TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
Norwegian gothic doom metal pioneers Tristania released their self-titled debut EP in 1997. Their latest album "Ashes" marks the beginning of their co-operation with the well-known German label Steamhammer / SPV. Guitarist Anders Høyvik Hidle took some time off a busy schedule to talk about the past, present and future of Tristania with us in this e-mail interview from May 2005.
Hello, how are you doing?
Not too bad. We are currently preparing for the summer festivals and we have started to work on the next album. It’s always inspiring to start working with new material.
Your latest album "Ashes" has been out for a couple of months now, what has the response to it been like? Does the media and album buyers have different opinions about it?
For the most the response has been very good. People seem to like that we have been able to take the Tristania sound in a new direction – Ashes sounds unmistakably like Tristania, but represents a completely new side of the band. But off course you cannot please everyone, and some would probably want us to go another direction than what we’ve done.
Good feedback is off course always nice to get, but it doesn’t affect what we’re doing. The only thing we can do is to be true to ourselves and make the music that we like and that comes natural for us. I’m not sure whether the reactions have been different from the media compared to the fans, but what I do like is that most people have been quite surprised about Ashes. Either it is because of a positive reaction or a negative one, I like that we managed to lift people’s eyebrows.
It seems like many fans are somewhat disappointed that you did not use choirs the way you have in the past on this album, was this a conscious decision or did it just turn out that way?
We never make decisions like this before we compose material, but the answers come naturally during the creative process with the songs. The songs on Ashes are a bit more stripped down and more organic than what we have done before. The bombastic choirs that we’ve used before would somehow been wrong and misplaced in these songs. It’s all about what we feel the songs need. Different songs need different elements.
This is your first album for SPV after having worked with Napalm Records since the debut EP in 1997, what do you expect from the new partnership? Have you already noticed any differences?
So far we are very pleased with SPV and it seems that they are doing a really good job with Tristania. The promo video that we recorded for “Equilibrium” and the tour as support act for Nigthwish are good examples that proves their effort.
It has been almost four years between the releases of your two most recent albums, why did it take so long to finish "Ashes"? Do you have a lot of material ready for the next album at this point?
After quite much touring with World of Glass in Europe and Latin America, we decided to take a break from touring and solely focus on the composing of the next album. At this time we had fulfilled our obligations to Napalm Records, so we had the possibility to use as much time as we wanted while we were working on the new songs and make up our minds about what label we wanted to collaborate with for the next releases.
In one way it was a good thing not to care about deadlines etc, but in another way it was not. As we had “all the time in the world” we didn’t rush anything, but just experimenting and playing around with our musical ideas. We are very happy about Ashes, but I think that the period between World of Glass and Ashes was too long. It definitely won’t be this long until the next album (hopefully we’ll get it out during 2006).
Gothic metal is a genre which many metal fans see as rather stereotypical but unlike many others you have never stood still but always developed from one album to the next. Is this important for you and do you think it has a great deal to do with the continued success for the band?
We never discuss upfront which musical direction to go before we start working with an album, but there has been a natural development from the first album on. It’s always interesting to experiment and to try out different stuff.
We just do our own thing and others can do theirs. Personally I feel that a lot of the typical gothic metal bands sound the same. The whole genre has become a bit one-dimensional after the big gothic metal boom in the end of the nineties. I don’t listen much to most of these bands myself. For me music is interesting when genres are being mixed and the boundaries between the different styles fades away.
How do you look upon your debut album "Widow´s Weeds" today? Are there many things you would have liked to change about it if you could go back to the studio or are you happy with the result?
There are a lot of things that would have been done different today, for sure. Actually I don’t like listen to our previous releases, because you always get obsessed with all these things that you would have done different today etc. It’s like this with all our albums. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like them, though.
I think all of our releases are quite different, and each of them represents a natural point in the evolution of our sound. I’m proud of all our albums.
What kind of music did you listen to back then? What sources of inspiration did you have and did you already have a concept ready when the band formed?
Bands like Samael, My Dying Bride, Type O Negative, Moonspell, Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephelim are examples of bands that inspired us to start Tristania.
You have often been mentioned in the same sentence as fellow Norwegian gothic doom metal pioneers Theatre Of Tragedy, The Sins Of Thy Beloved and Trail Of Tears, what do you think about these bands? Were or are you in touch with any of them?
They are all talented people and good friends of us. Theatre of Tragedy and TSOTB come from the same area as us (nearby the city Stavanger). Actually I was witnessing TSOTB’s first concert in many years a couple of days ago – at a private party.
Trail of Tears are also close friends, and both Kjell (bass) and Jonathan (drums) have helped us out as session live musicians during the last months.
Not very long after the release of "Ashes" it was announced that Einar Moen was not to tour with the band. What were the reasons for this decision? Do you think the situation will change in the future?
Both his working situation and family situation makes it difficult for him to tour as much as we are doing at the moment. He is very much involved in the songwriting of the upcoming album, but for the moment he is not joining us tour. What will happen in the future is impossible to say, though.
You supported Finnish metallers Nightwish on a European tour in February, did the Nightwish fans appreciate the somewhat rougher sound of Tristania as well do you think? Was it a successful tour for you?
It was a great experience for us and a fantastic opportunity to present Tristania for a huge amount of people - who for the most were unfamiliar with Tristania. Off course our sound is quite more extreme than Nigtwish’, but I have the impression that we gained many new fans on this tour. In the beginning of our set people usually were very skeptical and maybe a bit shocked because of a hard opener (Libre), but most every night we got the crowd going during the set. It was also a very useful experience for us to play these huge arena stages, and good preparation for the summer festivals. We just did our thing and we felt ourselves that most of the shows we did were really good.
You mentioned at your website that the tour dates in Chile and Argentina were cancelled as "the governments had closed all venues", what was that all about?
From what I’ve heard there was a fire in a club in Buenos Aires in December last year, where a large number of people died. As a result of this the governments in Chile and Argentina temporarily closed all venues. We were really looking forward to play in Chile and Argentina, but hopefully we can do it next time in South America.
You have recorded a video for the track "Equilibrium" with director Ralf Strathmann who was flown in from Los Angeles to work on this project, why did you choose to work with him? Could you tell us a little about the concept of the video?
The video was done by Ralf Strathmann, the same guy that did the promo photos for Ashes. It was great to work with him, and we were very pleased with the final result – both for the photos and the video. It was somehow easier to get a total artistic _expression that goes through everything.
We’ve just decided that we also will record a promotional video for Libre, with a director from Sweden – Mats Lundberg. We are really looking forward to this one. The manuscript is really great, so I think it can turn out very nicely.
Sirenia, the band of your former guitarist / vocalist Morten Veland, has recently signed a new contract with Nuclear Blast, are you still friends and do you enjoy each other's music?
We’re having some contact with him. What he’s doing nowadays is quite far from what we want to do with Tristania, but I’ve always regarded him as a very talented musician and composer. We wish him all the best with his music.
Do you have any other projects that you work on or does Tristania consume all of your time?
At the moment Tristania occupies all our time, so none of us have other projects.
Any final words for the fans?
Thanks a lot for the support and hopefully see you on tour after the summer.
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