Myriads is an exciting band from Norway who mix elements of various metal genres, coming up with a highly original sound. In addition, their lyrics go way beyond what is expected, dealing with many philosophical issues, issuing profound ideas on life, death and the hereafter. We conducted an e-mail interview with founding member Alexander Twiss. Although the article was edited for publication in the April/May issue of Highwire Daze, what you are reading now is the complete version with only a few revisions (such as correcting typos etc). After you read this interview, make sure you check out their web page and listen to the many samples of their music. And now, the complete Myriads interview…
Highwire Daze: Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Myriads and how long the band has been together.
Alexander Twiss: My name is Alexander Twiss and I play guitar and do the clean-vocals and death-vocals in Myriads. Myriads also comprises Mona Undheim Skottene on lead piano/keyboard and vocals, JP on guitars, Rudi Junger on drums and percussion, and Mikael Stokdal on lead keyboard/piano and black-vocals. We are currently testing out a new bassist who will play with us at concerts/festivals in the future. Myriads was formed in September 1997, and both Mona and I played in the band from the start. Myriads has never been a side project. I founded the band myself with the ambitions to secure a record deal, record a CD on a record-label, and play/tour live. As you see my dreams have come true. The only thing missing is the touring part. We will have a Norwegian tour in week 17 with Atrox (signed to Season Of Mist). We recorded our demo-CD, IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME, in July 1998 in Mansion Studio and it was produced by Øyvind Grødem. The demo-CD was sold out. In April 1999 Myriads signed a record deal with Napalm Records. In June the same year we recorded our first full-length album, also entitled IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME. It was natural to choose Øyvind Grødem as a producer since he knew the songs from the demo-CD. The album was produced by Myriads and Øyvind Grødem and mastered at Masterhuset in September. It was released all over the world the 22nd of November 1999.
HD: Where is the band from and what is the music scene like there?
Alexander: All in Myriads are from Stavanger. The metal scene in Stavanger is very little. The scene of gothic metal and black metal-bands has grown a little during the years, but still it is very small. Even if the scene is small in Stavanger, many of the bands playing there are very active and professional. Napalm Records has already signed four bands from the Stavanger-area: Tristania, The Sins of Thy Beloved, Dismal Euphony and Myriads. Many big bands hail from Stavanger, like Theatre Of Tragedy and Gehenna. I have a different impression of the metal scene in Trondheim. Both Mona and myself study at the university here, and I have lived in Trondheim for one and a half years now. I have the impression that Trondheim has a better and more impressive scene compared to Stavanger. More people go to concerts here than in Stavanger. I also feel that the interest for metal-music in general is bigger in Trondheim. In Stavanger, the people who like different types of metal do not always support each other and the various bands. There is one group of black metal-supporters/musicians and one group of gothic metal-supporters/musicians. If they all had supported each other, the metal scene would have been much bigger and better in Stavanger. In Trondheim I have the impression that bands are very supportive to each other. Here you actually can go to a prog-rock-concert witnessing black metal-people with full corpsepaint! You can also go to a black metal-concert witnessing prog-rock-people. In my opinion, this is how it should be between bands.
HD: Describe the music of Myriads to someone who has never heard it before.
Alexander: We all in Myriads feel that our music defies categorizing. The closest you could get to explain our music style is maybe a fusion between metal and classical music, where catchy melody-lines is the most important factor. Napalm Records calls our music atmospherical gothic metal. This is fine for me and the rest of Myriads. As I have understood atmospherical gothic metal is the most popular kind of music in Europe right now, but I think it's up to the listener to decide where he will place our music.
HD: For how long were you in Twin Obscenity and why did you decide to leave that band?
Alexander: Mona and I have played in Myriads since the beginning of September 1997. In October 1997 I heard that Twin Obscenity needed a guitarist. I auditioned for them, and they mentioned that they also needed a female vocalist who could play keyboard. I told them about Mona, and Myriads, and Mona came to practice with Twin Obscenity. In December 1997 we signed, together with the rest of Twin Obscenity, a record deal with Century Media. In the spring of 1998 we participated on the recording of FOR BLOOD, HONOUR AND SOIL. In June 1998 Twin Obscenity played at the music-festival "Under The Black Sun" in Engelsdorf in Germany. After this festival, Mona and I had no more interest of playing in Twin Obscenity. The reasons for this was that we did not have much in common with the rest of Twin Obscenity, neither musically or socially. We quit playing in the band in July 1998 to fully concentrate on Myriads. In Myriads we all view good social communication as the most important factor. We fit very well together socially and have a lot of fun together, also in situations which have nothing to do with Myriads. We all respect each other and have our hearts in this band. We also feel that we have achieved a good technical/musical level.
HD: Where did you come up with the name Myriads for the band?
Alexander: It was Mona who came up with the name Myriads for our band. Myriads means something countless, unlimited. It is just like you take a look at the stars. It is not millions of stars, or billions of stars, but myriads. The reason why Mona suggested Myriads as a band name was because it is a reflection of its members. All the members of Myriads are different and like different types of music. This makes our music very diverse since all the members contribute with lots of elements to the music. We hope that when people listen to it, they feel they experience "myriads" of elements in our songs. I would strongly recommend that when you listen to IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME, you read the lyrics thoroughly and hear the album several times. Our music is definitely not background music, and hopefully it will grow better and better, the more times you listen to it. With our band name we also refer to myriads of elements in the lyrics and the CD-cover.
HD: What are some of the songs on your new CD about?
Alexander: Lyrically, "Fragments of The Hereafter" dwells with the question: What will happen after you die? I have the role as a person questioning about death, not wanting to accept the fact that people die, and leave you back alone. In the end I finally accept death and manage to live with it. Mona's character is actually dying, and finally finds out what happens when you die in the end of the song. We never answer that question, but leave it open. In "Spheres Without Time," Mona, Mikael and I have different characters. My character asks the question: Can we be released from time? Man is bound to a definite pattern of time. In our life here on earth we are all insoluble, bound to time. The pulse of our lives is unchangeable, but also our only possibility to change and evolve. Without time and without pulse, our dreams are hopeless and we will perish. I represent the despairing man who is torn apart in his elusive dreams. He first thinks that he is heading forwards in an innovative direction, but finds out that his footsteps have been trodden by others before him. Mona has the character of being in another dimension which is forever unchangeable. This dimension contains all the dreams of man. It glides like a sphere over the world pouring out the cosmic fantasies which are eternalized. All humans have common abilities like love, joy, anger, hate and pain. This is because we are all elements of the same world. Mikael's character discusses what will happen to us when we die and dissolve -- we will not perish. We will glide back to what we once were, and the atoms of our bodies will be mixed with soil and become new life. "Dreams of Reality" deals with our reality or daydreams, and our dreams, and how important they both are to shape our consciousness and personal identity. We believe that we can not dream without having had experiences affecting our dreams, and that the dreams again affect our daily life. In our lyrics we use existencial philosophy regarding man's life within time and space. We philosophize regarding what man would be without these frames. Feelings/moods are also very important for our lyrics. We make comparisons with nature to describe and fortify our feelings. Mona and I have discussed every sentence in our lyrics together. This is very important since we view our lyrics as 50% of our songs. We want the lyrics to fortify and melt together with our music, and are quite satisfied with the result.
HD: How influenced are you by classical music?
Alexander: Both Mona and I have inspirations from classical music since we have played classical piano for several years. Mona's main background as a musician comes from classical music. She has sung in various choirs since she was very young. I have actually started to sing in a choir myself. It really is great for your voice, and you get more control over it! Regarding my musical background, it partly comes from classical music and partly comes from metal. JP, Rudi, Mikael and myself have inspirations from the metal-scene since we all have listened to it a lot and played in metal-bands for many years. Mona and myself are not directly influenced by one exact classical artist/composer, but since we both have performed various classical music for many years it obviously has some influence on the music we make in Myriads.
HD: With three vocalists in the band, how do you decide who sings what part?
Alexander: We try to see one subject from different angles. We want to put light on the subject in various ways, and wish to create a discussion around it. One type of vocals fits better to enlighten one part of a song, and another type of vocals fits better to enlighten another part. Sometimes we can take two vocals at once, or even three vocals at once. All this creates variation and opens up for different answers to each question. Our vocals are so different from each other that we find out together where each person shall sing. Often it is quite simple, if it is a very serene, acoustic part it wouldn't fit to put in death-vocals or black-vocals. Other times we have to play through the song a couple of times while we experiment with the vocals before we can find out where the different vocals shall be placed in the song. Like I said earlier, the most important part in our music is to have catchy melody-lines. With several melody-lines together, from the guitars, vocals, bass and keyboards, we create melody-lines which hopefully moves the listener. Like you mentioned, we have a manifold sound-picture on the vocal side. I use clean-vocals and death-vocals. I also have all the spoken parts. Mona sings with clean-vocals and uses the sound of her chest. In addition to this she uses her dark, aggressive vocals. This sounds almost like a high black metal-scream, and it really gives us a definite sound. We have received many good responses for these special type of vocals. It underlines the aggression and huge despair in the music. An example of this is "Fragments of the Hereafter". In the despairing moment Mona knows she is dying in an air of mystery, her vocals change into polyphonic harmony, which brings the moods of another dimension. Mikael enlarges the sound-picture even more with his black-vocals. My clean-vocals mixes with Mona's in many of the verses generating a feeling of floating. The death-vocals together with Mikael's black-vocals are a contrast to Mona's soprano. We use this kind of contrasts on the vocal-side quite a lot to fortify our music and the lyrics. By having a wide vocal-picture we feel the music becomes more exciting to listen to. The first thing you usually notice when you listen to music is the vocals. If they are bad, or boring this often affects your opinion about the rest of the music. We always have this in mind when we make music and try to make the vocals as diverse as possible.
HD: With the songs being so lengthy, are they difficult to play in a live setting?
Alexander: We are used to the length of our songs, so this is not a problem live. Of course it might be harder to play through one song at 10 minutes, than three songs at three minutes each, but our songs are long and we have no problems with that. I have written the base for all the songs on IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME, but they all become 100 times better when everyone contribute with their ideas! You wouldn't recognize the songs if you had heard them once they were written, and compared them to how they are now. Five heads thinks better than one, without doubt! In Myriads, we all listen to each other -- if someone dislikes a riff, we have to change it so everyone can be satisfied. The lyrics are only written by me and Mona since we really work well together in the writing process and share a lot of the same thoughts. We use a lot of time on the lyrics, and it often can take a week to write the lyrics of one song.
HD: What is a Myriads show like to those of us who have yet to see you ?
Alexander: When we write new songs and go into the studio we are very aware that the same songs should also be able to be played live. There might not be all the female vocals if Mona has double-tracked, but this is something the public must be aware of. We are only six musicians live, but I would say that we achieve to include at least 95% of our music live. We might use click-track and samples live at a later stage, but at this point there is no need for it. All the special effects lies in Mona's and Mikael's keyboards anyway. When we play live we try to be as tight and dynamic as possible. We practice a lot before we play concerts. Before our last concert at Knaus in Studentersamfundet in Trondheim we practiced 12 hours in a row, just to start again early the next morning. I am very proud of playing in a band managing to achieve such a thing, and I have never witnessed anything like it in the bands I previously have played in. Live our tracks have a different sound and more "raw" sound, in the meaning that you get a different impression of a band playing in front of you than when you listen to a CD. You can never accomplish the same sound live that you can get in a studio. Still, we try to get as good sound as possible live, but this has a lot to do with who does the sound-engineering live. Regarding a Myriads show it depends at where we play. If the place has a great light-system and have possibilities to use various effects, we will have a better show than if the place has poor equipment. We try to make the best out of the situation.
HD: What do you think sets Myriads apart from other metal bands?
Alexander: First of all I want to say that there are many great metal bands around now, both from Norway and the rest of the world. I think what sets Myriads apart from other metal-bands is Mona's aggressive vocals. Those differ completely from other female vocals I have heard, and as far as I know, there are not many women doing this. We have received a lot of positive responses regarding her vocals, and in my opinion they are a great contrast to her serene soprano-voice. I know many other bands also include classical elements in their music, but if you compare our music to the music of Tristania, The Sins of Thy Beloved and Theatre Of Tragedy, our music contains more classical elements than their music. Mona and Mikael sometimes play piano for four hands, like in the intro of "Spheres Without Time". This creates a great classical feeling. Other songs end with two keyboards played at once, like the last part of "Spheres Without Time" and the outro of "Dreams of Reality". Mikael mainly plays the keyboard-parts and Mona mainly plays the piano-parts, but sometimes they play the opposite as well. Melodies are the most essential part in our music, and by using two keyboards we get a broader sound-picture than if we had used only one.
HD: What is your opinion on organized religion and the hereafter?
Alexander: Regarding religion I personally view myself as an atheist, and I don't believe in any gods or supernatural forces. We have decided in Myriads to not discuss anything regarding religion in our lyrics, because the members of Myriads do not share the same religion. I think it is wrong to mix religion with our music. This is not an attitude towards black metal-bands, or anything like that. You must remember that there also exist christian death metal-bands like Mortification. Their music is just as extreme as other death/black metal-bands, but contains a christian message. I find different religions interesting, and many of them have good thoughts and ideas of how to live a good life. Regarding my opinion on the hereafter, we don't know what happens after we die. It is a very interesting question and it is exactly what we ask in "Fragments of the Hereafter". There we lie the question open. Mona experiences death and knows what happens afterwards, but the answer is never told. We give an alternative answer to this in "Spheres Without Time" where Mikael's character says that we die and dissolve, and the atoms of our bodies will be mixed with soil and become new life. This is only a philosophical thought, but I think it is a nice way of seeing it.
HD: If there was something you'd like to leave a listener with after hearing your music, what would it be?
Alexander: If " IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME has a message, it would be to make people see new possibilities in life. People should try to think in different patterns and get new ideas, not always doing the things you do because of routine or not thinking. I really hope that many people will read our lyrics thoroughly because for us they mean just as much as the music itself. Mona and I have discussed every sentence in the lyrics, and our goal is that they and the music shall melt together and fortify each other. We don't make our music or lyrics for other people, we only make it for ourselves. This has always been an unwritten rule in Myriads, and always will be. Because of this, it is very flattering that people enjoy our music. IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME has received good responses from many critics. We received 5 points out of 7 in Mindview Magazine (the biggest metal-magazine in the BeNeLux-area), 4 points out of 6 in Scream Magazine (Norway's biggest metal-magazine) and 7 points out of 10 in Canada's Unrestrained Magazine. We have received lots of e-mail from people who appreciate our music. This means more to us than the sales of IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME itself. In my eyes, the highest goal you can achieve as a musician is when someone appreciates your music. We are very happy for the work Napalm Records have done for us so far. They released IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME only 3 months after it was finished in the mixing-process, and they have done, and still does great promotional and distribution work for us. In Myriads, we have full freedom to do what we want, and in my opinion if band writes more commercial music because their record companies tells them so, they could just quit playing music. If their music becomes more commercial because it is a natural development for the band, the situation is different, and I think this is the best thing for a band to do.
HD: Any messages for metal fans here in the States?
Alexander: Regarding future plans we are going to have the Norwegian tour in week 17 together with Atrox. Napalm Records has also offered us to play at a gothic metal-festival in Leibzig, Germany, in June this year. We have already started working with several new songs. It is a usual process in Myriads to let our songs mature for a long time. Then they can be fully developed and we can achieve the musical quality we want. We will definitely keep our death/black-vocals and keep the metal/classical sound, but cannot promise much more. Like I said earlier we only make music for ourselves. IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME demanded a lot musically from all the members of Myriads. We have learned from this and become better musicians. Our new songs will be more technically orientated. We have no limitations for our music and can always become better musicians. Our goal is to never restrict our development in this area, so we constantly will evolve as a band.
IN SPHERES WITHOUT TIME is available from the folks at Napalm Records and at all cool indie stores!
NAPALM RECORDS:The record label for Myriads!