Aina biographyAina Lyrics
Producer & Add'l Arrangements
“Hans van Vuuren of Transmission Records asked me if I would fulfill his dream of producing a metal opera. Once he laid out the details I said yes right away .”
Producer, Drums, All Guitars & Basses (except where indicated) & Arrangements
“I hope that with this project we’ve been able to go beyond the boundaries of the genre a little. For us, there was no way of doing it otherwise.”
It began with Sascha telling me about the offer he got from Hans van Vuuren from Transmission records to produce a metal opera that should be different from what has been released so far. Sascha asked me if I could write the music except for one or two songs while Amanda would be responsible for the story and the lyrics. Often working as a team we instantly thought about Miro contributing keyboards and orchestra arrangements.
After sitting together with Sascha and Amanda in may 2002, talking about this new project I started writing the first song “The Flight of Torek” from the lyrics that Amanda had given me. I was so exited, I didn´t even want to eat, because I didn´t want to stop the flow of creativity. In that way, chronologically one song after the other was created, always being in contact with Amanda to talk about the moods that the songs/parts in the songs should have or even sometimes to understand what it´s all about. When I finished a song, I called up Sascha and he came over listening to it, making some proposals for further arrangements or talking about how he could imagine this song to sound like.
For me it was important to write songs that all belong together to get the feeling of a story that is also told with the music, not only with the words. Using repetitions of main musical themes that represent the various characters of this tale and putting the many differrent scenes into musical landscapes sort of like a movie score have been my main interests.
Being open-minded to music, I had no problems having diversity throughout the songs, sometimes it was vice-versa: I had to keep in mind, it´s a metal opera, so don´t lose direction and do not move too far away from the subject. Hans also had his wishes concerning the arrangements and so I had to stay within those boundaries bending them as far as possible.
One problem was not knowing which singer will sing which role: I had to write vocal lines although I couldn´t tell if the one who will perform it has a low or a high range, but we solved the problem then by choosing the right singers for each role and also by having singers who just sound incredible in every range.
In September 2002 I had finished the writing process, Miro and Sascha each contributed one song, and I had recorded a complete pre-production so that everybody could get an idea what the music is about.
In October I started recording the basics with Sascha in the GATE-Studio in Wolfsburg, Germany. This was a very nice period, because we had time to try different arrangements and ideas, whatever came into our heads, we just went for it. A big advantage was having me playing drums, bass and guitars, because I knew the songs, of course, and I didn´t need to tell anybody how to play, so it didn´t take too much time to record and we were able to concentrate on checking out new things.
At that time, I gave Miro the pre-production and all the orchestra arrangements, keyboard and effect parts that I had written or recorded so far, so he could start off pushing it to the next higher level by completing all this and adding his musical ideas, arranging and recording the keyboard stuff and orchestra.
While doing the basics we started recording the guest vocalists, most of them in the GATE-studio, but some had to rent studios wherever they live to record their parts due to a tight time schedule, what is in fact a pity, because I didn´t get to meet them! Besides, for Sascha and me as the producers, it would have been nice to take part in these recordings and to take the wheel and keep the direction.
After recording the choirs, the string section, guest solos and overdubs, Sascha started mixing, while I frequently went over to Miro´s place to take a listen to his keyboard and orchestra arrangements and eventually add or change little things. Although most of them were different from what I had thought of, I got to like them more and more everytime I heard them, getting a distance to the pre-production, which is in fact just a sketch. So everytime someone contributed a part, it developed to something new - very exciting!
I just went over to Sascha´s studio to hear rough mixes, and sometimes having little wishes concerning sound or volumes but left it up to Sascha to create the sound of Aina, and he did a real good job, indeed, knowing what we both like to hear.
I am very pleased by the way the team worked together, especially having four musicians with different musical backgrounds and taste. Of course sometimes we had to argue but we always got together somehow and found a way so that everybody was happy.
Now, listening to the result I am very happy that I got the chance to work with those great musicians from all over the world and creating something very special with contributions of so many people.
I´m looking forward to the reactions from the listeners to get some new input because, I have to say, being involved in this project so much, there´s a lack of distance to it and I´m interested in other people´s opinions about Aina.
Artistic & Literary Conception, Story & Lyrics, Vocals, Vocal & Linguistic Coach
“One thing that was really interesting for me was to see how the various interpretations of my original ideas set the creation process off on a kind of journey. Aina took on many different hues in its development along the way.”
~A Dutch guy and his dream~
My involvement with Aina began with this whole thing just being referred to as “a Metal Opera.” It was funny, because Sascha actually called me in February, 2002, to ask if I would write the lyrics for a metal opera that this Dutch guy (who turned out to be Hans van Vuuren) wanted produced. I said, “Yeah, sure. What’s it supposed to be about?” Whereupon Sascha nervously laughed and said, “Well, that’s what you have to come up with! So can you?” Luckily I could, since Sascha had already told Hans that I would do it! Ha ha! That’s what’s great about our team, though. We’re really close and can totally rely on one another.
That was pretty crazy, because I had no base to work from. OK, so this guy Hans wanted a metal opera written and, naturally, written well. There were supposed to be all kinds of prominent metal singers and musicians featured in it. No pressure, right? Right! Of course I was thinking, “How am I going to do this?” Then again it was great because I had the freedom to write whatever I wanted. So, I got started.
~Aina is born~
The creation process started out being a tedious one. In the beginning, everything was on hold until I got into gear. It was decided that the lyrics should be written first, then the music would be composed around them. I felt that I needed to first come up with a concept and general story line before I could begin working on the songs, so I was kicking several ideas around in my head for a couple of months. By mid-April, 2002, I still didn’t have anything concrete and I felt like things were getting down to the wire. Then one night while I was at home alone in Michigan, I turned out all the lights, lit a bunch of candles around me and just sat there meditating. After about a half an hour, I picked up a pen and the entire story flowed out of me from start to finish. I still have the original papers with all of my chicken scratches on them! After that, everything came along pretty steadily with the writing of the songs and everything was finished around July ’02.
I didn’t really have too much experience with the whole metal opera thing, but from what I’d seen in metal, Latin was widely used in addition to English. I’m assuming this is done to give things a mystic flair, but I didn’t want to take an approach that everyone else seemed to be taking. I wanted to incorporate something totally unique into the songs, and I thought, what better way to do that than to invent a language? Now, when I created the protagonists for the story, I imagined them to be a beautiful, ethereal and magical people. The language I created for them had to match those characteristics, so I took sounds that I thought to be beautiful and exotic and tried to personify words and things that I knew into those beautiful sounds. Of course, Ainae (as the language and people are called) has some similarities with existing languages, for example the word “love” is “amêr” in Ainae. It’s similar to “amore,” but that’s the way I feel that the emotion should sound. That’s the basic formula I used in coming up with many of the words. That’s also how I came up with the opera’s namesake. The word “Aina” embodies this ethereal folk. It’s also actually the English word for the native name Aindahaj, much like “Germany” is for Deutschland. I came up with Aina when we all decided that you couldn’t really call an album something that no one could pronounce!
The language for the Krakhôn was made based on the same concept. These creatures are nasty, cruel and harsh, so that’s how their language had to sound. Krakh is much more rudimentary and crude than Ainae because the Krakhôn are also not very developed or intelligent. Coming up with these languages was definitely a challenge, and although I didn’t go so far as developing an actual complex grammar structure or a 1:1 dictionary for translations, what you see of the languages is not just random mish-mash. One day I plan to develop them further.
~The delicate coordination of creation~
I was back and forth between Germany and the US during the entire project, and most of what I wrote was done in Michigan, so we all had to work a bit on coordinating the writing process once Robert started composing the music. What ended up happening for the most part was that I would email the lyrics to Robert as I would get them done. At the top of the pages and alongside the different verses and passages, I included an explanation for each song as to what the mood should be and what type of instrumentation and rhythm or speed I imagined for each passage. Therefore, Robert could have a kind of guide to go on since we couldn’t work those things out together in person. For a couple of the songs, I had some melodies already in mind; for example, for “The Siege of Aina.” I was in Germany for the month of May, and had the first 6 songs finished and an intro composed for “Siege.” Robert and I sat together and I sang the intro for him as he recorded it, and we went over the pronunciation for the passage in Ainae in “Revelations.” That was tough for him to compose music to a language he had no idea how to pronounce! It worked out pretty well, though. Another funny incidence was that I called Robert from Detroit and sang another melody idea I had for “Son of Sorvahr” on his answering machine. I asked him if I should record it on an Mp3 and send it to him or what, and he said, “No, wait! Call back again and I won’t pick up this time. Just sing it on the answering machine!” It definitely got my idea across because that’s exactly how the song turned out!!
A definite highlight for me in the creation of Aina was working with the boys at the Trinity School in London. They, along with their choirmaster, Mr. David Swinson, were extremely professional and great to work with. They learned the music in a snap and picked up on Ainae right away. Besides that, they were so cute! A very talented bunch and I think I can speak for us all in saying that we’re very honored to have had them on the album.
~The evolution of Aina~
One thing that was really interesting for me was how the various interpretations of my original ideas set the creation process off on a kind of journey. Aina took on many different hues in its development along the way. From the way that Robert interpreted my words and moods into music to the way Glenn Hughes took the original melody Robert had sung on the demo and totally molded it to fit his own personal style, it was really leaps and bounds.
To see how Mark Klinnert read my story and created a beautiful landscape the way he envisioned Aina to look from my words was also amazing. That was very close to my own idea of how Aina would look! His rendering of the characters and scenes were sometimes very close to what I had pictured in my mind, sometimes very far. For example, the drawing for “The Rape of Oria” was very different than what I had pictured when I’d written it. My take on it was that Torek/Sorvahr actually loved Oria and tried to seduce her with all kinds of luxuries and disgustingly extravagant things. That’s what the whispers are in the beginning of the song; servants he’d sent to tend to her every whim trying to convince her to give in to him with their seductive chants. After a while, she just gives in and lets him do what he wants, kind of escaping inside herself to keep her from going mad. The song is actually a lullaby she sings to herself to transport her away from what’s happening. I think he never would have tied her up in some dungeon. But, see, that’s the beauty of interpretation and part of what makes Aina such a rich tapestry of story-telling.
The video from “The Beast Within” is also a pretty unique adaptation of that part of the story. The way Marcel and Jelle (the creators of the video) dealt with how Torek transforms into Sorvahr was really interesting; that he touches the axe of this long-forgotten King on a throne in this huge underground place and becomes him. I was wondering how they would address that, since it would be extremely difficult to portray a transformation like that in an animation. The way it actually happens in the story is that the metamorphosis takes place over several years; a slow transfiguration that happens as Torek’s hate and bitterness grows within him. That would definitely have been difficult to portray, however, in a three-and-a-half minute long video!
The characters’ names took a bit of a twist and turn here and there, as well. If I wasn’t there to coach them on how things were supposed to be pronounced, people sometimes just sang them the way they thought they should be sung, so that was amusing to me. Robert did an especially good job in practically coming up with new character names! If you listen to the demos on the bonus CD, you can hear what I mean! In any case, it was very interesting for me to see how the entire project evolved throughout the creation process by way of other people’s takes on the story, language, characters, etc.
~After all is said and done~
I’m very happy with the way everything turned out. I honestly had no idea how Aina would sound or look in the end, and I am so thrilled with the end result! After almost 2 years of working to complete the project, it’s extremely gratifying to look down at the amazingly huge digi-book with the ancient-looking artwork proudly proclaiming the title. Everyone who was involved did a great job and put a lot of hard work into making Aina come to life. There’s love, action, triumph and defeat in the story and I welcome the reader / listener to become a part of the entire magical journey. Welcome to the world of Aina, paerdís shalae infinisme (land of infinite beauty). Enjoy the adventure!
Keyboards, Orchestral Arrangements & Effects
“Aina was definitely not lacking in surprises… Throughout the project, I went through all different types of moods. Thus, I ordered many different types of pizzas.”
Sascha was, of course, asked by Hans to do a metal opera, who’d called to say it was his dream to produce a metal opera with “no compromises.” Being that we regularly work together, Sascha asked me from the get-go if I would do the arrangements for the project. Then as Amanda had written the lyrics for the first several songs, “The Silver Maiden” caught my attention because she had designated it to be a ballad. That’s kind of my forte, so it was decided that I should write the music for that track.
A main goal of mine in working on Aina was to reach as broad an audience as possible and get away from the cliché “Metal Opera.” (Cliché meaning just regular songs with different singers and longer than normal.) I wanted as much diversity and versatility as possible, especially with all of the different voices involved. I wanted to work the arrangements around the various colours of the voices.
A big positive aspect of the entire project was the ease with which everyone worked together. Compromises were agreed upon and everything was settled pretty quickly because we all knew each other; being a team that constantly works together, we have a pretty good idea of what each other wants and therefore work very effectively together. The fact that we were allowed the freedom to basically do whatever we wanted and that we got to work with world-class musicians were definite bonuses. Hey, it isn’t every day you get to work with a singer like Glenn Hughes, for example! When your limits and boundaries are tested and pushed, you’re given something new and exciting that broadens your horizons and make you an overall better musician. There were really no negative aspects going on in the studio other than too much sex & schnitzel. ;-)
An amazing opportunity presented to me with Aina was the chance to compose a pure orchestral piece, “The Story of Aina,” that tells a story through the music. This is the track that has the actual story of Aina (as the title suggests!) being read, underscored by the music. The music supports the moods of the words, but can even be interpreted without the help of the text, as a pure instrumental. A huge challenge for me, however, was to get that piece done in the span of 2 weeks! Fortunately, those two weeks turned out to catch me in a creative phase, so it all worked out. It definitely helped that I was inspired by Robert’s, Sascha’s and Amanda’s musical themes.
Aina was definitely not lacking in surprises, either. I found out how incredibly quickly tastes can change. A specific example was that I became used to the demos of a couple of songs, and then was quite shocked with the way that the end version differed from that demo version I’d gotten used to. However, once I’d heard the final versions a few times, I thought they were amazing, after all. The conclusion I came to was that you shouldn’t make any final judgements regarding something being musically good or bad before it’s complete. You really should put some distance between yourself and the unfinished product first, then re-evaluate it - once it’s finalized - with a fresh perspective.
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