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.