Jan Yrlund

Interview date

April 2007



Official Website



Hello Jan and thank you for this interview. Can you first of all present the band?

Imperia is a multinational metal band and it was formed by Helena Iren Michaelsen (ex- Trail Of Tears) in 2004 in the Netherlands. On the bass we have Gerry Verstreken from Belgium, on the drums Steve Wolz from Germany, on the guitar John Stam from Holland, on the keyboards and orchestrations Audun Gronnestad from Norway and I'm from Finland. So it's a cross border band which also crosses musical borders between metal, epic, folk and gothic.

Isn't it uneasy to rehearse with each member living in different country?

Well let's say that this fact indeed doesn't make things easy for us. Of course during the promotion and touring with "The Ancient Dance Of Qetesh" we all lived close to each other in The Netherlands or Belgium and Germany, so it was easier to come together. But now that Helena moved back to Norway it is indeed a challenge. That is also the reason that we can' t just jam around and write music together like traditional bands often do. We only come together when we have a tour or a studio session coming up. Then we will rehearse more days in a row to use the time effectively. The song writing we do at home and we sure send a lot of MP3s around!

Where did you get the name Imperia ?

Helena invented that. I heard that the first version was actually Imperium, but Imperia sounded more compact and also easier. I think that the music has this bombast and epic feel to it sometimes, which you have in the name too. When you hear the name you get right away a feeling of emperor, imperium and an association to the grand things like that. I think it fits very well in our style. I know that there is also a city in Italy called Imperia, but we didn't get it from that.

Who did compose the music and the lyrics ?

This time I wrote most of the songs and also our keyboard player Audun wrote some songs. Some we did together too. Helena writes all the lyrics herself.

Where did you record the album and who did produce it ?

We recorded it in Germany in a studio called Spacelab. It's a very familiar studio for us. We also recorded the first album of Angel there. And I have been going there since 97 I guess. I have done some 8 productions there so I know the studio and the producers very well. In fact they are very close friends now and besides that Oliver Philipps plays with me in another band too. The other producer is called Christian Moos.

What is the difference between the first release and "Queen of light"?

Oh there are a lot of differences. First of all that album was written by many more people in a longer period of time. Some songs Helena already had done much earlier in Norway, even before moving to the Netherlands and from the time before Imperia. Also the musicians were for a part different. Henry and Arien (guitars and drums) played on the album, but before the release they left to concentrate on their main band God Dethroned. Actually it was after that that this steady line up was achieved, which has been together ever since. The first album was besides that recorded in a different studio by a different producer. I think that the first album sounds quite different, but has some very cool songs on it. But "Queen of Light" sounds more complete and more as a whole. Maybe more mature in a way.

What is your favourite song from "Queen of light"? Mine is "The calling" with these amazing vocal lines.

I also like the Calling a lot because Helena goes grazy on that one. It's really amazing vocal acrobacy she does there. But I also like all the fast metal songs like for ex. "Mirror" or "Raped By Te Devil". And of course "Braveheart" because that is one of the most epic and complicated songs I have ever written. I get really exhausted when hearing it now, it's like part after part after part, but I think it is in a way very impressive. But I also think that this is the limit for us when it comes to epic or progressive stuff. Nice to have one of those on the album though...

How would you describe your music to grab some potential fans in France?

Well we are basically a melodic metal band. I don' t care about categories too much actually. But our greatest asset is of course Helena. She is a natural talent with an incredible gift. It has been a real pleasure to work with her. I know many vocalists and have also worked with different great voices in my previous bands and still do -, but Helena has an unbelievable natural feel to the music. She never looses the pitch or sing a wrong note. She has everything in her head from lyrics to backing vocals to choirs. She is the most easy person to work with in the studio in fact. You just press "record" button and go for a coffee. When you return she has just done the complete song. Amazing. I hope that people really do take time to really listen to her and not judge her without even checking her out.

What are the first reactions from the medias? And from the fans?

Really rewarding! We even made it to CD of the Month in a known Belgian Magazine, which always feels good. It is still too soon to make a complete picture of all the reactions since we are still working very hard on promoting the album, but so far it looks very good. Especially in France surprisingly =)

Do we have a chance to catch you in France for some gigs?

I sure hope so! We were booked for the Raismesfestival last year but we had to cancel it unfortunately. I hope that we get a second chance now. And needless to say that we are open to any ideas, so if you want us you know where to find us =)

Can you describe a live performance of Imperia?

Energetic and very extreme in our genre. The songs get a heavier touch live always. And Helena goes completely mental. She jumps, bangs her head while doing opera and all grazy stuff. In some gigs she even jumped to the audience and did crowd surfing through the whole venue! To be honest, I don' t see many girls in their ball dresses doing that in our genre!

Who made the artwork and what does it represent?

I did the artwork. I do that also as a profession for bands and labels ( Because the album theme is about the life and death and especially about the wonder of birth I wanted to create something that reflects this wonder. So I decided to use Helena as a certain kind of holy or sacred statue. It might look even a bit like a religious icon. And between her hands she holds the "light" which symbolizes the life itself. I find it quite fitting to the atmosphere of the album.

Can you tell me more about Angel, the side project with all the members of Imperia?

Angel is a kind of solo project of Helena, in which she explores other musical fields. People know her mostly from her Opera voice, but she can do so much more. Angel has a more pop or rock approach to the music. She also wrote some songs for the album herself and for the rest I helped her out by writing songs. She invited us to play the whole album because we have a very good bond together. We are also busy with the next album but it might be that she also seeks out different people for some songs. In a way it is a kind of project where we can release songs which wouldn't fit to the Imperia concept.

What are your hobbies except music ?

Well besides having too many musical projects going on the whole time I also paint, draw, make CD covers and websites. I don' t have any time for anything else. But if I do I enjoy going to our cottage in the middle of an lake on an island. It's a place to relax. No TV, phone or internet, just pure nature and a deep forest around me. That is my way to load my batteries again before starting another project.

What was the best latest album you buy ?

I don' t buy many albums nowadays because I get the music from the bands I work for. I was impressed by the new Korpiklaani (which isn' t out yet), that's a really good one. The last concerts I saw were Finntrol and a few days earlier Cannibal Corpse. So my music taste is pretty wide =)

What do you think about the internet ?

It's the most important tool for my work. It has made a big revolution in the way that we all communicate now and I think that is a very good thing. Everyone can start a magazine, a band page or spread their message through internet. The freedom with that is great. Unfortunately some people also abuse this freedom. I have had to face also the less nice things with it. I have an obsessed ex-fan from my previous band time who has spread a lot of less nice things and even lies through internet about me. Some people think this is allowed, but that has nothing to do with freedom of speech if it's insulting and illegal. Then you are just a plain criminal if you do that. But luckily the authorities have her now. Some people think they can do or say anything insulting because it's "only" internet. But it's luckily not like that and I think it's good that some authorities or internet providers have an eye to this all. It's not wild west out there and you can harm or do lot of damage to somebody's reputation through internet too. Also when being a musician and an artist I dislike the way some people treat your work. Our album was already downloadable through a torrent weeks before it was even in the shops. I don' t think that is fair to the musicians and the songwriters. This has made the whole music industry to think of ways how to prevent that. Now all the journalists are double checked and they get on the blacklist if they spread MP3s and stuff like that. Luckily there are now also legal download sites, iTunes and so on which are great. It's just so handy to buy music through internet. So I think this is a good development and luckily people do use these instead of steal from the musicians.

You got the last word for the French readers...

Well it was a pleasure to have a chance to say some words here and I hope you like the album as much we enjoyed making it. I hope to see you all on the road someday!