THUNDERSTONE CONQUERING GERMANY, WACKEN OPEN AIR 2002
The finnish newcomer Thunderstone was caught in the act in Wacken Open Air 2002 and it was probably a day to remember for the guys. As the guys turned their backs on the crowd after finishing the show they got screamed "We want more !". What else would a musician ever desire more than a raving crowd like that ? Afterwards we changed a few words with Nino (guitar) and Mirka (drums), but it was a "pull it out of the hat"- situation, 'cos we had not prepared any questions. The guys were probably pleased to hear that thinking we wouldn't tease them for long, but you never know what will happen along the way. So this wasn't just a few quick questions after all.
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
AOR-EUROPE: First could you tell us how the band got started, when all of the guys are a bit different from each other and have still been in the music business a long time.
NINO: Should I say it again...mmm..in the beginning of year 2000 I was a "shareholder" in a studio and started making songs, basically just joking, but I didn't make the songs for no one really. I just wanted to try out, 'cos I wanted to make a couple of really melodic songs and then I asked the guys to come and play. We did a couple of demos just for a try-out and at some point I put songs in the internet and started getting really good feedback, so we did more demos. It was a project all along, a really long time. At some point we thought this might work out as some kind of a bandthing. Then Nuclear Blast offered us a deal and after that we were suddenly for some reason a band. It's a pretty short history with this band, but it doesn't really need much more than that if you find the right guys and the right chemistry.
MIRKA: About the first demo, it wasn't really a Thunderstone at that point, Nino was singing then and Janne Wirman played keys.
AOR-E: When you're thinking about the history of Pasi (Heat, Joe Dokes), he's been in a bit different bands than you, so how did you come up with him ?
NINO: He sang in the very first demo where we only had one song, he sang backgrounds there. It was some drunk case again "hey, you should come and sing, come to the studio to sing" and damn he's got a great voice !
MIRKA: Heat wasn't exactly different kind of music, so he had been singing heavy metal already, or hard rock.
NINO: But damn what a voice ! During the making of the second demo I started thinking about that and I tried out a little how high he can get....
[Suddenly Nino almost falls under the table and says: -Good thing this isn't a videocamera.. (All of us had been drinking a little, so the table feels a bit slippery today for some reason (?!) and Mirka does the same trick too later on...) ]
NINO: My singing was just experimenting on my own and I thought the melodies were pretty damn good. If you're a composer of course you don't compose things if you think they suck. It's completely different if someone else says they're not good, but I thought these were good. And when Pasi started singing my melodies I was just really blown away and thinking he's exactly the right guy for this. He sang with such a great sound. Then I felt that hey, maybe this could work out.
AOR-E: Your debut album is a really tight one.
NINO: Well, we're 30 years old and we've done albums before, so...but it's still a debut and that's how it should be. It would be awful if we did some incredible (shit, tapping on the table like a musician who's seen his best days)...this was a visual thing, but you know what I mean. Like a really louzy debut.
AOR-E: You've got great basis there to continue from.
MIRKA: We've got great "basis" otherwise too...hahah..(meaning "pohjat" as being drunk).
AOR-E: You recorded the album in Sonic Pump Studios. Who worked with the mixing ?
NINO: I booked two months from there and Mirka played the drum parts in three or four days and bass was done pretty fast too. Part of the songs were played again, because of my "technical incompetence", but we recorded the vocals and guitars for like a month and a half. We worked on the vocals a lot. Not because Pasi wouldn't have what it takes, but because we had time so we used it and I think you can hear it from the album.
MIRKA: I have to salute Nino at this point because of all the work what Nino did for the band. He sat in the studio for two months and listened to the rest of us, recorded, produced... I thought I saw some fatigueness in him at some point.
NINO: Almost every day during the two months I was in the studio in the basement in Pitäjänmäki. There was one two days break that I wasn't there.
MIRKA: The rest of us just visited him, but Nino was there like ten hours a day doing Thunderstone.
NINO: Maybe at that point when Nuclear Blast had offered us the deal the enthusiasm for it was so great so I kept going. After that you walked half a kilometer to Finnvox. Mikko Karmila-many think he does everything today and so he does-he was the only guy that I thought at that time, 'cos he makes the kind of sound that I like. He makes a clean sound. There was an eight day mixing and after that it was mastered in Finnvox.
AOR-E: Now that you're working in the studio a lot, do you think it could be a future job for you if the bandthings end some day ?
NINO: That was a pretty good question, because a lot of people have asked me do I have the time for recording anymore. But at the moment I'm telling everyone that nothing else in this world gets ahead of Thunderstone. So Thunderstone is absolutely the number one thing. I've left some space already in the booking in the studio, because we have a couple of gigs in France. But in between I'm still working in the studio, 'cos it's a fun job too. Maybe in the future when I'm 30.. but wait a minute, I'm already thirty !!...but you never know if this starts going whieewww (downhill), so in the future I'll probably work in the studio, but nothing else is more cooler than going on stage.
AOR-E: However there are people who would want to see you continue, because you've always had the gift of making songs, as heard in Antidote before.
NINO: A lot of people have asked me why I'm making this kind of music now, because Antidote was so different. But the reason being is I've always listened to this kind of music. I've always loved the melodic stuff, I was always the one in Antidote who liked that stuff. Like Stryper and Slaughter for example.
MIRKA: I remember when we did the very first demo that wasn't Thunderstone yet and we had "Spread My Wings" there. Nino asked me to play drums there and I remember Nino saying he has this huge desire to do this kind of a song and that he has never had the chance for it and he wants to do it now.
NINO: It's always been like you need to go in the studio to do that and that costs a lot of money and now I had the chance for it and wanted to try it out. We're now in a good situation and the next album will probably be recorded in Sonic again. That is if nothing strange happens and we find ourselves from Maui or something...
AOR-E: You've really had everything going good for you, you've got a good deal and management and gigs ahead.
NINO: After this we've got two gigs in France and that's it at the moment. Nothing else is confirmed. (after the interview Thunderstone was confirmed shows in Europe with Stratovarius and Symphony X). Actually just today I heard that they were planning a tour for us with Gamma Ray, I hadn't even heard of this before myself.
MIRKA: And there's rumours about next year that many have probably heard already, but nothing confirmed yet. And we're not doing anything before someone says something.
NINO: With these old experiences you can't go bragging about anything. I know it because I went through hell with Shark Records with them promising millions of things. So I won't say anything before I'm sitting in the tourbus.
AOR-E: Do you have anything happening in Japan (a must question), this kind of stuff could work for the metal fans.
NINO: Yeah, our alcoholic friend Masa is the only thing happening in Japan, hah ! But really, I have to correct this, because it's not the same in Japan today as it was before. Sonata Arctica are selling more than Stratovarius there. People have the wrong idea about everyone selling in Japan. It's not like that. But our album was released in Japan and I asked how much has it sold in there and they said "ok for newcomers".
MIRKA: We've sold more than Antidote together in Japan, hah.
NINO: Yeah. But it never sold that much. Personally I've always wanted to go to Japan since I was a kid, what would be cooler and they've got the best fans in the world. And a completely different culture.
AOR-E: When you think of how fast everything has happened for you...
NINO: During this past six months we've gone through a lot.
GIVING UP ?!
NINO: With this album we're done with the promotion, we were in France with Pasi a couple of months ago. That's a good example by the way how well the french NTS has licensed our albums. There's a brilliant promoter there called Olivier Garnier who is just amazing. He flew us in France and we did three days of promotion, 40 interviews in 3 days. Ten hours every day and in the end of the day when we were done we were thinking in the hotel room should we go out and get some beers. No, both of us fell in the bed and fell asleep. And ten in the morning the next day it all started over again. And then we did some radiointerviews too. We were in the hotel lobby and there were interviewers coming in all the time. I asked our record label a few weeks ago how much we have sold in France and it has sold ok.
MIRKA: And our promoter in France also worked out so that the first 300 that buy our album will get our t-shirt for free.
NINO: And then we had 2500 promos which included our video and a six minute medley of all of our songs, cut versions of those songs. They got this huge record store in France to come along in this, there were posters and places to listen to the cd. This was our sixth gig in Wacken. Our first gig was an experiment. I can't even remember when was the last time I was on stage. I had my hair half down my back then. I cut my hair while being really drunk from whiskey or something. Maybe I was giving up then or something, "fuck the hair"...
MIRKA: Yeah, Nino was going like "those fucking childish bandthings"...
NINO: I've still heard that when I'm working in the studio. "Oh, you've got that childish bandthing..I've done that..not anymore"...
AOR-E: What about the german fans, when you went on stage they were just standing there. How did it look from the stage, this was a triumph after all with how you got them wanting for more.
NINO: Yeah, this was the greatest thing you can do.
MIRKA: I noticed there were people coming to see us more and more all the time. But you can only see the first two rows from the stage. The first row was singing our songs.
NINO: The crowd was singing along, which was great. There were single heads that sang along to the chorus. A great experience. And the end was great, 'cos when we bowed down for them there wasn't happening much, but when we turned our backs to them for a photograph and I lift my guitar they started screaming like hell. I got shivers down my spine and I looked at the guys like...(awesome). Truelly, I'm 30 now and finally I hear the kind of screaming behind my back I've always wanted.
MIRKA: And not like someone screaming "play Paranoid !".
NINO: Well, Masa could've yelled "play Paranoid you louzy guitarist".
AOR-E: Has your album been released in Germany yet ?
NINO: It was released in Europe 24th of June. It was also released in the States. Our real bassist is not with us now, Titus (Hjelm) is working in the States and he called me from Los Angeles that he had found our album from this huge (chain) recordstore. He went there and searched from "T" and our album was there first. He bought two. We've sold two albums in the States !!
MIRKA: It was Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. You just had to buy two of your own albums !
NINO: Then someone bought our album from Kentucky, but this kind of stuff doesn't really sell in there.
MIRKA: But of course it takes time for the people to realize what the band is about. Our album has only been out now a month and a half. Maybe they've seen the add in the paper, but how could they know what it is. But it would be a completely different situation if we would play somewhere like in Dynamo after a year. Then they would know what we're about.
NINO: But it's great to hear this was a triumph for us, 'cos this is the best thing that could happen for a new band. It could be the other way 'round. The crowd might leave and go buy those pies or something.
MIRKA: It's a shame though you get dragged off the stage with a hook...
NINO: By the time people were yelling "we want more" I was thinking what could we play, but then the roadies came. We would've played that Yngwie Malmsteen cover there too.
AOR-E: Your gig in Tavastia was incredible.
NINO: Yeah it was. A case of it's own. Hey, Tavastia, helloooo !!! And completely packed !
MIRKA: Thanks to the Tuska-festival.
NINO: Yeah, of course, we wouldn't have gotten one thousand people there otherwise.
MIRKA: But in the fall we have our own gig in there and then we'll see how much we get people there on our own. That's a weekend gig.
AOR-E: Have you had any new ideas in the middle of all this rush ?
NINO: I've got some. I've made about 110 interviews and told everyone that the next album will maybe be a bit heavier. If you know the song "Will To Power", maybe we'll get more of that kind of guitar-riffs in there. Maybe we'll raise those guitars in the mix more too. That's our thing. The songs on this first album are from a long period of time and those first songs were a bit experimental. I wanted to do the world's biggest ballad in "Spead My Wings". There was no band at that time. I think you'll get to hear a more personal band in the next album. At worst we've heard we're a poor Stratovarius clone. I think the reviewers that are more familiar with metal music can hear we're not about that. You just have to hear the 80'ies metal influence from there. And Pasi's voice.
MIRKA: People are saying we're a power metal band. We don't like the term ourselves. We want to be a heavy metal band, like in the 80'ies.
NINO: With a modern touch, 'cos we've got today's sound and stuff. It's just so sad that when you've got double bass drums you immediately get labelled as a Strato-clone. But when Strato was starting out they got labelled as a poor Helloween-copy and it was the same with Sonata.
AOR-E: What about next album, will you be doing most of the songs again ?
NINO: I don't know, I can't say anything yet. We're not that far yet.
MIRKA: We've kind of talked about it that we'd do more things together on the next one, 'cos the songs on the first album are more Nino's stuff.
NINO: But I want to do the vocal melodies myself, 'cos it's the most important thing in the band. I always think of the vocal melodies first. But we'll probably work more together on the ideas and arrangements this time. But this has seemed to be a good recipe, so it would be dumb to change it at this point. But you can expect pretty much the same stuff as before. But the thing here would be when you hear the second chorus everyone can sing along to it. That's what I've always liked about music. Singalong choruses.
[By now we're pretty much out of the questions and pondering what to ask..]
NINO: Ask about how much is a kilogram of minced meat !
AOR-E: What do you think about Hanoi Rocks (Andy and Mike appeared in Wacken) ?
MIRKA: I saw them in Ruisrock festival in Finland and I thought the show was really good.
NINO: The band rocks on stage. And if you ask me I think Andy is the coolest person in the world.
MIRKA: When they started playing those hitsongs in Ruisrock I noticed my feet started drumming. Like wait a minute, this band really is good at their own thing.
AOR-E: Would you like to say something to the readers and do you listen to aor yourself ?
NINO: I don't listen to any kind of music myself, I record a helluva lot of metal bands and usually when I go home I don't want to listen to anything. But Pantera is a fucking great band ! Still.
MIRKA: I don't listen to much music either, but for instance sometimes on a Saturday evening after a sauna when you've had a few beers you start listening to those old favourites.
NINO: The last album I bought was six years ago and it was Holy Diver by Dio. I haven't bought anything after that. I don't get excited about anything much anymore. But go out and buy the album !
Satu Reunanen, , assisted by Kari