Meeting Erkka Korhonen – The voices of Raskasta Joulua
“How did you get to all these new singers you’ve taken into the band over the years?” He frowns. “Earlier we would approach people because we had to. We would like back in 2006, when we started expanding the line up live because we did ten shows. We did the new album. It was six singers at that point. And when we started going into that yearly thing, we would always have to look how is Nightwish gonna tour. How is Sonata Arctica gonna tour? What’s gonna happen?
We need at least this amount of singers and we thought ok: ‘Let’s call somebody.’ Ok, Pasi (Rantanen, Thunderstone) is on the first album. And then, we can call Tuple (Tommi Salmela, Tarot) and we can call Kimmo Blom (diverse, guest sessions Stratovarius, Thunderstone). And once you enter the project you have to fuck up major to get kicked out. You know, once you’re in, you’re in! I don’t wanna get people get involved like ‘I come this year and next year bye bye. It doesn’t happen that way. So it has grown due to that a lot.
And then 2013 we had this idea of a duett with a girl singer. Originally it was supposed to be Anette Olzon (ex-Nightwish/The Dark Element). But unfortunately for a certain reason it didn’t happen.” My frown turns into a smile when Erkka explains: “What I heard, Anette is a bit pissed off at me because of that.
But anyway, we started thinking like ‘Shit, isn’t Amaranthe on the same label with us?’ Maybe … And I didn’t know Elize (Ryd, Amaranthe) at all. And I was checking out their videos and ok it’s like she sings right. I’m gonna call her. And then we started making it happen and then she came over, was a lovely girl, you know, instantly clicked off, you know and she sang her parts. You know, she’s a fantastic singer.” – “Absolutely”, I agree. “And amazing technique. Different textures, different sounds. She would sing me all the different sounds in Amaranthe-like we were here now and she would sit one meter away from me and sing like she would have been pitch corrected.”
“Cool!” I admit. “And then it was like ‘For this song, I planned this one and for this one I planned like …’ She was a lot more expressive and had a wider vibrano and pitch changes and stuff. And I was like ‘Shit, she is really talented.’ And so we had a lot of fun. And it was a fun song to do. Of course, I am talking of the “Julen Är Här” from the 2013 album.
And to get Tony singing in Swedish, so we had to bring him like a pronounciation coach. And a friend of mine from Örebro, Sverige, Patrick Eriksson, he is singing in the Pikku Kallio band here in Finland, so we bring him in to teach Tony the pronounciation. And that was a great session.” Erkka has a hard time telling the story as he is laughing all the time. “Tony was like ‘Oh I couldn’t have done this like …’.” Erkka gives a couple of examples of Tony trying to get along with the pronounciation of a particular word and how that wouldn’t work. Apparently there were more people around than Tony and his coach … and they were all having a freakingly good time. Especially as Tony’s struggles began literally with the first word of the song. We both laugh. “So that is how Elize got involved”, Erkka sums up as he has found his breath again.
“Then Floor (Jansen, Nightwish), we had talked with her about it in 2014, I think for the first time. They were preparing for “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”. I went in with the recording gear and recorded. Tuple came over, some visual focus for the English album that we did. And then I recorded with Marco. Just asked ‘Wanna come over and sing a couple of lines?’ It didn’t happen at that time but then Marco started talking to her about the show. And she said ‘Ok, come over and once or twice maybe and then last year when we understood that Jarkko was not able to come to any of the shows then, we was like call Marco and ‘Ask Floor if she would like to come.’
And she agreed. She had something pending in Holland like this ‘Heavy Christmas’ that had nothing to do with Christmas like Rock Classics with an orchestra. But she couldn’t get the dates. She couldn’t get the confirmation. She was like, ‘Ok, hit me with anything.’ And I said ‘Ok, here is the list of dates.’ When she has come in she was pregnant and stuff glowing and beautiful. She was amazing. And she said quite early that she would like to sing
something in Finnish. And so we started going over the songs and here is one that you can sing in Finnish. And the reception especially in the countryside was outstanding for that song. People couldn’t believe what they were hearing, especially in the first couple of times when it happened. It was a total surprise for everybody.
And of course we have the video of it now because we wanted to have a memory of that, the exposure. So we brought in a film crew and did a quick production on that which was really, really nice and give it to the people on Christmas Eve at twelve o’ clock.” Without any break he moves on to the next topic: “Some people are asked for I put it bluntly for the publicity. The project needs public people. But they need to be good. We are not a promotional tour. We don’t work in a way that unfortunately we could take people who are unknown and create something for them. At this point you can imagine that a lot of people want to come.” ‘Oh, I do, absolutely’, I think.
– “You know if we would have held open auditions we would have had tenths of singers in there. But even though we have established a brand as a project we need certain people to be there. Marco is doing every show this year. He’s been there since day one. He was the first singer that we contacted. So he is basically one of the founders in that. I think it would not have happened without him. And then we have a couple of really, really cool surprises. You know people are gonna go ape shit when we publish a couple of things for the tour. We’ve mentioned guests. Yeah, there will be guests. There will be SOME guests, I can tell you.” I am laughing and actually I am reminded to my first short conversation with himback in Turku. They were trying to come up with some international shows in the next years. And speaking of them he had pretty much sounded and smiled as he does just now. “I just tell you, ‘never say never!'” –
“Sounds very promising.” Writing the script I suppose he hinted to Marco and Tarja (Turunen, exNightwish) being back on stage together, unthinkable like ten years back.
The instrumentalists of Raskasta Joulula
I am also curious on the instrumentalists of the band as they have not changed as long as I have followed the band. And Erkka confirms, “yeah since 2008” “How did you come upon these guys? I mean
I am aware of some relations, like Erkki (Silvenoinen) and Ari (Koivunen; both played in Amoral, however, not at the same time) but how about the rest?”
“Yo, Erkki was involved before Ari. Erkki came in in 2006. And then Ari’s band we formed in 2007 and we got Erkki based on what we did the autumn before. I think for the first Vili (Robert Ollila) came in 2005. I think we were first calling to people like who were in bands. We call Kari Tarnak who was in Thunderstone. We called … can’t remember all of those people.
But then people were not able to committ. And then I was like I know this young guy I was playing with fairy stuff cover gigs with him. He decided to come over. And has been a stable guy since that. And next year than I understood – when we were working on the album – when he came in to help me with the arrangements I understood ‘shit, this guy is filled with good music. He is a fantastic asset.
Then Erkki was his idea when Lauri Porra (Ensiferum) played the album he was not able to committ to the tour.’ And so we started. And Villi knew Erkki. They’re about the same age. And he came in and performed really, really well.
And it’s been with a sense. And then Mirkka (Rantala) and Tuomas (Wäinölä, by then both with Timo Kotipelto’s band) in 2008. We basically have like a drummer issue. We were not always that lucky with drummers. So we different drummers in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.”- “Ok…” – “Everyone of those years it was a different drummer. And then 2008, we were playing a midsummer festival. And the drummer who had played 2007 who had actually promised to do the tour – he is one of the most reported drummers in the country – he plays with Mika Järvinen in this Crazy World, Anssi Nykänen (Timo Tolkki’s band), who has also done some stuff, plays on the Northern Kings albums, the first one. He plays on the Raskasta Joulua 2006 album so he
called Mirkka. ‘Are you able to go? You are an old-school guy and you wanna do this?’
And Mirkka and I we had a discussion during the midsummer festival. And Mirkka was there with Timo Kotipelto at that time. And we went through things quickly. Ok, let’s do things like this. And Tuomas Wäinölä was there in the same band. He was like ‘Well, I can play rhythm guitar.’ And I was like ‘Well, we don’t have a rhythm guitar player, come on.'” I am laughing out loudly. Because there it is once more, the typical understatement. Well as matter of fact, yes, Tuomas Wäinölä can play rhythm guitar, of course. And he is, of course a lot more than only a rhythm guitar player. But then, they all are in this band not only players of their instruments. They all are simply amazing.
“Yeah, it seemed to me that actually the chemistry in the instrumental band is really, really good.” – “Yeah, we do all the shows together.” – “So it has grown together.” – “If our thing doesn’t work, nothing works. It needs to come with that at a core. It has to be healthy. We have our share of arguments and stuff. It’s always like that. It has to be.” And I agree: “Yes, of course.” – “Because if it’s always everybody agreeing on everything, things are perfectly dull and boring.” – “It’s inspiring to have some kind of dispute at times.” – “It’s this that creates results. And we have every now and then some disagreement. But still the core, the foundation is there. And if it doesn’t work, nothing works.”
… to be continued once more!
Read in the final chapter about the hard facts and future plans!