“Dreaming is a state of mind where you are free”
— Mauri Dark
Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man is Mauri Dark’s timeless, autobiographical and intimate full-length solo debut. Based in Turku, Finland, Mauri Dark (Mauri Kosonen, born 1978) is a singer/songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, an established musician, and a professional visual artist.
The Dark Story
In 2016, the music world knew Mauri Dark as Mauri Myston, the founder, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of the metal duo Mystons. Their fifth album Destination Death—produced by Hiili Hiilesmaa (HIM, Apocalyptica, Amorphis) and mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Ghost, Opeth, Paradise Lost)—was out in September 2016. Legacy, one of the biggest metal magazines in Europe, described it as a “masterpiece”.
Everything was looking good for the band. Mauri’s personal life was another story.
“In April 2014 my mother was diagnosed with stage III+ cancer, and I broke up from a 7-year relationship. Writing Destination Death was a way of dealing with these things,” Mauri Dark says.
It was the band’s best work yet, and expectations were high. However, after the release fuss and the Finnish and European tours were over, nothing happened.
“I was living alone in a remote forest cabin in the Finnish countryside and had a lot of time to think. I then wrote “Poison Woman” and “Chains Of Solitude”, the first songs for Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man.”
Things were about to change fast. Besides being a musician, Mauri has been an established visual artist for 20+ years. In 2014, he met his future wife, Inga, in Kankaanpää art school.
“Inga was my tempera painting teacher, she’s an established visual artist as well. In her presence, I felt like being at home for the first time. It was clear to both of us that we were each other’s missing halves. But neither of us was free.”
Mauri broke up with his then-girlfriend, and Inga’s already shaken marriage shook some more.
“After two years of difficult times for both, Inga finally got divorced. We had been writing to each other and soon moved in together. It wasn’t a nice way to start, and people got hurt. But eventually things turned out good for everyone.”
However, there was grief to deal with. On May 27th, 2017, Mauri’s mother died of cancer at the age of 70.
“Her illness was a horrible thing to watch. There were extensive surgery and cancer treatments with torturous side effects, and a small hope for the better before a turn for the worse. This would go on and on until they finally gave up with the treatments.”
Three years after the diagnosis, his mother was gone.
“We had the chance to talk things through on her death bed. When she died, an expression of relief was left on her face which I will never, ever forget. She had gone to a good place knowing his youngest son was soon to be married.”
364 days later, on May 26th, 2018, Mauri and Inga had a healthy baby girl.
“The birth of our daughter was the most natural event I had experienced. The tiniest, sweetest girl in the universe made me think about life. I stopped and looked back and forth. When people have children, their everyday lives usually change permanently. Suddenly, the dreams they had when they were young, don’t seem that important anymore. But I wanted to hold on to my dreams.”
A lot happened on the side: Mauri was playing guitar, writing songs, building a home studio, and creating art as an artist-entrepreneur. He also graduated, got married, moved into a new home, became a local celebrity (he was nominated for the Person of the Year award for his public artworks in his home city, Turku), dealt with his mother’s death and her funeral, and his father becoming a widower. All these changes had an inevitable effect on his music.
Everything that had happened to him made him re-evaluate his life and dreams. That gave the spark to Mauri Dark’s debut solo album, Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man.
“I still wanted to make music. It was who I was. I had been writing songs for 25 years. Why would I stop now? I had seen people kind of give up their dreams on music at the verge of middle-age. They get stuck in their jobs and running everyday family lives, and most of them are happy doing so. To me, our daughter gave a whole new kind of inspiration.”
So, amidst changing the diapers, Mauri found himself daydreaming and polishing lyrics for song drafts. If his daughter didn’t wake him up at night, the songs would.
“They are like living creatures that you allow inside your head. They haunt you in a good way until they are ready. Writing a song is like a working on a mathematical puzzle. It has to be solved before it can flourish as an emotional, musical and lyrical artwork.”
Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man
Equipped with a baritone guitar and his dark, low voice, Mauri Dark was influenced by the music he loves. Masterful singer/songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake and Tom Waits gave him a lot of inspiration, and so did the Beatles. Johnny Cash’s five American Recordings albums, produced by Rick Rubin, provided a permanent and soulful musical bond.
Changing guitars was inspiring as well. Martin D-28 gave Mauri the song “X-Renegade”, and a 70s yellow Gibson ES-175 jazz guitar inspired the album’s title song. When he got a 2010 Gibson Sheryl Crow signature model acoustic guitar, songs like “Thin Line Of Understanding” and “Love Will Prevail” got written.
“Guitars are communicators. They plant the songs and melodies inside of me. The best guitars have a vibe, a personality. There’s something primitive in the way they resonate. In the best songwriting scenarios, they make me forget the time and my surroundings. My Gibson Sheryl Crow is a special piece. It used to belong to Heikki Hela, a famous Finnish musician and comedian. I dropped the guitar to B to B baritone tuning, and I wrote the most songs and recorded the whole album with it.”
The song “Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man” gave a theme for the whole album.
“It is an autobiographical daydream from changing the baby’s diapers to riding a motorcycle in Lofoten Islands, Norway, spiced with humour and generic assumptions of what a middle-aged man dreams of. But we do dream about all kinds of things. Dreaming is a state of mind where you are free. It gives emotional fuel to carry on. When you dream, you go to a beautiful place inside your mind, like in the end of that song.”
The music evolved. In May 2019, Mauri recorded demos for ten songs in his newly built Songscapes Studio, equipped with oldish-sounding analog gear and classic microphones. He gave the demos to his musical-brother Jussi Vuola (Mystons’ drummer-vocalist, V.R. Studio owner, producer and a mixing Engineer), who agreed to help him as an associate producer. Hiili Hiilesmaa, a well-respected Finnish producer and a mixing engineer, was also excited about the demos. He gave invaluable insights on the recording process and later mixed the album.
Mauri had a clear image of how the album was going to be.
“A minimalistic, honest, intimate, personal and autobiographical singer-songwriter album with a background painting of sparsely added acoustic instruments. Timeless songs with a natural sound. Vocals and lyrics in the center of everything, backed by acoustic guitar.”
The album was recorded between June and December 2019. No additional musicians play on it. The minimalistic song backgrounds were built with instruments like piano, pump organ, cello and double bass (sample instruments), jazzy, dreamy and bluesy electric guitar, glockenspiel, saw, outdoor sounds, mellotron, acoustic drums and electric bass guitar.
“I acquired an old, German Mannborg pump organ and a 101-years-old restored acoustic Hellas piano, which I even learned to tune.”
In January 2020, Hiili Hiilesmaa started to mix. He described the sound “like a soft pillow on listener’s ear, telling stories”.
“The mixes sounded amazing. I wanted to give the album the best possible polish, so I studied the mastering credits in my favourite-sounding album covers. From Johnny Cash–American V: A Hundred Highways I found Vlado Meller, a mastering engineer who had done everything from Metallica to Jack White to Michael Jackson. Vlado gave the album’s sound a final touch. He described it as “a beautiful, soothing album”.”
To Mauri Dark, his solo debut realizes one of the Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man.
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