Hey, Modern Drummer readers! Marko Tarvonen is my name, and I’m writing from Detroit. I’m on tour with my band Moonsorrow. We come from Finland and play epic melodic metal with some black metal influences mixed with some folkish and progressive rock touches. On the bill are also Finntroll and Swallow The Sun, so this really is a Finnish metal tour. I believe it’s the first time something like this is going on in the North America. So far the response has been really great. Thanks so much to our fans in U.S.A. and Canada!
I started to play the drums when I was seven years old. My mother thought I had some potential to become a drummer, so my parents bought me my first drumset. That same year, 1985, I entered the Pop & Jazz Conservatory in Helsinki. I took lessons there for just over ten years, until I decided to quit because of lack of time and a growing interest to form my own bands playing my own tunes and such. After my teenage metal years I really got into progressive rock and started to admire drummers like Bill Bruford, Carl Palmer, and Phil Collins—quite the obvious choices from the British prog scene. They influenced the playing style that I have today. Even though I hit hard playing in metal bands, I’ve kept my proper technique, and that really helps with the physics of your body—no problems with your hands, feet, or back when you keep the basic technique and posture together.
So after some experimenting for years with different music styles (such as jazz fusion, technical thrash metal, progressive rock, and even hardcore punk) I found my home in Moonsorrow, with whom I’ve been playing now for ten years semi-professionally—yes, I still have a day job—since playing in more underground bands doesn’t pay my bills. I still consider this as a good hobby. Not too much to stress about the business side of the ride. I’m there only for the music, that’s what really counts. Indeed it’s good therapy.
In 2007 I was invited to join a new Finnish metal group called Barren Earth, a band mixing some death/doom metal with echoes from psychedelia and progressive rock from the ’70s. So after all it really cannot be called progressive—regressive maybe, huh? Anyhow, we got signed to Peaceville Records in 2009 and recorded our debut EP and album during the summer. It was a very relaxed session, playing the drums in a fine studio, built in an old barracks of our nation’s pride—the coastal fortress of Suomenlinna. The result is a very big but natural drum sound that suits the material very well. The album, Curse Of The Red River, was just released on both sides of the Atlantic. It has nine songs of heavy, atmospheric, and almost depressively melodic metal with both growling and clean vocals.
Speaking of vocals, I also sing a lot of harmonies in both bands with my precious headset mic. That is something I’ve been good at since I was a child. My mom told me I used to sing every day at home. So now I’ve brought something special to my bands, being able to help out with the background voices and even some lead vocal parts. With the drumming it’s very challenging, and at the same time a musically productive thing to do, as I see my strongest point is in serving the music. So I don’t see myself as a selfish musician at all.
My gear: Kumu drums handmade in Finland, Alchemy cymbals by Istanbul, Regal Tip sticks, and Shure microphones. Thanks to Pekka Helanen and Kumu drums, Alchemy cymbals, and Musamaailma in Finland.