Tell us how Avatarium came to be?
Marcus-Leif contacted me one day and asked me if I could help him to record some demos. We met a few weeks later and he played Moonhorse for me. I was totally blown away by the song and we started to record the demo. Both me and Leif are very big fans of 60’s and 70’s music and we wanted to catch that kind of vibe when we arranged and recorded it. I brought in a 12 string guitar for example and played a slide guitar solo in the end. When we listened to the final result I think we both felt that we were on to something very special and unique. When we should record demo vocals we brought in Jennie-Ann since we wanted someone to sing on it with the same approach towards music the we had. She wasn’t supposed to sing on the album but when we heard her vocals there wasn’t any question about if she should or not. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so exited about how the music sounded with Jennie-Anns vocals on it.Leif-It was going to be a doom band first with Michael from Opeth and Nicke Andersson on drums. Then Michael started the work on the new Opeth album and I had a couple of really good songs that I wanted to do something with. I started demoing with Marcus and it all came together so well that we tried out Jennie-Ann, and AVATARIUM was born
Jennie-Ann Smith, your name is new to people in the metal world, please tell us a bit about your musical history
Jennie-Ann-I’ve been working with music since an early age and have been involved in many different musical projects as a freelance musician over the years here in Stockholm, both in studio work and in live touring. Nowadays I mainly work, part time, as a psychosocial counselor in one of the major hospitals here in Stockholm. It is a choice that gives me the opportunity to grow in many ways and that enables me to take on musical projects that I really feel for.How did you come to be involved with Avatarium?
Jennie-Ann- Marcus asked if I would come down to his studio in Stockholm, I met Marcus many years ago when we both worked together with a Swedish artist. I know that Leif and Marcus initially were looking for a male singer with a more bluesy kind of feeling for Avatarium and had discussed different alternatives. I was asked to sing on the demos and obviously they liked what they heard
Your voice is amazing, to my ears your voice has a very romantic, soulful quality, I could have mistaken you for an American blues or soul singer,who are your vocal influences?
Jenni-Ann- Thank you so very much! As you very well noticed I do come from a jazz/blues/soul and rock’n roll influenced background. The list of musicians that have inspired me is of course long, I grew and became a grown up listening to: Neil Young, Aretha Franklin, Robert Plant, Donny Hathaway, Tom Petty, Little Richard, Mavis Staples, Joni Mitchell, …Honestly I have never really listened to metal but I do like rock/hardrock and as a teenager, playing in my first rock band we listened a lot to bands like Rainbow and Deep Purple so I guess it also would be appropriate to also mention singers such as Joe Lynn Turner and Ronnie James Dio on this list as well.
How would you describe the sound of Avatarium?
Marcus-Heavy, Dark and Poetic
Jennie-Ann- All of the arrangements on the record have been so well worked through and I would say that it, for the genre, has a very sophisticated sound. All of our individual contributions gives this record an interesting musical level, I think that Ronni Lahti did a great job with mixing it and he really accentuated a very natural flow between and through all the mood, temperament and ”genre-crossovers” that it holds.
Marcus, were you involved in the songwriting?
Marcus-I like to put it like this: Leif brings in a painting, almost finished, in black and white. I help him to finish it and to bring in the colors.
Marcus, did you approach your guitar playing any different in Avatarium then in Evergrey?
Marcus-I play the way I play but in this process we were very concerned about not being to technical and to make it very emotional. I always try to do that but this time I think I got closer then ever before.
Jennie-Ann, How did you approach singing the different songs? Did it take you a while to get the feel of the music or did it come quickly?
Jennie-Ann- I would say that it all came very natural. Leif is such a smart composer, the melodies are great and inspiring and most of the lyrics felt quite easy to relate to for me. Marcus, Leif and I worked together with both the musical and vocal arrangements and that creative freedom makes it both inspiring and easy. The whole process of making this album was so creative and fun, stay tuned for more material!
What inspired the band to do an acoustic version of ”War Pigs”?
Leif-It was Marcus and Jennies idea…..you have to ask Marcus, but it sounds really really great I think!
Marcus- We wanted to do something special for the EP for a start and since Jennie-Ann is a new name and voice for most people I had this idea of doing an acoustic recording with a very ”tight” feeling. I wanted to record and mix it so that you really felt that you where in the same room as us playing and singing this piece of music. Jennie-Ann suggested that we should do War Pigs and me and Leif thought that it was a good idea so I started to work on an arrangement that would suit the song in this format. There is always a big challenge to do a cover of such a great song but I think that we managed to do our own version of it and I hope that others
will feel the same.
Vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith has an amazing soulful and beautiful voice, how was it writing songs for her voice Leif?
Leif-Well…I didn’t at first. The verse to Moonhorse was written for Michael Åkerfeldt, but Jennie did a wonderful job with it. Songs like “Bird of Prey” and “Pandoras Egg” where written for Jennie-Ann. She really got an amazing voice and I think she can sing pretty much anything and do wonders with it! It’s great to play with a bunch of so talented musicians!
Marcus, your solo in ”Lady in the Lamp” is beyond amazing! definetly one of my favorite songs, the slide guitar parts reminded me of classic Ritchie Blackmore, do you have a favorite song or solo on the record?
Marcus-Thank you! I have had different favorites at different times. Every song has been a favorite at one time during the recordings but I think that maybe the ending of ”Tides of Telepathy” is one of my favorite solos anyway. ..and being mentioned in the same sentence as Blackmoore is always a great compliment..
Will Avatarium be playing live?
Marcus-Of course we will be playing live. We are talking about it at this very moment and I can’t wait to do that!!
Leif-AVATARIUM will definitely play live. When the album comes out we will play in Stockholm and other places. Hopefully some international gigs too. A bunch of summer festivals would be nice as well