Monday, April 9, 2018

Many Whelps! Handle it!

The good thing about video game bosses is that you can usually kill them again and again.

Just take a little break, log off and suddenly everything is back like it was never smashed down in the first place. The bad thing about your possible blog readers is that they probably thought this video game boss here was long gone, didn't respawn, and was probably bugged anyway. At the end they forgot me to my lair to write incomplete texts for years, plotting revenge....until one day a party of unfortunate brave souls wandered inside, noticing that I had suddenly respawn!

That's right, folks- I'm here to pester you again after a couple of years of my absence from this site. The past two years have been extremely busy balancing together my family, work, freelancing and band activities and thus this little blog has been on hiatus since then. Nevertheless, I'm back with a blast with a lenghty recap on the past, present and the future, so grab a mug of blood and start reading if you care!
The text also contains a lot of music links and other self- pompous bullshit, which some of you may find interesting.

Ok, so what happened after your last blog post...which was in March 2016? Two years ago?

As Moonsorrow's "Jumalten Aika" was finally wrapped in January 2016, I didn´t even want to touch a guitar for a year after that intensive mental marathon. I was completely drained musically and felt composing only to be a burden more than anything else. Nevertheless, at this point of my life and professional career as a musician I am aware that these phases come and go so I wasn't really worried about that. I just needed to channel my creativity into something else!

Instead of composing music, I finally built myself that studio room I always had dreamed of. I started small in March, and got things running soon enough. As everyone with experience on these things know, though, it's a neverending process but at least I had now properly equipped room to work at! Most...well, all of the year went in practicing mixing and mastering and as said, no new music was composed outside work premises. I did one (1) bad riff for Finntroll and spent way too much money and approximately 500 (no, I'm not kidding) hours in my studio room practicing the dark arts of mixing while still having that day job and spending time with my family. Needless to say, there really wasn't any time nor energy for any kind of writing. And to be honest, the whole 2016 was so chaotic I can't even remember much of it.

March 2016: This is where I started from.
May 2016: New speakers, old hardware and a sofa!
October 2016: New desk and some new hardware.
August 2017: The current situation, Space Station 2.0!

Come 2017, I tried to concentrate more on music production instead of mixing and especially on orchestration and sample libraries.
In other words, when in 2016 I blew all my money and spare (lol) time to the studio room and mixing, in 2017 I spent all the resources I could on samples. Then again, it was really worth every single penny, as the production quality of my music went up by a zillion. All that gave me small inspirational outbbursts for composing music again- just too bad most of it wasn't metal, and certainly not Finntroll. And most of it wasn't that good either. But you need to start from somewhere after a longer break!

(It's completely different thing to compose for "demand" than compose "for fun" or your own bands, so while I was still doing quite much at work and even had some serious fun, I struggled to get anything decent made at home for quite a long time.)

Using this neglected, sad and lonely hardware
is sometimes just more fun than the usual, boring plugins.
During the whole year there were some unfortunate health problems within our family which were momentarily very heavy to go through, but at the end things are now a bit more under control. It took me a lot of energy and resources to cope with those, and many times my family needed me much more than my bandmates, colleagues or fans of our bands. Despite of that, I also took way too much work on my desk, ending up mixing two EP's, five full- lenght albums and mastered 9 others (I'm still not sure how I managed to squeeze the time for that). And naturally, tried to get the ball rolling with Finntroll whenever I had the chance.

Overall, 2017 was pretty much the toughest year in my life thus far, and most of the time I was only so exhausted I could just survive until the next day. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so here we are in 2018.... alive and kicking, and if possible, even more fierce and definitely full of energy again!

I can already promise that 2018 will be busy as hell, with some new tricks on my sleeve. And most of that is related to music- especially creating it.


I know a lot of people have been dying to hear about the new Finntroll- album, so I kind of feel owing at least even a some sort of an explanation at. And I guess the same people are happy to hear that we are currently working rather heavily on that album!

Sometimes, there are minions watching over the music sessions.
While I am busy making music, Routa is busy taking selfies!

When I started to write this text, we had been sitting down with Tundra (and sometimes Routa joining us) almost weekly since late December 2017 and were actually progressing with the new material again. We had many a ton of ideas and some half- made songs and thought seriously about finally entering the studio this year. (However, if that doesn't happen, please don't sue me. Or if you do, please get into the line!) We had been having quite some discussions about the musical styles, as I've been drawn more into faster and melodic stuff while other people have been more into riff- based midtempo material, which has many times left both parties unsatisfied with the compromises we've made.

Within the last weeks, though, we have been finding a lot of common ground instead of musical disagreements, and we've already finished a couple of new songs as we speak. I don't know what magic has happened, but we've definitely been on fire with Tundra lately, and I can't personally wait until the next composing sessions scheduled for the next week. My head is spinning with ideas and Tundra's contribution has been excellent and his ideas very refreshing whenever my own ideas may have been lacking some "twist".


(Photo: Kristiina Kiiski)
Everybody is still very happy about "Jumalten Aika" and we are all excited about the future of the band. We are also awaiting for the right time to start composing our next album when the time comes. Most likely when the Finntroll- album is done, we'll start working with the Moonsorrow one, if not earlier, as there is definitely a drive for that direction within us. The guys are also doing another European tour with Primordial in April, so make sure to check them out if you can!

Concerning the "Home of the Wind"- documentary: It's 100% shot and has been in post- production for a while now. At the time writing this, the project is still in the editing table and is indeed a bit late- unfortunately, the reasons for that are not for me to discuss in public. But I'm pretty sure that there will be something official concerning that rather soon anyway.

On left:
Ville got married in December and as a Finnish tradition, the bride was robbed and he needed to do some tasks in order to get her released. So he played a bass solo for us.


International scene- drenched,
Fenno- scandian viking greetings!
I never particularly left the metal scene, but suddenly I have been more involved in it than I've been in ten years- especially in the underground. And to be honest, I like it there. Guess the Pandora's box was opened again with my small mixing service , and I have suddenly been in contact with many old and new bands and people like it was fucking 2004 again. It's heart- warming to see that the flame is still burning like it was only getting more hungry year by year!

Besides mixing and mastering already multiple albums and demos, I arranged and played keyboards in two albums (Perdition Winds and Alghazanth), did some sporadic guestwork on some others and even promised to play live with Satanic Warmaster at Steelfest later this year. Which leaves me into a peculiar situation, as Moonsorrow is also playing there. And I've said many times "Hell freezing over before I see my own band playing live without being on the stage myself".

That being said, I seem to get one busy, metal- filled weekend in May.


Jakke and yours truly participating in a metal music- meets
game music- discussion after too many beers at Tuska 2017.
In January I wanted to really kick myself ongoing again, and decided that I start composing music more in order to get better and more fresh ideas out. For writers, there is this old advice to "write as much as you can, no matter the quality, just keep on writing and eventually you come up with better ideas". So, I thought that it should also work with music. Almost three months later, I can tell it really does work wonders. Plus, as a bonus, I am piling up a huge box of ideas which can be used later in different contexts! Some good, some bad, but we all know how it goes, haha!

I also took part to international Game Audio Awards in March, ending up being second among all the participants in the music category. The winner was my highly appreciated acquaintance and a Finnish game music veteran composer Jonne Valtonen, who I have been following since the early 90's when he was active in the computer music demo scene. I am not a competitive person by nature, so I don't participate much on these sort of things, but when losing to the best it doesn't feel like losing at all.

The best parts of working at Rovio? You can hire your
bandmates recording metal at Sonic Pump studios!
One of my biggest pet peeves has always been the constant shifting from "I'm a metal musician and a producer"- mode into "I'm a professional game and media music composer"- mode and back which has many times torn my brain like crazy.  But during the last year I've also happily combined those two a lot either at work, like this little Iron Maiden- thing at Rovio or giving some productional assistance for a new Finnish comedy movie about a metal band and composing something small and trollish for Tuska Festival's 20th anniversary song outside work.  We even participated in a composer round- table discussion with my friend Jakke Viitala from Crimfall (and Rovio) on combining metal music with game audio at Tuska and did a couple of lectures on the same topic at university as well!

The more I've been combining these two things together the more I have also started to realize that they shouldn't necessarily be treated differently all the time. There is absolutely no reason why I couldn't use my studies of modality on Finntroll and put some Finntroll into my game mus....wait, that's been done. Like, to death. As a sidenote- interestingly, last third of this song has seemingly been cut off from the game :(

But the point is that even if I subconsciously try to keep my metal more "unprofessional" on purpose in order to give room to chaos, it's unavoidable for me to bring some order into it as well. And as much as I want to pretend to be a plausible professional and serious composer, there is no way I can keep my darkness of Moonsorrow and wackiness of Finntroll out of it. It's just the way it goes, so it seems futile to make an issue out of it and hinder myself on purpose. And to be honest, usually the best music I compose on demand has a tint or two of my mental metal background in it anyway.

I've noticed that the more I have followed lately the "compose anything, compose often"- guideline on my more cinematic- styled music, the better results I have come up with. With Finntroll, I feel it would be a useful way to sit down and compose different ideas down on the fly, instead of just waiting for the right inspirational moment to strike. It will strike when I get the right idea down first, but waiting for the right idea to appear from emptiness before I can even start evolving and continuing it is really the same that a writer would write the next chapter of his new book when it suddenly strikes him while cooking pancakes. "What a great idea", said no writer ever. And to be honest, roughly 75% of the ideas I get first don't end up into the albums anyway. It's the inspiration and drive I get when continuing from those first ideas which usually transforms into a new and better song.


Maybe I needed the last two years to concentrate on sharpening my skills. Maybe I was needed more elsewhere than in the world of metal music. Or maybe I was just lazy. Then again, reading this text retrospectively backwards, it seems that I have been actually doing way more things during these two years that I could even vaguely remember at first. So I guess I haven't been lazy after all!

For all those who expected a new Finntroll- album to be already out: I'm truly sorry I failed to match your expectations. Sincerely. Please keep in mind that I am a fan of many bands as well and I know how it is like. Heck, I'm still awaiting the new Bal- Sagoth album to be released! So please don't think for a split second I haven't spent countless of moments stressing myself out from the situation that "something needs to be done". And I know Tundra having the exact same thoughts as well. It's been five years since Blodsvept and I can fully understand your frustration. However, this will be fixed as long as it's up to me.

When everything else fails, cast curses.
The thing is also that no- one of us all isn't getting younger. When being close to 40 years old with three kids and something you could call a "professional career", it's impossible always to concentrate on music on your spare time with the same devotion and piety it was possible when I was 20 years old. Back then, it was the only thing I had in mind! Well, that and video games. When things like a broken car, acute health issues of a kid involving a hospital....or something as mundane as a fucking extra trip to supermarket come up, I can't just turn my back on those even if I wanted to. And while making music is as important as breathing to me, I also want to spend some time with my family- and especially with the love of my life as well when we're not too busy cleaning the house, washing clothes or cooking food which no- one suddenly likes because it has onions in it.

But hey, that's life. And during that, sometimes metal albums get accidentally done, too. Right after I've finished this blog text, checked out my work tasks, picked up the kids, driving them to their hobbies, accidentally disappearing into my audio room just before we are supposed to start preparing dinner, yelling that "I'm just finished, sorry!" and rushing to the table to answer questions about "why dad can always come later to the table but we all need to be here the instant mom yells that dinner is up?".

You know, the usual. Many kids....handle it!