Interview med Floor Jansen fra Northward

Northward

I forbindelse med hendes og Jorn Viggo Lofstads sideprojekt, Northward, har vi taget en snak med Floor Jansen.

Projektet Northward har stået på de seneste ti år, men først i år har det været en realitet for de to musikere at udgive albummet, som er fyldt med energisk hård rock - som man eftersigende kan danse til. (In English below).

Først og fremmest: Mange tak, fordi du har lyst til at tale med os om dit og Jorn Viggo Lofstads projekt, Northward.

Det første spørgsmål handler om jeres valg af genre. Northward er hard rock med elementer fra prog og naturligvis din kvindelige vokal. Hvorfor besluttede I jer for hard rock?

I skal være velkomne. Albummet blev skrevet for ti år siden, samtidig med at jeg var del af After Forever. Et band, som jeg havde været en del af i mere end ti år, hvor vi har lavet metalmusik, og jeg havde egentlig lyst til at lave noget rock for en gangs skyld. I 2008 havde vi i After Forever et år med pause, og jeg syntes, at det ville være spændende at udforske en anden genre end den, jeg var vant til. Så da jeg mødte Jorn Viggo til ProgPower USA Festival, og vi spillede musik sammen – et sted, hvor der også blev spillet en masse rock – følte jeg, at han kunne være den rette person at skrive noget sammen med. Og det var han.

Tror du, at pausen fra Nightwish i 2017 gav dig muligheden og den ekstra tid til at færdiggøre Northward-albummet?

Det var meget nøje planlagt, at albummet blev færdiggjort i 2017. Jeg tog kontakt til Jorn Viggo i 2016 og sagde: “Hey, jeg har igen et års pause fra mit band – et andet band denne gang… Men vi har det her musik liggende, og det er lidt for godt til ikke at udgive. Så har du tid til, at vi gør det færdigt?”. Det havde han, og vi begyndte at lytte til musikken igen og startede med noget indledende planlægning. Og så fik vi det endelig indspillet. Tilbage i 2008 havde vi skrevet al musikken og lyrikken, og vi havde faktisk også indspillet trommerne. Så vi havde noget at arbejde med i 2017. Vi skulle bare have indspillet resten og færdiggjort det hele, naturligvis med friske øje på materialet. Der er altid noget, som ændrer sig, men der var ikke noget så vildt, at vi havde behov for at skrive nye sange ud fra det eksisterende materiale, vi havde liggende.

Har resten af Nightwish og Pagan’s Mind været klar til, at I tager jer tid til projektet?

Jeg har ingen anelse om Pagan’s Mind for at være helt ærlig. Den tid, jeg har taget til projektet, har hovedsageligt været i løbet af det år, vi holdt en pause i Nightwish (2017), og projektet må naturligvis ikke komme i vejen for Nightwish på nogen måde. Så det ene album er alt. Der er ikke noget planlagt i nærheden af vores udgivelse den 19. oktober. Alle i Nightwish laver noget ved siden af bandet. Vi er alle sammen lidt for kreative til at lade være. Vi elsker det. Vi deler også vores andre projekter med hinanden og spiller musikken for hinanden. Det er altid sjovt at høre, hvad de andre har gang i, og så støtter vi hinanden fuldt ud. Da den første single fra Northward udkom, blev den også delt på Nightwishs sociale medier, og sådan bliver det ved med at være.

Har jeres bandnavn, Northward, en særlig betydning?

Nej… Vi kom bare på et tilfældigt navn, og så… Nej! Selvfølgelig er der en betydning bag navnet. Ha, ha. Vi havde svært ved at vælge et navn til projektet. Musikken er hard rock, men vi har brugt mange forskellige stilarter inden for rocken og har blandet dem. Så vi kunne ikke bruge et ord eller navn direkte derfra. Så er der lyrikken; den har ikke et fast koncept. Der er ikke noget, som forbinder sangene på albummet, andet end at jeg har skrevet dem. Dog er der én ting, som samler det hele: Albummet er lavet i Norden. Jorn Viggo er sandelig fra Norden (Norge), og jeg rejste nordpå, bogstavelig talt, for at skrive albummet tilbage i 2008. Hvis vi kigger længere frem, så tilsluttede jeg mig Nightwish i 2012, og jeg mødte min mand, ganske vist i USA, men han er fra Sverige, og vi bor i Sverige nu. Jeg rejste nordpå (Northward), Jorn Viggo bor nordpå, så det var den ting, som sagde mest om os. Det lyder også godt. Jeg synes, at det lyder ret ‘rockagtigt’.

Du har lige nævnt jeres lyrik. Hvordan har fordelingen været i sangskrivningen – er du sangskriveren, og Jorn Viggo musikkomponisten?

Nej, altså jeg har skrevet sangene, og musikken har vi begge været med til at forme. Lad os sige, at 9/10 riffs har Jorn Viggo lavet, og 9/10 vokalmelodier har jeg komponeret. Men vi har lavet det hele sammen. Meget af basen for albummet har Jorn Viggo stået for, men vi har skabt konceptet bag sangene sammen. Jeg har for eksempel skrevet nogle basale dele og sendt til Jorn Viggo, som han så har kigget på og omvendt. Det er absolut en fælles indsats.

Jeg bliver naturligvis nødt til at spørge dig: Hvad vi kan forvente af Northward, både som album og som band?

Altså vi er jo ikke et band – vi er blot et projekt. Det er bare Jorn Viggo og mig. Så der kan forventes et album den 19. oktober, som er et rockalbum. Det er dét. Projektet har ligget på hylden så lang tid, at lige meget hvordan man synes, det lyder, følte vi, at det ville være en skam ikke at udgive det. Det har været vores ambition hele vejen igennem: at udgive det album, vi havde liggende, fordi det var for godt til ikke at udgive. Naturligvis handler det også om præference. Hvis du ikke kan lide det, kan du ikke lide det. Vi kunne godt lide det og mente, at andre også skulle have glæde af det. Vi har ikke andre ambitioner end det, også bundet i at jeg er i Nightwish, som absolut er et fuldtidsjob. Så om der kommer en efterfølger, eller om der overhovedet kommer en liveoptræden, det ved jeg ikke. I hvert fald ikke i de kommende år.  

Er Northward dit første duoprojekt?

Ja, det er det faktisk. Jeg har altid været i bands. Jeg var en del af After Forever i tolv år. Så begyndte jeg ReVamp, som var mit band, hvor jeg havde ansvaret for hoveddelen af tingene, såsom sangskrivning. Men jeg mener, at mange ting er hele bandets ansvar, og vi var jo et band, så det blev for hårdt for mig, at vi var seks mennesker i bandet, men fem af dem ventede altid på mig. Derfor blev vi også nødt til at stoppe. Det er anderledes, når man er en del af et projekt, selvom det var hårdt nok at planlægge, på trods af at vi kun var to mennesker i projektet. Det handler også om, at jeg er en del af Nightwish, og Jorn Viggo har Pagan’s Mind og et meget krævende job. Så det var svært at planlægge. Oven i hatten blev jeg også mor for halvandet år siden. Lige omkring den tid, hvor vi skulle indspille, havde jeg termin med min lille pige. Det var et udfordrende program, som også har gjort det svært for os at se længere ind i fremtiden med dette projekt.

Jeg kunne godt tænke mig at høre lidt mere om dit og Jorn Viggos forhold til hinanden. I mødtes på ProgPower USA Festival tilbage i 2007 og fandt hinanden gennem musikken og besluttede med det samme at arbejde sammen. Hvad tænkte du om Jorn Viggo dengang?

Jeg kunne jo høre, at han var en ekstremt talentfuld og alsidig guitarists. Dengang vidste jeg ikke noget om det arbejde, han havde lavet. I 2008 vidste jeg, at jeg ville skabe det her rockalbum. Det var noget, jeg havde inde i mit hoved. Så det endte med, at jeg spurgte ham, om han ville være med, da jeg ikke vidste præcis, hvor jeg ville hen. Jeg havde ikke rigtigt noget netværk uden for metalmusikkens grænser. Det var dér, mit sociale netværk befandt sig. Så at møde en, som både kendte til min side af musikken, metal, og til rock, det var noget helt særligt for mig. Det var supertiltalende. Om der er kemi mellem mennesker eller ej, det er noget, du ikke kan vide på forhånd, du kan ikke planlægge dig til det. Det skete bare. Jeg havde noget i hovedet, og Jorn Viggo spillede bare så godt på scenen – en masse forskellige genrer i løbet af den omgang all-star-jam, og det plantede et frø, som jeg bare måtte få til at spire. Derfor kontaktede jeg ham også samme aften: “Hey, jeg tænkte på noget. Jeg har en idé. Jeg ved naturligvis ikke, om det vil fungere, for A) jeg kender dig ikke, og B) jeg ved ikke, om vi kan skrive sammen. Men der er kun én måde at finde ud af det på”. Han sagde: “Lad os gøre det”.

I forhold til ham som partner i Northward og jeres fremtidige samarbejde hvad tænker du så om ham nu?

Vi er begge nogle stærke personligheder med tendenser til at ville gøre alting perfekt. Det kolliderer indimellem. Man kan ikke altid overfokusere, fordi man vil gøre det perfekt. Her er vi nødt til at vælge vores kampe, og vi arbejder altid ud fra, at sangen er mere vigtig end vores ego. Det fungerer for os og har virkelig fået mig til at føle, at Jorn Viggo har trukket mig videre til det næste niveau. Jeg kan ikke tale for ham, men jeg håber, at han har det på samme måde; at vi sammen har skabt noget, som ikke ville have været lige så godt, hvis det ikke havde været os, der havde skabt det. Han er absolut en person, som jeg stoler på med alt lige fra planlægning og penge – alle de ting, som følger med, når man laver et projekt som dette. Det føles rigtig godt, og jeg har aldrig følt, at han ‘bare’ var en flink fyr, som kunne komponere. Jeg føler mig meget tryg med ham i ethvert aspekt.

Nu du taler om, at du føler dig tryg, synes jeg, at vi skal tale lidt om din søster, Irene Jansen, som du tidligere har arbejdet sammen med – flere gange faktisk. Hvordan har du det med at arbejde sammen med hende igen på dit projekt?

Ja, hende stoler jeg slet ikke på! Hun er et frygteligt menneske! Hahaha. Ej, jeg har det rigtig godt med at arbejde sammen med hende igen. Vi har arbejdet sammen rigtig mange gange, men vi har faktisk aldrig lavet en indspilning sammen. Selvom mange fans har spurgt efter det gennem årene, er det aldrig sket. Det står på min liste over ting, der skal ske, inden jeg dør, men der har aldrig været tid til det. Men så gik vi i gang med projektet, og den her sang var perfekt til hendes stemme. Så jeg spurgte hende selvfølgelig, om hun var interesseret i at være med, og hun sagde ja med det samme. Altså Jorn Viggo blev også spurgt, om det var okay, at jeg ville involvere min familie, og det havde han intet imod – han synes faktisk også selv, at det var en god idé. Det var rigtig rart, at jeg kunne indspille mine vokaler her i Sverige, men min søster bor stadig i Holland og har et almindeligt job og to børn, så hun kunne ikke bare lige flyve til Sverige for at indspille. På det tidspunkt af indspilningen var vores børn også kun fem og seks måneder, så det var svært for os begge at være mødre samtidig. Da jeg så var i Holland, tog jeg alt mit indspilningsudstyr under armen, og efter vi havde puttet børnene i seng, så gik mødrene ellers i gang. Ha, ha. Jeg indspillede hendes vokal, og det var en god oplevelse og en særlig ting for os – en ekstra lille tilføjelse til atmosfæren i nummeret. Jeg synes, det blev rigtig godt!

Både du og Irene har arbejdet med Arjen Lucassen på flere af hans Ayreon-projekter. Hvordan har det været at arbejde så tæt med din søster?

Det hele begyndte med Star One, det første album, som skulle opføres live. På albummet havde jeg sunget alle harmonierne, så hvis vi skulle optræde med det, skulle mere end én sangerinde på scenen. Det var ret svært for mig at forestille mig at stå på scenen, da jeg er 183 cm høj. Jeg er højere end de fleste kvinder og tænkte med det samme: “Åh Gud, skal jeg virkelig stå på scenen ved siden af den her minikvinde? Hvordan kan jeg nogensinde se godt ud i det setup? Og det skal også lyde godt og harmonere...”. Jeg så slet ikke på det positive i oplevelsen, indtil jeg kom i tanker om min søster, som dog ikke havde nogen erfaring med at synge. På det tidspunkt var vi begge unge. Jeg var 21, og hun var kun 19. Hun synger utrolig godt, men hun er aldrig gået efter en karriere inden for musikkens verden; hun ville noget andet med sit liv. Det var en stor risiko at tage hende med ind i projektet, men hun slog hovedet på sømmet og gjorde det så godt, at Arjen var meget interesseret i at få hende med i senere projekter. Så hun har sunget med på nogle Ayreon-plader og var med i The Theater Equation, og vi sang sammen til det seneste Ayreon-show. Arjen har altid haft en næse for talent, og jeg er bare rigtig glad for, at min søster vidste, hvad vi skulle, da vi sang live. Det så i hvert fald godt ud. Min søster er højere end mig. Og det lød godt, fordi vores stemmer er meget ens, men ikke helt ens. Det fungerede bare. Det var tilbage i 2002 eller 2003, da Star One Live blev lavet. Der gik femten år fra vores optræden med Star One, til jeg rent faktisk har fået hende indspillet til et album. Det var på tide! Arjen var meget hurtigere til at få hende med på albums.

Har det haft nogen særlig betydning for dig at arbejde med Arjen Lucassen?

For mig som sanger og for mig som person har det betydet nogle forskellige ting. Det var fantastisk at eksperimentere med den her rockting for ti år siden, hvilket dengang virkelig føltes som et eksperiment for mig. Da jeg endelig fik muligheden for at indspille det, var det meget mere integreret i mit system. Det var meget mere mig at lave det her nu, end det var for ti år siden. Da var det et lille sideprojekt efter kun at have lavet metalmusik. Jeg havde selvfølgelig fiflet med anden musik, men det har mest været i forbindelse med studier. Musikalsk var det ikke noget nyt for mig at tage et skridt til siden ud i et nyt projekt. De fleste kender mig dog fra metalmusik og nu især fra Nightwish, så det er nok sværere for alle andre end mig selv at se eller høre mig lave rock. Fra andre musikeres synsvinkel er det nok spændende at se på mig som musiker og blive mindet om, at jeg er mere end blot stemmen fra Nightwish, selvom jeg er meget stolt og beæret over at få muligheden for det. Men jeg er ikke blot det og har aldrig kun været det. Jeg elsker at udforske ting, og jeg er meget stolt af at kunne bringe noget til livs gennem det her projekt som person – og at få muligheden for at arbejde sammen med de mennesker, som jeg gør. Det er altid svært at trække dig ud af din egen komfortzone; det er noget pis for at sige det ligeud, for folk vil normalt bare gerne have det, de plejer. Det har været en rejse for mig at være musiker og mor på samme tid. Oplevelsen med Arjen og Ayreon live i september sidste år var min første optræden på scenen, efter jeg havde født. Det var utrolig intenst, fordi hele dit system kun er fokuseret på dit barn. Teksterne er de samme som i studiet, men de var svære at huske. Man skal jo stadig forberede sig, og jeg var blandt meget talentfulde musikere, som jeg ikke lige havde lyst til skulle vide, at jeg måske ikke helt kunne teksten. Endnu. Jeg ammede stadig, og mit barn var væk fra mig hist og her for første gang nogensinde. Det var faktisk ret stressende. Dog ikke så lang tid efter gik jeg i studiet for at indspille Northward, og jeg tror aldrig, at jeg har følt mig så uforberedt. Sjovt nok så snart jeg åbnede munden, følte jeg, at jeg var forberedt, og jeg vidste præcis, hvad jeg skulle gøre. Det var, som om mit system tog over, og jeg tror, at jeg blev færdig hurtigere, end jeg nogensinde er blevet med en indspilning. Det var rart. Det kom bare ud sådan “boom”, der er det.

Her kommer et stort spørgsmål: Hvorfor skal vi lytte til Northward? Hvad er der så særligt ved det?

Det er egentlig ikke noget særligt. Det hele er blevet lavet før. Til gengæld er vores sammensætning af stilarter helt sikkert unik. Det er meget energisk. Jeg har fået mange reaktioner fra folk, som har danset rundt til vores musik. Det er egentlig meget godt. Hvis du kender til mig eller Jorn Viggo og den musik, vi normalt laver, så bliver du nok overrasket over Northward. Bare på baggrund af det synes jeg, at man skal høre vores musik. Bare du ikke går og forventer noget i retning af Pagan’s Mind eller Nightwish eller andre bands, som du kender os fra. Northward er god musik. Det siger jeg i hele min objektivitet! Lige meget hvilken genresmag du har, så er det god musik. Det burde være fornøjeligt.

Jeg ved, det her er som at vælge mellem sine børn, men hvilken sang på jeres kommende album er din favorit?

Åh Gud! Det er helt umuligt at vælge… Men hvis jeg skal vælge, så er det allersidste nummer på albummet, fordi det indeholder så mange af mine yndlingsdele. Det er en skøn konklusion på det hele. Det er det mærkeligste nummer på pladen og er absolut ikke en god repræsentant for resten af projektet, men det har en fantastisk sammensætning af stilarter. Det er et langt nummer, og teksten handler om min rejse nordpå, hvor jeg fandt min lykke. Musikalsk og lyrisk er det en absolut konklusion på både albummet og hele projektet. På  baggrund af det vil jeg sige, at det er min favorit.

First of all, hello to you Floor. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about you and Jorn Viggo Lofstads project Northward.

My first question is about your choice of genre. Northward is hard rock with some prog-elements and your female vocal. Why did you choose to create hard rock?

You’re velcome. It was written ten years ago, and at the time I had a band called After Forever. A band I had been in for over ten years making metal, and I actually wanted to do rock for once. We were going to have a year off in 2008, and I thought it would be nice to explore a different genre. So, when I met Jorn Viggo at the Progpower USA Festival, and we played some music together - there was also a lot of rock there - I felt that he might be the right person to start writing with. And so it was.

Do you think the break in Nightwish in 2017 gave you the extra time to take this up?

It was very carefully planned, of course, that it was done in 2017. In 2016, I contacted Jorn Viggo saying; “Hey, I’m going to have a year of my band again. Different band this time... But we still have this music lying around, and it’s a little bit too good not to use. So, do you have time to finish it?” Then we listened to the music again, and put out some preliminary planning, and actually got to recording it. Back then we had written all the music, and even started to playing in the drums, so we had those recordings from back then. We needed to finish up the rest, and of course go through the material to see if everything was up to date. There are always things that you change, but nothing so massively that we needed to write new songs.

Have you put a certain meaning to your band name “Northward”?

No... We just came up with a random word…. No! Of course, there is a meaning to it. Haha. We wanted to pick a name for this project, and it was very tricky. The music itself is rock, but within rock there is a lot of different styles that we kinda used and mixed. Therefore, we couldn’t really use a name or a word from that. Then there were the lyrics. They don’t have a concept. There is really nothing connecting them, only that I wrote them. But there is one thing about it; it was done in the north. Also, Jorn Viggo is indeed from Norway. And I went north, literally, to write this album back in 2008. Then in 2012, I joined Nightwish, which is in Finland in the north. And I met my husband, well, that was in the States, but he is from Sweden, and we’ve lived in Sweden since three years ago. So, I literally went northward, and that was the thing that at least said something about us. And it sounds good. I think it sounds pretty “rocky”.

You just mentioned the lyrics yourself. How has the division been when writing the songs? Are you the main writer, and Jorn Viggo did the music compositions?

No. Lyric wise it was my job, but musically it was us together. Let’s say, 9/10 riffs are his, and 9/10 vocal melodies are mine, but we did think along with each other. A lot of the basic setups comes from Jorn Viggo, but we, together, thought about the form of the song. I could write basic parts, and sent them to him, and we would work with that, or he would write something of a basic idea, and we would work with that. So, it’s definitely a mutual effort.

Of course, I need to ask, what can we expect from Northward? Both the album and the band.

Well… We’re not a band. We’re just a project. It’s just Jorn Viggo and me. So, you guys can expect an album on the 19th of October that’s a rock album, and that’s it really. This is a project that has been on the shelf for so long, that given how it sounds, we felt like it would be a pity to not release it. That was the ambition; release the album that we have laying around, which is simply too good to not release - regardless of taste of course. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. Well, we liked it, and we thought it should be out there. Other than that, there are not that many ambitions because I am already in Nightwish, and that is a pretty full-time job. If there’s going to be a sequel or even a live performance, I don’t know, but at least not the coming years.

Is Northward the first duo-project, you have chosen to be part of?

Yeah. Actually. I have always been in bands. I’ve had After Forever in twelve years. Then I started ReVamp, which was mine, and I was in charge of the majority of things. But I believe songwriting and a lot of other things are really a band effort, and we were a band. We were six people in a group, and five were always waiting for me. This was also why we couldn’t continue in ReVamp. When you’re in a project it’s different. It was already hard enough to plan this just being two people. That’s also because of me and Nightwish. Jorn Viggo has his Pagan's Mind, but he also has a very demanding job, therefore planning was definitely one of the hard things. Also, I am a mother since a year and a half ago so, around the time of the recording, I was due with the baby. It was a challenging program which kind of makes it impossible to look into the future much more.

Is the rest of Nightwish and Pagan’s Mind ready for both of you taking time to do this project?

I have no idea about Pagan’s Mind, to be honest, but the time I took for this project was mainly in the year that we were off Nightwish. Of course, this project can’t be in the way of Nightwish at all, so there is no release of a new album or anything close to this coming release. Everybody in Nightwish does something on the side. We’re all just a little bit too creative to not do that. We just want to. We play music to each other, and it is always fun. We are always supportive of one another. When the first Northward single came out, it was also released on the social media of Nightwish, and it will continue to do that, as it is promoted.

Could you please tell us more about you and Jorn Viggo’s relationship? You met Jorn Viggo Lofstad at Progpower USA Festival in 2007, and you immediately connected, and decided to create something together. What did you think of Jorn, when you first met him?

I could hear, that he was an extremely talented and versatile guitar player. At that time, I didn’t know about his creations yet. I, at the time, wanted to do this rock album. That was something, I had in mind, and asked him. I didn’t know that much about it yet. I didn’t really know anybody outside of metal. That was where my social network lay. So, to meet somebody, who knows, where I come from within metal, and knows about rock that was something really rare. It was super nice. Whether you have chemistry or not, is something you don’t know - you don’t plan that. It just kind of landed like that. Me having something in my head. Him being really awesome on stage, playing a lot of different kind of music during that all-star-jam. It planted a seed, and I just popped the question that night; “Hey, I have this in mind. Of course, I don’t know if this is going to work because A) I don’t know you. And B) I don’t know, if we can write together. But, there is only one way to find out”, and he said; “Let’s do it”.

In relation to him as a partner in Northward and your future work together, what do you think of him now?

We are both very strong personalities with a big tendency to want to make everything perfect, which can sometimes clash a bit. You can’t always over focus, and you really need to pick your battles, but we always work having in mind that the song is always more important than our ego. This has simply worked for us. It has really made me feel like he has pulled me up to the next level. I can’t speak for him, but I hope he feels the same way; that we together made something, which would not have been as good, if it wasn’t us doing it. He is definitely someone I can trust both with planning as with money and all kinds of stuff that comes with these kinds of projects. It feels great, and I never felt that he was just a nice guy, who could make music. I feel safe in every aspect with him.

You talk about feeling safe and trusting people. You have worked together with your sister, Irene Jansen, multiple times. How does it feel working with her again on your song “Drifting Islands”?

Yeah, I don’t trust her at all! Ha, ha. She is a horrible person! Ha, ha. I feel great about working with her. The thing is, that we have worked together multiple time, but we have never had a studio recording together, which is something many fans have been asking for - for years actually. I had it on my bucket list, but it never really happened because of, well, everything. And then this song came up. Perfect for her voice. So, I asked her if she would be interested, and she immediately said yes. Also, Jorn Viggo of course had to agree to this, because I wanted to involve my family into this thing. Luckily, he thought this was a nice idea too. It was nice, because I recorded my vocals here in Sweden, but my sister lives in the Netherlands still and has a day job and two kids, so flying in to Sweden was kind of a no go. Also, at the time our kids were five and six months old. At a time, I was in the Netherlands, and took all of my recording stuff to her place, and when the kids were put to bed, then moms went at it. Haha. I recorded her, and that was super nice. A very special thing. It gave an extra addition to this song. I think it came out just great.  

Both you and Irene have been working with Arjen Lucassen with multiple of his Ayreon projects. What has this been like?

It all started when “Star One”, the first album, was going to go live, and I had sung all of the harmonies on the album. So, to bring that life, it would need a second female singer. In my line of thought, you know, I’m 1.83, I am taller than most, and I thought; “God! I am going to stand next to this mini-girl, how am I supposed to look good? And it needs to sound good...” I didn’t really see it very positively, until I realized that I do have a sister though with no experience at all. I was young, but she was even younger. I was 21, and she was 19. She once had a small band, but they never really did much. She can sing well, but she never really went for music. She studied something else and has a different kind of life now and back then. It was a bit of a risk, but she just nailed that! Which was also why Arjen was very interested in getting Irene back on other projects. So, she sang on Ayreon and did the Ayreon Theater Equation, and then of course we were united in the last Ayreon show last September. Arjen has always had a nose for talent, and I’m just really happy that my sister really knew what to do, when we were there singing live, because it looked good. She is even taller than me. And it sounded good, because our voices are similar, but not the same. So, it just really worked. But that was in 2002 or 2003, I think, when this first “Star One” live edition was done. So, it has been 15 years in until there has been an actual studio recording with her. That was about time. Arjen was much faster with that, getting her on albums. Haha.

What has the experience from working with Arjen Lucassen done for you?

For me as a singer, and for me as a person, it has done different things. For me, it was great to experiment with this rock thing, which, ten years ago really felt like experimenting. When I finally got to record, it was way more integrated into my system. It was way more me, doing this. Back then, it was something, which was a side-project after doing metal only. I had been doing different kinds of music, but more for study. It wasn’t that new for me to make a side step. But in the course of my life, most of what people know me from is only metal and of course now mainly Nightwish. So it comes as more of a shock to anybody else but myself, that I am doing this kind of music, which is very interesting from a point of view of me as a musician, because it kind of reminds people, that I am more than the voice of Nightwish - though it is something, I am delighted to be and proud of, beyond anything. But I am not just that, and there has always been more than that. I want to explore more. I am very proud of bringing that side out, as a person, and to work with people that I like; to get out of my comfort zone, which is always shit, because people tend to want the same. For me also to learn how to be a mom and a musician has been a journey. The experience with Arjen live in September last year, was the first time back on stage after I had given birth. It was very intense, because my whole system was still focused solely on the baby. The lyrics are of course the same as the studio ones, but it was not like, I knew them. It still involved careful preparations, and I was amongst really, really good musicians, I didn’t want to know, that I might be unsure of what I was doing. At the same time, I was still breastfeeding, and my baby was away from me every now and then for the first time ever. It was really stressful. Actually, not that much later, I went into the studio to record this album, and I don’t think, I have ever felt this unprepared. Funny enough, as soon as I opened up my mouth, I felt prepared and knew exactly, what I needed to do. It was like my system took over, and I was done recording faster, than I thought I would be. It was good. It came out, like “BOOM”. There.

Here comes a big question. Why listen to Northward? What’s special about it?

It’s not that special. It has all been done before. But the mix of styles are definitely unique. It’s very high energy. I have heard many reactions from people, who have been dancing around to it - so that’s good! If you are familiar with me or with Jorn Viggo, you might be surprised to hear this kind of music from us. Just for that sake, you should give it a shot. Don’t be expecting to hear anything like Pagan’s Mind or Nightwish or any of the bands, you know us from. It is good music. I can say that in all my objectivity. I think it is good music regardless of taste. It should be enjoyable.

I know it is like choosing between your babies, but which song on the upcoming album is your favorite?

Oh God. It’s impossible to choose! But the last track of the album has a lot of my favorite parts in it - it’s such a nice conclusion of everything. It’s the weirdest song of the album, and it’s definitely not representative of the project, actually, but it has a very nice mix of styles. It’s a long song. Lyrically it’s about my story up north; my path northwards. The place where I found my happiness. Both musically and lyrically, it became an absolute conclusion to this album and to the project. Because of that, I would say that it’s my favorite.

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