Heart of Steel: Interviews

THUNDERSTONE's Nino Laurenne

Interviewed by Rick

Once in a long while a new band comes along that jumps to the top of the metal pack right away. THUNDERSTONE is one such band. Lead by guitar player Nino Laurenne, Thunderstone released a 5 song demo and were quickly snapped up by Nuclear Blast Records. The band went into Sonic Pump Studios and recorded their self titled CD which has become one of the highlights of 2002. I recently had the opportunity to chat with guitar player and main songwriter Nino Laurenne (you can read my first interview with Nino here) about everything from the new album to hockey.


A lot has happened since the last time I spoke to you.

Thunderstone's new CD simply titled THUNDERSTONE was released June 24th on Nuclear Blast Records and contains all of the songs from your demo plus 5 new ones. Why did you choose to re-record the songs from the demo?

We only had those 10 songs when we started recording so that is it. In my opinion there are no weak links on that album.


It seems to me that the 5 songs from the demo sound quite different after they were re-recorded. Did you like the way that they sounded after being re-recorded and do you feel that they lost any of the magic from the demo?

As you know, I own a studio so when we recorded those demo songs we had quite a lot of time to do them so they changed a little.


The production on the new CD sounds slightly different. The demo already had an excellent production sound to begin with. Do you feel that the new production took anything away from the songs or changed them in anyway?

I think it's only the production that has changed because all of the songs have no change in the structures and the vocal melodies are pretty much the same. Of course it will sound different as we mixed it in a very professional studio with Mikko Karmila and not in my studio which is not as professional a studio even though we recorded the whole CD there. When it comes to mixing you want to go to a very professional studio if you want a big sound. We could also take more time recording the album so there are some retakes and we push it to the limit on vocal recordings. We really wanted to do as best as we could. With the demos we only spent a couple of days in the studio but usually when you listen to demos from any bands and then listen to the album when it come, the album is usually much better because demos are quite often quite poor with the sound quality.


How do you come up with the lyrics for your songs? For example, The first thing that comes to mind with "Virus" is a computer Virus. What is your inspiration when you actually sit down to write?

I don't want to fight with the dragons! That is the main point I want to tell you! I don't wear a helmet so *laughing* I think the lyrics are from the real world. There are a couple of songs about relationships. Some are mine, some are my friend's. "Virus" is a song about computer a virus, the story of how we maybe depend on computers too much these days with all our contacts on our computers and stuff like that. When a virus hits a disaster so I had to do a song about that cause I remember when I was hit by a virus and lost everything. It was terrible. There is also a song called "World's Cry" which is the story about how we treat our world and how it is going to pay us back some day. Maybe I write more about real life heroes and not the usual power metal heroes. I keep my eyes open and look at what is happening around me.


Thunderstone is kind of more unique in that regard. Many other power metal bands are writing about Dragons and Castles while you are writing about the real world.

I think its good and one of the reasons I probably don't do that is because I am not 20 years old and the rest of the guys are a bit older also. When you listen to the album you can probably hear that we have a bit of experience living and playing heavy metal. I have been playing metal for about 15 years so I think you can hear it from the album.


For the demo you wrote all the songs. Did you also write the 5 new songs found on this CD or was their input from the band?

Almost. On "Virus" our keyboard player did some parts. Another few parts hear and there, on "Will To Power" for example. Mostly they came from my head.

In the last interview we did, I asked what your favorite song from the demo was to which your answer was "Spread My Wings". Is it still your favorite song and why?

No, No.. I am so bored with that one. There are 3 versions of  that song. The first one I sang the lead vocals myself plus the one from the demo and then the new CD. Now my favorite is "Will To Power". If we do a second album it will be heavier with heavier guitars cause I have been playing speed and thrash metal for over 10 years. It will still be very melodic as vocal lines are the main thing in our music I think.


You mentioned that you sang early on. Do you plan on doing any vocals for Thunderstone?

I do backing vocals but that  is all. Who knows. Timo Tolkki just did his solo album. If you listen to some of my old band Antidote's songs you will know how I sing.


You produced your last demo. Did you also produce this CD and why did you choose to do it yourself over getting an outside producer?

I can imagine this music, though it might be a little cliché, like a painting and I am the only person who knows what the band should sound like. At the moment anyway. Maybe in the future we will work with a bigger producer, like Bob Rock or something *laughs*. I couldn't imagine anyone sitting with me in my studio telling me what to do with my songs so producing was a very natural decision for me. I have been working in the studio for over 2 years now so I couldn't think anything else but to do it by myself.


Have you produced any other bands besides Thunderstone?

Nothing bigger yet, mostly demos. I have been recording Timo Kotipelto's solo album. I recorded some parts like bass and drums. Stratovarius were recently in my studio working on their new CD. Vocals and bass so it's a good promotion for our studio.


What is the name of your studio?

Sonic Pump Studios. It's a small studio but we a lot of customers coming in because of Thunderstone and wanting to work with me. Names like Stratovarius etc. It looks good. I think I will do my work in the future with both Thunderstone and the studio.


It seems like there are more and more bands and there is a place now for people to make a living recording and producing albums.

Yeah, here in Finland sometimes it crazy. There are several heavy metal bands on the charts all the time. Nightwish was on the singles chart for 5 weeks in the #1 position. People are listening more and more to metal. Its great!


For the track "Virus" Thunderstone produced a video. Why was that particular track chosen?

It's also a single so we thought that it would be something cool to do. I think "Virus" is a song that describes our music very well. Its not very fast still its not slow. Its in the middle. It's a quite catchy song. It was the easiest decision for a single and video.


Who directed the video and can you tell us a little about where and when it was filmed?

It was directed by a guy named Timo Hallonen and we shot the video in a theater. It is basically on stage with flashes of an alien. There is this one alien and it is actually an unborn, 1 eyed pig! *laughs* 

One eyed Heavy metal pig!! *laughs*

Yeah! Heavy metal pig! *more laughing*


Did the band have any input with this alien concept or was it totally left up to the director?

The idea came from the director. I don't know what is going on in his head but it was a good idea so I said what the hell lets do it.


Has the video been getting any airplay on any of the major video stations in Europe?

To be honest, I don't know about the rest of Europe but here in Finland it has been played about 5 or 7 times on a local TV station. There was also a special program with us that was 15 minutes long about the making of the video so it was good promotion for us. It was shown 3 or 4 times during one week.


Any plans for another video?

No I don't think so. Maybe the next album.


Now that the CD is released will the band be doing any touring? And if yes will you be touring with any other bands?

Nothing confirmed yet. We have a festival in Helsinki. We are also playing at Wacken Open Air in Germany (*ed. note interview before Wacken). In September we will play 2 gigs in France supporting Freedom Call and not much more yet. We have same booking agent with Stratovarius and Children of Bodom. But nothing confirmed yet. You will be the first to know when tour dates are confirmed!


If you could have the choice for a "Dream Tour", what bands would you like to tour with?

It would be great to tour with Pantera with Queensryche warming up the crowd for us! *laughing*. 2 of my favourite bands. I listen to many bands in my studio so when I come home I don't listen to much music.


The cover for the CD is very interesting. Can you tell me a bit about the artist and what significance , if any, that the artwork has?

It was a guy called Thomas Ewerhard. It was our idea. A friend of ours sent him a pencil drawing and he did a great job. Its exactly what we wanted with an old man screaming and demons coming out so we are very satisfied. The first song is called "Let The Demons Free" so the cover fits.


How long have you been playing guitar and is it true that you took lessons from Stratovarius guitarist Timo Tolkki?

That is a very good question because I took 1 lesson in my life and Timo gave it to me when I was 16. I think that was enough. I started to play when I was 13, my father bought me a guitar.


After hearing your CD a friend of mine commented that Thunderstone sounds quite similar to Stratovarius. Are they an influence and do you feel that you sound at all similar to them?

Yeah sure. They are the same kind of stuff in a way. If you take the 3 fast songs off of our CD there would be no comparison with Stratovarius. Its always same when new bands come out. You have to be compared to someone. Same when Stratovarius started. Here in Finland everyone was calling them a cheap Helloween clone and when Sonata Arctica came everyone said they were a cheap Stratovarius clone and now with us many people call us a cheap Sonata Arctica clone.


A little while ago you sent me a picture of the band with NHL hockey players Jiri Lehtinen and Janne Niimmiiaa. I was wondering if you were a hockey fan and what you thought of hockey players such as Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne who come to North America to play hockey?

I think its great. Papers are screaming about these guys all the time. I played junior hockey and was a goalie but I don't follow it that closely anymore. The only sport I follow is Formula One but not as much as Mika Hakannen. We have followed Saku Koivu's fight with cancer so its great that he is back.


I know many people are wondering. What is a Thunderstone?

I haven't done much research but there is an ancient story of a stone that had healing powers. In the beginning the name was a joke. We wanted a real cliché name. *laughs* So when the time came to sign to Nuclear Blast we were looking for a different name. There really wasn't anything else so we decided to keep it. It's a good heavy metal name!

I think that is pretty well it for now!

Thanks Nino!

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