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interview - Nightwalk Magazine

Beginning of 2003

1. What is the weather like now in Finland? How does it affect your mood and personality?
The weather this winter has been quite unusual. Normally there's a lot of snow here and the temperature is somewhere around -15 to -20 Celsius, but this year there is less snow than usual and the temperature changes wildly from 0 to -28 Celsius. There hasn't been much rain or snowing for the last 5 months, so I'm quite worried about the ground water supplies. I really enjoy snow, and there's enough for the surroundings to look pleasing, so my spirit is satisfied. I just wish it would have rained or snowed a bit more so that certain parts of our country don’t run out of water.

2. Nest's music cannot be described as average at all. Please, tell me how did it develop in you to play that kind of music! What inspired you?
As long as I remember I have been fascinated by medieval, folk and acoustic music. Even years ago when I listened only to metal I was enchanted by the acoustic passages in the songs. Also a lot of movies and games have had great music that stuck in my mind as time passed on. I had been composing metal with a computer and below-par samples for quite many years, but I kind of got bored with it. I wanted to play a real instrument, but I wasn't really interested in the usual guitar, drums or bass. Hence I chose the kantele, which has a great sound and was also easy to learn. I started fiddling around with some ideas I liked to play and hear myself, and I noticed that I stumbled upon something that hasn't been done very much, at least not that I know of. I wanted to play quite straightforward atmospheric stuff that has strong acoustic roots, but no limits sound wise. I think I succeeded well enough. The words above try to explain what musical sources of inspiration I have, but nowadays inspiration comes mostly from non-musical sources. Things such as nature, animal life, old tales, etc. are close to my heart, and they tend to find their way directly into the themes of my tunes. Also, I can't underestimate the importance of friendship, which in my opinion is one of the most powerful forces in life. I could even go as far as to say that the whole Nest project is dedicated to friendship.

3. When you look back on your releases so far. Do they show a continued evolution of your personality and musical ability/ideas? Please tell us about this!
Yes, I would think they do show evolution in different areas. When looking back at the ‘Fabled Lore’ demo there was still quite many things that were seeking their form. For example, some of the songs were composed almost solely with synths and the acoustics were quite simple. On the next release ‘Hidden Stream’ I leaned very much towards an acoustic outcome and stripped a lot of the synths away. Later I felt that I had taken too much away and decided to add some more to the next release ‘Woodsmoke’. The biggest evolution, in my opinion, has been with the mixing, production and sound quality. During the last year I have studied these a lot and I was able to improve each one a good deal. Now on the latest release I have finally obtained a quality I’m satisfied with. Still, although the sounds on Nest’s previous releases are not too good, I’m satisfied in the actual songs. I have also improved my playing skills, naturally, and now I think I can also succeed performing live. I can’t tell if my musical ideas have seen much evolution per se. I still follow the ideas and themes I had when Nest was born. These are so general that I’m not limited to anything, and maybe there has been subtle improvement with how they are brought to life, but I can’t really evaluate it myself. Maybe the listeners could let me know.

4. A really peculiar aspect of your music is the use of the Kantele (sometimes distorted), a Finnish national instrument. Please, say a few words about this instrument and your love for it!
Ah, the kantele. A symbolic instrument for the Finns. Well, the instrument is basically a horizontal harp with an amount of strings ranging from 5 to 36, and even 72 in the double stringed 36 ones. I would say that the sound of the instrument has similarities to a harp and a harpsichord. Nowadays I play 15-stringed one that has 4 bass strings and a built in pick up. Its design is quite unusual and I only know one manufacturer in Finland that makes these models. I also used to play a 10-stringed one before I got the new 15-stringer, but it is too worn out nowadays. I have only used the 15-stringed one in about half of ‘Woodsmoke’. The rest have been recorded with the 10-stringed one, although all of Nest’s released material has been composed with it. The reason I use the versions with so few strings is because I prefer its sound over the ones with more strings. I think that the smaller models have rougher and more down-to-earth sound than the bigger ones, and there is also the question of money. Let me just say that the bigger ones can cost three to four times when compared to say, a 15-stringer, and I’m not that wealthy :)

5. As far as I know old myths, tales are very frequent readings of yours. What have you read recently? What are your favourites and why? Do you long for these bygone times? When you read these, are they tools for you to leave behind this earthly existence, the greyness of our world?
Recently I have mostly read fantasy novels and short stories. The latest I read were the Conan tales by Robert Howard in their original English form, and the latest Elric novel by Michael Moorcock. Both of the authors are my all-time favourites. I haven’t read old myths or tales too much recently, but I do have a desire to read the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table once again. My favourite tales, etc. are old animal tales by the Grimm brothers, for example. I’m also fascinated by Tolkien, whose “The Hobbit” has a special place in my heart. I have fond memories of reading it in a wooden cabin some ten years ago. My other favourites are the works of H.P. Lovecraft’s and E.A. Poe, and also the Finnish, Nordic and Greek myths. Reading is indeed a form of escapism for me. There are times, maybe too often than I would like, when this world isn’t the least bit interesting, and the products of imagination provide enjoyment. I believe imagination is one of the greatest gifts given to man.
Sometimes I do have a strong feeling that life long ago was better in its “simplicity”. It seems that nowadays people are so dependant on mundane things such as computers, cellular phones, the clock, and such. But I do realize and admit that I too am a product of my time. It would be very hard for me to let go of some of the things I’m grown used to, so I don’t think it would be good for me, as I am now, to live in some past time. It’s actually good that you asked whether I long for the bygone times, because the song ‘Renewal’ actually touches this topic. It tells of longing for the past, but that the present and the future are equally important. I could quote one line from it: “Of older times I tell. Not to bring back, but to cherish”.

6.On the Woodsmoke album you refer to your songs as tales. Do they make up a whole story or are these individual tales? Can you tell us the concept behind it?
I referred to the songs as tales, because I didn’t want to refer to them as sterile “songs”, but they are indeed tales in their own right too. They are actually part of a larger theme, an imaginary yet naturalistic world if you may. Each song portrays a certain aspect of this world. One song may tell of a character or a location in this world and another could portray a feeling related to the overall theme. It seems to be quite hard to explain, and I don’t want to push people into any fixed image. When I listen to music, I tend to envision what my imagination allows, and this is what I hope the listeners of Nest could do. I do make the music of Nest reflect the things important to me, but I don’t want to push people into any frame of thinking. But if you want to know a bit more about the world of Nest, let’s just say it has something to do with animals. This probably isn’t too hard to figure out when looking at the artwork of Nest’s releases.

7. Your music to me truly portrays the vast, endless snowcapped mountains, the cold, mysterious highlands in the autumn and the rebirth of Nature during spring. Is it important for you to receive feedbacks from people to your music? Do you think that other people can have the same ideas, attachment as you have when listening to Nest's music.
I love getting feedback from the people listening. Be it good, bad, critical, advising, anything – I like to get all kinds. It is always interesting to hear how Nest’s music affects different people, and whit kind of feelings, images, etc. they get from it. I do think other people can have same or even similar ideas as I had when the tunes were composed, but I don’t want to force my ideas on anyone. As I said earlier, I like the listener to form his or her own ideas from the music, be it similar to mine or totally different. The best thing would be that the listener enjoyed the music.

8.What does Nature and the different seasons represent for you?
A short answer would be that to me nature represents life. I have always associated nature with life - in its different stages. Even winter, which brings hardship and death to the beasts of the wild, emphasizes the glory of life. You can survive if you do your best and have some good fortune on your side too. I’m extremely fond of nature and I love living in a country with four distinctive seasons. I think I wouldn’t like living in a place near the equator, for example, where there is almost constant summer. I do like summer, actually I like every season except autumn when this land is mostly rainy and has a perpetual stale grey sky, but I like the change of seasons. None of the seasons last too long here, and each of them is interesting in its own way.

9. Do you think that people's way of thinking can be changed and show them a way of respecting and admiring Nature?
I do, actually. But once again I don’t have the slightest intent to force any ideas on anyone. Personally I try to do my own part, and that is what we can all do. We can take care of how we use water, and other limited resources we have. I personally try to consume as less as possible, which isn’t always a little, but I want to try, nevertheless.

10. The music on Woodsmoke is quite peaceful/gentle but I think Nature has a more violent aspect, too. Why don't you represent this as well in your music?
This is a very good point, and a hard question for me to answer. A simple answer would be that I like peaceful stuff and I also sometimes can’t help but do gentle stuff by a force of habit. Still, you are right. Nature does have a lot of violence and brutality, and we shouldn’t ignore these either. I’m not limiting myself from doing aggressive stuff, but I haven’t had too many good ideas for such stuff. I actually have only one song, “The Harbinger of a Greater Winter” on the “Hidden Stream” Split CD that I would deem aggressive, or even semi-aggressive. Also, I have wanted to do a song or a trilogy of songs based on “the hunt” for some time now, and I also had some material for it ready, but it wasn’t good enough, so I’m going to redo the whole thing when I get inspiration for it.

11. Besides music you are also painting. I have checked your drawings on the internet and found them very suggestive and visual. The animal drawings to be very nicely made. Could you please tell us about this occupation of yours? Have you had any exhibitions so far? Have you got any favourite painter?
Thank you for the good words. In addition to music, visual art is the most important pastime of mine. And as with music, I mostly draw and paint for my own pleasure. I haven’t had any exhibitions, although I would like to have some in the future when I have enough material that forms a coherent unity. During the last couple of years I have been so busy with school, work, music, etc. that I haven’t even had time to do visuals too much. I mostly like to use pastels, ink, pencils, and recently I have also fallen in love with coloured pencil, which I used to do the cover art for Nest’s two latest releases with. My favourite visual artists are Akseli Gallen-Kallela (the Finnish national artist), Theodore Kittelsen (the same for Norway), John Howe, Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Jonathon Earl Bowser, Quinton Hoover and Richard Kane-Ferguson. I also adore most of Giger’s work as well.

12. Nest is your individual effort with the exception of some vocals. Is it ever going to change? Why or why not? Though I am curious to know who is this "my lord" you thank in the booklet for making this possible.
Nest has remained, and probably will remain, mostly my individual effort. I have nothing against having other people contributing, and I have actually told many of my friends that they can come play, do vocals, etc. if they wish. I would like Nest to be a sort of gathering of friends, where we can join to produce songs. Sadly this hasn’t happened too much yet. On the split CD I had a friend playing undistorted electric guitar on one song, and T. Saxell has done vocals on the two latest releases. I’m very happy that T. Saxell will also play bass live with Nest. The answer to your second question is quite simple; my lord is none other than God. I owe him quite a bit of gratitude.

13. Do you consider yourself an artist, a musician, an individual or simply someone with a love of Nature?
I never call myself an artist, because I don’t think it really suits what I am and do. It would also sound a bit too elitist if I would call myself an artist, so I don’t do it. I’m happy the way I am, and I don’t need any labels to boost my ego. I don’t even see myself as much of a musician, because my skills mainly lie in composition. I would say I’m just an average guy, if there is such a thing. I’m no better, maybe not even worse than the next man, so I could say, as you put it, that I’m just someone who happens to have a love of nature. I’m doing the things in my life that bring me joy, and I think this is quite a healthy thing to do, as long as I don’t cause suffering to others. Should one do something else? Well it would be good to bring joy to other people too, and I hope Nest’s music has brought even a little enjoyment to someone.

14. The wind howls eerily outside my door, I think it is time to let the forces reign! Please share your final thoughts with us!
For goodness sake, don’t let that wind inside your house! You might never get it to leave. I wish to express my appreciation for this most interesting of interviews. All the best to ye and yer mag. Everyone who wishes, can get in touch with me via email < nestfinlandiaDELETE_ME@gmail.com >. And do come around Nest’s WWW site at < http://iki.fi/atolonen/nest >.