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Hanging Garden - Interview

Interview with: Nino Hynninen
Conducted by: T.V.

Hanging Garden is a Finnish band born in 2004 out of a idea to play slow, doomy metal. Vocalist Ari Nieminen and bassist Matti Reinola are the original former members, but no one of them is still playing with the band. Soon after that guitarist Mikko Kolari, who's the only remaining member from that era, joined the band. The line up which consisted also of Saku Manninen on guitars and Janne Jukarainen on drums recorded two albums, Inherit The Eden in 2007 and TEOTWAWKI in 2009. Now the band is like a new one, and their last studio album entitled At Every Door shows an exceptional and strong formation, with fresh ideas and great talent. The new era for this band has begun. The current formation consists of Mikko Kolari (guitar), Nino Hynninen (keyboards), Jussi Hämäläinen (guitar), Toni Toivonen (vocals), Antti Ruokola (drums) and Jussi Kirves (bass). Some of band members also play in other great acts like The Chant, Shamrain or Clockwork Spirit. We talked (by e-mail) with bands keyboardist Nino Hynninen, also a member of Clockwork Spirit, about many things, but mostly about their amazing last studio creation At Every Door (released on 21st January 2013 by Lifeforce Records), which review you can read HERE.

T.R.: Hanging Garden have done quite a change in its sound. How would you describe the difference between At Every Door and your first two albums?
Nino: Well the fact that just two members of the current line-up had been involved in the making of the previous, TEOTWAWKI, album and only one member who had been around at the time of the first one, Inherit The Eden, forced us to think of a new approach toward the music for the At Every Door album. At the very start of the process we decided on leaving all inhibitions and unnecessary self-cencorship behind as half of the group had changed and just to see what we will come up with the new line-up. I'd say we have a more heterogenous group now together and the diversity can definitely be heard on the latest album. We've also taken more influences from outside the traditional metal genres and introduced more clean vocals to the songs.
T.R.: Can you reveal me the reason why all those line-up changes occured in the past?
Nino: As with any line-up changes the reasons are usually a combination of many different things and as we have had so many changes withing the last couple of years, there really isn't any short answer other than various personal reasons. I won't go into the details behind why anyone has left the band except that the decisions have always been made by the former members themselves, no one has been kicked out of the band.
T.R.: You said that you have more heterogenous line-up now. Do you think that this current line-up is the right one and steady one for Hanging Garden?
Nino: I think that's what you always hope for when things are working and dynamics seems to be just perfect. Everyone is pitching in and doing their part in the band without anyone else having to remind that a band is joint effort. I can say without hesitation that I'm extremely satisfied with the current line-up and sincerely hope that the regular changes in the group are now a thing of the past.
T.R.: At Every Door is your first release on Lifeforce Records, how are you satisfied with them so far?
Nino: I personally have nothing but good words to say on behalf of our collaboartion with Lifeforce Records. The support and enthusiasm that the people with label have shown us has really made us feel welcome in their roster. We feel also that being with a continental European label will open more doors to the foreign venues and markets as well.
T.R.: What can you tell me about the lyrical concept of At Every Door?
Nino: At Every Door continues on more or less similar paths as the previous albums in terms of lyrics. The themes revolve around the merciless results of our greed and endless consumption of everything around us. Direct actions of mankind, environmental catastrophies and religious profecies are seen through the eyes of the last survivors in an all but dead world. Also the silence and the emptiness at the end of the Earth is a powerfull theme on At Every Door.
T.R.: And album title, At Every Door, leaves a lot of open space, everyone can understand it differently. So, what did you meant with it?
Nino: And we like to leave it like that. The same problem arises when explaining what more abstract song lyrics are about, we want the listener to make their own interpretations and not interfere in it with dissecting the whole thing. The title is supposed to be suggestive and lead the listener on their own individual path and not to show you what's at the end of that trail. But let's just say that one can find some similarities with a song from several decades ago.
T.R.: A lot of things regarding Hanging Garden smell of The Cure. Are you guys huge fans of this band?
Nino: I would have to say that at least our guitar appartment have alwasy kept The Cure in high regard. I can't say that I'm that familiar with the band as when I got aquainted with the genre I tended to avoid the better known bands of the "goth" scene. There were so many awesome bands in that era and in a way it's our melancholic tribute since it seems that there won't come another wave like that for any time soon.
T.R.: And which bands influenced your musical approach the most?
Nino: This is always a hard question as there's a difference between the bands that influences me/us in general and the one's that inspired us for example while making At Every Door. It's propably safe to say that in addition to the one band already mentioned, that some contemporary post-metal groups have had some influence on our album. For my part propably Isis, The Gathering and Enslaved could be mentioned.
T.R.: As you mentioned The Gathering, I must ask you what do you think about their last studio album Disclosure?
Nino: Well, I have only listened to it a couple of times, but I must admit that as with many other bands I like, I feel that for me unfortunately The Gathering has passed their best years. Mandylion is still among my favourite albums and though there's nothing exactly wrong with contemporary The Gathering, it's playing a bit too much on the safe side and therefore isn't that trail-blazing as it was in the 90's. And though Silje is a good singer and fills the boots of Anneke as good as any, one can't feel that a unique part of band was lost with her leaving.
T.R.: Almost each member is also involved in other great bands like Shamrain, The Chant and you are playing in Clockwork Spirit. How do you cope with all this and which band is most important for you?
Nino: Good question. For me Hanging Garden is without a doubt the main thing at the moment as Clockwork Spirit has been on a small hiatus now for almost a year. The other guys I often wonder how they do it. I believe Jussi H. and Antti have the most active band projects at the moment, but so far it's only had an effect on which dates we can book gigs on and not the overall band activity. So there really haven't been any bigger problems in the respect. And even if we others don't have so many band projects, we know how to fill our schedules with other things as well.
T.R.: A question about your other band Clocwork Spirit... Why have you changed the bands name from Amarantine into Clockwork Spirit?
Nino: Well, the name Amarantine kind of started to have too many similar phrasings in different band names and songs, so at some point we just thought that it might be a good idea to change the name. In the end Clockwork Spirit reflected much more with what we are doing, our music and the aesthetics of the band.
T.R.: Do you plan to record something with Clockwork Spirit in the near future?
Nino: Not in the immediate future. We are still keeping in touch with most of the group and propably will be doing some project sooner or later, but there isn't any plans at the moment.
T.R.: Who's the main person in Hanging Garden that makes most of the music and who's behind lyrics? Can you also reveal us the process of song composing?
Nino: On At Every Door the composing was done by our two guitarists, Mikko and Jussi H. As for the lyrics, Toni, our singer, was behind them with some assistance from Jussi H. Usually someone comes up with a "rough draft" for a song, with most of the composing done and some kind of recording of the piece and gives it to the rest of the group to hear. Then everyone interprets their parts on the song and make some adjustments/changes/suggestions on the piece. After playing it a couple of times through together the final arrangement takes shape. Though we have very different kinds of composers in our band there's really good communication as the songs don't end up sounding like they were from two completely different bands. I guess as they process through the "Hanging Garden filter" they end up supporting and not being in conflict with each other. We don't do much serious jamming together and the songs are definitely at least 50% ready when the first drafts are sent to the other guys.
T.R.: And what about the keyboards, are you the one who's in charge here?
Nino: That is correct. Many times someone who comes up with an idea for a song they have some initial concept of what part the keyboards will be playing on the song. In these cases it's mostly my job to arrange them a bit and tweak the correct sounds for the pieces. Very often I get more abstract guidelines for what the keyboards could be like, e.g. descriptions of mood or setting that the keyboards should convey in the song. Keyboards is a nice instrument in that most people have some experience with playing piano, so communication is really easy between the musicians in comparisons with trying to convey ideas about drum parts where usually the composer just puts some basic drum loop in place and gives instructions like "elaborate something on this part".
T.R.: Out there are many labelings of your music..., what do you think is the appropriate genre description that suits you most?
Nino: I just googled "post doom metal" and at we were featured in the top 8 artists of that genre, so maybe that's the most common denominator.
T.R.: Before official release of At Every Door, you made the whole album available for streaming. Do you think that this kind of promotion helps the band in any way?
Nino: I think for any band in our position, i.e. a band not living off album sales, the most important thing is to reach as wide audience as possible and I feel that these free streaming campaigns, usually generated by music magazines or web communities, are a really good way to get more listeners and gather some momentum for an album. I actually don't know how much impact these things have, but on an intuitive level it feels like any way of reaching as many listeners as possible is a positive thing.
T.R.: So, beside playing in a band you guys must have also regular jobs...
Nino: Yes, most of the band is working with, as you say, "regular" jobs. There are accountants, teachers and so on in the group and a couple of us are still studying. I guess there are just a handful of bands in Finland who actually can release albums and perfrom live as a profession. Maybe the difference with us is that none from our group is a sound engineer, booking agent, music label employee or rock bar bartender, which are usually quite common workplaces among metal musicians.
T.R.: I was wondering if all vocal parts were sangt by Toni Toivonen (I have no information about this fact)?
Nino: Jussi H. sings clean vocals on many songs and I do a couple of back-up growls as well on the album. There's also a couple of ex tempore back-up vocals by Joni from 2nd Suicide and Juhani from Dead Shape Figure. The information should be in the album credits.
T.R.: Most of reviews about this album were very positive, but I found also some negative ones online. How do you accept negative comments, I still don't understand how someone can rate At Every Door with 3 out of 10?
Nino: First of all, we are very thankful for the praise and support. We have fairly good self-esteem as a group and rarely let any negative feedback get us down. The negative comments can in many instances be the most valuable ones if the arguments are well constructed. At best it can actually give you some good advise on where to improve on your short comings that you hadn't thought of before. Then there are sadly many self-contradicting reviews or comments that obviously are written by persons who clearly have an attitude towards the music style before even listening to the thing and I don't really see the point in "This is such BS because it's not something I like"-kind of reviews. Of course the opposites: "This is the bomb because I listen to other similar bands as well", though flattering to the band, don't give much insight into the inner workings of the album either, though they are usually better promos for the musicians. The bottom line obviously is that you can't please everyone and there's always going to be someone disliking your music and in the end you're doing this stuff firstly because it gives you pleasure, secondly because people want to listen to it and somewhere between trying to make a few euros and getting face time on zines comes getting good reviews from critics.
T.R.: Do you plan to make any music video, and if you are which song would that be?
Nino: Actually funny that you mentioned it because by the time I write this our first music video just went online. I guess at the time the reader is reading this you can find it through vimeo and youtube. We went along quite a different path with the video and from the beginning on decided that we don't want to make a traditional 50/50 band playing/over-contrasted forest
landscape -video. We got a director we all knew from before to make the script and direct the piece and we just gave him the album and the initial song that the video was going to be from. Essentially we just gave him fairly free hands with the whole thing. The result is just amazing and it combines two songs ("Ten Thousand Cranes"/"Wormwood") instead of one song and it's over 10 minutes long. So you can actually call it more a music inspired short film than a music video in the traditional sense.

T.R.: Yes, that is actually funny. Anyway, great video and idea! Can you tell me some more about the director Ristomatti Rinne?
Nino: Thank you! Though the credits go solely to the production team as we were just extras in the making. Most of us got to know Ristomatti a couple of years ago when we played some gigs in Northern Finland with a Finnish death metal band called Manufacturer's Pride and Ristomatti was the bass player. Later I found out that he's studying film directing in the same school as I was in. There was quite a long break between seeing him after that, but when we started thinking about the music video project I remembered that he'd already finished school and was in the film business. I recall talking with Ristomatti about music videos and movies in general and our tastes are quite similar in many ways. We knew we wouldn't want to make a traditional music video or one with most of the playing time dedicated to shooting the band playing un-amplified instruments in some empty factory, but to create a piece that stands alone on its own artistic merits and resembles more a short film than a music video. Ristomatti analysed the album and made the script based on the concepts of the music, lyrics and general feel of the album and made his own unique interpretation accordingly. Ristomatti did an amazing job spearheading the project and the intensive shooting weekend was an absolute joy to be a part of. The finished piece I feel speaks totally for itself.
T.R.: At Every Door was recorded in Spleen studio, can you reveal me how the recording process went and how are you satisfied with the production?
Nino: Spleen studio is the moniker we use for a summer place in the country side where we've been doing recording for many years now since it combines spacious interiors, tranquil exteriors and no neighbors within a 100 meters. We did the drums there and after that everyone recorded their instrument parts at their own homes, except for Toni who did most of the vocals at D-Studio. The process is getting to be quite familiar for us and just having so many different locations where you can do the recordings gives you so much more freedom to try out different things during the recording process. If you only have the one specific week reserved for a studio that you know is costing you money, there really isn't much room to experiment with things. Of course it speeds things up if you have to have everything done on a tight schedule, but when you're doing this out of passion and not solely as a profession, I really feel that you shouldn't have to make that kind of compromises with your art. The biggest "accident" with the process, that seemed like a catastrophy at the time, was that the beginning drums of "Wormwood" got deleted by accident, but then again it forced us to approach it from a whole different angle and the machine drum loops that got into the final mix were just fantastic and it really feels like fate has something to do with it when you have these accidents sometimes. Our album was mixed by Jarno Hänninen at D-Studio, who most of us know from way back and are used to collaborating with. For him we didn't give any instructions on how to do the mix and just let him get a feel from the songs and give it his best shot with trying to interpret the overall feel that the album is a about and he totally nailed it right from the beginning. So all in all, At Every Door, though being a somewhat long
process didn't once feel arduous or like your motivation would be giving up on you. Everyone was in it all the way through and considering there was four people who hadn't been involved in making a Hanging Garden album before, every piece just fell right into place.
T.R.: If you'll had to choose... Which song from At Every Door is your fave and why?
Nino: It changes almost every time I listen to the album, but maybe I would have to go with "Ten Thousand Cranes" as it's propably the one that I most like to play live as it's got so much dynamics and the whole arrangement is such an interesting journey in itself with a lot of really powerful parts, some deeply melancholic, at times totally epic and I really love listening to Toni and Jussi sing together live. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't have said anything as it kind of feels really wrong to choose your favourite of many songs that you've developed a personal connection to.
T.R.: Any words about the artwork you've choosen for the album...
Nino: The artwork is also a product of our "give it your best shot" -approach with At Every Door. We got our court-artist Kalle Pyyhtinen, who'd done the previous covers as well, on the task and I think the assignment was along the lines of "illustrational/graphic" and that was it. We went through maybe two or three drafts before the artwork achieved their final form. I really like album covers that have a clear and simple style and feel that the At Every Door artwork is a good example of a harmonious piece without too much clutter that usually invade most of the metal album covers. I was a big fan of the previous TEOTWAWKI cover as well so Kalle was and most probably will be a natural choice in future collaborations as well.
T.R.: Are you planning a tour sometime soon?
Nino: Hopefully. There are some upcoming gigs and ones that the band has already played in Finland, promoting the new album. The biggest will be the gig at Nosturi with Cult Of Luna in a couple of weeks. No actual longer tours have been confirmed yet, but our booking agent Ville is keeping his ears and eyes open. Hopefully something outside of Finland in the near future.
T.R.: Finland is considered as probably "most metal" country in the world. Who are, in your opinion, upcoming new bands or artist that haven't yet reached worldwide recognition and should be noted?
Nino: I don't know so many metal bands that would be that noteworthy as I am so bad at finding out about new metal music and my own musical interests have shifted more to other genres during the last few years, but I could mention at least Oranssi Pazuzu, which is a very interesting group that fuses black metal and psychedelic rock. Also Mother Susurrus is quite a good post metal band that I've had the pleasure of catching live once. Handling Noise is a really new one for me that I've followed around since last Fall and if you're into post metal with experimental touches and a really nice distinct sound then I can seriously recommend.
T.R.: And which Finnish band is the one that you respect the most?
Nino: I'd propably have to say Babylon Whores, though they've been broken up since 2006. They made three amazing LP's with the best lyrics in all of Finland (and propably the world at least in the "metal" scene). They also knew not to drag the thing on too long and didn't give in to mediocrity that eventually creeps in to all bands when you've been around long enough...unless you're Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen.
T.R.: Future plans?
Nino: Well, now that the ball is rolling and we had such a great experience with making and releasing At Every Door, we don't want to loose the momentum and are currently working on material for the next album. We will propably start making some demo versions of the songs during the Summer and keep the listeners posted on the progress. Propably a few more gigs as well for the 2nd half of the year. At least my heart is crying blood for missing all the Hanging Garden gigs this Spring.
T.R.: Thank you Nino for your time with those answers! Any last words for readers of Terra Relicta?
Nino: Thank you! It was my pleasure. Just a quote from Cormac McCarthy's The Road which I highly recommend and would say, is the best companion book for listeners of At Every Door: “Perhaps in the world's destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.”

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