RockOverdose and Zisis Petkanas had the chance to chat with mastermind of SIRENIA, Morten Veland on the release of their new album "Riddles, Ruins & Revelations" on the 12th of February!
The Norwegians, after 20 years in the metal scene, state that with each new release, they always try to bring something new to their music!
RockOverdose: Hi Morten! Welcome to Rock Overdose! How are you?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I’m quite ok as well, thank you.!
RockOverdose: So, how are things in Norway these days with all these lockdowns around the clock?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I think it’s pretty much the same in Norway as everywhere else in the world. There’s a lot of restrictions in travelling and so on. It’s basically trying not to go outside any more than necessary. This situation has been almost a year and it’s really getting extremely boring at this point and extremely frustrating, both socially and in terms of the band. All our touring for 2020 was cancelled and there’s not really much plans in the works right now either, I don’t expect the next 6 months to be any better. Hopefully we’ll start seing some good improvements after summer, but it’s really hard to predict what’s gonna happen. I really hope that we’ll be able to get back to touring again, at least by the end of this year.
RockOverdose:Yes, we have to cross our fingers, because it’s too much time and people need live concerts and of course, bands need live concerts.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yeah, it’s really surrealistic, really strange going the whole year without playing a concert and not even travelling, staying home the entire year. It’s been really really frustrating and travelling is such an important part of my life, I really love to travel and perform together with my band. I can’t even begin to put into words how frustrating this period has been.
RockOverdose: Anyway, let’s go to your band. We heard your new single, “Addiction No. 1”, which shows a very modern, diverse and different Sirenia than that we know. I think it was the first single and the second was a little harder and more familiar to your sound.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yes, whenever I start writing material for a new album, I usually spend the first couple of months experimenting and searching for a new kind of sound in which I want to take the direction of the next album and it’s pretty much the same procedure every time I sit down and begin to write material. We never want to release the same album twice, we always try to put something new to the table with every album. At the same time, it’s kind of important for us to also not step too far away from our musical concept, the basics of the concept. We always try to make diverse albums with a lot of different stuff on them, following different kinds of directions and putting in lots of variety in the songs.
The new album is the same as every album before, there’s a lot of different things. The first single, Addiction No. 1 is, of course, one of the songs on the album that are sounding probably farthest away from the typican Sirenia sound. It’s one of the songs that sound quite different. We aimed to bring something new to the fans, something new and different. I think we have 10 songs in the album, plus a bonus track, so there’s a lot of variety in there, a lot of new and different stuff and also a lot of stuff that sounds more familiar for the fans, more typical to what we have done in the past.
RockOverdose: I see, it was your effort to combine new music with the typical Sirenia sound.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yes, this is always what we try to do with every album. We try to bring something new to the table and to renew ourselves to a certain degree with each album.
RockOverdose: So, I suppose we will face some other surprises, except for the first single we already heard.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I think there’s gonna be some surprises in there for sure. I mean, the single is probably the song that is the most special or unusual for Sirenia so far, but there’s plenty of other songs that is more typical Sirenia. There’s a little bit of everything, some hard songs, like our 2nd single, “We come to ruins”. There should definitely be a little bit of everything for all our fans, whether they prefer the old era, or if they prefer Sirenia how it is now in the present.
RockOverdose:Of course, that’s the point. Would you like to tell us about the cover of the album?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): The cover was again made by Gyula (Havancsák), who has now been working with us for 4-5 albums. He’s an absolutely fantastic designer and we’re working really well together. Usually, I have some basic ideas for a cover, like a basic concept, which I hand over to him and he sets his creative mind to work and comes up with ideas and basically putting this simple idea into life. Having ideas as we go along, we communicate and do a few minor changes along the way and change some stuff. In the end, we always come up with something that we are really happy with. This time, too, I think he made a fantastic job with the artwork and we’re really happy with the new album design.
RockOverdose: We have to admit that it’s very impressive. The cover of a band’s album, I think, is a good way to promote your work.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Absolutely, I think it says something about the artist and the music. We always try (for each album) to come up with a cover concept that kind of sets the atmosphere, quite similar to the music and really feel that way, just by looking at the cover artwork.
RockOverdose: What about the lyrics and stories behind the songs?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I’m still kind of writing about the same subjects as I have been writing the whole time, since the beginning. I always try to come up with new ideas, new angles or new stuff to write about. It’s getting harder and harder with each album at this point, we’ve written so many songs over the years and finding new things to write about can be a little challenging itself actually. I think the lyrics in this album are kind of dark, it’s one of the darkest albums I have written. I finished writing the lyrics a little after the pandemic broke out, so maybe the whole dark atmosphere of the pandemic has some say in the lyrics one way or another.
RockOverdose: Already 10 years have passed from the official release of your full lenght album, “The Enigma of Life”. Is there any special moment you recall since that year and how much progress did the band have since then?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): We just try to keep on working the whole time and improve ourselves as songwriters and musicians. We try to basically improve everything and I’m really happy with the place where we are. It’s not really about trying to improve so much the musical skills, we’re more fixated on making good songs, songs that mean something to people and us.
In the last years, especially, I was focused on writing energetic songs that would work out really well live, when we play concerts. I really enjoy playing a lot of the new material from the last couple of albums. I can’t come up with something specific that sets one of the albums apart. I think the Enigma of Life had some really good songs on it. In retrospect, I wasn’t really happy with the production on that album, but I think some of the song material is very nice.
RockOverdose: Μany bands are organizing live streaming events. Any thoughts about something like that?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): We were kind of looking into the idea a little bit, but at some point I think we decided not to do it. I mean, it was a combination of travel restrictions, our band is spread all over, I live here in Norway and we have Emmanuelle and Nils living in France, in Marseille and Paris and our drummer is living in Great Birtain, so we’re kind of spread all over. We were looking into setting up something like this, but I think we were also a little bit late. In the beginning, when bands started with the streaming it became very popular but I think the market was overflooded quite soon. At some point, everybody was doing it. I believe due to the pandemic the fans also had problems with their work and they don’t have much money. All this is not only affecting the musicians, but many of the fans too have a problem with their work. It seems that the market for online streaming dropped quite fast some months ago, so we decided to put it on hold.
We were thinking about it, but it seemed so hard to just organise and get everybody in with the crew and set up something really nice and then in the end we couldn’t risk losing money on it if we did a big production like we wanted to. The band is already having a hard time economically due to the Covid 19 pandemic, so for now we decided not to do it. We actually had a lot of plans for this year, this is our 20th anniversary for Sirenia and today it’s very hard to make things happen. Still we wanna try to do at least something special for the fans to kind of celebrate the 20 years.
RockOverdose: Yes, you have 20 years in the scene and I suppose you had some special plans to celebrate this.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yeah, we did, we were thinking about a special tour and we were discussing a lot of ideas. We were really excited about this year, but then everything kind of fell apart last year. Even now, it doesn’t look so positive at least for the next 6-7 months or so. We’ll definitely try to do something special this year to celebrate.
RockOverdose: Great. My first contact with the band was the single “My mind’s eye”, I think it was the most famous song then.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I remember that time, I think it was played quite a lot on the radio, in Greece actually.
RockOverdose: Yes, yes.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): It was the first album we did in Nuclear Blast and it was still a good time then, the labels really pushed the bands. So, I remember we did a lot of really nice things to promote, we travelled a lot and it was a really nice experience. The album became a really good one for us as well.
RockOverdose: Of course, for your popularity it was good.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yes!
RockOverdose: I suppose this was the starting point for Greek people to learn your music.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I think we were able to bring Sirenia to many new countries with that album, so it was a really exciting time, it’s been a great journey ever since. Travelling is something we really like to do, playing concerts and going to new countries to play for new fans, it’s really exciting, really nice.
RockOverdose: That’s the best part, to travel, meet new countries, people, places, habits…
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yeah, absolutely. Every time I go on a new tour I always check the list to see if there are some new countries or cities. After all these years of touring, it’s still something I’m really excited about.
RockOverdose: What about Greece? What are your memories from our country?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I love Greece. I love greek food, wine and everything. I think we’ve been to Greece 2 or 3 times. The first time was in 2010 and we played in Thessaloniki and Athens. It was really nice, I remember we played with Katatonia. We also came back quite some years later and we played together with Delain. I think it was in 2017 or something like that. I’m not sure if we came a third time at all, maybe it was only the 2 times. I think the last time it was only one show in Athens.
RockOverdose:I think so too. It’s a little hard to remember all your visits to all the countries.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yeah, it’s been some places over the years. I started touring international in 1998, so I’ve been touring for 22 years. It’s been some countries and some places, so it’s hard to remember everything, but I certainly do remember a lot of the places.
RockOverdose: And I suppose you have good memories from Greece.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Absolutely, I love Greece. I even went there on a vacation a few years ago. I spent 2 weeks in islands, in Rhodes. It was a place called… Faliraki?
RockOverdose: Faliraki, yes.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Absolutely fantastic!
RockOverdose: Greece has very nice islands and not only!
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): It’s absolutely beautiful. A lot of Norwegians travel to Greece for summer vacations and I definitely want to come back.
RockOverdose: We are waiting for you. And why not meet personally?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yeah yeah!
RockOverdose: So, working as a producer of the band as well, does it make things easier or are you facing extra difficulties on every album before recording it?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I think it’s been so many albums now, that it’s becoming more and more smooth with each album. This last album was something different, due to the pandemic. We were supposed to start recordings in March, then the pandemic broke out and the travel restrictions came, so Emmanuelle was not able to come to Norway to record. We had to postpone the recording sessions until the middle of August. We really had to improvise a lot on this album to make it happen, but I’m really happy we were able to find solutions to make the album come together. In the end, I’m really happy with how the album came out.
RockOverdose: Do you believe that nowadays Symphonic metal bands car raise the bar even higher and keep gaining more fans as a genre?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I don’t know, the Symphonic genre is really big at the moment, there are thousands and thousands of bands playing this kind of style. I would guess it’s getting harder and harder to remain original and unique. We always try to do things our way and not following the typical recipe for Symphonic metal. Also in this last album we didn’t use that many typical Symphonic elements. I believe it’s always present in all Sirenia albums, but some albums are really Symphonic and other albums are less Symphonic. This album is more electronical and there’s a lot of retro sounding keyboards, probably inspired from the 80s’ and there’s a couple other albums, the Nine destinies and a downfall album wasn’t that Symphonic. We try to do different things in between. I really like to compose in the Symphonic style, I don’t think it’s something we’ll let go at some point, there will always be some Symphonic elements on our albums, I think, but some albums might be a lot and others might be a little.
RockOverdose: I see. How do you imagine Sirenia in the future, let’s say after 10 years from now?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yeah, after 10 years? Wow, if I’m still alive… I hope the pandemics will be over so we can get back to touring, it’s kind of bittersweet to have a new album out, which we’re really excited about and really happy to have that out. The release is now quite close, it’s the 12th of February and it’s really frustrating to not be able to go on tour. Normally, when we have a new album out we’re always planning a new tour to start promoting it. This time, we don’t have that chance, which is really frustrating. We can only hope that by the end of the year things will be getting back to normal, so we can start touring.
RockOverdose:Let’s pray for it, all of us. So, are there any other news that you would like to reveal through this interview?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I’m sorry to say that I doubt there is really much news. We’re kind of monitoring the situation the whole time and constantly talking to our management to see if they have some news on how the situation is in different countries and the concert scene. Now it’s pretty dead. We’ll have to see if the summer festivals will go on or whether they will be cancelled this year as well. I really don’t know, I don’t think I’m super convinced that everything will be back to normal by the summer. I certainly hope so, but let’s just cross fingers. It’s pretty much all there is on my mind right now, for this pandemic to come to an end, so we can get back to our normal lives again.
RockOverdose: What do you do except for Sirenia? Any other bands or things that you do?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA)َ:I’m always working on different projects, I’m writing a lot of music the whole time. Not all of it gets completed or released and I don’t always have time for that, but now with the Covid 19 and no touring I have a lot of extra time on my studio and I’m writing a lot. At the moment, I’m composing new material for my solo project, Mortemia, which I didin’t have much time for in the last years, because I was really busy with Sirenia. So, I’m working on Mortemia and I’ve also been working on a project with Joakim Næss. He’s the guy that sings clean vocals on quite a lot of Sirenia’s albums, I think he’s been singing on 4 albums now. He’s also singing a bit on the new album. Me and him are making songs together and maybe it will be released also, we’ll have to see. But yeah, I’m really busy with writing new music and if the pandemic continues for some time, I will have time to release some of these other projects as well.
RockOverdose: You were also a founding member of Tristania.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): That’s correct.
RockOverdose: You were in this band for a lot of years, I suppose.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yeah, me and Kenneth, the original drummer, started the first band in 1992 and played together, but I think we changed the name to Tristania in 1995. In the first couple of years we were playing rock n’ roll, inspired by Guns n’ Roses, Alice Cooper and that kind of stuff that was really popular at the time. Then we started going more and more towards metal, more towards Gothic and darker style, so we recorded the Tristania demo in 1996 and we kind of found our style by then.
RockOverdose: I think we are ok with this interview. Would you like to leave a message to the Greek fans?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I would like to say cheers and greetings to all our fans in Greece and we really hope to come back as soon as possible. We always have a good time in Greece and we really can’t wait to come back and play for you once more.
RockOverdose: One last question, what is your opinion about politics and metal, we saw Jon Schaffer who entered the Capitolium. What do you think about this?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): I’m not really into politics.
RockOverdose: I think you don’t have to combine politics with metal or music in general.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA):Some people do it and everyone is free to do whatever they want, but we’re definitely not a political band. I don’t have any interest in writing about political things, I write about completely other stuff. And it wouldn’t fit the atmosphere of our music, I think it would be really strange if Sirenia started singing about politics, it would be a total crash. So, we leave that for other bands to write about politics and we go on with our stuff. I think that’s probably for the best.
RockOverdose: So the release date is on February?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yeah, February the 12th.
RockOverdose: And are you planning to release any other single or video clip from this album?
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Yes, I believe there will be 1 or 2 more. Probably one before the album release and one after as well.
RockOverdose: We are looking forward! Thank you very much for your time, I wish you the best.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Thank you very much, pleasure talking to you.
RockOverdose: And I hope to meet here, in Greece.
Morten Veland (SIRENIA): Absolutely, hopefully for the next tour! Hope to see you there!
Questions: George Markogiannakis
Transcript : Daphne Georgadaki