It doesn’t happen every time that when you go to a concert, you are invited to the backstage area. But it can happen when you have an appointment with a band, e.g. for an interview. And that is what happened on February 8th, when I drove to Bitterfeld, Germany to see Frantic Amber live for the first time. First, they delivered an awesome show (read live review here) and afterwards, we did the following interview. Not just with their vocalist Elizabeth, but with the whole band. Read it below.
MG: Your new album “Bellatrix” is dedicated to empowering women and warriors from different historic periods. Where did this idea of such a theme/concept come from?
Mac: It started with Grainne Mhaol, we did a song about the Irish pirate queen. And that’s how we got into that… historic theme. And we realized there were so many warrioresses from different periods of time. So, lots of material.
Elizabeth: Yes, and we already knew we wanted to do a concept album. We were talking a lot back and forth what do we want to do for that album. And we knew we wanted some kind of concept. So what shall we do? And, yes… we kind of settled with that.
Mio: And then this Viking, Lagertha… She was a shield maiden and she was strong, you know, tough, cool female warrior. Let’s write about her, maybe there are some more. And there are dozens, tons of them. And they never talk about it in history books. So we started to search…. I didn’t know there was a female Samurai! And then we took that and said, let’s find some Muslim girl, yes there were also….
Elizabeth: Yes, every representation throughout history, there have been women fighting… Nobody knows [about them].
Mio: Jeanne d’Arc being the most famous, I think.
Elizabeth: Yes, there are a few that have been mentioned. Now Lagertha is very famous because of the Vikings series.
Mio: And Mulan.
Elizabeth: Yes, there’s so much more. So we will see if we make more songs. [laughs]
MG: As far as I know, Joshitai is Japanese, but Mulan is Chinese.
Mio: Khutulun is….
Elizabeth: She is Mongolian.
Mio: Maybe we need to write…
Elizabeth: Mulan is Disney.
MG: What was the process of choosing the ladies you sing about like? What came first? The music or lyrical concepts?
Mac: We built a lot of the songs around the theme. We wanted to capture the ethnics…
Elizabeth: So the essence of where they were from, you know, the samples you can hear like in Joshitai for example, the Japanese….
MG: …”guitar” in the beginning?
Mio: And the flute.
Elizabeth: Yes, exactly. So each track has ethnic influences. And also before we added those, I was researching who we should write about. And we were discussing “Oh, what about her?”
Mio: And this song maybe fits to this…
Elizabeth: Yeah! And how can we make this song sound more… Russian… [laughs]. I remember when we were talking about one of the Russian snipers, Liudmila Pavlichenko. That was the whole process of choosing…. Also having enough story to base the whole song on, cause when I was reading about each warrioress, it is very different how much is transcribed and written down, how much there actually is. This was also one of the challenges when I wrote the lyrics and then we tried to match it together. Sometimes we were also like “Ok, we want to write about this person.” and then tried to influence the music a bit to go that way and the other way around.
MG: So you determine “Joshitai” is Japanese…
Elizabeth: Yeah, from the beginning it sounded more Japanese so…
MG: One of the first words of the lyrics from Joshitai I understood was “Naginata”…
Elizabeth: That’s true.
MG: …but only because of my own martial arts background.
Mio: Actually, I remember a children song and then the melody of Joshitai is influenced by that Japanese children song.
MG: That is interesting.
Mio: I changed it a little bit but there is some influence.
MG: You are 4 different nationalities in the band now. Do you think this also helped to bring the variety to your music on the album or doesn’t this play a role? I mean, Mac, you are from South America…
Mac: Yes, but actually I was brought up in Sweden. Moved there at a very young age. But we also come from very different musical backgrounds. And that also helps to diversify the music.
Elizabeth: All our own tastes and influences, what we listened to before and our upbringing and all is also different. So we meet in the middle somewhere. Put everything in a big pot and stir it around. So it is fun. We are very different, but we also come together and find something in the middle where everyone is happy.
Mac: We try to work as a democracy.
MG: Like a clockwork where one gearwheel grips into the other.
Elizabeth: We’re a team.
Mac: It is not just one guy that writes everything. We put our ideas and turn it around and ask each other.
Elizabeth: We have a lot of feedback meetings.
Mac: Lots of them.
Elizabeth: Yeah, to make it the best we can for our abilities together.
MG: As far as I know you were working on a music video for “Lagertha”. Is this still a thing? And when can we expect a result?
Elizabeth: Maybe this summer? Maybe? It is a very big production for us with planning and finding everything cause we want to be like…. erm… like ethnically inspired, so we need a location, clothes, and then everything planned…
MG: Boats and stuff like that…
Elizabeth: And how we can have these shots without, you know, paying a million dollars. We’re trying to get everything together in detail to make it really good, or the best we can. We hope it will be a really good one when it comes out.
Mio: Last Saturday we did a live video with “Scorched Earth”, so this one will come out first. Our first live video. And then “Lagertha”. Maybe we will start to shoot in April.
Mac: So “Scorched Earth” will be an official music video but it was entirely shot live.
MG: So the thing you installed right before the show was a camera, right?
Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s just for our family. We will see if we can post something from this footage.
MG: That would be really cool! Which of the warriors on the album is the dearest or closest to your heart?
Elizabeth: All of them!
Mac: Hard to choose.
Mio: Maybe Lagertha because we are working so much on the video, finding all the fitting clothes…
Elizabeth: And also because we are from the north. So it is also close to our origins, so to speak. But I think everyone is really like they can’t choose because you can have some small inclinations to some…. but all of them are… our blood, sweat and tears in musical forms.
MG: So to say, this is the same as if you asked me what my most favourite Frantic Amber song is.
Elizabeth: Yes, yes, that’s ok. You can’t choose.
MG: Tough decision, right. I could reduce it to a certain number, but definitely not just one.
Elizabeth: Yes, and it also can change on what mood you’re in. If you want the slow and heavy ones or the more blackish ones like “Joshitai”. It depends on what you’re in the mood for. We have a lot of blended influences. And a lot of styles we put in, so yeah, it probably can satisfy a big audience.
MG: The first song of Frantic Amber I have heard was “Soar”…
Elizabeth: Oh, really?
MG: And you got me hooked on an instant.
Elizabeth: I saw you singing…. [laughs]
MG: Ok, so the next question is: As I already mentioned, the album is titled “Bellatrix” which means female warrior in Latin. Who came up with the title and why Latin?
Mac: Well, it is all about warrioresses and we had this guy painting all these portraits of warrioresses and we also didn’t write a song about the cover warrioress. She was THE warrioress, the symbol for all of them. And we thought it fitted.
Elizabeth: Yeah, we had a working title “Bellatrix mortua”, “Warrioresses of Death”. But we cut it back to “Bellatrix”, because it was straight to the point. It’s just “warrioresses”. That’s all.
MG: Okay. The next question is especially for you Elizabeth. As a former ballet dancer, now that is quite the contrast. How do people usually react when they learn you are into ballet but also melodic death metal?
Elizabeth: [laughs] Most people are like “Whaaaaaat???” *head explodes*…. No. Most people think it is a curious combination and they ask questions about it. And for me it is just….ehm… how I am. So, I have interests in both areas and it’s nothing I think much about. I like the contrast. And I still dance, I still practise. I am very happy for my background.
MG: So you’re still active?
Elizabeth: Yes, but not in a professional way. I am not in a company. But I dance just for myself in my spare time and do projects. But I use that on stage definitely. Like…. how I practise, the upbringing of ballerinas, very disciplined in training and also the way I think about singing is kind of the same like an athlete would think about running or whatever. It’s like a dancer thinking about the training. So I practise in the same way with the technique improvement and stamina and all the things to make myself strong to do all the things I want to do on stage. Because I want to move and be crazy and still have a lot of breath and do all these long growls and stuff like that. It is quite challenging, it is also a physical task to do.
MG: I saw your video on Facebook where you’re jumping up and down on a trampoline while you’re singing “The Ghost That Kills”.
Elizabeth: Yes! Exactly! That is my bootcamp. I have so much fun doing that. But yeah, it’s my preparation for the tour.
Mio: Actually, it is one of my dreams that we make a song where she is in the middle dancing in…
MG: …in a black tutu?
Mio: Yeah, some Black Swan kind of thing, black ballet dancing.
Elizabeth: We can tailor a song for it.
Mio: We have to make it.
Elizabeth: One day…
MG: I will wait for the results.
Elizabeth: We too.
MG: The next question is for you, Mio. You are a big fan of science fiction and fantasy movies and books. What about writing an album based on some of this as next?
Mio: Why not?
MG: So this is an option, right?
Mio: Yes, it is possible.
MG: I just had an image in my mind. Frantic Amber doing a metal version of the title song from Star Trek Enterprise.
Elizabeth: Why not?
Mio: Actually, in one of my older projects we did a “Moonbase Alpha” song. We did some covers and a rock version.
MG: Cool! Than we are already done. Thank you all for your precious time.
Mac: Thank you.
Elizabeth: Yeah, thank you for coming out.
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– Interview by Ralf Hartung