Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Band, I am disappoint"

When everything sounds like shit, it probably is shit.

And when you work with a paying client, you work it through, no matter what. You lose sleep, overdose on coffee, get cranky and explode on minor mishaps at home. A situation that is highly not recommended, yet sometimes almost inevitable. We are all human after all, and we all know how sometimes too much work or unrealistic deadlines can cause some nasty situations to your psyche. No- one likes to be the "SIR YES SIR"- person, but sometimes -especially when working as a mercenary for different clients- it is sometimes necessary. After all, they pay your salary in the end. And if you leave a shitty aftertaste, your next project will be consisting of driving a taxi instead.
"But of course this traffic jam is my fault, sir, and I understand completely if you wish to not pay for this subpar ride".

However, when you work with your own band, the situation is completely different. Most importantly because the responsibility is - contrary to a common mistake- not to the fans, not to the record label or to the management. The responsibility is to you and your bandmates. It might sound harsh, but that´s the way things are, unless you´re Justin Bieber or an other record label´s little creation in which case you actually are responsible for that employer. Career choices, I guess.
So, unless you´re not a dick- puppet of some pissy A&R guy, record labels do not decide how to sound or when you will enter the studio. They do not decide your album covers nor do they say what to wear at the promo shoot. The only thing record labels actually (should) decide is the budget and the date of release when the product is finished.

Which brings us to the case, "when the product is not finished".

To cut it short- this is about the new Moonsorrow material and the fact that we are not entering the studio later this year as planned. The album is coming at some point, and to soothe you a bit, it is more likely to happen in 2014 than in 2015. Another record label could had demanded another band to "go to the studio as planned, no matter the quality". Century Media, however, doesn´t, because they believe that in Moonsorrow´s case quality overrides quantity. And I certainly hope you folks reading this think the same. We think that we deserve the best music possible and you do as well.
The product is not going to be finished on time, because basically I -as the main composer and producer- simply don´t have the energy to do it right now in the way it demands. Most of the material I´ve been composing for Moonsorrow lately has been sounding just plain boring, lacking ideas and the amount of riffs could be counted with probably ten fingers.
But does that mean that there will never come new Moonsorrow material? Silly you, of course not. This is only temporary and the reason for this is extremely clear.

Originally, our plan was to start composing in May and enter the studio in the turn of 2014. Then, right before May, the shittiest possible thing happened to me and I was laid down from work after almost nine years completely out of blue. That could happen to anyone, true, but here´s a fun fact for you- what isn´t so ordinary is the fact that I actually composed, produced and arranged every single album I´ve done between 2006 and 2012 at my work. Since 2006 I´ve had no music equipment at home at all except for one guitar (for possible rehearsals) so suddenly I was left not only jobless but also without a place and time to compose music for my bands. The cloud having a silver lining, we had just moved into a new home where we still had a spare room- which I now could build as the audio room for me to continue working.
But suddenly I wasn´t just "working" the way I had used to, but somehow forced to evolve into a overstressed CEO, accountant, chairman, producer, H&R and the sole worker of Trollhorn Music LTD instead of "being that audio guy and getting paid for it". Careful calculations, counteroffers, emails and Excel sheets laughed at my attempts to actully do what I´m at my best and mocked me while I wanted to just fucking compose that music. And naturally, I´ve been pushing extremely hard to show my best to Rovio as well in order to actually make them want to hire me full- time, so I´m quite exhausted on working since late April on my toes, pleasing everyone and showing them how capable I am while doing all the email work, plannings, contracts and whatever paperwork for my own company besides actually doing the sounds for them (and Rovio) they need. In other words, I´m burnt out to a fuck at the moment.

So, one might wonder how much I have creativity for Moonsorrow at the moment? Pretty much zero, thanks for asking. After a long discussion with Marko- who is also playing a huge part in Moonsorrow´s composing process- we agreed that we´re not going to do shit because someone might expect us to do something. If my whole time is going to somehow manage normal living, it is quite natural that the moment when I don´t work my ass off isn´t going to magically push the "be creative for Moonsorrow, NOW!"- button for me. The Gods know I want to music for this band but right now I am so tied to managing my "normal" work that it is impossible to find any inspiration for something as profound as Moonsorrow. And while the management, record label and fans might be disappointed to this decision, we stand behind this as a band and have agreed all together that we will start composing the music properly when all the people who are needed in that are actually capable of doing that.

All the members of Moonsorrow also agree that during the latest five years, the constant rise of success hasn´t come with only positive sides. Even though we absolutely do this with 100% dedication, things have got into a point most of us think that they are a bit over our reach with constant pulling from different directions. Many members just don´t have the capability of doing this in the volume it seems to demand according to The Music Industry (tm). In fact, to quote one member... 
"During 2008-2013 Moonsorrow has been growing a lot. Going to the right direction, getting many new fans, doing things more professionally. However, at the same time the whole thing has gone more and more calculative with release dates and, most importantly, touring."
"Moonsorrow was never meant to be a household name".
And another, por favor:
"My perspective on everything has changed, too. Not too much, but I thought it'd be polite to update so no one freaks out when I eventually turn down an offer for a show."
And lastly, myself: 
"...extremely correct (referring to "Moonsorrow was never meant to be a household name"- H) and I´ve been thinking this a lot as well during the past years where everything has gone a bit into a different direction I would had personally thought. Don´t get me wrong- I´m not against actually selling records or getting popularity, but I personally think that there is too much business involved in this work of (he)art and the more we can crawl a bit back into our "personal forest", the better."
As you can probably read between the lines, we are in a point where we do not want to sacrifice this band upon the altar of monetization, schedules, demands, popularity or anything else. We hold this collective cult more important than anything that would end up exhausting our burning flame and we need to watch for that not to happen before it consumes us. Sacrifing the mutual passion and killing the inspiration due to countless touring or forced composing isn´t doing any band any good, and that is especially important with a band that consists of good old friends who share the same passion for music and beliefs. No earthly gain is possibly worth loosing that.

To quote another member at the end, who we all agree 100%... 
"I love all you guys from the bottom of my heart and I could easily see this band still around in 2030 and never splitting up."

We are Moonsorrow and we do things our way because we believe in them.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Internet is for...

...Summer cottage! Wait, what? That sentence wasn´t supposed to end like that. But alas, it just did. Because today, we´re discussing a bit of using technology in archaic circumstances. The heresy! So, forget the metal thingies for now- this is more of a personal rant from someone who´s grown up in a culture where manliness is measured by the depth of the burnt part in your sausage which you roasted in a open fire with about 10.000 mosquitoes. Sure, I can live with that- after all, I am a Finn, male, and I love summer cottages and camping. And burnt sausage! But what I don´t get is the intentional archaic, even lutheran humility we instantly bathe on since the moment when we start to unload the car at the front of our summer cottage. Oh wait, actually we walked the last hundred meters because roads are Satan´s invention. In fact, we should had walked there in a snowstorm.

The one debunkable myth of the Finnish "summer cottage culture" has to be pointed out when discussing the use of internet. And that is the "WHY NO U LIVE LIEK TRUE AKRIKULTUARL FINNS IN CABIN". Well, simply because you won´t either. Read more to find out what´s my beef on this thing!

The amount of summer cabins without a some sort of radio apparatus is probably close to zero since the 1960´s. And for what it comes to some ancient - yet working- television, don´t even get me started. Every cottage has one. Besides, TV´s are nowadays so cheap that you could get one to that cottage for a € 100 unless you want to play a hypocrite and use that early grandfather´s old 1980´s crap instead "because it´s more real and TRUE".
My point? Finnish summer cottage culture includes radio and television, and it has been like that since electricity was drawn to those mosquite- infested huts. They are used for news and entertainment- which is basically subtle music in the daytime or watching the National Lottery from the telly after sauna. Sometimes people get all crazy and bring old CD´s from home to listen if the radio has a CD player built- in. Or, they might burn a copy of some really shitty old movie at home and bring that to be watched later with that TV which has a DVD slot. But why? Why don´t we actually bring good music and good movies with us? Surely they take the same space in the luggage?

Because, the rule #1 in the entertainment in Finnish summer cottage culture is that "If there´s something too modern, you cannot use it properly and break these unwritten rules, ashaming your family line". 

TV´s have to be tuned in a way that half of the channels are missing. The radio is stuck into the crappiest schlager channel forever. The CD´s you brought have to be some gas- station compilations of old classics "NOW PERFORMED BY AN EX- POLITICIAN AND SINGING DOGS!!!".It´s the way it has always been and an integral part of the humble Finnish culture. We can´t have working, modern technology in summer cabins. Period.

So, as this is why we can´t have nice things, you can guess how much laughter it always raises when I rig up the personal entertainment section up when we arrive anywhere. Cottage, hotel, even the childbirth room in the hospital (!!). I always carry that with me when we spend nights somewhere with the whole family. Nothing fancy though- just some small speakers, a 9" tablet in a stand, different chargers and stuff. That´s my news, my radio, my television. GOD FORBID if I want my news and music to be available where I want it and when I want it.
Or if I want to watch an episode of "The Walking Dead" with my wife when the kids have gone to bed? No, we are to fill crossword puzzles and read magazines from the mid 80´s instead. (Which is awesome entertainment every now and then though, mind you.)
If the signal is too weak inside, I´ll rig up the phone outside when needed, switch tethering on and use that. I just returned from a trip where I had to build a home- made signal booster from an empty beer can and aluminium foil for the phone, which was tethering the signal to inside. It took me some time and I was proud of myself when it finally worked.

But let me remind you- it´s not the same that climbing to the roof to fix a TV antenna for that B/W telly in heavy rain being drunk, holding a burnt sausage. There´s a certain code, and if the deed you do doesn´t involve visible things fixed, it´s not counted as honorable thing.

I get the point of people holding pitchforks, screaming NO INTERNET IN SUMMER COTTAGE. They are probably direct descendants of the people back in the days claiming electricity in the same cottages to be the devil´s work. But the thing is that I don´t use that internet for posting pictures of my burnt sausages into Facebook. I use it for the same reason you use radio- music and news. I use it for getting my ebooks and comics out from the cloud to read in that uncomfortable chair someone´s grandpa bought after the war.
I use it for getting the information on tomorrow´s weather and possible weather warnings. For me, it´s radio, tv, books, comics and newspaper combined together, blasted with the possibility to get any information out on cooking the fish I just catched into "dad, what are those weird bugs in the porch?" So next time you think the internet is only for stupid people in stupid Facebook and for reading that work email, the problem might actually be despicable you.

Okey, I intentionally left something out. I have to confess that last time I rigged the tablet into a tv with a HDMI cable and played Donkey Kong Country with my son, using an emulator and a bit modified PS3- controller in a rainy afternoon.
But hey, isn´t the time spent on summer cottages meant to spend for relaxation and good times? We sure had both, and that didn´t even involve internet.

The writer is a 34- year old musician, a rare hybrid of techno- pagan and a person who had a great urge this time of emulating a stupid typical column text from a magazine.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Vol 2.0

Yes, hello. I´m still here. But alas, no- one else seems to be. At least for what it comes to the Finntroll - members. And this is why the topic is what it is. So, welcome to....

Putting the Fun back into Fungi Vol. 2.0!

I started this blog about 1.5 years ago in order to keep you peeps updated on the upcoming Finntroll- album, which is out now as you probably know. My intent was that everyone in the band would participate on writing here, but somehow people seemed to lack the general interest of doing so.

During the time passing, I noticed the blog was drifting more into the direction of being "Trollhorn´s personal blog on music and composing in general" instead of "Let´s unveil the secrets behind the Finntroll- camp by all the bandmembers" . So, I kind of let it go there. After all, if no- one else didn´t want to participate to the writing, I thought that the off- topic wouldn´t disturb anyone.

An off- topic after an off- topic, I started to think that maybe labeling this blog under the topic of Finntroll would be quite a disappointment for people who find Trollhorn´s job status updates instead of "Sexy Pictures Of Vreth XXX FREE" [---->CliCk hErE nOw!!!!<---]. And then I started to think about switching myself as the owner of the blog as well, making it officially "mine" to avoid any misunderstandings and disappointments.
The bad side of course is that now you´ll have to find anything relevant band- related stuff from within useless information of my obsession with the World of Warcraft- franchise.But hey, the plus side is that if you like Moonsorrow, you´ll get a hefty dose of that crap as well in the future here! Not to mention the endless geeky posts on music analysis, producing, audio, gaming and whatnot in the middle.

I will start writing more often here when the summer crawls near to it´s end, due to horrible lack of time. Right now I´m trying to spend the summer with my family, work on two different unannounced games (outside Rovio), finish composing for one tv- ad, compose new Moonsorrow, work at Rovio and try not to lose my sanity meanwhile. And while I can´t play nearly as much WoW as I´d love to right now, I have fed my horrible gaming addiction at bed with my Galaxy Tab and ScummVM at nights when my family is sleeping. (Because 90´s adventure games, that´s why!)

I also have a G+ -account now, but I rarely use it. Don´t ask why, you know exactly.
My Twitter will be updated more frequently than this, and you can follow me at @trollhornmusic. Did I just use two "at"s?  Stupid grammar, be more sensible!!!!!!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Helluva ride continues...with some abrupt help from a huge slingshot!

So, this has nothing to do with Finntroll per se, yet I thought to make a short update on my thingies.

I have started working at Rovio Entertainment (yes, that Angry Birds- company :D ) as a Music Producer last week until September. What basically happened was that I sent their "Head of Audio" an email where I offered my freelance- composing skills to their use, as I knew my very good friend and ex- colleague Jakke was just hired as a full- time audio guy there and they wouldn´t need more full- time people right now.

After a couple of weeks of email exchanges, I was suddenly asked to visit the office, and you can bet your ass off I wasn´t exactly prepared to this. :D On last week´s monday I was queuing at the unemployment office, (ironically laughing at the situation where the government basically fucks normal people like me in the ass while pouring money to the chronic bums and other scum happily) and less than a day afterwards I was drinking coffee at Rovio HQ with their audio team leader. On thursday I passed the H&R- interview, signed the contract and started on this week´s monday.

I´m not sure at all what will happen when my short- term contract ends; either they wish me luck and I´m screwed again (this time with an awesome addition on my CV, though ^^ ) or they may want to keep me in the house full- time. It all basically depends how important I prove myself to be for them, I guess. But I won´t let that uncertainty ruin my summer this time: if I learned something from the "abrupt leave" from Digital Chocolate was that nothing is certain "except for dying and paying the taxes", as we say in Finland. At least our family is saved until September, and that matters the most.

Right now I´m still working from my home studio, as they didn´t have equipment for me yet due to the extremely fast recruitment, but I have regularly visited the place to attend all sorts of meetings and stuff. What I can honestly say that it seems to be probably one the best places to work in Finland, for all the atmosphere, facilities and whatnot. As I´m not willing to say anything bad about my former (?) employer....let´s just say that when you don´t know about better, it´s easy to imagine everything to be the same everywhere.

The most awesome part is though, that I am now working with Jakke again after 2.5 years of "man, some day we will work together again goddamnit, I bet my ass for it!".
The best job is where you can work with the best people. Because the best people make the best out of you.

Oh, and sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side.

Monday, April 29, 2013

This is going to be one helluva ride...

I´m packing up all my gear at work as we speak. Due to economical and whatever "re- structuring" reasons, the budget at work was cut so much that they laid off over half of the people. Me included.

Well, not actually laid off. I´m temporarily suspended like the other 37 people. Which means that -according to law, which is really hard to believe to be true, yet is is - we´re not getting fired, thus NOT getting our "layoff- salary"for now. (You know, that 1+ month money you will get when you´re laid off from work, at least in Finland). Instead, we´re kept as "suspended" for 200 days max, until the law will consider us officially laid off and we´ll get the money we are supposed to get. Needless to say, if you resign yourself within those 200 days, you won´t get anything. And you can guess how much money this company will save by that.
Now, who´s gonna just lay down at home for 200 days instead of getting a new job? Not many, which the company knows. For example, I´ve been told straight to my face that there will be no audio done at Helsinki anymore. "Just resign" they told. "Much easier for you and besides, you´ll get your holiday payments right away". It´s so much cheaper for them to keep me and the rest "suspended", waiting us to resign ourselves instead of paying us the union- decided fees instead.
It´s hard to believe this kind of shit is possible in Finland. Maybe in America or such, but here? I can´t believe how far we´ve drifted from the Nordic Welfare State we used to be. This country is starting to remind me of a mixture between Soviet Russia and United States. Whoever has the most money decides the rules. And we rest will fucking jump if we´re told to.

So, "resign yourself", they told me.

And lose my FOUR months of salary? Yes, fuck you too. Inhouse audio positions are so rare in Finland that there´s a fat chance I´ll be just doing freelance stuff for that time, manage somehow to pay the mortgage and collect my four months salary and holiday- payments when I´m considered fired in early December. And laugh my ass off. Besides, while being a pain in the ass on the company employee list I won´t be "unemployed" in paper (looks better, haha) and I can use the company private healthcare for free as long as I´m "working" here.

Then again, I knew this HAD to end at some point. Having a free parking space at Helsinki center during daytime, possibility to decide my own working times, doing my own projects all the time at the office, playing World of Warcraft at work and getting paid for it....I had the best job ever, and I had it for almost ten years. I had the possibility to learn every day something new, met tons of cool people and loved to come here almost every day. I´m not bitter at all at my boss who had to make this decision- I´m only bitter because of how the company handled this. And that was not his decision.

I have negotiated quite a good deal for getting the gear I didn´t pay myself (roughly 85% of the gear I used was paid by myself during the years), which means that I can basically continue working with my own freelance stuff with the exactly same equipment right away at home. Even though this timing was the worst ever, as I´ve just bought a house I´m moving in this week. (!!), there´s a silver lining: we had one extra room there, which I can now use as my work- room. Meanwhile, I try to get all the possible freelance- composing jobs I can get while trying to get a new job as an inhouse audio guy from somewhere. The problem is that there are pretty much three positions available in Helsinki area and they´re all filled up with my friends. :D So I have to convince people that a) they need me with them or b) Your Growing Game Company would definitely have use for an in- house audio guy.

Now it´s time to move on and try my wings as a freelance game and TV composer for now. Am I disappointed? Not sure. Excited? A bit. Scared? YES. But mostly because I have just signed a sadistical mortgage and I have two kids to feed. And my wife is still on her maternal holiday. But I´m sure I´ll get something. With this experience and enthusiasm I have, it would be quite a small chance that I end up as a truck driver. Which, I have no problem to do meanwhile if I have to.
I´m built to survive. It´s all about perseverance and never stopping believing into your dreams. It doesn´t matter if you´re someone called Joe or someone who plays in a metal band called Finntroll. We all have the same dreams, same fears and same hopes at the end of the day.
I have all the skills, all the equipment and all the enthusiasm. And a driver´s licence if the Finnish post office will need a car driver to their ranks. :D But most of all- I have my family who has faith in me. Now let´s roll those sleeves up and show the world who the fuck is Trollhorn.


Ex- Lead Audio Designer for Digital Chocolate games LTD.

PS: And yes, you are extremely welcome to spread the word if you know someone who need audio design for their games. The semi- ready (work in progress) portal can be found from which tells a bit more what I can do.

Yes, it was an advertisement. Sue me. :D

EDIT: Back in 2009 I glued sound dampening material to the walls. You know,  that black foamy stuff used in studios, etc. Apparently I had thought it was funny idea (despite being over 30 years old) to draw a huge cock to the wall with that glue under one dampening piece. When I removed those dampenings half an hour ago, I realized that all the white glue had stuck on the wall permanently, but now having a black, foamy outer layer now from the dampening pieces.
So, now there´s accidentally a huge black cock in my office wall. What a fail.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Login Screen

DISCLAIMER: As July 9th 2014, I have released the song on my Soundcloud- account. Listen it here!

You know, I´ve always wanted to do a cinematic montage myself.
Like the stuff which you hear on movies´ end credits, combinging the themes while hopping through different keys, tempos and feelings.

Or....ehm, that stuff you hear in an online game´s login screen. I wonder what game we could possibly talk about here?

So, one day at work I actually decided to go all nuts and started to improvise a bit with the themes, riffs and melodies of our upcoming album. And suddenly, I was having a blast...I had so much fun to do whatever I wished, playing "Kyyppari"´s main guitar riff with staccato strings and whatever I could just imagine of.
One thing lead into another, and suddenly I was having a 6- minute classical arrangement of the album´s various themes. Using only basic strings, I could easily mimick everything roughly to make some guidelines what to do.

The fact that I still had my template left from the movie score I was doing last autumn helped me a lot. So I basically had all the instrument tracks and samples mapped already and was ready to start orchestrating right away. Which I did. Using EastWest Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold (Seriously, I wonder if you could actually get a longer name for a piece of software? :D ) as the basic palette with some additional stuff from Native Instruments (Kontakt II library), Garritan (Personal Orchestra + Jazz& Big Band libraries) and Quantum Leap (RA library) it took me a couple of days to orchestrate the whole palette.

After I had carefully orchestrated the whole stuff with midi, I exported every instrument separately out from Cubase as wave file and opened my movie score´s mix template. As I was using the same sounds, I could just import the wave files to their own tracks and all the EQ´s, compressors and reverbs were right there.

[studio jargon]
Clearing all the previous automations, I was ready to start from scratch to give the volumes and pannings the treatment they should have. For you geeks out there, the final secret of creating real- sounding stuff is dynamics. In order to have room for compression for the sound in the final mix and master, you have to have dynamics so wide- ranged it sounds almost stupid. I´m using first a modulation wheel for articulating the sound to match the realism (as in, the sound changes depending on how hard you bow/ blow/ hit the instrument) and then I use volume automation as well to emphasize the crescendos and diminuendos even more. And then, when I import stuff to Cubase, I compress a bit each track separately and then do even MORE audio automation to the volumes. Then when the final master compression is set, it will even out nicely stuff without taking the dynamics away.
[/studio jargon] 

If you look closely, you may spot my mixing references on the last two tracks. :D Every track you see contains quite a load of "hidden" data, which is used for automating volumes, reverbs and even stereo panning, which is very important in mixing. On the top of this orchestral mix, there will be quite a load of more synthetic sounds, real percussion, real singing and some instruments as well, so we´re still quite far from the actual finalized product.

I was thinking of doubling all the choirs myself, using some clever technology even to do the female choirs (no, not harmonizer, thank you :D ) but then my good friend Jakke from Crimfall exploded my mind by hinting on this one new choir sample- package which is now out. And after listening the samples, I was already writing an email to my boss, giving him good reasons why we should definitely buy this package to my work tools arsenal.
Then I realized that it needs the newest version of Kontakt sampler, and I was lagging two versions behind. :( Luckily, I noticed that the upgrade from my version to the latest was only 100 € ("only" is really "only", as these things tend to cost close to 500 € normally...not very cheap hobby this is, hehe) so I bought it myself right away. Thank the Gods for Mastercard!

I should be getting my upgrade package next week (43 GB of samples, not bad ^^) and as the Gods were on my side, my boss just agreed on buying the choir package, which should arrive at that point as well.  I can´tlet this one go finished without those MASSIVELY SUPER- SOUNDING choirs.
And no, I wasn´t paid for advertising. :D
I´ll keep you two readers updated on this little project. You WILL hear it at some point. If nothing else, I´ll upload it to Youtube or something. Even I have my ego to boost sometimes. :D



Friday, January 18, 2013

Masters of the Universe.

So, I doubt no- one thought this album was finished when we got out of the studio? Quite on to contrary, to be honest. But what I did was that I didn´t listen to it for two weeks when it was ready. Why? Because I knew we have to tweak stuff, add stuff and better stuff before the mastering. 
And the best way to actually judge what is actually needed is to give your brain a rest first.  The more you "forget", the more clearer and realistic picture you will have later.


So, just before Xmas I dug the files up and gave them a spin.
While I liked what I heard, I could instantly say that we need definitely more keyboards and less guitars. And tons of more "punch", which was already known as we left much room for the mastering to have many options available. So I put them through a master compressor and limiter quickly in order to emulate the final master sound a bit more closer.

[Studio Jargon]
The reason is that the final compressing (which is always done to every single album in the world at the mastering) is changing the balances of the instruments a bit. For example, in metal music most likely guitars will rise a bit from the mix and the drums tend to lower as well. And - depending on the EQ- melodies tend to go lower and overall "pad keyboards" rise. The easiest way to think is that all the sound that has an "attack" will go down and everything else will rise. So, if I wanted to hear how the balance is in reality going to be after mastering, I needed to listen to the album compressed and a bit EQ´d instead of listening to the pure mixes.
[/Studio Jargon]

After one listening, I gave another week thinking about the tracklist. Which was pretty much the hardest in any album I´ve done. I- or we- didn´t have any clue of it, you see. We had thought to open with "Nexro", followed with "Kyyppari". And then something, something, and finally ending the album with "Soutu".
But the more we listened, the more everything else didn´t fit to the album. Like "Piraatti" which the middle- part sounded so shitty right now that should we actually drop the song totally off from the album? So many question- marks with so little answers.
After a week, it suddenly struck me in the middle of the night. We´re having the wrong opener! After realizing that we should start with Blodsvett (like we were discussing at some point) everything kind of "snapped" to right places and I was really happy how it turned out to be. So I posted it to the other guys with a shy "Uhm...yes, it´s completely different song order we thought, but give it a spin without prejudices and I think you´ll be positively surprised".
You can probably imagine my surprise, as Tundra wrote back that "You gotta be kidding me, I´ve been trying the EXACTLY SAME tracklist here :D". For our excitement, everyone else bought the order as well with enthusiasm. So we were ready with that!

Enter a week more for me without listening it again, and I took one sunday evening with pen and paper and wrote all the things we needed to tweak and add. I used my trusty home hifi, which had been serving me for 15 years so I knew their sound completely. And then I wrote things down.
Main concerns were that the melodies weren´t partly audible enough, some rythm pianos and extra guitars were way too low and some little vocal extras would be needed. Add sound FX to this part, enhance that booming tom there...all little things that I felt were needed but didn´t now appear loud enough or were missing completely.
After writing this into an email and sending it to the guys, I got mostly feedback that "yeah, all these are needed and valid points". Which was good, because now I knew that those were actually justified and needed.

So, at monday I started to work with things. First I molded the 20- second intro for FOUR HOURS but it was totally worth it. :D I was a bit scared how the guys will take it, but for my relief, they absolutely loved it. You see, I had only told them about my idea, and if they wouldn´t liked the actual product, we had to go without one, because there would had been no time to start thinking of something else. It´s a bit different for what we´ve done before, but suits the album start perfectly in my opinion.
Then I spent some hours adding some extra rythm guitars to some places where there was only one guitar playing, giving Marilyn the extra pair of jazz- horns it needed, and doubling many melodies. Even actually adding a new one at one song! Tundra, Virta and Vreth got to my office at 5 PM and then we tweaked more stuff, added this and that and then finally started to have fun when all the "boring instrument shit" was done.

Marilyn got the kazoos again (which were in the demo but not in the studio version) and it started to sound incredible... Piraatti´s middle- part was treated by my boy choir and Tundra´s a- cappella jazz singing (!!!) and Vreth did some more backing vocals to double the old ones which had been left too quiet. Finally the album sounded like it was meant to be! Just look on the left of everything we added and tweaked after the mix. :)

Then it was time for the last sound FX. "Soutu" got the according dragons to the background with some wind, Piraatti got some squeaking, intro got tweaked a bit with more snorting (!!!) and everyone was really happy about the result when we left my office at 10:30 PM. Next day I took all the new versions out from Cubase, did backups and put everything on two different USB sticks and a cloud drive as well for Wednesday.
And because you can never be so sure about your decision, each song got basically three versions for the master:


This was because if we would had thought that "this one extra thing is now too loud" or something, we could had combined the original versions with the tweak- only track and adjust their balance to fit better. You can NEVER have too many backup plans, seriously. :D


One would think everything would be dancing on roses from this onwards, yet we´re talking about Finntroll here. So, as I mentioned briefly, I had been ping- ponging some files with World´s Best Masterer (TM) Mika Jussila who had done some excellent work already with some test files. Mika´s been my trusted mastering engineer for 10+ years and I simply cannot appraise his skills enough here. He´s a very professional, easy- going guy who always listens to the customer and has excellent ideas of his own as well. And the sound he makes is always incredible.
So, I wanted the mastering to bring out more of the keyboard pads and bass and less guitars, and his first master was exactly the vice versa ( :D ), as I hadn´t told him yet that I wanted something different this time. So I took his first version, tweaked it with EQ to go more into the direction I wished and bounced it back to him. It took him a couple of hours to do a goddamn excellent new version, and I posted both to the guys. And then it started.

"I like the first version better, it sounds like a real metal album"
"The other version was too muddy"

After a couple of days of discussing the matter via email, Facebook and phone, I convinced the doubtfyul guys that the album will sound terrible if we use the first version, as "then it´s basically all guitars and that´s it- this particular song is a bad reference for the whole album as there are not so much keyboards and melodies. A wonderful sound for a modern Thrash Metal album, but not for us." I asked Mika to put more hi- end back with a screenshot of my new EQ tweak, "but watch out the guitars while doing it". After the third version everyone was happy and we were ready to go to the actual mastering to lay down the overall sound, put the tracks to correct order and print the final master out of it.
Wednesday the 16th we tweaked it at Mika´s studio more, laid everything in right order and left the mastering session with a finalized product! Everyone was very pleased with the overall sound and we thought it´s the best album ever. I resisted the urge to listen it on my car, went straight home and gave the CD a spin. I loved it, but somehow it lacked...I don´t know, violence? I went to my computer and used different speaker system and then it struck me: we had still been too careful with the treble.
I called Tundra and he said that they had thought the same with Virta in his car but thought it was just because of the shitty car stereo.

After comparing the sound to Nifelvind and Nattfödd and then twiddling with the EQ I realized that the sound was indeed needing brightness. So I called Mika and explained the situation. He promised to do the new versions on thursday. Then I sent Jens, our chief at Century Media Records an email:
"The album is mastered and Mika should have sent you the files now.


I noticed at home that there´s a chance the sound need a bit more "hi- end". Compared to the earlier albums, it´s now a bit darker, and might be too dark. I will check the files at my office tomorrow and compare them with proper speakers.
Next morning I fiddled with the hi- end at work and compared it to our other albums. Then I sent Mika a rather apologizing email that "yeah, we really need to do that hi- end tweak" and included once again a screenshot of the EQ setting I had used. We got the new versions and they were WAY better. Then I went home later and gave them a spin in my car. And I felt it´s grinding my teeth out now. FUUUUU.
So I sent the band and Jens another email:

Jens and the band! I need your output here.

Listen to the final versions which Mika sent us today and TAKE NOTE if there is too much treble. They sounded very good at my office, but at my car there was quite stinging hi end at the sound. Both of these versions have their positive and negative aspects, but I´d still rather go with the new ones UNLESS everyone is against it.
So, let me put it this way: Listen to the new and final versions and IF they are too "treble"- ish, listen to the earlier ones and check if you like those better.

This is very important, as I need more ears here than my own to know exactly which version we should use.



And what a fucking can of worms that was. :D At the end, everyone except for Beast Dominator from the band were voting for the new versions. But also, everyone was a bit doubtful if it´s too bright now. Emails and other online conversations combined, we had close to one hundred comments on the matter, so it was very hard to figure out the best way.
And then, as the last confusing element, Jens voted for the first version. He thought it´s more punk and vintage and liked it because of the "old school element". Fuck. We were tearing our hair off with confusion. However, being the awesome guy he is, he wrote last that "...I know it’s not an easy decision for you. We are not the kind of record label that is telling bands what to do. I believe in artist freedom because real art is coming from heart... [snipped by Trollhorn].....Let’s sleep it over for one night and listen to both version a few times more."
And this is what we did. And when I woke up today, I knew exactly what´s wrong. Everyone who had doubts was concerned about the "whistling" frequency in the cymbals and that´s it. 
So, what if I....what if I....WHAT IF I.

And soon, a wild email appears:
I figured it out last night. Gonna drill a sharp hole to the hi- end EQ of the second version. Two test songs coming up in an hour for you guys! That could nail it for everyone.
[enter two hours]
Ok, here´s the stabbed version of Blodsvett. I dug that certain frequency which is responsible for grinding your teeth out, and dropped it down.
 This sound should have the hi- end of the Version 2 without that most irritating frequency from the drums.
Picture attached for audiophiles. Please let me know your opinion, would this be best of the both worlds?

And then what? While I was anxiously tweaking ambience tracks for a game of ours, a familiar sound appears and the first email dropped in from Beast Dominator:
"This is much more gentle to my fragile ears I´d say. Thanks for the pic ;)".Two minutes later from Virta: The fixed one is the shit! :D Much better than the old new one." Then Vreth: "Ka-tsching! Henri for president." Skrymer: "YEEESSSS! Brighter without that shitty stuff....awesome :) " and finally, Jens. "Sounds great- perfect middle way of punchy and punk!".

"Punchy and punk". You heard it here first!

Friday, January 11, 2013

And now....the conclusion - Part two.

...Still here? Let´s continue, aye. Part two of the Epic Saga Of Finntroll´s Mixing Adventures (tm) awaits! Grab your seats, ladies and gentlemen...and prepare to exhaust yourself with yours truly!

Friday, day 22.

My son was having holiday from school- I wasn´t. And after seeing him swallowing tears when I told him I´ll be again away tomorrow for the whole day, I decided to take him with me.
So I took him to my office to play games and hang around while I was playing all the missing guitar leads (if my boss asks, I was playing the guitar for an upcoming game trailer instead) in less than two hours. Making the sound, playing, editing, exporting, uploading the guitar leads, in less than two hours, that is, as I was supposed to be somewhere else at certain time. All this while answering ten times to questions like "dad, why can´t we go and buy some soda from the vending machine downstairs?" and "can I play games with your work computer instead of this laptop"? I decided to go with my demo guitar solo with "Mitävittua" instead of playing it again. It was actually rather good, so I didn´t see the point of just playing the same shit again.

I succeeded with the guitars in time, picked up my wife from the city, drove home with the family and continued straight to the studio. Came home to spend some time, continued buiding our snow-castle with my son and went again to the studio with the guys after everyone else had gone to sleep. We noticed that the kick drum, snare and bass tracks are having some problems with a thing called "being out of phase", so we had to check out all the songs again and fix those which had some issues.

Saturday, day 23. 

Holy fuck, a day that started at 9:30 and ended at 17:00. With everything going on schedule, succeeding and me having a proper lunch. I had to do some more backing vocals for Piraatti and we played some extra keys with Virta for a couple of songs. It´s good to have a quick setup there in case you realize that "this keyboard sound isn´t working in this part when the vocals are on top", etc, so it´s easy to replace or double stuff if needed. Three more songs for tomorrow, fuck yeah.

Sunday, day 24.

Last proper day. Today we make the two songs into their "phase #1", tomorrow we polish them into finals and do all the backups/ possible last- minute tweaks. So we started in the morning tweaking yesterday´s songs into final. In the afternoon, it was time for Soutu. Fast- forward about three hours and we started to mix Lolbster.
If you ever listened to the demo preview which we posted online, Lolbster was that folky tune that ended that preview. So there´s quite a much layered stuff happening which gave me some proper trouble. The chorus of the song has 6 tracks of stringed acoustic instruments, the "basic band", keyboard melodies in three layers, pads, piano, and vocals. Making everything "sit" nicely in the mix while still audible seemed to be a living nightmare. Until I realized something.

[studio jargon]
Everyone always utilizes EQ to make room for other instruments. Well, if you´re having some heavy trouble still giving everything the room they need, how about thinking outside the box? You got more than one dimension in sound. Use that possibility! Spread the living bejesus out of stuff. If you only need acoustic rythm guitars to give that "sparkle", you don´t even want to them to be in the middle- you always hard pan them. Well, hard pan them MORE. With a spreader. There´s no information in the center anyway you´d want to be there to mess up the mix. So be creative, and when you can´t make anymore room with EQ, don´t be afraid to experiment with stereo windth settings with sounds that are meant to widen the sound anyway. The more you got stuff in the center, the more you want to pan stuff, right? But what it you can´t pan stuff like pads? OVERSPREAD THEM. And prepare to be amazed. 
However, remember that just like in hammering shit down with limiters, also in this- with great power comes great responsibility. Be aware that too much stereo spreading WILL ruin your mix and you have to be very careful not to be "fooled" by the instant super- stereo sound to overuse it. Use phase meters with your ears and you should be all good. Also keep in mind that the more stuff is spreaded out, the more it will take sheer power away from the middle and your mix sounds like it´s coming from "back of your head" and totally ruined and weird. Use with extreme caution!
[/studio jargon]

And that was to first EQ all the keyboard layers separately and using a "trick" to make them more wide instead of being in the center. A bit like that "stereo surround" everyone love to overuse when listening to music from a digital source. :D And THAT really hit the spot. Everyone was dropping their jaws basically- "what the hell....holy fuck the sound started to breathe". Remember me writing earlier that...
"I could live with this, being 85% satisfied. After all, there´s no such a thing as "universally perfect mix"?
Apparently, there is. And apparently, judging from my and everyone other´s grin while checking them out in different stereos at the studio (there´s a fine line with this stereo windth experimenting -read the jargon if you want- so wanted to be sure we´re not overdoing anything) we realized that this was the last missing piece of the puzzle. The keyboard pads had to be spread out to the sides in the mix in order to give room for everything else, and now it finally sounded the way it was supposed to sound. Now there was just one little problem- there´s no way we would use the old versions if we could do THIS to every song. We´d have to start again from the beginning while having roughly 36 hours left. Hey, at least Kyyppari was still untouched so it´s not that everything had to be done again, right? :D
We finished Lolbster and used the same approach with Rivfader and Piraatti and went home 3 AM....dreading for tomorrow.

Monday, day 25. Studiotime left: 24 hrs. Songs to be mixed: 8.

I got to the studio with Virta and Vreth at 11 AM. Everyone´s good morning´s greetings were like "dude, I was listening the new mixes at home in the morning and holy fuck they sounded good" so we laughed that we´re definitely on the right track....better late than never. So, sleeves up and to work!
We did minor balance tweaks with those three songs we finished yesterday, and about 13 we started to give the facelift to the missing eight songs.
Some keyboard doubling was done (see earlier day) and overall we were very satisfied with the sound when applying the tweaks. It took roughly 2 hours per song so at 10 PM we were still lacking four. And this is where the FUN begins. If you haven´t read the blog earlier (or missed that part), I mentioned that my wife was heavily pregnant at this point with the estimated "delivery date" being only four days away. Well, you never guess how this story goes...

Long story short- at 22:30 with 12 hours and four songs left, my wife informed me that her water broke. Being the person who she is, she was laughing that this wasn´t probably something I wished to hear at this very moment, which I had to agree laughing. She told me that we have to go to the hospital in the morning if nothing happens before that, so "finish the stuff and come home but try to get some sleep if possible for tomorrow". So, there I was, mixing my ass off with a phone 20 centimeters from me in case it rings while my wife is getting ready to give birth.

(Disclaimer: This is a matter of trust here- my wife knows that the moment she says we have to go, we go. And I know that she will say it when that time comes, no earlier. She is a healthy and sensible woman, and I was only 10 kilometers away from home and I have a car. So we weren´t exactly risking anyone´s health here. Besides, there were no such symptoms which would indicate on going to the hospital yet. She also knew how important this particular studio day was, and showed me her support with this for which I am eternally grateful for her.)

"How the fuck can you manage continue mixing with attitude that calm", were the guys laughing. "Well, do I really have much choice here", I snickered. "I either start panicking and stressing and mix badly or then I go home, but in both options I am no use to anyone. So I guess I finish what I have to do, do it well and then go home. But of course I am in full alert-mode all the time, and if I need to go, I need to go. Let´s just hope I won´t have to go before we´re ready."

And we mixed. And mixed. And ran downstairs to smoke cigarettes, had coffee, pizza and more coffee, mixing, tweaking and editing. Every second my phone could ring that "we have to go now" so this was some serious race with time. I was in touch with my wife with calls and SMS´s, her providing me info she got from the hospital and me asking her condition, possible pains, etc. Then she went to sleep about midnight and I continued mixing like a madman. At 3:30 AM she called me that she woke up and "I guess you should start hurrying up with the mix if you have much of that left". Now this was getting interesting. Could we pull this off or not? The atmosphere started to get hysterical already, with everyone laughing and cracking up all the possible jokes concerning what will happen if our time runs out.
At 5 AM we had the final mixes ready. But we still had to spin them through in order to find any possible major fuck- ups, like "accidentally muted vocal lines" or "flanger in snare" and "rodents on left speaker"- kinda things. Because if something is fucked up at that point, it can technically never be fixed again. We´d have to mix the whole album basically again as we´re using that kind of setup which can´t be done again quite easily.
I called my wife that we´re technically finished, and she said that I can stay for the listening, but being prepared that we have to go soon and she calls me when... and then it´s a rush. At 5:50 AM while the album had just finished and the couple of things had been noted to be fixed, I got a phonecall that we have to go. Vreth and Virta stayed to make the final tweaks for those two songs that demanded attention, I dropped Tundra home and drove WAY over the speed limit to home and went to the hospital with my wife from there.

While the album got born technically 5:00 AM, our wrinkly, healthy and small baby girl got born only less than five hours later. This is something I´d call rather efficient timing, don´t you think?
I also want to make a special note here- not even mentioning the actual bravery of her tuesday- night at home here- this album would had never completed with the massive help of my wife, who was taking care of everything I couldn´t, while I was away doing the album. I love you.

More into grim and evil stuff again, I´ve been now bouncing the mastered takes back and forth with Mika from Finnvox in order to find the perfect sound. Thus far they sound incredible. We´re still doing some extra keyboards and some vocals to some of the songs, and the final mastering session is at next wednesday. Expect more info then.
This album will fucking kill. It tried it´s best with us, but we were tougher. Are you....prepared?

Signing out for now, it was a pleasure to spend this year with you.


And now....the conclusion - Part one.

Yes, I didn´t have time to update this blog while at the studio. And after that, I had some stuff to take care of. And then it was Yule. And then something. But here I am now, rocking like a hurricane. And I thought you´d like to hear how the rest of the studio went? Read on, then!
This is quite a story, so I suggest you have a good 15 minutes with you and a mug of something. 
 And tissues, if you´re sensitive sort.

(Just to recap you guys- we had now recorded everything and already started pre- mixing a bit as well. This particular upcoming monday was the first "official" mix- day. We would have exactly seven days left for the mix now, so we´d have to hurry up if we wanted this to be finished before the next client will take up the studio and we´d have to leave- whether we´d be finished or not.)

Monday, day 18.

The process in the mixing phase is really simple.

1. You do a couple of songs per day.
2. Check them out at various stereo equipments when you think they´re ready.
3. Use your primary (which you´ve used to) sound setup to listen to the balances.
4. Make list what needs to be changed. E.g. "the second horn- part is too loud".
5. Next day you fix it, export a final version with the needed tweaks and start at #1 again.

But before that, you have to make the first one to get to phase #1. This means that the first one will be the song which defines how the sound will be on every song. After you´ve done that, the show gets much easier and faster and it´s then only balancing and polishing. (At least in a perfect world, hehe).

So, I got to the studio again at 13- ish to check out Marilyn´s vocals, which sounded nice indeed. The idea of doing the quick guidelines on one track really helped Vreth and the performance was top- of- the- notch. Thus we entered the mixing booth and started to lay the shit down together. Starting with Halkodisko, as it was the most "basic" song to start molding the overall sound- no weird surprises or blastbeats, enough of double- kickdrums and choppy beats, you know. Something that contains "everything" enough to start the overall mix with.
I wasn´t particularly worried about the sound, as it sounded very cool even without keys and vocals. Just what we were looking for- aggressive, distorted, pumpy, heavy and certainly black. We spent the day checking out vocal takes and compressors, replacing plugins and switching muted channels on one by one. It was some serious task to make the keyboads to be audible and "fit in" to the distorted black´n´roll mess but after hours I got it finally sound like it should with lots of EQ and other stuff. Then we unmuted the vocals and tweaked the sound quite a bit to be audible. And then we tweaked it some more. Then it "ate" all the keyboards so we had to raise them. Which made the vocals disappear again. After several hours, I had to leave the studio to pick up my son from school, but I thought I got the sound somehow ok- ish. We could at least hear everything, even though it was a bit messy.

Back home it didn´t sound good at all. A complete un- aggressive mess of distortion with demo- ish too loud and "outpopping" keyboard melodies, and vocals either too loud or too low, depending on the part. I thought it will get better later and went to sleep with a rather unfunny feeling in my stomach.

Tuesday, day 19.

I got to the studio 8:30 in the morning to tweak Halkodisko. Got a bit better version out of it, but I still wasn´t particularly jumping around with it. It still sounded like a mess...not like a bad balance but rather like.....unrepairable. You know, like problems lying so "deep" that no keyboard EQ would ever save it. I realized it must be because of the drum ambience is very loud and the guitars have quite much of very thick middle in them. So I polished the mix a bit, bounced it into harddisk and went to the office to do a couple of hours of work.
I took a listen of Halkodisko mix 2 at the office,  and thought it even if it was better than the first one,"maybe mastering will fix it to be perfect". "Maybe it´s just in my head", I thought and went to pick up my son again while the guys were already starting to import channel settings for the next song which would be Rivfader.
I got to the studio with my son about 18 in the evening. While he was playing some soccer game with the studio´s XboX, I was continuing with Rivfader. The more I tweaked it, I started to realize that the problem with the sound is not in my head. This sound is bad to the core. Period. And the more I tried to mix the keyboards and other stuff in, every minute I got more desperate and nervously conscious that this is not going to sound good no matter how I tweak.
Something is FUBAR for good here, and I noticed myself actually thinking of canceling the mix and postponing it to February when the studio is free again. I felt so disappointed after months of hard work that I left the studio with the feeling I will either start crying or start some heavy solution- finding. And I´m so tired of finding solutions. The guys left to bounce Rivfader to hard disk and I could see from their faces that they weren´t happy with the sound either.

It´s a hard feeling to describe (after everything we´ve gone through lately) how bad I felt when I left the studio. Frustrated, disappointed and so tired.

Wednesday, day 20.

I didn´t sleep much the last night. At 2 AM it struck me and I SMS´d Vreth.
(And yes, this is one SMS. :D)

"Fuck, is it the guitar?" Maybe with that amount of keyboards we´re using too much of the Orange amp and the thickness of it? Maybe if that´s the main problem we could just mute the other Orange channel or fiddle some room for the synths with an EQ? The sound is just too thick and we can´t get any other synth out than the most hi-pitched melodies...We gotta test that tomorrow. Fuck I´m losing my sleep here. I was listening to Rivfader and even it was semi-ok, I still think the same- I gotta test that tomorrow for sure."

For my surprise he was awake, so we discussed more about the sound and what´s wrong with it. I used the example that we´re trying to "mix the first Anaal Nathrakh album with Nightwish"
(Seriously- that Anaal Nathrakh isn´t actually even that far from the truth!)
Of course then I realized that this is exactly the problem. How the HELL could I possibly think these could work together??? Our "basic" sound has been done so goddamn raw and distorted without thinking the rest of the palette at all. And guess who was to blame? Me, the self- proclaimed producer. My call, my bad. My mistake. And now it´s all coming back to me.
I called Nino right in the morning while driving to work. "Dude, I´ve made a fucking horrible misjudgement and we gotta start the mix again". We had a long talk and he understood my point. And promised to tweak the drums and guitar way more cleaner while I´m at work, as I couldn´t come to do it myself. He sent me a new version later in the afternoon, and I called him right after and said I could kiss him. At least I was now confirmed that even though "I broke it" I knew how to repair it. I went to the studio in the evening with my son, tweaked the sound a bit more and made another mix from Halkodisko. Drove home with my son, read him a while, tucked him into the bed and went back to the studio to mix Rivfader.

Next morning at home the mixes were sounding like a different band. I was extremely relieved. Not the best possible supersound I could imagine, but at least not that fucking horrible shit. I could live with this, being 85% satisfied. After all, there´s no such a thing as "universally perfect mix".

Thursday, day 21.

Finnish independence day = public vacation. For some, not for me.
I did some more polishing to the guitar and drum sound in the morning and made new versions out of Halkodisko and Rivfader. Mind you, I don´t want to hear Halkodisko ever in my life again.
Otherwise- more songs done, general tweaking, choosing the best keyboard sounds (We did a ton of layers in order to pick the best- serving ones in the mix) ....and I think we did three songs overall. Got home in the evening to go to sauna and having a nice evening with my family.
Not that I´ve seen them much lately, and "we have time now as the mix is good. Half of the songs are done already!" Yes, well....more on that later.

Read on to chapter two, if you will! Still four exitement- fulfilled days left.
What could possibly go wrong?