Interview with Ann-Mari Alexis

ex-The 3rd and the Mortal, ex-Tactile Gemma

Many metalheads from the early to mid 90s may recognized the name The 3rd and the Mortal, one of the first pioneering bands of the doom metal that implemented female vocals, along with Theatre of Tragedy. The band became a main influence to many other popular bands like The Gathering, Nightwish, Flowing Tears, and Trees of Eternity.


The 3rd and the Mortal have released 4 full-length albums, and 2 EPs in their career span of 13 years until breaking up in 2005. We know Kari Rueslåtten has had a solo career since 1995, Kirsti Huke has been involved in the jazz music and has her own project called Kirsti, Ola & Erik. But what about Ann-Mari Edvardsen? The 3rd and the Mortal's second singer who departed in 1997. After some searching on the internet, I found her on social media and got in contact with Edvardsen, who is now married, involved in opera, and had been going under as Ann-Mari Alexis. We got to chat for a while and then asked he if she would like to be interviewed by us to give her some details what she has been doing after since The 3rd and the Mortal and gladly accepted the offer!

“Hello Ann-Mari and welcome to our interview! How are doing lately?”

Ann-Mari: “Ciao amici! I have to say that since I just moved to Italy, and thank you, I am really happy for this interview and excited about our new start in life coming to Sicily! I live in Catania now, the same city of the famous Vincenzo Bellini, the opera composer, I have a teacher who is an expert of Bellini and said to me that Bellini soprano roles are perfect for my voice. Also, like Norway, there have also been Vikings.”


“That’s really great to hear, I can’t wait to see what Italy has in stored for you! Now I want start our questions with your music experience, not many fans know about your background in music, can you give some details on how you began your musical journey?”

Ann-Mari: “I started to show interest for music and visual art at a very early age, I used to sing and improvise melodies and sometimes I would go out in nature and sing. When I was 16, I went to visual art school and was also singing with a band. I didn’t take singing lessons until I was 19, but I would sing at school talent shows with bands and was a soloist in gospel choirs and for a brief period I was in a classical church soloist group. I had some experience and interest in pop/rock and was most fascinated by melodic songs and ballads with long beautiful lines.''


''When I was 16 in boarding school, I joined a band where we performed cover songs for example like Skid Row and Guns and Roses.  Later, I heard another soloist in the gospel choir sing the standard jazz song: ‘My Funny Valentine’, and I loved this song so much that I bought a fake book with standard jazz songs and started to play them on the piano and learned almost the whole book. I found a teacher and took some jazz singing lessons and this led me to want to start music gymnasium to sing jazz, my teacher at the music gymnasium didn’t teach jazz so I started to study classical singing with her instead. I had my first classical singing lesson in August and had my first classical solo performance with orchestra and choir in December, so things went fast for me. The following year I was also picked out as a soloist for the Christmas concert and I sang ‘Sacred Concert’ by Duke Ellington, I also joined a big band for two years and sang songs like ‘Birdland’, ‘Don't Get Around Much Anymore’, ‘Knock on Wood’, ‘Skylark’ and so on. I also sang with three different jazz bands and I studied classical guitar as a second instrument for two years. When I later moved to Trondheim, I sang with a fusion/rock /pop cover band, a reggae band a jazz band and also classical music of different kinds.'' 

 ''After my period with The 3rd and the Mortal, I went to the music conservatory in Trondheim, studying classical singing and was very active singing in different parts of Norway in operas and other classical works and had the highest grade possible in on my singing exams. After three years in the conservatorium I went to University College of Opera in Stockholm, where I was told to change from the regular 3 ½ year study to the 1 ½ year study for more experienced singers. During my studies, I sang for a coach from New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra who was responsible for the student program at the Covent Garden in London, he offered me a scholarship and place in the program but I turned it down, the reason for that was I had just met an excellent teacher of the old school Italian bel canto technique, his name is Berle Stanford Rosenberg. I wanted to concentrate on learning this way of singing and prepare my voice so that I would sing in the right style and to make my instrument last longer, I have an Italian voice type. I learned that this technique has almost disappeared in modern times and it has changed general voice health in singers and the sound is different also. My way of hearing actually has changed during my studies of the technique. I started to listen only to really old recording from the golden age of singing to understand and copy the style and technique of the old times.”

“All that’s sounds very life changing, all that learning and the people met. How about The 3rd and the Mortal, how did you meet and joined them?”

Ann-Mari: “I met a friend of the guys from The 3rd and the Mortal at my school and he told me about them and that they were looking to find a new vocalist. I never heard about the band before, so I went to a record store to listen to their music and found it very interesting. I went with this friend to their rehearsal room and I didn’t know that he hadn’t forewarned them about me coming, they had not gone out officially to find a new singer yet, so I came as a surprise.  I remember singing two or three of their songs and after that we improvised on the theme that later became piece named ‘Neurosis’ on our Nightswan EP. We really enjoyed this jam session and during the rehearsal it was decided that I was the new vocalist.”


“That's cool that you joined them in just one rehearsal session! Even though your weren't part of the band since it's very beginning, but how did it feel to be in a group that was one of the driving forces in metal that female vocalists became more common the genre? Inspiring bands like Nightwish, The Gathering, Flowing Tears as the band was mentioned that they were their influence?

Ann-Mari: “Since I didn’t know much about the contemporary metal scene and never heard of any of those bands before, it was no reason to compare myself with those artist. I was there to make music, nothing else. The band had already started to go in a new direction so there was no shoes to fill. Kari and I have very different voices and styles, I appreciated her songs and style and loved performing those songs in concerts, as I always have loved to do so many different styles in music and art! I never listened to The Gathering and Nightwish and some of those names you mention, and yet I have still not even heard of. Female vocalists in rock had never been my source of inspiration, in rock, I love voices like Lou Gramm and David Coverdale just to mention, the two of many great rock singers.”


“As you mentioned about the band’s new sound direction, ‘Painting on Glass’ was their last metal album by the band, the following album, ‘In this Room’ became more of experimental. What made the band depart from its metal roots and was it challenging with the changes?”

Ann-Mari: “The changes came naturally by inspiration and was not something that we decided on beforehand to go through with, so I would not say there were any challenges. Our music was developed through jam sessions, sometimes built on themes that we as members would make by ourselves in our homes.”

“It all comes up to what the members think it’s the right choice. Moving on from the question, you also have a sister who is also an artist, she was once a singer for Atrox. Is she still involved in music?”

Ann-Mari: “My sister Monika is now more of visual artist making dolls and paintings, but she also does compose music.”


“Have you two ever done any projects together? Will be a chance in the future?”

Ann-Mari: “We had a project called Tactile Gemma, we released a demo and an album and made a music video for the song ‘Blackberry Jam’. This video was actually a piece of art with homemade costumes, dolls, animation of stuffed animals and ourselves in a doll house, being played with by our puppet master.  I regret we never bought the rights for it, but maybe it’s possible to buy it from NRK (Norwegian state broadcasting network). I don’t know what the future will bring! Our brother is also a musician and composer and there are many others in my family with good voices and talents for composing.”


“Speaking about collaborations, have you worked with any other bands or musician after The 3rd and the Mortal?”

Ann-Mari: “Yes, several before I joined The 3rd and the Mortal as I mentioned in the beginning of this interview, and also had the opportunity to take on some guest performances in concerts and recordings during and after my period with my band.  I can mention singing a cover of ‘Cloudbusting’ by Kate Bush with the Italian band Novembre and also on the album ‘The Forsaken’ with Antestor from Norway.

“And if a musician/artist from a metal band approached for a collaboration today, are you willing to take the offer?”

Ann-Mari: “Metal itself is not what interests me the most, being a member of a composing band for me is not about fitting into a style, but to create in the moment! Lately, I have used a lot of time and work developing my voice and learning the old bel canto technique, so I don’t think I would experiment too much with my voice right now and bend it into a different directions as I did in The 3rd and the Mortal, even though I think I could do more now with a much developed mature voice and technique as long as I don't scream and misuse my instrument. I think guest performances and small projects would be possible, but I would have to be totally in charge of my voice projection and be very careful to not force my voice. It can be difficult to avoid putting strain on the voice in a metal band, with the loud instruments and sometimes bad sound equipment in concerts. It's important to let the singer have good sound and to turn down the volume on the instruments so that the singer feel comfortable and relaxed, if not, the singing voice will not be so finely tuned and will tire itself out.''

''The same goes in opera, when for example Wagner wrote his music he wanted trained bel canto voices and the orchestra sat under the stage, in later times, the orchestra was made bigger and put in front of the stage  so the singers would have to turn up the volume. Naturally, the singers picked for Wagner’s operas had to have voices of a certain size, but because of all those factors the sound changed and there is a big tendency today for singers to sound heavy and wobbly in Wagner’s music. This is sad and actually make some performances tiresome to listen to. Bel canto singing is a super detailed fine muscle work. One has to specialize into a special fach (voice type and repertoire that goes with the type) to succeed as an opera singer. Those showed on TV, the singers sings every style in the book and are applauded for being able to sing opera, that is not what real opera singing is about, opera singing is not microphone singing. One has to learn how to project the voice acoustically and carry in a big opera house. Even many of the modern recording opera stars are faking it on stage and use hidden microphones, microphone singing is an art and technique in itself and it has many great possibilities of experiment and it also is of great help if the voice is compromised due to sickness and it also enables singers having a small airy voice from nature to sing with ease and show their special art. Every singer needs to find their own strengths and find the style that feels comfortable for the voice and the inner self.”


“That is a really great advice people should learn from whether you are singing in any style from rock, pop, metal, and classical. What made you decide to go for a opera career?”

Ann-Mari: “It came naturally, I have a voice of a certain size and range and I love opera singing since it's the ultimate development of my material and passion for different kinds of arts. In opera,  you have the possibility of great voice projection, visual arts, theatre poetry, drama and in most cases, unbelievably beautiful compositions! Opera can also be dreadful if the singers are compromised, so sometimes I can't stand listening to it, but the world of opera is a big field full of surprises and there are so many different roles to study so I would never be able to sing everything I like, even if being offered it. Some opera singers have done as much as 70 to 100 roles but then the career lasts maybe for about 35 years.”

“Listening to you in your recent videos, you really do have the Italian voice like you mentioned above.”

Ann-Mari: “Thank you, it's true, my teacher says I also have an Italian personality when I sing, so I think I am doing the right thing specializing in this and starting a career in Italy.''

“Since your now involved with opera, do you plan on releasing anything on record of classical performances or originals?”

Ann-Mari: “I have had some different projects offered lately and considering each of them, but I haven't found anything of great interest for me personally as of yet. I like to listen to music that people send me and I really appreciate having conversations with my listeners and other musicians. I have my own composing plans in mind also, but my next step is to get out in the opera world again. I have a big family, my husband and our 5 children, and put my music career on the side for a few years, I never stopped singing but I didn’t pursue a serious career, I was offered many roles and opportunities that I turned down. Two years ago, I decided to take up my studies and reach the technical and musical level that I knew I am able to accomplish. I studied with Berle Rosenberg in Hungary and with Salvatore Fisichella in Sicily, and I had my Italian debut in ‘Carmina Burana’ by Carl Orff last summer, of course I really want to record classical music! Since moving to Sicily during the summer, I have had a concert with other singers, presenting myself with two different Italian arias. This month, August is vacation month for Italians and I am studying my roles and arias to get ready when doors start to open up.”

“What is your initial reaction you get when your fans still listens to your records from The 3rd and the Mortal, and they still follow even though you haven't been involved with metal music for a long time?”

Ann-Mari: “That is very inspiring and also a testimony to the fact that when you make music that doesn't necessarily  follow the wishes of a producer and the typical trends, it's a big chance that it will be appreciated by also the next generations of listeners.”


“Who inspired you to become a singer who you are today?”

Ann-Mari: “Ever since I was a child, I didn’t have certain idols. There are so many great artists and bands and there is beauty and inspiring music coming from thousands of well-known or hidden sources. As for my bel canto singing development, I listened for hundreds of hours to the singers of the past for pleasure and in order to learn how to project my voice in the old school styles.”

“Before we finish off this interview, what will you like to say for our readers and your fans? New and old. Any advices?

Ann-Mari: “I would like to say to my listeners that has contacted me after many years since I haven’t been on Facebook before 2015/16: Thank you so much for your support and affection! It means a lot to me and helps me on my way to reach my goals! Starting an opera career at my age is not a normal thing to do, and some would say it will not work since the opera business wants young singers or well-known singers. But for me, it's not quantity and fame that counts but quality of life and to be able to do what I love, and to do it for the creator of our talents. A talent can be worked on from so many different angles and experiences, if you do something different like gardening or reading or taking care of kids, don't worry too much that you are losing time and are not developing, all aspects of life is training you for your future. As a musician or artist, try to find a good balance between technical and artistic rehearsal, and other things, don’t give up your dream! This goes for other talents too. 😉''


''And this is for Tamar and Joshua: thank you so much for this opportunity! This is my first interview for a metal magazine since 1997 I believe!''

“You're very welcome Ann-Mari, we love to see what’s next in your new career, keep us posted! 😁”


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By Joshua (and a bit by Tamar)