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Tarja Turunen

Tarja Turunen
Music Has Been My Driving Force


Архив интервью | Русская версия

The name of Tarja Turunen is familiar not only to heavy metal fans, but also to classical music lovers: over her lengthy career this Finnish soprano has sung the famous Nightwish hits, classical arias, traditional Finnish songs and her own compositions. Her inventiveness and working capacity are some things to be proud of – apart from recording albums (her latest solo release, “What Lies Beneath”, came out last year), she manages to perform all over the planet and take part in various interesting projects. Her latest project is called Harus, and it is releasing live CD/DVD “In Concert – Live At Sibelius Hall”, this winter. This recording was the main topic of our phone conversation, which, to my great regret, turned out extremely short. Many of the interesting issues had to be left out for time constraints, but what we managed to discuss is now available for your reading …

Your new band is called Harus, which means “the tensors that keep the mast from falling”. Do I understand it right that you’re the mast or the sail of this “boat”? So does it mean that the guys are not actually your new band members who are supposed to be quite equal to you, but just supporting musicians?

We are very, very equal. We’re doing the arrangements together, we’re working on the setlist together, we’re doing everything together. I can suggest what I would like to sing in the concert, and the guys are never coming back and saying, “No way, we’re not doing that”. Of course they pay respect if I say something about what I think can sound good… But we do change opinions about the arrangements, we discuss the instruments like which one should play where and what, so we are equal. And we also come from different backgrounds, all of us. Kalevi (Kiviniemi, organ) is a classical musician and Markku (Krohn, percussion) is also a classical musician, and they both played different kinds of things. Kalevi, for example, is very much known as a concert organist who has been playing a lot of improvisations all over the world and bringing up different kinds of music for the people to hear. And myself… Of course you know my background in the metal and also classical music. And Marzi (Nyman), our guitar player, he’s been playing a lot of jazz and folk and rock music. So when we come together, we’re very different, but we are all equal, we are the people that can understand each other and we share the freedom in making music. We’re playing with our emotions and we’re enjoying being together. That means that with Harus none of the concerts are the same, every concert has something different in it, because the songs are changing, the guys are improvising, the arrangements are changing and we can play along with, you know, how we feel.

You’re releasing your debut live album with Harus, but actually it’s been recorded two years ago. Why don’t you present your new band with some new songs?

Well, I’ve been working with the guys from Harus since 2006, but we just didn’t record anything together till 2009. I recorded my Christmas album in 2006 not with Harus but on my own, and yes, some of the songs that are on this live album are there too. And some other songs that I chose to be on the Harus concert album are the songs I love the most and my fans love the most. Actually that’s the only reason why we’re releasing all that, because my audience, especially in Finland, they’re waiting for hearing those songs, they’re waiting for me to sing those songs. They love “Walking in the Air”, “You Would Have Loved This” and so on. “You Would Have Loved This” is a very special song to me, it has a very personal meaning to me, because that’s the song that I sang for my mother. And people already know the story behind that song and when I sing this song it’s almost like tears are falling from the people’s eyes in my audience, because every one of us has lost somebody dear. This song brings memories of those lost people to all of us. There’s always reason for me to sing this song and every song I chose to sing for this album. There’s a song “Ave Maria” that I composed for this concert tour of 2009, it’s my own “Ave Maria” and it’s very special to me too. Of course it’s just one of the concerts that we’ve done together and every concert was different and each one was great, but this DVD and this CD show just one night back in 2009. Nothing has been changed, nothing has been re-recorded, it has been just mixed and all the things that you can see and hear there had actually happened, so it’s purely live.

Are you planning to release any studio albums with Harus?

Yes, we’re planning to release a new album in the future. It might be that after watching the concert people would think that we can only play that kind of music. No, it’s not like that. We’re able to broaden up our program, to play different kind of songs. The main reason why we recorded this live CD and DVD is that we couldn’t perform with our Christmas concerts outside of Finland, so we wanted our fans from all over the world to be able to see that show. But in the future there will be a new album that is gonna come out later on, we don’t know yet when. And with this DVD/CD that is coming out now we kind of show our fans the songs that we couldn’t perform for them.

You’re a resident of Argentina now. Did the change of your place of residence affect your music tastes? Doesn’t it seem that away from Finland you’re feeling a bit like a different person?

Well, I’ve been away from Finland for so long already, since I was a very independent young girl… I left my home when I was sixteen and went to another city in Finland to study music and after that music has been the main reason for me to change my life, to move somewhere. It was all about music, it was the main power, the main force that guided my life. It’s not like my music was changing because of the things that were happening in my life but it was like my life was changing because of music. When I decided to move away from Finland for the first time it was because I wanted to study music in a university in Germany. I also had to go to different countries with Nightwish shows. And I never really felt like I needed to live in Finland. If I feel rather comfortable in some other place, I go for that. Now when I’m in Argentina I don’t feel like I’m away from home. I’ve been having an international career and I’ve seen many places, so it wasn’t a great shock for me to find myself in a completely different country, though of course Argentina is very different from Finland. But I’ve already seen how people live in different parts of the world, I’ve seen different cultures and so it’s never been a problem for me. I feel like I found my way as a musician myself, but of course being an artist and traveling and meeting other people give me a great opportunity to learn. I try to be open to other cultures and to learn from them and I have learnt a lot through my journeys, through my musical career. I’ve communicated with musicians from all over the world and of course that could have influenced my music. But I can’t say that it’s only one country or one kind of music that affects my creativity. It’s all my life and all the knowledge I’m getting that does.

Well, I see that you’re a very multicultural person, but on the other hand it seems like you’re very much into traditional Finnish culture. You sing a lot of Finnish songs…

Oh, I love Finnish music, yes. I love it very much. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m living in Argentina. I love Finland, I’m very proud of our culture, I’m very comfortable with being Finnish. I was able to make an international career, but of course I’m aware of and I’m very happy about being a Finnish artist and representing my country.

Does it feel different to you to sing a song in Finnish or in English? Do you feel more connected to the songs written in Finnish?

The Finnish language is very difficult to sing in it, I can tell you. (laughs) It’s a big problem for me despite the fact that it’s my native language. And you know, any singer will say the same. (laughs) It’s a very demanding language, especially in classical music. We have these very open vowels like… (says a few) and they are very hard for classical vocals. It’s very hard to make them sound good.

When you’re on stage you’re such a gorgeous lady wearing long dresses, but if one looks at the photos in your blog one can see that backstage you’re wearing mostly sportswear or jeans. Don’t you want to be a kind of diva in your real life too?

No… You know, when I come to perform it’s always a special event for me. I go on stage, I face a lot of people and I try to put on something appropriate for that. And when I put on something it’s always about how I feel the music. I always think about how I should look like when I perform this or that kind of music. What I feel more comfortable with, what colors I want to use, what kind of shape “fits” the songs. I design my clothes very often with my friend, who is a professional tailor and who makes all these dresses for me. We’ve been working together for many-many years. But on the other hand in my private time I want to be just me. I mean I need to feel comfortable. I don’t want to wear my stage clothes. When I’m on stage, I’m wearing stage clothes and in my private life I’m private me. (laughs) I can very much separate these two sides of myself. I can be an artist and I can be a housewife, a friend… hopefully one day a mother. You know, it’s just me, as I am.

As far as I know you are into scuba diving, right? Are there any other extraordinary hobbies you have and why are you into that kind of extreme sports?

Oh yes, I am into scuba diving. But I can’t say that I do a lot of extreme sports. I just do a lot of sports to keep myself fit, but nothing that special. And I wouldn’t call scuba diving “extreme”. It’s such a lovely thing to do. Well, maybe it is extreme for some people. I know that they say, “If you try it it’s a thing that you can rather love or hate”. I know that some people who have tried it once or twice say, “Never again”. But for me when I tried it, it was something wonderful and beautiful and I was like “wow”. Actually I wanted to fight back my fear of water, because when I was younger I was kind of afraid of the ocean, of the depth and darkness. When I was a little girl my parents took me to the sea and I remember feeling like, “Oh my God, if I fall in it what am I gonna do?” I was afraid of water, even though the ocean has always been something very beautiful for me, something very special. And I faced my fear with scuba diving and I’ve overcome it.

This summer you took part in a Russian festival in Samara and sang together with Russian heavy metal singer Valery Kipelov. Where you surprised when he asked you to sing with him in Russian? And why did you actually say “yes”?

Well, that was a challenge for me, because I don’t speak Russian unfortunately and now after I tried to sing in it I know for sure that it’s a very, very difficult language. But I took the challenge and I enjoyed it very much and to tell you the truth I was very, very nervous about it. I thought about how people would react, wouldn’t they laugh and so on. So I was very nervous and before coming up to the stage I thought that I forgot all the lyrics, but in the end everything was okay and after the performance I was very happy about it. I thought, “Oh, great, my memory is so good, I remembered all the words in Russian, I can’t believe it!” (laughs) And all the people were very nice to me, everyone was very friendly and I’m very happy about that experience. And there was also my own show at that event in Samara and that was amazing. The people there were so emotional about my music and the atmosphere was incredible. I can tell you that I’m looking forward to see Russian fans again, because I’m going to have seven shows in Russia in March. There’s gonna be a serious Russian tour and after that I’m gonna work on a new rock album. I’m very happy about it. I can tell you that I’m really looking forward to that, because I’ve always wanted to come to see more cities in Russia and to come to perform for my Russian fans. I know that there are many of you! I’m really happy about it. Finally it’s gonna happen.

Tarja Turunen on the Internet: http://www.tarjaturunen.com

Special thanks to Maxim Bylkin (Soyuz Music) for arranging this interview

Ksenia Artamonova
October 28, 2011
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