Ailyn surely has become the most famous Spanish metal frontwoman through a rather impressive career, after her debut in Spain (including a participation in the X Factor TV show), she rose to international fame in 2008 when she joined Sirenia as their new lead vocalist. Although Ailyn joined the norwegian band for what already was their fourth album, she was the first singer to stay in it for more than one record. Moreover her unique voice contributed in building the sound and identity of Sirenia. So, for many, and although she wasn’t the first singer of the band, Ailyn was the voice and the face of Sirenia.
On top of it all, Ailyn did many collaborations as a guest (Serenity, Leaves’ Eyes, Diabulus in Musica, Mägo de Oz…) and also has been a part of the metal opera project Melted Space since the last two albums, right next to prestigious guests like Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity), Clémentine Delaunay (Visions of Atlantis), Mariangela Demurtas (Tristania), Silje Wergeland (The Gathering), Jeff Scott Soto…
In 2016, and after four albums together, Sirenia announced that Ailyn was no longer part of the band, following a common agreement, which was denied by Ailyn who said this was never her decision to leave. However, Ailyn would not let this be « the end of it all » and kept recording collaborations and being a member of Melted Space… But now she finally is back, stronger than ever, with her own new band, Her Chariot Awaits, founded together with the American guitarist Mike Orlando (Adrenaline Mob), which recently released its first self-titled album.
Ailyn accepted with much kindness to speak with Empire Magazine about her new band, her career, her dismissal from Sirenia and how she always remained true to herself despite the fame…
By Vivien Scalbert
EMPIRE MAGAZINE (EM): Hello Ailyn ! First, I’d like to ask you how you are doing, especially in these weird times with the COVID and all…
AILYN (A): Well I’m doing just fine, thanks. This whole situation had stuck me in Spain. Early march, I went to visit my family and I had to remain there for three months and a half. Last week they finally let me go back to Norway, and so right now I have to stay in a quarantine house. The truth is it all is quite weird. In Spain, it is all very different from Norway so I just have to adapt a little bit…
EM: Well I hope the lockdown was OK for you, it seems like the situation was worse in Spain than it was in Norway…
A: Yes, the good thing was that I was with my family so there was no problem. Since in Spain we were not allowed to go out for any reason, we had to find things to do to spend the time without getting on top of each other…
EM: And you had the release of your new album with Her Chariot Awaits planned right in the middle of it all !
A: Yes, the truth is our album was supposed to be out in April and eventually, with the whole COVID-19 issue we had to postpone it to May. And well, what can I say, there was nothing we could do about all this, but we are willing for everything to go back to normal a bit so we could go on tour and promote the album.
EM: About that, I know that right now, the question of going back on stage is suspended for now but do you have plans for touring with Her Chariot Awaits in the future ? For when all goes back to normal…
A: Right now, it is all uncertain, but yes the truth is our plan was to go on tour when the album was released. The whole band agrees on this, we don’t want Her Chariot Awaits to be a project for one album only, we want to be a real band, with which we could go on tour and make more albums in the future.
I hope it all goes back to normal soon so we could start looking for tourdates.
EM: Well I hope it will so you could go on tour ! Maybe with more dates in the United States now that you are part of an American band, as I know you also have many fans there…
A: I would love to ! Before this new experience, I had never been to the US before, so I really hope we could tour there !
EM: Can you tell me the backstory of Her Chariot Awaits ?
A: Of course ! It all comes from Frontiers Records, they already were negotiating with Mike to create a new hard rock band when they got in touch with me. I had just collaborated with the band Chaos Magic who also are signed with Frontiers. After that, they got in touch with me and talked about this new project.
Then, they got me in touch with Mike to talk about what was his idea for the band. And well, after we talked, we realized that we both we looking for the same thing and so we got on board of this new project.
Working with Mike has been a great honor and experience. This man is a working machine and an awesome person. He supported a lot during the whole process and he gave me the push I needed as I came from a completely different style and I had to change my ways for carrying this project.
EM: Of course, it is a huge metamorphosis for you ! In Sirenia, you kind of had the image of the « gothic princess », a bit fragile, with a high and sometimes lyrical voice, and with your new band, the audience can discover you with a strong woman image, with a very powerful singing, more « rock ». Is this big change the result of a will to demonstrate this aspect of yourself, maybe a bit like a revenge from the way you were fired from Sirenia and this image of pretty and fragile gothic girl that you had in that band, or did you adapt to the style of your new band ?
A: It is a big change ! And the truth I love it ! I am very happy to have the opportunity to do something completely different ! It was something I was willing to do ever since I got fired from Sirenia. It was very clear to me that I wanted my next band to be in a completely different style. And as you say, I once had the image of this « sweet gothic princess » and yes, I won’t deny that I am a sweet person, but I was never a fragile one, someone to look after so she would not break. I consider myself as a strong woman, with personality, and Her Chariot Awaits allowed me to show that part of me that few knew.
EM: It sounds awesome to me ! Especially since these past few years, the question of sexism in our societies had been talked about a lot with the Wenstein case in Hollywood, the #metoo movement… About that, you told before that you were suddenly dismissed from Sirenia by Morten Veland, even though you were the voice and the face of the band for many years… Do you think that a band with a male singer could dismiss its singer this way or are women, in some cases, still considered as interchangeable ?
A: The truth is it’s hard to say. I guess there were cases of a male singer being dismissed from a band in the same way before.
I had been talking with Mike about that and from what I got, this trend of dismissing a singer from one day to another is happening more here in Europe. I hadn’t thought about it until he told me that in the US, the fact of changing a singer so quickly like changing your pair of socks isn’t well received. Obviously a band is made of all its members and all are equally important. it is natural for a band to have to replace one of its members at some point, for whatever reason this is. But in my opinion, changing the singer every time you just feel like it just because you disagree on something, it feels to me like a huge lack of respect towards the audience.
I’ve heard of many other bands who did the same to their singers, I can’t speak for them, but in my own experience I can say there still is a lot of machismo in this little world. They really make you feel like you are nothing more than a paper tissue you can use and throw away, they use you when they need you and when they no longer do, they just drop you out and look for someone new.
EM: Sure, because although you were not the first singer in Sirenia, you were the first to stay for more than one album and for that reason I believe that the audience really saw you as the voice of Sirenia… But it was always clear that it was Morten Veland’s band… And I wonder if it could have made you feel a bit confined on an artistic level and if that is the case, I would like to ask if you are feeling more free now with Her Chariot Awaits.
A: Yes, on an artistic level, I was clearly limited. I think I said it many times before but if I loved being the singer of Sirenia, I was also feeling very limited and frustrated. As you said, it is his band, therefore, for me, going to the studio was to do the work I was given, the way I was asked to do it. Well, I wouldn’t say it was all bad. Morten does his recordings at his home and I used to stay with him and his wife during the recording week. We were friends and we used to have a lot of fun but from an artistic perspective, it is quite smothering to have yourself be limited to do something when you truly know that if they would let you change a thing or two, your voice would sound much better.
With Her Chariot Awaits it has all been easier, Mike sent me the songs and sang the vocal lines to show me his idea but then I could work on the melodies, adjust them or change them. When we made the demo, each of us did it from home, and when we got together in the studio, we both worked together to see how we were going to do things in order to make it all sound better. And whose idea whatever was doesn’t matter to either of both of us, what matters is the result.
EM: And as you said, your voice in Her Chariot Awaits is very different from your previous records, with a more « rock » and direct approach, even some screams and a bit of rapping… Were these new songs a technical challenge for you or is it just another aspect of your voice that was already there but that the audience only discovers now ?
A: It was the idea from the start. I wanted to demonstrate that I was more that a sweet and high voice. With Her Chariot Awaits, I was finally given the opportunity to experiment with my voice and demonstrate this other side of it.
The rough voice and the rap I used to do it before, moreover, I always liked to use my deeper voice. I always liked when other singers would do some growls or screaming but I would have never pictured myself doing that. It was very fun to do though. (laughter)
EM: Also Her Chariot Awaits is a band with a typical American heavy metal sound, which is very far from the symphonic gothic metal with death influences for which you are best known by the audience. How did your fans react ? Were you nervous before the album was out, wondering if your audience would like it ?
A: At first, I was nervous but I was very surprised that most of the comments are actually good. I was afraid that, being in a completely different style, the fans would be unhappy about it. But the truth is they all are fantastic to me and although the style is different from what they may have expected, they still give me their support.
EM: And do you think there is a difference in the musical approach or in the way of working between a European band and an American one ? What do you think ?
A: I honestly don’t know. I guess each musician has their own musical approach, no matter which country they are from.
EM: You also have been a part, for the latest two albums, of the french metal opera act, Melted Space, next to other famous guests like Silje Wergeland, Mariangela Demurtas, Mikael Stanne… And you have been a part of the band during the latest tour. Are you still a permanent member of the band or are you more of a regular guest ? Can you tell me about the experience with Melted Space ?
A: Yes, it was a great experience to be able to work with Melted Space. It is a band with a huge potential and talent. I am very grateful for them to have wanted me to participate in those two albums and I would love to keep working with them in the future, because not only they are fantastic musicians, we also all are good friends.
EM: Today, you surely are the most famous Spanish metal frontwoman in the world. First in Spain, especially with the X Factor and then on an international scale with Sirenia. How did you deal with fame on a personal level ?
A: For me fame has never been the most important thing about my career. I always was a down-to-earth person. I am a normal and regular person, I don’t consider myself better or worse than the others for the simple fact of being an artist. My mother always taught me to have good moral values and I like to keep my feet on the ground. Even now, after all these years, I still keep the same friendships I had before I became famous. I would have never let fame get in the way of who I am, and so I still keep on being the same person I was when I started to sing professionally.
EM: And you have been a part of Spanish, French, Norwegian and now American bands… How do you look back at this whole experience with many different people from many different parts of the world ?
A: It is awesome ! I always loved to learn new things, I am kind of a restless person, my head never stops working. And working with bands from different countries and styles gave me the opportunity to keep learning and getting better in everything I could.
EM: One last question, I am curious about the name of the band… What does Her Chariot Awaits mean ? To me it sounds a bit like a contrast between pure modern heavy metal and an old courtesy sentence, I don’t know if that was the idea, something a bit ironic ?
A: The name was Mike’s idea. The both of us were sending each other a variety of ideas, but I remember that, from the start, he said he would like to choose a name with three words. He told me that he wanted to base the name on me, and for that reason, he thought of the way I used to dress when I was in Sirenia. He told that my clothing was very noble lady-like and for that reason, he thought of « Her Chariot Awaits », like in a Cinderella way. But what he meant by that with the name was that it was more my step from one style to another.
EM: And I think he succeeded! Thanks a lot for this interview Ailyn, I wish you the best with Her Chariot Awaits and I hope it will be very successful and that there will be many tour and many more albums in the future !
A: ¡Thanks to you Vivien! It has been a pleasure talking with you for a while.