Harvest

Interview with Kai in Riffi-magazine

15 posts in this topic

Found this when I was buying groceries.

 

Kai Hahto - Who Else?

 

A half a year ago Hahto had worked with two Finnish internationally distinguished metal composers. One day the name Tuomas Holopainen was added alongside with Juha Raivio and Jari Mäenpää. Kaitsu had saved Nightwish from trouble and the reaction of the ones who knew him was just about the same as the title of this interview.

 

It was one morning in June, when Kai Hahto received a message demanding his immediate attention. The message came from Jukka Nevalainen, Nightwish-drummer and the front man of Scene Nation, the company handling the bands business side. Hahto calls the message "emergency call".

-I've known Jukka for years and I sensed everything wasn't right. I knew about his insomnia and now I heard it had become unbearable. Jukka hadn't slept in two weeks at that point and he wanted to go to Koli to relax. 

 

Nevalainen was worried about his health and his families future. He was also afraid he couldn't give his 100% on the upcoming album.

-The stakes were high. I felt Jukka's anxiety and eventually it was easy to accept his plan-after I first checked my wife's opinion. This is how we work, my wife takes care of the things back home and our two sons.

 

The making of Nightwish's 8th album was already irreversibly far and Hahto had promised to be a substitute if Jukka's condition didn't improve. Soon he got the demos and started waiting for a word from Jukka.

-At that time, luckily, there was still time for the start off the recording sessions, so I had the time to focus on the material-if the worst should happen. For awhile it seemed like everything would turn out to be fine and I was all ready prepared to go to the studio as technician again. Like I did with Dark Passion Play and Imagenaerum. To tune the drums, tomake sure the sounds are fine. 

 

But what happened then?

​-I received another phone call from Jukka. He asked, how soon I could get to Kitee to record the drum parts. His trip to Koli went great, but when he returned back home, the problems started again. I cancelled some of my drum classes and a few shows and started preparing.

 

The sessions started one Monday and Hahto noticed that several tracks had changed a bit. He started writing every song. How does a man, Meshuggah's Toma Haake once called "monster", work?

-I acted like classical musician, since you can make changes to the notes, if you feel you have to. I didn't have any choices, since the material is that complex at times. The last song is more than 20 minutes and there was a lot to learn. I learned 11 songs during Tuesday and Wednesday and we did a production demo on Thursday.

 

The next week Hahto played a show in Vaasa with his jazz-band Max on The Rocks and also played on Summer Breeze-festival with Wintersun. Luckily he managed to squeeze in a couple of days off as well.

-I hadn't played with Wintersun in a year, so three -day rehearsals (before Summer Breeze) were necessary. That show went well eventually. There was a car waiting for me in Helsinki-Vantaa airport when I got back on Sunday. The next day we started preparing in Röskö. We jammed the material for a couple of days and refined couple of arrangements. We started recording on Thursday-evening and my parts were done at Saturday evening.

 

Hahto did a big favor for Nightwish, because that week was all ready booked for recording the drums. Because of his professionalism and ability to adapt, they didn't have to alter their schedules.

-Everyone had a nice, spirited attitude since the day one. We decided that we will go through this together.

 

Even if they didn't go public with it, Hahto had already accepted a post as their live drummer on the upcoming world tour. So his plans for next two years were changed.

-The deal was that Jukka would call me if he felt he couldn't go on the road. And that's what happened.

 

Different shapes of Metal

 

Nightwish is the latest chapter for Hahto, born in Vaasa in the year 1973. He is known as a drummer of power/progmetal-band Wintersun and from Swallow the Sun, a band combining death, doom and progmetal. It's widely known how much Hahto has sacrificed especially on the first of those two bands. More unknown detail is that when the pioneer and flagship of Finnish powermetal, Stratovarius, were searching for a new drummer in autumn 2011, the first call made was to Hahto.

-I like the guys in Stratovarius very much, but I'd had to make Stratovarius my top priority immediately. During that time there were things happening in Wintersun. And there is the musical balance.I don't say Stratovarius isn't an important band for me, but I feel I'm more connected to Nightwish's music on the emotional level. It would have been wrong for me and the guys of Stratovarius, if I'd done that negligently. Luckily they found Rolf Pilve instead, he's a great drummer and deserves his spot on that level.

 

When the offer from Nightwish came, he didn't want to refuse, because his schedules were more open and he got the chance to do "great music with great people" as Kai puts it.

-When I talked to Jukka, I started thinking maybe I should think more about myself and my family.

 

The thing comes to perspective, if we check how the massive, still unfinished Time double album, has been finishing.

-My son was three months old, when we started. Now he is in second grade! Even if I love Wintersun, I started playing with Swallow the Sun partly, because the pace with Wintersun is so slow.I also like Juha Raivio as a person and songwriter very much. I always go heart first to music and I couldn't do something I really don't enjoy. I've listened to Nightwish a long time and I like the band. So you don't have to fake, just enjoy playing.

 

Jari Mäenpää was  the next person Hahto called to inform about Nightwish's offer.

-Wintersun is in a tough spot with labels and funding and when Jari said there was nothing happening in about a year, probably, I felt I didn't have obligations to wait. Let's see how that new crowdfunding idea works.

 

Hahto says he has turned down some offers because of Wintersun and that he often thinks about their interest. He wants to believe their luck will change.

-Jari has his visions, which don't necessarily meet with my visions, but time will tell what happens. With Nightwish everything is clear, so I have to put my mind to it completely, trust it and think positive.

 

To conclude, Hahto add why Wintersun has had such a rocky road

-Band has toured very little. We missed that clubstage, we went straight to bigger venues and we didn't grow a name touring all over US in a van. I don't say that's a bad thing, but I sometimes stumble across things that are familiar to me, but not for the rest of the band. When you are on the road expectations and reality don't always meet.

 

It's easy to compare with Swallow the Sun, who's seen it all, but Hahto stalls a bit.

-You have to give credit for StS. The worked hard for their success-not saying that Wintersun hadn't, but it has been very different with label support between the two bands.

 

Legendary Freddie Gruber and the snare techinique

 

Kai Juhani Hahto has adjusted his weekdays to work as well as possible. He has stayed in Vaasa for three reasons: the world of touring musician gets smaller since the air traffic is getting better, the improving internet makes it  easier for musician. But the most important reason is the peace. Vaasa is conveniently far from everything, so Kai can live with his family in peace.Tours with extreme metal band Rotten Sound, Wintersun and StS, and his work as a session drummer are the just the visible part of his life.

 

Kai has lots of pupils in his drumming classes and he uses bicycle to travel that one kilometer distance to his training space. When you book you're students rationally, you don't have to care about additional stuff.

-My routines are going to change now, obviously, but I'm not going to stop teaching. I've had longer pauses in the past, but luckily my students have been patient.

 

Kai taylor makes his teaching based on the pupil:

-I don't follow any pattern from a to b, because I don't believe they help most of students. Every student is an individual and it takes vigilance to notice what they need to improve. I trust that they practise without my supervision with homework. Improving is always up to the student, you can't train on someone's behalf.

 

The motivation is the most important thing in learning.

-If you don't know what to learn and why, I can give tips. Still, not everybody understands the importance of training. Still people play for different reasons and I have to accept that. I don't try to improve my students forcefully. For me the problem was the purpose of rudiments, but once I understood how they affected live playing, I started training rudiments willingly. I still train rudiments.It opened up to me though Gene Krupa's and Buddy Rich's snaretechnique. We are always arguing about what to teach, but nobody can deny, how important for starting drummers is learn how to hold your sticks and how to sit correctly.

 

Hahto has a basic degree for musicians, but he has had privatecalsses with Joe Morello, Jim Chopin and John Riley. One guru is above the rest.

-I took a loan from the bank in 2002 to get to New York for freddie Gruber's class.He had renewed Dave Weckl's and Neil Peart's playing in such a fantastic way, I had to learn from him.

 

Hahto knows much about the really important ergonomy, since he has been on Alexander-technique classes as well. He thinks learning never ends, so he always practices when he is working.

-I always have my practice pad with me. I always write beats and fills down. I have technical equipment as well, but pen and paper are often the quickest way, when you have an idea. You can afterwards write them down with something like Sibelius-software.

 

I notice Hahto is left-handed. But he still plays right-handed kit. How's that?

-Yeah, I'm lefty.When I got my drums as a six-year old, I just placed them like every other kit. Later I have opened up the grips and patterns in a different way. To evolve the control of your left side, makes controlling the kit more broader.

 

A Man in many roles

 

Hahto also plays with the likes of Johanna Kurkela and Jonas Hellborg. 

-Jonas contacted me in March. He and guitarist Matthias IA Eklund were planning a European tour with Art Metal and they asked me to join. Then, a week before the tour, Jonas gave me a message that he doesn't want to play anything old in that tour. There was new material attached. I listened to the material and since I couldn't get into that material, I asked for the sheets. I got a sheet, in that was a big 16-part song. All kinds of Indian-stuff, with 32th notes. Hellborg's new Jazz Raj-album is also like that.

 

Hahto has also been in the studio. Max on the Rox is recording their fourth record and Raivio is doing a debut album for Trees of Eternity. Swallow the Sun is starting their next recording as well.

-I talked with the guys in the phone and it seems I have to leave Swallow for the time being. They are still working with contracts and recordings and in 2015 Nightwish is my top priority.

 

Juuso Raatikainen takes Kai's spot in Swallow the Sun. He has played with StS before and Hahto says he's really good. He also highlights he hasn't resigned from StS.

-For the time being I will leave the band. The guys are dear to me and I wish all the best for them. I don't have the time for everything, since I have a family. Sometimes I have to pass great gigs for economic reasons, I have mouths to feed. Music is the second most important thing in my life, my family is the most important. Raivio wanted me to some Swallow's gigs, even paid me from his own income, which isn't fair towards anyone. It's better that they continue like this for the time being.

 

Hahto waits next spring enthusiastically. Hammerstein Ballroom in New York starts Nightwish's 30 gig North-American tour in April 9th.Singer Floor Jansen, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, bassist-singer Marco Hietala and Uilleann Pipe-player Troy Donockley continue to do the work that has lead to praising reviews, over 9 million sold records and many copycats.

-It was easy to join Nightwish, since I've known the band and the people in the backround for a long time. And I don't belittle the fact that I will have to step in boots of somebody who's my good friend and been in the band since their first rehearsals. 

 

He has obviously been in more than enough ambiguous circumstances. It's time to enjoy his status as Finland's top metaldrummer.

-I respect the Nightwish-community for other than musical reasons as well and I think that's a mutual feeling.It's nice to see my calender and know I have a nice job with great people for the next two years. Everything works and I don't have to worry about anything.I only have to check I'm on the airport on time. To join to gang of a few humble, smart finnishmen, a Brit and a Dutch woman, who aren't afraid to work hard. That's luxury for me.

 

As the year 2014 is ending, it seems bands like Children of Bodom, Indica, Waltari or Sotajumala can't have Hahto tuning their instruments anymore.

-Never say never, because that's a fun job, too. I didn't actually choose that job. I was recording a song with Wintersun in Sonic Pump, when Nino Laurenne (guitarist and a producer), yelled at my headphones that there's a phonecall for you. They are asking if you'd want to join Nightwish's sessions as a drum technician. I said yes and here I am.

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Thank you Harvest! And Kai seems so comrade :)

You're welcome.

 

Yes, the way things are going with Wintersun, as a guy as talented as Hahto is, I personally would have left ages ago. At least now it seems Mäenpää wants people to growdfund the record only, not his studio anymore.

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At least now it seems Mäenpää wants people to growdfund the record only, not his studio anymore.

 

Hmmm...?

 

Jari said that he needs his own studio or he won't release/record any albums in future. Meaning also that he takes Time II to the grave with him if this studio project won't success. So he will build the studio if everything goes as he wants.

 

I know that Wintersun-topic is better place for this conversation...

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The sessions started one Monday and Hahto noticed that several tracks had changed a bit. He started writing every song. How does a man, Meshuggah's Toma Haake once called "monster", work?

-I acted like classical musician, since you can make changes to the notes, if you feel you have to. I didn't have any choices, since the material is that complex at times. The last song is more than 20 minutes and there was a lot to learn. I learned 11 songs during Tuesday and Wednesday and we did a production demo on Thursday.

 

I was thinking all of the drumming was already written before Kai joined, but I it appears he will actually leave his mark on this album at least to some degree.

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Of course he will leave his mark on this album. Im sure his and Jukka's styles are somewhat different. I do think Jukka had some of the basic drumming down by the time Kai joined but I also believe Toumas allows for each musician to add his, or her own elements. I am now in full excited mode.

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This is a great interview and there is something that can be read between the lines, that makes me happy that this opportunity presented itself to Kai :).

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The sessions started one Monday and Hahto noticed that several tracks had changed a bit. He started writing every song. How does a man, Meshuggah's Toma Haake once called "monster", work?

-I acted like classical musician, since you can make changes to the notes, if you feel you have to. I didn't have any choices, since the material is that complex at times. The last song is more than 20 minutes and there was a lot to learn. I learned 11 songs during Tuesday and Wednesday and we did a production demo on Thursday.

 

I was thinking all of the drumming was already written before Kai joined, but I it appears he will actually leave his mark on this album at least to some degree.

 

When he says he "started writting every song" he means he wrote the musical sheets not that he actually wrote the drum parts. Of course he probably made some small changes but he didn't actually wrote them on his own.

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When he says he "started writting every song" he means he wrote the musical sheets not that he actually wrote the drum parts. Of course he probably made some small changes but he didn't actually wrote them on his own.

 

Yes, since the arrangements had changed a bit from the demos they sent to Kai, he had to write the songs down. Whatever changes he made to the drum parts are probably due the re-shaping of the songs that occurred after the demo phase. At least that's how I understood it, when I read that interview.

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