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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Sirenia

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

In forming Sirenia, guitar player and main songwriter Morten Veland set the foundation for a fresh approach to the gothic/metal/rock scene. Still sworn to the darker and atmospheric genre, the Norwegian band plays a mixture of gothic metal and rock with classical influences, as well as black and death metal elements. Their soundscapes are enriched by a dynamic female vocalist, Monika Pedersen, who brings to notice a clear vocal expression and not the operatic style that has common in recent years. The latest album “Nine Destinies And A Downfall” is their first under the Nuclear Blast label and I had the opportunity to speak to Morten about the development of Sirenia.

Tell us about the significance (if any) of the album title?

The title is of an enigmatic and mystique caracter, like a riddle in a way. I feel that if I would explain into detail what it really means, the whole purpose of the title would be gone. I’d rather let the fans and listeners try to figure out the deeper meaning behind it themselves.

How do you view the album as a progression of your previous work (taking into account it's the first with Monika)?

Usually when I start composing material for a new album I try to pick up where I left off with the previous album. I did so this time as well, but began to realise that I had more or less done everything before, and got the feeling that I was repeating myself. So this time I felt a strong need to do some bigger changes when it came to the composing. One of the things I wanted to do was that I would like to take the new song material into a more melodic direction. So it felt natural to give the female voice a bigger role in our songs. In the past I’ve also been writing pretty long songs, this time I’d rather try to say what I wanted to say in 5 minutes instead of 6-7 minutes. We also choose a different solution when it came to the recordings this time. In the past we’ve been recording and mixing the entire album in one studio, this time we worked in alltogether 4 different studios. I feel that this enabled us to renew ourselves and refresh our sound, which is exactly what we wanted. This is also the first album where we recorded the drums live in the studio, which has given us a more organic and acoustic drumsound. Furthermore we’ve switched from standard 6 string guitars to 7 strings, which has given us a fatter and more powerful guitar sound. And with a new singer onboard as well I suppose this would sum up the biggest changes compared to previous Sirenia releases.

You obviously enjoy the art of making records. How much of a challenge is it to better the last one?

It is always our goal to deliver better and better albums. Much of it comes naturally as we gain more and more experience and knowledge on what we are doing. But we work hard and determined to reach the goals we set out for ourselves.

Did you spend much time on this record, in terms of production and songwriting?

We spent more than 10 weeks to record, mix and master the album. When it came to the recordings of this album, we chose a somewhat different solution than before. In the past we used to record and mix the entire album in one studio, soundsuite studios in Marseilles, France. This time we worked in alltogether 4 different studios. The reason for this was that we wanted to try and keep the essence of Sirenia but in the same time try to renew ourselves and refresh our sound. We recorded the drums in Jailhouse studios in Norway, then proceeded in Soundsuite studios with Terje Refsnes. I also did some additional recordings in my own studio, and we choose to mix and master the album in Antfarm studios in Denmark, together with Tue Madsen. We are really satisfied with the result, and we feel the we’ve been able to achieve what we set out to achieve. In addition the songwriting process took about two years.

Do you write in solitude - just get away somewhere and gather your thoughts?

When it comes to the composing process I write all the material on my own. I feel that this is the way that works best for me, and brings the best results. I’ve been co-writing with other musicians in the past, but I feel that it is so easy to loose focus on what you have to do when you are surrounded by other people. When I am on my own I get that calm feeling, and that focus I need to be able to be creative. Creativity is not always something that comes easily in all forms. And for me it works better in some settings than others. When it comes to the recording process the other members in the band add their personal touch. Jonathan adds his personal style to the drumming and Monika interpretates the songs and add her personal touch to them. So the way of putting the songs together is the same now, like it was in the beginning.

Monika's vocal performance is beautiful. Tell us the difference you feel that she's made to the band?

Monika has a voice that fits perfectly into our new songs. She has a special character in her voice that sounds different from all other female singer in the scene. She has been singing in different choirs and and metal/rock bands in Denmark. She has been involved in music for many years, and it came pretty natural for her to join a band like Sirenia as she is into the particular style as well.

Is there a trend towards the use of female vocalists for metal bands in Northern Europe (or anywhere for that matter)?

It seems to me that there is a global trend for female-fronted rock and metal. I have included female vocals in my music for 12 years, and when we first started up, there were very few bands doing this back then. Today this gothic metal scene is bigger than ever, and it feels good to have been a part of it’s evolution.

If so, is it gaining bigger audiences as a result?

There are some bands in the genre that obviously have huge succes with it at the moment. I recall how narrow and small this genre was in the beginning.

You're now on the Nuclear Blast label. Do you see that as a boost towards gaining wider numbers of fans across the world?

Nuclear Blast is a great record label with great distribution and a great promo-machinery; they are clearly able to bring the music out to the people. So I’m sure that more fans will get the opportunity to check out Sirenia these days. Hopefully they’ll like what they hear as well.

What other music are you listening to these days? Any other artists/bands catching your interest?

I listen to a lot of different music, everything from Leonard Cohen, The Cardigans, Johnny Cash, all the way up to a few extreme metal bands like Dimmu Borgir. I can also listen to classic music and loads of rock bands from the seventies and the eighties. And there is also many soundtracks for movies that I like listening to.

Sirenia performed at a big show in Moscow on February 24. Had you been to Russia before? You must have been excited about this show…

This was our first show in Russia. It was the release party for the new album and the first time we presented the new songs for the fans live. It was also our first show with our new singer, Monika. So this concert was, of course, an exciting moment for us, and we were really overwhelmed by the great Russian audience. They made it a great release party for us and a nice experience. We already look forward to going back to Russia.

How strong is the metal scene in Europe? Is it stronger than ever?

It seems to me that it is stronger than ever.

How have you seen the impact of the Internet with your band, especially your own site, as well as Myspace and Youtube?

Internet is a nice tool for artists to make themselves availeble to fans and listeners. We can clearly see how for example the Sirenia Myspace gets more and more popular among the crowd.

What are your future plans for this year (you have the Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium on June 23) in terms of tours?

In addition to Graspop we are booked to Summer Breeze Open Air(G) and Metal Female Voices Fest(B). We will try to set up some more festivals as well, and we intend to tour Europe and North America. We hope that this year will enable us to play a lot of gigs. It’s something that we really enjoy and we hope to play as much as possible.

Any chance of an Australian tour in the near future?
We really hope so. We have never played in Australia before, so hopefully this will be possible in the near future.

Sirenia's album “Nine Destinies And A Downfall” is available through Nuclear Blast/Riot Distributors.

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