This interview with Tyko Saarikko of Tenhi features questions by Y. Arkadin.
1. What does the word Tenhi mean? I'm curious whether it translates to anything as my ignorance of your language would not permit me to decipher it on my own.
Tenhi is an old Finnish word meaning a shaman, although it is not used anymore, apart from some old poems perhaps. It's deeply connected to our musical goal; making music which takes the listener on a "shaman journey" through different feelings and ensnares the listener for a long time.
2. Tenhi seemed to almost have materialized from deep in a lake nowhere to be found. I'm curious about the beginnings of the band, and how your present style had developed. Can you speak a bit of its history?
It all started in late 1996. I wanted to achieve a touch with the mystical side of life through music, and at that time I wrote three songs dealing with the past and myths of Finland and Tenhi evolved. In the beginning of 1997 I wanted to record the songs for a demo tape. So, in early 1997, I asked Ilkka to join in my project as a drummer (later he started to play other instruments as well in this band). Together we recorded that demo tape "Kertomuksia", which got a really good response in the underground and led the way for the record deal for three full-length albums on Prophecy Productions. In spring 1998, Ilmari joined Tenhi and we recorded the mCD "Hallavedet". In the autumn 1998 we entered the studio for the recording of "Kauan". Now there are three permanent members in Tenhi, and two session musicians, Eleonora and Veera, who play violin and flute in some songs.
Saarikko: Vocals, Synth and guitar (didgeridoo, Jew's harp)
Ilkka Salminen: Vocals and guitar (drums on the releases so far)
Ilmari Issakainen: Grand piano, Guitar and percussions (drums in the future releases)
If I remember right, we never have had a discussion between us about how we should sound. It came about naturally and found its place when Ilkka and I recorded the first songs on the demo "Kertomuksia". Our musical taste has remained the same but of course there are some differences between releases mainly because of the sound. We aren't too happy with the "Hallavedet" mCD. The sound is far too modern and clear for our taste. It lacks the feeling and atmosphere we have on "Kertomuksia" and "Kauan". Personally, I enjoy a lo-fi sound. We might even use my old 4-tracker to record some instruments just to bring forth some good old juicy and tasteful sounds.
3. Prophecy Productions has attached the description of 'melancholic folkloric rock' to your music. Although there are some 'rock' aspects, I feel this categorization is patronizing and essentially incorrect. How do you feel about this labeling? Do you believe that your music can appeal to a much wider audience if there was less of a need to impart these categorical constraints?
Yes, I agree with you. I don't believe that labelling is any nearer the truth than something else, but I understand that it is a kind of must for record companies to put their bands in some category. I believe that other people than just metal people could find us interesting, in fact there has been a good response in some progressive music magazines and loads of brilliant reviews in dark/alternative magazines. Our music has elements from a variety of musical styles but it is always dark and emotional music, to put it simply.
4. Listening to the music of the band, I feel as though it presents an atmosphere ideal for walks through nature, excursions through woods and similar such outdoors activity. But perhaps the greatest attribute of Tenhi is the ability of the listener to escape within himself, to discover new emotions - to travel 'within' oneself. Does Tenhi have any prescribed notion of what they would like the listener to feel or visualize through their sound? Do you feel the classification of 'escapism' properly encapsulates the intention?
As I mentioned in the beginning, the "shaman-journey within oneself " is one of the main themes in our music, but also the visualizing, creating "sound-landscapes" as you mentioned. We try to create a little silence in these hasty times. Yes, in a way our music fits the term escapism.
5. I'd like to speak of the photography and artwork of the band, since it compliments the music almost perfectly. Where was the photograph from Hallavedet taken? And also the sublime cover of Kauan? Can you explain some of the details surrounding these designs? Was there some kind of prototype you had in mind that you were aiming to mimic or supersede, however distant?
Ilkka has taken the Hallavedet-photo, so I can't tell for sure, but I believe it has been taken in his summer cottage by a lake. Likewise the "Kauan" photo has been taken near Ilmari's summer cottage. We have always done the cover by ourselves since the days I made the covers of "Kertomuksia", it is a tradition that we will continue in the future too. Every one of us is interested in visual arts and is studying them also. I will probably use my "minimalist" graphics on the next album's covers.
6. It's not difficult to picture that nature plays a very important role not only as artistic inspiration for Tenhi, but as a key component in your lives as well. Is the lifestyle and geography of the area you live in conducive to your needs? Is tranquility hard to find in Finland, or could it be, as a foolish person living in America like myself is bound to think, that it is superabundant?
Nature is here everywhere, even in cities, so finding tranquillity outdoors is not hard to achieve. Nature is essential for me to find harmony and a place for speculation and inner peace: it is a superior and higher "being" than us.
Tyko in the midst of Finnish nature...
7. Concerning your latest release, "Kauan", how long did it take to record the entire album (I lack the information since I only have the promo), and, now that some time had passed since it's release, do you see the final product as a satisfactory image of where the band is currently headed in their style? Are you generally satisfied with the outcome?
When recording "Kauan" we had a studio booked for about one month with some leisure days of course. Sometime just one of us was recording his parts, and there were some solos/parts recorded that the rest of the members hadn't heard before the mixing. The long studio time provided us opportunity to experiment with live echoes in a stony hall and some other "minor" factors that made "Kauan" what it is. I am happy with the "Kauan" like I have been all the time, but just recently when listening to it I really fall in to spheres it creates. Only thing what bothers me is the leaflet-art which didn't turn out the way we wanted. Anyway the "Kauan" recording/mixing sessions are a huge contrast to "Hallavedet," when we had recorded/mixed it in a hasty 12 hour session it took some two to three hours when I was pissed off by the too fancy sound on it.
8. I see that "Kauan" is receiving quite a bit of praise from members of the metal community. Is this something that you expected? How do you feel about that reception and what is your view of metal today in general? Could Tenhi's music be reasonably considered as a part of that community?
Yes, we expected something like that, after all, the demo tape and mini-CD got a very good response in the metal community earlier and our style hasn't changed much since. I think that our music appeals to metal people because we deal with the same kind of melancholy and have a slightly same kind of feel in our music - similar to many metal bands, so it's no problem that most of our promotion happens in the metal genre. I lack interest in the current metal scene. Only a few bands have kept my interest. This new wave of "futuristic" metal doesn't appeal to me at all. The music won't get futuristic by just adding strange effects and space/industrial sounds to the distorted guitars.
9. Concerning the lyrics, are there any specific authors and poets that had a strong role in determining the current style? Are the lyrics an important component of a musical entity's expression in your view? Are they ancillary?
As in our music, when I write lyrics emotions are often comprehended as real persons/personalities. I often try to "materialize" feelings and moods like in old myths, which of course often is impossible. The lyrics are very important for me and I use lyrics with every song, even if the song didn't contain any singing. Sometimes the lyrics can just be one or two phrases or a few spoken words. Our lyrics have many sentences, which can't be deciphered into English, that's why we don't use direct translations, just altered stories about the same theme. I am not too happy about the translations on "Kauan". They tell everything essential of the topic of the song but nothing more really, they are quite flat and lack the nuances of the original Finnish ones.
10. Now that some of your projects have become consummated, what do you foresee in the future? Will there be any live performances, or some sort of touring taking place? How would you picture the most ideal scenario for a show, were you to take part in one?
performances are quite impossible at the moment because we all play more than
one instrument in almost every song. We have talked about a live performance
and agreed that if we ever make one, we will play the songs slightly different,
in a more rhythmic way, we might even compose songs just to play live never to
be released on a record. An ideal place for us would of course be outdoors,
maybe by a lake. Loads of room where people could lie down and fall in to the
spheres or dance and perform some tribal acts. Well, strange as it is just now
making this interview I got a phone call, that the Prophecy Productions could
arrange us a gig in Germany next summer, in some "folk music" event,
maybe we will try to work something out...
We have over 70 minutes of new material and we will record the new songs during this spring and summer. If everything goes as planned we will release a second full-length next autumn, but we will see what happens.
11. Before I close the interview, I'd like to digress to a broader topic by asking you, Tyko, what your view is on the increase of technology in our society today. Do you feel that humanity is prepared for such rapid progress? Aldous Huxley claimed that "Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards." Can this progress be self-destructive when the greater mass of humans may not even be prepared for such change? What is your view? Thank you for your time and effort.
Although I am not a religious person it makes me puke to see people getting so materialized and forgetting all else. Consumption and technology has become this century's religion. Nothing good about that.