Norway's gothic metal figureheads Tristania are on the road in support of new heavy observation 'Darkest White'. Vocalist Kjetil Nordhus takes the opportunity to check in with eGigs.co.uk before heading off to play their sold out show supporting Dark Tranquillity.
How are you?
I'm quite good.
This is the beginning in of the tour. How smoothly has the preparation been going? Have there been any disruptions
Not just yet but I think there's still one and a half hours until we go on and when I get down to the venue afterwards, I'm sure there's going to be some nerves but everything's been running smoothly. It's a lot of work that people might not know about with pre-production and making sure all the technical things come together. We're going to be using a lot of the same equipment as Dark Tranquillity so there's a lot of planning to be done but it's all gone very smooth. I'm looking forward to meeting the guys in Dark Tranquillity. We're the same age, we've been going for many years so we have many things in common and they seem like a lovely bunch. I think we'll have a good time.
This show is sold out tonight. It's an unusual line up because Dark Tranquillity and Tristania play two different kinds of music. Do you think the Dark Tranquillity fans that may not know Tristania will get into your music?
It's half and half. I think Dark Tranquillity can really suit our fans but I think the opposite. They're drawing their crowd and we're drawing our crowd and probably we draw a crowd together as well. It seems like a good package. We don't sound like each other but I think we have some similar elements in our music. I'm looking forward to hearing them live because I've never heard them live before. I will have a chance for the next thirty days, I'm sure!
On to the new album 'Darkest White', how did the fans and critics react to the album when it was released?
The one thing we agreed on before recording 'Darkest White' was to do no compromises whatsoever when it came to the sound, the song writing and the artwork. It was going to be what we wanted and I think the fans noticed that. It's an honest album and full of strong songs. I think it sounds good we think it does that and it seems we share the taste of many of our fans. The critics' [response] to the album has been quite amazing. Of course when you don't get good critics, you tend to say you don't really read them but of course all bands do. You do want other people to like your music so for us, it was an honour that we stayed true to our ideas of Tristania 2013. This is how the band sounds in 2013, which is quite far away how it sounded in 1999 of course. We're mid-thirties now and those albums, the first songs, were written when they were fifteen, sixteen. It would be a bad thing if things didn't progress, I guess.
'Darkest White' is a lot heavier than 'Rubicon'. Could you explain in your own words the differences between the two albums?
We were discussing within the band and with the producer before we started recording it, we wanted to make the heavier parts of 'Rubicon' even heavier. 'Rubicon', I think it's a really good album. We wanted to use our strengths and we wanted to animate more the poetic parts to be even more poetic, the hard parts to be even more hard, the black metal parts, you know? I think we succeeded in that but I think what people noticed most what you said, it's a harder album and a heavier album. That's also got to do with song-writing - generally, heavier songs, although we do have nice and calm ones as well [laughs].
It feels like you have picked moments throughout from Tristania's history and put them into the new sound you have.
I agree with that. We are really proud of our history and it wouldn't be a choice for us to try and remake an album but with respect to our history, it was an idea to try and bring in some of the old elements in a new way.
You used Christer-André Cederberg from In the Woods as your producer. Why him?
I've known Christer for many years and since his In the Woods days and he's been producing lots of albums 'm really into and the rest of the band as well. We were going to try something new and we wanted to pick someone who we thought would suit our sound best. We knew that Christer was really into 'Rubicon' and we knew that he had strong opinions of 'Rubicon' in a positive way. We spoke to him about the idea for the album and it just felt right to ask him. He's been doing some great work with lots of bands and more recently Anathema as well. He's an amazing producer and he makes an amazing sound. I think his ideas and our ideas melted really well together and we're happy for the outcome. Hopefully we can afford him next time as well [laughs]!
How different do you think the album would have sounded if it wasn't for his input and production?
The basis of the songs were there. He has a special way to record vocals. I'm really happy with my vocals and I know Mariangela [Demurtas, vocalist] is as well. He also had a few creative suggestions that he brought to the songs, small bits and pieces here and there to finish of the song, to make them from 95 perfect to 100 percent. That five percent is really important. We're really happy with it. You record an album, then you mix it and it's new, then you put it away. Normally in that period, you're sick and tired of it but this one is different. I can't really explain why but I just like the album and that's a good thing.
It's got a lot going for it. For a start, there are four vocalists. How do you work out who sings what?
We word a lot on pre-production so maybe Mariangela's verses might have been my idea with my voice and the new try it out with different singers. Also, Ole [Vistnes, bassist and vocalist] has a song that he does solo. I think I couldn't have done that and Mariangela couldn't have done that so we're very lucky to have four singers.
Oh yeah, it is. We're into this together and we want to make the band record the best album possible and you have to throw away personal pride sometimes just to make the album the best.
You mentioned earlier that you didn't want to compromise at all with this album. Were there other things you had to compromise on with the last album?
Maybe compromise is the wrong word but we wanted to listen to our own ideas 100 per cent.
Was the record label suggesting anything?
When it comes to the cover and stuff. If you bring many people into the process, many people think different things but we wanted to listen to just ourselves this time. I'm so happy with the cover art, by the way!
It's not a picture of your singer!
No, it's not!
What's the story behind the album art?
What we did was contact Eliran Kantor who did Kreator before, metal things, proper metal things [laughs]. We saw something in his artwork and asked him if he would be interested. He asked us for lyrics because we hadn't recorded the album yet. So he read through the lyrics, through and through and through and through for four days then he came up with the picture.
Wow, so he was inspired by the lyrics. That's a really good way of coming up with an album cover.
Yes, you can say that. It was basically what the album is about. Of course, he heard about Tristania before so he knew that we were't an r'n'b band [laughs] but actually he drew that painting out of the lyrics. That's some of the lyrics.
Obviously Tristania are instrumental in the gothic metal scene and other Norwegian bands like Theatre of Tragedy and The Sins of Thy Beloved were there too but they've since disappeared now. With Tristania being the leading band left in that scene, do you feel Tristania are still relevant in gothic metal now? How important do you think Tristania are in defining other female fronted metal bands?
We've seen some reviews where they say that this song is typical gothic metal and I don't really know what they mean. We're trying to be relevant in making new quality music and that's the most important thing for us. If people want to put us in that genre of gothic metal or symphonic metal, it's not the most important thing for us. It is important for many people to find that this is a band from that bunch of bands but for a band, that's not the most important thing. I can say that Anders Høyvik Hidle, guitarist and vocalist] who has always been in the band has said that the band has never been as ambitious as this when it comes to the art. So we're ambitious when it comes to the quality. We want to make music that sounds like Tristania today but we're also being respectful to the history of the band. It's an interesting thing to us and luckily, many fans think what we're doing is good. I'm happy about that.
Do you listen to any new or gothic bands that inspire Tristania?
I wouldn't say that we have specific bands that have done that for us because we have so many different favourite bands within Tristania. I think our sound today is the sum of all the members and all the members' inspirations so I think there's too many to mention.
What inspires you personally?
Oh, my favourite is Tom Waits. You can hear it when I sing maybe but he has something that almost no one has. He has the ability to pull you into a story, like many sixties and seventies people. I think that's the most important thing about being an artist that you have something that you want to say. It doesn't really matter what sound is around it as long as you get your message through.
In regards to Tristania's previous female singer Vibeke Stenne, she is now involved with the new project God of Atheists. There are a few samples online and they sound similar to older Tristania songs. What do you think of that?
I know a few of the guys involved and I know Vibeke really well. I used to share an apartment with her when we were students in Kristiansand before I joined the band. I'm glad that she's back to singing because I know how much she used to love that but I also know how much she wanted a change. I was hanging out with her quite a lot when she quit the band so she was talking to me about how she really wanted a change and how she really wanted to settle down and not travel all around the world all the time. She now has a husband and two kids and now she's found her inspiration again. I think it's great.
I'm not sure when the album comes out but it's definitely one worth picking up. It's like a Norwegian all-star line up.
Yeah, there're a lot of good people on there and I think she deserves that as well. I'm sure there have been many people asking her about participating on something. I'm sure now that she's accepted something, she really wants to do it.
After this tour, what are Tristania's future plans?
We have a few gigs in Norway straight after the tour and then we're going to Russia right after Christmas. We have accepted another tour somewhere else in February but we can't really say yet because there are a few details to be done. We're playing as much as possible now until next summer, including some summer festivals. Say, earlier next year, we're beginning processes of new songs and after next summer, some more intensive work on a new album hopefully to be recorded in a year or maybe a little bit more. That's 2015, it sounds like a long time away.
But it will come very quickly!
Yeah, it will.
Those are the end of my questions. Do you have any final words for the readers of eGigs.co.uk?
Oh no, I think I have to run to the backstage area to get dressed. We're on in forty minutes!
Well, thank you so much for the interview.
Of course, it was my pleasure.