Thunderstone released their second album "The Burning" just recently and made a video for the album opener "Until We Touch The Burning Sun", which has gotten lots of airplay in the finnish television between the programs and on chart shows. They also told us earlier about a charity project they're working on, but by the time this interview with Nino Laurenne, Pasi and Mirka Rantanen was done, the guys stated that the project hasn't progressed nowhere because of lack of time and were appaled with me bringing it up. The band experienced a setback with the cancellation of the Iced Earth tour, but finns saw the band play an acoustic show March the third in Helsinki, which was a night to remember. You'll catch the band on a short tour with Axel Rudi Pell in April and May though (these news came after the interview was done) and definately in Wacken Open Air this August.
RockUnited - First I want to ask about the Christmas picture that was on your homepages, what's the story behind such a funny picture and how did the band spend last Christmas ?
Nino - We just started making fun out of the stuff what was in the shooting site, put those clothes on and shoot ex-tempore. Christmas went nicely with a little alcohol.
Mirka - Those pictures weren't taken near Christmas at all. We just happened to have those clothes on then and decided to use them now. My Christmas was very traditional, lots of screaming kids, presents, Santa Claus, Christmas drinks etc.
RockUnited - And what is the secret that still gets "old" guys like you go out so much and have fun ?
Nino - When you get together with friends, it goes like that. We drink these "fitness" drinks and fool around. But we're not that old yet I guess...eventhough I just turned 32. But you'll write in the interview that guitarist Laurenne is 23.
Mirka - There's always energy for partying, but what I've noticed is the hangovers get worse all the time.
RockUnited - What's the story behind the title, newfound burning of youth energy ?
Nino - We first had an idea having a song to share the same title with the album, but we couldn't use "Until We Touch The Burning Sun" title for that, 'cos it's too long and not the best title for it. Later on we went through the possible titles and found out our lyrics revolved around the subject of burning, so "The Burning" in all its shortness is a great title for a heavy metal album.
RockUnited - You must be pretty pleased with the outcome of "The Burning". Do you think it's better than your first album and if so, in which way ?
Nino - When the album was mastered my first thought was we made a crappy album compared to the first one. But that was only because I got an overdose from it, I'd heard it too many times. But now I totally disagree. It's a lot more heavier, maybe it doesn't sink in on you at first like our debut did, but this time we wanted to make an album that isn't so easy.
Mirka - I think you can't really say which album is better. Our first one is really great too, but of course you always like the new one more when it comes out. But you can't say which one is better, they're just different.
RockUnited - How stressed out were you while recording and writing the songs ?
Nino - Writing the songs is hard for me, 'cos I set high standards for myself, eventhough you might not hear it. I recorded the album in Sonic Pump Studios and while doing that I also recorded other bands, so it was tough. The usual difficulties, but in three months it was finished and then Karmila did the rest of the work for it.
RockUnited - On this album you can hear Pasi singing even higher than before, with heavier emotional charge and way heavier atmosphere. How much more Pasi had to put effort to his vocals this time, 'cos on your first album he didn't quite reach this far ?
Nino - After our first album our sound went even heavier, so Pasi has found a new edge from his voice along with that. Touring of course does that too. Our first album was quite easy singing, but it was composed that way. This time there's more balls in the vocal parts too. And I also kept harrassing Pasi for that, but he usually knows what to do. I think the vocal parts are important, in the end they're what people after all listen to. And you can't cheat with vocals, you can hear them exactly how they are.
Mirka - I hadn't heard anything in months from the new stuff and when I first heard the new mixed version I was wondering who the heck is the guy singing there. Pasi had gone such a radical change in his voice, it was incredible, like having Ronnie James Dio in our band. What a sound.
Nino - Someone who reviewed our new album said that Pasi sounds like Timo Kotipelto.
RockUnited - In what state of mind do you have to be in while writing the lyrics ?
Nino - I don't enjoy writing the lyrics. I wouldn't write lyrics unless I didn't write the vocal lines and melodies for the songs. They're very important for me, like certain melody has certain words, they all make the final song and what it sounds like. Sometimes you hear bands where the keyboard player has written the lyrics and the vocal melodies and the singer tries his best with those scales, but can't find his own thing. I think I've done a good job in that part, eventhough Pasi sometimes complains about me putting too much high vocals there, but since I "sang" myself for ten years it might help me a little in this work.
RockUnited - Is there any deeper philosophy behind the lyrics, or are they about average life ? At least "Spire" is about a hangover, so that's average.
Nino - Yeah, that's about drinking and the day after, when you're wondering what you just did again and make a promise not to drink ever again. And you're just dangling there on the edge until Thursday and Friday comes and you're in Spar again..."I'm on the Spire" (singing). But there's no deeper meaning usually, mostly just sweet love songs with heavy beat.
RockUnited - Which song was the toughest one to write ?
Nino - "Side By Side", but I think that one failed the most in the process while making the album. I was never as satisfied with the song as I usually am with them. It just didn't seem to find its place, but some people think it's the best song on the album.
Mirka - That was the first songs to come out from you and it sounded good back then, when you hadn't heard the other stuff yet.
RockUnited - Did you have any working titles for the songs, like Dreamtale's "Whore" ?
Mirka - One of them was Mat Sinner, but that one didn't make it on the album. Then there was "Electricution".
RockUnited - On your first album you had Timo Tolkki as a special guest, did you have special guests on the album this time ?
Mirka - On "Drawn To The Flame" we've got Michael Romeo from Symphony X and it was an honour to have him there. Then we've got Esa Kotilainen from the legendary finnish band Wigwam on the Japanese bonus track, and he plays pump organs there.
Nino - I want to thank Pasi Heikkilä for helping out with the stem lines. He also did the string orchestra parts for "Sea Of Sorrow".
RockUnited - How did all these guests end up playing in your album then ?
Nino - I e-mailed Romeo. Since we had one guitar virtuoso on our first album I thought we'd have another one here. He agreed to do it.
RockUnited - Are there any bands that inspire you while writing new songs ?
Nino - It's the same as before, nothing particular really. The guitar parts always tend to keep the old ways and I think we're having less and less fast guitars in our music, it's just heavy music with good melodies. Those fast guitars aren't really my cup of tea.
Mirka - Nino can't be inspired by anything, 'cos the last time he listened to music was when he was still in school.
Nino - Though I listen to music in the studio every day...Ben "the Beautiful" from Amoral inspires me though.
RockUnited - About the Japanese bonus track "In Sanity", it was the only song standing out as a bonus track for you, what kind of a song is it ?
Mirka - It's similar to other Thunderstone material, with the chorus and all, but there's this strange riff that Thunderstone hasn't used before.
Nino - The chorus is pretty disconnected from the song. We could've made a great fast song out of the chorus, which is a good sing-along. We hope the small, "yellow men" sing along and buy the album...
RockUnited - Is it a leftover from your new material or a true Thunderstone song ?
Nino - Well, this time we didn't want to include a cover song there and that bonus track was a song that didn't fit on the album. So we had to choose one song out from the album to be included on the Japanese version and we chose that one.
RockUnited - You also released a special version of "The Burning" with six extra songs. What's the story with that ?
Mirka - There's three cover songs, which were released earlier in Nuclear Blast tribute albums, one was a Judas Priest tribute released two years ago and others came out last year, so those songs were picked out from these albums. So we didn't record them only for "The Burning". The rest of the songs are the demos, which we sent out to Nuclear Blast to get a record deal.
RockUnited - What's your favourite from the new songs ?
Mirka - For me it's "Until We Touch The Burning Sun". Don't know what comes next though, probably the rest of the album then.
Nino - Same thing with me. The funny thing with that song is it's the only song that we sent to the record label and it was a demo version of it. When the label heard the song the response from them was "it's a good song, but you can do better". I thought I'd done a great job with it, it's my favourite songs and I think it's one of the best songs I've ever written. Everything works out great in it. So I was a little disappointed when I heard the label's opinion. But it's the best track among the guys. But that's my fave and the slower songs too, like "Forth Into The Black", mostly the heavier songs. And "Until" is a great, heavy track to play live.
Mirka - That's a good song to start the gig with. It's an exceptional song to start the gig with and an album also, but this time we thought it doesn't have to be a really fast song to start out with. But we're so exceptional anyhows, so...
RockUnited - Is there any interesting stories about the new album that you want to share with our readers ?
Nino - Not really. Just buy it, don't download it from the net. But if you do, go and buy it afterwards. Or buy two, like someone did.
RockUnited - You went to Paris to promote the album again. How did everything go there and did you have fans circling around you ?
Nino - Olivier Garnier from NTS always makes us work hard. I spent two days there, this time alone and not with Pasi like on the first trip, and I did thirty interviews in two days. It was all work and no play. I've been to Paris about five times now because of the band and I still haven't managed to see the Eiffel Tower ! But yeah, I had tons of goodlooking chicks running after me there...hah, just joking. Fans didn't know I was there. And by the way, what fans are you talking about ?!
RockUnited - What other promotion have you done recently ?
Nino - Just tons of phone interviews with Titus. I did those from home, so Paris was the only trip I did for promotion.
RockUnited - Tell us about the making of the "Until" video ?
Nino - We have this heavy metal bitch there. Any metal band with selfrespect has a woman with big breasts in their video.
Mirka - That was fun to shoot. We went to Lauttasaari in Helsinki at seven a.m. to the basement of one building and it had sets ready for our video, with red walls and all cool. We had to wait for a few hours there and watch while they filmed these beautiful dobermans before it was our turn. We were really pleased to have Jappe Päivinen as the director for the video, 'cos he's gotten the most awards from the younger finnish generation with all kinds of golden Emma's, etc. He's good and he did great concidering what our budget was, which wasn't that big. So in that aspect it's a great video. It's a normal metal video. We were supposed to have a snake in there too. We had it at the site already, but Päivinen thought it was too small. It was only a meter long, when it was supposed to be about six meters. The video itself didn't have a script ready, Päivinen just came up with the story and we used some of his ideas he had written down. So we didn't use the whole idea from him. It's just simple and good, without any bigger tricks.
RockUnited - Has the video gotten airplay abroad ?
Pasi - We don't know for sure, but hopefully so. I get the least e-mail from the band so I'm not always even sure what's going on, but it's probably been somewhere.
Mirka - MTV Italy earlier played our first video, so hopefully they've got it. But finns have seen it lots. It's been on the charts, so that's good for us, 'cos there aren't good channels here anymore that would show videos. But airplay four times a week is good I think.
THE UNION OF ICED EARTH AND THUNDERSTONE
RockUnited - You were supposed to go on tour with Iced Earth promoting "The Burning", starting this March, but the tour was cancelled due to Jon Schaffer's (singer) personal health problems. Do you think there's still a chance for a tour with them and how do you feel now after what happened ?
Mirka - Well, f*ck ! Of course I felt disappointed when I heard the news from Nino about the cancellation or postponing the tour. There was some happier news though, but we can't tell them yet. But it would've been the right timing for us now for the tour, since our new album is out now. We have to do some other gigs instead then.
Nino - Of course you always have to think of your health first, so all the best for Jon and get well soon.
RockUnited - Do you own any Iced Earth albums yourself ?
Nino - What do you think ?!
Mirka - I don't own any, but the guys have been forcefeeding me their stuff, giving their albums to me to listen to. But I've only heard a little so far, they sound like a good and decent metal band. It's not my kind of music though, but I hardly listen to metal anyways. But Iced Earth can play, they're professional.
RockUnited - You have a gig in Wacken this summer, but do you have any other gigs now abroad that you know about ?
Mirka - Well, we've got a Sauna Open Air-gig in Tampere in June...but seriously, no.
RockUnited - Speaking of Wacken, hopefully you'll be playing in a bigger stage this time around. How do you feel about going there again, the last visit is from 2002 ?
Mirka - We'll be playing on the same stage again, this time in the light of day also. And I'll be playing with Kotipelto after Thunderstone too, also on the same stage. This Party Stage is the perfect stage for us though, it takes something special to do a bigger stage. But we'll arrange some bombs there for sure !
"THE BURNING" UNDERWEAR...
RockUnited - You don't have a women's t-shirt on sale yet. Do you concider having those someday, many bands lack those which is a shame ?
Mirka - You're the second female crying after those, the other one is doing that at my home. The biggest merchandise in Europe comes from Nuclear Blast, I think they'll know the right timing to start selling those. Who knows, they might start selling them this year or when the next album comes out. And it all depends on the album sales of course. There's all kinds of ashtrades and underwear drawers and knickers out there from other bands, which would be nice to have too.
RockUnited - I definately want those underwear drawers...hah ! Geeze, Black Horse on a woman...checked as usual with a Thunderstone printing. But keeping the end of this interview gross, can you say what's the limit with "greasy experimentation" in the band, you guys can get quite obnoxious for the fainthearted, at least Titus...
Mirka - Titus would be the best person to answer this question, since he's got no limits. He's in good terms with libertine. But I draw my own limitations, Titus won't fool me to do what he does. Sure it's cool to sometimes let loose.
RockUnited - I recently visited the homepages of Edguy and the guys were stripping down anywhere in the recent pictures.
Mirka - We have to go on tour with those guys ! That would be cool. We'd be like bloodbrothers after that. A bunch of exhibitionists. And Edguy-boys would find out what is Eskimo's kiss...that would be cool to teach to them.
RockUnited - Did you ever travel in the "pig-department", meaning the back of the car where dogs usually travel in ?
Pasi - Not with this band, but I've got some earlier experiences. But that can be fun too.
Mirka - But it starts to feel like travelling in that department after five weeks in a tourbus.
Pasi - That's true.
RockUnited - Do you have any desire for a drag queen-career if your career as a musician starts boring you ? (Check out Thunderstone "The Burning"-listening party-story)
Pasi - Hell no...well, why not ?! Well, no ! I'd be that chubby gay-girl-boy...
Mirka - He'd have to go through a helluva shaving to get all those chest hairs away, they're sticking out from anywhere. It wouldn't be that easy. I've never thought about such a career seriously either. But you can never tell where life leads you to.
RockUnited - To end this interview, what would you like to say to the readers here ?
Pasi - All the clichès have been used already. But listen to music ! It broadens your horizon.
Mirka - And keep your pants on. Or not, hahhah. Whatever gives you the kicks.
Pasi - Listen to music with your pants on. Or not.
by Satu Reunanen, email@example.com