The words “innovative,” “new,” and “startling” tend to be overused in the world of music, but every once in a while there comes a band that cannot help but summon such words, even through these themselves fall short. Such is the case with Finland’s Paavoharju, a collective that defies musical genres and transforms beauty into music. This collective’s new contribution to the airwaves is titled Joko Sina Tulet Tanne Alas Tai Mina Nousen Sinne. I spoke with a member of the collective and received the following. In my opinion, it is one of the best interviews I have ever done—and I’ve done many.
How would you go about introducing the concept of Paavoharju? How would you describe the musical landscapes that you produce?
Paavoharju: “Everything behind Paavoharju is connected to a holistic vision: Unien Savonlinna—Savonlinna of dreams. We have lived in abandoned houses and bathed in a filthy sauna built in a self-dug pothole. Music sounds different through layers of dirt, worms, oil, and pure gold. For example, hip-hop music sounds like this in our world. Some familiar urban elements may be present, but they are decayed and gone through endless random filters. The element of majestic (un)holiness is always present in our sound. Nowadays we listen to soundscapes through polystyrene.”
Tell me about your latest studio release, titled Joko Sina Tulet Tanne Alas Tai Mina Nousen Sinne. Please translate the title and describe what listeners can expect to experience.
Paavoharju: “The title of the album translates as ‘Either you come down here or I will ascend there.’ It’s a quote from dazed evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, whose rants we stumbled upon while making the record. The thought of commanding god tied the theme of the album perfectly.
“The sound of the record differs from our previous work, but it all came together really naturally. It’s the most uncompromising album we have made.”
I understand that one of the themes on this latest release is that of alienation—how things familiar turn into things distance and strange. What led you to explore this theme and how would you say you were able to transcribe it into musical language?
Paavoharju: “We once found a dead man who had hanged himself from an abandoned dairy. Melancholic beauty of the rotten corpse was way more interesting than seeing living people. We got somehow fascinated by the subject and found many beautiful things like corpse of Xin Zhui, bog bodies, skeletons of early Christian martyrs adorned into a variety of precious jewels, Ötzi, Rosalia Lombardo & other Catacombe dei Cappuccini mummies, etc. This is the antithesis to internet pornography and banal worship of youth.
“Alienation for us is first and foremost of the abduction of ego, the transcription of the absurd into personal life. We believe Camus, Deathspell Omega, and Ior Bock have shown genuine appreciation for this.”
How do the members of Paavoharju go about performing in a live venue? Do you prefer performing live, working in the studio, or a combination of both?
Paavoharju: “We haven’t yet performed any of the new material live, but we are anxious to see how it will work out. It can be great or it can sound awful. We are intrigued by both options.
“Our main composer, Lauri Ainala, prefers working in perfect solitude.”
What sorts of things inspire you musically and lyrically? How do you go about composing—do you have a process or do you simply let ideas and concepts come to you?
Paavoharju: “Some parts of the album were made in abandoned buildings. We found the waste of empty space inspiring for this record. Our self-built sauna in which we have also recorded stuff is located at the swamp Tattarisuo, which was the place for an infamous Finnish body snatching case in the early 1930s. The atmosphere of the place was a huge influence on the album, sonically and lyrically. You can see the sauna in our ‘Patsaatkin kuolevat’ music video. The concepts of nihilism and fatalism combined to a Finnish Christian upbringing are also strongly there.
“Our composing process is a continuous transformation and the original idea may change into something totally different. Nevertheless, there is a stabile concept behind the whole album that the songs need to fit in.”