This interview with bassist Birgit Ö. of Midnattsol was done through the internet by Fjordi in May 2005.

Midnattsol performs a very interesting music based mainly on gothic metal, but with some folk elements which give them a unique emotional approach. Midnattsol´s singer Carmen is the sister of former Theatre Of Tragedy frontgirl Liv Kristin Espenaes, but this is not the only reason to buy Midnattsol´s "Where Twilight Dwells" album, since we´re before a promising band with many more things to offer. Come and taste their words...

Carmen Espenaes is one of the highlights (not the only one) of Midnattsol. How did Carmen join the band? Since she is Norwegian and the rest of the band German, there must be something interesting to tell us about that.
Birgit: Hi, I´m Birgit, bassist of the band Midnattsol and I will do the interview. So let´s start :-) Carmen has moved to Germany about three years ago, as her sister lives here too and she wanted to be closer to her. In Germany she got to know our guitarist Chris. He has played together with Chris Merzinsky, Daniel Fischer and Daniel Droste in a band called Penetralia before, so they have made music together for many years, but they have split up a while ago. Chris H. asked Carmen and Chris M. asked me whether we would like to make music together, so the line up was soon found. As almost all of us live in Germany it is no problem to practice together at the weekends. I live in Switzerland, but also always drive there to practice.

What is the role of Carmen in the songmaking? Has the album been collectively created by the whole band? Are the folk influences something caused by Carmen´s tastes?
Birgit: We all write the songs together. If someone has an idea or a melody, we play and experimentate with it until everybody of us likes it and has his/her part. Only when all of us agree and say “Yes, that´s it!”, we use the part. Because only if everyone of us likes the songs, we all can identify with it and stand behind Midnattsol a 100%. There are surely folk influences that result from the fact, that Carmen grew up in Norway and with Norwegian folk songs. “Tapt av Hop” is also a famous Norwegian folk song wich we combined with own ideas and an own song. But the folk influences also come from the drum rhythms or the guitar melodies.

I´d like to comment on the fact you use two languages in the album, Norwegian and English. Is it something you are going to do in the next releases? What about the idea of becoming one of the few bands (hmmm... I just can recall Norske masters Solefald doing that) using German, English and Norwegian lyrics in an album? Have you thought about that?
Birgit: Oh oh, I don´t really think that we will use German lyrics, this would probably sound quite strange to us. But who knows, I don´t want to say never, it is always a think of feeling which language is used and so far we used English and Norwegian, as we like the tone of the languages and they sound more mystic and interesting to us. So I think that we´ll also use the two languages also on the next release.

I think the songs with Norwegian titles sound more intimate, so to speak. Besides the language, are they somehow “special”? Are they meant to sound different than the songs in English?
Birgit: It was not our intent that the songs sound different and we did´t plan before, in which language the songs should be, it is again more a think of which situation and which atmosphere should be expressed. In “Dancing With The Midnightsun” the thoughts of a girl which is dancing in the woods of Norway have been sung in Norwegian, so this language fits definitely better to express her feelings and thoughts. But the music is not written based on the language. It happened more by chance that the Norwegian songs sound different.

To feature a girl in the line-up is something quite more common these days, but too often it comes just as an extra addition just for the picture and increase the lyrics. Midnattsol has a competent bass player who is a lot into extreme metal, as far as I know, and the singer has a beautiful voice. What do you think about the “bands with a girl”?
Birgit: It doesn´t matter whether a band is with male or female members, as long as the music is good. Musicians shouldn´t be valued by their gender, but by their music. I´ve been playing in bands since many years and I´ve never played in a band because I´m a girl, always because I´m a bassist. I still play in another band called Commander, where we play extreme Death Metal. I love Metal and that´s what has always played a very important role in my life since I´m a kid. I could´t imagine a life without music. For example Doro Pesch has always been one of my very big favourites, she´s a great Rock Lady and shows that women enrich the music scene. Also Jo Bench from Bolt Thrower is really great. Carmen is also singing at Midnattsol because she has a wonderful voice, not because it could be better for promotion to have girls in the band. But maybe some guys like girls in bands though ;-)

Are you comfortable being classified under the “gothic metal” file? What offers Midnattsol which other gothic metal bands fail to comunicate?
Birgit: We ourselves describe our music as Nordic Folk Metal, with the main emphasis on Metal. We have Nordic influences in the lyrics and the melodies, folk rhythms and influences from the guitars and drums, and powerful Metal riffs and drums. I think this description describes our music best and is what the listener can expect from us, also if some people call our music Gothic Metal. Often it happens that the music is called Gothic only because of a female singer. Maybe we also have some Gothic characteristics, but the description Gothic Metal alone doesn´t really fit to our music.

I was very surprised when I saw there was no male voices in the album. It´s something that distinguishes you from the rest of bands based on the “beauty and the beast” formula overpopulating the scene today. Have you ever thought about including another voice?
Birgit: When wrote the songs which are on the CD, we didn´t think about it. Carmen is the singer, so it was clear for us that she would be singing. When we recorded the CD we also did´t think about whether there are enough bands who mix female with male vocals and that´s why we shouldn´t do it. We ourselves also don´t know yet what the next CD will be like, as we have just started to write new songs and are also curious what they will sound like. But maybe we will also have some additional male vocals one day, who knows; we don´t want to confine ourselves to sing with just female vocals, but also don´t have any plans yet for additional male vocals.

Is there any song in the album you´re specially proud of? A “flag song”, a favourite tune?
Birgit: Even within the band we have different favourite songs. If I should mention my favourite songs on the CD I would say Lament, Haunted, Unpayable Silence and Tapt Av Hop. You see, it´s not easy for me to metion just one song. But also in the reviews that I read so far you could see that everybody prefers different songs. I think if people like our music, they will like the whole CD as a complete album and not only one or two songs. And if they don´t like this kind of music, they probably won´t like all of them. The songs are very diversified, so that you should listen to the whole album to make yourself a view of it.

I assume most of reviews for “Where Twilight Dwells” have been quite good. Do you remember any negative reaction?
Birgit: We are very satisfied with the reactions and the reviews and very happy about the positive feedback. We did´t get very much negative response, also if there are always some who say that we got the deal and the advertence only because of connections and because Carmen is the sister of Liv. But the fact is that the music has to be good to convince the listeners, not any connections. We got many emails from people who bought our CD and who wrote wonderful words about our songs. We make the music just because we like it and if the reviews would be bad, we would still make that kind of music, but it is no question that it makes even more fun if there are some people out there who like it and support us.

What is your biggest flaw as a band? What is the thing you have to improve in the next release, in your opinion?
Birgit: As a band we work very well as we are also good friends. Hm, there are one or two things which we would make different the next time at the recordings, but I won´t tell you that, he he. Because if I tell you what we would make different, you would listen to exactly to these points when you listen to the CD the next time ;-). But in general we are very satisfied with “Where Twilight Dwells”. It is our debut album and it is a challenge for us to become even more satisfied with the next album. It would be boring if everything would be perfect from the beginning, but "Where Twilight Dwells" exceeded my own expectations.

Will the next album feature more folk elements added to the music?
Birgit: As we have just started writing new songs, I can´t really tell you. We write the songs with the feeling of the situation. But I could imagine that there might be some more folk parts.

Which has been the hardest moment for the band so far? The first times are usually tough; tell us something about these memories, and the beginning of Midnattsol career.
Birgit: So far we can´t explain, we have had very much luck with Midnattsol and everything went very fast and we went a quite unusual way, as we recorded a CD before we played life together. When we wrote three songs, we recorded two of them on a demo at the Mastersoundstudio and sent it to some labels. Soon later, Napalm records offered us a deal, which made us very happy. One of the songs, Desolate, we put on the internet at www.mp3.de and had been Nr. 1 in the charts for many weeks; we where absolutely overwhelmed. One year after recording the demo we went to the studio again to record our first long player with 11 songs. The time before and in the studio was probably the most stressful time so far, as we all live quite far away from each other and therefore have a long time to travel to practice, everyone of us is studying or has to work and you don´t have much time left for your private life. But when the CD was released, we got so much positive response and many nice emails, we will play at some big festivals and concerts this year, this compensates you for all the effort you´ve made. This year will be a great year for us and I´m sure we´ll have lots of fun!!!

Are you willing to live off music, or you just pretend to make albums disregarding sales and tours and all that? Have all of you regular jobs?
Birgit: These days it is very hard to live of music, especially if you make Heavy Metal. It´s a big step to give up your job, your studies to start an unsecure future and maybe you also loose the passion for music then. We have had a couple of offers so far for touring, but had to call them off, as we couldn´t life from the music and everybody of us also studies or works something what he/she likes. Chris M., Daniel F. and me are in the last year of university and shortly before our final exams, so it would be stupid to break it off now. And for the ones who work it´s not always easy to get holidays. So untill now we play concerts at the weekends. But we hope to make maybe a one week or ten day tour soon, this would be really cool.

I´m going to quote some bands and you will say some words about them: Tristania, Theatre Of Tragedy, Lacrimosa, Rammstein, Opeth.
Birgit: Hm, there you maybe ask the wrong person from the band, as I listen to a lot of Death and Thrash Metal. The only band from the one´s listed above I have a CD from is Opeth, and this I like very much. So as I don´t have CD´s from the other bands, I can´t allow myself to give a judge. I just saw Rammstein on a festival and the show was absolutely amazing. I like their German lyrics.

Nothing more to ask. Thank you for your answers and see you soon with a still better Midnattsol release on our hands! Say whatever you want and take care.
Thank you very much for the interview. I want to greet all Midnattsol fans out there and hope to see you soon somewhere on the road! Thank you for your support! Stay heavy :-)

Links of interest:

Napalm Records