Avatarium is the side project of none other than Leif Edling or else the contemporary Lord of fuckin Doom. Leif might have retired from the live performances cause of health issues but Avatarium is here and going strong. The band’s debut was an album that took as by surprise by the refreshing take on the classic doom sounds and now Avatarium returns with their third release ‘Hurricane and Halos’ to convince us that they are here to stay (maybe I should get start on writing that review…). One of the most prodigious elements of this band is undeniably Jennie-Ann Smith, so I took the opportunity to host the vocalist on Metal Invader and talk about everything. I think we’ve had a very interesting discussion. Enjoy!
Hello, once again! It became sort of a habit talking to you every other week (we had some technical problems), haha! So let’s get to business. Even though Avatarium started as a studio project soon you’ve started touring. Did you feel so connected from the start and you said hey we’ve got something gold here, let’s get serious! What’s the story behind it?
Hi Lilliana, yeah, each week will be here, haha! That’s fine it’s a pleasure talking to you and Metal Invader. Now into the question in hand. Well that’s a natural consequence, I mean especially when you are in rock music, when you have a great material obviously you think that this material will match a live situation perfectly. That you definitely have to go on tour. That’s my opinion. We are all live musicians, we are all touring so it’s completely natural. The amazing thing is to have great material of course, but also you share it with your band members, to tour and share this feeling of togetherness, sharing the emotional part around the music, there is nothing that could be greater. We long for touring.
How did you get involved with Avatarium in the first place?
It was sort of a lucky coincidence, Marcus Jidell was here and was working with Leif Edling at the time as he owns a studio here at Stockholm, he called and wondered if I could come down at the studio and just sing some demo and I was like and I was like sure, sure, yeah. So I did and the three of us immediately felt something like wow this is unexpected, cause the guys were looking for a male singer and wanted someone in the Robert Plantish style and couldn’t find no one to match that and when I sang, they felt that this is right and I heard it too. It felt like it blended in, it fitted perfectly and I have my jazzy style and I think the combination of these two, the heavy songs and my style is quite unique.
You started as a doom band but you’ve re-introduced yourselves and turned into a 70’s heavy rock one. How important is for you as an artist and for Avatarium to explore new things and sounds?
Very Important! For me it’s totally meaningless to build the same album over and over again. I have a natural urge to grow and sort of develop myself in the music I’m in. But you know when it comes to labels it seems to be so much more important to others than it is to me. I don’t need to put a label on music, either you like it or you don’t. A good song is a good song whatever the style. If I could deliver any message for people is to try to dare and have the courage to be open minded and just listen to Avatarium with open ears and open hearts because the songs are definitely eclectic, there are so many influences.
Still despite the more hard rock sound there are still a lot of doom elements. I suppose you also believe too that Leif Edling=Doom?
As I said before labels are not important for me!
However fans just love labels no?
I don’t know Lilliana, I really want your opinion to the matter!
Sometimes I do understand the point of all these labels and genres but most of the times I do love a mixing of styles so I’m not into labels either. I even think that there are a lot more that they should. Maybe fans just love stand for a team, have a sense of belonging.
Well, let’s leave a question mark for the fans to think then, shall we? I mean it’s an interesting discussion. It can be both sociological and philosophical. Why people need road signs, why do we need labels? My answer to that would be the sense of security, to not be unsure towards things in life or even the need of shortcuts. You know, I’ve done this before, this is a safe road, and I can do that again, so that’s what I think. I really like this discussion.
Well, the truth is that fans ask for a band to evolve but at the same time when a band makes that step immediately they start having doubts, I mean fans seem unsatisfied all the time. Do you think that a fan is ever possible to satisfy to the fullest?
I really think that this is human, we all have needs as i said before of security and safety and if we challenge too much it seems out of their natural state. It makes them uncomfortable but it’s healthy to grow and it’s healthy to change.
You wrote 2 songs. Tell us more about them. Where do you draw inspiration from, musically and lyrically?
Yeah! I’ve written on and off for a long time so it feels like a great step to contribute to the writing process together with Marcus Jidell. Of course it’s been a great honour to work besides Leif Edling, I mean he’s been writing since the 80’s. He’s been a great inspiration of course, but you know inspiration can be found in so many places inside yourself if you are open into the greatness of creativity. I draw inspiration from what’s going on, from society, nature, you know… a good book. Music inspires me too but I think I get inspired from a lot of things.
The music industry and especially rock and metal genres are dominated by men. What do you think, are things changing on how labels see women artists? The fans themselves do the same mistake as well, and keep creating labels such as female fronted band or as we have seen with Myrkur in the past they keep bullying women because for example women shouldn’t sing black metal. Share your thoughts on the matter?
In the Western world, it’s been a long struggle for equal rights for women so what happens in the music industry, is a reflection of what’s happening to our society, the one that we live in. It’s less important to me to talk as a woman and more important to talk as a musician and what I see and it’s really really important is that women are starting to be given the possibility and take the opportunity to take part in the producing process. I mean for me is essential to take part in the arranging process and the producing process, the recording, writing, I’m not just a singer, I’m a musician! So, for me this is super important! I hope and I see at least here in Sweden, we have more female producers and musicians and that is a great development. Yes, there is change and good things are happening!
Many songs are too close to Uriah Heep, others to Rainbow or Deep Purple. Do you feel that the music industry will see such big names in Rock in the near future, or is it the end of the dinosaurs’ era?
Hmm, I’m not a psychic, I mean I think I don’t have that gift, hahaha! Well, those bands that you mentioned, were a part of an era that was quite unique. Those men that you mentioned are in their 60s and 70s now and they were part of the first youth culture. Groundbreaking, super fine musicians and that was their core, they were very skilled musicians and of course very skilled song writers and if there is anything that ever goes out of style and is always needed is talent and musical skills. For that reason I’m pretty sure there is always going to be a need, a demand for competent and fine musicians.
You included an acoustic version of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ on the Moonhorse EP. Have you ever thought of recording a full acoustic album? After all your voice is more than capable for such and album.
Oh, thank you! I would love that! In the present there are no such plans but I would really love that.
You embarked on a big European Tour with The Slayerking. What made you choose Efthimis Karadimas’ band for this task?
Well, we met them on our short tour in Greece and we hit it right away. We experienced that not only they are a cool band, they are great people and great to work with. Marcus Jidell has produced their upcoming album which is a cool album, really doomish, so we thought that this would complete our live situation in a way. When you are touring, you live really close with each other and it’s really important for a good vibe to exist, on stage of course, but also socially speaking on the bus.
And now that you mentioned the bus…how is our life? Pros and cons!
Haha! Well, hmm… I think its better not to investigate to better, haha! There is a huge variety for what is like, but for me it’s to keep a good routine, try to exercise every day, have a healthy nutrition and sleep well. Especially the sleeping part is what keeps my voice in good shape and I drink a lot of water. The partying has to be done back in Stockholm for me at least!
So it’s a soldier’s life actually?
Actually that’s a great definition! This is exactly what it is for us.
Do you feel that this is your best work up till now with Avatarium?
Yes! Hurricane and Halos is definitely the best work we’ve achieved so far extremely proud of what we accomplished together. The recording process was the result of a really dedicated and hard group process, everyone has contributed as musicians, both in arranging the music and the whole production even though Marcus Jidell has produced the album, everyone has been very dedicated, so the outcome, the songs, the sound is warm and organic and big. I’m super proud of what we’ve achieved!
Tell us what future holds for Avatarium and Jennie-Ann Smith personally speaking?
Again a question for a psychic, haha! But since you’ve asked, we want to continue the route of the road we’ve taken, to be able to make music that we love ourselves, to make music that is inspiring and groundbreaking and I’m pretty sure we will continue with that. We really love what we do and we want to share it with as many as possible. I hope very much that we will continue to let Avatarium grow, and at this point I’m so happy to receive great feedback and this week we were awarded with a great German price that is a very prestigious and great award. I think that these are good signs!
The closing is your and hoping to see you soon again live in Greece. Are there any plans to be back soon in Greece?
How can you not want to go back to Greece all the time! You have such a beautiful country and people, I personally love Greece, travelling there with Avatarium and privately to be with our friends, I think it’s a very special place. We are definitely be coming back soon! And thank you, Lilliana for this interesting discussion!