Interview by CriX
What happens when someone manages to blend metal with theatrical music? Heidi Parviainen, well known as former singer of the Finnish band Amberian Dawn, answers to this question with her project Dark Sarah. This new musical adventure combines the best sounds from the different music styles by creating something unique, another important point is the visual part and you can get it by watching the music videos. A project with some great guests from metal scene, a story which take you through a journey, an experience of emotions. We had the opportunity to talk with Heidi, the mind of Dark Sarah, and discover more about her project.
Hey Heidi, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you?
At the moment I’m doing great, I just came from school where my student was attending a concert.
Dark Sarah is a music project whose inception date back in 2013 from an idea of yours. Would you like tell us how did it start?
When I left Amberian Dawn in 2012, I thought that quitting was not an option, so I really needed to start to figure out what’s next. Then I started to think maybe for a solo project because I didn’t have a band or songs ready, it was hard to find a band without any ready music because most of the musicians want to know what kind of band they’re joining in, that’s why I started by on my own. Then with Mikko Mustanen we started to figure out what kind of music and project to do, so we started to compose and together we brought this musical style. The first song recorded was “Save Me”: in the song there was this character who was walking in the middle of forest in a wedding dress, immediatly I started to think about who she was and why she was there, I started explore her a little bit more so it became the main character in Sarah and also her evil side persona became along with the first song. So, simply when I invented Dark Sarah the character it gave also the name to this project.
You are the mind and the main voice behind Dark Sarah but beside you there are some great musicians, would you mind to introduce them?
Erkka Korhonen who plays guitar, Sami-Petri Salonen who also plays guitar, Rude Rothstén who plays bass and Thomas Tunkkari who plays drums. And then there are lots of guests in this project.
Your new album “The Puzzle” is a concept album and it’s the continuation from your debut “Behind the Black Veil”, what can you tell about its genesis and lyrics?
Yes, it’s a concept album. On the first album we concentrated more on the character of Sarah, the good person, and how Dark Sarah was going inside of her. In the end of the album Dark Sarah sold her soul to the evil tree and when the it collapsed also part of Dark Sarah‘s soul died and she was sent to the under world. This new album is about her travel in the under world and how she tries to get back from there, she gets many different puzzles that her soul needs and she meets different characters too. So, it’s about her journey in the under world, in the land of the dead that actually is an island in the middle of an ocean.
From the album have been released 3 video-clips: “Aquarium” (that sees the partecipation of Delain‘s Charlotte Wessels) as a lyric video but “Little Man” and “Dance with the Dragon” (that sees the partecipation of JP Leppäluoto) are some real amazing video-clips. Would you like tell us something about the making-of?
The “Little Man” video was filmed quite early if you think the album have been just released. I had this kind of vision in my head, I wanted this land of dead quite colourful, I didn’t want it too dark because I feel that when you are in a quite dark story you always want to get better in a kind of contrast. I think when you want something more interesting you need that contrast, that’s why I felt actually this version of the land of the dead needed to be more colourful. The video is actually in Dark Sarah‘s immagination she sees itself dancing with the little man, actually is not happening it’s just immagination. And she sees herself in a different person too and that’s why there is a white person in it with flashy clothes. Instead, talking about “Dancing with the Dragon” video, actually on the last album I had already the feeling that I want to make a tango. When it was sure that JP was coming to featuring on my album I didn’t know what character he could be, but when I started to make this song I felt he was perfect in this figure, he is the dragon in a visual way. I also had this feeling that I want to have a real tango dance on the video, so I asked JP could do it and he was really open minded, we both have a dancer in the background so it was pretty natural, it was quite easy. We had only 10 hours to practice the coreography, it was really short time, we managed quite well and it was really fun. I was a bit worried in a way because it’s a really different kind of song on the album, and in that way I had not expectations, I had no idea how people would react to it. Personally, I think that the video makes the story up, if you listen only the song on the album maybe you don’t get it, it’s hard because you need your own immagination but when you see the video you instantly get the idea what’s behind of the story and what’s telling about.
Some real important personalities of the metal scene have contributed on the album with some vocal parts: JP Leppäluoto, Charlotte Wessels and Manuela Kraller but in the past also Tony Kakko and Inga Scharf. How did you manage to feature them all and how was working with them?
So, let’s start from the first album: I, Manuela and Inga touned together. I think it was 2011 or something like that, it was the “Out of the Dark” tour with Van Canto and Xandria, we met there and we were already thinking about to work together but we didn’t know which kind of work would it be then. When I started to prepare the first album I called them asking if they could perform on my album and they were really looking forward to it, and it was so much fun. Inga sent her vocals and also Van Canto sent the backing harmony for the song “Evil Roots”, they sent their parts by e-mail, so actually I didn’t meet them when they were recording. Manuela is a close friend of mine and she came to Finland for the record session, actually she came here twice because we shoot also the music video. I needed to have a man who can portray the character of the Moon because in the story Sarah felt in love with him. I asked Erkka Korhonen, who knows well Tony Kakko in person, and he contacted him and asked if he was avalaible to do it. It was really fun to work with him, a great character and a great singer and we also shoot the music video of the song. The video was shot in Tampere and it was a real miracle, because it was supposed to be a winter scene in the forest, but when we knew when we had to shot the video there was no snow. The day when we went to Tampere had snowed all day and night and it was amazing, it was not cold and the day after we left it started to rain, we were lucky. I also wanted Manuela again because she has this kind of character, the Ferryman, she is the one who walk kind beside Dark Sarah and in this album she came at the end saying to Sarah she needs to walk into the light. In this album we needed an aggressive character for the Evil Mermaid because, like Dark Sarah, she has a double character; she is a beautiful mermaid but when she get angry she transforms into a monster, so I wanted to somebody able to sing her voice and to do some aggressive parts. I talked to Charlotte, she was actually really looking for do that, she kind re-styled the singing in the song with screams, aggressive parts and also a lyrical stylea, and I think she really fits as character. She worked really fast, we were really hurry to do it, so she delivered everything in one day. I asked to JP one year ago if would he be interested in working on my next album and he was like “Yes, of course”, I was a bit worried when I sent the song because is quite theatrical not the normal heavy metal stuff, but he is not that kind of puritan and closed-minded metalhead. Actually, he already loved the song and he was into practicing the tango, I’m so glad that many people really liked the song and the video, it’s just great.
For the moment has been announced only a gig, will other dates be announced soon?
At the moment we are still working on it. We have no agency or management who arranges our shows, so we have to find out by ourselves, and with only one album it was quite hard to sell any show so I hope with this other album it will be much more easier. We really want to perform and meet people. I think we can do great energetic shows, actually we have this album release show in February and also we are planning to touring and hopefully it will be on the next fall. For me has been really long time I haven’t been on board, last time with Dark Sarah was 2 years ago, so it’s long time and I think now it’s time to be back on the stage. Actually in Finland, it’s really hard to arrange shows; when you call to some venues and say you play symphonic metal they are not interested, also we can’t do the smallest venues because the sound doesn’t work, that’s why we need a little bit bigger places, I think that the medium size venues would be great for us.
Instead, what do you like to do beside music?
Actually, I have not lot time to do anything else beside music. I manage the Dark Sarah webstore by my own, I study music and I teach to some students. In the summer, I do gardening and I have wild pet shore, animals come to eat and I feed them, and in a kind of way I work with the Korkeasaari (the national zoo) when I find animals that are in need of some help: I take them to the zoo and then when they are better the zoo call me to take them back. In my garden there are a lot of apple trees and it’s a big work to take care of those. And I like sports of course.
What are your main musical influences?
I always think this is a difficult question because I never had any idols when I was a kid, I remember my school mates said “Oh, I love Kids on the Block, Metallica and so on” and I hadn’t any, so I cannot mention any particular person or band who have been influenced me, I think I’m a person who take inspiration from many different things, I think it comes from musical and visual things, when people do something great musically and visually I appreciate it. I used to listen a lot of different styles of music, I love metal but I don’t listen only to metal music. In Dark Sarah there are a lot of different music styles connected like pop and theatrical/movie beside metal.
Well, we’re at the end, Heidi, thank you so much for your time! Would you like say something to our readers?
Thank you very much for supporting Dark Sarah! I hope you also join the Facebook page and visit the Dark Sarah webstore where you can find our new merchandise. I also hope to meet you in our upcoming shows.