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[rozmowa o muzyce] Music sorceress – interview with Liz Katrin

LIZ KATRIN is an artistic nickname of Katarzyna Bonikowska, who creates and performs music for video games and movies. Slavic and Viking mythology, fantasy, and science-fiction are her main fields of interest. She sings in many languages, even in Elvish. Here is a very interesting interview on Kulturalne Rozmowy website with this unique artist.

Who is Liz Katrin? Tell me about your musical background.

Liz Katrin: Music has always been present in my home. I owe my musical education to my father and my vocal progress to my wonderful bel canto teacher, Mrs. Wanda Bargiełowska-Bargeyłło, a Warsaw National Opera soloist and one of the most remarkable European opera stage mezzo-sopranos. I also completed a bel canto course in Salamanca (Spain). In the ’80s, I started performing on stage (just playing guitar and singing); I sang in the OKO Cultural Centre musical ensemble and in choirs (at school and, further on, in the Warsaw University Choir and the National Opera Choir) as well as in many different bands (mostly my own musical projects). Since the early ’90s, I have been creating my own music.

What has influenced your present work?

My favorite games, movies, comic books, novels, people, and – obviously – music: classical, ethnic, rock, folk metal, jazz… All of these have been a never-ending inspiration for me. In the ’80s, I discovered comic books about Thorgal (I have been collecting them from the very first issue!) and I thought it would be great to illustrate those stories with music. Following this idea I’m creating my THORGAL album.
Apart from those, I have been always fascinated by Star Wars, Star Trek, The Witcher books and games, The Elder Scrolls (especially Morrowind and Skyrim). I had the pleasure of creating about twenty songs for SKYWIND (one of the biggest modifications to the Elder Scrolls games). And movies: Terminator, Indiana Jones, Conan, Blade Runner...

You are interested in very peculiar things, you sing in obscure languages such as Sindarin or Dunmeri. What are those languages and why did you choose to use them in your music?

You’d be surprised how many people know fantasy languages and speak them fluently… Ancient and foreign languages are another passion of mine. Sindarin is one of the Elvish languages created by J.R.R. Tolkien. To his lyrics I’ve created music and so my ELBERETH (sang in Sindarin) came to life, as well as other songs from my TOLKIEN album. Dunmeri is a language of the Dunmer (Dark Elves from the game Morrowind). I sing NEREVAR, HORTATOR and SHARMAT’S PRAYER in that language.

Liz Katrin wywiad

What are the advantages of being so unconventional?

I can reach real enthusiasts. This drives me to create and perform what’s hidden in my soul. I think it is quite a rare privilege.

So you don’t like to be limited. What does this artistic freedom give you?

Independence. I don’t need to limit myself in any way. That being said, in the case of music projects for games or movies, cooperation with game creators or directors as well as mutual trust are essential.

Is this the reason why you don’t have a manager and you manage and organize your work by yourself?

The fact that I do everything myself – from creating the musical theme, through arrangement, recording instruments and vocals, mastering, to marketing and management – gives me freedom. Besides, having my own recording studio makes me totally independent.

Tell me about your artistic achievements.

I’ve created several dozen songs for video games, including SHADOW WARRIOR 2, SKYWIND, THE REPOPULATION, ALIENS, TROLLS & DRAGONS, FOLLOWER (Heavy Walker Simulator), T-90 PARSECS, QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT and others; jingles for ‘Siedzicie w karczmie’, a podcast about RPG games; and film music. I’m currently working on the score for PÓŁ WIEKU POEZJI PÓŹNIEJ (a fanmade Witcher movie made by real enthusiasts).
I invite you to listen to MY SONGS MEDLEY and some more detailed playlists of MY GAME MUSIC and also MY FILM MUSIC I’ve prepared lately.

With whom do you collaborate in your projects?

As I’ve already said, most of my projects are made only by myself but I am always open to collaboration. For instance, I had the pleasure of performing vocals for the video game SHADOW WARRIOR 2. In doing so, I collaborated with Adam Skorupa and Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz (composers of the music for THE WITCHER 1 and 2). I also create and perform vocal lines and lyrics as you can hear in SILVER (collaboration with Herbert Metz from Austria), SANDS&MOONS (with Matthew Shine, USA), or PRAYER by Kamil Hamulczyk (Poland). For some time I’ve been working on an interesting project for a Portuguese indie game developer.

Liz Katrin wywiad
Picture: Izabela Kwasiborska Picture: Adrian Wiśniewski
How would you call or define the direction you are heading? It is full of mythical and Medieval inspirations, as well as Galician rhythms, with the last related to your degree.

My compositions are what could be broadly categorized as illustrative music. Fantasy, Slavic, Viking and sci-fi moods are right up my alley but I do not set imitations on the scope of my music. What gives me most enjoyment is creating music for video games and movies, and this is why I do what I do. The most important thing to me is reaching my fans, being able to pass to them what I feel, through my music.
Indeed, there are some Galician moods in my creative work. Thanks to Warsaw University scholarships I had an opportunity to visit Santiago de Compostela several times and it was there, where my fascination for the culture, language, and music of the Spanish Galicia was born, which later led me to obtain a Master’s degree in Spanish literature. Thanks to this fascination many of my songs were created, e.g. ADIÓS RÍOS (a ballad sang in Galician), my a cappella interpretation of NEGRA SOMBRA, as well as DE AMOR with my lyrics and the musical arrangement of a traditional Medieval melody.
Galicia is an extraordinary land where Celtic, Roman, and Arabic cultures intermingle and are spiced with a lot of magic... It is there, where you can see landscapes as if from The Lord of the Rings...
For over 5 years, I was the manager and leader of my band LIBRA, which performed my Neo-Celtic and fantasy-style songs, many of which I sang in Galician.

What are you currently working on?

Apart from continuing the work on my albums (I already have more than 100 songs) I have some new projects.

Is your personal history related in any way to your work?

Many skills I acquired before (at Warsaw University and Warsaw School of Economics) such as graphic design, several foreign languages, help me now to write lyrics, create promotional materials and contact people all over the world. My artistic compositions have been also decidedly influenced by video games (mostly RPG). In the ’90s, I had an 8-person RPG team and we would meet once a week for a number of years. It was a magical time when I created many of my ballads e.g. SANGUIS VITA EST or LIBERA ME, songs I composed to Tolkien’s lyrics, as GIL-GALAD and many more, which I publish little by little.

You make music for games and movies. What kind of games do you like most? And which movies?

The Witcher, Skyrim or Morrowind – games with an interesting plot that makes you totally immerse in an alternative reality and feel its mood, but I also appreciate other genres, such as adventure games (Syberia, The Longest Journey) or thrillers (I’ve recorded an a cappella cover of the main theme from the game KHOLAT). I also recommend listening to my WITCHER playlist.
As for movies… I like adventure (Indiana Jones, Sherlock, Braveheart), fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Conan, Game of Thrones, Interview with the Vampire) and sci-fi (Terminator, Star Trek, Star Wars, Back to the Future) genres. I invite you to listen to my STAR WARS REBELLION song inspired by the Star Wars universe, my C0DA album or the adventurous CYRUS, where you will hear some oriental inspirations.

The alto and soprano are operatic voices. Wouldn’t it be easier to sing pop music and be a celebrity? What do you think about fame and commercial music?

The terms alto and soprano characterize a vocal range and are not limited to operatic voices. My vocal range is from alto (the lowest female voice) to soprano (the highest female voice), a bit more than 3 octaves. Back when I sang in choirs, I recall being able to always choose between the altos and sopranos.
I’ve always liked singing in parts, creating harmonies, building the whole musical background with just my voice alone. I often make a cappella covers of well-known songs, e.g. A NEARLY PEACEFUL PLACE (from The Witcher 2), THE WITCHER (a medley of themes from The Witcher 1) or BRAVEHEART.
I love experimenting and discovering new sounds of my voice.
Most of my songs are based on just my voice used to evoke various atmospheres: from delicate and moody, such as IMPERIAL SHRINES or YENNEFER'S SONG or SORCERESS; through low shamanic sounds, such as in NEREVAR; to more rock-like, such as SWEET; jazzy, such as DIVINE; or more classical, such as my cover of the main theme from the GAME OF THRONES as well as the vocalises in ZIREAEL or SILVER.
You ask about fame and commerce… I’ve always wanted to create music for true enthusiasts, no matter how commercial or not it would be. What matters to me is to give people joy and keep creating always new songs, without repeating any patterns.
For sure, I prefer to be an indie creator because only then can I control everything myself, both in the musical and visual aspects. But who knows what the future may bring? I have nothing against my music achieving commercial success.

You are a fantasy fan. You write fantasy-inspired music. What do you think of the extraordinary popularity of this genre? Why are science-fiction books and movies so in demand?

I think people have always liked escaping their mundane everyday lives. Fantasy offers abstract themes that redirect our thoughts, for example, when you start thinking about the Universe, you see your day-to-day problems from a different perspective. I think that, to many people, it can be a kind of safety vent for discharging their emotions, getting rid of stress… And when I need to unwind, I make lighthearted songs, such as SHE SAID YES or MASKARADA.

What fascinates you in the fantasy realm? How did your adventure with this genre begin?

My adventure began thanks to my brother lending me his comic books (Kajko i Kokosz, Kleks, Thorgal and, more abstract, Antresolka Profesorka Nerwosolka and Na co dybie w wielorybie czubek nosa Eskimosa), AD&D books, and introducing me to the world of role-playing games. It’s always been quite natural to me to seek inspiration in fantasy worlds.

Liz Katrin wywiad
Picture: Izabela Kwasiborska Picture: from Liz Katrin’s archive
Do you have the nature of an Elf, a mythical god or a Viking?

I think I’m kind of an Elf-Viking hybrid and in the Middle Ages I would probably be called a witch As to gods… let’s leave them out of this.

Where do you seek inspiration?

We’ve been talking about my inspirations throughout this interview. Inspiration is but a spark that incites the entire process. Each new project is a challenge and a new inspiration to me. I try to make music for projects which inspire me, the ones whose atmosphere resonates with me. I don’t force things.

What do you sing about?

Most of my songs have only vocalise (no lyrics) reflecting the mood and emotions of the music. My fantasy and medieval lyrics usually speak about love, hate, magic, fighting, yearning for something… I sing both in conventional languages: AEGON TARGARYEN (in Polish), ZIREAEL (English), ENDEMONIADA (Spanish) or AMEONNA (Japanese) and in unconventional ones, such as the already mentioned Elvish tongues.

Will you get back on stage?

For many years I gave concerts both in Poland (several times for the Polish Radio, the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, for MTV, for the Spanish Embassy) and abroad, e.g. at the Bealtaine Celtic festival in Luxembourg or several times in Spain, where my music is often on the radio Onda Cero. I’ve performed in opera concerts (e.g. in the Czech Embassy), mostly with a classic baroque repertoire.
I still perform on stage. Recently, I gave a concert with my own repertoire during the 13 Noc Kulturalna festival in Częstochowa, and I also perform on stage as a vocalist in DAMA KRUK, a highly intriguing, unorthodox project by Sebastian Madejski.

What can your fans expect in the near future?

I’ve got a few new projects I’m working on. I keep my fans up to date on any news concerning my music on my fanpage, so I invite you to ‘like’ and follow LIZ KATRIN MUSIC.
If you are interested in listening to my songs, subscribe to my YouTube and SoundCloud channels.

Liz Katrin wywiad

Thank you very much for this conversation. I wish you luck in fulfilling your future plans.

Thank you for this lovely interview.



Picture: Adrian Wiśniewski (fragment) Picture: from Liz Katrin’s archive


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