Interviews Music


You always kept a very clear principle: make it
your own way. In the early days, did you expect to get this far, to reach the
25th anniversary?

Asko: Yes
and no. When the first ten years were done, we were very surprised: “Wow, it
has lasted this long”. But then the 15th anniversary was nothing special. We
didn’t notice the 20th anniversary, but the 25th… we like it! When we formed
the band, we had the dream of becoming professionals and having this band for a
long time. We were lucky.


{mosimage}Do you consider your legacy as a classic

P-K: We are
not the right people to answer that. We are still working on it and hopefully someday,
someone will come and tell us “you just made a classic”. If it’s not going to
happen, we are not going to stop because of that.

Asko: I
like many of our songs. I don’t know if they are classics, but I just like


Your first album, Piano, rumpu ja kukka (1984),
came out when Hanoi Rocks was on the top, internationally releasing
Two steps from the move produced by Bob Ezrin in the United States.
How do you think your first album was received in the middle of that glam-rock

Asko: Some
people were happy that there was an alternative, but the record didn’t sell.

P-K: I’m not
so surprised because even when there are some nice moments, it is not so good.
We had some positive feedback and a lot of negative feedback, but we expected
that in a way. It wasn’t a surprise.


That first record is in Finnish, but since then
you changed completely to English. How was that decided?

PK: The
reason for changing our language was pretty natural. Almost from day one, one
of our aims was that we should play somewhere else than in Finland. It is
easier to do it if you use an international language like English.


Your sound has evolved, using more and more
technology and spending lots of hours in the studio. Do you like studio work?

Asko: Yes. Our
second album The kings of Hong Kong
took eight months. Even when it sounds so primitive and simple, there is a lot
of studio work behind it. There were lots of trials and experiments. That’s
when we realized that studio work can be great. In every record it is nice to
try something new.


Every new record seemed to have more
electronics and programming. How did you start going in that direction?

Asko: When
we started the band, we had those little Casios. Not really instruments, but we
could get some bits out of it. We were composing songs from those machines and
then we wanted to have a rock-and-roll band, so we did those straightforward
records in the beginning. The next step was that we felt that it would be great
to achieve that mixture as a band: electronics and real playing. Maybe it was the
hip hop movement that amazed us. It was so fresh and cool.


What songs or artists surprised you at that

P-K: I was
so curious about Run DMC because they were the ones using the loops. I keep on
wondering from where they had gotten those sounds. It was not a drummer, it was
not a beatbox. What was it? After some time I realized that they were using
samples and drum loops. It was extremely interesting and it opened up various
chances for making music. When you are trio you already have a few options for
creating music. If you mix the trio with electronics, you have even more
options. That was the main reason we decided to go with electronics.


How do you think this change was received?

Asko: Every
time we have made a change, some people have been very disappointed, some
people have been really happy and some people have cared only about the song, but
not about how the song was made. Some fans left us, some new ones came and some
people came back. For example with Rally
of Love
(2001) there were people coming to us and saying “Hey, I like it,
the last one I heard from you was Big
(1992)”. After that album some others said: Yuck!


While recording, did you put some limits on yourselves
so you didn’t lose fans?

Asko: We
don’t care about the fans in that sense. We think about ourselves. Are we
happy? You have to be happy and inspired, that’s the main thing. If we come up
with the kind of records that we like, maybe some other people like them too.


There is a long history of brothers being in
bands and having a love-hate relationship. How does it work in your case?

P-K: It is
very simple and clear because we don’t have to pretend. We can be extremely
straight with each other and even rude, because we respect each other. We can
say whatever because we are just trying to make things go ahead. It is nothing
personal, but if it ends up being personal we can discuss it and solve it.

Asko: We
work for the music and the music is bigger than us.

P-K: The
secret as well is that we don’t have to spend our free time together. Then we
don’t have to see each other so much, we get our privacy. Generally speaking,
it has been nice.

Asko: We
are different enough.


Some time ago you had a big fight on-stage in

Asko: I
like those fights. They are great! It just happens. Sometimes we fight.


Does your being brothers affect your relationships
with the other member of the band, Espe?

P-K: We are
trying not to be too close when it has to do with Espe, but it can be
frustrating because Asko and I can communicate without speaking. Espe can do it
but not at the same level. Not so smoothly because Asko and I share the same


Side projects

Currently you both are working on other bands
and side projects. What can you tell us about that?

Asko: There
are three bands for each of us. Each band has a different approach. P-K has
this great duo with Janko and I have You & Me with Marjatta Oja. It’s beautiful. We also have The Others, which is
22-Pistepirkko’s alter ago for playing covers. The Others is very straight,
jukebox rock and roll. It’s a bit like when Pistepirkko started; we played a
lot in students’ parties and it was great. The Others is our party band.


Do these projects give you the freedom you
can’t get with Pistepirkko?

Somehow. When I’m doing music with Marjatta it is different because she’s a
different person. It’s a new thing.

P-K: For me
the most enjoyable thing, and the most inspiring thing, is to be surrounded
with different kinds of music. That’s the reason for me to have different
projects. We are thinking all the time about music.

Asko: It
helps Pistepirkko to stay fresh.


The You & Me project is with your
girlfriend. How did it start?

Asko: I’m
going steady with her. She’s a visual artist. When we met she said she always
dreamed of having a band. One day I told her, hey, let’s have a band, let’s
have this electro duo. I had this machine that we didn’t like with Pistepirkko.
It was like having a new toy at home so I decided to use it. Then I told
Marjatta, “You will play guitar”. She was surprised and replied “me, guitar?” “Yeah,
that’s it”, I said and we started. It has opened my creativity as a composer.


Did you ever think about expanding the trio
with more members?

Asko: Not
at the moment. I would like sometimes to have some extra people that could come
and play with us sometimes, especially when we play as The Others. We would
like to have Marjo Leinonen singing with us, and also a lap steel guitar player.
We could a litlte bit of blues and country.


{mosimage}Films and music

Your band has been very active with music
videos and even scoring films. Is it fun to create music for a movie?

P-K: We did
it some years ago for the movie Downhill City
(1999). It was great and we are working on it again. When we started to make
music for Downhill City, it was like
a dream come true. We always thought that it would be nice to try. We had the
chance and it was good. You don’t have to think in terms of a song; you can
create any piece of music that is suitable for the movie. It’s interesting and
demanding at the same time.

Asko: Now
we are working in a new movie with director Vesa Manninen. The working title is Viiskyt tonttua (Fifty Thousand


Did you have the chance to plan the music
before the movie was shot?

P-K: In
both cases, we had the chance to see the script and talk with the director, who
said he wanted this kind of music and afterwards we play him our music and he
says what he likes and what cannot work. It’s just cooperation.

Asko: Of
this new movie I have seen the raw material. Actually I’ve been acting; I’m one
of the bad boys.


In 2005 you released a DVD entitled Sleep Good, Rock Well that shows 22-Pistepirkko on a tour
spanning 50 concerts in 50 days. How did this project start?

Asko: The
director, Andreas Haaning Christiansen,
is a friend of ours, from Denmark. At that time in 2001, he was between
projects and we told him to come and jump on our tour bus. He asked what he
going to do there. We replied that we should just make a film. He spent four
years editing the film. As with all the Pistepirkko projects, it was a slow


Was it hard to have the camera around?

P-K: Since
he is a close friend of ours and the deal was pretty clear, it was easy. From
the very beginning we told him there was a clear rule – if the camera starts to
be annoying, here's a ticket back to Copenhagen.

Asko: It
was nice to have his Danish sense of humour around. When Finnish people are on
tour for many people, it is good to have someone from outside.

Asko: But
it’s good to have Espe around. He can come and say “hey, guys, cut the crap”.

Interviews Music

Burnside picks

Burnside’s picks

Worldwide Evil Reverse

That’s an
evil one.

Count me out.

It makes
your hip move

Slow down

The closest
thing to country music we’ve done. It even has the pedal steel.

Rock’N’Roll Bang!

That’s pure
Flaming Sideburns. A straightforward rock and roll song.

Interviews Music

Back where it all began

The CD starts
playing at high volume before Jay Burnside starts his pint. Keys to the Highway kicks off with an
angry drumbeat. It is furious, it’s pissed off. But against whom are these
rockers mad? “This feeling is mainly against us. After touring for ten years,
there was a little bit of frustration because we hadn’t been able to do any
records for a long time. We wanted to show to ourselves that we still can do
it”, continues the drummer.

The Flaming
Sideburns' career seemed to have entered into the wrong path after the release
of Sky Pilots (2003). “We seemed to
get stuck with bad luck”, Jay says. “A lot of things didn’t work out. We were
about to go on tour in Europe for six weeks, but one month before that, our
booking agent in Europe had a nervous breakdown, so we ended up doing only one
week in Germany and one week in France.”

To overcome
the bad luck strike, the new album is a new beginning for The Flaming Sideburns. It is a comeback to the origins; so the
recording process reflected. Last May, several weeks before the recording, the
band went on the road and started playing a new set of songs. “That’s the way
we recorded Hallelujah Rock’n’Rollah,
our first album, and maybe that is why it turned out so good. We had this bunch
of songs that we had been playing for a couple of years. We went to this studio
and cut the songs almost live”, Jay reminisces. “With this album we wanted to
do something similar”.

In the summer,
the band went into the middle of the woods to record. “There was nothing there
but horses and fields”, Jay Burnside remembers. “The purpose was to stay there
for a couple of weeks and record the album almost live. That’s how it happened.
Nobody seems to do it this way anymore, but we like doing things the wrong

Keys to the Highway features the guest vocals of Lisa Kekaula, singer of the American
rock’n’soul band The Bellrays. “It was a natural idea. The main reason to record
with them was that they are good friends of us since we first played together
five years ago. Oh, another reason is that Lisa can sing a bit as well… “, he

Jay Burnside
looks very happy with the new album and points out his favorite moments while
it is still played in the bar. “This is our country song”, he says as Slow Down
sounds. “Our aim is not to repeat ourselves, even if we work in the small frame
of rock and roll”, he explains, “We try to find new ways and influences. We
have a little bit of country rock and next song is punk rock. That’s the
similarity between our albums. All of them are diverse.”

The new
album will be released on the 31st of January. After that, the band will start
touring Finland and then Europe to be back in Finland in time for the summer
festivals. Expect a year full of hallelujah rock’n’rollah.

Albums Music

Tom Waits – Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards

{mosimage}Orphans is divided into three parts, arranged by title and theme. The first disc, Brawlers, is the rock and blues album with the artist traveling across the darkest places of American music, from the demented rockabilly Lie to Me to a cover of the Ramones’ The Return of Jackie and Judy, and to the political song Road to Peace that narrates a suicide-bomber’s attack and its aftermath, based on a news article from the New York Times.

The second disc, Bawlers, includes the heartbroken ballads. It is a bar-room moment of sweet solitude as the piano is drinking and does the talking. There are some tunes from movie soundtracks and again the Ramones appear in a reinvented cover of Danny Says, which is one of the most desperate moments of the 20-song collection.

Finally, Bastards is the weirdness, the cabaret and carnival music. Musical experiments accompany twisted stories and the words of Charles Bukowski, Bretch &Weill. Tom Waits also delivers several of his specialties on stage: spoken-word performances, like the funny The Pontiac, which seems to have been recorded in a diner from a Jim Jarmusch movie.

The usual top-class guest musicians (Larry Taylor, Les Claypool, Marc Ribot and Charlie Musselwhite, among others) help Tom Waits, but the most outstanding instrument is the voice. The howls, the groans, the beat-box rhythms and the whispers of a broken voice define the world described by Orphans.

The first intention of this set might have been to create a compilation, but the results are certainly strange and messy. However, whatever else it may be, it definitely represents the multiple facets of the most unique and changing songwriter of the last 30 years.

Interviews Music

Expressionism Painted with a Jazz Guitar

{mosimage}Raoul was born in Los Angeles when his mother, the Finnish actress Taina Elg, worked for Metro Goldwyn Mayer in Hollywood. However, he was raised in New York, where he started to get interested in music. “There was so much to hear: the Art Emsemble, the Sam Rivers trio, Dave Holland… I got a lot of energy from that music”. As many other jazz musicians from New York have said, Björkenheim admits that the scene there is not as good at the moment: “You might make more money playing in the streets than in a jazz club”.

Although he’s educated in jazz music, Jimi Hendrix is still one of Björkenheim’s heroes. “If anybody asks me who the best jazz guitar player is, I always say Hendrix. The best guitar solo is Machine Gun”. But there is another great influence in Raoul’s playing and that does not come from any guitarist: “I like saxophone players more and John Coltrane is still the most expressive. I don’t try to copy him, but the spirit is something that I try to emulate”. With this influence, Raoul’s guitar-playing showcases textures and sounds that could get a definition similar to expressionism. Sometimes, like with the project Scorch Trio, the approach is close to violence when doing some improvisation. “But it’s in the sense of expressionism, not just to make noise and play loud. {quotes}Maybe we play too loud. Do we?{/quotes}”

Finland was always part of Raoul’s background. In the eighties he moved back to Helsinki and became very active in the jazz scene at the time. For eight years he worked at the jazz department of the Sibelius Academy. “I was the crazy man of the village”, he says. “We did a lot of free improvisation stuff. There I got to meet a lot of young guitar players that now are big names, like Jarno Saari and Kalle Kalima.”

In December, Raoul Björkenheim will premiere a new piece for full symphony orchestra with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra. “There will be echoes of African and Javanese music in this concerto for orchestra, with the percussion section playing an important role and each instrumental section having important solos to contribute.”

Photo © Maarit Kytöharju

Features Music

Ourvision, (Y)our Music!

OurVision, Caisa’s new enterprise and its biggest production to date, is a song contest for all the artists coming from the continents ‘left out’ of Eurovision.

It was Caisa’s director Johanna Maula who first considered the possibility of organizing a musical contest that would offer artists from non-European countries the chance to perform live.

The host of the contest will be California-born TV star and model -and member of OurVision steering committee- Aria Arai, who’s been living in Finland for 12 years. She explains that the catchy name of the competition, OurVision, indicates that musical talents from every corner of the globe are invited, and suggests a wider and less sterotyped musical scenario.

The deadline for submitting entries to the competition is December the 11th, while OurVision will start on the 19th of January. The participants, who don't necessarily need to have previous experiences in the field, will go through a series of trials and semifinals, organized according to their area of provenance: musicians from Latin America, Arab countries, Asia and Africa will perform in the LatinVision, ArabVision, AfroVision and AsiaVision trials and semifinals.

The winners will be declared on the 5th of May during a final gala evening, held at Caisa, just like the trials and the semifinals. Red carpet and VIPs and cameras flashes, just like a fancy music award gala!

While the possibility of a CD release, either a studio compilation or a live record, is still being discussed, it’s official that the May the 5th final will be aired by Lähiradio.

“We’ve already received a huge number of entries and we think that the AfricanVision might turn out to be the most crowded trial”, says Martta Louekari, Caisa’s information officer. “We look forward to great musical variety, as the group or soloist taking part in the competition can perform either in their own or in any other language, and they can choose to perform covers or their own compositions.”

The artists taking part in OurVision can count on a top-quality jury.

{quotes}The grand old man of the jury is the legendary Finnish jazz musician and composer Heikki Sarmanto{/quotes}. A different perspective is granted by the presence of Tidjan, leading vocalist of the Finnish supergroup Kwan. Other members of the jury will mirror the different musical ‘flavours’ of the competition.

Winners of OurVision will certainly get to be famous in Finland, but who knows if the next Youssou N’ Dour lives in Helsinki or the next Cheb Khaled in Tampere…

Entries for OurVision will be accepted up to the 11th of December.