Interview with vocalist Helena Michaelsen, Imperia (March 20th 2007)

Second album 'Queen of Light' from this multi-cultural band will be released shortly; we have put together a few questions for themů

'Queen of Light' is your second album; maybe you could start off and tell us a bit about the background for Imperia?
Helena - I founded the band in 2003, starting off with a demo which I took with me when I moved to Holland. I then started looking for labels and band members. The first album was released on Ebony Tears from Holland. After this release there have been some change in band members, and the band now has the "right" members. We are really like one - all members working in the same direction.

How have the reception been so far - have you been overwhelmed and surprised? And how did your first album 'The Ancient Dance of Qetesh' do on the small Ebony Tears label?
Helena - Very good reception so far on the new CD. It's the CD of the Month in a Belgian magazine. We are really happy with this. All journalists so far have been overwhelmingly positive, we see that as a great honour. We don't have the sales figures for the first album, but I think it did pretty well - at least all most concerts were pretty full.

If you should choose one song, which represents the essence of Imperia on the album, which one would that be and why? I would pick "Fata Morgana", because I think captures your style in one song pretty good, but also displays a lot of variety.
Helena - Imperia, in my eyes, represents variety. Therefore I would say that you cannot get the full impression from one song only. My personal favourites would be Mirror and Queen of Light.

Being such a multi-cultural band how does that fit into the mould of being a band? Band practise, writing songs etc. must be very hardů
Helena - Actually it's working quite well. We cannot rehearse as much, meaning that thing are pretty intense an fun when we meet. We normally rehearse once or twice before concerts. Everyone rehearse at home, and no one would like to be the one showing up at a show not knowing his lines. Jan and Audun writes the music, coordinates with each other via Internet. When they have something ready, they forward it to me. I then develop the vocal line and writes the lyrics. It works just fine doing it this way even though we are in different countries.

How important is the lyrically side of Imperia - and what has inspired you on 'Queen of Light', besides the birth of your child?
Helena - It is very important, and it's all personal. The lyrics are important when building the CD's atmosphere. Everything is about things that happened to me the two last years.

If you had to describe your music to a complete musical ignorant - what would you tell him?
Helena - Our music is in a category of its own.

You have a very unique and distinct voice; people will naturally draw parallels to great female metal vocalists like Sharon del Adel and Tarja Turunen. How does that makes you feel, and who has personal inspired you as a vocalist - I do hear some Kate Bush (might be totally wrong)?
Helena - I'm not too happy with being compared to anyone actually. Although those two you mention are great vocalists, I do not think we have too much in common. Some have compared my voice to Tori Amos, Nina Hagen and Kate Bush, but I have no intention of trying to sound like anyone else - I have my own voice.

Tell us a bit about the album art work.
Helena - First of all, the cover is made by Jan Yrlund, our guitarist. The front picture is meant to symbolize new life. The light that I'm holding is a symbol of the child I was giving birth to 6 months ago. Most of the pictures in the booklet are nature photos from Norway. We are very happy with how it turned out.

What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment for you and Imperia, not necessarily sales wise? What are the strengths and where can Imperia improve?
Helena - The many positive reviews we have seen, fans that support us and of course playing in Heineken Music Hall would all be accomplishments that we treasure. Also being booked for the Tuska festival in Finland this summer is great. The strengths would with no doubt be the bunch of people in the band, the constant strive to play and make the music. We are good friends, and that's really important. On the improvement side, we could need some more groupies, hehe ;-)

How did you get the name Imperia, and is there a story behind it?
Helena - We started off with the name Imperium, but decided to change to Imperia. It's still a "strong" name, but with a feminine touch.

Do you have any touring plans for 2007? Any chance we might catch up with you guys at some stage during the festival season here in Europe?
Helena - We have confirmed Tuska in Finland and Female Voices. Most of the festivals are booked already. There are a small tour in the US most probably coming up, as well as shows in Germany, Portugal and most likely Holland and Belgium. Make sure to visit our website or Myspace page for latest concert info.

I was wondering - could you name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life - and why?
Helena - Giving birth to my lovely daughter, Angel, was a really positive thing for me. She is 6 months old now, and really lights up my life.

Which five albums would you bring on your iPod to a deserted island?
Helena - Doors, Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Imperia ;-), Angel ;-), and some Norwegian child's music for Angel.

Which album(s) have put a big smile on you face and has made you bang your head in 2006/7?
Helena - The latest Rammstein album was great!!

Is it possible to get by as a musician in Norway? Do you all have day-time jobs besides Imperia?
Helena - I'm a single mother, that's job enough at the moment. Most of us have daytime jobs besides Imperia.

I thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you. Any final words you would like to round off with?
Helena - Thank you very much for your support. We would like to greet all our friends and fans for buying our CDs and coming to our concerts. You guys give us the inspiration and energy to keep going. Also, I hope all the issues about our environment with global warming and everything would change to something positive - we should all make an effort for the next generation.

Interviewed by Kenn.

Imperia - Queen of Light

Album available on Massacre Records.

For more info on Imperia - click on the album cover.