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Lori Lewis - Interview

Who doesn't know the extraordinary American singer Lori Lewis? Especially those into symphonic metal should know her as a vocalist in the mighty Therion. Now Lori Lewis has just released her first solo album entitled Carmina Romanus through Therion's label Adulruna Records. The album, beside offering some astonishing in your face thrown melodic metal riffs, it brings a lot of symphonic elements and evocative moments, but the most important is powerful and one of a kind Lori's voice which shines here in all of its glory. In general it's not that easy to describe her album, but if you imagine a mix of the mellow The Gathering atmosphere, Nightwish dynamic melodies, modern sound and production of Amaranthe and spice it all up with amazing vocal performances of Lori Lewis - you will be able to get an idea of what the concept album about planetary mysteries and ancient Roman tales, Carmina Romanus, is about. Lori Lewis became a permanent member of Therion in 2011, but she toured with them since 2007. Before that Lori Lewis was the main singer in American symphonic/gothic/progressive metallers Aesma Daeva. Lori is an educated opera singer and has her undergraduate degree in vocal performance from Missouri State University and a Master’s degree in voice from the University of Kansas. Read this very interesting interview with Lori where she explained a lot about her debut solo album and as well some other background things.

Interview with: Lori Lewis
Conducted by: Tomaz

T.V.: Hi Lori. First of all congratulations for your first solo album. It's amazing piece of music! Please tell me how are you satisfied with it now that it's finally released?
: Hi, Tomaz! Thanks for the congrats. I'm really happy that it's finally available to fans, my friends and family. We started work on the project about a year ago or so, though it seems like it has been an eternity since the project began (it all truly began about four years ago in Russia). In some ways, I feel this album has come out at exactly the right time. I find myself with plenty of time to devote to promoting it and talking about the project that might have otherwise been challenging.

T.V.: Why did you make a decision to make a solo album? Was this idea or a wish culminating for a long time, or it just came recently?
Lori: It all began with a conversation with Christofer (Christofer Johnsson - Therion). He had come upon a very talented artist by the name of Anton Andryushin, who currently works with a band called Neuroheart. Christofer met him at a time when he and his band was working under the name Arcane Symphony. They had released an album that is the nucleus of the album I released. Christofer had an idea to use a more conceptual nature for the album and asked me if I'd be interested in releasing it as a solo project. I've always wanted to record a solo album and this was a very feasible way for me to accomplish it, using an amazing template as my guide.

T.V.: So you are not the main author of the songs, it's Anton Andryushin, but was there anybody else involved in the creation of the compositions? And if yes, who? What about the lyrics?
Lori: Anton Andryushin is the mind behind the compositions, musically. The lyrics are written by me and Per Albinsson, who works with Therion frequently as a lyricist. It was immensely fun to write my own lyrics, which I haven't done before this project. It gave me a taste of the creative process and I'm so glad to have been able to contribute in this way. I hope to be able to flex my creative lyric-writing muscles again, so to speak, on any future projects.

T.V.: Beside Anton Andryushin and guest vocalist, the amazing Thomas Vikström, who are the other musicians involved in the creation of Carmina Romanus? How it was working with them?
Lori: Well, the list is long... are you ready? Most are artists working with Anton Andryushin in Russia, since his original recordings didn't need much development past the original performances, if any. This guy wrote a fantastic album! I'm looking forward to hearing his future musical endeavors as he and his band develops over time. Anton's line-up for the album was Dmitry Sletkov, Alexey Rybakov, Kirill Romanyuk and Alexander Strelnikov. Anastasia Terekhova played a beautiful, haunting violin solo on "Luna". I didn't have the honor of being in the same space as these guys when they recorded their portions of the album, though I would have loved to be there. Christofer and I did, of course, tap Thomas to add vocals, which really brought the fun level up to eleven (haha, Spinal Tap joke.) Also from the Therion side, Kristiann Niemann contributed a soaring guitar solo on "Venus", which for some reason wasn't attributed on my album notes. Sorry about that, Kristiann! You're a magnificent beast. He also contributed to a second song, "Luna". Kristiann's playing is so evocative and has a sense emotional immediacy. He always plays with his heart and mind, which is why he is my personal guitar hero.

T.V.: I see that the songs were recorded in Russia already in 2017, while vocals in Oregon (USA) in 2019. Why was there such a gap in time an was it difficult to bring everything together?
Lori: Actually, it was not difficult at all. With the invention of modern studios, one can create an album and never be in the same room. Of course, that's not nearly as fun, but sometimes that's just the way the creative process ends up happening. I did end up recording the vocals a couple times, some of them in Sweden and then also at home here in Salem, Oregon. There were a few months between these two recording sessions. I was amazed how much more "in the voice" they felt after I'd had a few extra months to really think about these songs. Even though I hadn't been singing them every day, I feel that much of what I re-recorded ended up feeling more on the mark, personally. I'm not talking about being technically good... I'm talking about feeling I truly understand the music and the words. Having the luxury of time really made a huge difference on this one and I feel my contributions ended up adding something special to some already very special musical writing.

T.V.: The album is a conceptual one and the thematics are like the title suggests around planetary mysteries and ancient tales of Roman myths. Where did you get the inspiration and what more can you tell about the lyrics; is there any secret message hidden in there?
Lori: Christofer was definitely behind the concept on this album. He had already thought about something thematic to bind the songs together as a cohesive whole. The planets ended up being the main point of inspiration, though the Roman myths that inspired people to attempt to explain these celestial bodies was also a natural point of reference when we were writing the lyrics. You know, there is always a hidden meaning to most lyrics written by anyone who works with Therion, Tomaz, so why would this album be any different? (Wink!) But seriously, I think lyrics always mean something different to each listener. We all come from different backgrounds and paths. As a result, I think the meaning behind these songs is truly a personal one.

T.V.: To tell you the truth when I got news that you are making a solo album I was expecting some kind of a fully symphonic piece of work, but what we got is a pretty straight and powerful metal album. It is varied, but in its essence it's centered about classic metal riffs. Let us know which artists or bands are your primal influences?
Lori: Well, as for the artistic inspiration, I can squarely set your question upon the shoulders of Anton. For me, my inspiration was him. This album is a straight-up homage to his recording. But if you're asking a general question about what bands I consider an influence, I'm a genre-bending audiophile. I like so many different kinds of music. I tend to personally gravitate towards bands that are more prog oriented, such as Tool (I'm listening to Fear Inoculum at the moment), Opeth, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, Deep Purple, and Leprous (who I had the honor of touring with back in the day... they are a group of very talented, fun and hard-working artists.) I'd also have to mention Queens Of The Stone Age and pretty much anything else Josh Homme is up to these days. I saw them on their Vultures tour a couple years ago. They really know how to put on a kick-ass show.
T.V.: In a way it's pretty logical that you released the album through Adulruna Records label. Did you have many requests also from other labels or it was decided from the same beginning?
Lori: That would be a question for Christofer. I think ultimately it just made the most sense to release the album under Therion's label. It was the easiest way for us to have creative control over the project.

T.V.: My favorite songs must be "Venus – Bringer Of Love And Desire" and "Tellus – Fruit Divine" if I had to choose. Which one is your favorite and why?
Lori: Funny that, but those are my two favorites as well! I also really love "Neptune", though. They're all good songs, but the storytelling on both "Venus" and "Tellus" are incredibly evocative. And the musicality of Kristiann's guitar solo in "Venus" is amazing!

T.V.: Now that the album is out, and the corona virus pandemic seems to be over soon, do you have plans to present the album on stages? Maybe a tour in plans?
Lori: Not likely, unfortunately. My life is such that I stepped back from touring from Therion a few years back. If I were to get out there again, it would likely be with them first. And who knows? After the pressure-cooker intensity of being at home for a couple months solid during the pandemic, I've had plenty of time to think about what really matters and what I truly have passion for in my life. My family is definitely right there at the top of that list, but so is music. One never stops being a musician. The analogy of bike-riding is a good one... you never forget how to ride, no matter how long it may be since you last got on the bike. You might be rusty, and you might decide to go to new destinations, but the knowledge and love never dies.

T.V.: What are your next steps now. I know that with Therion you are working on a new album, but will you be working also on a successor to Carmina Romanus?
Lori: Yes, I am working with Therion on the new album. As for a successor to Carmina Romanus, who knows? Inspiration will likely strike again, and when it does I'll be there to heed the call.

T.V.: You were formerly known as a vocalist in Aesma Daeva. Is this band now just on a long hiatus or is the story over, since there's nothing new since 2009?
Lori: I believe Aesma Daeva is on permanent hiatus, though I can't say for sure. John Prassas, the creative force behind the band, is still around and working in Minnesota. I often think about how working with John set me on this path to working with Therion and, ultimately, helping me realize a personal dream of putting out a solo album. I wonder what he's up to these days and I often secretly wish we could work together again someday. Together, we came up with some really gorgeous music. He wrote some amazing songs soon after we met and got together to do some recording in his home studio. Dawn Of The New Athens is an album I'm very proud to have been part of... "Tisza's Child" is such a gorgeous song, as is "The Loon", "Artemis", the list goes on. The creative spark was strong with us!

T.V.: Maybe you are not the right person to ask, but I'll try,... can you reveal me some secrets about the new Therion album that is in the works?
Lori: Yes, it's a rap album. BWA HA HAHAHAHA! No, just kidding. I believe you know that album's name is Leviathan. That's about all I can reveal at this time.

T.V.: I wish you a lot of luck and great success with Carmina Romanus. Thank you for answering my questions, and is there anything that you would like to add at the end? 
Lori: Just that I'm grateful that I get to add to the pantheon of music out there, It's such a pleasure to be able to connect again with everyone via music, the true universal language. Much love to you all!

Lori Lewis discography:
Aesma Daeva – Dawn Of The New Athens (2007)
Aesma Daeva – The Thalassa Mixes (2008)
Therion – Live Gothic (Live album) (2008)
Aesma Daeva – Here Lies One Whose Name Was Written In Water (2009)
Therion – The Miskolc Experience (Live album) (2009)
Therion – Sitra Ahra (2010)
Imperial Vengeance – Black Heart Of Empire (2011)
Therion – Les Fleurs du Mal (2012)
Therion – Adulruna Rediviva And Beyond (Live album) (2014)
Therion - Beloved Antichrist (2018)
Lori Lewis - Carmina Romanus (2020)

Lori Lewis links: Shop, Therion (Official website), Therion (facebook)

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