Kari Rueslåtten – Awaken the Dreamer

Sunday, 6th April 2014

The name Kari Rueslåtten might not ring a bell for some, or even many, but, her influence and impact on the now very-prevalent symphonic and Gothic metal styles cannot be understated. Her mid-90s work in Norway’s The 3rd and the Mortal helped set the bar for female sirens in the context of metal, thus infiltrating the Boys Club that had no place for women. Her vocals – classical, harmonious, and spell-binding – were the ideal match for the band’s dark and blustery soundscapes, of which became cemented on 1994’s Tears Laid in Earth, one of the style’s more groundbreaking efforts. However, Rueslåtten’s time in The 3rd and the Mortal would be short-lived, having jumped ship in 1995 to pursue a solo career.

Rueslåtten’s solo career would take her up to 2005, where upon she took a self-imposed hiatus to start a family. Gradually, the urge to create new music would come back, and in 2013, she set in motion what would become Time to Tell (Despotz Records), her first solo album in nine years. Devoid of any metallic leanings, the album has significant appeal based on Rueslåtten’s soft and striking vocals, which are accompanied by gentle piano and guitar work. The mood may be laid-back, but some of these songs (i.e. “Hide Underneath Bridges,” “Hold On,” and “Why So Lonely”) are simply beautiful. With that in mind, the ever-polite Rueslåtten rung DR on a Friday evening to chat about her return to music, Time to Tell, and much more. Read on and learn something new…

Dead Rhetoric: You spent some time away from music for a little bit. Was there a point where you thought you’d never do anything again?

Rueslåtten: Definitely. I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back. As a person, when I do something, I do it thoroughly, so when I decided I was going to have a break, I made it a total break. I didn’t do any concerts, I didn’t play the piano, I didn’t sing…I was also quite comfortable that I wasn’t going to do more music.

Dead Rhetoric: Was it a case of wanting clean slate? You were pretty active once you left The 3rd and the Mortal.

Rueslåtten: I think so. I think I was ready to start to have a family and I just felt like I needed more regular time, like, a more “set” time so my children would have a normal family life. I had been doing music since I was really young, and I needed to do something else. I needed to use my brain in a different way.

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned your schedule. Are you able to find the balance between your home life – as in, your kids – and music?

Rueslåtten: I hope so. [laughs] Now that I’ve come back to music, I can’t believe that I’ve been away for so long. I’m almost angry with myself that I haven’t been doing it. I feel so much more complete as a human being; I feel like a big part of me has been missing for eight years. I’m aiming for a balance. I really want to do both.

Dead Rhetoric: We, as in the metal scene, have a very difficult time letting people go who originated with metal, and even though you were with The 3rd and the Mortal for only a few years, there’s still a connection with you. Are you finding that to be the case as well?

Rueslåtten: That’s really touching, and very inspiring. It makes me believe in music that is some kind of emotion in music that awakes in you, that lifts you out of genres, too. Hopefully there are some dark corners that people can find that can relate even if it’s not metal anymore.

Dead Rhetoric: As for The 3rd and the Mortal, the band is very much a cult entity over here in the States, but you had more success in Europe. Any fond recollections of those days in the mid-90s?

Rueslåtten: I think most of all, we were just really good friends. I was playing in many different bands back then and we all rehearsed at this old, awful shut down fabric shop. We walked from room-to-room, just playing together. Finally, when The 3rd and the Mortal’s lineup got set, we just knew this is going to be the band, we’re going to go for it, so we left the other bands. People weren’t used to metal bands having a female voice back then. That’s what I remember the most. People were like, “Where is the guy singer and when are you going to stop singing?” I’d be “Uh, it’s just me!”

Dead Rhetoric: The Tears Laid in Earth album still holds up really well.

Rueslåtten: Oh yeah. We had like, no money. We rehearsed and rehearsed and we went into the studio and did the album in a really short time. We were so young and the whole world was ahead of us. We were just happy to make an album.

Dead Rhetoric: As for Time to Tell, it’s so stripped-down. Just you and a piano, some guitars, and drums. Writing that way, it’s a risky move – you can be awfully vulnerable when it’s basic elements like that.

Rueslåtten: I felt like I’ve been silent for so long and I have to go out there and expose myself more. In a way that, I think time had come that I needed to dare to be more personal in my songs, and have the arrangements much more bare than I had been before. Also coming back to music – I hadn’t been on Facebook – I just found out that medium, I got on a year ago, and I found out my comfort zone had to be pushed a lot. [laughs] And you feel much closer to the people who like what you do. I was inspired by that; there are actually people out there who feel that my music is adding something to my life, that they want me to make more music.

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