Interview from April to October 2004
my first interview with Monika Edvardsen
about 4 years ago had mostly concentrated on the second Atrox album "Contentum"
(the first one where she had done all the – extraordinary – vocals herself)
and some general questions about herself, I had planned to do another interview
with her about the Tactile Gemma debut and the third Atrox album "Terrestrials"
already about two years ago, yet for several reasons it just didn´t work out.
As the questions had already been written down, when Monika signalled that
she still would be willing to answer them some time ago, I simply altered
some of them and added some more about the fourth Atrox album "Orgasm"
(the last one to feature her vocals) and her current projects.
As one will notice while reading this interview, the questions were not answered in one go (I admit it was a very long questionnaire!), but even though a few answers might seem "dated" now, I still kept them and I don´t think it makes reading this interview any less interesting. Though this interview required a lot of patience, I think it was definitely worth waiting. But judge for yourself!
Burkhard: When I first read about the Tactile Gemma project a few
years ago I thought that his might be something very special. I was right!
It´s exactly what I expected, well, maybe even more. I mean, I didn´t know
what the songs would sound like, but I expected an album which could become
some of my alltime faves. What kind of reactions have you received so far?
Monika: I have read loads of positive reviews and our label said it got 10 of 10 in German Metal Hammer but I'm not sure hehe... I haven't seen it myself and you haven't mentioned it so I have my doubts. Anyway, I really don't remember what exactly people have said except that they liked it. For some stupid reason I remember the negative things I have heard hough... Someone was disappointed because he found the album in the metal section and then it wasn't metal boohoo hehe. Another guy thought it was "elf music" because of the cover and he was disappointed too. What the hell is "elf music"??? Hehehe... The album didn't get much attention anyway, probably because it was marketed through Season of Mist which is a metal label and so it has reached only metalheads and not the people who WOULD really like it. When we first signed with SoM we were told they were starting a new underlabel for music like this and that they would release it through this label but it didn't happen... Now SoM sell the album for 5 euros in their shop instead...
Burkhard: My impression is that the music of Tactile Gemma is easier accessible than Atrox. Do you think so, too
Monika: Well, yes I do think so... But it really depends on what you normally listen to. I guess most metalheads have problems with listening to Tactile Gemma. And it's something about expectation. No one expects vocals like mine in a metal band so they don't like my vocals in Atros but they do like it in Tactile Gemma even if I sing much in the same way there. i guess it's because it's more expected in a setting like Tactile Gemma than in a metal band. Expectations to what you get is a very important factor for whether you'll like a culture product or not...
When I read the lyrics of "Creepy-crawlies", I saw in front of my inner eye
a cartoon in Tex Avery-style. I think if Tex Avery was still alive, he could
have done a great video-clip of this short story. I know it´s just wishful
thinking, but if you had the money you´d need, could you imagine doing a cartoon
video-clip of "Creepy-crawlies"? (I think it´s definitely a wonderful mini-audioplay
and makes a perfect bedside story for little children, at least – depending
upon how creepy the crawlies are – if their name is Franz Kafka.)
Monika: Yes, absolutely! It would be so cool! I like the style of those very old Disney movies in brown and white. I think it would fit well with a cartoon video or an animated doll movie... Sometimes I wonder if illustrating the lyrics isn't necessary and if it may ruin the vicions people already have in their minds, but I also think it could widen MY imagination so that I could add lots of new elements to the story through the movie. I always do that when I paint covers... Eh, I must add here that it wasn't me who painted the Tactile Gemma cover. I think it sucks hehe...
Burkhard: Have you ever thought about doing little illustrated children´s books? (E.g. like "Creepy Bedside Stories for Kreepy Kids"?)
Monika: Yes, I have thought about it... many times, but I always end up frustrated cause I think of all the crap children of today like; Pokemon, Teletubbies, The Jelly Kids (???) – you name it! - and I think to myself: "What's the point? They won't even like it!" Hmmm, well, I might be too negative but I really think children have difficulties with adapting to a different style of telling when they are used to watch cartoons where everything is noisy and fast and a fight between good and evil... and to me extremely annoying. Maybe it would be better to make children's stories for grownups hehe... Well, I guess I have to try to make children's stuff and see the reactions before I end up grumpy and bitter hehe...
Burkhard: To me, one of the most intriguing songs is "Whiz", the heaviest song on the album. The music has something menacing and overwhelming (in the literal sense) about it. When I first heard it, immediately the idea of a tank or caterpillar rolling slowly and unstoppably over anything in its way popped up. The lyrics describe a very surrealistic scenario, but I can see it all clearly in my imagination: The box in your hand with the wind trapped inside, the winged toads flying out of your mouth and then hailing down on you, then suddenly it´s you who slides out of a mouth on the railings of a spiral staircase, swirling upwards with this little frightened toad on your arm and then you realize you´re trapped in a box. (In the CD-booklet it says "an ox", but I guess this is a printing error, isn´t it?) – Very kafkaesque, I´d say, maybe inspired by Kafka? (I think you once mentioned that you like Kafka´s short stories.)
Monika: "Ox" eh? Damn I never noticed that... Yes, it's supposed to be "box" - I don't think I'd ever want to imagine being trapped in an ox hehehe... The inspiration for this text came from some drawings I had made long time ago. One with a girl who paints the air and one with an ugly facewith a long strange spiralling tongue hehe... Also some small text fragments and sentences I had written here and there when I was inspired of god-knows-what. Most of my work is like that; jigsaw puzzles that I put together according to what feels right. I have lots of books with sentences and fragments I have written down and i have lots of small sketches I have drawn whenever I get an idea or get inspirated by other lyrics or poetry or paintings or comics or whatever. I use these sources whenever I make something new. I seldom write a whole lyric in one take. "Miss Loona Speaks" and "Mare's Nest" are the only exceptions I think. Hmmm, and "Chimeras" is two texts in one that I originally wrote in two separate takes...
Burkhard: I don´t want to go into the details of all your lyrics on the Tactile Gemma album (otherwise this interview might turn into a book), but my impression is that nearly all of them deal with (different kinds of?) fears. At a first glance, one might think they are just crazy, surrealistic stories, but I think you didn´t write these lyrics for the mere purpose of distracting people, did you? Some kind of self-therapy? (Or am I over-interpreting your lyrics?)
Monika: I think all creative things I do is a mixture of having all these ideas I really want to express and self-therapy. Or maybe it's all self-therapy. I mean; I'm still like a child who really NEEDS to play so when I make things I think is funny it's also therapy. I have lots of empathy for the characters I write about so when I write about someone who is scared I feel the fear too and it gives me a chance to work on this fear that obviously comes from myself. I also want to give people a chance to really like characters that are different and that may seem insane but in some way you can see that there is some kind of logic to their behaviour and thinking anyway... It's much about accepting and enjoying oddities, I think...
Miss Loona visiting Rødingen´s website
Burkhard: Another one of my favourite songs is "Miss Loona´s Speech".
It may sound ridiculous, because Miss Loona is a ficticious character (isn´t
she?), but I really do feel a lot of sympathy for her. I don´t know why, but
somehow she reminds me a little bit of Magrat Garlic (a young witch, who appears
in some of Terry Pratchett´s Discworld novels; she´s one of my favourite characters)
and of Aerie (a cleric-mage and my favourite character from the PC game "Baldur´s
Gate II"). Yes, I think she could be some kind of fairy godmother, maybe a
little bit clumsy, just like Magrat Garlic who turned everything into pumpkins
in "Witches Abroad". It´s a very crazy idea to grow teapots in a garden, and
an even crazier one to cross them with rucksacks, but this is an amiable kind
of crazyness and it´s definitively harmless compared to the results of sane(???)
politics in the Near East and lots of other parts in this world – don´t you
think? (The vocals on "Miss Loona´s Speech" sometimes remind me of Kate Bush
in her early days.)
Monika: It's a perfect understanding and I was actually inspired by what you said in this question when I answered the previous one hehe... It's cool to see that when I get the right questions I understand more about my own thinking. Cool! Anyway... Miss Loona is in my mind an older woman ( a bit inspired by Peter Maxwell-Davies' "Miss Donnithorne's Maggot" - it's a song cycle or one woman opera) who is a bit lonely and who has a real passion for her trivial life and drinking tea and stuff... I think her husband is dead so she finds new joy in growing teapots and stuff. She might seem crazy but she's happy with what she does so it's cool. Hmmm, maybe it would be good for her to have a friend though. The story behind writing this text is: I was reading some lyrics by Tori Amos and it seemed to me that they didn't have a meaning and that she just wrote anything that popped into her mind, and I wanted to try that too. So I wrote everything on the top of my head that very moment and after a while the wh ole text made sense to me anyway hehehe... The name "Miss Loona" comes from "loony" and "Luna" since she likes to juggle suns and moons. The vocals were supposed to sound a bit like an older woman and whenever I do that I sound a bit like Kate Bush hehehehe... no offense, Kate, I love your vocals!
Miss Loona is pleased to see that Rødingen takes good care of the little owl she sent him.
Burkhard: What can we expect of the next Tactile Gemma album? I read
that Rune has gone to South America for a year or so, so we might have to
wait a while, but I also read that some songs have already been written.
Monika: Yes, we have 6 songs that only needs to be mixed and then 3 more that I haven't done the vocals on yet. I think Rune is coming back from his trip in not such a very long time now so he can continue to mix and I have all the recording equipment I need so I'll be able to record the vocals pretty fast as well. But then it's the label... We don't want to release anything more on Season of Mist but it seems like we have to.. I don't know how long time they will spend on having it released. Probably looooooooong. We'll have to wait and see.
Burkhard: Could you imagine performing Tactile Gemma songs live or is Tactile Gemma meant to stay a mere studio project?
Monika: We used to talk about live performances but that was back when we all lived in Trondheim. Now Rune lives in Göteborg, Sweden and Ann-Mari lives in Stockholm while I still live in Trondheim so I guess it could prove difficult... But if we one day get a big enough audience we could do it anyway, but I don't expect Tactile Gemma to become very big... SoM said they'd promote us so much and that they'd make us "bigger than Mayhem" (their "biggest" band) hehehe... None of us believed that crap anyway, and of course it didn't happen. I don't expect them to do much to sell the next album either, that release is just to cover the expences we have caused them and to try to earn a little bit more. They only care to make things that are already big become bigger it seems to me.
Burkhard: Now to Atrox: Do you have any idea about the sales figures of "Contentum" and "Terrestrials" (in Norway and/or other countries) or are they a secret which Season of Mist´s boss won´t share with anyone (especially not with you, after you went to another record label)? (I wonder why the two biggest German heavy metal mail order services – EMP and Nuclear Blast – don´t offer Atrox´ albums so far. Perhaps they are too original and unique?)
Monika: We did get some info from SoM about sales figures long ago, but we are no longer in contact with them so I don't know. If they have sold more lately I guess it's because SoM sell them dirt cheap now hehehe... Well, it's hard to know anything cause in the beginning the SoM boss said "Contentum" had sold 3000 and he expected 4000 soon, but later he told us it had sold 1800 and that was only the number of how many that was actually sent to distributors. The numbers for "Terrestrials" were lower, but I don't remember how much it was. About the mailorder services; SoM told us some years ago that many distributors didn't want Atrox because it was too strange and that it wouldn't sell.
Burkhard: Did Atrox play any concerts after the interview I did with you in September 2000? If yes, do you happen to know how many people attended these concerts? And what were the reactions from the audience like?
Monika: Hmmm, let's see. We played one gig in 2003 and that's all. Lots of things happened to me during and after the recording of "Terrestrials" and I developed this intense stage fright so I said no every time someone talked about playing gigs, but in 2003 one of "the boss of Atrox" (hehe) said I had to play live or quit the band so I overcame my fear and we did the thing. It was cool but we played only at that time unreleased material so at least one guy was disappointed hehehe. Well, it was maybe 60-70 people at the gig and some few people really loved it... Not much headbanging but it wasn't exactly headbanging music either hehehe...
Two members of Miss Loona´s band try to imitate Pete´s poses.
Burkhard: Did you receive any remarkable/special reactions with regard to "Contentum", "Terrestrials", "Orgasm" and/or the Tactile Gemma debut which you think are worth mentioning? (E.g. letters from exotic places or special people/other musicians/artists?)
Monika: Well, your love for Miss Loona is worth mentioning hehehe... And it seems like the few people who likes these two bands tend to like them VERY well and often especially because of the vocals, so I have gotten some mails from people who says very nice things about my vocals. About exotic places... someone from China, Malaysia and some other Asian country wrote to us or signed the Atrox guestbook...
Burkhard: In the first interview I did with you, you said you were four children in your family and that you all had great interest in music. Now I know about you and Ann-Mari, but what about the other two? Do they also sing and/or play an instrument in a band? (Are they older or younger than you?)
Monika: My oldest sister is two years older than me and she sings a lot at home and in a choir. She also has an organ but I don't know if she practices it hehe. My brother is four years younger than me and he used to play guitars and sing in a band when he was 13 till he was 16. Then he switched to play synth and sing in another band called Poetry of Dreams for a couple of years. They recorded a demo, pretty much in the style of Dream Theater and stuff like that, but they disbanded and my brother has been working with music on his own after that but never recorded anything for real.
Burkhard: You also mentioned that your father burned the "soft metal" albums you had bought and listened to in secrecy when he found them. How old were you then? I mean, it must have been a traumatizing experience for you and probably also your sisters. (Did your sisters also have any albums which were "forbidden" at home or were you the only "musical heretic"?) If my father had burned my favourite albums, I don´t know what I would have done, but I think I´d have hated him. Could you get – at that time – any (mental) support from your sisters and/or friends or were you left on your own?
Monika: It was actually my oldest sister who had the most records and was the most affected by our father "razzias" and record burning. We kept more together because of this and found better hiding places - at least it lasted for a long while so we had the time to get much music before our father burned it again eh heh heh... Well, these were real bad times for us and we moved away from our parents as soon as we could. Hmmm, well at least my father regrets a lot of this now.
Burkhard: Now some questions about "Terrestrials": On the backcover of the CD-booklet it says the album was recorded and mixed in January 2001 and vocals, synth and some guitars were recorded in February 2001. Why did it then take still more than a year until the release of this album? And what had happened in between?
Monika: SoM thought for some mysterious reason that albums releases always should be delayed for a year. Have no idea about why. The only thing I know is that most labels don't release albums during summertime.
Burkhard: Could it be that someone tried to screw up your work on "Terrestrials"? It strikes me as odd that the pauses between the songs are sometimes extremely long. Between the songs "Mental Nomads" and "Changeling", there are two beeps which I think are not meant to be there. And then – I don´t know if this is a pressing or recording fault/error – there´s a cracking noise (like the one of a vinyl album with scratches) at the end of "Translunaria" (about 7 times) and throughout the final song "Look Further" (about 30-40 times!!!), especially near the end. I think someone deserves a serious kick in the pants for this! I also noticed that the album title along the left and right side of the CD-case has been misspelled: it reads "Trrestrials". And finally, I wonder who played drums on "Terrestrials"? A ghost without a name? The drums don´t sound like a drum-computer, but on the backside of the CD-booklet there only appear the names of Eivind, Rune, you and two additional bass-players. What has happened to Tor-Arne? Another production flaw at SoM to omit his name?
Monika: That Tor Arne's name was missing must have been due to a technical flaw from my hand actually. I wrote the CD info and I remember very well that I wrote "Tor Arne – drums and egg slicer" but for some weird reason it wasn't saved on the disk so the file I sent to SoM was like that, without his name - I checked the disk later, you see... About the misspelling: I feared SoM would misspell Atrox or use the wrong logo again (they did on "Contentum") and that's the reason I painted the logo and album title directly on the front cover, but they managed to screw it up anyhow. It's amazing... The layout is also terrible and the front cover has a dark shade/highlight flaw right across the face on the top right. This was because the cover allegedely had been damaged on its way to France and that it was "impossible" to photograph it without getting this flaw. Well, I photographed this painting the other day without getting this ugly stripe and I'm a complete amateur...
The long pauses, noises and beeps on the album are there because the sound engineer at the studio we used sent a CD with digital noise to SoM and because SoM refused to have it mastered (too expensive for such a terrible album) and therefore it wasn't discovered before we got the CD. Of course SoM said it was OUR fault even if we had never even touched that CD. Bah!
Burkhard: After the release of "Terrestrials", you left Season of Mist and "Orgasm" was released on the Italian record label code666. Could it be that SoM didn´t care much about the production of "Terrestrials", because they already knew you would leave? Or was it the other way round, namely that you left SoM, because they screwed up the production of "Terrestrials"? Are you content with your new record label?
Monika: Yes, code666 is a great label. The boss really loves Atrox so it has been cool all the way. Where SoM hated my vocals code666 was rather afraid that it wouldn't be "crazy" enough hehehe. Co-operating with the guy who put together the "Orgasm"-cover (Mauro from Eibon Records) was like being in heaven compared to what I have experienced before since this guy actually listened to me and put it together the way I wanted it without making any problems about it. SoM actually did want to get rid of "Terrestrials" and sell it to another label, code666 wanted it but they didn't have enough money. To me "Terrestrials" is kind of a ruined album for me. I love the songs but I hate the sound, the noises/long pauses irritates me and the flaws with the cover irritates me too. I just want to look ahead instead.
Burkhard: The title "Terrestrials" sounds somewhat unusual, whereas its counterpart "extraterrestrials" seems more familiar. Is there a certain reason why you chose this title? I mean, in the song "Changeling" there´s this line "I can´t come to terms with the terrestrials". One might expect an alien/extraterrestrial to use the word "terrestrials" when talking about human beings. Do you sometimes feel like an alien among human beings, or perhaps I´ve got to put it the other way round: do you sometimes feel that human beings act like aliens? Maybe I´m overinterpreting things and you just chose the title, because it sounds unusual. However, I often get the impression that there are quite a lot of human beings who don´t act very human-like at all.
Monika: Not at all overinterpreted. I often do feel like I don't fit in with humans and usually I think there's something wrong with me. Still I want to fit in, but I don't know if I want to change so much that I would fit in. Another reason for the title "Terrestrials" is some way to say that we actually all are terrestrials, even the freaks in my lyrics and paintings. And even if you are a freak who sings in a way you're not supposed to hehehe.
Burkhard: Is there a special reason why you chose the title "Orgasm" for your current album, or was it just that the title suddenly popped up and all bandmembers agreed: "This will be the title of our new album."? I mean, people who don´t know Atrox and who haven´t heard the album might expect that the lyrics will be all about sex, which they definitely aren´t (except for a few lines in the song "flesh city"). Hm, in the lyrics of "Heartquake" – could it be called a love song, at least in a wider sense? – you mention "untimely little deaths" and in German, the expression "kleiner Tod" ("little death") is sometimes used as a synoym for "orgasm", but I don´t know if it´s the same in English.
Monika: I guess it's the same in English, at least it is on Norwegian and that's what I meant it to mean. Yes, "Heartquake" is some kind of a love song actually. Or at least it is about love. The title "Orgasm" ... I first suggested it as a joke but when I started to think about it I thought it was a cool title and that it fitted. It simply means that recording this album was as satisfying as having an orgasm.
Burkhard: My impression is that the songs on "Terrestrials" are – all in all – heavier than those on "Contentum" (and those on "Orgasm" sound again heavier than those on "Terrestrials"). I mean, there are in fact a lot of "soft"/relaxed parts, but the heavy parts on "Terrestrials" are definitely heavier than those on "Contentum" and could also stem from some thrash, death or maybe even black metal album. The often very abrupt changes between
"soft" and "heavy" (I like them!) are more extreme than on "Contentum". Was this something you had planned before? It may sound surprising, but even though the changes of tempo and rhythm and between "soft" and "heavy" are more drastic than on "Contentum", I think the songs on "Terrestrials" are easier accessible. (Whereas I think it´s not surprising to say that the songs on "Orgasm" are easier accessible than those on "Terrestrials".)
Monika: It was never planned in the way that we said "This album is gonna be heavier than the previous albums" – the changes came naturally. All songs on "Contentum" except "Lizard Dance" were made with the old Atrox line-up, that is; the same line-up as on "Mesmerised" except the growl vocals dude and we kept the songs pretty much the same as they were when we made them, except we had three guitarists when we made the songs and the guy who quit used to play in the background but not very rhythmically. It was when he quit and we got a new drummer (but no bass player hehe) we started to work more on the rhythms and then suddenly both guitarists just wanted to play rhythms all the time so everything changed.
Burkhard: Do Rune and/or Eivind own any albums by Sieges Even or Mekong Delta? The reason why I`m asking is that especially the sound of the clean guitars and the way they are played remind me more than once of Sieges Even´s "A Sense of Change" and "Sophisticated", and on "Changeling" there´s a weird passage which could also stem from the second or third Mekong Delta album. Talking about similarities, the sound and the riffing of the heavy guitars on "Look Further" remind my very much of Voivod´s album "Negatron" in general and the song "Meteor" in particular. And on "Orgasm", there are at least two or three passages which also sound very much like Voivod. Don´t get me wrong, I don´t intend to say you´re copying other bands. I really do like the way Atrox combine different influences, but is this pure coincidence?
Monika: I don’t think either Rune or Eivind has heard of Sieges Even or Mekong Delta hehehe… I made the most of "Changeling" except that Rune made the middle part (the part with "I can’t come to terms with the terrestrials…" etc) and the rhythm guitars on the first riff. I do have two Mekong Delta albums but I must confess I have almost not listened to them, I usually just listened to their "Psycho" theme and those classical songs they covered. The rhythm patterns on "Look Further" was pretty much inspired by Voivod’s "Phobos". I
don’t think any of us had heard "Negatron" those days… I think there are lots of coincidences when music sound similar, it can’t be avoided. There are only 12 notes in our system and humans tend to think alike. Of course there’s lots of stealing too, no doubt, but you can never really know…
Burkhard: In my opinion, not only the music, but also your vocals on "Terrestrials" have hanged and become more extreme and cover a wider range than on "Contentum". E.g. when you sing the line "the beldam of the bedlam" (nice pun, by the way!), you sound like one of those evil black metal gnomes (luckily only for a very short time, because I don´t like this kind of screaming very much), and there are a few parts – e.g. "the witch inside" in "Ruin" – which you sing in a dark, whispering tone which reminds me a little bit of Sabina Classen (Holy Moses), when she doesn´t scream her lungs out. I think your vocal work on "Terrestrials" is probably the most varied I´ve heard so far and I guess any other band would need at least 4-5 different vocalists to cover the same vocal range. It also seems to me that a lot of your vocal lines (at least the "softer" ones) on "Terrestrials" have a somewhat relaxed and jazz-like touch (e.g. when you sing "The bathtub tiptoed on lionpaws to the landing, tipped over and flung him down the stairs on a rusty-bloody-red runner."), whereas the "oriental" influence seems to have been reduced drastically (compared to "Contentum"). On
"Orgasm", it seems that your vocals have become more "normal". I mean, there are still some passages which are obviously too weird for certain people (I´m talking about those ignorants who claim you can´t sing – what a bunch of fools!), but all in all, the vocals sound much more moderate than on "Contentum" and "Terrestrials". What do you think?
Monika: I thought my vocals were more "normal" on "Terrestrials" and even more on "Orgasm" than on "Contentum" and it still surprises me that some people find my vocals to be all that difficult to get into or even get used to listen. I guess many people just think "It’s not supposed to be vocals like that in metal" and then they can’t accept it.
One thing about "Terrestrials" was that when we made the songs I played the synth and sang at the same time and since the synth parts were a bit more difficult than before I had to make the vocal lines a bit simpler to sing. Also the music in general became more intricate so the vocals had to be toned a bit down to not make an overkill. Still some people thought the
vocals were even less accessible than before. Especially the people at Season of Mist. The stuff I heard from them ruined a lot for me… I stopped singing for a long time and I felt bad about singing the way I used to. That’s the reason why "Orgasm" is as it is.
Miss Loona and some of her friends admiring one of Monika´s paintings
Burkhard: Having a look at your lyrics, your paintings, the music and your vocals, they often seem to convey a mixture of melancholy (e.g. the restless moonling in "Translunaria"), a deep unsatisfied longing (to understand things one can´t understand? – "I can´t come to terms with the terrestrials. I can´t come to terms with me."), sadness ("A lifetime´s worth of tears gathered up in me. I´ve been on the verge of tears all my life."), fear(s) ("Lay") and...hm, I don´t know how to put it properly. It´s about very strong feelings, sometimes contradictory(?) and rooted somewhere very deep inside. Some kind of mirror of yourself? Or at least parts of yourself?
Monika: Yes that’s true. When I do something creative I get ideas and fragments of ideas and I use the feelings I get about how to connect everything and sometimes I don’t really understand what it is about at first but then I realize that this stuff is about me even if I meant to write about someone else. I guess my work will always be that personal because when I have written stuff that I actually couldn’t relate to personally (I had some lyrics about being betrayed by a lover) I didn’t feel like I could sing it and I exchanged that lyric with another one that I was passionate about. Maybe it’s very egoistic but at least it becomes real and in the end it will probably feel better for everyone. Eh heheh or not… but at least for me hihihi…
Burkhard: I´ve only read two books by Franz Kafka – "Das Schloß" ("The Castle") and "Der Prozeß" ("The Trial") –, and that was about 20 years ago, but from what I still remember, I´d say that some of your lyrics convey some kind of kafkaesque mood, i.e. the feeling of something indistinctly menacing which you can neither name nor escape. Maybe Kafka´s soul/spirit is present when you write down some lyrics? And perhaps Hieronymus Bosch sometimes drops by to watch over your shoulder with a smile on his lips while you do another
Monika: I haven’t read any of Kafka’s novels but I have seen the movie "The Trial" and I have read some of his short-stories and some kind of psychological biography about him and I really recognized a lot of myself when reading about him and reading his short-stories. From what I read about him his childhood traumas were a bit similar to mine and for instance writing about or drawing scary stuff can be some way of making these things seem a bit
less scary. I guess it worked a bit that way for Kafka as well. The figures I paint (yes, Bosch has inspired me hehe… And James Ensor) may look menacing but when I look at them I think they aren’t as bad as they seem.
Burkhard: I like the backcover of "Terrestrials" very much, showing this lizard which is "embellishing" some kind of Atrox poster. And the backcover of "Orgasm" showing several posters which illustrate some variations of the band name (Afrox, Hatrox etc.) is very funny, too. I think it proves that you do have a good sense of humour and that in spite of all the eerie
creatures populating your paintings, there´s still room for some fun and self-irony. I think it´s hard to imagine that a band like Manowar or any black or death metal band would put something like this on their albums, because it would destroy their image of being tough and/or evil guys, wouldn´t it?
Monika: Hehehe… I guess it would… I don’t understand why it’s important to seem evil when in fact you aren’t… Well, of course it may help you sell lots of albums to stupid kids, but anyway… All these "grim" looks you can see on the faces of black metal dudes; Michael Jackson has done that before – take a look at his "Bad" video and it’s all there hehehe… There is always room for funny things in all creative stuff I do. I don’t paint covers that are meant to scare people, I laugh at all the "evil" creatures I paint, I think they are funny and a bit cute when they try to look scary. I write lyrics and make music usually with a smile on my face. Even if I’m completely down and everything looks hopeless there is always room for a bit of black humour or self-irony and it’s a natural part of creative work. All those "evil" guys
are normal beer-drinkers making bad jokes and all that normal stuff, it’s just that they don’t mix it so much into their work I guess…
Burkhard: Compared to the cover of "Contentum", the covers of "Terrestrials" and "Orgasm" seem to be infested with monster-like creatures and thus convey a darker mood (as well as the music and the lyrics), though your monsters don´t look plain disgusting and "evil" as those on all these clichéd death and black metal covers. Some of your monsters even seem to be scared, and there are also some rather "ordinary"-looking creatures on your paintings, e.g. (on the cover of "Terrestrials") a jester-like figure dancing on your head, three females and in the middle at the top a three-legged and four-armed guy with two bodies, but only one head, who seems to be unaffected by the scenery around him (just like the figure in the centre of the "Contentum" cover) or (on the cover of "Orgasm") the rocking unicorn and the ballet dancer. Are there any connections between the album cover and your lyrics? Or are the covers of "Terrestrials" and "Orgasm" more some kind of general insight in your state of mind while you were painting these pictures? On "Terrestrials" and "Orgasm", all of your lyrics are
accompanied by paintings. What came first: The paintings or the lyrics? And in how far do they refer to each other? Is it to a certain extent comparable to Edvard Munch, who first wrote poems (in prose) and then painted pictures based on these poems?
Monika: Hmmm, I don't really know... I don't really know his intentions of writing poems and then painting. I generally don't like to compare myself to any artists since "art" is a very problematic term for me. I don't want to claim to be as good as the great artists and I don't want to see myself as a part of those losers who claim whatever crap they have made is art. Anyway... Since I base both my lyrics and paintings on ideas I have collected over often long time, they both "came first" in a sense, but for these albums I have painted everything long time after I wrote the lyrics. When I paint pictures for every lyric I want the pictures to illustrate the contents of the lyrics and to add some extra perspectives and ideas. For instance: "This Vigil" from "Orgasm" - "vigil" is a metaphor for being alert and perceptive to what's really going on in your mind even if you really want to go to sleep - which means, in this lyric, not daring to face yourself. It's about being confused and somewhat desperate and seeing that someone else is going through the same thing and then share it with each other to help and to get help. It also deals with how difficult it can be to actually dare to help someone else. This aspect however isn't shown in the painting as I don't want to illustrate everything. The lyrics should have some extra content compared to the paintings as well. So, the painting shows an eye operation - it means to change the way you see the world, a somewhat twisted couple tied to each other. They look pretty alike -which means that they have something
in common - and they are tied together so they have to relate to each other. Then it's a guy who tries to sleep but a little guy who comes up from his head keeps his eyes open - it means that his mind really needs some attention so it keeps him awake. And then it's a woman who is obviously blind but pretending that she reads a book, which she holds upside down -
she tries to hide from the world that she has a problem. Maybe she tries to seem like she has more insight than she really has. After I had made the original sketch to this woman I saw that photo of George W. Bush who seems to pretend he is very interested in a book but holding it upside down. "Bush book" was the name of the photo file so I put that on the book on my
painting as well to make a relation to that photo. You can probably guess what I think of Bush hehehe...
Miss Loona visiting the website of "Freak clothing"
Burkhard: About a year ago you´ve started your own website. My favourite sections are – so far – "Freaks" and "Freak clothing" and I really do like "Rødingens hjemmeside", the homepage you´ve created for your freak Rødingen, his family and friends, very much. When/How did you get the idea to bring some of your freaks to life?
Monika: In my paintings I have made many characters who wear hats and hoods with strange shapes (since these characters have strange head shapes) and I wanted to paint a freak with a knitted hood, so since I didn't really feel able to draw and paint it from my head I figured I needed a model to look at, so I first made Dzib as a model for the freak itself and then I made
Uxmal as the real model. It became so fun to have live freaks that I just had to continue - it's very hard to stop cause I get ideas for new freaks before I have finished one and now that I have these homepages I really want to put out new photos all the time so I'll keep on forever I think hehe... By now I have 40 freaks myself and I have made 11 others I think.
Burkhard: What reactions did you get so far from grown-ups and from children?
Monika: Most people who meet the freaks like them very much. Most people are a bit shy to talk to them however, at least the grownups hehehe... I haven't seen many children's reactions myself but I have heard from other people who have freaks or have shown pictures of freaks to children that they love them. But some christian people think Rødingen looks like a demon with horns hehehe...
When I made my first drawing of Rødingen I thought of him as someone who try to look a bit scary but who just looks funny anyway cause he's so cute. I guess you have seen him in the "Orgasm" booklet at the painting for "Secondhand Traumas". He walks with his hands pointing forwards, that's the typical way to draw a ghost I think - it's coming to get you! Hehehe...
Since he is pictured next to that lyric you can guess that he is just traumatized and that to look scary is a way to protect himself. I made the painting before Rødingen came to life and with all the love and care I give him he has no traumas anymore! Hurra!
Burkhard: How much time did it take you to create Rødingen and the other freaks? And how much time did it take to knit the clothes for your freaks?
Monika: It takes 8-9 hours to make a freak, except Dixie, the giant big one who took about 3-4 times longer to make. I have made them only by hand so far but now I have a sewing machine so I will try to sew with that one. I don't know how well it will work to make fingers and toes yet though... I don't really know how long time it took to knit the clothes but I have always done it while I was sitting in a car or while I was having some drinks with friends so I
haven't felt it was that much work anyway. After too many drinks I have done some real strange knitting though hehehe...
Burkhard: Did you already get any offers from people who would like to produce Rødingen and the other freaks for toy stores in Norway or other parts of the world? I could imagine that especially Rødingen and Grønningen could become a big commercial success.
Monika: No, I haven't. I haven't shown them to people who works with such things anyway. People often say I should produce them for the commercial markets, but it would be too much work if I should make so many...
Burkhard: If you haven´t already got such offers, how would you react to them? Could you imagine to sell the copyrights to other people and then having no more control over what they will do with your own "children"?
Monika: I would never do that. When I have made freaks for other people I have always tried to make sure that they come to homes where they will be loved and taken care of and stuff. It hurts a bit to let a freak go and I want to keep them all, so I can only imagine how bad it would feel if they were mass produced and probably not as cool as they should be. I guess someone else would have made plastic eyes to make them more safe for children and stuff... The freaks I make aren't really that fit for children; the eyes can fall of if they are treated roughly and since they are hand-sewn they can't really be handled by children who pull and stretch and throw them everywhere...
I have thought about making books, calendars, music videos and small movies with the freaks though. It will take some time still before I can start. I need more skill in photo and video technique and I don't have a video camera yet but in time it will happen, all of it.
Miss Loona introduces: Rødingen – freak, singer, harpist.
Burkhard: On another website you run for your friend Pete, who seems to have a similar kind of humour as you, you use the pseudonym Claydermädchen. How did you come up with that very German sounding name? I remember a piano-player namend Richard Claydermann (or was it Clayderman?), so you might have thought, if there´s a Claydermann, why not a Claydermädchen (perhaps she could be his daughter), but have you ever heard of this guy?
Monika: Of course! Richard Clayderman played that tune "Ballade pour Adeline" which we have made our own version of and called "Feëlings". Since I played the piano on that song it was natural to call myself Claydermädchen, especially since I'm just as good a piano player as him, hehehehe!
Burkhard: I have to admit that at first I was shocked when you told me you had left Atrox, because it was very unexpected and hardly any other metal album (except for Fear Of God´s "Within The Veil") has impressed me as much as "Terrestrials" (I have listened to it more than 350 times within less than two years). Does the fact that you finally left Atrox – something which Season of Mist would have liked to see when Atrox were still signed
to them – mean that the combination of metal and an extraordinary voice like yours doesn´t work? What exactly were the reasons for you to leave Atrox? I mean, compared to "Contentum" and "Terrestrials", the vocals on "Orgasm" are more moderate. Did the other band members urge you to go into this direction and did you already feel uncomfortable with this development? Or was it more like you got bored with metal in general? Could you still imagine doing another metal album with other (studio?) musicians or is this chapter closed for you once and for all?
Monika: I think the combination of metal and extraordinary singing works very well, but I think the instrumentation in that setting should be pretty extraordinary too. I really liked the direction we went in on "Terrestrials" and if we had continued to develop that way, I would have stayed in the band. I actually thought we had a bit too much Meshuggah-type riffs on that album and when the rest of the band embraced that part of our evolution instead of concentrating more on harmonies/disharmonies and melodies I lost interest in the band. We always disagreed on how to arrange the songs and I realized that when 4 guys want one thing and only one (me) wants the opposite it doesn't work anymore. I could imagine to be in a metal band again but it had to be something very special - I'm so tired of all the clichés and I hardly like any metal bands anymore either. I guess I'll just continue making music the way I want and if something becomes sort of heavy that's the closest I'll be to singing in a metal band again. A metal band asked me a year ago or so to join but I said no - they had a death metal kind of vocalist as well and I will never be a part of that stupid "beauty & beast" thing again.
Oh, my sister Ann-Mari asked me not long ago if I wanted to take part in an album where we both sing our good old metal favourites and hire in musicians and that could actually be fun! I'd want to sing "What Love Can Be" by Kingdom Come if this should ever happen hehehe...
Burkhard: Your friend Pete, who played bass and moog on "Orgasm" and also was responsible for the male vocals, had already left Atrox shortly after the release of "Orgasm" (or was it even before?). Did this influence your decision to leave Atrox in any way? Or to put it the other way round: Would you still be with Atrox, if Pete hadn´t left?
Monika: Pete had very similar reasons to mine for leaving the band so if he had stayed we'd be two people against three so it would still be unfair if the two of us should decide the musical style for the band so I don't think it would have worked if he stayed either. We discussed these matters in the band some time before he quit and the others said they wanted us both to stay and that they would co-operate with arranging the songs in the ways we
wanted, but in reality it just didn't work. We always ended up with me trying to change the songs and the others being happy with them as they were, so it was the best for all of us that it ended this way. Atrox has a new singer now and he is pretty good and it seems like more metalheads like his vocals than mine. I don't think metal people is the right audience for
my sort of vocals, simple as that.
Burkhard: From the interviews I read with you and other members of Atrox in the past, I had got the impression that the other guys always supported what you were doing, especially when your former record label Season of Mist accused you of ruining the music with your style of singing. Was this impression wrong? Or did the other members of Atrox finally change their mind?
Monika: No, they always supported me. But they usually thought everything I did was cool so they were also happy with me singing in a more "normal" way and I think they'd prefer if I continued to sing in the way I sang on "Orgasm". I also think they are happy with their new singer who has a more "normal" vocal style.
Burkhard: Now that you are no longer with Atrox, what can we expect from you? Somewhere you mentioned you had already written your own songs which just didn´t fit neither with Atrox nor with Tactile Gemma, so will you start a solo-career? If yes, can you already tell something about what the music will be like? Some kind of mixture of all the different kinds of music you enjoy to listen to? Is there anything you can tell us about the new project
called Swarmling, which is also mentioned on your website?
Monika: I have quit Tactile Gemma as well now. As the readers can probably guess this interview has been answered in different times, hehehe. I quit Tactile because it was hard to co-work with someone who lives so far away and that I hardly meet or speak with ever. I also thought the music became too similar all the way and that it was too much based on samples and programming. I prefer to work in a band where I make music too and where we co-work with the arrangements and stuff, so now my only band is Swarmling (that's Pete, Rødingen and I) and I have recorded a bit music and made music that won't really fit with Swarmling so I also work a bit as a solo recording artist too. The stuff I have recorded so far alone and with Swarmling has got different sound qualities as we have purchased new equipment along the way so we might have to re-record, but so far the music is a bit folkish (inspired by English folk rock style) and some is pretty much in the style of the synth stuff I did in Atrox, Rødingen sings a bit and plays a bit harp and we've made some four voice arrangements. I guess we'll work a lot with vocal harmonies and multiple voices. So far we haven't used drums, only congas on one song, but Pete is planning to take up the drums as well now.
We haven't used electric guitars so far either, maybe we won't. I guess my most extreme vocals will be reserved for my solo work, which so far is mostly based on vocals and just a little bit instrumentation.
Burkhard: Could you imagine to perform live with your upcoming project(s) or as a solo artist (alone or together with some other musicians)?
Monika: Hmmm, maybe... But I am kind of afraid of the stage too so I don't know. I also don't know if I'd dare to just hire a bunch of musicians to perform live either. With Swarmling we aren't enought people to handle all the instruments at the same time either and I don't know if we'd want any others to play our songs either so... maybe not.
Burkhard: Have you discovered any new interesting artists/bands lately who you would like to recommend?
Monika: I heard a band yesterday which seemed a bit cool, Animal Alpha - the singer reminded me pretty much about Nina Hagen. Then it's Paatos - sort of prog music with female vocals, Anti-Depressive Delivery of course, White Willow seems nice, haven't heard much of it yet though -it's prog with female vocals, Daisy Chainsaw is the former band of the two people in Queen Adreena and it's pretty cool. Porcupine Tree is great, so is Nektar and Kaleidoscope, old bands of course but they are new to me at least hehehe. I'd also like to recommend Tim Buckley (Jeff Buckley's father), Shelley Hirsch, Honey Is Cool and The Knife. I'm also trying to find stuff by Tagaq, the throatsinger who sings on Björk's latest album.
Just like Rødingen and his siblings, Miss Loona also likes to make music.
Burkhard: Any last words to the readers of this interview?
Monika: Do you exist? Hehehe... just kidding. Check out http://swarmling.net (Website doesn't exist anymore - Burkhard) and have fun. Treat the earth nicely and be open to all sorts of cool music. Not that I decide what you should do though...
Burkhard: Well, I that´s it then. I thank you very much for taking the time and patience to answer my questions and I wish you the best for your future!
- Burkhard - 11/04