Singer Heidi Parviainen – Dark Sarah
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to: Emil Westerdahl at Inner Wound Recordings for setting up the interview and to Inner Wound Recordings for the promo and additional promo pictures of the band
Finnish vocalist Heidi Parviainen (ex- Amberian Dawn) recently released an album with her new band Dark Sarah. The album is called BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL and it ought to appeal to fans of symphonic goth/metal. The album came to life thanks to crowd funding on Indie a Go Go and was recorded in three separate parts which later became the album. We talked about the album, the guest appearances, and the on going process with releasing the album. The first video from the disc came two years ago so I guess Heidi was glad to finally unleash her work to the fans and the world. Read more about her journey below.
First of all, I have to say that I think BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL is an amazing album. Let’s begin the interview by talking about the debut album BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL. When did the band begin work on material for the album?
I started working on the album in 2012 when I knew that I was about to leave Amberian Dawn.
I know that you have written all of the lyrics, but who are Frost, Storm, Schmidt and Mustonen. Who has been involved in making the music?
They are composers who have written the music on the album and Mustonen and Storm have also made arrangements. Stefan Schmidt is a singer from Van Canto. And Emy Frost who has written most of the songs on this album is my friend.
Could you tell the readers the story line behind the album?
The album tells about a young woman called Sarah and her about to be husband leaves her at the altar. She almost breaks down but instead something wakes up inside of her and she changes to her evil side persona Dark Sarah.The album follows her struggles between these two personalities.
Is it correct that the album was recorded in three steps, and that you recorded it through crowd-founding via Indie Go Go Campaign?
Yes. most of the funding came from crowdfunding and in this case it means mostly pre-selling the music and merchandise. I divided the album in three parts because it was easier to seek funding for smaller amount of money being a new artist and no music to show. It was a good decision and we got full funding what we asked on IGG. I also put a lot of my own money on the music videos and also other costs.
Which of the songs were recorded and in what steps?
The album was recorded in the episodes just like the funding happened. Save Me and Poison Apple are the first we recorded.
Was it hard to gather money and took it a long time until you had the money to finance the album?
Starting the crowdfunding needs alot of preparations and studying, it takes time. You must calculate all the possible costs for buying in the goods you’re about to sell and also the taxes. And of course all the separate campaigns need every time the same amount of advertising etc. All this took about 3 yeas in total from the start to the moment I got to hold the physical album in my hands.
Save Me Video
The video to the song “Save Me” was released almost two years ago, and the video to “Memories Fall” came about one year ago. Was it fun to record the videos? What are the songs and the videos about?
Save Me is the intro song for the album, it introduces the main character Sarah and visualises the moment when she is wandering in the woods in her wedding dress and in the end transforms into Dark Sarah. And Memories Fall is the firts duet of the three duets on the album. Manuela Kraller is in the role of Fate. The glass box is picturing Sarah’s mind where she meets her fate.
Memories Fall Video
All of the songs on the 8 track EP VIOLENT ROSES are featured on the album. Have you re-recorded the songs in any other shape or form or have you done anything different with them compared on the EP?
The songs are exactly the same, no re recordings were made. The EP is missing the episode 3 and extra songs that are on the album. The EP was made for promotional purposes and also we wanted to sell our music at the MFVF 2014 even though the full album was still in the making.
Is it possible to purchase the EP anywhere today?
Unfortunately, not anymore. It was a limited edition and there was only 250 pieces made.
Manuela Kraller, Inga Scarf and Tony Kakko make guest appearances on the album. Was it hard to engage them to appear?
No it wasn’t. I had already talked about doing some music together in the future with Ingta and Manuela on our tour together in 2011. The possibility came with this project. I called to Tony and he was in after he heard the song and the story.
Was it easy to chose the songs that was going to be duets?
Not every time. Actually Sun Moon and Starts were first meant to be the duet with Tony. How ever we wanted more ballad like song for it. Stefan Scmidt wrote the song for me and Inga and the song was ready quite early and Mustonen made arrangements for it. Frost wrote Memories Fall for two classical sopranos.
Who came up with the name the album BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL? Does the title have any special meaning to the band?
I did. To the band, maybe not, but the title also refers to the story. People wear veils both at weddings and funerals and Sarah was about to get married but instead she kind of buried her good side and changed to Dark Sarah.
Jan Yrlund did the cover art-work, what do you think of his work?
He is a great artist and he did an amazing job. It was not an easy project because the album cover was also made in episodes.
The bio says that the music of Dark Sarah combines metal, film music and theatrical elements. Do you think that is a correct description of your music? How would you like to describe the kind of music Dark Sarah plays?
It is. I would call Dark Sarah’s music cinematic metal.
The album clocks in on about 60 minutes and contains 14 songs, was it your intention to make a long album?
The intention was to record 3 episodes each including 3 songs. But I promised three extra songs songs on the album and I while making the first episodes I also got really hungry, I couldn’t leave some songs out and episode I and II both included 4 songs.
The song “Memories Fall” is featured twice, once in a regular version and once in an orchestral version. Why did you want to make two versions of it?
Because this particular song has very special orchestrations that continue throughout the whole song.
What is the last song “A Grim Christmas Story” about?
It is Dark Sarah’s song and it is about violent dreaming and pictures her fierce mind well. In the story she tells how she found her husband in another woman’s arms and how she just “happens” to kill everyone in different ways. It has black humour in it.
7 months ago the video to “Hunting The Dreamer” came out; what is it about?
In the story, Dark Sarah is hunting the husband and plans her revenge. The makes potions and spells and captures his spirit in the doll. Then she burns the doll. The Finnish refrain translation: ” I wait for the evening and night, its final work. It makes me free, takes me beyond the darkness and gives me strength. For vain you seek for refuge, I promised to hunt you down. Now the time has come. This is the dream, purifying fire.”
Hunting the Dreamer Video
Do you think it’s fun to make videos? How long has it taken to shoot the videos you’ve done so far?
It is really hard work and time consuming. It is really fun too but mostly really rough and on these 4 official music videos we did for this album, every time it was freezing out side. Only Memories Fall was completely filmed in a studio set up. It has mostly taken about 2 days to film one video also in the night.
“Hunting The Dreamer” has (so far) received 60000 views on youtube so far, how does that feel?
Of course it feels nice to get views! Memories Fall has over 100 000 views!!!! 😀
Do you think that fans of your old band Amberian Dawn are going to like the music of Dark Sarah?
Hard to say because they are quite different in my opinion.
Kasperi Heikkinen, Jukka Koskinen and Teemu Laitinen guests the album, how did they end up with you and on which songs do they play?
Kasperi and Jukka played in the Amberian Dawn the same time with me. And Kasperi also played in my first band Iconofear before joining AD. Teemu is a drummer who has played in many bands and came to play for the first songs on this album when we did not have an official drummer yet.
I’ve read some really appreciative reviews of the album, could you ever imagine the album to get such a great respond?
I honestly did not expect this good reviews and of course there are always some really, really low ones too. I did not expect every one to like this either and this way the good feedback has made me really happy!
Do you and the band care about what critics and media have to say about your work?
Not really. It is their personal opinion and entitled to have one.
What does the fans think of BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL?
The feedback has been really positive and they seem to want more! And there will be.
Do you think the band have gained fans with your participation in Indie Go Go Campaign?
I do, especially from the USA.
Did the fans who contributed with money to the album got anything in return besides the album?
Yes, indeed they did. The Violent Roses was made for them in the end of the episode I campaign as a Christmas gift. And the ones who bought the DREM TEAM T-shirts got to collect a “tricolori” of 3 individual campaign T-shirts in 3 different episode colors. And the ones who contributed on the CD perk, got a special limited digi pack edition and a handmade silver tree necklace and many other perks like photobooks and personal jewelry.
Please tell us about the video “Light In You” that was released 1 month ago? It’s already got almost 30000 views on youtube so far, congratulations on that.
Thank you. It tells about how Sarah, after coming to her senses again, flees from Dark Sarah in the woods. And there she meets the Moon (Tony Kakko) and they fall in love. How ever it seems a sad story because they know that to moon fades away when the morning comes. But in the end of the video a miracle happens and he doesn´t fade away.
Dark Sarah feat. Tony Kakko – Light In You Video
It looked really cold for you to be shooting the video, how was it and where did you shoot this video?
I really was cold. But we were really lucky with the snow situation because it just had started snowing in Tampere, Finland and it really did snow a lot and during the whole shooting time too. It was a perfect timing for us and made the surroundings in the woods look like a winter wonderland which it was actually. Like a fairytale. How ever the snow made my clothes wet and in the end my shoulders started to ache a lot. It was pain but you don´t see that when watching the video! 😀
Are there any plans on shooting more videos to any of the songs from the album in the near future?
Not for this album but for the next album I’m sure.
Studio and production
Mikko P Mustonen has produced the album, how come you chose to work with him?
I knew him from his work he did in the orchestrations for Amberian Dawns Circus Black album. I called him and asked if he wanted to start working with me on my new project. He has been really a jewel for me.
What’s it like to work with him and what is his strongest feature as producer?
He has held the musical read line very strong all the time and thorough the whole album. And he has also encouraged me to sing in very different styles and it has been a lot of fun, never had this much fun in the studio but also hard work!
Where was the album recorded? Tell us about that studio, where is it located?
At Pathos Music in Finland. It is a small Finnish studio.
The album was recorded in parts but how long would it have taken you to record it at one and the same time?
Maybe only a month or two. The orchestrations and arrangements take the most of the time, not the recordings.
Mustonen have also been doing the orchestration, how was it to let someone outside the band do the music?
I kind of feel that he is in the band because in the beginning there was only me and him. And we started together to create the sound of Dark Sarah. He has a big part in the music production and the sound too.
He’s also mixed the album, were any of the band members part of that process?
Not so much. I felt it was easier to let one person to concentrate in the entity but ofcourse everyone has had their possibility to say their opinions too.
The album was mastered by Henkka Niemistö in Chartmakers Studio, where is that studio located?
In Helsinki, Finland.
Was the entire band gathered in the studio when you were recording or did you all record each part separately?
We recorded our parts separately.
Where did the guest singer and musicians record their parts?
Inga sung her vocal lines in Germany and also Van Canto their choir parts. Manuela flew to Finland to record her parts and Tony recorded his vocal lines at his own studio.
The band Dark Sarah
At the end of 2012, you left Amberian Dawn and only after a few days you announced that you were going to start a new project. Was your departure from AB a planned one?
Yes it was. The decision was made together.
When was the idea born to form Dark Sarah and where does the band name come from?
I had had the idea to do something on my own for a long time but never had the real need nor time to make it real. When I knew that I was about to leave AD I started to make arrangements for this project. The name for it came to my mind when I was writing the lyrics for the first song, it was Save Me. Then I also figured out that why not to write a whole album about Sarah and her dark side. All the future albums of Dark Sarah will continue this story too.
Was it hard to find members to Dark Sarah? Did you audition for new members or how was the process?
Actually it was because I had no music ready and it was hard to get people to get involved in a project that was only an idea in my mind but it became easier when the first episode was made. at first there was no need to really form a band either. I took the time to get a more clear view of what instruments was needed in a band too. So Kasperi, Teemu and Jukka came in to record the first songs but it was not intended to make them join the line up.
Were the current members your first choice for the band?
Yes, all of them. Lauri Kuussalo, the drummer, was in the official line up until he decided to concentrate on his own music in the early 2015. His replacement in the line up is now Thomas Tunkkari.Y
Drummer Lauri Kuussalo later left the band, but have you had other departures besides him?
Not from the official line up. I hope there won´t be any others, we have such a nice team spirit in this group.
Is Dark Sarah a band or a project?
It is my solo work but inside we work like a band. I only take the financial responsibility and have the artistic “last word” on my own, other ways we are a solid band.
Have you done any live shows or tours since in Finland or Europe since the start?
Only few live shows in Finland. Female fronted metal is not so popular in Finland. And we also performed at Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium last fall (2014). We’re looking for possibilities to have more shows all the time.
Personal with Heidi Parviainen
When did you first began to sing and have you always wanted to be a singer?
I started to really concentrate on singing in high school when I started taking classical singing lessons. Back then it was a serious hobby for me, and was that until I joined Amberian Dawn as a vocalist. I have graduated as a professional classical singer from Conservatory of Helsinki too. But being a singer actually was not my first choice of a profession, I wanted to keep singing as my hobby but with time it became more and more serious and I noticed I actually had two jobs all the time. But it is hard to get a living from being only a musician so it is good to have other professions too. I have four different degrees and have studied a lot. I´m still studying at the University and writing my master´s theses.
You have a very beauty full voice I think that makes the music stand out a lot. You’re a classically trained vocalist, what schools and educations have you attended?
Thank you- I have graduated as a professional classical singer from Conservatory of Helsinki, I have a Steiner school teacher’s degree, a degree from polytechnic of social services and I’m working on my master’s theses at University of Tampere Education theory as my subject and will graduate as a primary school teacher, I will also have the visual arts teacher competence.
Were there any particular singer or artist that made you want to begin to sing?
No, I don’t think so. I went on a music orientated class in primary school and singing has always been part of me. I first started playing piano but after joining choir I wanted to become a better singer, started taking lessons and I went in the flow after that.
You also play keyboard/piano, when did you begin to play and do you play any other instruments?
I satrted at the age of 12 playing piano. I also play fipple flute and choroi flutes but would also love to play cello.
Do you only write lyrics or also music? When did you’re song writing career start?
I write mostly lyrics and at the moment don´t write the music, I’m actually too busy all the time to start working on my own compositions at the moment. It needs different mood to hear the music in your mind, for me it is much easier to concentrate on the story but I work really closely with the composers so that the music and the story support each other. I have the intention to start working on my own songs too, but I want to do it in peace without any pressure or hurry.
Where do you find inspiration to write lyrics?
I don’t know! I have a really wild and visual imagination. When I listen to music I start seeing images and feelings and it becomes a story.
Do you still sing in choirs and ensembles?
Not so much in choirs anymore but sometimes in ensembles. I was in the “choirs” of Ensiferum’s last two albums.
I’ve read that you’re have studied professional singing at the conservatory of Helsinki, is that something you still do?
Yes I still practice singing, that is something you are never ready at.
You come from Espoo in Finland, do you still live there?
No, I live in Kerava.
Was Amberian Dawn big in Finland and why did you leave the band?
Female fronted metal is not that popular in Finland so no, AD was not big in Finland. I left the band because we had grown apart and our interest had become different during the years. People can just grow apart.
How did the rest of the band react when you announced that you was going to quit?
It was a mutual agreement and we also agreed back then that I would still continue the promotion and possible shows because we had just released the Circus Black album. It was a fear deal.
Is it correct that you first started out as keyboard player in the band Agonia? Have you been part of any other bands or projects besides the ones already mentioned?
Yes, it started as Agonia in 1997 and later was re named as Iconofear. I played keyboards and sang backing vocals with this band for 10 year before I joined AD.
Label and management
When did you sign a deal with Inner Wound Recordings?
After the album was ready, late 2014.
Were there many labels that showed interest for the band?
No, only few. And the deal with IWR was the best one from my point of view.
How come you chose to ink a deal with IWR? Are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the album so far?
Emil from IWR got in contact with me and offered me a deal and I am really happy, IWR is a really nice person and always has time to answer my questions and takes time to explain if there is something I don’t understand being so new in the business.
The label is working with the promotion agency Connecting Music, are you satisfied with co-operation? Does it benefit the band?
The promotion has been really good.
Is it correct that IWR is licensed to release the album? Who own the legal rights to the master-tapes?
I still own all the rights for Dark Sarah’s music.
The album is so far released in Europe and USA but what about the rest of the world?
I would like to release the album at least in Japan. Let’s see if it becomes possible.
Is the album available at Spotify? Is it possible to buy it on the internet?
Yes, Spotify, Itunes, Amazon etc. digital stores.
For how many albums is the band signed for at IWR?
Just this one.
What are your opinions about the illegal downloading, spotify and tidal? Many artists consider the music industry as pretty much dead, what do you think?
It seems that the business is changing because the music has become digital and it is much easier to spread it. Spreading the music for free is illegal and for a reason. It is the musicians property who try to live from it. At the moment there is not much we musicians can do but really we ask at least our fans to pay for the music. If no one pays for the music they listen, soon the musicians don´t have the money to make more music. I also think that the crowdfunding can become the next big thing from the record label point of view too because it is mostly funding the making of the album by pre selling the music. Then it is more certain to get back at least the money you invest in the bands album.
The band is working with the management Riena Production, is that your own management?
Yes, it is my own business and handles the management at least at the moment. But I would gladly give some of the strings away from my hands if it was possible.
The band has a pretty nice website, do you think it’s important to be active on all of the social forums that’s available today? You also got a webshop, are there many that buys from the shop?
Thank you. I think it is the best promotion you can do your self to be active in the social media. The webshop is still quite new and many people may have not found it yet, but still the sales is ok. If is was much more, I would need to hire people to run it.
Who runs the bands website and facebook?
What’s the most common question you get from fans?
When do you come to (insert country name) for a tour?
The band held a release party at the beginning of May, how was it?
It was a party without a show. Just a thank you for the people who have been part of making this album. We had a great party!!! We’re having the release gig in Finland on the 12th June.
I read that you’re going to have another event at the 12th of June, what happens then?
Are there any plans on heading out on tour or do some single shows now that the album is out?
We would love to but at the moment the only confirmed show in the becoming fall is in Sheffield UK.
Do you have any festival shows booked so far?
I see that you have a show in England booked later this year, are there any plans on adding more shows in England?
We’re working on more shows, let’s see.
Is Dark Sarah big in Finland?
Oh no, gaining more fans all the time but Finnish heavy metal people tend to like more aggressive metal and male singers.
What market is the main focus for the band at the moment, the European, Asian or American?
We have gained a lot of fans (compared to our fan base) from North America but I guess that still the main focus for us would be Europe.
According to Facebook are you currently working on material to the next album, can you reveal anything about the work so far?
Yes, at the moment I’m writing the story forward and after that we will start to find the right songs. But no schedule yet.
Do you have any idea on when the next album can be ready to release?
I was thinking maybe within a year but let’s see.
Is that album also going to be released by IWR?
There has not been any discussion yet about it.
Do you think that the next album is going to be in the same theme as BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL when it comes to lyrics and music?
Yes, the story of Dark Sarah will continue and the cinematic sound too.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL?
If they want to find a new symphonic metal band with a bit more theatrical and cinematic feeling, then Dark Sarah is something they should at least check out!
What are the plans for Dark Sarah during the rest of the 2015?
Hopefully more shows and starting making a new album.
Are you happy with what you have achieved in your career so far?
I am. Who knows what it still can bring!
Well, finally do you have any words of wisdom to the readers and the fans and the ones who contributed to the making of the album at Indie Go Go Company?
My humble thank you for everyone who have helped us by contributing or sharing the words around. THANK YOU!
Thanks a lot for taking the time making the interview. I wish you and the band all the best in the future and I hope you all have a nice summer.
Thank you, all the best to you too.