With each passing month, it seems like another handful of great releases come out of the Nordic country of Finland. It is a country unlike any other. The music of the Finns is much like their native land: a true mix of east and west shrouded in a cloud of mystery. At the head of this surge in great Finnish music is the acid-laced psych mongers, Kemialliset Ystävät (or KYY for short). When it comes to music from the cities of Turku and Tampere, much of it can be traced by to KYY leader, Jan Anderzén. He has run his own record labels, he's an accomplished artist, and he's also part of the other well-known Finnish band, Avarus. If there's ever a question as to what's happening in the Finnish underground, Anderzén will have an answer. This interview was conucted via email by Brad Rose in May & June, just before Jan was leaving for Avarus's European tour.
JA: It's a slang expression used to describe an allergic sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes caused by pollen from trees and grasses.
JA: If you don't count the 2 or 3 uninspired organ lessons, my first musical experiments happened in the end of year 1995. That was also the birth of Kemialliset Ystävät.
JA: Kemialliset Ystävät, Avarus and The Anaksimadros are the most active musical projects I'm involved in. There's a bunch of projects that are basically Kemialliset Ystävät using another name. Then there's a lot of groups that exists only for a short period of time once or twice a year. The amount of conceptual groups that only have a name and an action strategy is infinite and ever growing. Paskakulttuuri (Shit Culture) might be the most radical one. It's so far ahead that it makes me dizzy.
JA: I'm inspired by short moments of clarity when I get a glimpse of what this is all about. It can take a form of music, light, words, dreams, events in nature, etc. It could be a bird shit landing on my shoulder at the right moment of time or a perfect angle between rain and my skin. It could be hearing "Excerpt From 'Dead Pharaoh' Vs. Smeared On Monkey’s Eyeball" from the Dylan Nyoukis LP.
Some other major musical influences would include Moondog, Pearls Before Swine, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Faust, Robbie Basho, Bo Hansson's Lord of the Rings, Terry Riley, Caroliner, Popol Vuh, Harvester et al, Tower Recordings, Joe Jones, Robert Wyatt, Harry Partch, Incredible String Band, Ghedalia Tazartes, Sun Ra City Girls Roof!, Jewelled Antler and various forms of traditional/folk/ritual music from around the world. Other important artists I'd like to mention here are Herzog, Svankmajer, Brothers Quay, Jodorowsky, Borges, Dubuffet and Kafka. And the real list would be endless of course.
JA: I'd like to make live recordings at some of those great festivals happening in your country every other week with all my favorite artists performing!
JA: I got more serious about my visual art about the same time when I started to make music. It got so serious that I ended up taking the art school trip. So technically you could call me a professional. Both my music and visual work share many similar elements: demented cosmic awareness and little hints of nostalgia, homemade mythologies and repetition worship, dark humor and a very short attention span, to name a few.
JA: When Matti (a good friend of mine and a spiritual advisor of many) first heard our new album Alkuhärkä, he had a clear vision how the album cover should look like. He told me that there should be a picture of a couple making love on a bed of moss surrounded by billions of insects running and flying to all directions. I liked his vision but unfortunately as hard as I tried I wasn't able to materialize it. But yeah, tension... When listening [to] KY, you are usually hearing stuff happening on various levels of volume, speed, fidelity, mood and what have you. It's one thing that makes our music interesting, I guess. I love it when horror and beauty are simultaneously present.
JA: "Tampere! Tampere! Tahdon laulaa sulle, kun kotikaupunki kaunis olet mulle." Influence of one's surroundings can't be ignored. We have our violent morons, yes, and we have bad city planning, too, but all in all I quite enjoy living in Tampere. For example, I love the size of it: 15 minutes walk from the city center and you're in the woods. And there are other things too. Many individuals of the KY & Avarus family are originally from Tampere but are now located to other cities like Turku and Helsinki.
JA: I don't know. It's a subject I'd think about more if I were a music journalist. The Wire Magazine just published a Global Ear article with a subtitle "New Weird Finland". It usually takes a minute before someone somewhere is whining: "I've had enough of this 'New Weird Finland' shit." Like with "New Weird America" or "grunge".
JA: I really don't have much to say about improvisation. I've never thought of it as a tool for revolution or anything cool like that. My approach to music is intuitive. KY music includes elements that could be called composed but most of the playing is improvised. With KY, the interplay often happens with tracks of something I have played myself some minutes/years before. Many KY songs are based on repetition and I might spend hours trying to record some more demanding instrumental part right. Then it becomes almost like a video game. "I made it this far... now... must... try... again.…" Our live line-up usually has some "songs" as starting point.
With Avarus and The Anaksimandros, we are making the music as we go. It's jamming and improvisation celebration. Sometimes we'll end up in amazing musical places and it can feel like the best thing in the world. It doesn't happen every time and that can be frustrating.
JA: That there is a KY live show is already quite strange. One warm memory from an early live show is from Can't Kick Ass party in Helsinki. We were the last group to perform and for our final number we asked the audience to participate. People were banging anything they could find. It was a wonderful jam socially, if not musically.
We would never play in an awful venue. When we opened for Birchville Cat Motel in Tampere, there was a lovely lady in the audience. Here's what Campbell Kneale wrote to his tour diary for Dusted Magazine: "Of course, there is always one cretin at every show, and this time The Golden Shithead Award goes to the SUPER-LOUD, abrasive, New York chick who continuously whined at every quiet moment in KY's set in an extremely slow, drawly American accent ‘I fuckin HAAAATE this MEEEEEEuuusic, and I HAAAAaaaate this SAAAAAOooooond!’ She was hilarious! Perplexed, Jan went and had a chat to her, and she rattled off on some tangent about how she had found the 132nd 'universal form of music' or some such bollocks. She wouldn't even tell Jan about it because she thought he would nick her discovery, but she did disclose (in hushed tones) that it did involve a mixing of TRANCE and BEETHOVEN! Holy Mother of God...that sounds like the 132nd Universal form of shite, don't you think? Apparently the album is going to be out this year. Go get it kids. What a phucknuckle!" By the way, later we found out that she's actually Finnish but prefers to speak English.
JA: Yes, I have, and at the moment I'm quite free to leave. In a week, I'll be off to Denmark, Belgium, and Holland for a small tour with Avarus and Tomutonttu. Maybe I'll find a new home somewhere there. There's a lot of really exciting stuff happening in USA too. Too bad your country is far too frightening for me.
JA: For me, the best new records released last year were "Cloudz" by Sunroof! and the 7" by Lauhkeat Lampaat. Most amazing record I heard last year would be the 1st Michael Hurley album. Few things can top the magic of that one.
-- Brad Rose (21 June, 2005)