Interview with A.Tolonen of 'Nest'
November 20, 2003
Blackwinged: Greetings A.Tolonen. How are thing
going for you these days? Any interesting happenings going on in Finland
A. Tolonen: Greetings mon. Things are quite well, although
I would like this stale grey Finnish autumn to end and to be able to
see some snow soon. Nothing out of the ordinary is happening at the
moment. Just smooth sailing.
B: Let’s start out with the basic stuff and have
you tell our readers about the formation of Nest, the members, and
the type of music you play.
AT: Well, Nest was formed in 1999. At that time it was just
me, A.T., but people helped me out with some instruments and vocals from
time to time. Nowadays Nest consists of me and T.S. who plays bass and
handles vocals. Our music is a bit hard to categorise, but it has qualities
from folk and acoustic stuff, as well as ambient. Atmospheric acoustic &
ambient is the moniker we have been using.
B: The interesting thing about Nest is rather
than using any guitars you use the traditional Finnish instrument the
Kantele. Tell me a little bit about the Kantele and how did you learn
to play it? Are there any similar instruments like it?
AT: The kantele is a traditional string instrument of the
Finns. It's basically a horizontal harp. It's relatives can be found
from Russia and the Baltic countries. You can easily recognize the
relatives by their appearance and sound. The kantele is a very easy
instrument to get into, but quite a challenging one to master. I started
with a 5 stringed version that I borrowed from my friend. After trying
it out for a couple of months I bought my own 10 stringed one, and now
I use a 15 stringed one. The easiness comes from the fact that there
are 15 strings that only produce one note, but the hard part is developing
precision and speed in all of your fingers.
B: So why did you choose the name Nest for
the band? What does the word mean to you?
AT: Hehe. I've waited for people to ask me this, and you're
the second one who has done it so far. I wanted a simple and and an
instantly recognizable name for the band. I also wanted to steer clear
of any cliches I'm aware of, but not too clear. To me Nest means home.
And home is the place where I belong, where I feel good to be. It is
the place of rest and comfort, which I feel this band is - a place to
be myself and do what I like to do.
B: Are you a fan of Finnish folklore? After
hearing the early albums from Amorphis I became interested in the Kalevala
and the Kanteletar, but I’ve never actually been able to find these books
and read them. Do you know if they have ever been translated to English?
AT: I am indeed a fan of folklore, and not only of the Finnish
one. I enjoy everything from Kalevala to the Arabian Nights, The knights
of the round table, The Odyssey, etc. At least Keith Bosley has translated
the Kalevala to English. You can also find it online at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/kveng/.
B: Probably the thing I love best about ‘Woodsmoke’
is the beautiful atmosphere of the album. I can picture myself walking
through a forest on a nice calm autumn or spring day. For me this is a
really great feeling since I’ve got kind of a weird obsession with forests.
Are these the feelings you were hoping listeners would get after listening
to the album?
AT: Thank ye, thank ye. Actually we don't want to force the
listener to feel anything particular. We hope everyone can experience
our humble effort the way they feel best. I myself am very fond of forests,
fields, lake sceneries, etc. so these are the things I envision when
composing and playing. These are the things I can also relate to best,
when people like to discuss Nest's music with me.
B: I’m assuming you’re a big nature lover like
me. What is your favorite season?
AT: Everything except autumn. I loathe the stale grey Finnish
autumn when it only rains, and rains, and rains. I don't really have a
favourite among the rest. All of them have their own good qualities. In
winter it is the snow, in summer it is the verdant green and sun, and
in spring it is the snow melting to reveal a land that seems to be born
B: Now what about religion, is this something
that interests you? In the booklet under the ‘thanks and hails’ section
you wrote ‘My Lord for making it all possible.’ I’m guessing this means
you must believe in some sort of higher being right?
AT: Heh, now this is a question nobody has failed to ask
me yet. Yes, I believe in God, and I want to thank him for all he has
done to help me with Nest.
B: I recently took a look at your personal
page and saw some of your beautiful artwork. Wow is it ever great!
I’m guessing you’ve probably been drawing a long time to get this good.
How often do you sit down and draw something and on average how much
time is spent on a picture? Are there any other painters out there that
have served as inspiration for you?
AT: Thank ye once again. Visual "art" is indeed very close
to my heart too. I have been doing this for about a dozen years now,
with the main progress being in the last 5 years. I don't get to do
visuals stuff as often as I would like nowadays, because I'm always
participating in a load of projects that each demand their own time.
An average image I do takes about a week, when working 2-4 hours a day.
I look up to Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Theodore Kittelsen, John Howe, Frank
Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Jonathon Earl Bowser, Quinton Hoover, Richard
Kane-Ferguson, and Giger to name a few.
B: Is Nest going to make any T-shirts in the
future? It would certainly be nice to have a T-shirt with the Nest
logo and your lovely picture of the silvershade lynx on it.
AT: Hey, that's actually a good idea. I haven't even though
about it before. If the label is willing to put out shirts, I would be
more than happy to design them. At the moment there are no plans for
them, but let's see what the future brings.
B: I noticed in your links section you have
a link to ‘Laurie Ann Haus’ website. She is of course one of the
ex-members from Rain Fell Within (One of my favorite bands). It says
she made some vocal contributions to Nest. Maybe I missed something,
but where and when did she work with the band? How did you get in
contact with her?
AT: Yes, Laurie has an excellent vocal capability, and
she is a nice person too. I met her at the Doom-metal.com forum, and
we have talked about her contributing vocals in the future. She hasn't
done anything yet, but the plan is to have her talent on the next Nest
release. It is a good thing because I always wanted a member of the
fairer sex in the Nest concept, but I didn't really know anyone who
could do it. Isn't it interesting that Nest found a female vocalist
from the opposite side of the world? Well, distances mean nothing
B: What’s an average Nest gig like? Is there
a certain atmosphere or feeling you hope to achieve when playing live?
I’m curious to know who plays the synth live as well as on the album?
AT: We have only done two gigs with Nest and they were also
the first live shows I have ever played in, so we are still evolving
in that aspect. So far we have only stood/sat on stage like statues
and played the songs. And interesting thing is that neither one of us
speaks nothing during the show... :) We have some plans of a stage
show that we have been working on. We would very much like to simulate
a campfire setting by a "laavu" - a lean-to campfire shelter used quite
a lot in Finland. The synths are played by a computer. I could play them
by hand, but I see no point in doing so, because the computer will always
be more precise than me. I also program the synth sounds on the computer,
so I couldn't use a standalone keyboard without it anyway. Especially the
new synth stuff I've been working on would be quite demanding to play
live, because it's not just playing notes anymore, but also tweaking all
kinds of parameters.
B: How exactly did the split with the black
metal band Isafjord come about? Kind of strange for a band like Nest
and a black metal band like Isafjord to do a split album.
AT: A Polish label Thundra records contacted me and offered
to release Nest stuff on a split CD with Isafjord. As I wasn't sure if
I would ever get Nest stuff released again, I took the offer, and chose
the best songs I had ready at that time. It is indeed quite interesting
to combine Nest with Isafjord, as We have nothing in common with black
B: Speaking of split releases for a good year
now or so I’ve been hearing about this Nest and Agalloch split 7”. So
when can we hope to hear this thing and do you know who will be releasing
AT: All music is recorded and mixed already. I'm currently
working on the cover artwork. The Agalloch visuals are almost ready,
and I'm beginning to work on the Nest part. When I get both of them done,
the label will determine the schedule. If I'm not mistaken The End, the
label Agalloch is on, will release it.
B: The vocals in ‘Woodsmoke’ are rather brief
and thus so are the lyrics. Tell me a little bit about your lyrics and
what they represent.
AT: The lyrics are mostly there to complement the music. We
believe in the 'less is more' principle when applying lyrics and especially
vocals. Their function is to shed some light on the themes Nest's stuff
revolves around. We actually like to leave room, a big room, for imagination.
The listeners get to do some detective work when deciphering what the
lyrics might deal with. There are also some more personal texts, but
these are also modified to fit in the overal Nest theme.
B: Have you participated in any other bands
past or present?
AT: Nope, except that I was recently asked to participate
on Shape of Despair's forthcoming 3rd album. They make excellent dreamy
funeral doom, and are one of my fave bands. I'm very honoured to take
part in their music. T.S. has a band that plays all kinds of covers.
B: Besides this folky acoustic type of music
what other forms of music generally find there way into your stereo?
AT: Well, I mostly listen to all kinds of metal. Mostly
doom, melodic death, and folky metal. I have always been a huge fan
of doom metal, but lately my interest in it has still grown. I also
listen to ambient, certain electronic stuff, movie soundtracks, and
old game music from the Amiga days. T.S. listens mostly to Finnish
melodic metal, like Amorphis and Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus.
B: Aside from creating music what other hobbies
and interests do you have?
AT: As we discussed earlier, I enjoy creating all kinds of
visual stuff. I read quite a lot, mostly fantasy and folk tales. I'm
very fond of cycling. Every summer, as soon as it gets warm enough and
as long as the warmth remains, I tend to do 20-30 km trips almost daily.
And the last one worth mentioning is that I like to venture around the
countryside and rural environments.
B: Finally what is the band currently up to
and what are the plans for the near future?
AT: Currently there's nothing really special going on.
We're constantly making new songs - just you wait 'till you get to
hear them. We're also constantly striving to improve the sound quality
and overall production. As I am an idiot, I want to do these myself
too, but it's a great learning experience.
B: This will about do it. I thank you for
taking the time to do this interview and I wish you the best of luck
with all the future releases from your fantastic band.
AT: Thank ye for this interview. It tickled my brain quite
nicely. All the best to ye and yer 'zine. Anyone who wants to get some
info on Nest, hop to : http://iki.fi/atolonen/nest.