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Sirenia Interview 2015

Sirenia Interview 2015
April 27, 2015 (via Skype)



Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker had the opportunity for a long Skype chat with Sirenia’s founder/composer/lead guitarist, Morten Veland, shortly before the release of The Seventh Life Path. Dive in for all the details on the album, the challenge of writing ballads, what Morten enjoys most (other than music), and much more!

Sonic Cathedral:  Sirenia’s seventh studio album, The Seventh Life Path, will be out in Europe on 8 May 2015. It seems like you had a very specific idea in mind for the cover art. Would you give us some insight into the artwork?

Morten:  I had a few ideas for the artwork, but I didn’t really have like a clear idea of how everything was going to fit together. The element with the path in the background was something I was thinking of, and also Death. I wanted the sky in the shape of the number 7, to combinate good with the album title. Obviously, the girl (that female element) is also something we’ve had on every Sirenia cover so far, so it’s more or less a trademark or a tradition in a way. We didn’t want to break with that. So, these were the ideas that I had.

After that, the artist who did the cover, he played around with my ideas, and put everything together. Along the way, I also had a few more inputs on what he could possibly do or change … some small details and stuff. But yeah, most of the artwork is by the artist, Gyula Havancsák. I think he did a good job with making a cover that really fits perfectly with the album title, and it kind of makes an atmosphere or a feeling that also combinates perfectly with the feeling in the music and the lyrics.




Sonic Cathedral:  It definitely is one of the most visually evocative covers of 2015. I think it’s lovely. Getting into the music itself, is there a red line that runs through The Seventh Life Path?

Morten:  Hmmmm, I think as usual I have been writing individual songs for the album. But as always before, and as on this album as well, it’s always the darker sides of life in general that I’m writing about. So, you can say there are similarities with the themes, and it blends together nice. But it’s not like a typical concept album or a story where the songs are different chapters in a story. It is individual songs written for the album.

Sonic Cathedral:  I read that this album was recorded at your Audio Avenue Studios in the Stavanger area. Were previous albums also recorded there, or is this something new?

Morten:  Yeah, I think actually most. The two first albums were recorded entirely in Sound Suite Studios in France. The latest five albums, the majority of the material actually has been recorded in my own studios. After that, we choose different alternatives for where we are mixing and mastering and stuff. I can say also that we did some additional recordings in Sound Suite Studios again. I always go there for every album to record the choirs and usually also the acoustic guitars and the other acoustic stuff.

Sonic Cathedral:  What advantages do you find from recording primarily in your own studio?

Morten:  First and foremost, I think it’s the amount of time. You know, when you book a studio for three weeks, you always come into the studio, and there is this pressure that you have to be finished for the deadline and everything. At times, you really need to RUSH things and stuff like that. By being able to record in my own studio, we really have all the time we need. We don’t need to stress at anything; we can take it in our own tempo. It gives a much more relaxed atmosphere. It is a more comfortable way of working, and we can take our time until we are 100% happy with every recording. At times, in the studio, that is not something that’s possible. You have three tries, and then you have to choose the best one, and move on. So, that’s the biggest advantage of having your own studio, I think.




Sonic Cathedral:  Is there a disadvantage to recording in your own studio, such as the lack of time pressure and the temptation to endlessly re-record and tweak songs?

Morten:  <laughs> Yeah, that would not be a good thing as well! We have usually have a not-100% fixed deadline of when the album needs to be ready. But we have a date, and we can’t just let it get out of control. We need to have some form of control over that. But still, we have way more possibilities in this way, I feel.

Sonic Cathedral:  I suppose it was great that you were recording in your own studio, because Ailyn broke her foot just as you guys were getting ready to lay down the vocal tracks; right?

Morten:  I think we recorded seven songs or something. Then, she had that accident in her house, and she broke her foot. At this time, we were not having much time left. We had times lined up in a studio where we would do the mixing and the mastering. Everything was more or less set in stone at this point, so it was a bad, bad timing <laughs>, and the both of us got kind of nervous with the situation. But yeah, luckily, we were able to get through it. Ailyn actually sat on a chair, and recorded the last three songs on the album.

Sonic Cathedral:  What a trooper!

Morten:  <laughs> Yeah yeah, she doesn’t give up, so that’s cool! It was a different situation, but it’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears put into the album.




Sonic Cathedral:  Morten, something that I’m curious about: I’ve read in previous interviews that you are largely self-taught as a musician. I can see teaching oneself the guitar. But how do you teach yourself orchestration?

Morten:  For me, it has a lot to do with the understanding of music that I’ve built up over the years. With more experience, I get more knowledge of how things should play together and work together. It is just that I’ve been working on it -- trying to figure out new things, and push myself, and improve my work. To me, I always had a lot of respect for self-taught musicians because they find out things, and they do it their own way. I think there is a lot of … not danger … well, it can be a kind of danger in a way.

When you take a typical musical education, they teach you to play music exactly like everybody else who takes this education. Sometimes, I think it can be an advantage to be self-taught in a way, because maybe it comes more naturally to do things your own way, and it comes more naturally to make original stuff. But I’m not sure. I am sure that it has both negative sides and positive sides. But I never saw it as something negative to not have a musical education or something like that.

Sonic Cathedral:  Are there particular instruments that you especially enjoy orchestrating?

Morten:  Yeah, I really like the part with the orchestration. It is obviously a complicated process, and it’s very challenging. (And I love musical challenges!) You know, I am also a guitar player; it’s my main instrument, and it’s what I play most of the time. At times, it’s really nice to just put away the guitar, and start working on something completely different, which the classical orchestration part is. It is something quite different. <laughs> Switching back and forth, it’s a very inspiring thing. Just that changing from one instrument to another can easily trigger new ideas, so I find that really good inspiration to switch back and forth between all the different instruments.

Sonic Cathedral:  It is not fair to ask you to pick your “favorite” songs, but would you pick a few songs from The Seventh Life Path, and tell us about them?

Morten:  <laughs> It is always difficult to pick songs, as I feel that every song on an album needs to earn its right to be there. So, I feel like every song is special. But to pick a few songs, I can start with the second song, which is called “Serpent”. The first is just an intro, by the way. So, “Serpent” is the first real song on the album. I think it was a good song to start the album with, because it has all of the typical Sirenia elements in there -- all the orchestration, the riffing, the guitar lines, all the vocals (the female vocals, the choirs, the growling), and there is some sampled stuff in there. So, it has all the typical ingredients, and I think it was a good song to show the listeners what the album has to offer. It is also a powerful song that is very energetic and dynamic. It is a song I like a lot.

I can maybe also mention the song called “Earendel” …




Sonic Cathedral:  I LOVE that one. It is probably my favorite!

Morten:  Yeah, I really like that song too! To me, it’s a very nostalgic song. It was like revisiting the past when I wrote that, because it reminds me a lot of how Sirenia sounded musically in the very beginning of our career. So, it’s a very … shall I say … typically old-school, gothic metal kind of song. I am sure that Sirenia fans, who really like our first albums, will really like that song as well.

I should take one more. I could maybe take the ballad at the end, called “Tragedienne”. As I said, it’s a ballad. I think it’s a very beautiful song that is very melodic. It has a very nice atmosphere in it. The music is based on piano, and more and more instruments come in as the song goes along. It has a very powerful ending, with a climax where all the orchestration and everything is just building up towards a lot of power in the end, and it gets very quiet before then. It is not so often that I make ballads for Sirenia. <laughs>

It is also actually kind of a challenge to write a ballad. It is quite difficult; writing other sounds comes more naturally, maybe because I have a lot of experience with that. Writing ballads is more challenging for me I think, so I put a lot of thought and a lot of time into that song. In the end, I thought it came out really nice.

Sonic Cathedral:  It is quite beautiful, Morten. When Sirenia were at Metal Female Voices Fest last year, did you road test any of the songs from The Seventh Life Path?

Morten:  At that festival, we didn’t play any of the new stuff. We made it an unwritten rule or something that we don’t play the songs live before they are released on an album. Out of my own experience, when I went to see some of my favorite bands, I always liked it best when they played the songs that I knew from the albums, so you can just sing along and tap your foot to the rhythm of the beat. Personally, I didn’t like it so much when they played new songs that I never heard before. I guess maybe this is one of the reasons why I choose also to do the same with Sirenia.

Sonic Cathedral:  I am very excited to see Sirenia headlining the Dames of Darkness Festival in the UK! Will that be the first time you guys are playing the new tracks live?

Morten:  Yeah, at Dames of Darkness Festival, we will play several of the new tracks. It will be the first time, when we play them. So, it’s more or less like a release party in a way because the festival is like on the day that The Seventh Life Path gets released … I think … or maybe it gets released the day before the festival, I’m not quite sure.




Sonic Cathedral:  Sirenia have returned to Napalm Records, the label that you first started out with. What was the thinking behind going back to Napalm?

Morten:  That’s true. We had a contract with Nuclear Blast for four albums, and we had completed that contract. Then we were looking for a new record deal, and several companies were interested in Sirenia. But as we went through all the offers, we thought that Napalm Records would be the best choice for Sirenia at this point. So, that’s how we decided to get back with Napalm.

You know, in one way, it felt like we never left, because in the meantime, I released a solo project [Mortemia] with Napalm Records. We also have some of our back catalogue there, so we always stayed in touch to discuss things and so on. But we also had a great time on Nuclear Blast for the period that we were there. But, for this point, it felt right to go back with Napalm again.

Sonic Cathedral:  As an American fan, I keep a close eye on Napalm’s roster because they have a good track record of getting their European artists over to North America. Is there a chance that maybe 2015 or 2016 will bring some Sirenia dates to our shores?

Morten:  I would really hope so. It is something that we’ve been trying to do, and something that we’ve wanted for a long time. I really don’t know WHY it has proved so difficult for us to come over to North America. We have been doing a lot in Central America; we’ve toured South America two times; we’ve been touring all of Europe, and even Australia. But so far, we have not been able to tour North America, so I really hope that it will be possible soon. I think interest for Sirenia in North America started picking up with our previous album [Perils of the Deep Blue]. So, if it continues with this album, I think it should be possible for us to come over, hopefully in 2015 or 2016.




Sonic Cathedral:  That would be welcome news, indeed, for your fans in North America! Morten, is music all-consuming for you? What do you like to do when you are not making music?

Morten:  Music obviously takes a lot of my time. But whenever I have extra time, I like to spend it also on other things. I like spending time with my friends. Every now and then, it’s very fun. I am very interested in cognacs and red wines and special beers. I love playing chess. <laughs> Although I’m not a great player, I really enjoy the game, and I easily can spend hours and hours just playing chess. I also love nature; I love walking around in the forest or mountains, or going fishing and stuff like that. It is wonderful recreation time, and a wonderful way of relaxing.

Sonic Cathedral:  Ah, refreshing one’s soul in nature!

Morten:  Oh yes, indeed!

Sonic Cathedral:  Morten, we are getting down to the end of our interview. Speaking to your fans, what would you like to tell them, that you have not yet gotten a chance to say?

Morten:  I would just like to say “cheers!” and “hello!” to our fans in North America. I want you to know that we will do our best to make it possible for Sirenia to come over and do a tour there as soon as possible. It is something that we tried to do for years. It proved difficult, but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that it will be possible with this album.

Sonic Cathedral:  We certainly hope so, too. On a personal note, I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing Sirenia performing new music in the UK soon.

Morten:  I am looking forward to that as well! I am going to Kristiansand, which is in the south of Norway -- it’s where we usually rehearse with the band. We are going there for the weekend to start rehearsing and preparing for the show. Yeah, it’s going to be nice. I have been more or less living in the studio for the last year or so. So, it will be really nice to finally get out of the studio, and make some shows.




Sonic Cathedral:  Sounds like a wonderful plan! Morten, thank you so much for chatting with us today about Sirenia’s new album. It is always a pleasure when Sonic Cathedral has an opportunity to talk with you!

Morten:  It is my pleasure, and thank you for the chat!

Read Sonic Cathedral’s 2013 interview HERE

Photo credit (promotional pictures): Tom Knudsen 
Photo credit (live pictures): Jim Wilkinson (Wilkinson Image & Design)



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