a very interesting and exciting solution. It would also be the right time for a project like this, as very few artists are busy touring these days, so the availability of the singers would be better than normal.

RtM: I would like you to talk a little about the theme of the lyrics in these new Mortemia songs, and if somehow, besides the title "The Pandemic Pandemonium Sessions", this experience that the world has been having with the pandemic inspired any or some of the themes?
MV: These two last years has certainly been very dark, and difficult on so many levels. The pandemic and the huge impact it has had on my life has certainly inspired my writing on this album.

RtM: And how has it been the experience of releasing a series of digital singles instead of releasing the full album?
MV: It has been a new and interesting way of doing things. Pretty much everything on this album is done in a different way than I have done things in the past. And it is what I wanted this time. I wanted something new and exciting.

RtM: Since these new songs bring a sound that goes back to the beginnings of Symphonic/Gothic Metal, wouldn't it be an interesting idea to have Tristania's former singer Vibeke Stene as a guest in some song? I think your fans who love Tristania's first two albums would be happy.
MV: Yes, I do believe that many fans would appreciate a collaboration between the two of us. However, we are in a different place musically these days, so I am not sure whether it will be possible to make it happen.

RtM: And how were your criteria in choosing the singers who would participate in each song?
MV: I wanted to invite metal singers that I personally really like. There are so many great singers in metal today, it is really impressive. Some of the singers are great friends of mine, and some of the singers I have come to know recently. 

When I work on a song I always try to think of the vocals, the melodies, which direction I want to take it, and which singers could be a great fit for each song. So far it has been working great, I am so happy with all the contributions from all of my amazing guests.

RtM: Was there any partnership that surprised you so much that you wanted to work with one of them again?
MV: All of them has been absolutely fantastic. I would love to work with all of them again somewhere down the road, if time would allow it.

RtM: And about Mortemia and Sirenia differences? Sirenia works like a conventional band and mortemia would be a solo studio project? In Sirenia despite the many lineup changes, are the other musicians free to come up with ideas?
MV: Yes, for now Mortemia is only a studio project, and I do not have any plans of doing any live shows any time soon. I guess that a lot would depend on the popularity of the project and how everything evolves from here. With Sirenia I mostly coming up with the sctehes of the songs, then everybody contributes with working out details etc.

RtM: Earlier this year, which marks Sirenia's 20th anniversary, you released the band's 10th full-length, which brings some new elements, more guitar presence and also moments with a, let's say, more modern orientation. I would like you to comment a little about the sound of this album, and how you felt the repercussions of it.
MV: Every time we release a new Sirenia album, we always try to bring something new and fresh to the table. There are certainly a lot of heavy guitar riffs on the album, and we also wanted to give the electronical elements a bigger part to play this time. We wanted to create an album that sounded modern and fresh, but at the same time we also try to stay true to our style, and the basic elements that makes us sound like Sirenia.


RtM: I think one of the main changes in Sirenia was the entry of Emmanuelle Zoldan, tell us more about that choice, and what it's been like to work with her.
MV: I have been working with Emmanuelle for more than 18 years now, so this is obviously a cooperation that works very well. She has been performing in the Sirenia choir since our second album, that was recorded in 2003 and released in 2004. 

For the last 5-6 years she has also been our lead singer, and our latest album ‘Riddles, Ruins & Revelations’ is the 3rd album with Emmanuelle as our lead singer. She is a complete singer with a huge vocal range, and she knows how to perform so many styles and techniques. She is also a very educated and experienced singer and a great friend.

RtM: How do you feel about having this status of being pointed out as one of the great references within Gothic/Symphonic  Metal? Even, of course, Tristania's first two albums are also referenced.
MV: That is a great honour. I am very happy to have been a part of gothic metal from the very beginning, and I feel very privileged to still be a part of it.

RtM: How do you analyze the reasons for Tristania's departure today?
MV: When the cooperation with Tristania came to an end back in 2001, it felt very serious and devastating. Looking back at it today, it is probably one of the best things that happened to me and my career both on a professional and personal level.

RtM: As one of the pioneers in using female vocals and also alternating male and female vocals, do you feel there is still resistance from the metal audience with bands that have female vocals?
MV: Metal has changed a lot over the last 25 years, countless new sub genres has emerged during these years. I think that the metal community is a lot more open minded these days, then they might were back in the nineties.

I embrace the great variety of metal that we can enjoy these days. In the early days I remembered we met some scepticism about bringing female vocals and keyboards into metal music. Luckly I do not feel that this is an issue today.

RtM:What lessons did the pandemic bring, mainly in the question of adaptation of bands and musicians, and if there is something that you will also use even after the return to normality (or at least something close to what we lived before the pandemic)?
MV: I believe that the pandemic forced most of us musicians to think differently, and to adapt to the new situation. During the pandemics I have tried to fill my days learning new things, and doing stuff that I did not have much time for earlier.

I have spent a lot of time during the pandemics to study audio engineering, social media, online marketing, digital distribution etc. We also opened a web store for Sirenia, I’ve been practising my guitar more than usual and I finally found time to reactivate my Mortemia project. That being said though, I really miss the travelling and the touring. So I can’t wait to get back on the road again.

RtM: What about your beginnings in music and metal? Tell us a little bit about what influenced you in the beginning, what are your biggest influences and heroes in music?
MV: I bought my first electric guitar in 1992 and rehearsed something like 12 - 18 hours a day in the beginning. After a few months, me and Kenneth (the original Tristania drummer) formed a band together called Uzi Suicide, and we played mostly rock’ n roll in the beginning. 

We were inspired by Guns N’ Roses, Alice Cooper, Motley Crue and that kind of stuff. After a little while bands like Metallica turned us more into a metal like direction, and after that bands like The Sisters of Mercy turned us into a gothic direction as well. We spent the first half of the nineties trying to work out our own style.

RtM: Finally, I thank you for your attention and time to respond to this interview, and I take this opportunity to ask you about your expectations regarding your return to Latin America and Brazil in 2022.
MV: I really hope it will be possible to return. It has been some years since the last time, so we are very eager to return. Hopefully the pandemic will begin to move into a positive direction next year, and I do believe that touring will be possible again when we are about halfway into 2022. Cheers to all the Latin American fans, I hope to see you soon.

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