“The biggest influence probably came from my own dreams” – Interview with The Abbey’s Jesse Heikkinen and Natalie Koskinen

Author Silvia Tortiglione - 3.2.2023

The new Finnish progressive and doom metal experiment is ready to go on stage. On 17 February 2023, “Word of Sin”, the first album by The Abbey, will be released. We’ve already had the pleasure of reviewing the opus, but it’s finally time to give the band the floor. Vocalists Jesse Heikkinen and Natalie Koskinen held an in-depth interview with us, revealing a lot of the upcoming LP’s composition, not sparing any future predictions.

With “Starless” – the newly released third single – playing in the background, it’s time to let the artists speak and discover the secrets behind their undisputed talent.

The Abbey’s debut album is ready and out soon. First of all, what are your emotions about it?

Jesse: I am extremely relieved that the wait will soon be over and naturally we feel really excited! The album has been ready for over a year now and we’re finally able to share it to the public!

I know that Jesse Heikkinen is considered a true champion of the Finnish music scene. How did the idea to create The Abbey project come about?

Jesse: To be honest, a month before forming The Abbey I even wouldn’t have dreamt of starting a metal band with me as a front man. It all started in Spring 2021 when I felt that I wasn’t using all my creative energy as efficiently as I wanted – it felt like there was some sort of potential which I didn’t know how to express. Then a friend asked if I wanted to do some guest vocals for their upcoming record. I believe he wanted me to do “beatlesque harmonies with a doom metal attitude”. After I had recorded my parts it all became very clear: this was something I had to do more! So I decided to form a doom metal band with me as the lead singer.

Many would call you a doom and progressive band. What are your main influences?

Jesse: Surprise, surprise my main musical influences when writing “Word of Sin” were doom metal and progressive rock, haha! I’ve been a big fan of 70’s progressive rock since I was a kid, so that’s something that influences all the music I write – it’s in my blood. I do feel like there are lots of influences from other genres as well, for example I can hear echoes from Dead Can Dance and even early Darkthrone on this album

Let’s talk about “Word of Sin”. I had the honor of previewing the opus. It was a fantastic journey. But what struck me most was the deep harmony of the work. A waltz between the two voices, between the “cantato” and the instrumental, between the story and the rhythm. Was it difficult to achieve this balance?

Jesse: Not at all, it all sorted out really easily! I created the songs by means of improvisation, so I never really sat down and “composed” anything, I just jammed and let my subconsciousness do the work. I have been listening to music a lot my whole life and I’ve dedicated most of my years studying it, so I probably have some sort of subconscious “musical compass” that leads me in the right direction when writing music this way. I love dynamic changes and surprises in music and I think you can hear that quite clearly on “Word of Sin”.

Natalie Koskinen is a real presence in the stability of your work. Her voice has incredible structural weight. How was it for you to take part in “Word of Sin”?

Natalie: When Vesa asked me to try my vocals on one song, I wasn’t really expecting anything and I wasn’t planning to join any new bands anymore. Apparently life had other plans for me. That song was really catchy, really sad and it was something completely different from the style I used to sing before. I was hooked right away. That song was “Widow´s Will” and I could say that song was the reason I joined The Abbey. Usually I record my vocals at home nowadays, but this time I wanted to record them at Jesse´s place as for me it is important to feel what kind of energy is between me and the people I´m gonna work with in the long term. Things went very fluently, which was great of course.

“Word of Sin” has the narrative tension of an ancient manuscript. What were the sources of inspiration? Music, literature, cinema, history? I know the band’s name is related to the alchemical story of Aleister Crowley…

Jesse: I got inspired lyrically by the literal works of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare and other occult authors, but also from movies by David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky and such. The biggest influence probably came from my own dreams, though. I also used free writing to get the same intuitive feel to the lyrics that’s in the music.

Another thing that amazed me is the depth of the lyrics. What are your writing methods? And what message do you hope to get across to listeners?

Jesse: Usually a one-liner pops into my mind and I start crafting the lyrics from there. Almost every time I get the initial lyrical ideas when I’m just waking up in the morning, feeling still a bit dreamy and hanging there between the two worlds. These one-liners might also be triggered by music, movies or literature. The main theme of my lyrics is breaking free of oppression and restriction – may it be physical, mental or spiritual.

Your new single “Starless” has just been released. How was shooting the official video? And what is behind this piece?

Jesse: We shot the live parts of the video in the same session where we filmed “A Thousand Dead Witches”. It was a pretty busy weekend, especially for Natalie and Vesa! Starless is the only song on the album that’s not written by me. The music came from Janne and lyrics from Natalie.

Natalie: Yeah, as Jesse mentioned I wrote the lyrics for “Starless”. It’s about losing the will to live. It’s the darkest song on our album in that way and it deals with things and emotions that I used to go through at some point in my life. When Janne sent the song to us, I heard the vocal melody immediately in my head. And so I started to work on that song. It wasn’t the easiest song on the album, but somehow the pieces fell into place in the end. Vesa did an amazing job with the “Starless” video.

However, it seems that you have a well-defined aesthetic. From the album cover to the movements, and the clothes. Do you think that this aspect can also help to immerse listeners into your project?

Jesse: Yes, definitely. It is hard for me to imagine The Abbey going on stage wearing Black Sabbath tees and blue jeans. I mean that does work for many other bands, but for The Abbey it doesn’t feel right. I’m sure a wholesome visual and musical aesthetic line helps people, including ourselves, immerse into our world.

Any new ambitions for 2023?

Jesse: The release of the debut album and first live shows already is quite a big step for us! We do hope to get some touring done asap!

Moment of freedom. Say everything you want to our readers!

Jesse: Support your favorite artist by buying their records and merch and going to the shows! The artists need their listeners!

Natalie: See you at our shows!