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Leaves Eyes

Leaves Eyes
I Want People To Enjoy Life In These Times

11.01.2021

Архив интервью | Русская версия

On days like these, there’s nothing more precious than an escape from the virus-stricken reality to the time and place where people were facing their hardships face to face, not locking themselves within four walls with the only wish to survive. Leaves’ Eyes have always been giving this to their fans, and their new album “The Last Viking” is yet another tale of great adventures undertaken and great hardships endured by perhaps the most legendary of the peoples that have ever walked the European soil. The band themselves are no strangers to hardships and adventures either – a few years ago they went through a dramatic and daring change of singers, letting go the charismatic and instantly recognizable Liv Kristine and hiring Elina Siirala, whom very few people had heard of before. However, time has shown that the band came out of that as a winner, and their new record is as enchanting and entertaining as their past works have been. We reached out to mastermind Alex Krull to find out more about recording new music in the COVID environment, the band’s involvement in the reenactment scene and, of course, about their plans for the post-pandemic future.

What have you been doing during these Corona-times? With no touring possible and limited traveling, how do you and the rest of the band spend your time?


We played our last shows on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise in the Caribbean Sea in the beginning of the year. It was an awesome trip, by the way, I was also hosting the all-star jam, it was cool, with legends like Michael Schenker, and Cronos, and Gary Holt, it was really really cool to do that. We returned and we knew that the Leaves’ Eyes record is the next thing we were gonna do, and soon after that suddenly the corona pandemic was starting here in Europe. We were like, “Okay, is it really happening?”, and we ended up in the studio doing the lockdown together with everyone from the band. Joris (Nijenhuis, drums) has a girlfriend in Switzerland, he hardly made it back here in the studio – 1,5 hours later the border with Switzerland was closed. He’s from Holland, and he was stuck in Germany in Mastersound Studio. (laughs) And Elina, too – she’s been living in Germany for two years, but in another area than we do, I mean, Tosso (Bauer, guitar), me and Micki (Richter, guitar). She’s living in Bavaria, close to Munich, and we are from Stuttgart, so she’s hours away as well, but she also came here, and we locked ourselves down in the studio. We made the best out the situation, and we finished the album. We were actually lucky, unlike other bands who were on the road, like friends of ours, they were stuck in an airport, hotel, or even on the tour bus, and they didn’t know where to go.

I can tell you one thing. Of course, there’s a lot of negativity going on in the world right now, but the positive thing was – and this is also for the metal family around the globe – we could strip down to the essentials what we do here. We could focus on the music, we were coming closer as a band in the sense that we had to stick together to go through this madness. All our shows, all our tours, all our plans got cancelled; actually the shows in Russia, too, there were plans to play there in December, but when this whole thing came up, we never published anything. I know there’s a festival, Big Gun, scheduled for next year, hopefully we will be able to do that. But there were shows in Mexico with Arch Enemy in June, and we couldn’t do that, because it was impossible. Our tour in Europe was postponed one year, it should have started now, with the release of the album, and now it’s happening in one year. And the release show, which was originally scheduled for Summer Breeze Open Air in front of 40,000 people with pyros and Vikings on the stage - it was all blown. It is really hard, especially for some of us, like Joris, who lives in The Netherlands and also works as a technician, going to big festivals and working there. Micki, our other guitar player, is playing a lot of live shows, he’s also having a rock show going on, where he and other musicians are playing gigs almost every weekend. And we were talking last week, we just came back from a video shoot, and he was really happy that we could do this video shoot, because it’s very hard now to go onstage and play anything. At least it was something that we could do together.

It’s not a very nice time, but on the other hand, we have a great record out, and I think we brought in everything that we could, and the metal family should stick together. Fuck all this corona, fuck all this political bullshit, we are one metal family, no matter where we come from or whatever is going on in the world. If the world goes crazy, well, we have us.  

Social distancing concerts with limited attendance – is it an option for Leaves’ Eyes? Have you been offered, or have you considered doing anything like that?

There were attempts to do something like that, also livestreams; we’re getting almost daily offers for livestream shows or stuff like that. But to be honest, we are not that much up for concerts with cars, like when they do cinema shows and let in cars; I don’t know if you have anything like that in Russia, but here in Stuttgart in the summertime they did something like that; Doro was playing, for example, and friends of mine were there. But it’s not the same, I’m not very convinced. I want to have a real deal, and maybe we just have to be patient and wait for a chance to play real rock shows again.

We’ve just read some musician (we don’t remember his name) saying that “releasing an album during the pandemic is like throwing it into a big black void”. Nevertheless, you are going ahead with the release of “The Last Viking”. What are your expectations from this release?


I think we also want to give something back to the people. There was, of course, a discussion in March or April, and we all knew that this was going to be quite tricky, so the label had a discussion with us, they said, “OK, it will be difficult to have your album out in the summertime”. We said, “OK, it it’s not possible in the summertime, then we’ll try our really best to make it happen in autumn”. We had really hard struggles, especially when we wanted to do our videoclips, we couldn’t go to Switzerland or to Poland where we were filming with video companies. We had to wait until the last second to do it. I know what the guy means whoever said that, I know a lot of musicians are used to the situation when they bring out an album, they go on tour, and they have this album-tour circle, and they feel really bad about not being able to do it. But I have a bit of another approach to it. I’m also an artist, I love studio work, I’m also a music producer and all that, and I think especially in these times maybe people need something like that. Maybe they want to dive into our musical world, they wanna listen to sagas of the Vikings, they want to shut down all the negativity. Especially with this album, there’s a lot of Land of the Rus stuff in there, some Russian history, because our hero is marrying a Russian princess Elisiv. I think that’s a record in which you can really dive into. (laughs)

One song that’s connected to Russia specifically is “Black Butterfly”, it’s the song of the Russian princess. On that one we have a special guest, which is Clementine (Delaney) from Visions Of Atlantis, with a fabulous duet with Elina. And there’s another song called “For Victory”. The hero of the saga, Norse King Hardrada, Harald III, who was travelling almost everywhere where the Vikings were going, from Norway and Sweden down to Russia and the Byzantine Empire, he was even in the Mediterranean Sea, he was fighting in Sicily, Bulgaria, and all the way down to Jerusalem, he had missions there. He was fighting in Turkey, that was Saracens’ territory, and became a war hero of the Varangian Guard. And on the way back he was marrying Elisiv, the daughter of Yaroslav, the King of the Rus, and then returned to fight for the throne of Norway and the throne of Denmark and, on top of that, he went to England to fight for the English crown. He died there at Stamford Bridge in 1066, and then it was very decisive that the Viking age was over. It’s a very dramatic and epic story, maybe the biggest epic Viking saga. It has a lot of variety, it has a lot of colorful dramatic tales in there. I really love that, and I think it suits Leaves’ Eyes 100 percent.

How did you get Clementine Delaney to sing a duet with Elina on the album? As far as we understand, you very seldom have guest lead singers in Leaves’ Eyes…


Yeah, we’ve had a couple. We had Simone Simons from Epica once, we had Lindy Fay from Wardruna once, but generally you’re right, it’s not that we have guest singers on every album. We’ve also had John from the Kelly Family singing with us, I remember that, and Maite (Itoiz), his wife. So there were some guests before. Clementine is actually a good friend of ours, we were on tour with her several times - with Melted Space, her project band, with Visions Of Atlantis, and with Kamelot, for example, we were also meeting on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise the year before, and she always said, “Yeah, we should do something together,” and now it was the right moment. (laughs) We thought it would be very cool to have her, and we were also looking for a voice that differed from Elina’s voice, so that you would have a real duet of two front-singers. I think it works out very good. As we had released the “Black Butterfly”, “Serkland” and “Night Of The Ravens” songs before, we wanted to have different versions of these tracks on the album. I think it was a great session here, and you have to keep in mind that it was in the very last second. We knew we wanted to do it, and Clementine wanted to come here to the Mastersound Studio, so she had to travel from Lyon, France, and the borders were closed. We had already delivered the master to AFM Records, and then it was on hold, we were telling them, “Wait-wait-wait, we have Clementine as a guest singer, but not yet!” We waited until the borders opened, and on the very first moment she jumped onto the train and came here. I think she ditched her holidays and everything. (everybody laughs) But we had a great weekend here, I can tell you! It was really wonderful, we had a great time, and we were very happy that we could do the session together and get such a good result.

Let us set one thing straight: the AFM press release reads that, with “The Last Viking”, Leaves' Eyes “bring the Viking Sagas to their bombastic finale”. Does it mean that you will change the topic next time and sing about something else?

A lot of people are asking me something like, “’Vinland Saga’ was the first one, and now, 15 years later, you’re closing the chapter”. I’m like, “What?!” The thing is that this band has always been and will always be connected to Norse mythology, great landscapes, sagas and tales. It’s not only about Vikings, there’s more even on this album, there’s also a lot of mystic and magic, all kinds of things like that, which suits the approach of Leaves’ Eyes very much. It’s not a trilogy either: some people are asking if “King Of Kings” (2015), “Sign Of The Dragonhead” (2018) and this one are interconnected, but it’s not the case. That specific saga was closing the chapter of the Vikings history-wise, but it doesn’t mean that we will not touch this topic again. It will be different, of course, on the next album. But as we had people asking… there was one hint indeed on the previous album “Sign Of The Dragonhead”, the last song called “Waves Of Euphoria” was already about Harald III, so it was a hint, and die-hard fans knew, “Ah, this is what they’re gonna take us next to, the next journey will be about Hardrada”. That’s true, there’s indeed this connection. But’s not like we want to get rid of something or close the Viking chapter. I have a very personal connection with it myself, because I’m a swordfighter, I’m in the biggest modern Viking army, Jomsborg, we’re all over the world. I go sword fighting every week, I go to tournaments, I go to camps, and I’m fighting on the biggest battlefield nowadays, which is in Poland, with 8,000 warriors, also a lot of Russian warriors, by the way, they also do it, they go as Slavic warriors. That is why this topic is closely connected to me personally.

We’ve watched the first part of the “Viking Spirit” documentary that you have just put online, and we were really impressed with the scale of the reenactment movement in which you are participating. Do we understand it right that you first got re-enactors to participate in Leaves’ Eyes shows in 2007, and then got interested and became a member of the movement yourself?

Yeah, kind of. Let me explain it that way: in the area where I come from, we have some guys who do kind of reenactment with Romans and Germanic knights, so we have knight tournaments. But in northern Germany there’s Hedeby, where the biggest Viking trade center was in the Medieval times, so it’s in Germany. My father comes from the Baltic Sea, that’s eastern Germany, and this is where the original Jomsborg saga comes from. That’s kind of my roots, right? It’s interesting that the biggest Viking army nowadays is also called Jomsborg, and I have that family connection, because they’re from that area. I also have a lot of friends in Poland, which are running their East Storm Chapter. If you have seen the documentary, you have seen Igor (Gorewicz). He’s actually in a lot of Amon Amarth videos, as well as in those by Sabaton and Kreator, so he’s working with a lot of metal bands. He’s a big metal fan, and we are really great friends, we are brothers, let’s say, and he’s the leader of East Storm. There are like six episodes of the documentary on now, but altogether there are like 19, so there’s a lot more really cool stuff. The first part was the start, to introduce people to it properly, but the follow-up will show you what the real deal is here – trainings, battles, events and all the background stuff. We were filming it for five years. (laughs)

I didn’t know that we had people here doing that hobby. I met people from Belgium in 2005 - Snorri, he’s also in the documentary, and he’s also a metal fan, by the way, writing for Belgian and French magazines. We were talking about Vikings and everything, and I told him about the idea that we wanna have a ship on stage, put me into armor and prepare a big show. It was 15 years ago, and back then it was quite hard to find good stuff, the real deal, let’s say. There were reenactors, there was a scene, but nowadays, like everything, it’s on the Internet, so it has much more possibilities. Then we played at Wacken in 2007, I met some guys from Northern Germany, and at our second Wacken show it happened that a guy from our area saw us. They basically introduced themselves to me, they said, “Hey, we are here from your area”. I was like, “What?! Really?!” (laughs) It was 2013-2014 when we made a great connection. Before that I was just having a sword to train for myself for the show so that it would looked OK, but then it started with all the fighting rules and all that stuff. It was now going at a much better level, all in combination.

You can compare the reenactment scene a little bit to the metal scene, it’s something like that. A lot of people find their way to the Viking scene via music, which is a very beautiful thing, I think, to find out about that. It’s really cool, everyone is equal, it doesn’t matter what you do in your normal life. Everyone shuts off the modern world, talks at a campfire, and I’m also just one of those guys. Of course, a lot of those guys also know the band and stuff, and of course they also talk to me about that. But anyway it’s something which is very nice for people who want to shut off the modern world, a little bit like with music - you dive into another world.

Jomsborg brings together people from all over the world. In your opinion, why people from New Zealand or the Far East want to lead a Viking lifestyle? Their lands have enormous history of their own…

It’s true, but the fascination for Vikings has something to do with the fact that they left their footprint all over the world. Maybe not New Zealand (everybody laughs), but maybe it comes from New Zealanders’ ancestors which came from Europe, I mean, this longing or desire towards the old days. Dublin, Ireland, is a Viking city, also in Germany, in France, in Normandy, there are Viking cities as well. As I’ve just said, all the way down to Sicily, they left their footprint. They were all over the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, because they were seafarers, they were traders, and, of course, they were warriors. Already back then this Viking spirit wasn’t only among one special group of people, it was already kind of mixed up. They were settling down, mixing with the natives and so forth, like in the Rus, for example. It wasn’t like an empire, but because of their raiding and wars they left their footprints around the globe. On top of that, people love the Norse mythology because it’s just awesome, and this combination of history and sagas is very exciting for people. You see a lot of literature that is also inspired by the Vikings and their sagas. In “The Lord Of The Rings”, there’s a little bit here and there, and I know that “Game Of Thrones” is originally inspired by something else, but I think here and there you can also find some of Hardrada’s adventures – all these intrigues and corruption and fighting for one crown and all that. It’s very exciting, and apart from musicians or artists who love to speak about these topics and write music about it, there are also people who want to live that lifestyle – and they could be from New Zealand, or Latin America, or the USA, or even Japan. That’s really cool.

How does the reenactment movement handle the pandemic? As far as we understand, gatherings and celebrations are not possible, and from we saw in the movie, for many of them Viking crafts is the main source of income…

Yeah, you’re absolutely right about that. It’s really a big problem. I know a lot of those guys. The guys who are traders, or making clothes, or craftsmen, as you’ve mentioned, are absolutely dependent on the events of the summertime, and basically nothing was happening. They also have to struggle a lot in that situation, but it’s nice to see that even in these bad times people try to support each other. Like I said, they are based everywhere from Russia to England, all over Europe and so forth, and they keep the connections and stuff like that. I have to say it could be a good example for some politicians out there (laughs) – to do it the same way, to support each other. To be honest, what I don’t understand in the whole thing is if the pandemic comes up, usually the humanity should all stick together. But it seems like everybody is doing his own battle, his own fight, his own thing, and instead of stopping all this financial madness, we’re going up and down in Wall Street. What the hell?! If they had all been smart, they would have said, “OK, it’s like a wartime, we make a peace agreement, just press the stop button, and save everyone” – because it would have been possible. But of course, there’s always someone who has another interest than the other one.

What’s good for us is that metal people and the reenactment scene, they try to support each other. Our part as a band is to support people with music, and even though maybe our booking agent would say, “Alex, come on, it may be better if you bring out the record later”, me as an artist would say, “I don’t give a damn, I want people to be able to enjoy life in these times. We want to bring out the record right now even if we don’t have that normal tour circle and stuff”. Who knows whether it ever continues the way we want a rock show to go on, we have to see how that goes. The question here is how the infrastructure like clubs, crew guys, festivals, festival owners, all the guys around, not only the bands, can survive this type of abstinence of people. Of course, we need people to work this. And that’s at the moment the worst situation you can go into, because we probably are the last ones in line to get their jobs back.

Do you specifically listen to any music that has Viking-related lyrics and themes? What do you think of Amon Amarth, for example, or Heilung, from the other side of the spectrum?

(laughs) Heiling – it’s quite interesting that you ask. We played together at a German festival, and the singer, Kai (Uwe Faust), is a German guy, and he’s a big fan of Atrocity, my other band. (laughs) He told me he’s running a tattoo studio, and he’s always playing our “Werk 80” record or the albums with Yasmin, my sister. I also have some friends whom he was hanging out with when he was going to some reenactment events and stuff. It’s a small world, and Kai is a really cool artist, and has a really cool taste of music. I heard Heilung before they got signed, as I’m still connected to record labels, I work for record labels as a music producer and as a talent scout, and if I find something interesting, I suggest that band to record labels. I said immediately that Heilung is a fantastic band, and this band will have a great future. But they had already got signed through somebody I know, anyway, that was quite interesting.

And Amon Amarth – oh my god, we played together for the first time at a Turkish festival in Istanbul in 2004 or something like that, a while ago. I know Johan (Hegg, Among Amarth singer), when we meet at festivals, we have a little word or something like that. There were crew guys of Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes working also for Amon Amarth, so there’s always someone knowing somebody. No doubt there’s a lot of people from the reenactment scene who love that band, too.

The change of the lead singer is extremely problematic for many bands, but in your case, as far as we understand, the audience has accepted Elina quite easily, at least if we compare this to the departure of Tarja Turunen from Nightwish, for example. Why do you think you have been so successful with this transition?

There will always be people who like one singer better than the other, think Nightwish. I remember all the way back then Paul Di’Anno was replaced by a guy called Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden, and I was a very very young metalhead, and I liked a bit rawer punkier style, so I was like, “There’s another guy singing now…” (everybody laughs) Nowadays you cannot think of Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson, but still my favorite Iron Maiden album is “Killers”. I love Iron Maiden, and I love both of them, for me it’s not a problem, I know there were a lot of people making such a big drama about the whole situation (in Leaves’ Eyes – ed.), that was also fired up by some Internet bashing and all that stuff. We met with the managers in America and we also had talks about it, and we also talked with other people who had had similar problems. I remember I was talking to Alyssa (White-Gluz) from Arch Enemy, and she told me that sometimes people are very critical. (laughs) But as you said, and that is the important part here, we were really lucky that we found Elina, it was like winning a lottery. She was there in the moment when we needed her the most. It was something that could have been completely going down the drain, because it’s not easy to find the right singer, and that’s just one thing, you also need someone whom you can tour with and do all the other stuff such as videos and studio work. People tend to underestimate that part, they just see the band on stage, but I think that’s really important, and the studio flow with Elina was absolutely great from the start. But shows are very important and that’s why I think so many people could cope with that – “Oh, they have a new singer, and she’s sounding great onstage”. We had big U.S. tours, for example, with Sabaton, and it was massive, a lot of people every night, and festivals, such as Wacken, and this was a real test. It was absolutely amazing, also and it was always a big success. We also got to headline some shows, like the Metal Female Voices, for example, or Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig, where we were headlining, or Full Metal Cruise, where we were co-headlining together with Saxon. That was really great, and the fans love her, I see it always after the shows that there’s always so much great feedback. We are very happy, but of course, you will always find someone, who’s hating, bashing, a keyboard warrior on the Internet. I can just give everyone advice – come to the show and make your own opinion, check it out when we have a chance to play again, of course.

What’s currently happening with Atrocity? The second part of the “Okkult” trilogy took five years to be released - when can we expect the third part?

It’s actually something which is on the schedule now (laughs), as we’ve done so much with Leaves’ Eyes. We already have some cool song ideas written now, I think it’s about three songs or something, and we will continue now, this will be the next big thing we’re gonna focus on – to make a new Atrocity album.

Great, we’ll be looking forward to it!


You have to see, it’s very simple to explain. In Leaves’ Eyes, you see this Viking guy, my father gave me this heritage probably (laughs), and on the other side, you have the dark side, as my grandfather was from Transylvania. It’s a great mixture – a vampire Viking. (everybody laughs)

Both Atrocity and Leaves Eyes are confirmed for the Big Gun festival in Russia next summer. You’ve played in Russia quite a few times, but never at a festival. What shall the fans expect from your shows? Maybe Russian Vikings on the stage?


Yeah, I have a friend out there, somebody I know, his name is Maxim, he’s from Moscow, and I told him, “Hey, when we’re gonna play in Russia, you guys come over”. (laughs) It might be – if I have a chance, or if we’re allowed to do it, let’s see what happens now, the next couple of months will be decisive, but I’m absolutely up for that.

OK then, what will be the first thing you will do after you heart that the pandemic is officially over?


That’s a good question! For me actually there’s one very important part: my son and my family, and that was quite tough for all family members to meet and stuff like that. I think when the pandemic is over, it’s very important that people can reunite – on concerts, of course, with the metal family, but also in personal life. I know a lot of people have a hard time. For me, myself, I’m not afraid of anything, I just take care that nobody else is getting in danger, I think that’s a matter of respect. There’s not something that I have specifically in mind right now, only the thing that we can go out again, play shows, and of course, do all the things that we want to do – going to a big Viking battle (laughs), just going back to normal. But I’m pretty much sure that the new normal will leave a bit of its footprint on the upcoming regular life. I think people will be more careful with stuff, but let’s see how it goes.

Leaves’ Eyes on the Internet: https://www.leaveseyes.de/

Special thanks to Irina Ivanova (AFM Records) for arranging this interview

Interview by Roman Patrashov, Natalia “Snakeheart” Patrashova
Photos by Stefan Heilemann (courtesy of AFM Records)
October 19, 2020
© HeadBanger.ru

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