A Walk in the Triangle Forest
Interview: Kuronen & Arkadin
Where the junipers carry and the night sings, there a free spirit trickles in the highs and lows of the evergreen forest. The person’s mind glimmering of strength, restrained fury and unconditional ambition, he is destined to reach the peripheries of the forest once. But not yet and not for some time, as the terrain is rough and filled with eclectic questions, all-embracing interests, probing and everything in between. All of which should cohere with each other in the end. Flora and fauna too. These branches and leaves are meant to steal the sun from the sky, the moon from its lair where it sleeps during daytime.
And the object of this rather symbolic trope is Jouni Kettu, of Eisefen fame. He who is the paternal figure behind this rather unknown extravaganza of nature mysticism and sentimentalist heaven painted with acoustic instruments. I am guessing that extravaganza is the right word. But you should all try it for yourselves, whether it be so that the To Die and to Bloom and Promo ’99 releases do fit the images. Only few of you have thus far, which is a dying shame. The multitude of emotions, unusually harmonic as it is, deserves infinitely much more. As for instance, it deserves an interview (the standards of which the following is meant to surpass).
Jouni, are you ready to accept this little quest where every word longs for a meaning greater than the one before? How are you feeling? Did you get a good sleep last night and do you assume that you will get one the night after?
“I am probably never fully prepared to accept interviews,” Jouni begins almost apologetically, “for I am such an idle person that these sort of things are always very arduous to pull out. Nonetheless I am feeling rather good at the moment. Since the day has passed quite nicely it appears that I, indeed, did get a good sleep last night. Speaking of which, I’ve seen both nightmares and pleasant dreams as of late. I reckon the coming night may bring about something that makes the dream unique, that makes it one of a kind. My assumption is that that dream will almost certainly be a happy one. Not for a 100 per cent certainty, but something in that direction.”
As those who know anything of Eisefen are likely aware of, the band mirrors an almost intact collection of nature related sentiments and imagery; so, seemingly it would be interesting to know first of all, what was the most profound experience that Jouni himself has had in the woods? I have been told that Nuuksio is a place that amasses a lot of people who are attracted by the chant of nature that goes a little deeper than standing in a traffic jam inhaling the wonderful incense smog. What other places are there, and do you travel a lot?
“At times there have been creatures visible in the woods. Also, we’ve had quite thrilling experiences there with flashes of lightning striking so intensely that we’ve been thrown off the path to the undergrowth. Nuuksio is probably the largest area of nature in the capital region, and close to it there is Luukki, which is the place we have been visiting. In addition, there is a small village in the archipelago which, for the reason of it having maintained its special atmosphere, has been the greatest of inspiration for me as far as places are concerned. I think that it’s strange that people want to gather all this materia round them so that when a place of rest is needed, a forest for instance, everybody has to have at least one hundred acres of it for themselves. I am contented with a smaller place in which I can phase out the wonders of modern technology, etc. That’s a lot, for every tree and every bush holds everything in itself. I do not travel a lot; the places I’ve been to have mostly been cities across Europe such as London, Paris and Barcelona. One should travel, nought more can I say.”
To venture short-term estrangement or to avoid it, I add. Then where in art has the true influence and essence of nature been most strikingly captured in the past, in Jouni’s opinion? How highly does he think Eisefen has succeeded in this context, transferring the very storming or not so storming heart of nature?
Voices Kettu: “I’d say that Indian traditional music is quite adept at conveying this essence to the listener. I could also mention the Saamish chanter Mari Boine, and also (says In-something Ring) which represents Eisefen perhaps more than the aforementioned do altogether. I would believe that I have managed to capture the atmosphere I aim at portraying quite well, and in this there’s certainly been development of the highest order in the last few years. The leaps forward have always taken place at once, followed then by a lengthier hiatus. In art you can achieve so much by being honest to yourself and sort of ‘letting go’; by constraining yourself as little as possible. In addition, to succeed in transforming this one has to have some kind of savvy, which comes from… who knows where it comes from.”
The Sun Rises and with It Everything Else
Musically, Jouni first began with the every minimalist’s favourite doom drone Pohakka, and did one demonstration tape entitled Minä kävelen vetten päällä four years ago in 1997. This is a release that has been praised by many and not understood or misinterpreted by equally many. What is the fate of Pohakka today? You have sworn on many occasions that Pohakka has been put to rest for good. If one day someone appeared and said he wants to re-print the demo on vinyl or CD, would you consent to that?
“This project has met ways with its end,” Jouni confirms. “At the very least regarding its musical style of the time. If somebody wanted to re-print the demo I guess that would be quite alright. If someone wants to listen to the kind of music that Pohakka exhibits, if this is the case, that’s always good to hear. Someone may be going through that stage in his musical progress, and that’s okay then I guess.”
An accurate sign of indifference, if nothing else. Heading towards the Eisefen proceedings and ‘staff issues’ in particular, both Ilkka Salminen and Eleonora Lundell of Tenhi performed on the promo ‘99 release, and prior to that the former even helped you with the Pohakka demo. What is the relationship like between you and the members of Tenhi? Personally, do you play in any other bands or projects?
“Ilkka is a boy from the neighbourhood and a childhood’s friend who’s now dropped out due to all his hurries. Eleonora likewise was probably in for the completion of that release only. I need a new guitarist at the moment. As for the relationship to Tenhi, I am not the greatest friend of the band’s music. I do play in all sorts of combinations myself; I’ve now played drums in this one prog rock group practicing in the spirit of Frank Zappa; then there’s one theatre thing, and also an ethno band of a friend of mine that I should soon be playing in. At some point some projects of my own may come into question, but before that I should get Eisefen in function again. So, that guitarist is needed…”
You have told me that in the future most Eisefen lyrics will be in your native tongue, in Finnish, since in so “they can be much more profound as well as more poetic”. Are you discontent with what you have achieved in English? Do you suppose that you will be able to surpass all the possibly appearing terrifying trivialities when writing in your native tongue? There was the infamous “Kuinka niin hellä suudelma voi tehdä haavan?” ending on the Pohakka track, which almost managed to ruin the entire lyric. What I am getting at is that if one chooses to write in Finnish, the lyrics most certainly have to be made impenetrable, for at least within these borders they will go under some serious scrutiny and every verse will be weighed individually, and no errata is of course expected to be found… In addition: on its own, Finnish is not a highly viable option if one hopes for lyrics that are to multiply the poetic effect…
“To me Finnish is the language, no question. As a matter of fact, I wonder why the Finnish language is criticised so much here, for haven’t many foreign poets that have learned Finnish and started to write poems in Finnish said that the language of ours is a poetic language? I do think that Finnish is indeed a very poetic language and offers a way to get somehow deeper, if you will. When it’s the native tongue of one, at least it’s certain that one will get deeper. I am going towards writing lyrics in Finnish for Eisefen, but I still write things in English as well. It depends always on the words; of which some may come out in English and some in Finnish.”
The title track of To Die and to Bloom shows a curious way of thinking: “Now I see how everything grows to die, to die and to bloom / I can see how we are all falling to death, to die and to bloom / How the rocks are waiting to crumble away, to die and to bloom / And the flowers wanting to wither away, to die and to bloom” Is it that in order to live again, one has to perish first?
“Well, I am of the opinion that creatures do not disappear but merely change their shape and form in the cradle of demise. So there. I wouldn’t want to think of what animal to be, were I to be reincarnated. No. I only want to be, and I do not know… Not to be, why not… Why yes?”
Indeed. - If ever an argument could be based upon reactions in true Beckettian fashion… Afternoonsong, the spoken introduction of the promo ‘99 release, was one of the most remarkable openers I have personally heard in a very long time. It catches the attention instantly and almost demands to have a deeper meaning behind it, as it is so touching and personal and brave and excellent and… So does it have one, a particular story behind creating that piece of magic?
Explains Jouni, “Afternoonsong was born on my own balcony on one of those springtime days when gazing afar and noticing that here should be one piece of the whole cosmic treasure. Sometimes I am able to open the entire treasure, which means that a part of myself has to change or to disappear. Perhaps it disappears there in between. Why would it disappear there in between?”
See above mark on Beckett.
“Red is death / Yellow is life / Blue is the bond between these two.” What is the colour of Eisefen?
“My favourite colour has always been violet, and that is also the colour of Eisefen. It’s always fascinated me with its mystique. What I find in it in particular is depth and profundity. It is as though a black hole which you can seek to sink in.”
Do you think that you will ever deviate from your current style of writing lyrics, the romanticising of nature and one’s world of emotions? In which direction could you consider heading? The style used at present is almost impossible for anyone to ‘crack open’, so to say… Any endeavour may end in a disastrous misconception. Was this something that you reached for consciously? Have you got any spare time to consume on literature? If yes, what kind of literature do you perceive as the most interesting?
“My way of writing consists of writing honest sentiments and reflections about something. These thoughts verse and arrive from something, and I’d say that they are going to stay invariable, too, even though the matters I write about may be related to just about anything to a certain extent. I believe that what I am approaching is a change provided by the switch of going from writing in English to writing in Finnish; that the Finnish language will immediately bring in some novelty factors. Of course, this change may also sweep away something old with it. I am not sure if I have on any particular level aimed at any abstruse output that no one may understand the idea of. I’ve aimed at honesty and purity, that’s what I aim at. And also a feeling of freshness which may or may not have anything to do with this. Freshness and purity are some rather high values for me, some of the highest. And I do have time, it’s just a question of what you use that time on. I rarely use it on reading. I’ve always been a pretty indolent reader, but I’ve read something. The best reading experience was simultaneously reading Winnie the Pooh and Tao and Schopenhauer’s Über den Tod und sein Verhältnis zur Unzerstörbarkeit unseres Wesens an sich. Those were two works that supported each other and together sparkled a very nice reading sensation. That I can recommend.”
I postulate that you are interested in photography. What kind of a function does it fulfil in you - what do you ‘seek for’ when you photograph, what kind of emotion does it bring forth in you? What can you tell about your equipment and methods concerning photography?
“It’s a dear friend of mine who has taken the photographs I believe you have seen. I am not a photographer myself and know nothing at all of cameras, so I cannot really say. However, if I were to photograph I would probably photograph something small. Details, still-life photographs and thematic series of sorts.”
Musing on Anti-Musics
To go on into entirely different areas, do you consider yourself a nationalist and to what extent would you defend your country from oncoming peril? Where else would you have preferred to have been born if not in Finland, and why? Do you think this subject is of great importance, personally? What does freedom mean to you?
“I wouldn’t call myself a nationalist, for as a word ‘nationalist’ contains so much that is disturbing to me On the other hand, it also contains something that suits me, as for instance love towards Finnish nature. But that is of course also love towards the whole world… I love the world… How Finland differs from this is merely in that it is my native country and I am used to it and perhaps more dependent on it. I have not served in the army, so in that sense I am free, and freedom obviously means very much. Maybe, as in practice I’ve always had the possibility of being free, it’s not very easy to see the importance of freedom in full capacity. The circumstances have been good. Freedom is probably one of the most important things to me. Creatures are not be repressed.”
Would you call yourself a reticent person? The music you do with Eisefen quite extensively hints at such behaviour. Do you see yourself as a person that views at others from the outside, like someone gazing over everybody else from far above, floating in the air or something akin to that?
“I can’t deny that I am an observer. That’s probably the best expression to use in this connection. I observe people and, in a manner of speaking, float somewhere else, there… In a way… Then again, I am also very open and benevolent. Yet I float.”
The thing, person or group that wins most of your respect in the world today? And the opposite, what do you detest the most, i.e. what would you change?
“I am not an avid follower of any groups and can’t say anything about them because they are often so full of decay. However, on the level of individuals I think highly of someone who is honest to himself and acts, or at the very least tries to act with the best of intentions towards the cosmos. I appreciate those who live in peace and those who preserve correctly such important matters as nature. Naturally I also have respect for singers and in general for everyone who in one way or another shares that honesty, joy, and love. To put it in short; I respect honest and sharing persons.
“As to what I would change, I would explicitly change people’s stances on freedom. People could and should be more open-minded. Somehow I get the feeling that we’re stuck to this something which does not exist, which is worshipped although it doesn’t exist. This something creates a mass of sorts, but if you take one particle out of that mass, that one particle doesn’t represent the mass either. In that mass it’s nothing but thoughts of no contents that rise head and shoulders above others.”
It is fairly plain to perceive that religion today is, roughly said, devoid of all meaning to individuals such as yourself, but what would you consider are some matters that could replace the meaning that religion has, which only generations ago was still of great value to certain types of people? What would you imagine, in your case, has replaced religion? Could art have some part in that?
“In one respect I think that quality art already as such contains the thought of religion on some level. At least to myself art constitutes a wider concept which, almost automatically, includes the world that locates behind the piece of art itself. And that’s the precise individual world. Every one of us has a system of some kind in his head; it’s a question of what you want to let in to that world. Some are content with what they believe themselves, while some others do not perhaps have enough trust in their own ideas and instead choose a path that is supported by a larger group of people.”
Kind of like Solstice put it, “Save these truths for a weaker man.”
“The most important thing in my opinion is to understand that all religions per se are exquisite for their cultural differences. Yet, they are only a part of cultural moral tradition and separate thoughts scattered here and there. Guess it’s easy to find just about any contradicting ideals printed in books. In a way it’s all a mix of different things.”
How much does the aural and visual world mean to you? How would you spend a day if you had lost all your hearing or sight?
“Just the other day, I was thinking of how it would truly be horrible if I lost my sense of hearing. I wouldn’t know how to have the strength to go on. But speculating that I would get accustomed to it or something, that I could find a solution as to what to do, probably I would just sit still and think. Then if I could not see, I would presumably play my guitar and listen to the noises and sounds around me.”
What do you think of people who decide to live their lives in a thoroughly linear way and who refuse to accept any other possibilities and deny others of them as well?
“These sort of people are naturally free to live as pleases them most, and in a sense even my own life moves in the kind of orbit that doesn’t necessarily bounce anywhere. Though on the other hand it always does, so I don’t know. Maybe I, however, would not take an entire life and try to pinpoint the reasons for why that life is the way it is. It is inevitable that a vast amount of things do occur in everyone’s life, perhaps not all of us just analyse and attempt to learn from it in the way that others do.”
H e u t e F u t u r e, S u p p l e m e n t a l I n q u i r i e s
Will drums become a part of Eisefen in the future? I cannot remember for sure, but I think that you once said that they will. Fusing ethnic elements with Eisefen has also been mentioned as a part of the ongoing progress… Would you care to elaborate? What other new elements will there be in future Eisefen material?
“Eisefen will in fact face quite a large number of changes. There are the Indian tabla drums, which I’ve been playing a lot in recent times; they’ll be a part of it. As will probably other percussions as well, for those are mostly the ones I can play myself; others I cannot handle as well. Besides that I perhaps know how to compose music. I also play the piano, which will be added in the forthcoming material. The instrument was actually used in the very first and yet to be properly recorded Eisefen songs. I’m also in need of a flautist, as the flute and wind instruments in general are to be more extensively used in the future. Then there are of course the Finnish lyrics and bass guitar, which shall be yet some more new elements as compared to the old. I’ll possibly use additional string instruments as well… All of these things. The spectrum may be musically more variant, meaning that it can be virtually anything, as I listen to so many different sorts of good music. Folk and traditional music from one end to the other. Mostly acoustic music.”
Thus far, World Serpent from England has been mentioned as the most potential channel to release an Eisefen full-length album in the future, or at least so it was said last year. Have any notable changes occurred since then? What are the chances of you releasing more self-financed material before putting your name under a contract with some record label?
“I would not mention World Serpent with any greater significance at this point. I wouldn’t mention anything else either because nothing’s ever certain. World Serpent might on some level be a possible medium for releasing Eisefen music, but I don’t know. What I have first in mind right now is to get the possibility of recording an album in a professional way. To have a decent sound of some sort at least; to get to record a good album. I will then send it around someplace, and if I don’t succeed in obtaining a record deal, I’ll probably release it on my own. On some level, at least - so that the few chosen ones will at least get it.”
Something that one artist pursues and another finds absolutely horrid is that one’s backing should come from a wider field of supporters than just the ‘same old, same old’ - in our case namely the average metal folk. Since the Pohakka days, has Jouni noticed that an alteration has taken place concerning the people who turn out to be friends of his music?
“I’m not sure, as I am not too aware of who my fans actually are. The only ones I know of them are my friends, so I don’t know. This is probably true of course, for it is a giant leap from Pohakka to Eisefen. It’s natural that the audience would change.”
The Last Bow
Now that we have reached this point in our conversation, there is little left to ask. A fact has to be confessed, and that is that you were quite the difficult character to think of questions for. Please tell if you have any final remarks on this interview.
“To advertise a bit, the Pohakka demo is still available for 20FIM and US$3, or whatever it is according to the exchange rates. If desperately needed, Eisefen’s both releases on one CD may also be obtainable. That would be sixty minutes of music for the price of something like 40 to 50 Finnish marks and seven to eight US dollars.
“It might be that this was the wrong time for an interview… Moments do roam under constant change, however.”
There you have it. This interview shall hereby be brought to a close by an aphorism that I have seen many to use in recent times: “The day I got my computer was the worst day of my life.” And this is probably not a far cry from the truth, for all its positive sides, a computer causes misery of the sort that may not be detected by the human eye. What would be greater than abandoning all computers and modern devices and flee to a life in nature? To most of us this will never happen, which is a great pity. But the thought of that utopia can be a never-dying dream, a dream to be cherished. That is the dream am I talking about.
The eye shall close now.