Posted by: admin in: Music
When and how did you become a musician?
Well, I don’t think it would be possible to pick out an exact moment, since I grew up in a family of classical musicians and music was always a natural part of my existence. I guess if one wanted to pin-point a single moment, that would be the one when I wrote my first song at 13. But according to my mother, I was already singing with her piano-playing as a baby, from the crib! I did study piano for many years starting from age 3, but I never really wanted to become a professional playing that instrument in particular.
What musicians or artists did have a major influence in your life / work?
I’ve been influenced by a huge amount of different things throughout the years.from the classical music of my childhood (Mozart, Debussy and Stravinsky, for instance), to Bulgarian choir music, which I have listened to since I was about six years old and sang a lot of in college. I guess what really made me want to become a “rock” musician was hearing PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and BjÃ¶rk as a teen-ager. Then, when I discovered the incredible music of EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten and Diamanda GalÃ¡s, I started to realize the true potential of experimental rock music. That really did it for me. Ever since the very beginning, though, I have strived to find a voice that’s uniquely my own.
What are the positive and negative aspects of being a musician in Finland?
Finland is very small, and this can be both a blessing and a curse. There are a lot of wonderful, intensely original bands around here, and within the underground music scene, it’s very easy to get to know people you want to work with – everyone more or less knows one another. On the other hand, there’s no way in hell over here that I’m going to be able live on playing music alone. My only option is to eventually try to get career either in Europe or back in the U.S. I’m actually working on that right now.
How could you define your style of music?
Well, that’s a very hard question, since I’ve never wanted to sound like anything else. I like to mix a lot of different elements in what I do (rock, minimalist electronics, old-school delta blues, avant-garde experimentation, Bulgarian voice technique). I basically use whatever I find appropriate to convey a certain feeling in my songs, and try to create something unique whenever possible. I want to move people, and to surprise them. Emotion and a certain amount of grit are very important. At the moment, I feel that people on the same wave-length include such artists as Jenny Wilson (from Sweden) and, of course, BjÃ¶rk. It seems, however, that she is moving deeper into the experimental field as I am naturally gliding away from its deepest depths.
During the years how has your musical style changed?
My music has been undergoing a marked transformation within the past year, which I think is largely due to a set of revelations I had last summer while singing and touring the U.S. with a band called Dirty Projectors. The music I was playing involved a lot of complex polyrhythms and syncopated singing, and I think playing the songs over and over again, every night for over five weeks, really made me understand rhythm and harmony better than ever before. Also, seeing so much of the U.S. really made me want to reconstruct that imagery in my songs, which naturally led to using more traditionally American folk elements than before. The America of my present music is a mythological one, though, kind of like something out of a Sergio Leone Western. It’s not meant to be “authentic.” It’s like a soundtrack to an inner movie. I think that compared to my earlier work, my new songs are richer in form and texture, while their structure and melodies might seem more familiar and accessible people who found my earlier songs a bit strange. It hasn’t been conscious decision. It’s a natural development. Of course, a huge change has been that I’ve started performing with a band, instead of always being alone on stage! That’s something I also learned from playing with Dirty Projectors.
How do explain these changes?
I think that it’s a question of my having found new ways to express myself musically, new tools to work with, and having acquired a better understanding of music in general.
What are topics you treat in your songs?
I guess more than anything, songs are my way of recording my experiences and emotions. A lot of them are about love in one form or another – almost always the un-requited type. A lot of the songs on my first album, “Exile!,” were about dealing with physical separation or isolation, and illusions of separation as well. There are an infinite amount of situations to which this scenario can be applied. The newer songs are brighter in many ways. I think they describe a journey into a state of being in which one is at peace with one’s self and slightly freer of illusions.
What is your favorite song in your repertoire and why?
Hm, at the moment, I think it’s a new song called “Flint in The Pines.” I think it really sounds like MY song, it doesn’t sound like anyone I’ve been influenced by. I think it’s interesting both melodically and harmonically, and I feel I’ve succeeded in describing an emotionally powerful (and strange!) situation without the slightest hint of sentimentality. IÂ sometimes fail at that!
Do you actually prefer performing your music live or in a studio?
The two situations are obviously very different. I like way a performance is tied to the moment – a song is sung, and that’s it, you can never hear it quite the same again. Also, the interaction between the audience and other band members (should there be any) is exciting. In the studio, you can elaborate endlessly on your ideas, and keep working on a single detail for weeks. I sincerely enjoy this, since I’m a perfectionist of sorts, but I think music is really meant to be performed live.
During the process of making a song, what is the moment that you prefer?
The moment when something clicks, and suddenly everything makes sense. Usually, when I have an idea for a song, it will undergo a complete transformation before it is done, and it won’t feel quite right until this happens. Sometimes, there is some element in the arrangement that is missing, and when you suddenly find it, the song is just THERE, you can’t question its right to exist anymore. At moments like that, even I myself can be so happily surprised that I burst into tears. It’s a very moving experience, as if you have channeled something greater than yourself.
A stupid question but… what is among all the songs you’ve been listening in your life the BEST song?
Oy, gevalt. For the sake of argument, let’s say that it’s “Do You Love Me?” by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. But I do feel silly answering this.
What is your opinion, as a musician, regarding internet?
I think it makes life a lot easier, especially with regard to networking and finding collaborators. It’s a good way for bands to get their music heard around the world, by people who would be impossible to reach otherwise. As far as the whole downloading thing is concerned, I think it’s fine as long as the artists themselves don’t feel they’re being ripped off.
What are your projects ?
I’m working on material for my next album, and am in the process of negotiating its release. I’m also trying to find a permanent line-up for my live band. My hope is to eventually be able to tour the U.S. again, and also do some performing in Europe!
What “image” do you have of French music?
French music? Do you mean contemporary French music? Debussy is one of my favorite composers, so I couldn’t forget about the classical aspect of French music. A lot of important experimentation in contemporary art music has happened in the Centre Pompidou – the spectralists all came from there, including our own Kaija Saariaho. I also listened to a lot of Edith Piaf atÂ a certain point in my life. As far as popular music is concerned, one of my very favorite bands right now is Air, from Versailles. But I have the impression (though I can’t say that I’m really versed in the subject), that a lot of good influence in French popular music is coming from the direction of immigrant communities – youth with Arab and African roots using elements from the own cultural background. I think it’s a force that has much potential, and it should be embraced.
Is there one French song that you prefer? If so, what song is it?
“Electronic Performers,” by Air. Of songs actually in French, Claire de lune, by Gabriel FaurÃ©.