A rock bar might not be a place most people associate with an interview (or is it actually a very appropriate place to interview a metal singer?), yet after some delays in communication I find myself standing next to Alex Krull (Leaves’ Eyes, Atrocity) in the foyer of rock bar Midian in Osaka, ready to brave the background noise and record his answers. The rest of the band are in the bar, having a blast while relaxing after a day of sightseeing in Kyoto, while the owner, Fu-ki san, plays Leaves’ Eyes videos on the big screen at the back of the bar.
"How do you find inspiration during the times your muse isn’t cooperating?"
Alex: "When we go into a new concept of the band I always have something in mind already. When we finish the last record, I already know what should be next, so what I actually do is a lot of research, reading books or checking out documentaries and stuff like that, which I find interesting, or get a lot of inspiration from the sagas, in case of Leaves’ Eyes with the Norse mythology, there’s a huge connection to the band in the music, and yeah, then we start writing the music and I have a kind of a plan, or idea, which kind of songs would fit to the topics. That’s basically how it goes."
“So, while you’re researching, the ideas just happen?”
Alex: “Yeah. For example, on the last Leaves’ Eyes album, Sign of the Dragonhead, we have one song called "Waves of Euphoria", which is already strongly connected to the upcoming Leaves’ Eyes album. So, that’s a hint.” He laughs.
“Thank you very much for that! So, that kind of leads to the next question, about your favourite myth. Doesn’t have to be Nordic, any kind of myth.”
Alex: “Yeah, with Atrocity we also do a lot of, let’s say, legends, mysteries, and kind of stuff [which] happened in the…” – here we get interrupted by curious band members, who want to know what we’re doing, so Alex shouts back, “Interview!” before continuing, “… world history, let’s say, it’s a kind of a nerdy thing, I think. I’m interested in all kinds of stuff, and of course, again, in the case of Leaves’ Eyes, the Norse mythology has a huge impact, and yeah, there is one which I find very interesting, because I work on it right now. I can’t say which is my favourite, but if you work on something new, then you’re always very excited and motivated, and diving into the whole topic, that’s something which is still a little secret, but if people want to find out, check out the Sign of the Dragonhead, and then maybe you’ll already have a hint there.”
“So, you don’t really have any particularly favourite myth?”
Alex: “Yeah, maybe besides all that, “Like a Mountain” is a great song on the record and has a great background.” He laughs. “You can easily make a Game of Thrones series out of the whole Icelandic saga, which I think is really great, and yeah, by the way the kind of very dark and mystical side with Atrocity, for example, they just did a song here, which was created at the bar in Osaka, "The Shadowtaker", and it’s about the old vampiric legends, and all that. You’re from Bulgaria, right?” I confirm it, and he goes on, “So, you know what I’m talking about, like the dead coming back, and threatening the whole family and stuff like you still have in the back of, subconsciously in people [‘s minds], like the fear of that kind of legends in certain parts of the world. But that’s like, way back also in other cultures you had this kind of vampiric legends. So, that’s also a side which I find very exciting. So, that’s not like one certain myth, I could say. There are also some German legends, which are very cool, stuff happened in the past which is like a huge conspiracy or like connected to the days of the witch hunt, you always find some weird stuff.
“The stage design for your concerts can be very elaborate. How much input do you have in what goes on stage? Do you help design it, or do you leave it to other people?”
Alex: “Yeah, we always have ideas in mind, and it’s also probably a part of me in the band, taking care of that stuff too, and also the album concepts, connecting with the artwork, and then it leads to the stage design, of course. Like, we have these swords which are burning on stage, like the symbols from the Swords in Rock, from the Viking legend of Harald, you know, when we made the album King of Kings, and it was like one of the legends says he was the unitor of old Norway, back in the Viking times, and we made the stage design with that. It’s the Sverd i fjell (Swords in Rock), which we took as a blueprint for our stage swords. And we doubled it, like three and three, and the Viking ship for example, we use for big shows, and we have the sail as a screen, where we actually show all the animation and all the kind of graphics and movies, connected to each song, so it was an idea, you know, you travel with the ship through the world of Leaves’ Eyes. And, of course, a Viking ship is awesome,” he laughs. “But not for every show we can do that, or club shows, so we always have to think about something else, and also how the band will dress up and stuff like that.”
“So, you do sort of rough sketches, and then pass them on?”
Alex: “Yeah, exactly. Elina also takes care of her stage dresses and stuff like that, and putting stuff together, and yeah, maybe using some designers to make unique stage clothes, so that’s how it goes.”
“So, basically, everything is quite connected and organic?”
Alex: “Yeah, absolutely, that’s an important part, and for the stage design we have also friends helping us out with that, and building everything unique, organic, handmade, also the shields and the banners and the swords and the ship, it’s all handmade and built by people we know, and we talk about and exchange the ideas, from script to reality, which is really great.”
“So, everything is kind of very… it’s within the circle?”
Alex: “Yeah, and it’s a lot of fantasy, especially with the Viking stuff, which for the people from the re-enactment scene, it’s very important that they have stuff which is authentic, and which they have history in their mind, and the way it should be.”
“So, basically, when you do the stage designs, do you sort of follow the re-enactment rules of how things should be? Because I know re-enactment is usually very, very strict about accuracy.”
Alex: “Yeah, it’s a little bit of a problem with the Viking ship, for example, you do stuff different, because it has to fit on stage, and certain things have to be bigger, maybe, or different, it’s not possible to make it the way you want to get it.
“Yeah, but for example, the shields and…”
Alex: “Yeah, that’s another story, the banner for example, or the shields, and stuff. Of course, our logo is a dragonhead, but besides that, the rest is like people use it in the re-enactment scene, all the weapons and stuff, yeah.”
“So, it’s quite authentic, not just stage props?”
Alex: “Yeah, absolutely. The thing is, we also had some problems here and there with the sword, like at 70K cruise they locked the sword and brought it back to the show. The same happened also at the New York show at the PlayStation Theater, and the security guy gave me the sword for the show. It was no guns, but a Viking sword – very dangerous.” He laughs.
“Yeah, for sure. I take it they are blunt and everything?”
Alex: “Yeah, the funny part here is that Sabaton, they came with a tank on stage, and machine guns, and they were not locked, but the Viking sword [was]. And they made jokes about that. It was really cool, and we love the guys.”
By the way, for example, we bring Vikings on stage, I’m part of the re-enactment scene. Actually, the biggest Viking army there is, nowadays – modern army – is called Jomsborg, and I’m a member of honour, and I also have my Viking clothes, I go to battles, I train every week with my Viking brothers and sisters, do sword fighting and [train] with weapons. We will have Vikings in Tokyo, for example, joining us on stage…”
Alex: “Yeah. There’s a small group here.”
Alex: “Yeah. And, that’s also a big effort, when we tour, for example, the US, we have guys from there, and they come to the shows, we have guys in all Europe, from Scandinavia to Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic…”
“So, you usually get people from the country that you play in?”
Alex: “Yeah. Because we’re all connected in a way, and they support Leaves’ Eyes, and of course they love the music too, and I’m also part of that scene, so a lot of friends of mine, they know somebody from any country we play. So, if it’s possible, we bring them on stage. And also, for myself, I love to wear the armour, and at least for one song I’m putting out a sword on stage. There’s always some action going on with that, and this suits the band very well. Now, we couldn’t bring our full design, like with shields and stuff like that, because we fly over to Japan, but if we could, we’d bring that too. The design like you see the video now, it’s coming, you see the shields?” (on the screens in the rock bar in the foyer of which we are talking, a Leaves’ Eyes song is being played). It’s a dragonhead shield we have, and we put it also on stage. And that’s a stage outfit as well, that you see in the video of "Sign of the Dragonhead". It’s funny that they play it now.” He laughs.
“So, that brings us to the last question, what are your impressions of Japan?”
Alex: “It’s fantastic. I mean, we saw so much already – thank you, Val, for helping us out and guiding us, or being our sightseeing instructor – so we saw already Osaka castle, we went to shrines, we went to temples, we went to the old Japan in Kyoto, saw the streets there and the buildings, it’s really, really nice, and all the people we met, also the metal fans so far, we met some guys, here at the bar, and from the team, promoting the shows here, and they’re all super nice, and it’s absolutely great, we cannot wait to play the shows now.
“Yeah, definitely, it’s a different culture here, different way of thinking, isn’t it? It’s not selfish, that’s what my impressions are.”
Alex: “Yeah, I think what I like very much is the respect people have for each other, and the way how they show you the respect and treat everybody friendly, I think that’s a really, really good kind of behaviour, and the traditions, and, yeah, also that you have a kind of culture, which is based on honour and honesty, you know. I can see nothing wrong with that.
“Cool. I’m glad that you’re enjoying Japan, and I don’t know if you can see much of Tokyo, but…”
Alex: “We will see something about it, but well, hopefully it’s not our last time here, and we can come back.”
“Let’s hope that Metal Female Voices Japan will become a regular thing.”
Alex: “Yeah, it’s a start now, it’s the first time, and people probably, over here, see it also as a new idea of a festival. Yeah, we hope it goes great and that everyone will be happy, and we will give our best.”
“That’s awesome. Thank you very much.”
Alex: “Thank you.”
After we have all returned to our home countries, I message Alex to ask him about his impressions of the Japanese public and the festival after having experienced it.
Alex: “It was an unforgettable experience! It was about time that we play in Japan, and the shows have been amazing. What a great welcome from the fans and it was really great to meet so many people!”
“Would you say the Japanese fans differ from, for example, European audiences? Or is it a case where metal fans everywhere around the world respond in a similar way?”
Alex: “We toured 50 countries and played on 5 continents, and everywhere we go we meet and celebrate with great and supportive fans: The global metal family! To experience so many cultural backgrounds and so many different places is a gift for us, I’m very thankful for that! Japan was a very Special Trip for us, many fans following the band since the start and were waiting for our coming, so the reactions were just fantastic! Before and after the shows the Japanese fans were very friendly and respectful to us, we hope to be back as soon as possible.”
“Thank you. I'm glad to hear that, and I’m looking forward to hearing news about your next concert in Japan. All the best with the Atrocity tour!”
Alex: “Thank you and hope to see you soon again.”
 A monument in Hafrsfjord, consisting of three swords