Soy Rock Magazine - Argentina - October 2010

Tarja Turunen
The Alchemist

She was born in Finland, she is a classical singer, her vocal range is soprano and to say that she is absolutely gorgeous is an understatement. She was the leader of Nightwish, a referent in the symphonic metal genre, until she was fired, she married an Argentinean and came to live to Buenos Aires to continue her solo career. Ar-gen-ti-na!

Sunday Afternoon, it’s sunny over Defensa street. San Telmo is boiling with tourists and sales people dying to sell someone an “antique” for a vile price. But the couple who speaks in English is strangely playing local. Him a bit more, because we’re in his city, but she’s not too far behind: her straight black hair falls free over a San Lorenzo T-shirt! The couple walks among the people as if she wasn’t an international heavy metal star since she put her soprano voice in front of Nightwish , over a decade ago. After the bad moment of her exit from the band, Tarja Turunen, or simply Tarja, moved, at her own insistence, to the Buenos Aires of her husband, the rock businessman Marcelo Cabuli. “I have been living here for 3 years and I love this city”, the singer starts. “A lot of Argentineans ask me how can I love Buenos Aires (laughs) but being here gives me a freedom that I do not longer have in Finland. In my country everybody knows me and here the situation is different. Yes, here everyday someone asks to take a picture with me, but that’s alright, it’s not all the time like in Finland. Here I can live my life, feel comfortable”. And in Spanish, she adds “I take the underground, I do my shopping, I do everything”.

-And your Spanish has improved a lot.

-Yes, but we’re not here all the time. In the last 5 years we were never in the same place for more than 3 weeks. That’s why I don’t improve more, although I understand everything and I can live my life here. But my husband doesn’t want to speak Spanish with me (laughs). We started in English and now it’s difficult to change. It could also be that he’s not so patient with me when I speak Spanish, but I want to learn.

-And for your new album, What Lies Beneath, you had the experience of working in an Argentinean studio, which must have had some peculiarity about it, right?

-Actually, the biggest difference in this album is that I recorded my vocal parts in my own living room. An anti-studio…I found a way to produce my parts with freedom without being in the studio. I just put up a microphone and a speaker at a very low volume and I sang freely. And the ambience sounds like a living room. Besides, having that possibility, I recorded about 5 takes a day at the most, I wasn’t trying everything all the time. I knew what I wanted, and if it didn’t work out, I left it for the following day. And now I listen to the recordings of my voice and it sounds very natural, which is what I wanted. Anyway, I had recorded voices previously, at “El Pie” which is a very nice and roomy place, and it’s the only kind of studio in which I feel comfortable. The album was mainly recorded in Finland: drums, bass and guitars. The orchestra and choir were recorded in Slovakia and the mix was made in 3 different places: London, Austin (Texas) and Los Angeles.

-Very international…

-Yes, that has to do with the fact that the sounds are very diverse. You can’t say that my album is heavy metal, it’s something different.

-For instance, Anteroom of death, the song that opens the album, is quite progressive. And it reminds me of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, because of the vocal arrangement.

-Thank you very much, because it was inspired by Bohemian Rhapsody. To me, it’s one of the best songs in history. The inspiration for “Anteroom…” came in a very natural way. I was listening to the beginning of the song one morning and I started thinking about adding some changes in the tempo and including an a capella German band, Van Canto.

-How did you know about this band?

-In a Metal Female Voices Festival (although the group also has male voices) in Belgium. I told them: “I have a song for you”. They loved what they heard and we worked together until the song came out as we wanted it.

-Was it difficult for you to enter in the dynamics of a vocal group?

-No, it was very easy, although they have their own sound. Of course I had to set a certain structure and give them some examples. We worked very closely but it wasn’t difficult because they are very talented.

-In another interview you said that in this album we could listen to your soul. And as it begins in the anteroom of death, I was wondering if you soul might be too dark…

-(laughs) But did you listen to the rest? Well, it’s a dark beauty. I always try to combine metal with elements of grand beauty. I love having that hardness and roughness in the background, like the guitar riffs of this album, that kick you, but I always have a beautiful melody and very clean vocals. I love that contrast between both worlds, metal and classical, and I love that fusion. Even today I keep on doing chamber music concerts, and I also love to jump on the rock stage. I think that this way I can also reach more people, and different people, no matter what age they are. My soul is very happy nowadays. I feel great about being able to express my art, there’s nothing I’d like to change. Now I’m writing songs…how cool is that? It’s an amazing gift being able to sit in front of the piano and record ideas on my iphone when they appear. And the album sounds exactly like that: it’s what appeared in the moment.

-Besides writing the songs, you also produced the album. Maybe now you are a full blown artists and not just a singer?

-I hope so, really, because there are so many things to learn in music…and progressing is very important to me. It would be very sad for me to think “well, I can sing, I don’t have to work anymore”. That image does not reflect me at all: I like to work hard, I want to learn more. It’s a fact that there is always someone better that you. Seriously, there are some really amazing artists out there, there’s a lot of very beautiful music. And I’m a perfectionist, so I never want to stay within my own limits.

-Of course, you have to aim higher.

-Exactly. It’s not that I’m building castles in the air, but I am a dreamer. I’m a very romantic girl who keeps on dreaming.

-Why didn’t you try to write a full album before?

-With My Winter Storm (2007), my debut album, I started to write and it was a good beginning. It made me understand that maybe I could do it, because it’s a huge step towards the unknown. But in that album there were a lot of composers involved…actually, I hardly ever write alone, I usually do it with my guitar player, who gives me some riffs and I start from there. But it’s like opening a Pandora’s box: you have to dig very deep in what lies beneath, in your own soul, to find how you really feel. And that is what I did in this album. I feel great about doing it, because it is also an act of bravery.

- Why is it took so long to take that step into the unknown?

Well, the band did not allow it. I was in the band for 9 years and never said "this is my music," even though I was part of it. But now I can say that and there is a huge difference. Even it shows in my performance, people tell me that I had never seen me shine and is because I had never feel so good before.There are people who respect me, supporting me, who wants to work with me. The feeling is very different. There are musicians with who I be working all the time for almost three years: it is amazing to know that I have this and I'm very grateful.

Also in an interview you said that in your first album was a lot of people involved," Your goal in What Lies Beneath was able to say "this is my music"?

My goal was to say aloud where i wanted to go. On the first album I had change my record company, everyone was new to me and needed to have a personal relationship to make everything worked, then had to find musicians and the label told me: "Hmmm, no, we will not leave you alone with your music, we need a producer. " Everything was a great burden, especially since starting from cero. And it is very well have done this, because now I know what I should and should not do, and the sign (Record Company), thank God, gave me the freedom to work as I wanted. Now they see that was a wise decision and are very happy with the album. But you have to go through different experiences because you learn from them.

- Would you have felt secure enough to produce the first album?

No, I said I wanted to have someone because it was my first time. But now I thought, Who else is going to know my emotions better than me? Music in general has to do with dealing with emotions, when I wrote the songs, either alone or with someone else, I knew that there were some emotions involved. And even a demo with piano, a drum machine and my voice, I knew in what direction the songs were wanted.

Get someone when everything was already composed, just before the band enter to the study, had been a mistake. How could that person be able to understand what I wanted?

That includes too much, too many emotions. Then had to make sure that my songs sound like I wanted.

In My Winter Storm album you used the title like a idea for the rest of the album, a pattern that repeated in What Lies Beneath.

I think it's my way of working. And I have the title for my next album. (Laughs) I find it essential to find a title that inspired the songs, once I decided on What Lies Beneath, everything was easier: it is a title so open that you can find many meanings. On the one hand I am a diver, so I could write songs for what you are beneath the surface of the globe and could invent fantastic stories, invent creatures. On the other hand, it may take a more realistic way and talk about what happens inside us, it is sometimes difficult to see what's beneath our surface, the truth is inside each person. I wanted to talk about these things in a poetic way, because I find it wonderful to read letters from other artists.

- Did you have in mind some composers as a parameter?

No, but if I inspired a lot of the books of the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. I love the way he writes about dreams and the importance of feeling positive. These books were like a revolution to understand myself, much hooked me the way he writes.

But you know that is not respected as a writer too.

I know, I know

However, it is a pretty strange person because compose songs with Raul Seixas, a Brazilian singer crazy and interesting.

Yes, He have connections with the world of music and it's not a common writer. He criticizes a lot, but why the hell his books sell that much? Where is the key? For me, that comes to us in a very human way.

-You Wrote In For a Kill thinking it was a James Bond Song

If I focus on that. I wondered how it happens that an artist asked to do a song for a James Bond movie. I was in Stockholm with two friends and said "Guys, let's make a Bond theme" I had the story in my mind, a very sad story: it is about sharks, again, is what lies beneath, but in this case on they have to fear sharks because of an incorrect description of what we are wrong with the sharks are dangerous. but the true is that we are the ones that kill them. That is what lies below the true realities. I've dived with sharks and are surrounded by beautiful animals. But is that thing (puts frightened voice) "Sharks are murderers, they will kill me."

Another possible interpretation of the theme, related to the album's title is that of the people passing as sharks, maybe we fear them and indeed is pure prejudice.

Exactly, that's another possible meaning. Is still extremely difficult to be the only one who disagree on something in society. raise your voice to express dissent if you are surrounded by ten guys agree on something. Extremely difficult for us to try to understand each other.

In Finland, my country, I see with sorrow that there is still racism the society is not to open to foreigners. Some young adults who never in his life saw a black man walking down the street. So how do you feel when that happens the first time? What are your feelings? For something the country is not open to open that doors…

Tarja´s Idols

You recorded "The Good Die Young "on the last Scorpion´s album, Sting in the Tail Did you work together with them or separately?

-A distance. The manager contacted with my husband via e-mail and later Klaus Meine call me. It was nice talk to him, he wated me so much in the album! He even sent two songs to choose which I wanted to sing! I recorded my parts in Finland and here, but the producers gave me indications of what they wanted. First made a version that my voice comes less, but the one who come in the album have more partes where i´m singing.

- On your album participates as a guest Joe Satriani and you will go on tour with Alice Cooper. Could you ask for more?

I can not believe that Alice Cooper has recognized me as an artist and I'm sure I'll spend great time. But my dream would be to work with my idol, (whispers) Peter Gabriel. I could only say hello once, when I was recording my first album in Ireland.Then I read that Peter Gabriel was giving a show in the city and told the band: "Today we have a free day." I needed to go see the show ...! And I got a backstage pass! I gathered courage and went to greet him, told him who I was and asked me to send my CD, which I did of course.

The last Peter Gabriel album is a covers album there is not any of your songs?

That would have been too much for me, I'd have a heart attack (laughs).Something similar happens to me with Paul McCartney. What kind, what an artist! It's very interesting to hear when people like them talk about almost everything are people who are beyond ....

English translation: Manxita and Foxsy