An Interview With Sirenia's Guitarist Morten Veland
Band Photo: Sirenia (?)
Norwegian gothic metal band Sirenia recently brought on their new front woman Ailyn and released their latest studio album "The 13th Floor" on January 23rd. Guitarist and founding member Morten Veland spoke with Metalunderground about the latest album, the band's upcoming tour schedule, and his plans to release a side project.
xFiruath: What first got you into music and why did you want to become a musician?
Morten: I think it was back in 1992. I’ve been interested in music my whole life, but that’s when I really realized that I wanted to become a musician myself. I bought my first electric guitar in the middle of 1992. I did attempt with classical guitars back in elementary school but I didn’t get too much out of that so I dropped it. My interest was kind of re-awoken in 1992 when I bought my guitar. I was playing together with a friend of mine who was a drummer. Back then we were really inspired by rock and metal bands like Guns N' Roses, Motley Crue, Metallica, and stuff like that. The first year or so we were just playing mostly cover material to get started, but then we also began writing our own material. A few years later I discovered the U.K. gothic scene with bands like the Sisters of Mercy and stuff like that. I got really interested in these dark atmospheres that they had. Also at the same time I was taking the step from the more rock and roll based music into something more metal. I wanted to combine the two. I wanted to combine metal with that gothic element that the U.K. bands were doing so well. That was around 1994 or so that I first got started in that. Ever since it has been all about trying to perfect this style and become a better song writer and musician and I’ve been following that road ever since.
xFiruath: Speaking of that combination of metal with gothic atmosphere, how would you describe the sound of Sirena to someone who had never heard it before?
Morten: It’s a little bit difficult to describe it but I think Sirenia’s musical concept is based on diversity in a way. We use a lot of elements from all kinds of styles. Everything from classical music with orchestration with piano and stuff like that and we combined it with rock and metal oriented music. We use a lot of synthesizers and creating atmospheres with our music is something that we focus a lot on. It’s mostly a melancholic atmosphere is the one that we’re trying to put notes too and describe with our music. It’s always been difficult for us to tag our music as our concept is based on brining all elements from different styles and mixing it together into a big musical concept. But if I were to mention other bands in the same style I would mention for example Nightwish or Within Temptation, stuff like that are also bands that have things in common with Sirena, although I think we have our own style.
xFiruath: Is Sirenia the only band you’re working with now or are you involved with any other projects?
Morten: Sirenia is the only band but in many ways I look at myself as a songwriter instead of a musician. I’m writing a lot of material and lot of the material that I write is falling outside the typical frames of what I like to use in Sirenia’s music. A lot of the stuff is really good and too good to just be thrown away. I’ve been playing around for quite some time now with the thought of putting together a side project with this music. It’s something that I’m working on in between when I have available time. I think it’s very possible that I will release a side project, maybe this year or maybe next year. Somewhere in the near future.
xFiruath: That sounds great! How are those songs different from the standard Sirenia songs?
Morten: With Sirenia I always try to put a lot of focus on the melodic aspect and there are certain things that are important to me. When I put together a Sirenia album I try to have a different expression for every song on the album. Sometimes I write a lot of material that some of it that musically it has something in common with Sirenia but with the side project I’m doing it will be more extreme. More back to the roots like music I was playing 10 or 15 years ago. A little bit more in that direction while Sirenia is something that I do that comes natural for me in a way. With the other projects it’s things I did back in the early days. Some of it is maybe a bit too extreme, composition wise, compared to Sirenia these days. It’s a lot of different stuff. I probably have enough different material to put together three, four, even five projects. Right now I haven’t decided totally how the side project will be but I have a lot of ideas and a lot of material that I’m working out just to finalize some songs for the project. The way it looks at the moment the side project will probably remind people more of what I was composing ten years ago, but of course I’ll try to put it in a new and fresh format with a more modern production on it.
xFiruath: You just brought on your third female vocalist Ailyn. How has she been working out so far and getting along with the band?
Morten: Really good. We’re very happy with our band situation right now with our new line up and everything is running smoothly. Everybody gets along really well and it’s a good atmosphere. Everyone is really motivated to spend time on the band we’re looking forward to touring. Working with Ailyn in the studio is a pleasure and she’s a great person with a great personality and a professional singer. She’s basically everything that we were hoping for in a new front lady and singer. We are really happy with the situation at the moment.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about your new album “The 13th Floor.” What’s different about it from the last one and is there a story behind the title?
Morten: Music wise with this album, for me at least, it felt like taking one step forward and some steps backwards at the same time. What I mean with that is that I wanted to make an album that was kind of reflecting what we have done musically so far with Sirenia and in addition take it to the next level. There’s some song material on the album that has strong links with what we were doing back with our debut album and there’s some material that has a lot in common with what we were doing on the second album “Elixir Of Existence.” Some of its equal to our last album and then some is somewhat new to what we’ve done before. I wanted to make an album that would in many ways sum up what we’ve done up until now and also have material that’s the next logical step in composition. I feel that we’ve been able to do that. When I listen to the final product I feel that we accomplished what we set out to achieve. I’m very happy with that. So far the response from press and fans has been really good so that’s always kind of a relief. First and foremost we do music for ourselves because it’s what we love to do and we make the music that we enjoy performing, and then of course we always cross our fingers and hope that the fans will be happy too. So far it seems that most of the people out there are pretty happy with the new album. That’s always very positive for us to see that the people like what we do. When it comes to the lyrics and album titles and stuff like that I never feel too comfortable talking to o much about it. In many ways it would be like reviewing my own work and I’d rather leave that up to others to do that. But there’s no concept behind the album. Every song on the album is written individually and has its own identity. Although of course most of the songs are concerning the same themes that I’ve been more or less focusing on my whole career. From album to album I always try to bring things to the next level and become a better songwriter, to deliver better in terms of playing and so on. We just hope that the people like it.
xFiruath: Where did you record the album at and did you work with a producer?
Morten: This is actually the first Sirenia album that I produced myself. In the past I used to work with other producers and then I’d co-produce the album. Most of the album was also recorded in my own studio here in Norway. We went to France to do some additional recordings in Marseille. We recorded acoustic guitars, violins, and the choirs in France. Everything else is recorded in my own studio. When all the takes were done we went down to Denmark where we mixed and mastered the album.
xFiruath: What’s up next for Sirenia now that the album is out? Any tours upcoming?
Morten: Yeah we will start now in the beginning of May in Moscow, Russia. We’re going through I think Ukraine and Poland and then we have festivals setup for the summer. We’re trying to get some more festivals setup. It seems like we will do a European tour in October. Hopefully we will be able to do a North American tour. We’ve wanted to do that for a very long time but sometimes it has been too complicated to realize that dream. I really hope it will be possible this year or next. As a band we are really motivated to go tour now and its one of the things we really enjoy with being in a band. With making an album its always cool to go perform the new songs for the audience. If it was up to us we’d go on tour for two years straight but there’s a lot of other things that have to be taken care of also. You’ve got to have the right contacts and promoters and interest going. We will do as much touring as possible for this album.
xFiruath: Outside of Sirenia what bands are you currently listening to the most these days?
Morten: A lot of older music actually. The Doors, Black Sabbath and things like that. I’m living a bit in the past regarding the music. I’m not too updated with what’s going on with all the new music and bands these days, but every now and then you discover something new that you really like. Of the newer bands I’m listening to Pain from Sweden which is good friends of mine. We did a tour with them back in 2005. They have a fresh sound and melodic, cool metal songs. I also listen to some of the guys from Immortal who did a side project called “I” which I think is new and fresh with a cool production and interesting guitar work and nice songs. That’s some of the newer stuff I listen to but most of the time its older material from the 70’s, 80’s, and early ‘90s.
xFiruath: That’s all my questions. Do you have anything else you wanted to discuss that I didn’t bring up?
Morten: That’s about it. I would only like to say cheers to all the Sirenia fans in the U.S. and I want you to know that were doing the best that we can to get over and finally do a tour in the States. Hopefully we will be able to promote the album there. Maybe this year or beginning of next year.
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