October 18, 2018 Interview – Heidi Parviainen of Dark Sarah
Finnish lyric soprano Heidi Parviainen may be just out of the first decade of her musical career, but her résumé reads with enough work to fill twice that amount of time. After entering the Metal scene with Finnish artist troupe Amberian Dawn, she recorded four strong albums, bookended by 2008’s River of Tuoni and 2012’s Circus Black. Then, in late November of 2012, the talented vocalist announced she was leaving Amberian Dawn, and before the month changed, she announced plans for a new project, one she dubbed Dark Sarah.
Three strong studio albums followed – 2015’s Behind the Black Veil, 2016’s The Puzzle, and most recently, 2018’s The Golden Moth. A part of a grand story, each expanding on a different aspect of the Dark Sarah mythos Parviainen had crafted from whole cloth.
Sarah, the title character, is left at the altar by her fiancé, and absconds to a nearby forest to begin exploring her “dark” side. She meets friends and encounters foes as she moves from the Middle World (described in Behind the Black Veil) to banishment in the Under World (expanded within The Puzzle), to her epic journey to the Upper World (wrapped up in her most recent album, The Golden Moth). All very compelling, recently, Parviainen took to the time to chat in the wake of the highly anticipated third chapter, The Golden Moth.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved with heavy music for over two decades now. From your time with Amberian Dawn and now with Dark Sarah, you certainly have accomplished a lot. What has this musical ride been like for you?
Heidi Parviainen – I started in a Metal band in 1997. It was a Death Metal band, I played keys and sang backing vocals. Back then, I had no idea about the Metal world and how wide it is, and how many different genres it includes. During the ten years with my first band, I learned more and more about my favorites and grew up as a musician. I also grew up to be a singer and learned to front a band. The real instructive years that planted the seed in me of who I am now, was the years with my second band Amberian Dawn. It was the first big boots I needed to fill. The biggest personal and artistic growth has happened with Dark Sarah.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it has been an interesting journey. Before going any further, congratulations on a very impressive third album. The music and lyrics on The Golden Moth combine to paint a very vivid landscape. It is clear you have had this world on your mind for some time. You mentioned for the previous album that the third piece was already keeping you up at night. What is the overall creative process like for you?
Heidi Parviainen – Thank you. My mind is full of ideas all the time, and sometimes it is hard to keep them quiet. In a creative process, when starting to fully work with the album, the ideas pop up during the night; then you just have to get up and write things down. Making a story is like building up a puzzle, you need to figure out how to fill up the gaps and find answers to open questions. I love making albums, although in the end of the process I am a nervous wreck and pain in the ass for everyone close to me. It really sucks all the juices out of you, but then it is done, and the album is out; it is a miracle how you get back on your feet and want to start it all over again.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds as if you really devote all of yourself into the creative process. As mentioned, you began working in heavier music while in high school. How early in your singing career did you think about having a career in Heavy Metal? Are you still studying now?
Heidi Parviainen – I started my classical vocal studies really early, I was 14 then. I sang in choirs and studied mostly classical. I have always had a big crush to music theater too, but never really did much of it. In high school, my class mate who had a Metal band ask me to sing on their EP. I had no idea about Metal and first it was really hard to find anything to attach to. Like I said earlier, I grew into it and found my own favorites and grew up with the music. I never decided it to be my profession, it just happened! I have a fully classical professional education as a singer and I’m doing my last year to become a pedagogue in music and arts.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, good for you! With The Golden Moth, did you have a sweeping picture in your head that you scramble to put to paper (and sound), or was it more that you have a few specific ideas, and you filled in the pieces in between? Furthermore, did all three pieces come to you at once, to where you had to shelve certain ideas for later albums?
Heidi Parviainen – I start with writing the synopsis for the story, then I start composing. Sometimes the music guides me with the mood and it inspires me to write something more in the story. So they really walk hand in hand, the music and the story. I write the lyrics in the last stage of songwriting, but I have made a timeline to the demos where things could sit in the story. Then we start working on the songs with the producer and I make the lyrics. I get inspiration from everywhere—they can be pictures, movies, songs, books—everything really. Mostly I get a visual idea, a mental picture of the mood and surroundings, first in my mind and then I start writing the plot and start composing. The story always develops along the music writing process so it was not completely ready, although I have had synopsis ready for the next album at a really early stage. At the moment, I already have a synopsis for the fourth album, so the building process starts quite early.
CrypticRock.com – Awesome, it will be exciting to see where you go next. The lineup for Dark Sarah has become more and more stable with each album, including the permanent addition of Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto on vocals for The Golden Moth. How does having a solid lineup now compare to the earlier days, particularly the first album, when you had a number of different contributors across three or four years as the lineup was forming?
Heidi Parviainen – We have grown to be a fully working band and a solid group of friends. It is great to work with the people who love and know your history and development. You get to share the excitement of progress with the people you have started the journey with.
CrypticRock.com – That said, can you describe how JP (Juha-Pekka) made the shift from guest to full-time member on this new album? Was it always a goal to have his Dragon character follow into the third story, or is that something that came about after you enjoyed the work JP did on the second album?
Heidi Parviainen – I wanted to write more about these characters on the third album. It also needed JP in the lineup. I asked if JP was willing to join the band after the “Dance with the Dragon” track.
CrypticRock.com – He has been a wonderful addition. What was the experience you had filming music videos, particularly for this latest album? Do you find that putting a visual to the music helps the listener imagine the world of Dark Sarah?
Heidi Parviainen – The visual aspect of Dark Sarah is as important a part of the concept as any other. Music, story, and visuals are the ones that I wanted to include to the concept to give the audience almost a movie like experience. One thing people need to add themselves is their own imagination. There, the experience reminds me of reading a book.
Some people may remember the children’s books where you had a written text and a cassette – yes, a cassette. (Laughs) The reader read the text and in the background there was some sound effects or music. This is something I have wanted to give to grown-ups. You can read the full “The Chronicles” trilogy story on our website! Music videos are always quite hard and time consuming to make, at least ours have been. They can easily take starting from 24 hours to shoot one. It is exhausting but it is always nice to see the end result.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of visual appearances, Dark Sarah has toured Finland a great deal the past few years; do you have plans to play the rest of the world, either on an extended tour or through festival appearances? Do you see crowdfunding as a way to fund these activities as well, or are the logistics of recording vs touring too different?
Heidi Parviainen – We are all the time working hard to get shows outside Finland. Our fans are mostly there. However, as an indie band, it is hard to get shows. We still need to grow bigger to get venues full on our own. Crowdfunding is hard in these cases because our fans are all over the world, and we would need to headline a tour to offer free benefits for crowd-funders.
CrypticRock.com – Understandable. Let’s hope big things are to come for the band. What does the next period for Dark Sarah hold? Will the band name or focus change now that this trilogy is complete, or will some of the imagery and themes continue into the next stage of her fate?
Heidi Parviainen – New albums will also come under Dark Sarah band name for sure. New story line and something really cool is happening on the fourth album, I can tell you that! I’m already writing new material for it and have discussed with the producer about it too. We have things quite well planned in terms of music and atmosphere. Schedule is not ready yet, but I’m first focusing on the story and the songs. Let’s see where they will take us! I’m really excited.
CrypticRock.com – That will all be something to look out for. In the meantime, fans can enjoy The Golden Moth. Unique to others, Dark Sarah has been described as Cinematic Metal. With that in mind, what are some of the movies, directors, or composers who have influenced your style and your sound?
Heidi Parviainen – My inspirations can be movies, musical plays, cartoons or books—whatever, really! Mostly something visual. The final and very significant touch to our sound comes in the hands of our producer, Mikko P. Mustonen; he is a fantastic talent, and without his brilliant skills of arranging, orchestrating, and songwriting, Dark Sarah would sound much different. A big credit goes to him as well!
CrypticRock.com – Continuing with the movie theme, CrypticRock also covers Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites and why?
Heidi Parviainen – Well, in that case, I’m sure your audience will love also the future of Dark Sarah. (Smiles) I can’t watch really heavy Horror movies because of my wild imagination. I get really scary nightmares! Even worse than the movies. (Laughs) I like strong plots in movies and elements of Sci-Fi and Horror, but can’t really name any specific movies from these genres that I remember.