Helena Iren Michaelsen is one of the iconic figures in metal music. Starting a career in Trail Of Tears, she later became a member of the first Epica line-up (at that time Sahara Dust), she soon left it for the sake of her own band Imperia. About the life situation, the new album and many other things, read our exclusive interview.
MG: Hello Helena and thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. Let’s talk about the new album «Flames of Eternity». What has changed since «Tears of Silence»? What is the main difference between the albums?
Helena: Thank you for your interview questions, I love to talk about my art and music and what stands behind my lyrics as well.
This album is more uplifting sphere in a way, and I think with very catchy parts, and the vocals got more in the front on this album this time which I think was positive for the total sound of the songs and its emotions.
And I have been a political prisoner in Norway for a while cause that I sit with very much documentation, my daughter is victim of serious crime under so-called care of Froland commune and Norwegian state.
So they were physically abusive to me and I ended up with blue marks all over my body, and also corrupted police of Arendal in Norway, instead of helping my daughter they locked me up innocent in state prisons in Norway, 4 different ones: Arendal, Kristiansand, Drammen and in Oslo. All done by commune and state employers.
And the police is corrupt in my daughter’s case and don’t help her. Instead they lock me up when I ask the police to help her, and then they steal my phones one by one I have documentasion on. So I have 6 mobiles now, he-he.
They also locked me up as political prisoner at state hospitals as well… So the “Tears of Silence” album is an album released in the name of my daughter Angel Maria who is still the victim of a serious crime in under Froland commune and state so-called care.
They abuse her, torture her and misuse her in child trafficking all the way since June 2014. And since police is corrupt in the case they still do. She is kept as a prisoner in crime. She is not allowed to have any mobiles or use the internet and is totally controlled and threatened in this crime in and from a house in the end of a road in the forest in Arendal commune. Its address: Vigelandsveien 590.4821 Rykene, Arendal commune, Norway. They have trafficked her in Spain, Denmark, Netherlands and around in Norway and probably other countries too.
They have ruined her emotionally, psychologically and physically…
So the world release of “Tears of Silence” got released as I was locked up as political prisoner in Norway.
And if you listen to the song “Innocent Child” you can hear on the lyrics there that I tell what is going on.
MG: Have the lyrics changed? Can you call this album a conceptual one?
Helena: Yes, a bit. There are many love songs on this album which is different from previous albums cause I’m now together with the love of my life Oliver Philipps. And that’s why it spontaneously from the heart got more love songs on this album.
But also of course there is a song for Angel Maria Michaelsen, my daughter, and for my mother there is also a song on the album as well.
My lyrics are always very personal and written directly from the heart.
The song for Angel Maria is the song called “Invisible Tears” — a very deep-hearted epic ballad full of emotions.
MG: What is your favorite song from the «Flames of Eternity»?
Helena: Oh, that’s very hard for me to choose cause every song has its own meaning and emotion for me. So I’m sorry but I really can’t choose. They all have something special in there I think that touch peoples’ soul and heart.
Which ones are your favorites?
MG: Is there any song that was the hardest for you to write/record on this album?
Helena: Yes, the song for Angel Maria “Invisible Tears”, and also the song “Beauty Within”. And when my boyfriend Oliver Philipps did the vocals for that one I was the one recording his vocals, and my tears flowed down my cheeks. And my mascara became a mess, he-he.
I made it originally as a poem and then I created a duet of it.
I’m a very sensitive person and very emotional so things touch my heart and soul easily.
MG: Will there be any music videos from «Flames of Eternity»?
Helena: There is already laying 3 music videos on YouTube – “Unspoken Words”, “Fear is an Illusion” and “Book of Love”. You should go in and see them.
MG: Recent years Imperia haven’t toured much. Do you plan to tour with new album?
Helena: Yes, for sure. We will headline FemME Festival in October in Netherlands and we have some more gigs that come up. But my main priority is of course to get Angel Maria out of the crime she is victim of and bring her back home to me. We have had gig requests and all, but because of that the Norwegian state locked me up as a political prisoner, it was not possible for me to play gigs. So the gigs and shows come from now on for sure.
MG: What is your favorite song to perform live?
Helena: I love to perform ALL songs actually, I don’t wanna leave the stage, he-he (smiling). I feel home also on the stage, I love to perform and it feels natural for me, that I’m meant to perform.
MG: You said in one of the interviews, that your solo project Angel is still active. Do you plan to release any new music in near future?
Helena: Yes, after this album we start to make ready the ideas for the next Angel album – “A Woman’s Diary Chapter 2”, and I’m really looking forward to that. And also there will of course be more Imperia albums as well. Music is my passion.
MG: Tell us about the actual writing process in Imperia. What comes first: music or lyrics?
Helena: Actually with the Angel “A Woman’s Diary” in many of the songs the lyrics came first, but with Imperia the music comes first. The thing with my solo project is that all the songs are originally made by my ideas that I’ve made playing guitar and singing. And then the band and my boyfriend Oliver Phllipps make them with instruments by own ideas, but also by mine. When I make a song on the guitar, I have the instruments ready by mind that are supposed to be there, if you know what I mean.
MG: Where do you find inspiration?
Helena: My personal life and happenings and pure emotions, and I’m a philosopher as well, so it’s a mix. But all lyrics are real and come from the heart.
MG: Have you ever experienced so-called artistic burn-out?
Helena: No, never. Creativity is a big part of me.
MG: You are a classically trained singer. What kind of advantages does this technique give to you?
Helena: When singing opera parts and more classical parts this is a good thing with the technique I have earned in the music conservatorium in Kristiansand. And, for example, on “Flames of Eternity” in the song “Fear is an Illusion” I also do grunt vocals, so I will do more of that on next Imperia album as well.
MG: We all know that voice is a very fragile instrument. How do you care about it?
Helena: I smoke a lot of cigarettes and drink pure whisky once in a while, he-he (smiling with a binky eye).
MG: Former Nightwish singer Anette Olzon said that music business isn’t good and friendly place for women. Do you agree?
Helena: I disagree with her words totally, i love all about it actually…
MG: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Helena: I love horse-riding, dancing, traveling, training, to spend good time with my family and friends and to do nice things. I have a motto: “You only live once”, so I try to make the best out of every day.
Because you never know what tomorrow brings. In June 2014 I was a victim of a murder attempt from Froland commune and earlier neighbors, because I won a building case, and I survived. So after that you kind of see life in a different aspect.
To make sure you do the best of everyday and do things that give you good memories. For me wealth is not money and materialistic things. For me wealth is the good deeds you do for and to other people for free by heart, and the valuable time you have with your family and friends and the people you love and the people who love you. I got a card once for my birthday I celebrated in Greece in Chania standing: “Life shouldn’t only be lived but celebrated”.
So embrace the day and do good things for other people, and good things will come back to you from higher powers. I’m very much a spiritual person and I’m clear-sighted, and I have a photogenic memory. I haven’t let people know this before recently. But I had it from my childhood on. I got born with it. And it’s not all I wanna see, I can tell you. But in some cases the clear-sightedness I have does also help me.
MG: If there would be a one-gig reunion of Trail of Tears, will you join it?
Helena: No, simply because I will not have time for that. I have both Imperia and my solo project, and more music videos also to make, plus shows.
MG: There are so many different bands in the genre, way more than it used to be 10 or 15 years ago, so the «competition» in this market is huge. How do you think, how can a new or «small» band become famous and successful on metal scene nowadays? What qualities must one possess to succeed in music and to live only from music, without any other job?
Helena: I can’t come with a recipe there, but the most important for me personally is that music comes from the soul and heart purely, and then other people will feel your emotions. And I believe this is one of the most important things in music in general. Music is a language that every country understands. And we can share emotions with each other without speaking the same language at all just by sending each other songs actually. It’s unique.
My education on the side is child and youth worker and special pedagogue. And I have been working as a teacher for children with special needs for example. It’s a very interesting work. I have also worked in the kindergarten and at the riding school actually and also earlier did modeling and worked as a professional belly dancer… Such different things.
MG: Helena, in your opinion, how has music industry changed in the last 15-20 years when digital format became more popular than CDs and soon? Are technical progress and the opportunities that Internet provided good or bad for the music business?
Helena: Sometimes i think it’s getting to technical, if you know what I mean. I think, for example, if you are not able to sing something live you also shouldn’t record it on the album. Unfortunately many bands are using backtracks live for their vocals cause they did it on a fake way on the vocal recordings in the studio for the album, and then they are not actually able to sing it at all. So yeah, I miss The Doors and Black Sabbath style, if you know what I mean. I think music live should be pure. But that is my opinion.
MG: Do you read comments and reviews to your music in social net, YouTube and so on? How do you manage to deal with possible pressure and negative comments?
Helena: I read the reviews, and “Flames of Eternity” have got very good scores in every country and reviews so far. And I’m so happy for that and honored and grateful.
MG: And the last question… can you say some words to our portal readers and your Russian fans?
Helena: I wanna thank you so much for the time you have spent on this interview and i wanna say many thanks you to our Russian friends for supporting Imperia and my solo project, and I’m looking forward to see you live in the near future, because we also have plans of trying to get some gigs in Russia. So that would be awesome.
So my last sentence of this interview is: please let us try to make a better world, a kinder world, a friendlier world, a world with more love and empathy for people around us and help and support each other in good ways. If someone is down let us lift him up. If someone is poor let us give him some coins. If someone doesn’t have friends lets join him in with us. To make the world a better place we have to start in the small and when we all do this and spread it further and abroad, then in the end WE will manage to make the world a better place to live…..
With love and many hugs Helena Iren Michaelsen — IMPERIA
Again thank you so much for support, Russia. Many hugs and respect.