|Tundra and our recording engineer Juho|
Studio day #16. Are we there yet? Vreth was still doing the last bits of his vocal duties at the morning when I received a message from another guest that due to belonging into a "risk group" he had become a bit cautious about the studio and asked if he could deliver his parts as files from home instead. Completely understandable, but I still called Vreth immediately afterwards and told him to perform also those (yet) missing parts which the guest was supposed to do...which should also be completely understandable from my side of the table. I'm not going to have an empty verse in a song in case something happens and the guest won't be able to deliver in time.
After Vreth had finally nailed the last piece of his vocal duties it was the time to bring on the acoustic shit! I decided to leave the accordion out of these session in order to have a bit more "old school" sound and keep the stuff less "real", but brought a ton of other folky stuff in compensation. My weapons of choice for this album were a 6- (steel)stringed acoustic guitar, a classical guitar, 8-stringed bouzoki, mandolin and of course my (t)rusty cheap 6-stringed banjo.
We spent the late afternoon and evening on tracking all sorts of traditional and not-so-traditional ideas to the songs with the acoustic instruments. Vreth, Virta and Routa were sitting on the control room sofa and having their word on different playing styles and arrangements while I was suggesting them from the playing room behind the glass.
While our plan was to keep the folky stuff rather on the minimal side this time, it quickly went completely bonkers and we just started to use the good old "we can always mute it in the mix"- mantra which we didn't even believe ourselves anymore at some point. More is more! After starting to get blisters from the constant playing and realizing it's getting to close to 21 and we really should give our poor engineer a rest, we decided to call it for the day and went home. I played Uncharted with my wife until we realized it's 1 AM, I have the studio in the morning and our kids will probably wake us up at seven in the morning because why the fuck not.
Yes, I'm so funny I kill myself. I spent half the night awake with constant fireworks of banjos, bouzokis and whatnot ringing in my head and was sure I'm becoming mad at some point. But waking up 10 AM (!!!!!!) to my wife's yelling from downstairs about "weren't you planning to go to the studio? It's ten o'clock already!" didn't make me feel any better either. In fact, I was still dead-tired, dead-late and feeling rather unprofessional. Trying to gather the last bits of my professionality from our bedroom floor, I was soon in my car desperately drinking coffee from a thermos mug and driving to the studio in order to get there before this guy arrives!
|Slap this guy on the left a pair of glasses on and call him Devin!|
After some initial fiddling (I KILL MYSELFekfjhlasjkfhsldkfjhjkdfsh) with the microphone setup and going through some last-minute doublechecking of playing styles and articulations, we started tracking the violin parts down one hour later than I originally planned. Because seemingly my thought was to set up everything before he arrives....which kind of backfired. Ahem.
When Olli finally started to play, everything went smoothly until we came to the song which had those keyboards out of tune. If you've ever played a fretless instrument on top of out-of-tune stuff, you know what to expect. While I was again gathering the last remaining piece of that so-called professionality of mine from the studio floor, I cried a thousand apologies to Vänskä and at the end he nailed that one as well on top of the guitars only.
I don't think we've ever had so much cool violin stuff on our albums than this one will have and a big thanks for this goes to Olli- who also once again reminded me about that fact that a sampled instrument can be useful but nothing EVER beats a real musician playing a real instrument.
As the race against time kept on going, I made an executive decision to skip the lunch. I also made a rather apologizing executive decision to make our engineer Juho to skip his lunch too, which I felt a bit bad about. We ran quickly to the Lidl across the street, bought some crap there and inhaled it while we were going through the next parts we were supposed to record. Which weren't Mörkö's, who had just arrived to the studio with his kids in order to play his percussion parts in right now as being told earlier.
|Kick drums for war drums or GTFO!|
We actually managed to bang all the percussion in during a tolerable timespan due to the fact there weren't that much of those planned. In order also to keep the mix somehow manageable, we decided to play only the essential things in and thus leaving even one element of the album less overwhelming. That being said, we did play some serious war drumming for the intro which will be discussed a bit more in-depth in a future blog post. I may still add something small with samples to the album if needed later, but right now the percussion bombardment seems to be play nicely in the spot it was given and reserved. At this point, Mörkö and his family were finally able to leave this possibly plague-ridden carnival, it was 19 o'clock, people kept drinking beer and I kept thinking why the hell did I decide to come by car to the studio.
"You don't have to come until 15",
Which was what I told to my trusted mates of the so-called "Valhalla Choral Ensemble", a.k.a Mitja and Janne from Moonsorrow who always help our own river bandit crew to sound a bit more tolerable during our choir sessions. The choir and background vocal days are always the most fun part of any album recording, usually paired with lots of beer and laughter and catching up with friends from other bands who invite themselves to the party. Unless, of course, the whole world just happens to suffer from a severe pandemia, lockdown and a close-to-zombie-apocalypse situation which naturally happens during a Finntroll album recording.
After constantly running from a room to another while apologizing everyone about the horrible lag in schedule every time I passed them, I felt like someone had dragged me into an episode of Fawlty Towers. Lucky for me, any of the guests weren't German! I asked Virta to bring them a crate of beer to keep everyone happy, which he delivered like a true keeper of the seven credit cards. Meanwhile, we tried to figure out with our engineer Juho how should we record a bunch of people in the same room while keeping distance from each other AND singing into a same microphone without spitting. Might had as well to figure out a cure for coronavirus, worldwide famine and AIDS, but nevertheless we ended up miking the whole room with two microphones and utilizing the room's own sound in the takes simultaneously. After all, it's one helluva good-sounding room!
|"Almost" 2 meters from each other.|
To open up the vocal cords at first, we started with the intro, which now has lyrics in an ancient Trollish language referred as "the Brown Speech". (absolutely nothing to do with Tolkien, nope, never.) Due to not wanting to use proper words and being so fed up with always going with the "huhs and hahs", we sat down and figured out completely made-up words from syllables which had the right intonation we wanted. Not surprisingly, it became something of which sound had absolutely nothing to do with music from World of Warcraft, nope, never.
Roka-sha, my brave warriors of the Horde!
Most of the remaining group vocals were yelled and grunted in within the next two hours, as we deliberately kept all the arrangements rather simple. Our intention was definitely not to fill the album with choirs a'la Moonsorrow, but utilize them only where needed in order to give more room for everything else. Trolls don't sing nicely anyway, they fucking CRY FOR WAR, aye! I felt so sorry for our engineer (having been there for over 11 hours already without a single proper break) that I told him to have some beer on us. Lucky for him, he had already brought his own and pointed his plastic bag. "Please do", I insisted him and felt a bit more humane. And even more thirsty.
At 22:30 there were only a couple of simple grunts left which Vreth could easily instruct and conduct, and I felt that my omnipresence wasn't necessarily needed anymore. So we agreed with Vreth and Juho that I could wrap it up, pack my stuff and head home. The guys probably partyed like it was 2002, and that's fucking good. I wish I could had stayed in that party as well, but I'll leave that to the next time. I thanked everyone from the bottom of my heart and headed finally towards home....but not without stopping to buy some milk and cheese first from a store which was still open. Yes, rock'n'roll is officially dead.
Our initial plan was to record this album within a five-week timespan at Sonic Pump Studios. Due to the COFUCK-19 and various other reasons, however, most of our schedule went completely bonkers already after the second week. It simply doesn't seem to be possible to make a Finntroll album without something going horribly wrong, haha! At worst we were operating simultaneously at two different control rooms in the end in order to catch up with the schedule: while Vreth was screeching his lungs out in the big room, I was playing guitar with my daughter sitting on the sofa of the other one. Every day was a race against time in order to finish things before someone catches the virus and in order to keep the schedule maintained even somehow. Some of the ideas we planned earlier had unfortunately to be cancelled or at least postponed while on some matters we had to make certain decisions knowing that it will most likely upset some people. Nevertheless, at the end the results caught on hard disk were in our humble opinion some of the best we've ever achieved to do.
Despite of everything, we were still able to pull this all off due to the flexibility of many people for which I'm eternally grateful. My biggest thanks in all this studio chaos go to Nino Laurenne, the owner of the studio who was always accessible and ready to help us to sort any problems at any time of the day and our persistent recording engineer Juho Kemppainen, who sometimes even had to eat his lunch at the recording room due to not having time for a break. A well-recorded and performed album is already half-mixed and I'm eagerly waiting already that phase to happen!
I hope you have enjoyed reading of this studio diary and the process behind it. Naturally it's only written from my personal perspective and thus doesn't necessarily always give the most objective or detailed picture of what's happened, but nevertheless it's something. There's been a lot of effort behind making this album and I personally think it may become one of the best ones we've ever done, and I sincerely hope you like it as well when it's finally out.
I'm going to leave this one small video at the end of the studio diary, because that cozy laidbackness just brings me a smile on my face every time I hear it. Hope it brightens up your day as well!