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interview - Bylec Tum 'zine #8

Late summer 2000

1. I know that Nest was formed back in '99 with the idea of making acoustic and ambient music to reflect the world of old fables, and folk tales. Between 1999 and 2000 many songs were written; four of these were recorded and released in Nest's first demo "Fabled Lore". Would you introduce this work to the readers?
Certainly. Let's start by digging a little further into Nest's origin. I started out making music, mainly metal, with the aid of a computer in '89. I was very young and didn't know anything about making music then, but I didn't care. After I had done this for about six years, and learned how to actually make music in the process, I thought it was the time to start playing a real instrument. I chose the kantele because I wanted to play something a bit different, and as the kantele was also a traditional Finnish folk instrument, it was perfect. From this point on I started composing music that made more use of acoustic and synthetic soundscapes. Four years later in the spring of '99 it struck me. I should do music that was purely acoustic and ambient. And such music that would reflect fantasy and fables exclusively. Thus Nest was born. My initial plan was to spread Fabled Lore as a tape and only to some friends, but it turned out so good, at least in my own ears, that I decided to spread it around on a larger scale. I had also bought a CD writer recently, and thought it would be better to spread the demo as a CD to maintain the best possible sound quality. The songs and actually the whole demo can be seen as a kind of an introduction to a larger scheme. More on this subject after the next question.

2. Lyrically speaking, I know you are deeply inspired by some writers such as Grimm and Tolkien as well as old folk and animal tales. So we'd say "Fantasy"-music, a product of imagination exclusively. Seen that the demo's booklet doesn't enclose any lyrics, would you share with us about the lyrics and the whole concept of "Fabled Lore"?
Yes, fantasy-music would be the term that most precicely describes Nest. Actually the lyrics for "Land behind the mist" are the verses printed on the sheet just above the greetings. The other songs have no lyrics, because I thought they didn't need any. There will not be too much lyrics in the future either, although more than on the demo. I think music plays the most important role in Nest. And speaking of consepts, the songs on "Fabled Lore" are actually part of a bigger scheme that could be seen as a sort of "world". Every song I have created for Nest sheds light on an aspect of this world either by telling a story, portraying its inhabitants, evoking feelings, etc. I will not reveal too much here, because that is up to the songs, lyrics, artwork, etc. to do. Also, I do not want to lay down "rules" on what the world is like. I want everyone to experience the music, and of course take pleasure in it, in their own individual way.

3. Summer is going to finish now, so we're waiting for an other long autumn and winter-time. How much the seasons' atmosphere influences Nest as man and musician? How much the the cold Finnish landscapes and passages do it?
Seasons do have a great effect on me, and therefore on the music I create. The influence of winter is immeasurable as I adore the scenery of the frozen lakes, the snow-covered forests surrounding them, and vast white fields. I also gain great pleasure from spring and summer as the things I mentioned are beautifull to behold during those times too. Fall is the only season I dislike. In fall the rain just pours down from a stale gray sky here almost all the time, but when the winter comes, and the rain turns to snow, my spirit is lifted once more. "An oaken citadel" is a perfect example of the stuff I create in winter whereas "The elk king's daughter" is mostly the product of spring. I'm still glad I live in a part of the world where there are four distinctive seasons. It is the variety that I find refreshing. Living amidst the beauty of a constant winter or summer would get boring after some time.

4. Musically speaking, your music remembers me a lot of some Finnish bands as Tenhi and Jääportit. Do you see your songs influenced by any ambient/folk/goth bands?
I think all music I listen to influences my music in a way. I find both Tenhi and Jääportit very captivating and suitable for different moods, but I do not intentionally want to make Nest sound as either. If you want to compare Nest to the aforementioned two, I would say that it falls somewhere in between. It has more synths than Tenhi, but is still based on the sound of an acoustic instrument, which Jääportit is not. Nest is also more straightforward than either of them. I would say that from the folk/ambient fields Enya, and especially the Watermark era, has had the greatest impact on me. I don't listen to gothic music too much, but if I would name the bands I think have had the most influence on me, I would say Amorhis, The 3rd and the Mortal, Skepticism, and the already mentioned Enya.

5. The core of Nest's music is the kantele, a traditional Finnish string instrument that originates from over 2000 years ago. How is born the idea to use it? Can you describe that wonderfull instrument to the readers?
As I briefly mentioned, I wanted to play an instrument that was a bit different from the usual guitar, bass, drums, synth, etc. Not that I have anything against those. I also wanted to play something acoustic and traditional. A friend of mine had a 5-stringed kantele, which many Finnish people own for decoration nowadays. I played with it for a few months before I decided I should acquire a 10-stringed one and start playing it seriously. Kantele and it's relatives have been the traditional instruments of Finland, North West of Russia and the Baltic States. The instrument is played by holding it horizontally on the player's lap or on top of a table or similar. In the 10-stringed version, which I play, each string can only produce a single tone determined by the length of the string. There are versions with 30 or more strings that can also swiftly change their tuning with switches, but their sound is not as rough as the traditional models. The strings were originally made of the hairs of a horse's tail, but are nowadays usually steel or sometimes bronze. In elder times the kantele was an instrument of every adult man, who had also made it himself. It has been speculated that making a kantele was a sign of maturity then. The kantele was also mostly used to entertain small groups or only the player himself. Also, Kantele is one of the central objects of the Finnish epic saga, Kalevala. In Kalevala the first kantele was made by Väinämõinen, a sage and a poem-singer, out of a pike's jawbone. His playing brought joy to every living thing on the earth. Mammals, birds, fish, even the sun, the moon, the nymphs and gods of water and forests come to marvel it.

6. Between your demo's greeting you named as first person "you lord", so I suppose this has something to do with your creeds and inner beliefs, is it true? Would you share with us about your relationships with religions and cults? What about your ideologies in general.
Yes it is true. I wanted to thank the one responsible for me being here and being able to perform music among other things. But as I don't want to force my ideologies or anyone and as Nest deals with fantasy, I find talking about them extranous in this context.

7. Music influences the people in many strange ways, hoe do you think/try to influence the listener with Nest's music?
Music, as all art, has indeed a strong influence to both the maker and the listener. As I mentioned somewhere above, I want the listener to enjoy Nest's music in his or her individual way. I make the music reflect the things important to myself, but the listener is invited to form his or her own images. If one thinks this music suits a beach party, he/she is welcome to use it in one. A bit far fetched, I know, but still...

8. Which are the last books of fantasy and folk-tales that you've read in the last months? Which instead the last CDs or LPs bought?
I recently read all the Conan books by R. E. Howard that had been published in finnish. I hadn't read them before, which might sound peculiar for a guy interested in fantasy, but after reading them I was convinced that he was a genius. No other author has succeeded in making such diverse tales from such a simple starting point. I have also read Michael Moorcock's Elric -tales. He too is a brilliant writer, and I would recommend his work to all friends of original (dark) fantasy. The latest folk-tales I read were the Thousand and One Nights, which I have read two times before, and a bunch of old russian fables I found on the net. The latter were short and done in a traditional way with more or less emphasis on a moral. Some might call them naive, but they nevertheless hold an atmoshere with I find enchanting. I haven't bought too many CDs this year. The latest were the excellent Haven by Dark Tranquillity, Furthest Shore's Chronicles of Hethenesse Book I and Vordven's Woodland Passage. I have also listened to Kamelot and Edge of Sanity a lot lately.

9. Your music creates an incredible dark-atmosphere embracing the listener during all the demo's playing-time. How a Nest's song borns like?
To me Nest's music doesn't portray darkness, except in some few songs there might be a romantic reference to it. I'm not the most cheerfull of men, so this might lead to it sounding dark in other people's ears. Nevertheless, it is always intersting to hear what different people can get from my music. There are basicly two ways how an average Nest tune is formed. Usually I just sit down with the kantele and start playing for my own pleasure. Sometimes I stumble upon a riff, melody, whatever, that I see as worthy to put into a song. It is backed up with a second and a third riff before I go to my computer and take the note sequence down for future use. Then I start building the song up by adding lines for synths, drums, percussions, and sometimes bass or vocals. An interesting thing is that usually right after I get a song finished, I pick up the kantele in an attemp to play just to relax, and come up with a riff that just has to go to a song. This leads to that I will go take the note sequence down. Then I will start adding the other parts, and before I know it, I'm in the midst of making a new song. This happened a lot this summer. The second and less common way is that I have a theme I want to make into a song, and I start either by playing the kantele trying to find suitable riffs and melodies or trying to come up with suitable synth or other lines that suit the theme. At the moment I'm working on one such theme that portrays hunting.

10. I know that you A. Tolonen are the sole member of Nest. You play the kantele, make all the compositions, arrangements, lyrics and visual art. How is born the idea of being a one-man band? What your demo's artwork represents to you?
There are several reasons why Nest is a one-man band. First of all I don't have to do any compromises regarding the music when working alone. This is the best thing of having a one man band. I also have a lot more time to actually compose and play songs when I don't have to schedule practises with a band. Also, I'm not a very social person, so this works quite naturally. I do, however, invite friends to do session stuff from time to time. My new release will have one song with clean guitars courtesy of A. Idman (of Agoria) and another song where T. Saxell, a long time friend, does some vocal-parts. To me the demo's artwork represents nature that has roots in fantasy and is also without the ruin brought by humans. It has a strong connection to the overall scheme I was talking about earlier.

11. What are your hobbies and passions when you don't play music? Would you share with us your private life, job, age, etc.? What do you usually do in Riihimäki?
Well, I was born in March '79, so you can count my age from that. At the moment I study data processing in Helsinki Business Polytechnic. I also studied visual art in the Art School of Hyvinkää for a year, but had to cease because of the Polytech. I also have many years of experience in the glorious fields of delivering morning newspapers. My passions revolve around all that has something to do with visual and musical art. I've done logos and also some cover artwork for various bands. Try to guess which two of them appeared in Bylec-Tum #7. My other interests include reading, some movies, venturing around the coutryside, and last but definitely not least my better half, also referred to as the girlfriend, who takes all the time, and usually much more, from the other interests.

12. Do you like metal and its extreme forms of music? Which are your favourite groups?
Most of the stuff I listen to is metal. I'm not sure how extreme you would describe the band's I listen to, but I'll reveal some bands and you can judge for yourself. Amorhis, Dark Tranquillity, Skepticism and The 3rd and the Mortal are my all-time favourites. I'm mostly into doom/death in it's slowest (Skepticism, Thergothon, Esoteric) and most atmospheric (Amorphis, Yearning) form. Folk/Fantasy metal (Furthest Shore, Summoning) and some softer metal (Anathema, Decoryah)is also close to my heart.

13. I know that at the moment you're going to record new songs and that you have quite alot of new material composed too. Which are your future plans?
I have now recorded and mixed enough material for a split release with Isafjord. Thundra Records from Poland will release the thing. Nest's part will have a duration of about 24 minutes and will include 3 new songs and improved versions of Land Behind the Mist and An Oaken Citadel. All artwork on the CD will also be done by me. After this project has been completed I'll continue composing new songs, and recording/mixing the songs I already have ready.

14. It's the end. .. Last words from the cold northern lands...
My appreciation for this interview. All the best to you and the 'zine. For those of you who have access to the net feel free to visit Nest at www.bigfoot.com/~atolonen/nest (Expired address! please use < http://iki.fi/atolonen/nest > -Nest). You can also find news about the split there when it is due.

"Jos ei soitto Suomen kansan vasta vaikuta ilolle
eli uuvuta unehen, maku'usen maanittele,
niin vetehen visko'otte, aaltoihin upottaotte,
tahi vieköhön takaisin, soitto tuonne saattaotte
miehen tehnehen käsille, sormille sovittelijan!"
(Kalevala, poem 40)