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TRISTANIA: Doing our best all the time, it's all we can do

TRISTANIA: Doing our best all the time, it's all we can do
BANDS : Tristania

Tristania started more or less as a typical gothic metal band (1996) and some of the albums they released helped define the genre (Beyond the Veil, 1999). They never stayed too long in the same place though, and as they expanded their sound, their musical path was one that mainman Morten Veland decided not to follow anymore (2000). Three albums later (2007),  charismatic female vocalist Vibeke Stene also stepped out, splitting their fanbase even further. Then came 2010 and the band have to face yet another big challenge: a new album presenting a new sound, a new crew and, particularly, a new female vocalist who has big shoes to fill. Ole Vistnes (bass, backing vocals) is one of the new guys, but his statements are far from lacking confidence. Because “ideals are greater than any single member”.

Metalfan: As hard as it is to believe, this is the first interview with Tristania on, but today we're trying to correct this mistake. Nevertheless, there's no need for an introduction, our readers are familiar with the band's activity so far and you already visited us once, back in 2009. So our first question is going to be about your impressions of last year's trip to Romania, to the Artmania Festival, in Sibiu. Do you remember anything at all about that show?
Ole: Hello to you, and hello to all our Romanian fans. Last years trip to the Artmania Festival in Sibiu was a very memorable one. After a drive through the hauntingly beautiful Transylvanian mountains, we arrived in Sibiu. The town was exceptionally beautiful, and we were very well received. The festival itself was a cool two-day festival with a nice line up. We played the same night as My Dying Bride and Opeth, bands we love and admire, and it is always a pleasure to meet them. The Romanian crowd treated us very well during the show and lots of people showed up to support us relatively early. The show was special in many ways, Tristania´s first ever show in Romania, and it was one of the first shows with Kjetil [Nordhus, vocals], who later became a full time member of the band.

Metalfan: You have a new album out, Rubicon. It has brought some significant changes for the band and, therefore, has been received with mixed reactions. But that is not something new for Tristania. How do you deal with criticism? How much do the comments, both positive and negative, affect your views on music? How much of what you do, musicwise, you do for yourselves and how much for the others?
Ole: Yes, Rubicon has without a doubt stirred up some emotions. The reactions from reviewers have been overwhelmingly good, the criticism you refer to mostly comes from nameless and faceless people on various internet forums and communities. These anonymous comments are without any importance at all to me or to the band. The vast majority of the feedback we get is supportive and positive. I also think that since these mixed reactions are a sign of us being a band that matters to people. This is something that we acknowledge and handle with respect. We constantly do our best to be the best band we can, both for our own sake, and for the sake of those following us, spending time, dedication and energy on our music. It is satisfying and encouraging when our listeners embrace our music, but we really write music for ourselves. No comments, criticism or hateful statements could make us move away from our ideals and views on our music. I would say that it is a greater goal for us to show new music to people, make people enjoy something different, than to try and live up to someones idea of who we are.

Metalfan: There's been some important changes in the band's line-up recently, only two of the founding members have remained onboard. Is this a strong enough argument to contradict those who claim the band has lost its identity? What is Tristania's identity made of?
Ole: Anders [H. Hidle - guitars, vocals] and Einar [Moen - keyboards, programming]  has been in the band since year one, written music for all Tristania releases, the last decade they have written and composed more or less all of the music. To me, this is more than enough proof that the core of the band, the main ideals and visions are intact. I´m not gonna compare us to anyone else, but there are quite a few bands with one or two original members left, without anyone raising their eyebrows. Tristania´s identity is made of hard work, close personal relationships, dedication to quality, experimentation and relentless exploration of new musical territories. These ideals are greater than any single member, and are most definitely intact after 14 years, even with partly new crew on board.

Metalfan: Most notably, inconic singer Vibeke Stene has been replaced by italian newcomer Mariangela Demurtas, Rubicon being her recording debut with Tristania. This has obviously generated some pressure on her and the band during the making of the album, has it not? How was the stress level during the recordings?
Ole: The hardest pressure is put on Tristania by Tristania self. Even though Tristania has released many great albums, some of which considered classics in the genre, no band is better that their latest effort. Given the fact that we have a new female singer, we knew when we started writing “Rubicon” that this is going to be the most important album in our career. Every album is our most important, and “Rubicon” is no exception. But even with this circulating in the back of our heads, the stress level was not higher than can be expected. We set out to make the best possible album, and the fact that there were extra high expectations, didn´t change anything. We were doing our best all the time, and it´s all we could do.

Metalfan: Right after Mariangela joined the band you re-recorded a song with her on vocals and I remember being excited about the new vibe she brought to the music. While listening to Rubicon I sometimes had the impression that her performance is somehow restrained, that she holds back some of her verve and energy in order to better fit into the general musical frame of the record. What's your opinion on her performance on the new Tristania record?
Ole: I think Mariangela has done an amazing job with “Rubicon”. We had to search around a bit to see how to make her strong and passionate voice fit the new material. Some of her performances and interpretations are altered to resemble the general feeling of a certain song or mood, while others are her singing without any filter. Making music in Tristania is all about that, finding what serves the song, and what makes the music as a whole even better. Tristania is nobody´s personal playground, but it is a collective, where we all use our skills and abilities, but never at the expense of the music.

Metalfan: Kjetil, Gyri, Tarald and yourself have also had your first recording experience with Tristania. Obviously, this has been an infusion of fresh energy, but what else has each of you brought into the creative pool of the band?
Ole: Tarald has written the music for the intro of the song “Magical Fix”, and he has written the lyrics for the same song, plus a handful of other lyrics. Kjetil and Gyri has been invaluable resources in the creative pool, where we all throw in ideas and opinions. I have contributed as one of the main composers, together with Anders. We started writing together two years ago, and our work was very fruitful from day one. Having different qualities we complement each other in a nice way, and total honesty combined with deep respect for the others work, proved to be a strong formula.

Metalfan: Rubicon was produced by the band with Waldemar Sorychta as co-producer. Why did you make that choice and how did it work for you, was it a difficult process, are you thinking about doing the same thing in the future?
Ole: Even if I can´t look in the crystal ball and see what is going to happen, I would say yes. We found many positive sides with taking care of the production ourselves, even if it involved a lot of extra work. Having Waldemar as a co-producer and sidekick, both creatively and technically was a great help, and no matter how we handle the production part in the future, I´m sure we will connect with someone outside the band with fresh ears to serve as a councillor and advisor. Right now it seems natural to involve Waldemar once again, but it´s impossible to tell for sure.

Metalfan: The sound of Rubicon is not easy to label, the music is far from being confined within the boundries of a certain genre. I, for one, took a chance in my review and I labeled it melodic gothic metal. What do you think, how would you describe it?
Ole: I think you are right when you say that “Rubicon” is hard to put in a certain genre. I have heard so many opinions on this, I´ve decided to let it go, and not try and label our music. I have friends who tell me they are worried how our core audience is going to receive “Rubicon”, because it is “not goth at all” to them. At the same time I have read reviews stating that “Rubicon is a typical gothic metal album”, packed with “goth-clichés”. So the confusion could be total, if I were to try and have a view on this. I think “Rubicon” is a melodic metal/rock album, with some goth elements. This is as far as I´ll go in trying to label it. People perceive the album totally different. My grandmother and my black metal friend would have totally different experiences with it, and both count as much.

Metalfan: The last song on the album bears the same name like your previous album, Illumination. What's the connection?
Ole: There is no direct link between “Illumination” the song and the album with the same name. The title is cool, and it fits to the songs lyrics. I suggested to Anders probably two years ago that we should have a song on “Rubicon” called Illumination, but it was Østen [Bergøy – vocals],, who wrote the lyrics, who finally came up with the title for this particular song, and I instantly digged it.

Metalfan: I've had people telling me that Rubicon is not even metal. Do you think it is? Does it matter to you?
Ole: I think “Rubicon” holds elements of metal, rock, goth, prog and much more. It´s not like I´m offended by people not regarding “Rubicon” as metal. We didn´t set out to make a metal album, but a good album regardless of genre. I regard us as a metal band which isn´t afraid to step outside the metal norm. Even if I love metal, I must admit that a lot of todays metal is repetitive and heard before. If we can stretch the “metal” concept a little bit, then I´m OK with “Rubicon” not being labelled pure metal.

Metalfan: You've been often accused of selling out, of softening your sound in order to get into the mainstream. Is it such a bad thing to be a mainstream band? Would you like Tristania to be a mainstream band?

Ole: If the mainstream concept means adjust the music to a certain formatted idea of what could sell more, then we would never accept it, and Tristania would cease to exist. If mainstream means us reaching out to a larger audience, getting financial possibilities to continue creating the music that we love, then I consider it a good thing. It´s all about the music, and the artistic freedom. We build this band upon the idea of making music according to our hearts, and if we suddenly should have to make music to fill up a bank account, then the core of the band and the original vision dies.

Metalfan: I was wondering about the title of the album and the message it carries, together with the cover: a picture of Mariangela and the words Tristania, Rubicon. Like saying that her joining the band and the consequent record is a point of no return (a Rubicon) and daring the listener to pass it. Am I speculating too far?
Ole: The title “Rubicon” is not a “meta”-title, that represents the band from an outside perspective. It sums up a lyrical concept that emerged from the songs as the writing commenced. “Rubicon” is not a concept album, but many of the lyrics deal with the same issues, and we felt the title preserved much of both the symbolics and atmosphere in the lyrics. This is also Mariangela from Italy´s first album with Tristania, and we felt that referring to an actual place in Italy also was a nice feature to really introduce her. But I´m not gonna dictate people on what to read into the title, or the lyrics or the music at all. It´s all up to the listener.

Metalfan: So many bands are coming from Norway these days, that one would think that you are all musicians over there, hahaha. How is like to be a musician in Norway, is this a well-thought-of occupation, can one make a decent living playing music?
Ole: To be a musician in Norway is actually very nice. There are, as you say, lots of other musicians here to work with, there are cultural funds and governmental funds that any musician or artist can apply for to get money. There are a high professional level on the venues, festivals and promoters. One of the challenges of being a musician in Norway is, as you say, that there are a lot of us. There is a bit of a struggle to be recognized in the jungle of artists, and given the fact that there are only 4,5 million inhabitants in Norway, there aren´t too many people around to be audience to all the bands and artists. I guess that´s why many norwegian bands tour a lot abroad. One can make a decent living, but most of the bands and artists have day jobs. I make it work half and half, day job and music.

Metalfan: There are many voices saying that the CDs have no future, the sales are dropping and the industry is struggling to survive. Do you agree? How does Tristania fare through this troubled times? Are your CDs still selling?
Ole: Yes, they are selling. I think that CD´s will be history in some years. That is just natural and the way it should be. We are not reading hieroglyphs anymore, are we? The CD format has served it´s time, and could retire now. Digital distribution is cheaper, more environmental friendly and MP3´s don´t break in half if you step on them. The main challenge is of course to make music consumers realize that they also need to pay for the digital music. Many people, also normal music lovers, don´t realize that they don´t pay for the little plastic plate called the CD, they pay for the sound, the value of the music is immaterial. The no-cost digital duplication doesn´t take away the owner of the music´s right to demand money from those listening to it.

Metalfan: Obviously, producing music takes a lot of time and energy. Do you have time to do anything else?
Ole: Hmm, tough question. The band demands more or less all time, at least now, with recording, rehearsing and preparations for the tour. When I have time, I like to hang out with my wife, watch movies, play computer games or stay by the sea. I also happens, sometimes, that I go to a bar, and have a few beers with my friends.

Metalfan: Are you listening to other bands' music? What are your favourite albums of this year so far?
Ole: Of course! I love to listen to music, and even if I don´t have time to listen to all I want to listen to, I do my best to check out new and old bands. This years favorite so far is not easy to tell, but AnathemaWe´re here because we're here” was very nice, Johnny CashAin´t no grave” really moved me and Fear Factory “Mechanize kicked some butt.

Metalfan: Is anyone in the band still in contact with Vibeke? It seems like she totally broke off with the metal scene. Do you have any news of her?
Ole: Vibeke decided to leave Tristania and leave the limelight. The band is not going to comment on her or her whereabouts.

Metalfan: That's about it. Anything else you'd like to add?
Ole: Thanks a lot for the interest, and thanks to you for reading! Be sure to check out for news and updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, and drop us a line at
Romania treated us very nice last year, and we can´t wait to come back!
Peace. Ole.

Autor: Klawz
Vezi galeriile trupelor: Tristania

   September 26, 2010  | 0 Comments  | 8176 Views « BACK

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