I arrived at the gig venue for the interview and I was led backstage, down the stairs and along a winding corridor. We found a small back room that was further away from where they were sound testing, but could still hear the booming drums on the background. It was fantastic to meet the talented Morten Veland, of the gothic metal band Sirenia, all the way from Norway. It was an absolute pleasure chatting with Morten, and hearing about his creative processes. Sounds like Sirenia have found their perfect line-up, musically and socially, now Nils and Emmanuelle have joined the band. And this will only mean bigger and better things for Sirenia in the future. With Emmanuelle and Nils injecting a fresh sound and unique vocals, they’re at the helm ready to help Morten propel the band to new heights.
How did you create the new album “Arcane Astral Aeons”? Any particular inspirations or influences?
M: Pretty much the same influences as always. I found that the Scandinavian winter is very inspirational to me; it gets cold and dark early. It makes me really calm, and gets into the composition mode. I can draw inspirations from anything around me, anything around me that makes an impression. (i.n.: Yeah, I can imagine! Must be really beautiful and peaceful.)
How did you come up with the album title “Arcane Astral Aeons”?
M: The album title is normally the last thing I do. I write the compositions, and then move on to lyrics. I normally have some basic ideas that I build from. Lastly, I chose a title, try and find one that reflects what the album is about, or the general atmosphere of it.
It’s been two years since the previous album with Emmanuelle on vocals – what has changed on the songwriting part and what are the new elements that you introduce on the new album “Arcane Astral Aeons”?
M: Most of the composition techniques have remained the same. But with Emmanuelle joining the band it has opened up a lot of doors and possibilities. She has a great voice span, whatever we throw at her, she can fit it. It’s a songwriters dream! She also contributed some lyrics on this album too. For the song “Desire” I wrote half the lyrics, and Emmanuelle wrote the French side. She also translated some parts from French to English for me. (i.n.: A girl of many talents then!)
Why did you decide to do a pledge campaign for “Arcane Astral Aeons”?
M: I started my music career 22 years ago, I have seen the whole industry changing a lot. Some for good, some for bad. In general there is less money in the music industry now. I want to keep improving and creating better and better music, but it’s hard with reduced budgets, so that’s challenging for sure. But we’re definitely not compromising on quality. And we saw the rise of crowdfunding, and thought it would be great to get the fans involved, and enable us to do what we needed to do to make a top quality album.
Do you believe that “Arcane Astral Aeons” is even more cohesive and ambitious as an album than the previous ones?
M: Yeah, I think we’ve broken in as a group now; we’ve been working really hard, and touring more than ever. So I feel we’re more fixed as a band, they all give a good proportion of their time to the band.
You also have a new lead guitarist on board, Nils Courbaron. Even though he has played live with Sirenia before, he is not regarded as a permanent member of the band, right? How did this occur?
M: He joined a year ago, he was filling it as lead guitar, and it fit really, really well. We were actually looking for a bass player, but couldn’t find anyone with the right fit. Then Nils came along, as it just fit perfect, so I decided to switch to bass, and let the other two guys take guitars. I’m very used to playing bass in the studio, but not much live. So it’s actually feels really new and fresh.
Funny how things work out, you can never predict it! But it’s great that you found a good fit and to complete the line-up.
M: Yeah it wasn’t what we were planning, but just felt right from the start!
Q: How have fans responded to the new album?
M: The album’s still really fresh, but we’ve had a lot of great feedback already! We had a release party in Russia, St. Petersburg on the day it came out. And the crowd was singing along to the new songs even though it had only been out for a day! And we’re really enjoying playing the new songs live.
How did you come up with the name Sirenia initially?
M: I’ve always been in to classical Greek mythology and Norse mythology. (i.n.: So, I was curious and had a quick look up about Sirenia in Greek mythology, it’s derived from the sirens of Greek mythology. That lured men to their deaths, and gave roots to the myths of mermaids.)
Do you prefer to be on the road or on the studio writing and recording?
M: I like both; both have their charms and up-sides, and their challenges. I love being in the studio, creative part, writing songs from scratch, building them up to get better and better. It’s a very satisfying process. But after working for long periods of time in the studio, you feel a bit anti-social, so you can’t wait to go back on the road and meet people. But again when you’re on the road for a long time, you start to miss the studio! So it’s great to have the two together, they balance each other.”
What are those lessons that you have learnt over the course of your career and what are those things that keep you going on after all these years?
M: The whole time, from the beginning to now has been a constant learning process. Seeing the industry changing so much and so fast. It’s about trying to adapt to the new stuff that’s coming out, which is challenging for sure. You build your experiences and try to learn from them and take away the positives. When you’re travelling it is great, you meet so many different bands, and it’s very social, so you can learn from each other experiences too. It’s a lot about trying and failing, especially in the beginning, and there’s a lot to be learnt from doing mistakes.
Yeah, try and error is often best! Not so much at the time, admittedly, but it the future! You always learn the most from your mistakes.
M: You won’t make the same mistake again!
What are your future plans after touring?
M: For now it’s a lot of promoting the new album. Then we’ll have a small break. And then off to a festival in the Czech Republic. And then start touring the beginning of next year! So a lot on the horizon.
If you could play in any country, where would you choose?
M: At the top of my list would be Japan, it’s one of those countries we haven’t been to yet. And I’ve been wanted to go for ages. It’s a country that’s really different, and has its own unique culture.
Ohh, I love anything Japanese, so I’m definitely onboard!
M: We’ve been in discussions with someone over there, and I’m hoping we should be over there within the next year. And a run of ten shows in China and other countries in Asia.
Ah brilliant, so a full Asian tour! Would be a bit of a trek for one show! I’m very jealous.
M: I would also like to do a show in Africa, as it’s the only continent we haven’t performed in.
Ah, so you need to tick it off your checklist!
M: We have had some offers from places in South Africa, but they didn’t go through in the end. But we’d love to do one soon for the experience.
Anything you want try or explore in the future? Such as, genre, instruments or lyrical themes.
M: For every album I try to come up with something different, something new, or something we haven’t tried before. So I’m always on the lookout for a new sound, or new instruments. This album kind of drained me a bit, so I will take a little break before starting the new album. For now I’m just enjoying being on the road, after months in the recording studio!
What shall the fans expect from Sirenia in the future?
M: We haven’t played much in the UK yet, so we would like to tour around the UK more.