Producer, Drums, All Guitars & Basses (except where indicated) & Arrangements
Artistic & Literary Conception, Story & Lyrics, Vocals, Vocal & Linguistic Coach
Keyboards, Orchestral Arrangements & Effects
Producer & Add'l Arrangements
Rannveig Sif Sigurdardottir:
Opera Voice & Background Vocals
Keyboard Solo on 'Revelations'
Guitar Solo on 'Rebellion'
Organ on 'Son Of Sorvahr'
Keyboard Solo on 'The Siege Of Aina'
Acoustic Guitars on 'Revelations' & 'Serendipity'
Bass on 'Son Of Sorvahr'
Guitar Solo on 'Lalae AmÃªr'
Keyboard Solo on 'Rebellion'
Angelic Ainae Choir:
The Trinity School Boys Choir, directed by David Swinson Nicholas Westerman, Laurence Hanesworth, Matthew Middleton-Jones, Alexander Main-Ian, Robert Grisbrook, Thomas Chapman, Sanjeevan Ahilan & Joshua Robinson
Amanda Somerville, Cinzia Rizzo, Ann Shee, Oliver Hartmann, Miro, Herbie Langhans & Robert Hunecke-Rizzo
Oliver Hartmann, Miro, Herbie Langhans & Robert Hunecke-Rizzo
~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 "amÃªr" 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 KrakhÃ´n 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 KrakhÃ´n 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, paerdÃs shalae infinisme (land of infinite beauty). Enjoy the adventure!