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 Post subject: Octavia Sperati (Silje Wergeland) - Interview by: Dom Lawson
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 9:51 pm 
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Interview by: Dom Lawson


Two years after the release of their widely lauded debut album, ‘Winter Enclosure’, Norway’s premier (nearly) all-female purveyors of gothic doom metal are back with a fantastic second full-length effort. Titled ‘Grace Submerged’, the album was produced by Enslaved’s Herbrand Larsen at Earshot Studios in the band’s home city of Bergen. Showcasing their rapid evolution, the album sees the band heading into a heavier, more overtly metallic direction, skilfully pulling off a gloriously sombre and elegant version of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ and staking a formidable claim to being Europe’s most fascinating and musically adventurous female-fronted metal band. We spoke with singer Silje Wergeland about Octavia’s story so far and the sparkling new songs that make up ‘Grace Submerged’…

How would you describe your experiences since the release of the first Octavia album?
Silje: “I think the first year was really cool. The album came out and we got a lot of good reviews and did some great tours with Cradle Of Filth and Paradise Lost and we did our first tour outside of Norway, which was really exciting. Norway’s not the biggest country in the world so it was great to play in some new places. Also, we’d got a new drummer but he left after a year, so 2006 started and we were getting really into writing a new album and then we lost our drummer, so that wasn’t very helpful.”

How did you deal with the situation?
Silje: “Well, we needed someone really good, because the drummer always has to be better than the rest of the band, if you know what I mean. We wanted someone based in Bergen because it’s very difficult to rehearse otherwise. We wanted to find someone that we liked, and Bergen isn’t the biggest city in the world. We found someone really good, though. His name’s Ivar. He’s been in small project bands before but nothing big. Trine, our bass player, plays in another band with him, so we knew him from that.”

What does he bring to the band that wasn’t there before?
Silje: “He approaches things from a different angle. He has a different perspective. He comes from the thrash metal scene. It’s all good! (laughs)”

Did he try and persuade you to play more fast songs?
Silje: “He tried to make us play Slayer! (laughs). We’d like to, but what comes out of my mouth doesn’t sound a lot like Tom Araya. It’s more like Tori Amos, I think. I really wish I could do that, but unfortunately I can’t. I know my limits.”

How did a new drummer affect the writing of the new album?
Silje: “We did have some new songs already. We also re-arranged some old songs from the first EP, ‘Guilty Am I’ and ‘Deprivation’. We had a lot of new ones as well, three or four, and then we wrote the rest when Ivar joined the band.”

Did you have any definite aims for the new material?
Silje: “We all wanted it to be a lot heavier. Of course, all of us wanted the first album to be a bit more heavy but it didn’t end up like that. This time we worked really hard to make sure we knew how to get the right heavy sound. We’re six people so there’s none of that ‘We can’t do that’ attitude. We just experiment and see what comes out. It’s a very creative environment. We work together really well. Someone comes up with a riff or a very rough idea for a song, and everybody works on it together and writes their own parts. It’s better when all six of us can contribute to each song. We’re all happier that way. One of the songs, ‘Moonlit’, was written by our guitarist. She made a demo of the song, we all liked the idea and so we went with it, but mainly the album was worked out between all six of us.”

The first album received some great reviews. Did you feel under pressure to make a better record this time round?
Silje: “Yes and no. We knew that it was going to be better than the first album, because it couldn’t be worse! (laughs) We’ve all grown as musicians and as a band, so we knew it was going to be better, but we didn’t worry about what other people would like. It was just about what we would like. We weren’t so worried about fulfilling expectations.”

What are the most important things you’ve learned since the first album came out?
Silje: “We’re just more experienced now, I guess. We’ve learnt how to deal with things differently. You know, you learn what you like and what you don’t like. Like anyone, we learned as we go along. Particularly when we’ve visited different countries, we’ve learned to adapt to every situation. In Norway, you get used to being treated really well and being given food and there are large backstage areas. Then you go to England and it’s the exact opposite in some places! We weren’t expecting anything so we were fine, but we met other bands while we were touring and they would get really angry when they didn’t get what they wanted. But that’s just the way it is and you have to deal with it.”

What inspired the new album’s title, “Grace Submerged”?
Silje: “If you look at the album cover, it shows the Earth kind of going down. It’s not about the Earth specifically. We’re not a political band, but if you think about the world today it’s very difficult not to be interested by what’s going on. There’s terrorism and everybody’s destroying things and making everybody miserable, including themselves. They’re destroying something that could be really wonderful and beautiful. Life could be like that, but it isn’t, so that’s what the title represents.”

How do you feel about the new album now it’s finished and ready for release?
Silje: “When you finish recording an album, you have very mixed feelings. I needed to get the whole thing out of my system. I don’t know anyone who thinks ‘This is fucking amazing!’ when they come out of the studio. There are always things that can be done better, but you have to draw a line otherwise you’ll be in the studio forever. But yes, we’re all very pleased with it. We hope a lot of people will like it as much as we do!”

“Grace Submerged” Track-By-Track

‘Guilty Am I’
Silje: ”That’s from the first EP. There’s a difficult story behind that. We all got to know each other through the death of a good friend of ours. Everyone who knew him got together and we turned out to be really good friends. We decided that we all shared a dream of wanting to be in a band. That happened in 1999. I had a really hard time after our friend died, and the lyrics are based around my feelings about it all. I was stuck with a feeling of guilt. I’m used to singing it now. I decided not to talk about it, until now basically. It’s really sad but I’m dealing with it okay now. We just didn’t want to use it as a press thing, and also out of respect for the guy’s family. It’s a very personal song. Of course I think about it still, but it’s a song now and that helps me to deal with it.”

Silje: “Some of the songs are very obtuse. I don’t want them to be about anything specific. I want them to be open to interpretation, but this is probably the most political song on the album. The terrorists are having such a miserable time, causing problems for everyone including themselves. This song fits with the theme of the album, the idea of the world becoming submerged by all these terrible things when it should really be a beautiful place.”

‘Going North’
Silje: “There’s a lot of people who want to go north, because they’re having a miserable time in their own countries. At the same time, I’m moving around the world quite a lot myself, so the song is about the feeling people have when they’re constantly searching for somewhere better. Everyone has things they want to get away from, but we’re constantly thrown back and we can’t escape.”

‘Don’t Believe A Word’
Silje: “We wanted a song that was a little quieter for the album, to add some contrast. We got the idea of doing this Thin Lizzy song and were wondering if it we could do a quiet version of it. In the end, my boyfriend said he thought it was a good idea, so we went for it. The lyrics aren’t the nicest lyrics in the world. It’s not a nice thing to sing to somebody! At the same time, it’s a really sad song. Even on the original version, which is very upbeat and catchy, it’s still a sad song. Somehow we made it even sadder. We knew that if we messed around with it and spoiled it then people would hate us, so it was a scary thing to do. But I think we did a good job.”

‘…And Then The World Froze’
Silje: “This is another personal song. It’s about someone I met who wanted to talk to me but never did. He looked at me like I was someone he couldn’t reach. It’s a very strange, personal song. Sometimes I really regret writing lyrics like this because I have to stand up and explain them afterwards! (laughs).”

‘The Final Rest’
Silje: “This was inspired by when I was working on a reality TV programme and I was working with some drug addicts. It was really, really sad how they were trying to escape from their own lives. I know some of those people tried for years and years to get away from drugs. In essence, this song is about people like that.”

Silje: “This is also from the first EP. It’s about a time when I was unable to sleep, so it’s about sleep deprivation. I was having lots of nightmares and thought I was losing my mind a little bit! It’s the perfect subject for another happy song, isn’t it?”

‘Provenance Of Hate’
Silje: “This is about my ex-boyfriend. I wrote it when we’d just broken up, so I had to get out a lot of anger very quickly. You know how when you have a break up, there are a lot of feelings, a lot of anger and sadness. I guess this song is about one of the angry moments.”

‘Dead End Poem’
Silje: ”These lyrics were written by Ivar from Enslaved. In fact, he is the reason why I started to sing. He’s the first person who made me sing. He wrote a song and asked me to sing it. I really liked it, but his computer blew up so the music was never recorded. That was back in ’99, I think. Anyway, I decided I wanted to use the lyrics and the vocal melodies for our new album, so I asked Ivar if that was okay and he was really happy about it. We’ve re-arranged it a little bit. Enslaved used it on their ‘Below The Lights’ album, and it was called ‘As Fire Swept Clean The Earth’. We had to change the title, of course.”

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