Sunday, June 1, 2014

XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Interview! 6/1/14

Eclectic Arts Magazine

*Editor's Note:

This interview was conducted via email with then singer Manuela Kraller in 2012.  The band parted ways with her and are now fronted by Ms. Dianne van Giersbergen.  Their new album, "Sacrificium" was released in May 2014 on Napalm Records.  The band is headed to the US for the first time as the opener on the Sonata Arctica tour with special guests Delain this Fall.

* * *

Greetings Manuela!  Thank you for taking the time to talk with me about yourself, Xandria, and everything inbetween.  I read the Russian fansite interview and a few others but please forgive me if a few of the topics I cover are redundant to those earlier interviews.

EA:  Let's jump right in - how did you get involved with Xandria?  What was the process like?  Once you were selected - did you come in to audition?  If so, how did that go - performing with the band?

MK: I saw already in February 2010 that Xandria are searching for a new singer, but at this time I didn´t apply, ´cause at this moment I have been already involved in 2 metal bands (Haggard, Forty Shades). In autumn 2011 I was talking with a friend and we recognized that Xandria are still searching for a singer. My friend Mani encouraged me to apply and kicked my ass, so I applied:) One of the reasons was, next to the fact that I liked Xandria´s music, that I haven´t been that happy in Haggard anymore and I was looking for new musical horizons. I sent some videos and demos to them and they answered at the same day and invited me to an audition. From the very beginning we understood perfectly well and were on the same wavelength. The rehearsals have been very funny while I was very nervous during singing. A few days later Marco called me and told me that I am the new singer of Xandria. I was damn happy and couldn´t almost believe what has happened...

EA:  That's awesome!  I've been listening to "Neverworld's End" non stop since I received it.  A few of my personal favorite songs are "A Prophecy of World's To Fall", "Forevermore", "Euphoria","The Dream Is Still Alive", and "A Thousand Letters".  Do you have a favorite song or songs off the album?  What in particular do you like about them?

MK: Like you I love the opener “A Prophecy of worlds to fall”, ´cause it is a real epic bombastic song, that tunes you into the album: When I listen to it, I don´t have to force myself to go to “Neverworld”, I am immediately in between it:) And of course I love “A thousand letters” as it is a very personal song about my grandparents. But to be honest, I fell in love with every single song of our album. It is one of the rare albums that I can listen from beginning to end without skipping;)

EA:  Are you in rehearsal for the upcoming tour?

MK: Yes, we are and we are very looking forward to enter soon the stages:)

EA:  What did your other bands/projects think of you joining Xandria?  Were they understanding/supportive or were they upset about it?

MK: Well, I left Haggard immediately when I knew I was the new Xandria singer, because I thought it is time to make new experiences. But I have been still with my band from Switzerland called “Forty Shades” (further “Nagor Mar”), because I have been with them from the very beginning and I didn´t want to leave them. Well, we had a short brake, because they didn´t want to divide me with another band. But as me and the guys from Forty Shades feel like really close friends and are passionate about the music we make, we decided to go on together. And now I try to handle 2 bands at the same time, which is not always easy, but I love both and I´ll go on with what I love;)

EA:  How familiar were you with Xandria prior to auditioning/joining the band?

MK: I had the Ravenheart CD of them, that was everything. I didn´t know more about them to be honest.

EA:  If I may, let's go back to the beginning.  Where were you born?  What was life like for your growing up as a child, teenager, etc?

MK: I was born in a very small village called “Sur” in the middle of nowhere, a village with 18 inhabitants and 1000 calfs (I am NOT joking;). I had a wonderful childhood and grew up with my little sister and my cousin and many animals in the middle of nature. We lived next to the farm of my uncle. So I am a real “country girl”;) I remember us playing outside while it was raining, our clothes full of mood and smiling all over our faces (laughs). We built wooden houses, we climbed on trees and I always used to paint a lot and went from house to house and sold my paintings to my relations for a few pence:)
As a teenager it was not that exciting anymore in the middle of nowhere, but at this time I started to go to a metal pub that was near on a mountain (yes, a metal pub on a mountain, crazy bavarian people;) and this became my second home every Friday:)

EA:  Wow - calfs, playing in the countryside, pubs on mountains - it sounds like a world away from what most metal people would expect.  But, it also sounds very picture-esque and wonderful.  Where are you based out of these days?  Do you prefer the city life or country life?

MK:  I still prefer the countryside (I live on a farm right now), ´cause it gives me the calm and rest I need next to the concerts and tour life. I need both in my life: wild music life  and silence. Both  things are part of my personality, as I can be a very extroverted person on stage, but also introverted in other parts of my life...”devil and angel” at once:)

EA:  Where did your love of metal music come from?  What other genres do you enjoy?

MK: Well, it really started in this metal pub called “Deifei” (means “devil”), where I used (and sometimes still use) to go with my friends. They played all kinds of metal and rock, so I heard a lot of different genres.
As my father always used to listen to old rock stuff, I also got in touch with Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan or Pink Floyd. I love this music too. Also Elvis, Beatles or ABBA.
But of course there is nothing that comes near to my love to metal music. I am a total symphonic metal freak (laughs)

EA:  Very cool.  Eclectic Arts Magazine supports all forms of art - different genres of music, photography, film and television personalities, etc.  Are there any types of music that you're not much a fan of?

MK: Yes, definitely:) There´s Hip Hop, Techno, Rave or Drum´n´Bass. Too much electronic music makes me somehow nervous;) I need some real rocking instruments!!;)

EA:  The official bio states that you didn’t get involved with performing music until 23.  Is that right?  You started in choirs and then started taking classical voice lessons, correct?  How did you make the eventual jump to rock/metal music/performance?

MK: Yes, that´s right. I started very late at the age of 23 in a choir in finland and after that I started taking classical singing lessons. I never asked my singing teacher to give me classical lessons, but she did and it felt natural from the very beginning, even if I have never listened to classical music before. It was something completely new for me, but at the same time so familiar. After a few months I already knew that it was my deepest wish to become a singer, but I wasn´t brave enough to tell anyone. When I told my singing teacher that I wanted to become a singer she suggested me to apply at some conservatories and study singing. But after one entrance examination I recognized that this wasn´t the right way for me. I remember when I stood in front of all the music professors and didn´t move. I just sang. And that was not enough for me. I really wanted to perform, to move on stage, to jump around and also having an audience doing the same and enjoying the show. I had the feeling something was missing. At this time a friend of mine (Isabelle) gave me all her Nightwish CD´s. When I heard the “Once” CD, I finally knew, what I really wanted to become: A symphonical metal singer. Because this is the way, in which I have the possibility to combine my classical and my metal influences. Together with my friend Mani I started a duo project: We covered songs as well as we composed our own ones and had some first small shows. Mani was the one who told me that Haggard are searching for a classical singer. So I applied and here my metal life started. Mani was also the person who encouraged me to apply for Xandria. I am very thankful for him, without him, I would not be there where I am now...thanks for kickin´my ass Mani:*

EA:  I was fortunate enough to see Nightwish on their mini club tour here in the US supporting the "Once" album (before Tarja left).  I waited outside with a handful of other fans to meet the band and get my "Once" CD insert signed.  The CD wasn't even released here in the US yet.  I remember a couple of the Nightwish guys were surprised by how many of us already had the European version of the CD - heh.  What is/was it about their music that drew you to them when you first heard Nightwish? 

MK: You saw Nightwish with Tarja?? I am jealous, I became a fan very late in 2006, right after their last concerts with Tarja. Damn!;) I have to be honest: I heard a CD of Nightwish for the first time in the year 1997, it was “Angels fall first”: At this time I wasn´t used to Metal with classical vocals and I couldn´t get used to it. The opera voice was very strange for me, because I never listened to classical vocals or music before. But when I started singing classical with 23 years somehow my perception changed in the following years and in 2006 a friend of mine (Isabelle) told me of the great Nightwish concert with Tarja and meant that this music is perhaps something I could be interested in. So she lend me the CD´s and when I listened to “Once” it was like a veil falling from my eyes: I knew immediately: This is what I wanna do....becoming a classical Metal singer...and now I am:)

EA:  Who would you cite as vocal influences?

MK: My singing teacher Barbara Knetsch-Mainardy, because she taught me how to sing, so I think there´s also something of her in me. And of course Tarja Turunen, she has been an idol for me when I began singing and also Amy Lee from Evanescence. I also love the voice of Anneke van Giersbergen, it´s so emotional. I think all of them had some influences on me, but finding my very own unique voice takes time and I am still developing, hopefully every single day ;)

EA:  I'm also a fan of Anneke van Giersebergen.  I saw her with The Gathering here in Seattle, WA in 2007 - a few weeks later she left the band to go solo.  Gee - Tarja left Nightwish after I saw them, Anneke left The Gathering after I saw them - maybe I'm bad luck or something haha.  Do you have favorite songs that Anneke sang either with The Gathering or solo?

MK: haha, I hope you´re not;) No, don´t worry, I will stay with Xandria “Now and Forever”:) I don´t have special Gathering or Anneke songs that I love more than others, I think every single song has its own magic...

EA:  You have a beautiful voice of your own.  Being a musician myself, I'm always picking apart the vocals and instrumentation on every piece of music I listen to.  Your voice is what initially drew me to the new record.  Don't get me wrong, the band and the music are awesome, too - but your voice has elevated the band to a whole new level.  I know fans who loved Lisa's voice may be skeptical but to me it's apples and oranges.  Lisa's style was completely different from your's.  With all due respect to Lisa, I like your voice a lot more!  Do you play any instruments (guitar, piano, etc)?

MK:  Thank you for this compliment:) I play guitar and piano, but I am not as good in playing instruments as in singing. I always say: “It´s enough for playing guitar at a campfire but not for more” :)

EA:  How much input did you have into the new Xandria album "Neverworld's End"?   For example, did you come up with the vocal melodies?  Did you write any of the lyrics?

MK: Well, most of the material already has been written,when I joined the band, but I could still give in some ideas. I did the whole lyrics for “A thousand letters”, a song about my grandparents Maria and Sebastian and their love through the 2nd World War. It is a very personal and emotional song for me and it makes me happy that I had the possibility to write my feelings down in it. I also did parts of the lyrics for the song “Call of the wind” together with Marco. Marco and me talked a lot about vocal lines and vocal arrangements and also about song structures in general. I think we are working together very well and I think for the next album I could bring in my own creative ideas more than I was able to do with “Neverworld´s End”.

EA:  Are there any plans for the band to tour the US?  Perhaps get on the upcoming Nightwish tour as special guests (my dream)?

MK: There are no plans for a tour in the US yet, but hopefully as soon as possible, I´d love to go there! And also not with Nightwish, I am sorry;)

EA:  Aww, that's too bad.  But I do hope the band gets to tour here sooner rather than later.  It seems more and more European based bands are making the trek over to the US.  There are a lot of Xandria fans here - trust me!  If Nightwish, The Gathering, Within Temptation, etc can play Seattle, WA - Xandria can too!  The fans will come out!   ^_^

MK:  ahhhh, I´d fly immediately to the US if I could:) I hope really we can come very soon and if we are coming I´d sing: “Come out, come out whereever you are...”;))

EA:  When you're not doing something related to one of your bands, what do you like to do with your time?

MK: mmmhhh, I have to think...(laughs). Well, I love reading fantasy books, going to the cinema, hiking, painting or just sitting together with good friends and having a good meal and a good talk.

EA:  This is something I ask most of the musicians I interview - does the band (or bands in your case) pay the bills?  Are you making a living from it or do you have another job?

MK: We don´t make a living from it yet, but we all hope we can do it in future. Most of us have daily jobs. I just quit mine to focus more on singing and hopefully it´ll all work out well;)

EA:  What suggestions would you make for someone that wants to become a vocalist?

MK: You should be passionate and stay on your path no matter what others tell you. You have to believe in you and your talent. You should not sing just to get money. You should sing, because you love it and you want to give that love also to others. It´s a way to express yourself, it´s an art and you are the artist. Of course you also have to train your voice every day, live healthy and make the best out of your talent. But your personality and authenticity are as important as your voice is. Sometimes it´ll be not easy, but you have to stand up even if you fall down. Just never give up:) It helps if you ask people, who are already professional singers and who can give you advice, how to become a vocalist. And it helps to get in contact with many people. Sometimes people are at the right time at the right place, and hopefully so are you:)

EA:  Thank you so much for taking the time.  The parting words are for you:

MK: Thank you very much, it was a pleasure for me:) I hope we can play concerts in the states as soon as possible! And don´t miss to get “Neverworld´s end”;)

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