In summer 2004 I remember talking to a graphics artist at Spinefarm Records. He mentioned me that he knows a friend in a Finnish mobile game company who might be looking for an "audio guy". I was nervous and inexperienced with formal jobs, so for my own surprise I was invited for an interview after sending an application with some music. Being mostly thinking I´d never get the job anyway, we headed to northern Finland to mix Verisäkeet with Moonsorrow. I didn´t bother myself with futile hopes- until right in the middle of the mixing I got a surprising phonecall from them in where they told I was hired. I started working there in October 2004 and stayed until April 2013.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Monday, August 10, 2015
Many times I´ve been asked about why I don´t tour with my own bands I´m otherwise very active with. Having a steady job and kids are also very good reasons behind it, but as I had made my decision before I got either, it´s not the sole scapegoat. The real issue behind not seeing me on tours is because I have suffered from depression since the late 90´s and cannot contribute to longer trips due to that. During the years I´ve learn to recognize it, handle it better and accept it´s presence in normal circumstances, but for that I need a "stable" life more than your Average Joe. In order to keep myself in control, being on the road is the worst possible poison.
A part of me is always saddened about knowing my own band is playing our songs without me and I have felt like an asshat many times for not appreciating this awesome possibility life has given me. But I can´t make music either if I´m in a mental hospital and to prevent that happening, I stopped the things that would lead into that instead- so I could continue making that music with my best friends in the future, too.
I started touring in 1998. I had done some casual gig- trips before, but sleeping in a tourbus was a completely new experience for me at the time. I was 20, didn´t have any obligations to anyone except for loose studying and didn´t want to spend time at my lonely flat. I was depressed, broke, and craved for something to do instead of watching the walls collapsing on me. So when I was offered a live keyboardist´s job from a constantly touring Finnish pop/ rock band I didn´t hesitate for a second.
I knew the people in the band vaguely, but we didn´t exactly be close friends. They were hyped teenage idols who acted accordingly... while I was a chubby guy in a Marduk- shirt. I had never felt more like an outsider in my life, but at least it was a better job than handing out newspapers in the mornings. I performed my duties each night with professionality, but the more I spent time on the road the more depressed and introvert I became. When I got home from the gigs, I basically either stayed in bed or went to see any real friends possible- usually consuming large amounts of alcohol and metal music with them. When my assignment with the band ended at early 2000, I was a mental and physical wreckage and the depression had got way worse. I couldn´t study anymore properly. I couldn´t clean my home. I didn´t bother to clean my home. I played video games, consumed music and ate fast food. I only went outside if I had to. I didn´t even realize I was having a depression- I thought it was just normal to feel this miserable all the time. You know, black metal and stuff.
Fast- forwarding into 2001, things were looking a bit better. I had met my girlfriend a year earlier and lived with her, Finntroll was getting gigs abroad and I was actually enthusiastic about touring with my own band and own friends. But two years later, everything started to feel more like a funeral march again and mentally each trip felt consecutively harder to start and to recuperate from. I felt I was being slowly strangled each moment I spent on the road and someone had tied my guts into a knot three days before each departure from home. I just wanted to crawl somewhere and die, and I realized it was not because of the people I travelled with, but because of myself.
While I could manage to keep the depression somehow in control at home with various results, it was impossible after the first days on the road. I just needed much more of those "normal surroundings" to survive the unnormal ones. The doctors recommended medication a couple of times and I even tried it for a month but I turned it eventually down. I was actually quitting Finntroll due to this all, but the other guys convinced me that another live member could replace me on stage. I withdrew myself from all live performances and most social contexts in 2005 and stayed home as much as I could to tip that balance better. However, in spring 2006 that"normal" life started to collapse under my feet due to circumstances not entirely depending on me. Hävitetty was composed at the time, which probably depicts my feelings much better than any words and my girlfriend left me that summer.
Curiously enough, that shock and the aftermath was a turnpoint for my depression, changing it later into a more driving force instead of a paralyzing one. I spent over a year without doing practically any band- activities, trying to patch my abruptly shattered life together and concentrate on my son´s and my own future instead. Due to a lot of thinking and studying, I learned to understand my thoughts and actions better, and realized how to spot the symptoms of depression early enough to rationalize them down or trying to convert them into something creative instead- be it composing music, writing or even drawing. That year later I felt like I had found my own tools to fight and weapons to silence the Demons for most of the time- sometimes even making them work for me. And when least expecting it- met my clearly-meant-to-be-wife afterwards. As my life had begun to rebuild itself in the process, I hadn´t felt better in years.
7 years later, I´m still struggling with depression time to time. This destructive part will always continue living inside me, but I feel I am much more in control of it that I used to be. But I can´t go touring with my best friends because I WILL lose that control. I´ve tried it a couple of times and it didn´t exactly go "by the book". Unless you prefer The Call of Cthulhu, of course.
Even at home, sometimes it keeps strangling me for weeks or even months but I know I´ll eventually survive: escaping into my own worlds and surroundings meanwhile is a precaution for me not to lose it or be a monster to the people who deserve it the least. I just need to stay away from the things that cause this as much as possible, and touring is proven to be toxic in my case.
Having been seeing emotions within the audience ranging from sheer enthusiastic berserking into just standing there and crying, I am painfully aware how my music has given people moments every artist would kill to witness personally- and I miss that. I miss that a lot. My choice of dropping out from the stage wasn´t that much of a choice than a necessity- and given the life I live now going back there is also much harder than ten years ago. But whenever I occasionally join the stage, you can be sure I appreciate the situation as much as I appreciate the people coming to see us and showing me that the choices I have made have still given them the moments I live to create.
It took me six months to finish this text and it was the hardest thing I´ve ever written in my life. The more I went back in time writing it, the more I realized there are still a lot of things I need to work with as of today. Despite of the eternal ongoing battles inside my head, I am still alive even in the days I wouldn´t necessarily want to be. And the biggest thanks for that goes to my wonderful wife, who has been there for me all the time- especially in the days I certainly wouldn´t deserve it.
I will never be something one would refer as "normal". The melancholic and gloomy thoughts, anxiety, the feeling of being an outsider and the longing for some dimension else will always be there but due to my family, friends and meaningful work I find so much joy in my life that I can live with it. I will find my peace when I´m dead....and quite likely I´d find it dull as hell within the next two hours anyway. Meanwhile, I´ll stick around and try to make the best out of this all without that touring! And yeah, finish that Moonsorrow album on time.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
I´d love to write this blog more. In fact, I find writing very therapeutical in a way that at least my head is not occupied with music when I write. As you can see, it´s been goddamn quiet on that front lately- and the reason is not surprisingly mostly Moonsorrow.
The last 2 weeks especially have been constant work as I´ve done approximately 14- hour days since I returned from my short summer vacation: first doing my regular job and then going home and continuing with Moonsorrow from the moment we get the kids to sleep. As my time is very limited- usually being able to work with the stuff after 21:30 onwards or occasional time on weekends- I haven´t been able to do almost anything else. But I´m not complaining- I need to get this done because I want to. "Woe is me", said the artist and expected everyone to pity the poor soul.
But when you´re as fixated on things as yours truly, at some point it actually becomes a burden because you don´t know when to stop. Or YOU might do, but your brain just isn´t obeying it. I even lost my sleeping abilities completely in June and either stayed awake for hours in bed or woke up in the middle of the night thinking of the arrangements of the songs. Or in some cases, went to my studio room to compose music 3 AM. But it´s like this for every Moonsorrow album. I remember completely flipping right before Verisäkeet, staring at the computer monitor in tears, screaming on the screen until I went to the rehearsals of which I have a complete blackout until I remember going home from there. I take my shit seriously, it seems.
I am a fucking professional composer. I should know how to work. But suddenly, when it´s about your soul and beliefs squeezed into a musical journey, all the aspects of professionality disappear and you become Odin hanging on that tree...with the difference that it´s not over in nine days.
Besides, Moonsorrow´s music is trying to combine the both sides of structured tonality and unstructured chaos. Without chaos, music becomes dull, boring and predictable. But without structure and tonality, you lose the very core of the idea of the composition itself. Unless you´re Bestial Warlust, though. The more professional and organized I become, the more hard it is to just "go with the flow" and I end up overthinking everything to death. And this whole spring and summer has been fighting that overthinking.
Now it´s been a bit less hectic lately- it seems that when I got the first song nailed the rest of the songs are molding noisily on their own in my head. I just finished the second final demo yesterday evening, which was a battle in itself though- I was fighting over drum arrangements for hours on three evenings until the guys convinced me the constant kick drumming does not bother them at all. Now I´ve made myself a strict schedule I´m following which means that as of today, it´s two weeks per song and then it´s onto the next one be it ready or not. We´ll figure it out in the rehearsals together before the studio if I can´t make it done on time by myself.
As I´ve said before, it´s not about the material. We got a fucking TON of it. But it´s the problem about "what parts to keep" and "what kind of direction we want this song to take". Finding the right balance between everything while still keeping the song interesting AND having enough time for different parts to evolve is fucking hell with this band. It´s been always like that since Voimasta ja Kunniasta. The first two albums were rather simple. But as you evolve as a musician, you tend to grab more challenges. Until at some point, it comes to this:
First you play part X for eight times. Then you play part Y. Then you realize you´re having parts X, Y, Z, ÅÄÖ and so forth each played once and the song is a mess. Remove Z, double the amount of Y. "But I liked Z! It´s better than Y!" Hmmm....what if I took Y and made that the main riff? "But the main riff is quoted on the riff Ä and if we take that away the whole purpose of Ä is obsolete."
Then I realize it´s 23:30 and I haven´t progressed anywhere. And when I go to bed, the arrangements play simultaneously on top of each other in my head.
As I´ve now finished two songs out of five completely, these problems seem to have diminished greatly as mentioned earlier. As I work only seeing the whole album with Moonsorrow (the songs are just manifestations of the bigger whole for me), the more there is "confirmed" material means that I don´t have to fit those parts anywhere else. As an example- one song has now a certain kind of acoustic part I wanted to use in the album. I know now that I don´t have to stress about fitting that element to any other songs, as it is already in the album somewhere.
One of my biggest issues as a composer is that I have a fixation in uniqueness- I absolutely HATE to repeat myself especially in the same context. Sure, we all have our own trademark gimmicks as composers but using the same ideas on purpose is just a slap in the face of creativity and self- respect. Writing a theme/ leitmotif- driven score is a completely other thing, though.
Speaking of scores, the Curse of the Witches´ Blood (the soundtrack is already out and is freely streamable here) just got FINALLY out of the sound edit last week. As I promised to the director to do the final sound post- processing myself, I´ve been spending some of my days at the office working with that whenever my workload allows it. It´s a great counter for creative composing to work with something more technical which still gives you the same immersion that great music does. Besides, I always get ideas from that to my sound design on our albums as well.
For a fun fact all foley FX, dialogue recordings and pre- processing were done by Esa Orjatsalo, who is also known for being the live audio engineer for Korpiklaani. And who is also going to record the newest Moonsorrow album in two months, so the circle is completed.
While I´m typing this, my daughters are playing in the floor besides me and we´re listening to martial industrial music. You know, that stuff all little children love to listen with their parents. And as soon as I get those little hellraisers to sleep, it´s going to be Moonsorrow tiem again.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
I have a couple of unfinished posts coming up, but meanwhile here´s something which might interest you while waiting. Did you know that we used to make a fanzine back in the 90´s with Ville and some other dudes? We used to publish our personal playlists there (while mocking each other for their bad taste of music), and I later continued it online in my personal homepage and in a couple of web forums. As I´ve not done it since 2006 or so, I´ve been thinking for some time to revitalize this utterly boring tradition to people who couldn´t care less.
So, here we go: Trollhorn´s playlist and recommendations for December/January 2015!
Trelldom (NOR): Till Et Annet... (1998)
Slave Til En Kommende Natt
I find this band, and especially this album to be an excellent example of withstanding time rather well, which is why I´ve been listening it again lately. The music has a great balance between a "serious" approach and a "piss on everything"- attitude and for all the kvlt hype surrounding mr. Gaahl, this album actually has something to back it up a bit. The vocals are one the greatest reasons to spin this disk again and again, being massively otherworldly and varied throughout the whole experience.
Aosoth (FRA): Ashes of Angels (2009)
Songs without Lungs
I got introduced to Aosoth a couple of years ago, and have been listening to their albums quite much since. Very chaotic (yet structured and organized) and dissonant songwriting with downtuned guitars in black metal is rather interesting concept and their albums seem to have a very strong aura drawing me to pick them up more often from the shelf I intend to. Don´t close your eyes while listening to this or you´ll end up staying there.
Gryphon (GBR): Midnight Mushrumps (1974)
Medieval classical music meets progressive rock? Yes, please! I got a tip on this band from a comment in this blog last year, and am very grateful for that as the music was even more awesome I could had imagined. The musicianship and arrangements are absolutely top-of-the-notch and a must to check for everyone into medieval music and old progressive rock.
Byron Metcalf (US) feat. Steve Roach- Shaman´s Heart (2005)
I love Steve Roach and have a soft spot in my heart for any meditative music, so when you have stopped laughing at this new age- thingie for a moment, take a look at this with a more serious expression. This brilliant album, besides being all great meditative and hypnotic music, has also an interesting addition: so- called "Hemi- Sync" which is suppposed to stimulate and synchronize brainwaves using binaural music technology as it´s advantage. Not that I find much more than plain stereo spreading on everything instead of any pseudoscientific audio processing here, but nevertheless it´s hypnotic and minimalistic just in the way I like to soothe my brain with.
Tangerine Dream (GER): Goblins Club (1996)
Towards The Evening Star
I just love how this album reeks of the 90´s in all aspects. But what I like in this album the most is the weird, almost magical and somehow even pseudo- occult touch that is somehow lurking in the background all the time. Then again, at parts it sounds like it was composed into a skin- treatment commercial. And even though I know categorizing music into genres is rather futile and embarrassing at it´s worst, I have huge troubles to decide what this particular music style represents. Electronic rock? Electro- Kraut? Synthrock? Just check out the damn album, ok?
Bergthron (GER): Verborgen In Den Tiefen Der Wälder (1997)
Verborgen In Den Tiefen Der Wälder
Shitty vocals? Check. Bad drum machine? Check. Horrible melodies? Check. Only one, half an hour song? Definitely check. I really have no idea why I like this album so much. In all truth, I should probably hate it. But I dug it up from my hazy memories left in 1997 or so, gave it a listen and weirdly got attracted to it this time. Maybe it´s part of the fact that this type of music is rather rare these days and it contains many of the elements I like in my black metal? Not definitely an album I´d take to a deserted island with me, but I´ve still found myself listening many times during the evenings lately.
Satanic Warmaster (FIN): Fimbulwinter (2014)
BUT HOW CAN YOU LISTEN TO SATANIC WARMASTER BECAUSE....uhm, yeah, fuck you too. One of the most creative and talented metal composers in Finland, SW´s newest offering is actually sporting a very good sound this time, which might even scare the most puritan dictation-machine- lovers away. Representing the sharpest songwriting in his career to the date as well and including a Vornat- cover (infernal hails!) this is a must- check for people into more old school BM but with a rather modern sound. There aren´t many -if all- weak moments on this one...well, except for the last song which got ruined by some fat asswipe called Trollhorn, whoever that is.
Lie In Ruins (FIN): Towards Divine Death (2014)
Blood of the Dead
It´s crushing. It´s heavy. It´s occult. It´s evil. It´s DEATH METAL, in it´s literal meaning. The second full- lenght of LiR is a step from more traditional death metal into more blacker and occult grounds- meaning lenghtier and less technical songs, tons of uncommon instruments and soundscapes... and a heavy load or religious imagery. The artwork in itself is already worth checking out in it´s all detail.
Ophthalamia (SWE)- A Journey In Darkness (1994)
Castle of No Repair/ Lies from a Blackened Heart
When all the cool band names had already been taken, It and friends settled for no compromises! Despite of the rather eye- catching name though, the music is just the way I like it- black metal with doom- influences. The clever guitar harmonies everywhere deserve an extra credit here as well, and while Paradise Lost was once a rather entertaining band I´m sure Opth....Oth...Phot...salami have been spinning a disk or two of their early works before creating this album. Too bad they went all too gothic afterwards.
Urfaust (NL): Der Freiwillige Bettler (2010)
Vom Gesicht und Rätsel
As mentioned earlier, if you speed and pitch this up for 30%, you get a hidden Primordial album. While I´m not particularly a great fan of Primordial myself (hi guys :D), this album made me a fan of Urfaust. Not right away, though- I had to listen to it a couple of times to get rid of the "Primordial on Ritalin"- effect, but I´m glad I gave it a chance because it hit me like a truck after some repeats. Definitely worth checking out!
TARAMASALATA/ Tzatziki split 7" - Hellenic Dish Kvlt
I can already taste an upcoming side- project of Varathron and Zemial members in my mouth. And as a bonus if you actually read thus far: here´s my playlist from late 1998, straightout scanned from Meathooked #2!
Monday, December 15, 2014
I started writing this post in February 2014, but due to lack of time I never finished it. Nevertheless- my opinions and annoyement haven´t changed at all lately, rather on the contrary. While there´s some seriously good music in the world, some things are just so plastique and embarrassant that it makes even Nargaroth looking like the real deal in comparison. While "The Day Alcest Killed The Smiths" is yet still looming in the horizon, please stay a while and share the embarrassament with me. Merde!
"Robert Smith Ist Krieg"
The bucket to spill my guts on the matter leaked over in January 2013, as I was reading the newest issue of Inferno Magazine. An interview of this, yet another new one- man- band stated how his music was all about "combining Burzum and Cure together". Later, I stumbled across an article I wasn´t really sure it was parody or not, which reminded me again of really wanting to write about this topic. To cut is short, yes- black metal fans are elitist assholes and so are the musicians. Black metal is elitism. Sue me for that.
But why u mad, bro? Well, I have never kept it as a secret that I always want to do something else with my bands than the others are doing. With Finntroll, we drifted more towards whatever chaotic circus- music and even psychobilly when this humppa- folk- thing got oh so trendy. And the stuff Moonsorrow has been done since Verisäkeet and especially Hävitetty has been this heavy, atmospheric...well, Cure- and- Burzum- influenced black(ish) metal. Whenever our style seems to be get a bit too popular, I (un)intentionally drift towards something else. The spirit of Loke is strong.
Now don´t get me wrong here- I don´t think we started the thing, quite the contrary. As I was heavily inspired by Drudkh especially when we were doing Hävitetty, and listened a ton of Esoteric, old Katatonia and In The Woods as well at those times, I also wanted the music to be a reflection of my inner feelings at that time. Plucked, distorted huge guitar chords with the drowning and pulsating mass of reverbs and dreamy soundscapes with even more of those "cure- guitars" and slower tempos than ever. We were actually laughing about being all shoegaze at the time. I´ve always loved that sound and felt we really took the musical depression those band represented into another, heavy level without forgetting our roots in black metal. As said, you can´t spell Moonsorrow without sorrow, heh!
But when composing Varjoina... in 2009, we were already seeing so many of this same "post"- shit around that we intentionally took another leap on our sound and gave more room for going as heavy as we possibly could, with still having those "cure- guitars" there with the massive, drowning synths. More palm- muting, less open strings, basically, because we thought everyone and their friends were starting to do that... uhm, Curzum- thing. Some bands I liked and thought we had much in common, like Fen and Austere, while some -in my opinion- took the "black" completely out and desecrated the whole thing. And the worst of them all was Alcest, having the commercial success of theirs combined with the absolute cheesing of that sound we held dear.
"Hello Kitty Elohim Meth"
I absolutely detested Alcest at that point and thought they were the epitome of something which had took Black Metal´s best kept secret and turned it into something that my mom would like. Retrospectively speaking, it´s not hard to see why we went rather heavy and oppressing sound instead of this Smithsesque whining shit everyone and their girlfriends seemed to love.
Reading things like...
"A sinister mood???.... That really bothers me that you should say that because that proves that I did not succeed in communicating what I had inside me... I hope that this time [talking about upcoming material] there will be no compromise as you are not the first person to feel my music as dark music"
...didn´t make me any more comfortable either. I only could interpret this that the guy makes black metal into a living, pissy chorus- guitar- filled joke without while having absolutely nothing to do with ideologies related to it...while some of us here were trying to actually be serious here. I don´t think Dance of December Souls was supposed to be about "Fairy Land" nor I found any traces from elves farting sparkles from Drudkh´s material either. I don´t know if this Neige has been studying too much maths instead of listening to his music collection, but in this case, two sad, sorrow- and hatefilled and longing negatives DO NOT MAKE A POSITIVE.
The absolutely worst thing though, is this dude´s side- project called "Lantlôs",which sounds like something you would here in a fucking spa treatment with blast beats.
"Over Brooklyn Grater Himmerik"
In the beginning there was Black Funeral, Demonic Christ, Absu, Grand Belial´s Key and countless others, original bands- now there is Liturgy, Wolves in the Clone Room and Deafheaven (what the LIVING FUCK is that supposed to mean? A special place after death where you can´t hear their musical parody?). While black metal is supposed to evolve naturally, I´m not particularly sure this is the way I have been depicting it to happen over the years. But then again, it´s America- the land of eternal possibilities we´re talking about! So I guess when that one guy introduced Hvis Lyset Tar Oss for the other guys in that emo party in 2011 or so, things started to go a bit astray. Suddenly the new wave of American black metal was not about their original interpretation of the sound evolving naturally with the corresponding ideologies- but rather quickly dividing into two different, set- in- stone categories.
First we´d have unemployed crust punk- looking guys doing a ton of drugs. Bandmembers come and go, contact addresses seem to be rather uhm...of evolving sort, and most of the music is released mostly through small distros. Ideologies tend to drift more on the hateful side, yet it´s more about being angry on the people who have actual homes and washing machines. The music? Pointless "psychedelic", nowhere- going, mindlessly improvised 20- minute long epics with lyrics against animal cruelty. Welcome to the Finnish punk scene in the early 90´s, lads, please leave your jacket somewhere before you step through the metal detector/ time machine.
On the other hand, there are guys who did cut their hair, got a shower, stopped doing those drugs and dress up in clothes Scandinavian pensioners regularly wear when taking their daily stroll outside. They have jobs, and judging from their outlooks, they play it cool there while having a bit frightening and mysterious hobby to brag at that advertising agency they work with the other people who look just like them. Just make sure no- one ever catches them listening to Marduk with pleasant volume from their $ 700 iPhones, though. They spread positivity, success and the melancholic American dream. If the Republicans ever played black metal, I´m pretty sure this is the equivalent of that. The music is that major chords, more spa music and blast beats with a top- notch production and the ideology is about something between a café Latte and men´s healthcare products.
"I am the African- American Entertainers/ Du som kanskje ikke gillar Gud- split 7"
Watching Fenriz in "Until the Light Takes Us" documentary (2008) trying to explain how he feels his beloved form of art was taken away from him and twisted into something complete antithesis of it made me feel rather related on the matter. While black metal was supposed to evolve and challenge itself constantly while being the storm of a creative negativity, we got a watered- down, politically- correct form of mass- entertainment instead. How did we end up from a rebellion wrapped in black and accompanied with noisy music into a freak circus where there´s a soft heart beating inside of the World´s Most Tattooed Strongman? Maybe the music was just too good to pass away even though the ideologies were a bit controversial- or maybe the controversy was the first attraction.
Whatever the reason, I´d still not buy those Dimmu Borgir jogging pants they sell at Nuclear Blast webshop.
The writer is a 36- year old elitist asshat who has played black metal with a Hello Kitty guitar and this post could had been originally released in 1996, 2004 and 2009 with different examples of the bands.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Friday, August 1, 2014
How coincidental. Yesterday I got an angry email from a certain person working with a certain band I´m involved in, stating basically that "what the fuck is taking so long with your new album, you´re ruining all the future plans here". I tried to reason him with the very fact that we thought the music we had done earlier for the new album didn´t match the standards we have set on this band, and thus it has taken a bit longer to find the proper approach.
"...we´ve been basically working on this album "for real" since early April. Everything done before that has been ditched, as we have now found the approach we are heading towards."As I´ve been telling the people- be it the record label, manager, or you the reader out there- Yes, there has been some serious problems with finding the inspiration for the right approach (see the entry from last year) but in early April I made something that felt like curtains had been drawn off my eyes. And when Marko had the same approach on one of his new songs, we knew exactly what is our plan for the music. And since April, we´ve been working on that direction very heavily, sporting 3-4 new "quarters of a song" already.
So it was about the creative process being blocked, which we managed finally to overcome. Nothing extraordinary, nothing unusual, albeit a bit too long period which I can admit. But for some people, things are not that easy. You could also get drown into a swirl of neverending perfectionism and blame the lack of even better equipment for being the sole reason why the album isn´t on Time.
Which, I both get and don´t get at all.
I´ve been doing albums since 2002 with a computer- based setup, and when I started I had only a hint about studio technology and mixing. My demos back then were sounding like shit, but at least we could try different things and hear the music "in action" before going to the expensive studio to make it properly. During the years the demos got better and even more polished/ well- thought until at some point we reached the stage when we only started to enter the studio to just "perform" them as a band- but with some additional ideas, tweakings and inspirations come flying by. All the demos were done twice- first the mockup for the basic ideas and the arrangement, and then the latter and final version would be extremely close what you´d hear when the album is released. Yet, the equipment used for both is basically the same- things are just done a bit differently. In the final demo, e.g. all acoustic instruments are real, the sound is mixed more closer to the direction we wish to achieve in the studio and there are all sorts of small tricks and hooks added to the cake.
When I start composing, the gear I use at home is quite modest- not because I don´t necessarily have the better stuff available, but because I try to keep everything very simple and non- distracting while I create something. If it gets the work done it is enough, is my principle. Musicians should never surround themselves with fancy equipment in the creative process, because those things have pretty much zero input to the actual creation of the music. Just like most of the film and game composers use a fucking PIANO ONLY to get the composing process rolling, we shouldn´t be needing a noise- isolated mixing rooms for trying out ideas or a fucking stack of guitar amps and microphones for cranking some riffs on tape. When has it come to this that the musicians need a goddamn € 100,000 studio equipment for composing and creating music? When the second phase, a.k.a "the proper demo" comes to picture, I start to experiment more and actually bother even to use a pre- amp and channel strip for the microphones. But it´s still far for perfection...and will always be. Imperfection and the human element is what makes music what it is. Just ask Glenn Fricker if you don´t believe me!
I have the fortunate chance of living in a house now instead of flat, where I have one room for my equipment and can technically make as much noise as I will without interfering the neighbours. But before last year, I was living in a place where I had no musical equipment available at all. Yet, I somehow managed to do quite many albums. since 2006 I have recorded and mixed all the proper demos (read "polished/studio quality") at my workplace on evenings and weekends, where I could scream my lungs out and play acoustic guitars as much as I wanted. Sure, the air conditioning sometimes hummed. And sometimes someone else was making coffee in the next room, which uhm...spilled to my takes. But I didn´t give a fuck. I even did some extra album instrument recordings there, because in the music I make, certain small badness just adds to the blend just fine. :D
Of course, if you´re making a new Sting- album, you probably wouldn´t like to do that then. Or, a Wintersun album on that matter. So I do get the point that music needing the perfect production cannot be produced in sub- par conditions. But in all seriousness, the line should be drawn somewhere.
If the guitar sound in the studio takes me weeks to get, I´m doing it wrong. If my € 8000 computer cannot handle orchestral samples, I´m doing it wrong. And if I need months for mixing, I´m definitely doing it wrong. Just as a reference point, Bohemian Rhapsody was done with a 16- tracker. While I agree we shouldn´t go back to those days, I am a sole advocate of "instead of the boring option which is anyway out of your reach right now, try something creative instead".
We need to KNOW WHAT WE WANT, or we´ll never get anything finished. Period. A producer must have a clear vision in the studio, a vision which has been tested out earlier in less expensive and stressful conditions. The studio is a place where you´re supposed to go to finish the product, not to create it. And when you run into problems, you overcome them. You shake your fist at God, defying the Almighty and fucking NAIL IT. You might also lose your sleep in the process and cause a lot of quarrels, but you´ll sort it out. At least I cannot remember a single session where we had to give up doing something we really, really needed because of technical limitations. When there´s a will, there´s always a way. And the answer is not always about buying your way out of it.
In this mess of technology, money, record labels and expectations people are sometimes dreadfully forgetting what is the key element to music that stands against Time and dust of forgetfulness. It´s good music, simple as that.
And nothing can ever replace good music.