28 Sept 2016

The fourth of UNSHINE: Part 6

The synthesizers for our 4th album. Done.

This massive amount of work which has been done so far is finally coming to a goal.

The guitar mixings were compiled few days ago. This time we had around 60-70 tracks of guitars (and basses) for each song. We had several micings from our Churchboat home studio (with amp isolation) and we made also few re-ampings for the rhytm guitars in the D-studio from the DI-tracks from our home studio.

The next bigger thing will be the final mixing of all the tracks, this will take place as soon as we will get the time slot to do it.

What comes to the synthesizers and keyboards, we have used a pretty different approach each time with our three albums.

In the first album, Earth Magick, the synths were recorded (due to lack of time & money) in around 3-4 hours with presets of just one synth, Yamaha S30. However, it is actually a very good synth with few incredible sound banks the sounds and it can be adjusted in real time when recording with it.

In the second album, the Enigma of Immortals, we used Yamaha again, but also Miroslav Philharmonik Orchestra from IK Multimedia trying to achieve a more symphonic sound. We think it worked very well. 

In, Dark Half Rising, the palette was expanded with virtual Korg M1 and Sonic Synth. The amount of keyboards was not as layered as in the previous one. 

And now, with this forthcoming music, there are also some new synth additions, including Roland Fantom-X7, which is a great workstation. So, in the beginning of the recordings for this album, I thought that there would be less synthesizers because there are many different types of guitars included in this one (and I thought that this would kind of a compensate them). Ah, it seems that this was not the case. More guitars meant also increase in the synths. So far, I've used all the synths in our home studio, including physical and virtual ones, most of the banks and programs within them.

This time, the general idea has been to rethink the whole approach to the synths, as there are so many ways to use them and I am not talking only about different sounds. You can approach also one single sound in countless ways and try to produce something new. I think that the synth section sounds now quite unconventional for us and doing it has been great fun. The stylistic variation is probably larger than in all three first albums altogether. So, the aim has been to find music that sounds like us, not anybody else. To make music just for the music, not for radio or social media fame and attention, that is the idea behind. Of course, this does not mean that possible listeners should be alienated from it.

Remember (or listen to the) the mid 1970's, which gave birth to considerable amount of classic electronic, prog and rock albums. These albums are still considered the best albums of all times and some of them are still actually the most selling albums in the world, because new fans find their way to their uniqueness of year after year. In these albums, musicians of those days used also their instruments in much more unconventional way than today. Those composers had surely some secret ingredients from the universe in their morning coffee, tea or whatever. Maybe their general concentration was also more on music itself if we compare those times to the state of music industry today.


30 Apr 2016

The fourth of UNSHINE: Part 5

Enhancing song writing by jogging:

Have a nice Beltaine everyone,

the 4th album is progressing, synth recordings are almost done soon and the first mixing sessions will finally happen in the middle of May.

In this blog text, I describe something about the progress of crafting the recording parts in studio.

A whole lot of ideas were laid down for this album. I have already before examined the sources behind the whole songs including main ideas, melodies and structures.

Three albums behind, you start to see your own progression in the development and in the course of your own music. Of course, within the band we’ve noticed that the musical communication and intuitive idea-swapping is much more easier year by year, record by record. On the other hand, you and the other guys tend to get also more critical towards the music we make, the way we play.

I think it’s not a good idea to force songs in to a certain expected form. As an example, I’ve sometimes tried to make a song thinking that ‘this will be an easily-recognizable radio-hit when it’s ready’. What eventually turns out, is that the final version of the song is flattened by ‘supposed-to-be-great’ elements, such as overfocusing on chorus melody, or an expectable hit-song structure with 2 verses + choruses, followed by part C and the final climax of chorus repetition in transponed version with song length of 3:59. Or you to try to create a new ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in a stub-born way only to come up with a massive headache and a tedious, overlong and meaningless wandering.

Sometimes that works, of course, but I think that then this has to come out in a natural and unforced way. The very first original idea is the most important one, grab that one in your pocket and never leave the most important original ideas in the bin. They are the primal creations of your unconsciousness, language from the invisible ether, spirits speaking to you.

The songs and their structures will be always tested in our rehearsals. Sometimes, somebody or several band members suggest bigger changes to the original structures. As we have tested them, sometimes they change the whole context of the songs, i.e. a folk-metalish song turns in to something that resembles more like death metal. But we’ve also seen that the most usual case is that the return to the most original demo version works the best. In this album, we tried some songs, which were then changed in to really different ones – at the same time, the band wanted to keep that change, but somehow, the original spirit of the song was also lost. Those songs are now in the reserve and I think I might release them in a way or another. And I will stick to the original ideas.

The recordings of this album were done in bits and pieces during around one year. This gave me lot of time to think about individual details of the music. I have re-started my old hobby, running, and this, quite surprisingly offered me a new way to examine the songs. Plus running is good for your health, also mentally. I run mainly in forested areas to connect better with nature. Now, in April 2016, I've  observed the seasonal change of Finnish forest from winter to spring. Every time nature wants you to pay your attention to different things. Yesterday, I felt the forest as a whole organism, one that is getting ready for the summer. During the run, I even saw a deer and a hare - my favourite animals (must mean something).

During the long running sessions I listen to my own iBrain, I think about individual parts that are under construction. These often include arrangement of melody guitars versus rhytm guitars or, for example, the progression and lifting of one melody element throughout the song. I once went over and over in my head a piece of music that was in total a 10-second instrumental part in one of the forthcoming album’s songs. I think I played the part at least 100 times in my head and then after the run, I was happy with the part and I recorded it in my home studio. 

Apart from your normal family life, this kind of working method spends time and it really effectively crafts the song. Or sometimes, in the rehearsals, we take few beers, connect musically really well and just hit some unplanned great things in an unintentional way. However, I do not believe anymore nowadays that hangovers boost your creativity. That’s just not true. They might boost your willingness to start doing useful things, but that’s the only thing. Still, a beer now and then does not hurt anyone.



30 Dec 2015

The fourth of UNSHINE: Part 4

Hello hello from the frosty backwoods of Finland!

It's the last day of 2015.

Around one half of the current year has been spent with the recordings and planning of our forthcoming new music. The album has been recorded mainly in short pieces during summer and autumn. We all have had our comings and goings - and for logistical and financial reasons it has been sensible to do it this way - mostly in our own no-costs studio.

The demos of the new songs were written and practiced ready in April 2015. At that point, we had a reserve of around 30 demo songs, which is A LOT for us. Very many magical and odd songs had to be left out and I do not know what to do with them now. An EP or a strange mini album or something else?

The drum recordings were hammered during May at D-studio in Klaukkala, just like with the two previous albums. That session was efficient and quick.

The next thing was going to take much more time. First of all, we decided to record the guitar parts again at our studio Churchboat. Last time we had made the recordings with a commercially available isolation cab. However, it was a little bit restricted method: It was not possible to change or shift the location of the mic in relation to the speaker as it was built inside the whole thing. Actually, I still do not have an idea what kind of a speaker it had inside, not to mention the mic. The sound from it was nice and decent in a way, but we really had to blend it later with the re-amped sound at D-studio in order to get the final sound.

Ok. So, this time I decided to build an isolation cab by myself!

This took more time (not to mention the testing days) than I thought, but in the beginning of autumn, it was more or less ready to be used. It was actually pretty easy to build the whole thing as long as I could find the proper material for it. The walls of the cab were compiled from recycled material I found from a dumping place in our village. Four black plates that used to belong someone's abandonded Ikea furniture! Internet is full of instructions on how to build iso cabs, I just tried to combine the best tips when constructing the thing and in my opinion, came up with a decent result. Well, at least the beast is huge and it does not let noise out too much! I just have to add here, that once it's now inside the studio, the only way to get it out would be to break it apart...

Inside the isolation cab is the heart of the guitar voice: A customized 2x12 guitar cab by Koch. The guy from whom I bought it had changed the original speakers to two premiun 80W Celestium speakers. Inside the cab, the guitar sound is taken from the front of the speakers with Shure 58 and Sennheiser E606. The guitar amp head used for the recording is the first and original model of Koch Multitone 100. Among all the great features, it has a direct record output with cabinet simulation. So, that is the channel number 3 going in to my recording console, M-Audio Projectmix. Of course, also DI-sound is recorded simultaneously with the three other channels, in case if we have to re-amp something later.

The vocals were recorded under a different setting this time. The whole recording was done again at studio Churchboat, as it is very important to have a relaxed atmosphere and there is time to re-check from time to time what has been done so far in relation to the instruments. We used again Röde mic through M-Audio Projectmix. The 48V phantom power needed for the mic broke up at the end of the vocal recordings and I had to buy a separate Stagg phantom power unit for that purpose. The mic set looks nowadays like this:

The mic isolation shield by Thomann worked really well, however, as I bough it as a used equipment, there were no instructions on how to set it up! After several trials and errors, I did not manage to break the condenser microphone Röde and I managed to hang the shield properly event. With the last two albums, we had some immemorial hassles with "sounds" coming outside the studio. There is a large schoolyard next to our studio and it's very common that youngsters drive there now and then with their loud mopeds (this is obviously a very Finnish habit). It happened now and then that Susanna had recorded a perfect vocal take, while suddenly in the background you could hear the sound of an accelerating moped. Oh, we got some good laughs from that, but it was also extremely annoying sometimes. Once, even an aeroplane flew over the studio (the airport of Helsinki is 2 km's from here) and the jet sound could be heard in the backround of Susanna's track - just like with Led Zeppelin! Only that we did not decide to use it in the record, like they did...

The bass was laid down also at Churchboat, like last time - and again with a different twist. The recording set-up did not include amp this time. Last time we recorded the sound of bass partly at the toilet toom with a small combo amp, lots of distortion and unrelated noise. No amp, only DI and the a little bit compressed signal through big muff with a bit of distortion. Lots of experimentation with different playing styles across the drums. The DI track will be re-amped later, most likely at D-studio.

So, we are now at the point where the rhytm guitars, bass and main vocals have been recorded, also parts of the other guitars have been finished.

More guitars, synthesizers, other voices and instruments coming...

So, what is the album going to be like?

It moves between the three worlds.

There's gonna be around 11-12 songs on the album.

There's going to be one cover song by another band - first one in our recording history.

There is some kind of a leading theme in the album - a word/definition that is mentioned in every single song. Still, it's not going to be a theme album in the vein of 'Dark Half Rising'.






16 Nov 2015

Awesome FEMME II 2015

Around last January, we were invited to FEMME II festival 2015 in Eindhoven. This was very nice news, as we were a bit let down at that moment, as just 1-2 months before we were forced to cancel our attendance to a big European tour with a very well-known metal band. This cancellation was due to lour own logistic reasons and impossible time schedule.

On the early hours of 16th October, we flew to Amsterdam. Finnair allowed me to bring my extra guitar inside the cabin, which was pleasant. Sometimes, this is not possible and in those cases it usually means extra payment for extra luggage. From Amsterdam we took a morning train to Eindhoven through beautiful Dutch pastoral landscape.

Pic 1: Where's the train? Please, look after your luggage...

Because of the time difference, we arrived to the city main station very early and started looking for our accommodation.Soon, we had found our bed and breakfast place, De Xtra Mijl (is this a typical dutch name?), at the suburban Eindhoven, around 2 kilometres from the center of the city. What a treat, a couple of rooms were reserved for us at the home of a very nice and happy elder couple. We were treated like royal people with amazing breakfasts and there was also a very beautiful Rembrandt-ish park nearby.

Pic 2: Autumn colours in Eindhoven.

What was pretty odd in Eindhoven, was that a taxi was here much cheaper than a ticket in a public transportation vehicle. Of course, travelling with all the music gear was also very much more convenient with taxi. To our amusement, at least two taxi drivers recognized our band and we actually got one free ride by giving the driver our cd!

Because our slot was put on Saturday, we could relax the Friday and enjoy the atmosphere of Effenaar, the huge concert venue. There were many interesting quality bands to check. Lacuna Coil was very impressive, for me, this was the first time to see them playing live.

We had to get up pretty early on Saturday morning. There was a morning(!) soundcheck ahead, as we were the opening band on the Saturday bill. From the technical point of view, things could not have been better. The backline was great, the hall and the stage were really great and the in-house technicians were top professionals, special thanks to Miriam Gramsbergen, who was leading the production. 

The time ran very quickly during the day and soon we realised that it's only 20 minutes to our slot. And it was only 1 p.m.! We were lucky to share our dressing room with Karmaflow and Therion, so we could have very relaxed time with the guys before our show.

Pic 2: Besides the bass in Therion, Nalle was also a professional in Finnish swear words.

Soon we took the elevator down to the stage level and started killing the final minutes. Intro tape (Awen) started and we walked to the stage - the hall was filled already now, there were people even in the balconies, unbeliavable. Well, we could only give our best shot. We played the following songs:

The sound at the stage was perfect and the audience was just great. We enjoyed every second of the gig, the only bad thing was that the 40 minutes at stage was over too soon!

After our show, we had to ran to the merchandise area, as were kindly provided with a sales table at the main hall. It was great to meet many of the people at our show, we also sold a high number of cd's and t-shirts. The rest of the evening was superb, we could check Stream of Passion (with whom we played in the Netherlands 1 year ago), Therion, Tristania, the Gentle Storm and many other great bands. And of course we want to thank here Ton Dekkers, the festival organiser, he is the brilliant mastermind behind the whole festival. Buy him a drink, wherever you see him.


29 Apr 2015

The fourth of UNSHINE: Part 3

Studio has been reserved! We start with the drum recordings on the 12th May.

This means that we are going to have only two more full new album rehearsals at Kaapelitehdas.

To increase some pressure, we decided yesterday to record also a cover song. Let's see if it will appear on the album...

Things are heating up!


20 Mar 2015

The fourth of UNSHINE: Part 2

A very laborius period of work now in the holy grove of UNSHINE. The songs for the 4th album are basically ready - they are in their final demo form now what comes to all instruments and main vocals. However, little things matter - we rehearse now a lot in order to finalise all the details in instrumentation, this way everyone of us can bring their own views and perspectives. As the main composer of the band, I sometimes get stuck on details and can't see the forest from the trees.

Our drummer Stibe has a lot of work in arranging his parts. The drum demos I've done at Studio Churchboat are very basic and they are meant to give just the general idea of the percussions. It's probable that we will use two kinds of drum settings this time, one set-up for more acoustic performance and one for regular metal set-up.

Winter in Finland is very colourful, at least 50 shades of grey.

My guitar gear at the rehearsals.

This album has been created by making various kinds of demo and practice tapes. Nothing beats, however, the most ancient demo tape method - create the tune in your own head and if it's a good one, it'll stick there as an earworm. I've used this method for ages. Plus your inner studio follows everywhere you go.

From the most primeval versions to the final demos, all songs were first recorded this time with Apple's Garageband (instead of ProTools which I have used before). I have had GB as a free version in our studio mac and I actually discovered it only about two years ago - if I only could have heards about it before it would have saved some nerves in the previous albums. I think it's the most practical tool for musicians flooding with ideas and it fits well for making even very advanced demos. Before the actual recording we use lots of quickly produced rehearse tapes, like tapes with click and synth, but also tapes with demo drums and the whole band. GB is ideal for this kind of production.

In fact, I've loaded most of the forthcoming songs to a secret YouTube -channel, which is public only for us in the band...


23 Jan 2015

The fourth of UNSHINE: Part 1

It's time for the new UNSHINE album.

The previous one, Dark Half Rising, the thematical record from the time of Gallic wars was our first international release and we experienced many new things with it. Thanks for the response. We were actually very satisfied especially with the work of Massacre Records, they made a huge effort to improve our visibility.

We have left the misty mountains of Ardennes now, the tribes there are living a new, much more peaceful and more stable period of life. Farmers are busy with their seasonal work, children are playing in the fields and the arch druid is interpreting the secrets of nature in a remote grove. Time of Caesar is over and the smoke of the bonefires is withering into the winds.

We are somewhere, in a nameless and a timeless landscape, between the worlds, observing nature's signs in the current season.

It's time to travel in the otherworld.

The song writing for the 4th UNSHINE album started during autumn 2013. It was all started literally from the scratch. I decided to write some riffs just off the top of my head - music that would pour out of stream of unconsiousness without any effort. Quite soon, the first song was built very quickly around the first riff that I had developed with my electric guitar. As a results of this new style of songwriting (to me), I noticed that these songs had an odd flavour of new type of gloominess in them. The first demos were very simple, but they were also pretty attractive and primitive, in some strange way. I felt that this was a very good start, it set a way how to do things this time.

Some of the songs were left in their very primal state and they are resting and waiting for the light of day (which may or may not come). Some of them got somehow dragged along during the year - I had an urge to return to them from time to time (a good sign!) and they gradually ended to the final demo stage.

By the end year 2014, I had finally around 25 songs more or less ready, which is most definitely, the highest amount of pre-produced songs in our history.

But as said, it all starts from here. When giving a new start, you have to throw all your prejudices and expectations into the fire and see what comes out of it.