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More a personal interview with Natalie Koskinen than a full Shape Of Despair piece, nonetheless we have to file it somewhere, and it might as well be under the most famous of her many projects.

Interview with Shape Of Despair.
"Natalie Koskinen is one of the most in-demand vocalists in the Doom genre. First of all, she's well-known because of her participation in the grand Funeral Doom orchestra Shape Of Despair, which she joined back in 1998 (when they were still under the moniker of Raven). Later, she spent a few years with symphonic Death Doom act Depressed Mode, recording two albums with them. And besides guest appearances with several other projects, she also sings in Folk band Jonne, Black Metal band Paara and international project Collapse Of Light. It's good that we've managed to organized this interview, and can discuss some details about being so tightly involved in Metal music."

Talking to Comrade Aleks today: Shape Of Despair's Natalie Koskinen.

Hello Natalie! First of all I'd like to thank you for time you've spared on this interview. Correct me if I'm wrong, but, as I understand it, you joined pre-Shape Of Despair band Raven in 1998, and since then have sung with a steadily-growing number of different bands. How did you get involved in the Metal scene?

That´s correct, I was working with Shape Of Despair for many years already and it will have always a very special place in my heart. Sometimes it scares me how fast time flies.

I´ve listened to metal music since I turned 13. Before that I started with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and other bands like that (still love these bands). I never tried to get inside the so called "metal scene circle", never was my thing. Just enjoyed listening to the music and believe me, metal music is not the only style I´m into. Musicians from Shape Of Despair were my very good friends since I was 15 or 16 years old. Jarno invited me to try vocals on their tracks and over 20 years later I´m still in the band. We´re sharing the same way of thinking about our music and we are still very close friends. I think that is the main reason why this band still exists. After some years I started to get invitations from other bands.

So you were in Shape Of Despair, and though your appearance on the albums seems to be rather episodic, from album to album your parts have taken more space in the compositions. How do you value your contribution to the band? How do you see the role of your voice in these songs?

Music in Shape Of Despair is very floating and emotional, but some parts are very heavy. Sometimes it´s hard to keep all this package together with growls and female vocals, but I think we succeed pretty well. It´s not only like this: "we must put these and these type of vocals on this", but we´re trying to think how to keep our music floating with all emotions. Each album is different, but you can still recognize us. Even I don´t sing all the time, the music wouldn´t be the same without female vocals OR growls.

Shape Of Despair.

What influenced your manner of singing? Did you have certain examples to follow?

Never tried to copycat anyone. There are a lot of amazing singers out there and I prefer singers with the individual sound, even if the sound is "weird" in someone´s opinion. You can learn things and sing in tune, but not everyone has an individual sound in their voice. I don´t think that is a thing you can learn. I started to study vocals at music academy since I was 5 years old. For many years I was singing only in a classical way, that´s a blessing and a curse. When I felt that I wanted to learn how to use my voice differently, it wasn´t that easy to switch classical style into something else. I needed to "break" my voice. And thanks for that goes to Jonne Järvelä from Korpiklaani. Nowadays I feel that I´ve found more tones and colours in my vocals. But, there is still a lot of things to learn and try.

Shape Of Despair - 'Angels Of Distress' (2001):

Did you ever discuss increasing both growling and your vocals in Shape Of Despair, you know - in proportions like early Theatre Of Tragedy?

Well, yes and no. We go with the flow and seems that there is always someone who has their own opinion about how you should be, sing, play etc. It´s hard to please everyone and we don´t even try to do that. This is our art, our blood and tears, listen and feel it if you like, or don´t.

Do you have a special or most difficult album within the band's discography? Which one is it?

As I mentioned before, each of our albums is different in their own ways. Each one of them has different shade, slightly different feeling. Our way of work on songs is a bit different nowadays. Before it was only Jarno and Tomi who decided about things, but now we're all sharing our thoughts and ideas more or less. I think that way the band got even more shades in our music and that´s awesome. If I have to choose, for me the most important album is still Shades Of, our 1st full length record. Because during that album we have become "Shape Of Despair".

This year Shape Of Despair celebrates its 20th anniversary, but I haven't heard about a new release or some sort of anniversary show. Are you keeping a surprise for the end of the year?

Actually the band was born under the name Raven in 1995, as you probably know this already. But we've changed the name to what it is now in 1998. So basically our music is 23 years old, huh! And no, you´re right, we haven´t done any anniversary shows. But we are working on a new album and that´s not a secret. Next year Shape Of Despair will most probably be entering the studio.

With Shape Of Despair, live in 2017. Photo: Black Grouse Photography.

Natalie you joined Depressed Mode in about 2006, how did that start for you? How was the band's image formed back then?

Yes, the charter member of Depressed Mode contacted me and ask to join his band. He already knew what style of music he wanted to do and I think our work together went very well. We made 2 full length albums and did a few shows in Finland and outside Finland. I wrote lyrics for some of my parts and shared my ideas with Ossi. Very happy with the result especially on the ...For Death album.

What was on your mind when you worked on the 'Gods Of Devotion' album? What kind of vibe did you want to transfer through these songs?

What was on my mind? WARDROBE! Wardrobe was on my mind as I´ve recorded my parts inside the wardrobe, haha! Definitely something to remember. Second album was recorded in a real studio, so the progress had been made after the first one. But yeah, Ghosts Of Devotion was actually too gothic for my taste and you can hear the difference between those two albums.

Depressed Mode - 'Words Of Silence' (Official, 2007):

How do you see the main differences between your contributions to Shape Of Despair and Depressed Mode?

Well, the music in these bands is quite different. So sure it effects on my vocals in these bands. Depressed Mode is more like gothic-symphonic-doom style. I hate to give all those description to the music styles, but if I have to, that would be my description of Depressed Mode.

What were the reasons for Depressed Mode disbanding? When did it actually happen?

We have never decided to put Depressed Mode aside, but to be honest I don´t think that we will bring DM back to life. On the other hand, you never know what will happen in the future. There was not any drama or anything like that. Life happened and Ossi wanted to centralize on his main work and family.

Depressed Mode, late 2000s.

This year Collapse Of Light's debut album saw the light of day through Rain Without End Records. How did you get into this project? Why did you agree to take part in it?

Carlos (male vocalist) has contacted me and after few years I answered him back. Why it took me some time? I don´t know. I am terrible with reading my mails to be honest. The music from this band from Portugal has touched me and here I am in Portugal at this very moment on a mini-tour with these guys. We´ve played 3 shows in Lisbon, Leiria and Porto with amazing bands such Mourning Sun and Atrox. Tomorrow will be our last show for this mini-tour at Under The Doom festival in Lisbon.

What's about the live aspect of being in four bands at the same time? Shape Of Despair don't play too many gigs, but what about the others?

There are no problems….YET. But we´ll se what happen in the future. So far the fact I have 3 bands which do live shows haven´t affect me. Paara is probably the busiest one at this moment.

Collapse Of Light - 'The Remains Of The Day' (Official, 2018):

By the way, how comfortable do you feel performing songs on stage? Speaking about Shape Of Despair, your parts don't usually take much time, and I know a few (rare ones indeed) examples of doom vocalists who don't like to hang around on stage doing nothing while their bands crush these repeating riffs.

I felt pretty uncomfortable before about being onstage. But these days I don´t care about how should I look and what should I do and put everything in me on music. It´s almost like being in a trance. This our music, this is our art and not a fucking circus.

Natalie, besides your main bands - including folk outfit Jonne and black metal act Paara - you also collaborated with Before The Rain, Clouds, Evadne, Woebegone Obscured. It seems that you're always into this... How much space in your life does metal music take?

Music IS my life. Since I was born probably. This my passion, my fears and my love. But as I really started to be very busy with my bands, I don´t have that much time anymore for collaborations with other bands (I still have something under work, that was on a break). However, you never know what will happen in the future. Another reason for this is that I think that all this "guest-thing" became to some kind of fashion and to be honest, sadly they start to sound the same. As I´ve mentioned earlier about my thoughts of individual music, you´ll probably get my point of view.

Live with Clouds, 2017.

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Visit the Shape Of Despair bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-12-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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