Monday, February 26, 2024

In The Raw – An interview with TARJA

The heavy-metal singer-songwriter Tarja Turunen or simply TARJA will release her seventh studio album, titled “In The Raw” on August 30, via EarMusic. The album will be her first since 2016’s “The Shadow Self”.

We met the Finnish lyrical-soprano in London to discuss writing and recording the new album:

RAMzine: The new album considers caves, shadows, strangers, chambers… it all sounds very isolated… are you a lonely person?

“I am not… yet I might be. Being an artist and all. There’s a saying: If you tell people you have one true friend in your lifetime, then you must be blessed… if you say you have two you must be lucky… if you say have three you must be a liar. I think I need solitude for art.”

“ I believe you need pain to create music. In this album, particularly, I felt I was working alone, I was working on my own… in communion with my own soul, definitely. And it was a process that I knew I had to go through. I think I’ve gone a long way but I’ve learned a lot and, only now, do I think that I’m standing on solid ground. So that might be the thing you hear on the album. And there’s another word — rawness. It’s just me, only me. Me myself looking at the mirror and me myself looking at my past and seeing why today I am the person who I am.”

RAMzine: Was it a cathartic experience? Did you feel cleaner after recording the album?

“Yes. I also felt very tired. I felt exhausted, because of the emotion. I felt like I could never write a single song again. But when the energy started to flow in again it felt beautiful. It some way this album was a birth — sort of — ”

RAMzine: So, facing yourself alone? How do you now see yourself? In a different light?

“I am on a learning path. I started that journey in my last record “The Shadow Self”. I am in the self-discovery part. Things have happened to me, health-wise, and things have happened to me that have shook my ground and made me realize that we only have limited time and we should not waste it. It sounds like a cliché but it’s actually very real when it hits you and you realize that you might not have any time…”

“When these type of things happen (for example I lost my mother to cancer) it’s clear that you only have the remaining time you’re given and you must use it in the best way possible. So when I look at myself and I think about the album and I felt absolutely obliterated by the bad-thoughts or the insecurities in the beginning but, when the table was clear, I felt strong again.”

RAMzine: Tell us about caves. Why do you put yourself into dark places?

“I went to Old St. Michael’s Cave because it’s just a few miles from my home. I go running five or six times a week in the hills and countryside, with my husband, and we like to take my daughter out doors. We love it… but the caves… it’s like a voyage of self-discovery. It’s like when you check what’s there inside of you. It’s a kind of scary thing. And you might only realize why you reacted in a certain way — why things went wrong —or why things happened in a certain way, or why you were so upset about this thing or that… the question why arises in a dark echo. The cave is a symbolic thing … a symbol for looking inside yourself and there you might discover the answer to: why.”

 I believe you need pain to create music
Tarja – I believe you need pain to create music…

RAMzine: Do you believe in Hades?

“Err, I dunno. Maybe, no. But I know there are other levels to that cave. I’d love to go into them. Go down deep…”

RAMzine: Tell us about Dead Promises… with Björn Strid

“I wrote the song with my guitar player Alex [Scholpp,] and when I sat down to write the song with him I said I really wanted an angelic song that makes people jump and gives me the power of the band: bass, drums guitar, behind me. There is an operatic part (I like to add an operatic part, just because I can) but it’s a powerful song and I needed that drive. And I wanted that rawness again. When we finished the first demo for this song … it’s a dark story… with light at the end of the tunnel (back to tunnels again!) and Alex makes it really work, he gives it real power.”

RAMzine: What about the song “Goodbye Stranger” with Cristina Scabbia [Lacuna Coil]?

“This is another song that just has guitar players and drums. And that’s quite rare (for me) because my productions normally have orchestration and keyboards. On this one, though, I felt I needed the support of a full band behind me. Because then it comes with a kick. Vocally, I have found I am way-more powerful than I was a few years back because I’ve been training so much… I feel the ground is giving me the power and the energy but I need my full band behind me, it’s almost as if I think, if I fall, they will catch me. So this song, “Goodbye Stranger” is just with guitar and this makes it very atmospheric (again I wrote the song with Alex) he’s the main writer with me…

RAMzine: Tell us about “Spirits of the Sea” dedicated to the memory of the ARA San Juan… Did the Argentinian musicians in your life help to influence you with this?

“No, it came from entirely me. Don’t forget I lived in Argentine for over ten years. And when this thing happened it moved the whole world… it was a very sad thing. I wanted to do it for the crew. I did it with Bart Hendrickson (he’s an arranger at the Hans Zimmer studios, Los Angeles) we’ve been friends ever since the first album [sic] and we kept in touch … he’s a dark guy, he’s a drummer and he writes for films so he really gets my background in classical music… but he’s deeper and darker than ever. I wrote the lyrics for the song in one day because it was so inspiring to think about the fact that souls are never lost… they remain forever…”

RAMzine: Do folk tales come easy to you?

“Not really, although I am familiar with ashrays (mermaid changelings of the moonlight) but I wrote those lyrics because I felt it like it was a movie playing-out inside me. Writing it with a movie guy made it even more like a movie. I thought I needed to dive myself into that place… deep down, deep in the dark. Deep silence.”

RAMzine: Tell us about “ Silent Masquerade

“That was made with Tommy [ Tommy Karevik of Seventh Wonder / Kamelot] but I wrote the song some time ago. The piano is my instrument and I like making riffs with piano (I play a little guitar but I don’t do riffs) but for me riffing with piano is easy and it’s powerful and melancholic. As an instrument it inspires me. So this song came out as a very sad story, very related to my family… about very sad things that have happened in the family, and close personal friends of mine… there’s a lot of personal stuff on this album. But this is a very orchestrated song and I have to tell you that I was crying like a little girl in the kitchen when he [Tommy] delivered me the vocal part. He recorded his vocal part separately… I talked to him briefly on Skype, and we talked about the song and I told him what I’d like him to do but — in all my collaborations — I tell them to be free to express themselves. I like to give them a lot of space… otherwise the collaborations don’t make any sense for me… so anyway he delivers forty-eight tracks! As I started to go through them all I wept like a little girl. I was so proud of us, and so proud of our moment.”

RAMzine: Do you feel any anger, at all, about any of the things that have happened to you?

“No, not really anger. I feel disappointment. Anger, no. I always tend to try to find positiveness in us. I am still naive. Today I am still very naive. I still believe in the good things. The good things in us. So it hits me very hard when I get disappointment. But no, I don’t get angry. That’s too much. Too far.”

RAMzine: So how do you keep yourself emotionally fit?

“Well, performing music is my exit. For everybody, whether it’s the creator or the consumer, music gives healing. And for me to be able to work with music I feel very privileged and then again it’s a blessing. But I also go out to run, I see nature, I see blue sky and hear birds singing and I take that deep breath. And, obviously, when I am seeing my little girl running around I always say to myself, well at least I’ve done something good in my life…she’s six.”

RAMzine: Will any of the guest stars perform alongside you on the Raw Tour?

“I would love that, if they can. But they are all very busy with their own touring and recording schedules. But maybe we can figure out something, even it’s at a festival or something. The tour is going to be a long one. It starts in September first in Russia, then in South America. I have a classical concert in between, at Christmas — it’s a church tour in Finland, plus a few other places. Then back to work with the European leg of the tour that starts in the new year, so we won’t be in England until then. But before that, in January, I am going to do some very special concerts… in fact they are going to be so special that I can’t even talk to you about them yet! There’s going to be some very exciting news soon…”

“When I finish an album production I start to tour for two years. I have done this with every album I have done. Then I start writing a new album. It’s always like a 3-year cycle. Except, this time, it’s only been two years between the recordings. It’s a never ending story. And thank goodness it is…”

Thank goodness. And congratulations on an immense and thoroughly satisfying new album.

Tarja was talking with Neil Mach

In The Raw by Tarja will be released on August 30, 2019 via earMUSIC

Neil Mach
Neil Mach
RAMzine Senior Writer - With a career spanning 30 years author / journalist Neil Mach is an expert on the music business and is a reliable guide. He especially loves heavy metal, prog & blues.

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