Amazing artist, wondeful voice. She is the soprano officially fronting Therion, the very first woman permanently joining the line up of the legendary Swedish band. But Lori is a true person, she does not pose, she transmits all the passion for what she does, as well as being very humble despite the fame achieved. Her first solo album is out, supported by the huge and eclectic Therion family behind her. I had the honor and the pleasure to talk with Lori about this release, about her career, about her life. (IN ITALIANO QUI)

MH: Hello Lori! Thank you for taking the time for this. I just reviewed your solo album (here), and I’ve some questions for you! So: it seems you did this out of nowhere. Not many news in advance about it. We had no clue you were busy with this idea. The last information about you was you left live music activity, but remained with Therion. Before talking deeper of “Carmina Romanus”, how are you doing lately, any other project beside this and Therion?

LL: You are right, Luca. This was certainly a surprise project for most. I have been busy with so many different things in the past few years, though most of that has to do with my job and my family as I pivoted away from music-making as my main focus. At the time I made the EXTREMELY difficult decision to no longer tour with Therion, my life had changed significantly at home and I had an opportunity to follow a new path, vocation-wise. Since then, I have always tried to keep music as a part of daily life, which includes playing or practicing at home and continuing to work with Therion in the studio. And I am so glad that I did, because this is how I find myself in the current fortunate position of releasing a solo album. And with our current, ahem, change of focus as the pandemic runs its course, music has been a welcome distraction. VERY welcome. Here in the US, most retailers are closed, including the one I have been working with for over three years. I have transitioned into working for them remotely through their customer service center but have had plenty of time to think about what really matters. For me, making music always makes it to either the top of the list or very near to the top.

MH: Can’t avoid this: as an artist that toured intensively and later decided to take a break… how are you seeing this quarantine madness with every gig being cancelled around the globe?

LL: Well, to be honest, I feel for those whose main earnings path is through gigging. I know there are many bands right now who are trying to find other ways to connect with their audiences and keep bread on the table. I actually think this opportunity to hear musicians and bands perform in a different way (for example, via streaming) is a huge win for music listeners. Suddenly, fans have access to their favorite artists in a live streaming fashion that can be exciting. But preparation is key… I’ve seen a couple less than stellar “performances”, though 99% of the time it’s because the performer is talking more than making music (laughs, editor’s note). But even this is something interesting. Performers are giving their fans unprecedented access and sharing exactly how they’re feeling. Passions are running high. And passion is certainly what has driven me in the past as well as the present to seek musical outlets as a performer, and I know many other musicians and performers are feeling the same. Honestly, I see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to make music that truly matters. We are quite literally in this together. I have always felt a connection with my fellow musicians and music lovers across the world thanks to the opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of since I chose the path of the performer. This, in my opinion, has brought us all together again. And I can tell you without hesitation that once this current situation subsides, there is going to be a MASSIVE wave of bands and artists touring and performing. At least, I hope that’s the case. I can’t wait to be a part of THAT.

MH: Talking about your album. First of all… can you explain the attractive title “Carmina Romanus”? Is there some play with the manuscript full of poems from the 11tth -13th century? Or did you rather stick to the work of Carl Orff… as Therion did with “O Fortuna” some 20 years ago? Please explain.

LL: Actually, it’s rather simple. The latin translation of the title is Roman Songs. Each song is lyrically inspired by the planets in our solar system, plus the star that makes it all possible (the Sun, or Sol Invictus). We intertwined both the mythology as well as the astronomical elements of each planet. However, I didn’t write all the lyrics for this album, and Per Albinsson, the other lyricist, may have had some ideas of his own.

MH: Was the album intentional or did it happen (something not new when Christofer Johnsson is involved…)? Did the vocals recording happen with a solo album in mind, or were you in Sweden for other reasons and did this too… and later became a solo album? Like something stored in a box that all of a sudden decided to get out and take a new life…

LL: Christofer came to me with the idea of recording these songs. We had all the lyrics penned within about a month after he proposed the idea, though we already had a template to work with since these songs are all originally composed by an artist Christofer had met in his many recent travels to Russia. I flew over and recorded with him in May 2019, then subsequently did some studio recording here in Salem, Oregon (with a really talented guy named Jason at Wavelengths Studio).

MH: When I received the email about you releasing a solo album, I couldn’t believe it. Then I dug deeper looking for information, and found out it isn’t really a solo album the way I mean it. It’s a work of the guys from Arcane Symphony, Therion team and with most of the lyrics by Per Albinsson… The lyrics you wrote are for songs that turned out to be some remake of some Arcane Symphony tunes, out of their sole full length out. How came this decision? Did you like those songs and wanted to boost them or was Anton Andryushin, the music writer, coming up with this idea?

LL: Well, first off, these songs are a great first album for ANY band. I was impressed with the level of musicianship and creativity apparent in the original album. Christofer was the one who deserves the lauds for finding a way to breathe new life into an already interesting record (released a few years ago under Anton’s first band’s name, Arcane Symphony). Christofer saw an opportunity for us to make our own rendition of Anton’s original idea, but we went for a more thematic idea to tie them together.

MH: On my review I talked about the ‘Therion Family’ concept or something like that. I mean, there’s this deep Russian connection (Christofer Johnsson is known for this), there are Therion or ex-Therion artists, there’s somebody off Imperial Age (whose member are friends of Christofer)… Can you tell more about this wonderful energy that comes out from anything arising from the ‘Therion Empire’?

LL: We are all spokes on the wheel of Christofer (laughs, editor’s note). He has a true talent in bringing artists together, which is part of the reason Therion has existed as long as it has and also is part of the reason the concept behind Therion is somewhat fluid. Therion is the sum of many parts, and all of those parts make a contribution to the richly varied fabric of artistry. If you’re the kind of person who likes to be surprised, Therion is the band for you.

MH: Taking a look to the track list, every title is referring to a celestial body from our system: Sun, Earth, Moon.. etc. It seems theres something like a concept laying underneath. Can you explain the lyrics and what this album want to lyrically transmit?

LL: We chose to write lyrics that were inspired by planets because many of the songs naturally lent themselves to the idea. For example, “Saturn” has an immensity to it in the way the song is composed. One can almost feel the slow rotation of the gas giant while listening to this song unfold. And “Tellus” has an earthiness in the vocal stylings as well as a seriously beautiful chorus that haunts my mind frequently. To me, it feels ‘grounded’ which is very appropriate considering it’s about Earth. In “Venus”, one of the songs I penned, I intertwined concepts about both the Roman goddess as well as what the planet itself actually looks like, based on scientific modeling and knowledge. A friend of mine from Chile, Sebastian Pérez, gave me some ideas for inspiration. One of those resources was a book written by Dava Sobel, entitled, “The Planets”. It’s an entertaining read and the writing is beautifully descriptive.

MH: How was singing with Thomas outside Therion? Because that song “MERCURY – Messenger of dreams” was already great in its “A New Day Begins” version… but now it is damn great!!!

LL: Yes, it definitely took on a new energy thanks to Thomas and the arrangement chosen. He’s always a force for fun and creativity. And he has an ability to put his entire self into music-making. I would call him the consummate professional musician. And the guy can literally get along with almost ANYONE on the planet. How can you NOT love him?!?

MH: What are the future plans for this album? Usually an album is followed by a tour. OK, now there’s no touring, but would you resume live music for this album? Or could these song end in Therion’s set list?

LL: I’m taking suggestions, (laughs, editor’s note). At this time, the release was what seemed the most important. Honestly, this has been a fantastic outlet for me to make music with a group of inspired and inspiring people, so just that alone is a win in my opinion.

MH: Lori Lewis, the singer: what would have been your life, your career if you wouldn’t have ended in Therion line up? Do you sing on other projects outside heavy metal world? And how is that going?

LL: You know, music is never far from my mind. I’m always looking for ways to still be active in the world of music-making. I’ve sung jazz, classical, opera, pop, metal… in other words, if you name it, I’ve probably at least tried it. I do a lot of self-recording and playing around in our home studio with my husband. We have a simple set-up, but it’s sufficient for the time being. Currently, I live in a town that doesn’t have a ton of outlets for music performing. Which means if anything is going to happen, I’d have to make space for that to happen again. I did that once in my life, which is what led me to working with Therion in the first place. I miss touring with them often. Not the sleepless nights or the lost items (laughs, editor’s note), but I do miss the camaraderie that comes with spending every living breathing moment with a group of musicians. So who knows? Maybe you’ll see me back out there again soon. (laughs, editor’s note).

MH: The last question: What is the difference you feel between singing into a microphone for a recorder or singing for a crowd going crazy? I saw you live with Therion, and your magic, you voice are way .. bigger and more powerful from the stage…

LL: It’s all about the magic of the moment, Luca. When performing on stage, it is quite literally electric. The energy from the crowd brings the music alive in a way that nothing else can. And Therion has always worked with a very talented crew that knows how to put on an amazing show, especially when it comes to live sound. Our guy we use currently, TomTom, is ridiculously talented at that sort of thing. And he’s fun to work with! Recording in a studio can be tedious at times. Re-recording something a few times, cutting and pasting… boooooring. But it’s part of what it takes to make an album currently. I’ve found that recording is always more enjoyable if you do an entire take of a song first. And what REALLY makes a good recording for me is having a deep knowledge and feel for the song before recording. However, I concede your point. Albums used to be a RECORD of an EVENT, as in everyone comes together and puts it all down and that’s it. Nowadays, there is so much more that goes into making a recording. And don’t even get me started about compression on the voice and recordings, man! (laughs, editor’s note) I could talk for days about that. But ultimately, the key is to work with people you trust will try to make the best decisions for an album. Mastering a recording is a challenging matter, and there will always be things you want to change, make better, fix. The key is knowing when you’re done and to let it be as it is.

MH: Please, to close: a message for the reader of and you fans…

LL: Thanks for inviting me to share some thoughts. It’s always a pleasure to hear from everyone about what music or bands are inspiring them, so I’d love to hear from you all! Music is what brings us all together and makes life all the more interesting. Love you!

(Luca Zakk)

Photo: Mina Karadzic