|As you may recall I was quite excited about Aina – Days of rising doom when I reviewed it, so I contacted one of the creators, Amanda Somerville, to get some answers to all the questions I had. She turned out to be really nice and funny and we had a long talk about many different things. Keep in mind that she called me on April 1’st…
Hi, this is Amanda Somerville! How are you doing?
I’m doing great, how about you?
I’m doing fine thanks. I’m sorry I’m calling a little late.
Ahh it’s no problem
My mom and I were out shopping so…
(Laughs) You know the women…
Yeah, you got carried away… haha
Yeah (laughing) but here I am now.
So do you mind if we do this interview entirely in the Ainay language?
(Laughs loudly) No of course not, it’s no problem.
Great, so here we go…
Et thout asronyth swrulajen leifir?
(Laughing) Not bad, not bad… It’s kind of like, you know, so many people are comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, the Elvish and things like that, but I mean he worked to develop these languages for something like 30 years and still you can’t have a conversation with them, so I’ve made a dictionary for beginners, which is going to be on the website soon. It’s supposed to be up any time and we’ve been working on it for like over a month and I don’t know the webmaster is kind of slow but… (laughs) So yeah, hopefully it will kind of further along.
Great, because I actually tried to make a real question, and it was supposed to mean "Do you know the meaning of life?"… hehe, but it probably didn’t come out that way… It was just my weird sense of humor getting carried away on an April fools joke I think.
Haha, that’s a nice idea though. Cool.
Okay, to be a little more serious. It has been some time since Aina was released and to me the response seems very positive. How have you experienced the attention to the project and are you happy with the feedback so far?
Yeah, so far I’m really really thrilled actually. We’ve gotten so many great reviews from a journalistic and from the actual industry viewpoint. The response has been great, of course there are people that go "oh oh, another Metal opera", but pretty much I have only read good reviews and I’ve gotten so many emails from so many people from all around the world which is so amazing. They are like "Amanda, we really love it. The opera is so cool and the music and the story and the language…" and everybody want to see it live and they want to know more about the language, so it’s really great. I have actually had to form a separate email account just for fan mail!
Yeah that’s really cool and I really enjoy it and we’re all really really pleased.
I heard that you have already written the second part of the story, so I guess the inevitable question is if Transmission is going to let you and the other guys record the next part?
Well, I think so… Ahh this "To be continued…" in the booklet didn’t come from me, it came from Hans van Vuuren of Transmission records, so this kind of surprised me because we didn’t even have the first part out and he was writing "To be continued…" and I’m like "Hans! What is this supposed to mean?" and he’s like "Well, we’re going to try and establish a name for the first one and then for the second one hopefully people will know it more and be familiar with it" and I’m like "Really!! So you’re already thinking about the second part?" and he’s like "Of course!". So I would say there is a pretty good chance that there is going to be a part two.
So do you know if the sales figures have lived up to the expectations?
So far I have only gotten positive response from Transmission. They are really happy with the way things are going and yeah, sales are as far as I know going really well so let’s see. The North American release is going to be later on in April. It got pushed back because all the cd’s got cut off at customs, and then in Brazil and the rest of South America they just got the contracts done, so it looks promising.
Is it going to be the three disc version that will be released in the US too?
Yeah, but they are going to do that as a really limited edition though, I think. I have spoken with The End Records and it’s just so expensive and because Metal isn’t a big scene in the States although I kind of have a little qualm calling it a Metal Opera. The team that wrote it, we call it a Rock Opera because it got so many different elements in it, so it’s kind of hard for us to call it a Metal opera anyway, but yeah, the market isn’t really that huge for it and The End Records is kind of afraid to take the risk and so they are going to come out with a normal edition which is just one cd, which I think is really sad because the packaging that Transmission did is so fantastic. So I know that the promo packs are just like little cardboard ones, which is too bad because Transmission really went all the way and sent everybody this big promo-pack. But we’ll see, I just hope that it goes well. Because it’s my homeland (laughs)
Yeah, exactly. So there is this hidden intro track on the first CD and unfortunately my CD player wont play it.
Do you know why it was included in this way and not as a regular track?
Yeah, actually it was my request to do it that way, because I wanted to have a little bit of an intro, an introduction to the entire story and you know, of course the story is told in two different ways. One, in the story of Aina like the entire recap of the story like it is written in the booklet and also with the 15 minute track that Miro did and then in another way through the music, the lyrics and the rest of the songs. But I wanted to have an introduction to the entire story, so I wrote this that Sebastian Thomson did and Miro did the music for it and I think it’s fantastic, I love it. I hope you get the opportunity to play it somewhere because it’s a really nice track.
Yeah I was really disappointed when I finally found it and it wouldn’t play.
Yeah, that’s such a bummer. Well, we didn’t put it as a regular track because Transmission Recorda and the rest of us were kind of concerned that if the first thing that’s on there is a long spoken text it kan kind of get boring. And not everybody wants to always skip ahead on their CD player, so we decided to make it a real hidden track. I mean the hidden tracks that are typical nowadays are always at the end of the cd, the very last song and you wait three minutes and then comes another track. That’s so usual, so typical and I didn’t want to do anything typical for Aina, so that’s why we did it that way.
Adds a little to the mystery too. But you were talking about bringing the project to the stage. Is there any news on that or has nothing been decided yet?
So I really want to make a unique atmosphere for it and I wanted to get everything written before I presented it for Sascha, Miro, Robert and Transmission. So yeah, I got everything done and called Hans and Susanne at Transmission and said "Hey guys, I’ve got this idea, what do you think? Is it possible". An they were really excited about the idea. They were like "Yeah, that would be great!. Oh my god it would be expensive, but wouldn’t it be fantastic". So they are looking into it and so I called Sascha and I’m like "Hey I’ve got this idea" because I don’t know, they are very German sometimes and they are like "No you can’t do this. It will be too difficult" or whatever and so I wanted to be sure that I had all my stuff down and the record company’s support before I went to the rest of the guys. They can be really skeptical sometimes, but they really liked the idea. So we are really working on it. It’s kind of up to me to make the big arrangements and things, to me and Transmission, but we’re going to see what’s possible and I hope the within the next six months that it will be able to go live.
Cool! It sounds very ambitious. Something I would travel a long way to see.
Really? That’s good news. Where are you by the way, are you in Finland?
No I’m in Denmark
Ahh in Denmark, okay.
When you listen to the album now and look back, did it turn out the way imagined or hoped when you were writing the story and lyrics?
Well, you know it’s hard to say because I didn’t have a set picture in mind when I wrote it. Of course I had an idea and when I was writing the lyrics I could kind of imagine it, and this was kind of how we got this connection between Robert and me, between the music and lyrics. Because I was in Michigan for the most part when I was writing the lyrics, so I would email Robert the lyrics when I would get them finished and then he would begin writing the music for them and I would always have kind of an idea in my head.
Okay, for Revelations I can imagine that it need to start a little dreamy and mystical and then I can imagine a children’s choir singing the part in Ainay and kind of a foreboding, but sweet, kind of a melancholic melody and then when it goes to the prophets part it needs to really kick in and be really hard rock with a heavy guitar sound and everything and then for King Taetius’ part I can imagine a royal majestic melody with orchestra and maybe some brass you know, singing the melody line and things.
So sure I had some ideas in my head and some of the melodies I also wrote, like the intro to "Siege of Aina" and "Son of Sorvahr", so sure I had some ideas, but from the demo that Robert made to the end product it’s such a vast difference because of the arrangements that came in and the orchestrations and the production and stuff. And this is what I loved about Aina, every time we would listen to a new layer that was added it would bring a new color into the music, into the overall picture. As it went on and on and got more and more finished it was so great for me to see how each artist that was involved brought their own personality, their own color, their own feeling to the project. So it kind of went through an evolutionary process along the way, and from start to finish it was like WOW! you know. Of course it was still like my story and Robert’s music, but it was just this amazing tapestry with all of these different influences, so actually I didn’t really have any idea of how it would be in the end and the end result was just Wow, it blew me away. So when everything was finished we all sat in the studio and we listened to it and we were all looking at each other going "Wow, this is the last year and a half of what we’ve done". So it was pretty cool.
So do you think any of the singers in particular captured the essense of the atmosphere extremely well or the best?
Oh yes, the first person that comes to my mind is Thomas Rettke, the former singer of Heavens Gate. One of my favorite characters anyway is Sorvahr because he is just the kind of character you love to hate and Thomas has really brought him to life and made him so bad, so evil. So that was definitely a highlight for me and one of my favorite parts of the album. And I love André Matos, even though he only has a small role I love his part and "Talon’s last hope" is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s supposed to be such a tender time. You know the king has just been defeated, he has almost been killed, his wife has been taken away from him and now he doesn’t know what to do and his right hand man Tyran, that’s the character the André Matos plays, he’s telling him "Don’t worry about it, we will get through this" and he starts on a low octave that you don’t usually hear André singing and then the second time he sings it it is like (Singing "But sire don’t loose hope" in a high voice) and it’s like YES! It’s so positive and so powerful, so I love that tune.
But I love them all. If you ask me tomorrow I would probably tell you something different. It’s all depending on the mood and what jumps into my head at first but everybody did a great job.
My personal favorite is Glenn Hughes. His interpretation is very different from the other singers.
Yeah the demo that Robert did.
Yeah also in that. His voice seems very frail and then it picks up power then during the course of the album he picks up power in Rebellion.
Yeah he nailed that song like so amazingly. We got that track back and our jaws were on the floor and like "Oh my god! That’s amazing" So yeah, he really bought his own style and I thought it was fantastic how he did it because it is also so completely different than the pilot track that we recorded with Robert. He adapted the melody to his own preference and he sang it competely differently, he sang it very soully, like bluesy almost and yeah he brought tons of color and his own style into it. That is part of what I was talking about, the evolution that it went through.
So is there one moment in particular during the whole writing and production process that you remember extremely well or treasure even?
One of the things that really sticks out for me is going to London and recording with the boys choir. I also said this on the DVD, but it’s true, it’s one of the biggest highlights for me and it was just so fantastic to go there in this old British school and see these little 10-11 year old boys and they just pick up sheet music and they, boom, 30 seconds and they sing it. And they can pronounce everything just fine, I told them one time how it was pronounced and I actually wrote it on the sheet music fanatically and they sang everything perfect and I was like Wow, really blown away. That was an amazing experience and we were there for three days total, but we recorded with then two days and that was so cool and they were so sweet. They were just very gracious, the choirmaster David Swenson was really funny, he was very professional too and of course being in the midst of England, in London that was just cool, so that really stuck.
Yeah because I watched the bonus DVD with the making of feature which was really enjoyable, just wish it had benn three times as long…
Yeah that’s what everybody says, we do to, but that’s another thing that’s coming on the website soon. We’re going to have never-before seen scenes from the making-of on the website that you can download.
Cool! So when you wrote the first draft of the story, was it longer or more fleshed out than what actually happens in the songs, in the booklet.
Yeah, actually what I came up with was just the overview of the story and that stayed pretty much one to one that you see in the booklet, but I wrote so much more to that. From that I wrote the text, you know the lyrics, but then I also had so many things going on, like so many sub-stories. There is just a lot more that happens, for example why Torek left. There is a lot more to it than just that he found out that his brother is getting married to Oria. I mean that would be just stupid (laughs). The reason why he hated the people of Aina and stuff. It’s a lot more complicated actually.
Also in the time between when he disappeared and to the time that he comes back and attacks Aina as Sorvahr. There is just a ton of stuff that happens in there, but you know I couldn’t write a 500-page book. That wasn’t my job, that wasn’t my goal for this, I had to keep in mind that I had to write a musical work and so unfortunately the overview of the story that’s in the booklet is so compact and so short and just exactly a light overview, so it’s really easy to guess you know. It sounds slightly cliché and during the end it’s like yeah of course, we knew that the good would win over the evil, but there is so much more that happens in between time and I hope that at some point you will be able to read the entire story about what happens in between these times and everything, the more complicated issues.
That would be cool. You should put it on the website.
(Laughs) Yeah, I’m working on everything and there’s so much to do.
Yeah I could imagine. You have a lot going on.
I would like to talk a little about you and your solo career. Because after having read your biography I get the picture of a very passionate and creative person who has always known what she wanted. Do you have a specific life philosophy?
Well, as cheesy as this might sound I want to touch people with my music and this is the one and only thing I wanted to do since I could think. My mom actually told me I could sing before I could talk. I grew up in a musical family, singing and performing has always been a passion of mine and well, one of the biggest life philosophies that I have is to do onto others as you would like them to do unto you. It’s an old English saying, anyway, treat people the way you would like to be treated and yeah, I try to live my life that way all the time and I try to give as much of myslef as I can and it’s difficult sometimes as a musician, especially for my husband, because if you really have your music as an emotional outlet as I do, then all of your feelings are basically open for the world to see and so sometimes it’s a little tough and I think "Oh god, what if the person I wrote this song about knows and recognises this" and it’s kind of embarassing and stuff, but you just have to do it and I have to do this. This is me and I present myself to the world. But I love it and I try not to withhold my feelings or something because that’s not very healthy.
But about my solo career, I actually started recording my second album and I plan on doing some things with Miro and I did actually do a charity cd in december with Miro. It benefitted people who had a disease called ALS (lou gehrig’s disease). It’s a schleroses disease and attacks the nerve system and it’s just very debilitating. It’a a horrible horrible disease and one of the local soccer players for the Wolfsburg soccer team was diagnosed with this disease very very early, he’s twenty eight I think. He has a beautiful young wife and two little kids, a three year old and a seven year old, so it’s horrible, his life was just completely destroyed and they asked me if I would sing a song for this project that the charity foundation had in mind and I was like "Yes, definitely".
That turned into a CD, a mini CD with five songs on it. So this kind of goes along with my philosophy you know. I would hope that if I was in that situation someone would help me so this is why I did this project. I did it together with Miro and my husband also did a lot of work on it. So that was the last cd that I came out with for my solo music but yeah I plan on doing more, I have to, I think "Oh god I just turned 25 I need to hurry up with…" You know it’s great, I’m so happy that I was able to be a part of so many other artists projects, but I think I really need to focus on my own stuff now too, so that’s the plan.
Cool. I listened to the song "Forces of love" from your website and I found it quite intriguing.
So is this more relaxed acoustic style the way of your first solo album?
Yeah, pretty much. It’s kind of folk, pop rock, jazz, I don’t know. Somewhere between Norah Jones and Tori Amos I guess.
I’m a bg fan of Tori Amos actually.
Really? That’s great. Well I’m not saying that I’m like, I’m not putting myself in her league but just this direction of music. But it’s very different than the Aina stuff, but still Aina has come to life for me and I love it as well.
The only way to buy your solo albums is that through your website?
Yeah right now, because I’m unsigned. I formed my own record company and I don’t have any major distribution but so far I’ve done well doing it myself.
So you’re going to release the second album yourself?
And you’re recording it now?
Yes. Well unless I get an offer I can’t refuse. But I’m not a big fan of major record labels, so this is the way to go for me for now.
I’ve read that you come from a very musical family. Have they heard the Aina album and what was their reaction to it when they heard that you were working with Heavy Metal bands and writing a so called Metal Opera?
(Laughs) Oh they were really excited. Actually it’s funny that you ask if they’ve heard it. It’s all my mom listens to! My mom and dad they are pretty crazy, they are very proud of me, you know, they are proud parents, so every time I call home I’m like "You guys! Is there something wrong with you?" They have Aina playing in the background every time I call. So that is really really funny. The rest of my family has heard it too. My grandparents only like the songs like "Silver Maiden", Serendipity and "The story of Aina", you know, the orchestral soft things. But the rest of my family really likes it too and we’ve had emailing and things going on. There’s like 30 people in my family, my extended family and we all email back and forth to each other and my parents send out updates of reviews and interviews and things like that to the rest of the family and I get emails from them like "Ow, cool I was on your website and saw that you had another interview and that was so funny, that was so cool" and stuff.
So my close family, like my sister and my parents they really listen to it all the time and are so supportive and the rest of my family too. But they thought it was really cool that I was working with a Metal team, with Metal musicians and things. At first they were like "Oh my god, Metal!!?" (Laughs) and I actually played them Luca Turilli’s "Prophet of the last Eclipse" that I sang on, I corrected his lyrics too and they were like "Oh my god is Aina going to be like Luca Turilli?" And I was like "Noo it’s going to be different" (laughs). But they are really happy for me.
That’s great. So since 2001 you have worked with bands like After Forever, Epica, Rhapsody, Edguy, Shaman and so on. Before 2001 had you ever listened to Heavy Metal at all? And has working with these bands changed your perception of music in any way?
Oh yeah, definitely. To answer your first question, before 2001, no I didn’t work with any metal bands before and I never really listened to metal either, I mean I listened to Metallica and a couple of things, but nothing like the European Metal scene. So this is a completely new world to me and working with them opened up a completely new side of music to me that I had no idea was there and also working with people like Sascha, Robert and Miro I’ve learned so much about music and technical sides of things and recording and stuff, which I’m really thankful for too. But yeah definitely, and I love, love the Symphonic Metal kinds of things or the more Gothic things like After Forever, Epica and Nightwish, you know things like that I’ve discovered recently anyway and I love it so…
Yeah well, I love this style of music too because it has so much emotion.
How did you first meet Sascha? Was that back in 2001?
That was actually in the summer of 2000 as I was coming out with my solo album and he remixed a song for me and then he ended up mixing an EP, the "Blue nothing" EP that I came out with. Yeah, we met each other because his ex-brother in law was my guitarist and anyway, I don’t work with this guy anymore, but he introduced me to Sascha and Sascha and I hit it off. We got along really really well and he liked my music, he liked my voice, he liked the fact that I was a native English speaker too, so actually the first time I worked with him was for his Virgo project with André Matos
Yeah I have that cd actually
I think it’s such a great cd but it just came out at the wrong time and with the wrong marketing scheme.
Yeah, it wasn’t so successful, but there are some really good songs on it.
Yeah, I really love that album, I sing backup on the cd and did an opening with them at the Popkomm in Cologne and then we were supposed to go on a World tour and it got cancelled because of September 11th, so that was really bad. We were supposed to go to Paris and it was supposed to kick of the world tour like September the 14’th or 15th was our date in Paris, and they called two days before and they cancelled. They said "Okay, we’re going to postpone it until later, when the security is okay" and after that nothing else happened, so it was so sad but that’s the way that it goes sometimes. But that was the first project that I worked on with him and after that. He always works with bands from all over the world and they write their lyrics in English and there were some things like Rhapsody lyrics and stuff and he’s like "You know what… I know a girl and she’s a really good songwriter and she’s a native speaker so how about if you let her take a look at your lyrics and have her go over them and make sure that they are correct and everything". So I started doing that for him and for different bands. I did it for Shaman, Luca Turilli and then I got into the vocal coaching for Epica and then After forever and the whole time I was doing background vocals too.
So you actually coached Floor Janssen?
Yes. She’s a fantastic singer.
She has a fantastic voice, yes.
She was great and she’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She’s a fantastic woman. But that was a lot of fun.
Great. So, are you able to live of music?
Yeah (Laughs) That’s the one great thing for me. I don’t do anything else.
I don’t know, if you do music all the time, do you have any spare time at all and what do you like to use it for?
Well, I’m a very big family person so at least every three months I go home and visit my family and also I spend a lot of time with my husband. It is really important to us and to me to spend a lot of time with my family, so that’s what I do, mainly in my spare time. I also have two dogs (laughs) two mini collies, and yeah, I do a lot with them. It’s kind of a day to day… Oh, I lied! Okay I do do something besides music, I have a passion and it’s a horrible horibble thing but I’m addicted to Ebay!
(Laughs) And I not only buy but I also sell on Ebay, kind of as a hobby I sell things on E-Bay and kind of got into bargain hunting and selling on Ebay so okay I do do that as well, but that’s just more of a hobby.
An evil hobby hehe, okay.
(laughs) Do you know Ebay? Have you been on Ebay?
I have been on Ebay and bought one thing a really long time ago. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been on there. I’ve only heard a lot about all the great stuff you can find there, but if I get on there I’ll most likely spend an entire day just searching for things.
Yes, it dangerous. Don’t start because you will get addicted (Laughs)
Yes, because I’m also this kind of collector’s type.
Well, I don’t drink, I dont smoke, I don’t do drugs and I never have BUT I’m addicted to shopping and to the Internet so… (Laughs)
Okay, that can be expensive too.
So, I’d be quite interested in hearing your three favorite albums of all time if you are able to say that.
Oh… (pauses) My three favorite albums of all time… Goodness. I would say Paul Simon’s Graceland. Sarah McLachlan – Surfacing and …geez, this is a tough question, I hate questions like these (laughs) you know you always think of them later like "Oh shit! I should have said…" I don’t know I can’t think of anything right now. You caught me off guard.
It’s okay. I think that is pretty much all the questions I had, so yeah, thank you very much for the interview.
Well, you’re most welcome. Thank you for such a nice interview and really, it’s been very different. You know a lot of the people ask the same questions all the time and I can really appreciate some creativity on the part of the journalist. So thank you for a nice interview.
Well, thank you. And you know with the first question I didn’t mean to compare Aina to The lord of the rings at all because I don’t really think there is much comparison.
Thank you. I am so glad you say that.
Yeah, because I was afraid you may have misunderstood that a little (laughs)
Yeah, because everybody is saying "Oh it’s just like Lord of the rings" and I don’t think it is like Lord of the Rings at all.
Well, the story isn’t at all. The only slight comparison is maybe the invention of a different laguage, but No, I don’t think the story is. If… yeah if the continuation is something like the spirit of Sorvahr endures or something (laughing) then maybe but not so far. I don’t think there is.
(Laughing) No the second part is also going to be totally different so… And you won’t be able to guess the end I hope (Laughing)
No, well, I don’t even want to ask what it is about because I want to be surprised.
Yeah you have to be. No I’m strictly forbidden to talk about it of course.
But I can say that I’m really looking forward to it and I hope it works out both with the live concert and everything.
Well thank you so much. I hope that we would see you then if we do go live.
You definitely would. I don’t know if you’ve heard about Arjen Lucassen from Holland. His Ayreon and Star One projects?
Yeah exactly. But he took his project live in 2002 where he played about five concerts and I travelled to Hamburg to see it live and it’s actually the best concert experience I’ve ever had.
With Star One, yeah.
Yeah and Floor was in that.
Yeah that was actually when I heard her live for the first time too. But that was really fantastic.
But that’s kind of a different… I’ve heard all kinds of really positive things about that. Unfortunetely I haven’t seen it or heard it you know, but Floor told me all about it and so I was really interested to know how that could compare anyway to Aina, but it’s so different you know.
Yeah because I was kind of thinking in the same lines, but with your ideas it is definitely going to be different. But they used about five singers who sang different voices and also other people’s parts and it worked very well.
You should get the DVD!
There is a DVD for it?
Yes there is
You know what I’m going to ask Floor if I can borrow it because I’m going to see her for their release on April 17th, I’m going there, so I’ll ask her for it then.
So you have to keep me updated on the live and stuff.
I’ll do that and check back too on the website, there will be a lot of updates on there soon.
Well, thanks you for doing this interview It was very enjoyable speaking to you.
Thank you Steen, take care.
Written by Steen – 4/8/2004