Radio Rivendell interview (20/8 2007)

In the year of 2000 the two Swedish brothers Daniel & Mikael Tjernberg had some musical ideas that didn’t seem to fit Metal Fusion, their main band at the time. They started to record some of this music in their own Goatman Studios, and soon they had enough material to fill a complete, full-length album. The project was named after the title of an opus, and so LOST KINGDOM was born.

Lost Kingdom is very classical inspired. Was this the idea from the start? Could you tell us a little more on this?
Mikael: It has never been about some kind of concept for us. It’s all natural. The instruments of an orchestra have qualities that are perfect for the kind of music we write.
Daniel: The symphony orchestra is the best way to communicate feelings with variety.

Both of you look like metal guys! We have seen both good and bad attempts when metal heads go to more somber music like dark ambient.
What do you think will make your music work?

Mikael: This, of course, is a quite common question. It doesn’t get better by the fact that our old band was named Metal Fusion. However, we’re not from the metal scene.

History and nature seem to be one of your inspirations. Something more?
Daniel: It’s sufficient enough, don’t you think?

What musical education have you had? Have you studied the “old masters”?
Mikael: Municipal musical school since 1993, musical upper secondary school in Enköping, studies for Pär Lindh of Par Lindh project and Professor Erik Kjellberg. I have studied at the institution for musicology in Uppsala since 2004.
Daniel: Classically trained in piano.

What inspired you to start write/compose?
Daniel: Mikael and I have always played together. At first, it was just child games. Eventually, we started to record some of this stuff. This was the early 90s, and we weren’t more than 7-9 years. The will to express oneself has always been there.
Mikael: Yes, that’s true. Writing music came naturally. We’ve done it for so long we cannot remember when it started.

How old were you when you first started composing your own compositions?
Daniel: Very young. The quality of these works is (of course) not satisfying, but then again, they were written when we were at about 7 years age.

Assuming you learned how to play musical instruments, which instrument helped you begin your composing career?
Mikael: At first (for me) it was the recorder which had me started. Later on, the acoustic guitar helped me find new harmonies to play with. Today, I write most of my music for piano.
Daniel: Exclusively the piano.

What musical composers most influence you?
Daniel: Classical composers like Beethoven, Bartók, Wagner and Stravinsky, symphonic film scorers like John Williams and Basil Poledouris, and some modern music.
Mikael: Beethoven.

Do you use choral arrangements as well as instrumentals?
Daniel: Some of our songs were originally written for choir, but rearranged for cantabile, voice like instruments, like oboe or viola. The day we can hire a professional choir, this might change.

What instruments do you prefer to use in your compositions?
Mikael: We go for the Wien-classical orchestra.
Daniel: The piano and some other more romantic instruments is a nice addition to this formula

Do you consider that you have a musical signature of your own – if so, what are its recognizable characteristics?
Mikael: I guess we have a signature. An effect of the wide diversity of musical influences we’ve had, I suppose. In the music of Lost Kingdom, you can hear how the big 18th century orchestra plays music that has its heart somewhere in the 19th century’s romantic music, and maybe some vague jazz influences in some places.
Daniel: And it does, in my opinion, melt together quite well. Another interesting thing we often do is add ambience sounds, like birds singing and winds blowing. I think the old masters would have done the same if they were given the possibility.

Who was the first person to recognize your potential in the business of music composition?
Mikael: Mom and dad have always been of big support of me and my brother and our music. However, you might argue that they’re not qualified to judge in this matter. My teacher in music theory at upper secondary school once told me that he thought I had fantastic composing skills. That was a great moment for me, since I respect this teacher very much.
Some years hereafter, Ola Erikson at the institution for musicology in Uppsala shared his thoughts about some of the works of Lost Kingdom. It was very inspiring to hear.

What influenced your music then and how has that changed? Have you always played classical music?
Daniel: Our music has remained quite the same in matter of the raw, musical material, but the arrangements have changed in line with the resources we’ve had to bring the pieces to life. In the early days we wrote all our music for a budget synthesizer, recorders and vocals! In the 90s, our band Metal Fusion took most of our time. During this period we wrote a lot of jazz influenced rock songs. However, I think you can recognize Lost Kingdom’s moods in some of these old songs.

How long does it generally take you to compose a piece?
Mikael: Quite long! It starts off with an idea. It can be a single phrase, a bass line or a chord progression. You write it down, and then the composing starts. When you have a good original material, this generally flows as if automatic. Then comes the arrangement, and here is where the time is being consumed. As an example of this, the track Under a Clouded Sky from our forthcoming album has been worked on since January 2006, and we are putting the last details in place at the time of this writing.
In the end, it feels tough to consider your pieces finished. It’s actually the hardest part to let go of them.
Daniel: It generally takes several months per piece. Perfection is the key.

What advice would you have for budding composers who are just starting out?
Daniel: Write for yourself, not for others. Music is always best when it’s genuine, coming straight from the heart without middlemen.

Do you think your music fits in a fantasy or roleplay environment?
Mikael: Yes, I think you can say so. Instrumental music of course has the benefit to be interpretive in a much more flexible way than vocal music with text and words.
Daniel: We don’t want to put a note in our listeners hand and say, “this is what this song is about. It’s up to the audience to draw their own inner pictures.

What music software programs have helped you further your composition goals?
Daniel: In the beginning, there were Cubase and Pro Tools. Today, the indisputable companion in Lost Kingdom’s software array is the absolutely fantastic music notation application Sibelius.

If you use synthesizers what do you think their use does for your music?
Mikael: We don’t use them. Not because we lack knowledge on how to use them, but because we haven’t found any use for them. The expressiveness of a symphony orchestra is so wide that synthesizers have a hard time trying to add something to its palette.

If you couldn’t be a composer, what else do you think you’d be doing?
Daniel: Well… maybe I would be a painting artist? I would seek myself to creative things; it’s in my very veins.
Mikael: I really don’t know. Composing and playing music has always been my one and only ambition. If it weren’t for music, I don’t know if I would be me.

If you could work with any other composer/band, who would it be?
Mikael: Beethoven would be nice. However, it’s hard for me to work directly with others when composing. My brother is the exception to this.

What is your relationship with other composers in the field, have they been helpful and supportive?
Mikael: We’re pretty cut off, actually. Our net of relations is limited to a handful of acts and composers. For me, Ola Eriksson has been a good friend, as well as our mates at Waerloga, in particular Simon Kölle and Simon Heath. Mikael Dagobert of Dark Legacy has been very supportive through the years, and I mustn’t fail to mention our dear cousin Johannes Edvardsson of Eerie Caffler, with whom we actually have some composing cooperation.

What place do you think Radio Rivendell have in the genre you compose for and what do you think can it do for you?
Daniel: The most obvious: it gives us an audience that isn’t a bunch of average Joes, but one that has got some sense for quality. It’s an honor to be represented in the playlist alongside composers like Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman.

Do you think Radio Rivendell gives your music a wider and more appreciative audience?
Daniel: Yes, I honestly do.

What projects do you have coming up on the horizon?
Mikael: We’ve already begun composing some pieces for a future album. Right now, we have an autumn of hard work with the polishing of our forthcoming album, As the New Dawn Awakes. I hope you will find the end result enjoyable.

Thank you for your time! Looking forward to the new album!

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