The music you created with Nest is quite unique. It should appeal to people who like for example Tenhi or certain ambient projects, but it sounds clearly different. Are there influences from Finnish folk music in your songs or are they based more on other styles?
A.T. Thank you kindly. There are some elements in Nest that can be seen as being influenced by Finnish folk music, but not as much as people might think. Naturally the main instruments we use, the kantele and the Lapland drum are familiar from Finnish traditional music, so we can't get too far away from traditional connections, but the melodies or the music style isn't usually too close to traditional or folk stuff. We basically just compose what we feel like without any intentions of making it sound like anything particular. If it ends up sounding folky, we're fine with it, but we seldom do it deliberately.
Is Finnish folk music different to the music of the Sami?
A.T. Quite a bit yes. Well, I'm not an expert on the exact definitions of Finnish and Sámi music, but I have some impression of their similarities and differences. The Sámi music, for example, doesn't use the kantele. It is more based on a vocal performance, and on a particular type of singing called joiku (or yoik, as it is called outside Finland). Finnish folk relies more on instruments like the kantele, jouhikko, while the more modern styles also use the accordion and the violin.
Are there Finnish folk bands you would recommend? For example, the only recording of Karelian music I know comes from the Swedish band Hedningarna.
.T. I'm mostly interested in traditional Finnish kantele music, so that is what I would also recommend. Check out the works of Martti Pokela, Matti Kontio, Arja Kastinen, Hannu Saha, Timo Väänänen, etc. A couple of my friends also have bands that lean towards more traditional music. These bands are Nostatus & Poropetra. There are a couple of other bands that don't rely on the kantele too much, or aren't necessarily too Finnish folk or traditional sounding, but are nevertheless very much worth checking out. These include the likes of Tenhi, October Falls and Tarujen Saari.
You released a split cd with the black metal band Isafjord. I think this combination works fine. Where do you think are the common points of black metal and folk/ambient?
A.T. Ah, good old 'Hidden Stream'. We did the split with Isafjord because back then it was uncertain if we would ever get a chance to release our stuff professionally, so we jumped at the first opportunity we got - and it did turn out good. I'm quite fond of that split, and it marks a special point in Nest's history. Regarding your other question, I don't really see too much connection between folk, ambient and black metal. Well, black metal and other metal styles often use folky acoustic and ambient passages, and melodies, but to me they still seldom sound too folky or ambient to my ears. I'm not trying to sound elitist, and there's certainly nothing wrong with incorporating folk and ambient into metal. I enjoy metal very much regardless of if it sounds folky/ambient or not, and combining elements from different styles is always a good thing that can sometimes result in real gems of musical evolution. Actually, combining musical elements is how we approach composing for Nest, even if it might not be exactly in your face or easily recognisable. Huzzah for musical progression!
According to your homepage, the mood and the lyrics of Nest are influenced by fables and fairytales like the brothers Grimm’s collection. Well, fairytales are often cruel and full of terror, even when they have a happy end, while your music is rather new-age-like. Then, what aspects of fairytales influenced you?
A.T. Yes, Nest has for long been more on the calm and serene side, but our new material also introduces the more harsh and cruel sides of fables, nature and the like. Just you want 'till you get to hear it. It may be quite surprising to hear for some people. I am fond of many different aspects of not only fables and fantasy but of real world nature as well, and I'm interested in both of the calm and and cruel side. Why has Nest been so focused on the calmer side, I can't really tell. I have just composed what I have wanted and not paid any attention whether the songs have ended up calm or cruel, light or heavy. Even the new heavier songs have been composed like this. I didn't deliberately try to do heavier stuff. It just came naturally, and this is how I like making music. The music comes first. I never deliberately try to cram it into any confining theme. The theme is found from the music after composing it has finished or at least gone on for a while.
Your impressions of nature in paintings and music seem very idealised, too. I suppose you are living in a bigger city and not amidst the wilderness, aren’t you? Would you say this is the idea of nature how we can find it in fairytales?
A.T. I do have quite an idealistic and even romanticized approach in many of my paintings and drawings. There's nothing wrong with realism, but I feel there's little point in me doing ultra-realistic stuff when I can just look out the window and get all the realism I want. Once again fantasy and the imagination rear up their heads. I think imagination is a wonderful thing, one of the greatest gifts bestowed upon man, and I enjoy using it to its full extent, in music, visual stuff, and whatever I come up with. I actually live in quite a small town with approximately 25000 inhabitants, but I do go to work in our country's capital. I don't like big cities with their sterile concrete, glass, and metal hell, and I don't spend any more time in them than I have to. I like living in a small town. Here in my home town, for example, I can ride a bike for 5 minutes and already be in the middle of a nice rural landscape with fields, forest, lakes and all that bliss, and for me there is nothing that comes close to this.
Do we need such an idealised view on nature for some reasons? And why are fairytales still told, although children can watch lots of cartoons and have more toys than ever?
A.T. I can't really say if we need an idealised view, I just enjoy it. I don't think there will be any problems with people having both idealised and realistic views and any mixed amount of these. Well, history has taught us that absolute extremes tend to cause the most problems, so those are the ones I'd avoid. I actually think that cartoons are a modern version of faerytales, as they are often products of imagination portray fantastic events just like faerytales do. I'd still like to see the storytelling culture being more prominent than what it is nowadays. It seems television has been an efficient participant in killing it, but you can't really blame it for being successful in exploiting people's need to be entertained. I like variety, and would like to see more and different ways of entertainment flourishing. Regarding toys and materialism in general, children are not the only ones with toys, and I'd wager that adults often have even more toys than children. I'm quite guilty too, I must admit. I'd like to be less dependent on material things, but it's hard in this time and age of technology and all these things we deem necessary for modern living.
Are you interested in ecological questions, concerning the real nature? Do you support ecological movements in some way?
A.T. I'm not involved in any ecological movements. I do support anything that aims to preserve nature. After all, hunams are a part of nature as much as anything else, and we'd have a hard time trying to exist without it.
Will you keep up this romantic concept or could you also imagine setting to music the not so friendly aspects of nature and fairytales with the musical means of Nest?
A.T. I already shed some light on this in one of the previous answers, but I'll elaborate here a bit. Yes, you can expect both heavier themes, and heavier music in the future. Our the new album, that we're currently finishing, will contain themes like the hunt, and the usage of claws, fangs, the tools of the hunter. The music also presents a heavier aspect, with more rhythmic passages, powerful drumming, distortion, and some other elements that I'll keep a secret for now. I seldom plan anything ahead so I can't really tell whether Nest will continue to grow heavier, come back to more serene fields, or journey on to some other direction in the future. This is what keeps it interesting for me, and hopefully for other people as well.
Your artwork looks totally professional. Are you a hobby painter or do you perhaps work as a graphic designer or so?
A.T. Thank you very much. As with music, I do visual stuff just for my own enjoyment, but I have also done something at work too. I've only been to one night school that taught art for a year, but I learned a great deal there. Other than that, I'm self-taught. I've done drawing, painting, graphical design, web graphics, etc. for approximately 15 years already, so I guess I've picked up a bunch of things as time has marched on. I'll share a secret with you. I'm not that talented. I've just worked my arse off doing stuff I like doing. I like to think that I'm an interesting example in a sense that if I'm able to do these things, both visual art and music, everyone else can also do anything they set their minds to too. Just do what you enjoy and your skills will grow, and more importantly, you don't even need skill to enjoy what you do.
Do you know by chance some Soviet fairytale books of the 70s and 80s? They are particular nice. The illustrations of one book entitled “The daughter of the moon and the son of the sun” are quite fitting to some moments of Nest.
A.T. I'm not familiar with the book you mentioned, and the soviet tales I'm familiar with are all scattered around pages of old compilation books, or I have downloaded from the interweb. Nevertheless, those pictures are great and I can easily imagine them working in the Nest context. Thanks for showing them.
Could you recommend some other fairytale illustrators and painters?
A.T. I don't know too many illustrators that do faerytale illustrations exlusively, but I do know a lot of artist working with fantasy. Here are a couple of names whose work you can easily find on the internet too: Frank Frazetta, Ken Kelly, Eric Schwartz, Boris Vallejo, Rob Alexander, Richard Kane-Ferguson, Quinton Hoover, Jonathon Earl Bowser, Megan Giles, Simon Bisley, Liam Sharp.
Thank you very much!
A.T. Thank you for this interesting and entertaining interview. All the best to you and your 'zine.