Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Honeymoon Suite"

Apparently, some members of the band now refuse to talk with me.
What is this, a fucking kindergarten?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In between: Working Titles, a.k.a "mynewriff.wav"

Did you know that when bands make up "working titles" for their songs, they use a LOT of other bands´ names for naming them?

Why? Mostly because one riff reminded the composer of a certain band, or it had the "feeling" a bit similar to another. It usually strikes at the point where you have to give the bounced- out file a proper name instead of "mynewriff42.wav". So, this riff had the vibe of early Morbid Angel at some point? No problem, we´ll name it "morbid.mp3" before archiving or sending.  Plus, it greatly helps you to remember what it was and how it sounded. Especially if you archive everything ever done, like me.
At some point Marko from Moonsorrow ran out of "bathorys" so he started to name the songs and ideas as (freely translated) "nicebathory", "kathory", worldsbestbathory", "bathowar" and so forth. Actually, "Bathowar" was the working title for "Jumalten Kaupunki". And "Unohduksen Lapsi" from the same album was called "Thyrfing". Suprised? Don´t be. Everyone does it. I´m just stating it aloud. :D

So I use a lot of bandnames in my riffs, sometimes because they are very obvious or sometimes I have to come up with something, so even a small hint goes. You have to have a filename, after all.
A brief digging into my archives finds Finntroll -riffs like "monkeyisland", "drepdenorske", "boingocarpathianforest", "psychoemperor" and my all- time favourite, "totalvitunklezmerbonanza".
And usually, when the upcoming song has a main riff which now has a totally original name like "absu.mp3", it usually ends up  to be the ready song´s working title as well. So this is why we have working titles for this upcoming album like "Rivfader" (similar drum beat), "Nexro" (main riff reminded me of Nekromantix) and "Rocklolbster" (main riff had some B52´s vibe on it...later it wasn´t the main riff anymore but the name still stayed).  "Tonttuparaati", on the other hand, is an old German song made later into a popular Finnish christmas- song. The main melody of my song has the same rhythm than the abovementioned, hence the naming.

Now Tundra, though...Tundra´s made art out of naming his riffs and songs- in- progress. Titles like "räähxdualvenomous", "eliytres" (yes, it was Tundra´s gibberish- filename and Wilska turned that into a character in a story, which was fucking genious if you ask me :D ), "pirttikyrpä" (!!), "vcxhfsdghwgwsdgqawegqae-syfilisyfilis, Entire Mix, Mix (4)" (!!!!!!) and "ööööööööööö" are still after years giving me spontaneous laughter every now and then when they pop out from my hard disk. Extra credit goes also to Routa, whose "spendrupps", "nattapiisi", "grimash" and "tommiläntinenmidnattens" have given some serious amusement.

Right now it looks like we´ve started or already finished the following songs:


* "Soutu", a.k.a "rowing" is an old Finntroll- meme dating from late 90´s where some bandmember, most likely Skrymer, mentioned that slow folky BM (preferably Norwegian, also has to go in 6/8) has this distinct "rowing" feeling which he always used to back up with mimicking sloooow and hard rowing of a boat. The term sticked since, and now "Soutu" is a synonyme for slow scandinavian folkish BM- styled stuff (like the song Nattfödd) in the Finntroll- camp.

Now I know that I mentioned possible studio in late 2012. Behold, it will most likely happen. WAY more certainly than two months ago, and getting more certain every day with every new idea and riff. "Hide your daughters" is quite a used phrase, besides, we´re all married or "reserved" so maybe you should hide your...I don´t know....videogames? Yeah, HIDE YOUR EPIX AND PREPARE FLASKS FOR THE RAID, WE´RE COMING.

Nah, that sounds awful.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Green T And The Sushi Splatters"

"That music you did sounds too yellow and habanero for my taste, we need it to be more desktop lamp with a hint of sunglasses. Oh, and we need it yesterday."

Part 1: Criticism, feedback and how to handle it in a work enviroment.

In between: Your riffs < your song.

The common misconception when hearing the music of a certain band, as pointed out in the first text of this blog, is that the music just magically happens. The people just play riff 1, then they know exactly what will be riff 2, until the bass player suggests we´d use his riff as a chorus, then repeat and get back to the drum break. And voilá, we have a song! It´s all magical fairies, common intuition and the speech of the Old Gods. Ia! Ia!

Well, not exactly.

Behind most songs you hear, it´s more than usually possible that there´s actually a huge think- tank behind every single decision and a note. Quite often, especially when time goes by and bands get more and more professional in their career, they start to think more carefully about the song structures. It´s not about "will this sell" but rather about "is this good enough for my baby". This is an important thing to keep in mind: To put it bluntly, melodies and riffs are which sell. Arrangements are what only makes your melodies and riffs into their full potential. Drawing parallels to "trying to be more commercial" on that would be the same you´d call your wife a whore when she´s putting more effort to her looks on an important night out.

With a lousy arrangement and production, you can ruin a perfect song. With a superb arrangement, you can turn minced meat into filet mignon, and this is usually how the commercial pop music world works. Or, if you´re talented enough, you can do that filet mignon from the start and finish the catering with an applause. In, which case, you´re probably Max Martin and you don´t have to read any further.

Your job as a composer for your own band is to make the best out of your (or someone else´s) riffs and turn them into a song. With computers, it´s easy to try different stuff. And with computers, it´s even more easy to wander endlessly on a Swamp of Endless Solutions Where Every Idea Is Bad Because You Forced Them. When thinking about arrangements alone, don´t force them. Take a break. Let them rest and do something else. Within a couple of days you might know exactly in which order to put them and how will that last chorus end. Always think about the big picture.
Two biggest issues you constantly face are either "will this get boring" and "is this too chaotic and fast- paced arrangement". Find the fine line between those two, and you´re halfway there already.
When thinking them with bandmates, get feedback. Try their ideas. In many cases, you´d be surprised how well their structural ideas work when combined with your snippets, because they haven´t got deaf in the process but have fresh ears for the big picture. If you run into an dead end, do not hesitate for asking help. Send the song to the bass player and ask him to give it a spin and give his FIRST reaction after it. Then ask him to listen it again and ask the SECOND reaction.
If it differs radically from his first (bad) impression, you are on the right track. However, if he still insists the song is bad, there´s a huge chance that it is bad.

Don´t take it personally- for every hit song there are 132 shit songs. The more you compose, the more you realize that some day you are on fire and some day you´re rather...extinguished. It´s not the end of the world. However, take a note why is it bad. Let´s face it - to convince your bandmembers about this awesome song you made you need the following ingredients:

1. Killer riffs and other parts, like a catchy chorus or a "hook".
 So, you actually started to read the small print why? This is why you fail, my young Padawan. :D

2. Killer arrangement.
Note to self: The transitional parts aren´t supposed to be killer riffs. You can refer them as "the riff behind the solo". Actually, in order to not to exhaust the listener there has to be something dull, too. Sometimes too much information is too much. Besides, it makes the killer stuff even more outstanding. Be it just a 4- bar open E with a drum beat or a 2- bar break, you need it every now and then. Don´t judge yourself for that.

3. Killer presentation of the song.
In order to convince people, you need most likely to make a demo. This is a double- edged sword: on the other hand, the more polished and thought the demo is, the better you can sell your idea. On the other hand, a demo which leaves more room for improvements and imagination, might sell the idea even better as the listener can draw his own conclusions and imagine it the way he´d like to hear it. Your call, really, how to do it. It´s all about for whom and in which situation you´re going to present the song. And we all know how FUCKING ANNOYING is to do the "ok and the vocals would go like NA NA NANANAA HUM DI DUM with this riff and here I need a bagpipe and oops, I´ll rewind a bit, we missed that part as I was speaking on top all the time".

And this is why your song probably wasn´t convincing enough. Your riffs were good riffs, but no- one realized it because your song sucked. Like children, your song isn´t ready when it´s out from the womb. That´s where the actual bringing up starts. It will be finished the day you let it go spreading it wings to the world. You might shed a small tear but at some day you will let you children go, knowing you did your best. Your riffs are babies, your songs are young adults leaving home. That´s the difference.
Take Amon Amarth for example. Any idea why they hit so huge? Except for years in business and a very well-selling image? The riffs might not be the cleverest and newest in town. And they do sound a bit alike each other. So why did they make it so big? I´ll tell you why. Simplicity. Arrangements. No futile and boring parts. Those songs are like a trimmed engine. Your and mine are like a Fiat Punto from 1991. Or a milk truck engine on downers. You wouldn´t probably enter a Nascar race with a superb racing car bought new from the store yesterday? No, you´d spend TONS of time trimming it into the best possible shape before entering the race. Now why wouldn´t you spend some time to your song too in order to give it what it deserves- the best possible trimming before unleashing it?

You should spend at least 25% of the time you work on riffs on the arrangement, preferably 50%.
That´s what separates the big boys from the ones which never made it. I could safely say I spend roughly as much time arranging my music as I spend composing it. Did I make it big? Unfortunately, only physically.
But hey, at least I try. Do you?

PS: No, before you ask- my intention has never ever been hitting big with any of my bands. In fact, I detest the idea. But as a musician, my ultimate goal is to make fucking good songs. Probably needless to clarify, "fucking good songs without sacrificing a single bit of my artistic integrity." You probably knew this already, but I just wanted to point it out. 
And for the record, I really don´t think there is much difference between a member of Origin or Max Martin in how they feel about their musical creation at the end of the day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

"Nurse Edna"

"Man makes a song. Band must tell man how the song is like. Six opinions they must give. No more, no less. Six, and we are done. "
- Jaqen H’ghar (freely quoted)

But seriously, enough with Game of Thrones- references. It´s time for my favourite part of making music in a band: THE FEEDBACK SECTION! Here, no flesh shall be spared. Here, the white walkers will haunt you and the winter is...oops, sorry. I seemingly did it again.
Anyway, I had feedback from one member at phone and three via email. The one in phone liked it. The rest...well, draw your own conclusions.

"What´s this...a new song?"
From: henri.sorvali@XXXX
To: XXXX[bandmail]

"This kinda song! So, at last- first totally finished song is ready! 
A bit like the first two albums clashing with some cartoonesque evilness. Note that Autopsy- riff in the middle of the song! I´m open to ideas- I could easily record this version but I´ll be glad to get some feedback and ideas how to make it better from you guys.
What do you think?"

"RE: What´s this...a new song?"
From: XXXX[bandmail]
To: henri.sorvali@XXXX

"Dude, you have pretty much got the worst possible guitarsound into that demo, hehehe :D

I´m kinda puzzled, I don´t know why, might be because of it´s morning and my head´s a bit messy still but somehow that seemed to be a bit "scattered", quite many of those open chords and stops allaround....I´m gonna make some coffee, have a few cigarettes and will give it another spin :D I´m not trying to be an ass, it´s just an opinion :)"

"RE: What´s this...a new song?"
From: XXXX[bandmail]
To: henri.sorvali@XXXX

"Quite refreshing!
This sounds like Burton/ Elfman are mangling a movie score for Beetlejuice, where Baldwin has already killed in the first possible scene and Betelgeuse is banging Geena up the pooper on a plastic grass- mat.
The vocal parts are c-c-c-lear for me. I assume we´ll hear some annoying screeching and hickuping coming up?"

"RE: What´s this...a new song?"
From: XXXX[bandmail]
To: henri.sorvali@XXXX

"I can´t get anything out of this. It has a couple of good melodies, which work, but otherwise I don´t like this at all. It reminds me of some platform- videogamemusic, as it feels like it´s not structured at all but different and separate themes are just changing places. And the fast guitarpicking in the start is what I hate the most...If I think I´m supposed to play this live I don´t know what to think and how to be at the stage. To be honest, I wouldn´t want this to the album like it is now."

I..... need...... a...... fucking.......... beer.................NOW.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In between: My Name is Bruce.

The more I started to think of it, the more it struck me.

We´re like the Evil Dead Trilogy. Braindead. That scene from American Psycho where Patrick re-shapes Paul´s head a bit with an axe while listening to Huey Lewis and the News. (Who, by the way, are brilliant.).

Violent splatter, gore, sheer madness and slapstick combined with a some kind of script holding it together. Violence gone funny. Like Tom & Jerry from Hell, basically. With special effects.
Madness? This is Finntroll. And especially this and this.And THIS!


"Cigar Salesman & Vat-O-Teeth"

Now, seriously. I started working with "Rivfader" and suddenly I had very well- functioning first half of the song. And then.....enter AGAIN the major problem.

Houston, we need the "C- part". Somehow every song I start making rolls fine until that 2- minute mark and then they start to get boring. So, I start wondering that we´d need a kicking "middle- part". And then I start to think again- "Why am I falling into patterns again? Why does this song need to stop and go again? Why can´t it just go if it feels like it?"

Why? Because the song is getting repetitive, boring and not going anywhere. That´s why. Imagine looking at a sharp triangle: Wide from the bottom and narrow from the pointy end. Now imagine that the groove and feeling of the song is the windth of the triangle. So, the further up we go, the more the groove diminishes. My song kicks in from the low end and it´s full of energy, raging forwards like a rabid monkey. (Or, Rabbid, if you know your games. ^^ ) But the further we go, it starts loosing the groove. Until we´re at the 2- minute mark at the pointy end of the triangle when there´s no groove left.

The solution? Stop thinking triangles and concentrate more on different shapes. Make interesting mid- parts scattered around instead of forcing the song going into the point where you´ve painted yourself into a corner and need a definite stop, tempo- change or something similar.

As the typical song would go like this:

Verse 1


Back to Verse3

Try something like this:

Half- beat- pattern, 8 bars max.
Verse2, without drums.
That riff which reminded you of Suffocation
Dannyelfman- ish pom- pom and then some
Verse3 -> Abrupt stop. Profit!

Now how´s that for creative songwriting? Speaking of which, I did four completely different variations of how to continue "Rivfader" from that triangle´s end. Then I decided to arrange the song more from the beginning, giving it more variety so that when we reach that (ex-) triangle´s end, we can continue with the same groove and tempo now and it doesn´t sound repetitive or non- groovy. In fact, it sounds awesome. I decided not to make a clear break but actually keep the tempo, only dropping some instruments. And it grooves like fuck.

Ever thought what happens when combining bluegrass drums, Autopsyesque riffing and a title of a B- class 80´s horror flick? Yeah, neither haven´t I. But now I know, and it sounds awesome. :D
Holy Hell, I think this song is going to be first READY song for the new album!!!!!!