Heart of Steel: Interviews

Nino Laurenne
The Master of the Thunderstone

Interview by Rick

When I first heard of Thunderstone I pictured a band of teenagers making music in their parents basement. Little did I know that Thunderstone would emerge as one of the strongest of a new crop of melodic metal bands. With the release of their latest CD THE BURNING,  Thunderstone have shrugged off past comparisons to fellow countrymen Stratovarius and created one of the strongest albums of the year.  

You just finished a tour with Axel Rudi Pell. How did it go?

It was great. There were a couple of sold out gigs and a lot of places that were close to full.



Thunderstone was supposed to be touring with Iced Earth in support of THE BURNING. Have there been any new tour plans?

At the moment we are doing some touring here in Finland. We did a show where we played some acoustic songs and some cover songs. We are had some accordion and some other surprises.



Who's idea was it to do the acoustic show?

We wanted to play something a little different after playing some big gigs. This would be something different and special.



Now that you are off the Iced Earth tour do you think that that will hurt Thunderstone in terms of exposure for THE BURNING?

Hopefully not. The tour was perfect for us and the timing was perfect as we had just released our album. They are a big band and it was a big tour. Hopefully we will get on another big tour. Iced Earth was one of the biggest tours in Europe and hopefully we can get on another tour that will be good for us. When we first got the tour I told the guys to not get too excited till we are really on the tour bus and look what happened. The tour didn't happen.



Do you think you will play anymore dates with Iced Earth.

I don't know because they are doing a European tour. I would love to play with them again and I can wait over the summer but on the other hand we really have to do the touring now while the album is fresh.



On THE BURNING Pasi Rantanen delivers a much grittier performance than on the debut CD. Was this planned or was it a natural progression of his voice and the bands sound.

I think that the songs are heavier so the vocals have to be heavier. After the tour we realized that his voice changed a lot because of the constant touring and the amount of singing he was doing. His history is that he hasn't sang in a lot of metal bands. He has been in a number of cover bands so I think its a natural progress. I really kicked his ass all the time when we were recording vocals on this record.



You have done a video. For what song?

It was for "When We Touch the Burning Sun".



Why was this song chosen?

I think this song is the best representation of our music today. Much heavier, more riffs, lots of double bass and a really catchy big chorus. Great guitar solo and keyboard solo so it covers everything we have in our music. The original was almost 6 minutes long so for the video I cut almost 1 and a half minutes.



Who directed the video?

It was directed by one of the famous new generation video directors here in Finland named Jappe Paivinen. When we started to shoot the video the budget was small so we wanted to do a stylish video. There are 3 elements: Dobermans running around, a bitchy looking girl and the 5 ugly guys (laughing). We didn't want to do any kind of a movie story. Most metal videos with movie type stories don't work too well. We just wanted it to look cool. The fans can download the video from out website.



For the digipak version of THE BURNING you added some cover tunes and bonus tracks. What were they and how did you choose those particular songs?

We did Metallica, Judas Priest and Manowar. We didn't record them for this album. They ah already been done for other Nuclear Blast tribute album. It was the labels idea to add them to the digipak. It is like 30 minutes bonus material. The video is unfortunately not included.



How have the reviews been for the THE BURNING? I have read some reviews that say that you have found your own sound on this CD and that you are not a Stratovarius clone anymore. Do you agree with this assessment?

Yeah sure. This whole thing in the beginning was my project. On the second album you can tell that it's more of a band effort. On THE BURNING I didn't really change my style of composing. I think that on THUNDERSTONE I just wanted to do some songs that sound very melodic and big and probably didn't think of anything too original. On the second disc I wanted the band to be heavier so maybe that's the reason we have moved away from the sound of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius. Of course Pasi's singing is totally different. I just read one review from the United States that said that Pasi sounds like Kotipelto and I don't really understand that. There are still comparisons with Stratovarius but I don't care anymore. If you really get close to THE BURNING you can definitely hear the difference. Stratovarius weren't the first band who did that.



THE BURNING has been in the Finnsh charts for weeks. How high did it chart and how do you feel about success in your native country?

Well here it's a top 40 chart so we figured it might get in there at 40 maybe but it went to 13 which is great. Because we have a mall population here you don't have to sell tens of thousands of albums to get in the charts. But hey.. It's a heavy metal album in the charts so it is great. I just heard that the last Children of Bodom album was 3 weeks at #1. This is probably the only country in the world where bands like Childrn of Bodom can hit #1 and stay there. We always have heavy metal bands in the charts. Its great!!



Finland must have a big metal scene because metal makes the charts. There must be lots of young bands playing metal?

Yeah. I have the studio (Sonic Pump Studio) so I have been recording only metal for last 2 year almost every day and usually different bands so it's bubbling under all the time. We only have 5 and million and so many good metal bands so the situation is good. I don't know why we have it this good but I am proud that Finland has such a good scene.



Nino, you produced THE BURNING. Did you think about bringing in an outside producer to give you some fresh perspective?

No and for 2 reasons. The first is that I know what I am doing. The second is that our budget is small. If it was 10 times bigger I would think about getting in a big producer. Maybe Bob Rock!! (laughing) You would need a lot of cash to pay a guy like that. It was very natural for me to produce this album. It was my studio so we could record when we wanted and for however long we wanted. There wasn't a real schedule. Maybe in the future we will think about an outside producer.


You actually produced a number of bands. You actually produced a Cd by the band Dreamaker that is made up of former members of Dark Moor. How did you get in hooked up with them?

I actually asked the band how they came all the way to Finland from Spain. They said they wanted to do something different and they wanted to start with a totally different atmosphere and producer. They saw my name here and there and contacted me to produce their CD. We spent a month in Sonic Pump Studio and the sessions went well. Spanish people have a temper and it was different way to work for me but they were great to work with and I wish the best for them. I really like the album. I usually don't listen to many of the albums that I produce because I have heard enough of them when we are recording and mixing but this I listen to and think its very good.



At Sonic Pump do you use Pro Tools and do you think Pro Tools has allowed some bands that aren't really great musicians or songwriters "cheat" in helping them record a CD?

Yes and No. The good point is that the performance is still everything. You can't fool anyone. You can't do magic with pro tools. You can do a lot of things but once a band goes on stage you can see really what's going on. On stage you see what's going on. You can't fool anyone. In the studio with Pro Tools I can fix the drums but I can't help the drummer sound groovy. I can't make a drummers touch better but I can move a snare hit to the right place etc. With the vocals we have auto tune, which corrects the singers tune, but you can't make a bad singer good. Working with Pro Tools is heaven. We paid a lot of money for it but it's worth it. Every single cent. I'm happy with it.



Where did you learn about the producing field?

I haven't read any books or taken any classes. Actually I have one book that Timo Tolkki gave me me. But no schools. I remember when we bought our first mixing desk and echo and reverb stuff. We had an old analog tape recorder. When I started this I didn't understand anything. I had recorded 3 albums with my old band Antidote an even then I didn't understand anything about the technical side of recording. I totally started from scratch but in the last 5 years I have recorded over 100 bands so that's the best way to learn. Plus I also asked a lot of question of people like Miko Karmila and Timo Tolkki. I think that's the best way to learn, just by doing real work with the bands and the equipment.



Getting back to your former band Antidote. You were in that band along with members of Impaled Nazarene. Have you ever thought of reissuing any of the CDs that Antidote recorded?

Umm No!! Definitely No!! I hate my vocals with that band..



You were lead vocalist?

Yes I was and I wonder why!! (laughing) It's the typical story. 3 guys start a band and 2 guys really don't want to sing and the third guy doesn't really want to but he gives it a try. There you are. After 10 years you look back and think "I Really Sucked!!" (laughing) I should stop singing! (laughing). Its funny because every time we do souncheck and have to do the backing vocals check Titus and I have to sing. Titus has a terrible voice and I'm worse. (laughing) So we are laughing the whole time. For example in Paris during the Stratovarius tour we had to sound check in this huge 6000 seat hall. We were singing very ugly porno songs in Finnish so no one would know what we were singing in this huge hall! (laughing).



I heard that you are a big Pantera fan?

Maybe fan isn't the word. I have the albums up to FAR BEYOND DRIVEN and after that album I lost interest. They are one of my big influences.



What are some of your other influences? Is there one guitar player you can point to as a big influence?

Actually no. I remember when I first started playing I heard Yngwie Malmsteen. He is the guy who almost stopped me from playing. I would listen and say to myself "How does he do that?". "I could never do that". I have some guitar players I appreciate. Steve Vai for sure. If there was one guy who I would say is my guitar hero it would be Steve Vai.



You showed me a picture of a movie that you were in. Are you interested in acting and would you like to do more?

(laughing) You want to see some stolen home videos?! That's the only movies I'm in today. To be honest it was just a friend needed some guys who looked like musicians to be in the movie. Today the only acting I do is in music videos and home movies.



Is there anything else you wanted to say to the readers of Metal-Rules.com?


Thunderstone: www.thunderstone.org 

Nuclear Blast www.nuclearblast.de

Sonic Pump Studios www.sonicpumpstudios.com