Singer and leader Heidi Parviainen – Dark Sarah
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Inner Wound Recordings for setting up the interview. Thanks to Inner Wound Recordings for the promo pictures of the band.
Heidi Parviainen (ex-Amberian Dawn) and Dark Sarah are back to attack with the brand new album THE PUZZLE. The album is jammed with some excellent cinematic/symphonic metal and is the continuation where the last album BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL left off. The album contains vocals from some new acquaintances as well as from Manuela Kraller who participated on the debut album BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL. What Heidi has been up to since the last time we spoke, the pledge campaign, the cover art by Jan Yrlund, and if it was hard to write the follow up and the future of the band were the things we talked about. We also talked about why Finland doesn’t like female metal….read more about what Heidi has to say down below.
Hello Heidi, really nice to talk to you again.Are you ready for another round of questions from me and metal-rules.com?
Sure, looking forward to it! Thanks!
The brand new album by Dark Sarah is titled THE PUZZLE, how long took it to write and record the album?
We started composing and the pre productions in the summer 2015 quite soon after the first album came out. And the albums was ready in the fall 2016. I started crowdfunding in the spring 2016, so it was quite a hectic year!
Last time we spoke you were in the process of writing the material to the new album but didn’t want to talk much about it,what are the lyrics about this time and what are THE PUZZLE about?
The story that started on the first album now continues on “The Puzzle” album. When “The Behind the Black Veil” told the opening story about the young woman called Sarah and her evil side persona Dark Sarah, this new album tells a story about Dark Sarah and how she ended up in the Underworld. There she needs to solve a puzzle and find three keys to get back. The third album that is already building up in my mind will continue the story from there.
Yes because just like now it started to built up really fast after the first album was ready. Dark Sarah and Sarah are both drifting in the middle fiction and reality and “The Puzzle” is happening in the imaginary world and inside their minds. But is Dark Sarah a real figure or only in Sarah’s mind, I still want to leave that question open. Maybe the next albums will give more answers to that.
You had help with the lyrics on the previous album, how was it this time?
I always want to find the best lyrics and compositions for my albums, it is not about me making everything on my own. And it is great to work with talented people who can throw them selves into the story and start building it with me. Also on “The Puzzle” album there are several composers and lyricists.
What did fans think of the official trailer of the album you released on youtube at the beginning of March?
I think people were excited about it and at least very interested what we were up to. I really liked the idea of making kind of a movie trailer and poster for the album, as Dark Sarah’s music is cinematic metal. It fitted well into the picture.
The Puzzle -TEASER
Do you like to write albums in the concept format? What’s the difference in between writing songs that stands on their own compared to incorporate them on a theme album?
I always wanted to built concept albums already in my previous band too and in a way the albums were thematically built from the lyrical point of view already back then. But now in Dark Sarah it has become possible in every way. I think a continuing story tights better the album together at least musically and visually. It is like making a small movie, I think. At least for now I want to continue making these concept albums, as long as I feel there is still complete stories to tell about with these two characters, Sarah and Dark Sarah.
Could you tell the readers a bit about the story behind THE PUZZLE?
On “the Behind The Black Veil” album Dark Sarah had sold her soul to the Evil Tree and when it was destroyed by Sarah, Dark Sarah ended up in a loop between two worlds, between life and death. She was sent down to the River of Death and she drifted along the streams and ended up on an island, the Underworld. There she finds out that she is given a chance to get back if she solves the puzzle and finds three keys.
Does the songs stand on their own or do the listener have to experience them solidly in the theme format?
Both albums are built in that way that every single song can stand out on their selves. It is made this way because we perform live too, it is easier to built a show if the music doesn’t need to be played in a certain order. But as a private listening experience with the artwork of the album covers you will understand the idea and story best if they are experienced solidly.
Why did you name the album THE PUZZLE?
The name was the first thing that came to my mind when thinking about the new album. I wanted to built the album like it was a game and I also liked the double meaning of the word puzzle. In a way it tells that something has been broken into peaces, like the Evil Tree, and it needs to be fixed, put back together. And in the other meaning Dark Sarah is given three riddles, three puzzles, she needs to solve them before getting back.
We always work really intensively together on the album covers because it is very important that the visual image matches the story. And he really nailed this album, I love the artwork he created. I wanted the underworld be more colorful and more like a fantasy world than we are used to see. This is a new way of seeing the land of the dead – with colors, UV black light and different creatures.
I already asked JP Leppäluoto one year ago if he would be interested in working with me on the becoming album. Back then I didn’t have a role for him but when the tango was born in my mind, I knew that he needed to be the Dragon. When the song Aquarium was in pre production I knew that it needed to have a mermaid character being both good and evil and it needed a singer who could sing well both clean and very aggressive style, so I asked Charlotte, she fits to the role perfectly! Also the last guest was Manuela Kraller in the role of Fate, like on the first album. She is my good friend and I always love to work with her.
Were there anyone that you wanted to work with that couldn’t make it?
I always start making the album by finding the guests so that we can really fit the songs to match their style and best vocal features. So in that way I know it is hard for musicians to promise to feature on the album before they have even heard the songs. The songs for the guests who have bravely jumped the unknown territory, have been custom made. And I have also needed to announce the guests for the crowdfunding campaigns before they have even heard the ready songs! 😀 Some artist don’t want to work like this, and I understand it perfectly.
How was it to work with Manuela Kraller (ex-Xandria) again?
She is my good friend and a great singer, it is always great to meet her again.
The description of your music in the bio say cinematic/symphonic metal but how would you like to describe what kind of music you play?
I say Dark Sarah’s music combines elements of film music, metal music and music theater.
What is cinematic metal?
It is metal music with theatrical story telling and film music.
Do you think fans of BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL is going to like THE PUZZLE as well?
I think so, they are produced by the same producer Mikko P. Mustonen and the songs and lyrics are mostly from the same writers. But like from every book series some single books become your most favorite and some not so favorite. It is matter of taste I think. I hope they do! 🙂
What can you tell us about the video to “Little Men” that came out in April? What’s the video about and how was it to shoot it?
The video is the most “edgy” video we have made and it is my favorite! It was meant to be a bit psychedelic and ” Willy Wonka goes Bollywood” style with magic mushrooms and all. 😀 The black light part of it It pictures the imaginary world of Dark Sarah. Dark Sarah has entered the labyrinth caves on the island of the dead and tries to find her way out. Then she sees light coming from a small crack and she sees little men dancing around the fire and she starts imaging her self, being some one else, dancing with them.
Official music video for the track “Little Men”
The video got over 40 000 hits, congrats to that 🙂 how does it feel that so many have seen it so far?
It always feels great when you get recognized by your work. How ever “Dance With The Dragon” music video featuring JP Leppäluoto has really become the audiences favorite, a bit unexpectedly because of the different musical approach,and has got over 400 000 views in only twp months! That feels awesome!
You once again chose to launch a pledge campaign at Indiegogo to raise money to record the album, how long did it take to raise the money?
Dark Sarah is still an indie band and crowd funding has been the only possibility to produce this big production albums. In Dark Sarah’s case the crowd funding is basically pre selling the becoming album. So it is not asking for donations, Finnish law simply forbids taking donations. So with the money we have raised by pre selling the music and merchandise on IGG we have recorded the album.
Which one of the items auctioned raised the most money?
CD’s, Dark Sarah story books and T shirts. Of course the best products from the bands point of view are the cheapest goods to deliver like the music and MPs.
Was it more people contributing this time than the previous time?
Yes there was. It is great to get more followers and backers. More backing people always means that we can make more songs, more music videos etc.
What’s the pros and cons with doing a pledge campaign?
The money you raise from IGG you need to pay the fees and taxes and buy the goods you have sold. So the money that you can use for making the album is never the same amount we see in the crowd-funding page. It is sadly a lot less and I have invested almost the same amount of money for both of the albums my self. That is good to know if you are planning to start your own campaign. It needs good calculation.
No. The debut needed to be done in three parts because each episode was first published digitally. But I took a risk with the Puzzle and went bravely for the full album funding. It was a risk but it payed off! And we could record the full album straight away.
How did the fans respond on the lyrics video “Aquarium” you did together with Charlotte Wessels (Delain), that was released at the end of October?
I think there are still many people who have not seen it! But the ones who have seen it have liked it alot!
Aquarium feat. Charlotte Wessels (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
Was it your intention of making such a long album, it clocks in on about 50 minutes and includes 10 songs?
Oh, I actually thought it was a short album! HAHAH. I would have liked to record at least one extra song but the budget was too tight to do it and also we didn’t have extra time either.
What are the shortest song “Breath” and the longest “Rain” about?
Breath is actually a bit like an intro and part of the Island in The Mist song. It is the same song as on the trailer you mentioned before. Rain is the final song on the album. There Dark Sarah has been given the last puzzle and she sees light of the moon through the water, but actually it was the ferryman’s boat. The gets on the boat and she meets her Fate (Manuela) who tells Dark Sarah that she must follow the light she has now found inside of her.
Have you ready any reviews in the media of the album yet? Do you care about what media and critics say about your work?
It is interesting and I do read them. But it is always one persons opinion, it is not the truth so I take them quite lightly. The thing I appreciate more is the feedback from our fans. It is what really matters!
Metal-rules.com gave the debut 3,0/5 and THE PUZZLE 3,5/5 are you happy with that rating?
It is a good rate. I always enjoy reading well written reviews when the reviewer has done the homework and knows about the concept and has good argumentation in the review, even if they don’t like the album but have good points.
Studio, production and mixing
As you did on the debut this time you also worked with producer Mikko P Mustonen in Pathos Music, how come you chose to work with him again?
He has become a key figure and a really important part of Dark Sarah’s music and sound.
What’s his strongest feature as producer?
He is really talented producer and a great in arranging music.He has a great sence of humor and is fun to work with in a studio. He always seeks the best performance from each musician.
Was the entire album recorded at the same time?
In few months period, yes.
Were you a part of the mixing process along with Mustonen?
He always sends me the almost ready mixes and after that we work from there together.
Where is Pathos Music located?
In Helsinki, Malmi, Finland.
In which studios did the guests record their parts?
JP and Manuela did their recordings at Pathos Music and Charlotte in her own studio.
The album was mastered by Svante Forsbäck in Chartmakers, where is that studio located?
Chartmakers West, In Espoo Finland.
How long did it take all together to record and mix/master the album?
Around two months all together.
You’re still signed to the Swedish label Inner Wound Recordings, are you happy with the work the label have put into Dark Sarah and the albums?
I am very happy with out co working and their work.
How many copies did BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL sell?
I don’t know the exact figures, but it has sold really well!
Not at all. I’m very happy of their work, smallness doesn’t effect at all!
Do you own the master tape of THE PUZZLE and IWR license it? Like you did with the debut album?
I own the master of The Puzzle.
Does IWR still own the license of releasing the debut?
I also own the master of the debut.
Are there any plans on releasing THE PUZZLE on vinyl?
Not at the moment but maybe later.
IWR release the album in Europe and North America but what about the rest of the world?
It is published digitally worldwide but not yet on CD.
How does the work go with your own management Riena Productions?
It is my own business so I manage it my self. 🙂
You co-operate with the booking agency Desert Rose Agency, are you happy with their work?
So far we have not done any shows in the Netherlands but hopefully now with two albums it is easier to book shows.
Past present and future
You only did one live show last year and that was at the release party, why haven’t you performed more live?
Because we have been really busy making the new album. I think we need more music to built up a good appealing live show for the audience. Now with the two albums we are going to tour more.
Would you like to go out on tour or play some shows with Dark Sarah?
Yes, that is our next plan.
In February 2017 you’re booked to perform in Helsinki, are you excited?
We are really excited and hope the Finnish audience will find us too. Weirdly this female metal genre is not so popular in Finland.
Any plans on heading out on tour or at least perform more live during next year? Do you have any shows or festival booked so far for the summer?
We are trying to arrange a tour for fall 2017 in Europe.
When we spoke last time you said that the band got a lot of fans in the US, have your fanbase over there increased now that the new album is out?
US is still one of the biggest supporters next to Germany, Netherlands and UK.
As you said in the last interview Europe was the main focus for Dark Sarah, is it still so?
Yes it is, female fronted metal does well in Europe.
How many albums do you see yourself record with Dark Sarah?
As many as possible!!!!!
Last time you said there weren’t enough people that had find your webshop, have you had more visitors since then?
We have a new westore, new products and jewelry. It is growing all the time.
Do you still run the bands facebook and website?
Yes, I manage it all the social media myself but not the website, it is too tricky :D.
What kind of metal genre is the most popular one in Finland?
I think Finnish people like more aggressive style and not so melodic metal with male vocals.
In the last interview you said that female fronted metal wasn’t that popular in Finland why is it so do you think?
That is a good question! I don’t know, maybe it is the fact that female fronted metal has always been more popular in central Europe than in Finland and bands tend to succeed there first. And because the venues are affraid to book bands they don’t know how the audience will like them, there aren’t many possibilities for bands to grow their fanbase in Finland. This is just a guess. Nightwish and Battlebeast work well of course because they are big already.
Besides Finland is Dark Sarah popular in the rest of the Scandinavian countries?
Scandinavia has not found Dark Sarah yet the same way central Europe has. But we are growing there too all the time.
The video to “Dance With The Dragon” featuring JP Leppäluoto got over 110 000 hits on internet so far, how does that feel?
Now over 400 000 and it feels GREAT! WOW!
Official music video for the track “Dance With The Dragon” feat. JP Leppäluoto
Was it hard to learn the dance moves in the video when you danced with JP?
No, but we had really only 10 hours to learn it by heart. But we had a lot of fun even though we danced long days before the video shoot.
Are there any plans on releasing all of the Dark Sarah videos on any DVD collection or as bonus features to any of the albums?
Over 15 000 people likes Dark Sarah on facebook,how does it feel that you reached so many people (and more) with your music?
Now it is 16000 and it feels we have succeeded in one goal, to get more listeners. There are still many people who doesn’t even know we excist!
I couldn’t be more happier, when I look back and think from where I started from on my own. I am very proud!
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard of Dark Sarah yet?
Be brave and try, if you don’t like one song, try another! There are many different style of songs in our repertoire! And read the story on our website if you want to dig deeper. 🙂
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy THE PUZZLE?
It is genuinely made from the heart, it is a great adventure, and possibility to find something new.
Thanks for taking the time to make another interview with me and metal-rules.com, I have to congratulate you to the amazing album THE PUZZLE and I really hope to see Dark Sarah live on a stage near me soon, do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Thank you very much and hope to see you soon!
I wish you and the rest of the band all the best in the future.
Thank you, you too!