By Carl Begai
Over the last several years, Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine has made a tradition of playing a solo show in the small southern German town of Nagold, which has slowly but surely evolved into a short annual tour. This year was no exception, and in keeping with her goal of trying to make each go-round as memorable if not moreso than the previous year, Liv invited her former Theatre of Tragedy bandmate Raymond Rohonyi on board as a special guest. Not for a mere song or two, but for over half the show each night. Unexpected to say the least considering Liv was unceremoniously fired from Theatre of Tragedy in 2003, resulting in a low key flow of bad blood via the press in both directions for a number of years. On top of that, when Theatre of Tragedy called it quits in 2010 – with Nell Sigland in Liv’s place – Raymond dropped off the radar entirely, seemingly have said his final piece with the band’s departing live album, Curtain Call.
Watching the pair trading off vocal lines as they did well over a decade ago – not having shared a stage since 2002 – one would never know Liv and Raymond had ever been at odds. The same can be said of their interaction off stage, which is charged with positive vibes and Raymond’s dark sense of humour. As for the live performance as a whole, the backing band pulls off Liv’s solo material without batting a collective eye and looks perhaps a bit too happy performing evil doom goth Theatre of Tragedy material, also at an equally killer level. Liv’s trademark soprano Theatre vocals have lost none of their charm, and Raymond’s growls and mannerisms are as powerful as they were 20 years ago. Bottom line: if you’re a Theatre of Tragedy fan the tour was a dream come true.
Ray: “I’m not really interested in doing music as a career, but I’m happy to perform like this. Liv just asked me if I’d be interested. I don’t miss being a musician but I miss the narcissistic part of the music; being stuck up and a prick (laughs). And I don’t really work up a sweat, it’s more like a general stench (laughs). Getting out of town is also good for a while.”
Liv: “It was actually (husband) Alex’s idea, I have to say. He said to me ‘Just ask Ray to join you. That way you can play some more old shit…’ (laughs). We rehearsed in Stuttgart and it was like the magic had been there all the time, as if it had never left. We just grabbed the microphones and went for it.”
Ray: “We rehearsed the set two times and that was it. From there we went to Russia for the first show.”
CB: And in spite of the fact it was made quite clear online that Ray would be joining you on the road to perform a set loaded with Theatre of Tragedy songs, you still caught people off guard.
Liv: “The set has the intro, then we do ‘Vervain’, and for the second song I ask Raymond to the stage. I always see some people in the audience just looking totally stunned, saying ‘Really..?!’ They don’t know that he’s touring with me and I see them shaking their heads in disbelief. That’s the fun of it, the magical side of things.”
CB: You also revealed the setlist several weeks ahead of the tour, which was unexpected. How did you go about deciding on the mix between Theater of Tragedy and Liv Kristine material?
Liv: “We discussed which songs we played in the old days, and the ones that Theatre played when I wasn’t with the band.”
Ray: “So what Liv is saying is that she looked up on the internet which of our songs are the most popular (laughs).”
Liv: “At first I posted one setlist and we got the fan reaction saying ‘What about this song or that song? What about ‘Commute’? From there we ended up changing it a bit.”
CB: I was surprised that three songs from the Musique album made it into the set.
Ray: “Everybody hates the Musique album but they seem to like ‘Machine’, and they really get into ‘Commute’, which we didn’t really expect.”
Liv: “I think we have a really cool setlist and it’s been well received by the audiences. The thing I feel about this tour is that we’re getting so much back from the fans, so it’s really worth doing.”
CB: Which is a solid hint that another tour featuring Ray would be welcome, particularly since a Theatre of Tragedy reunion seems to be out of the question.
Liv: “We have a South American tour coming up in the autumn, and the fans down there are going crazy now for it because South America was a big market for Theatre of Tragedy. They actually got to play there… without me (laughs). Every time I’m there with Leaves’ Eyes or The Sirens, half of those crowds are Theatre of Tragedy fans. And as soon as we announced that we were going on the road together we had the promoters in South America lining up to support us. We already have people on the case, it’s going to happen, and in between we might do some festival shows if people are interested.”
CB: Any chance of a live DVD to commemorate the tour? It’s a reunion that nobody expected…
Ray: “I hope not. I really hate seeing myself on screen…”
Liv: “I don’t know. I’m kind of old fashioned. I really like the old style of things: you go to a concert, you have that experience, you go home with great memories of that night.”
CB: How about dragging Ray kicking and screaming into the studio to record a song or two? For old time’s sake. That, and you know the diehard Theatre of Tragedy fans would lose their minds.
Liv: “You know what’s going to happen. The last album that was produced at Mastersound was the Leaves’ Eyes album (King Of Kings), so next up is a Liv Kristine solo album. I would really like to have Tosso (Thorsten Bauer / guitars) write a song with Ray in mind. I’ve told the record company it’s going to be in the same vein as Vervain and that it would be perfect to have Ray on the album.”
Ray: “We talked about it the other day, and Liv would like to have me on the album growling for her upcoming recordings. It doesn’t mean I’m back in the music business, though. There still some of it left in me so that I enjoy performing, but I don’t want to do the business thing again. It doesn’t make any sense to do that unless you do as Liv’s done with having these other bands and the studio and all that. It’s especially difficult being in the music business if you live in Norway because it’s so damn expensive, too.”
CB: Theatre of Tragedy reunion rumours started to circulate earlier this year, but a couple of the guys from the band made it quite clear there was nothing at all in the cards. One statement read “Sadly, a reunion is as likely as a Doors reunion with the original lineup. No one has been approached or not approached.”
Liv: “I was hoping for a different reaction, that we could close the circle now so that everyone can be at peace with each other. I don’t feel sorry for myself or angry about being kicked out Theater of Tragedy; I haven’t felt that way for years and years…”
Ray: “We were talking about it the other day and I don’t even remember why we kicked her out.”
Liv: “To be honest, I don’t really know either. People change, you grow up, and that’s my vision of how this could work as a tour and it’s fucking amazing being on the road with Ray again. It would be so nice to have some good words coming from Stavanger but…. I guess we’ll leave it at that. It’s just so nice having Ray and my gangsters on stage with me every night right now.”
“A Hamlet For A Slothful Vassal” *
“On Whom the Moon Doth Shine” *
“Let You Down”
“Black As The Devil Painteth” *
“Der Tanz der Schatten” *
* with Raymond Rohonyi