Interview by Ashlinn Nash
Photography by Jo Blackened
The angelic soaring soprano, Tarja Turunen, is known as a musician who has brought mystery and elegance, to every song she has graced from her early career with Nightwish, to her own carved out solo adventures. With the announcement of a new album, “colours in the dark” which has been recorded between her busy touring schedules, is set to be another slice of excellence that is both hard hitting and accentuated with symphonic styles. After her phenomenal rock releases “My Winterstorm” (2007) and “What Lies Beneath” (2010), Tarja is back with her darkest album yet.
We managed to catch up with the artist who is in the currently final stages of creating her newest album ‘Colours in the Dark’.
You’ve produced the new album ‘Colours in the Dark’ yourself, what was this like?
It has been amazing with the whole experience of being able to take control, but not only this but to have the freedom too.
It’s really been fascinating, I’ve learnt tremendously and so much in the last few years and ever since my solo career started there have been so many things to learn.
With song writing, to get the courage in that and this album I write much more on my own than ever before and it’s made me so happy. That I’m finally coming out of the box and not having to follow any rules in that sense and music its so much fun! [Laughs] Because I have a perfect team to work with we understand each other and over all these years the decisions have been made, they’ve been with me on the road for years already and of course recording with me.
Tim palmer has had a role with the mixing of the album, what was it like to work in collaboration with him?
He’s lovely and a really amazing person to work with very easy to get along with and he was working with me on the last record and a few songs on that he mixed. So after that experience I said to him that I would like him to mix my whole album. So I went to his home he actually has a home studio in Austin Texas. I felt like all his family, his daughters and everybody to be very open minded people so I didn’t feel like we were bothering them by being there.
When it comes to music, working with Tim was so fast and so productive, even though everything has been recorded and I have my songs there, that have so many layers in the music and everything has to be perfect! It’s a very challenging to mix because there is a lot of it, but Tim is very talented, he’s been working with many big bands especially with singers he is so good with vocals what he did with this album was really magical in many of the songs, I’m surprisingly happy with them, so I really appreciate his work. He’s been working with H.I.M. a lot, and other big bands so he has this connection with Finnish music.
He’s great as he’s taken my music seriously and that makes me very happy as he’s very down to earth and didn’t thing “ohh this girl from Finland and I’m going to record music” he respects me and my music and its lovely to see that.
What can the fans expect from the new album?
They can expect a change the elements are the same that I’m producing but I’m taking some brief steps to the unknown a little bit more. I’ve finally got the guitars as aggressive as I want them to be also the symphonics on the songs as well they’re very bombastic and very epic and very powerful. Emotional too there are some more progressive elements in my music now, a lot more than before. So the songs aren’t that easy to open up to the first time you listen to them.
Where did the album’s name come from?
Tarja: Colours in the dark, its funny I always have a title before writing any songs, this time it didn’t happen that way around.
So I started writing songs two and half years ago in between tours. The colours were always there, I felt like the album has to have something to do with colours, my life has been so colourful and so I want to write about that. About how good I feel today, what I’ve felt, what I’ve experienced and so the stories are a lot to do with my life or a lot to do with the people I’ve worked with or their stories.
People have been a really great inspiration for me, but then the darkness it is in me. It lives in me and has to be there it makes me who I am, I write dark music, I could write dark music on the beach [laughs] but I do like writing dark music. It is the soul that I have, its a dark soul in a positive person.
What other elements have you drawn inspirations from for the album?
Defiantly people, my journeys and where my music has taken me and these have all been great inspirations.
I’ve seen a lot of people from different cultures handling the same problems, no more than anybody else but it’s fascinating to see in other cultures. Things like that, my personal experiences when it comes to the writing, I listen to a lot of American Metal, there are quite a few bands that I’m still listening too from America one of them being Alice in chains, and the melodic side of the genre, with Avenged Sevenfold, and the funny side too I like that [laughs].
I have to have the classical side too, I really enjoy soundtracks such as the Gladiator soundtrack, its very hard to find one that’s that successful. It’s interesting to see how Hans Zimmer’s music and way to compose has changed over the years. It’s funny to go back in time and take something that he did years ago and now and compare them. Like with my music as well it’s different! So it’s progressive too.
Which tracks are favourites?
Oh that is a tough one! [Laughs] and the answer is tougher, of course I love the opening track “Victim of Ritual” but it’s rather impossible to pick as I love them all. Together with the label we decided to make that the first single, so I’m finally happy that I’ve finally found a partner that understands all these theatrical aspects in my music it’s not easy music but it’s me. “Victims of ritual” perhaps, this song is my favourite.
Will that be a new favourite to play live?
Oh yeah! I think it’s bombastic and such fun, we start touring in October and that will continue until 2015 with all the breaks in there too. My daughter will be three years old when we finish oh my god! [Laughs]. Then it’s time for another album.
The album contains a Peter Gabriel cover, how did this come about?
I’m a huge fan, I’ve thought that for several years, I love his album that the tracks from, it’s a very dark album to me.
After listening to the album a few times I started listening to this song in particular it had beautiful lyrics about fears and the effect of them in genera I felt like I could make the song my own. So I took quite a brave move with it, such as speeding up the tempo, I added more of an aggressive and then I really relaxed and took it to a different atmosphere. I love the song very much!
In the past you’ve chosen to do a series of covers in the past, has it just been a case of while listening to something and thinking “oh that would sound good to do a cover of”?
Exactly, I’ve been covering a lot of 80’s rock, male rock, and the process of working on this song was different, I wasn’t as serious with the others. With this one I was god damn serious when I was working on it.
When you first started out the idea for the solo project, did you think “I want to write just classical” or just “metal” or did you want to have this combination?
It was always very clear to me that I wanted to share and merge the two worlds, because they are both completely me, I see classical as my right hand and metal as left hand. So if someone took away one of those even for a short period of time I think I would feel miserable. With the classical concerts, it’s all about perfection as I’ve trained really hard for them, and then after one month change back to the rock tours, which as very comfortable. I can handle it, I just need to have a rest in between, its fun, lots of fun!
You’ve had quite a few guest musicians in the past, who have you got for “colours in the dark” ?
There is a duet, Medusa, that I finally have a male harmony for his name is Justine Furstenfeld, he’s from an American band called Blue October. His voice is so tender, it’s very emotional, it fits perfectly for the song which I’m grateful for. I’m happy with that, there is also a man called Thomas Bloch, he’s plays crystal glass instruments. I was looking for someone who could play with the glasses by rubbing a finger around them, when I was doing that research, I found this man who was playing with symphony orchestras with instruments that for example are called glass harmonicas. He had incredible instruments like that crystal basket, he created such amazing sounds and some spooky moments on my album I loved it, check it out it’s really interesting. Then there is a British musician called Caroline Lavelle, she’s a cellist and has been working with many great musicians and it was a pleasure working with her.
On the album cover, there is this big contrast; does this represent the nature of the album?
It has everything to do with the music on the album cover, I went to India for a photo shoot and it has this feel of really strong colours, and India is the place for colours! I found photos from this amazing that were so colourful and I said that I wanted to create something similar to this in my own artwork.
For the upcoming tour, where are you looking forward to playing?
Everywhere, Please God… Everywhere! [laughs] I also want to do more shows here [in the UK] I have god damn beautiful fans here, they’ve been really waiting for me I just need to find a promoter. We’re working very hard to do more shows here, and then go to the other countries I haven’t even been to yet. As I say music is taking me to wonderful places, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Many thanks for your time!
Thank you, it was a pleasure to meet you!
Tarja’s new album ‘Colours in the Dark’ will be available from 23rd August 2013, via EarMUSIC