distant but musically influential country of Finland continues to
impress guitar fans and case in point is a way cool 2018 musical release
by Kepa Härkönen called Spicy Tales & Spacey
Tones. The twelve track CD features ten originals and
a pair of covers by Freddie King and surf-rock legends The Bel-Airs.
The album is tastefully packaged and overall, its a fitting
display of Kepas guitar influences that run the gamut from Mickey
Baker and Freddie King to Ry Cooder, Shadows icon Hank B. Marvin
and jazzers like Kenny Burrell and flamenco king Paco De Lucia. Musically,
the original fare encompasses surf, blues and even Cuban-Mexican rhythms
that will intrigue guitar fans. Speaking
about his many guitar influences, Kepa tells mwe3, "The Shadows
were my first big influence of guitar instrumentals
is just brilliant! Then I found all American surf guitarists and countless
bands. I see myself as a blues guitarist, but I always loved and played
all 1960s guitar instrumentals, too. My style is mix of The Shadows,
American surf, blues, and Finnish Rautalanka with Cuban
I started to think my own release, I had some kind of movie soundtrack
album in my mind. I already decided that it should be all instrumental
with my original music."
number of excellent musicians back-up Kepas rockin guitar
vision, including Daniel Hjerppe (drums), Robban Hagnäs
(bass) and more. With the success of Finnish surf-rockers Laika &
The Cosmonauts and the recently acclaimed guitar based Southpaw Steel
& Twang, Kepa Härkönen now carries the musical torch
forward for classic Finnish instrumental guitar rock. www.spotify.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
You were born near the Arctic Circle. What was that like and how cold
is it or was it? Is it still as cold in the age of global warming?
Tell us about growing up in Rovaniemi and how that town compares to
other towns in Finland?
Kepa Härkönen: I was born in Rovaniemi, near the
Arctic Circle. Its a very popular destination for the tourists,
who want to see and feel Laplands nature, snow and Northern
lights in the sky. Im used to living there four seasons of a
year and a cold winter is just a great part of that. Dont know
if its global warming or not, but last summer was really hot
in Finland, even in the north. It was a perfect summer to release
my surf album! Rovaniemi is a quiet, small town, with very nice and
friendly people. I moved to Oulu in the early 1990s, just about three
hours drive to the south, but I still visit Rovaniemi
mwe3: Your new album Spicy Tales & Spacey Tones is
a masterpiece of instrumental guitar tracks. Why did it take so long
to have a solo CD from you? The cover art is great and quite funny
Kepa Härkönen: Thank you! Ive been writing
songs and instrumentals as long as I can remember, so I had a lot
of tunes in my pocket waiting to get recorded. During the past ten
years, I just happened to be so busy working with three to five bands,
that I always pushed my solo release plans far into the future. Finally,
in late summer 2017 I decided to make it and booked my friend, Daniel
Hjerppes studio in Vaasa. We started recordings on December
7th, 2017, the day after Finland celebrated 100 years of independence.
The last title we recorded, I put together in the studio is this peace-not-war
instrumental called The Last Independence Day. Besides
being a studio owner, Daniel plays drums and percussion on the album
and recorded and mixed it. About cover art, I asked Daniel, if we
could make just a little, short you tube video to promote this album?
He said, ok, he would make it. Great! And that video art was perfect
and I asked him next if we could make album cover with this same idea?
He said, okay. And he did it! What a talented guy! I love the cover
art. Theres a lot of funny things going on.
mwe3: When I think of Finland I think of the legendary symphonic
jazz fusion masters like Pekka Pohjola and progressive 1970s bands
like Wigwam and Tasevaallan Presidente but it seems like the guitar
instrumental sound has made a big comeback in Finland these past 25
years. Was the guitar instrumental sound always big in Finland and
what are some of your favorite Finnish bands, guitarists and composers
from the past 50 years? I saw youre friends with Janne Haavisto
too, who comes from a very great music family.
Härkönen: Besides of that all fusion music, we also
have a long guitar instrumental music history. The Sounds started
it all in 1963, when they recorded their big hit Emma.
In the early 1970s, one of my Finnish guitar heroes, Albert Järvinen,
of The Hurriganes, used to play a lot of Ventures with kind of blues
twist. So, I got it also from there. Jukka Tolonen was big influence
on me, too. Not surf or blues, but beautiful guitar instrumentals
all the way. Piirpauke, the band, was also one my favorites. I think
I picked up some world music inspiration from them. Guitarist
and band-leader Esa Pulliainen with his Agents band, has done wonderful
job keeping that Rautalanka sound alive in Finland. My
friend Janne Haavisto with Laika & The Cosmonauts had a big influence
for every surf music lover, all over the world, including me. All
those Laika & The Cosmonouts guys are still working and making
mwe3: Was Hank Marvin and The Shadows a big influence or were
you more influenced by American instrumental bands like The Ventures,
Duane Eddy or even Dick Dale? The album also has a subtle Finnish
influence on it or were you trying to avoid a clear Finnish sound?
For those outside of Finland, they call it Rautalanka,
which is a kind of Finnish instrumental guitar genre in its own right.
Kepa Härkönen: The Shadows were my first big influence
of guitar instrumentals. Hank Marvin is just brilliant! Then I found
all American surf guitarists and countless bands. I see myself as
a blues guitarist, but I always loved and played all 1960s guitar
instrumentals, too. My style is mix of The Shadows, American surf,
blues, and Finnish Rautalanka with Cuban influences.
You won a kind of blues award in Finland in 2017 for work in Afro-American
roots music. How did that come about? Spicy Tales & Spacey
Tones doesnt have an overt blues sound to it but I can see
a blues fan liking it just the same. What blues bands or artists were
you most influenced by and how about influences from blues guitarists?
Härkönen: I was honored to receive the Ou´Blues
Mojo Award for my long time work as a roots musician here in Finland.
As you said, lots of blues fans like my album, too. I have my blues
background too and I love blues, surf, groove, jazz, Cuban, Spanish,
Indian music, and Ive gone surfin´ on my own release.
Fabulous Thunderbirds and Jimmie Vaughan showed me the way back to
Freddie King... I surfed his Fish Fare, Albert and B.B.
King, Lightning Hopkins, Johnny Guitar Watson, Earl King, Guitar Slim,
Ike Turner and many more. I really dig the reverb blues guitar sound
of Kid Ramos and Junior Watson
Junior can surf too! Mickey Baker
always sounded good to me, Manuel Galban, Ry Cooder and Mark Ribot
mwe3: Were you influenced by movie soundtracks too so who are
some of your favorite film score composers and how did they influence
your sound preferences?
Kepa Härkönen: Yes, I love Ennio Morricone's movie
soundtracks, spaghetti western movies, all the James Bond themes,
Ry Cooder´s movie soundtracks and many more. When I started
to think my own release, I had this kind of movie soundtrack album
in my mind. I already decided that it should be all instrumental with
my original music. As long as I can remember, Ive always been
writing lots of melodic compositions, besides straight blues tunes.
I also like to tell short, spicy tales for all the titles I write.
My idea of making a soundtrack album seems to gone through and I receive
lots of messages and notes that I should send my CD to movie industry
Tell us about your guitars. I see the pictures on your Facebook page
and the guitars are brilliant looking. Do you collect guitars? I saw
that orange Spacerocket guitar which is excellent and then of course
theres the guitar on the cover of your CD. How many guitars
are you playing on the Spicy Tales & Spacey Tones album?
Härkönen: I guess Im more of a Fender guy than
Gibson oriented, single coil pickups seem to have that twangy sound
Im after. Im not really into collecting guitars. I just
own guitars I really use or need. The last I bought, an orange Danelectro
Dead On 67 is a cheap guitar that sounds great and looks cool.
It only needed some help with the bridge and I just ordered a better
one. I call it Spacerocket. Another cool guitar, the Eastwood
Tuxedo, loaded with 50s underwounded Lollar P-90s and 12-52
flatwound strings, is my favorite. I used that guitar on four titles.
Its not any kind of typical surf guitar, but it sounds great
to me. I also used the Danelectro baritone on The Last Independence
Day and Fish Fare. I used my old Fender/Warmoth
Strat on Slow Surf and Mr. Moto. The rest
includes a Mexican-made Fender Jazzmaster '60s reissue, pictured on
the CD cover art, with an updated bridge and Mastery vibrato unit.
Its been my trusty crap and go axe for the last
3 years. I also was loaned my friends old Yamaha nylon string
guitar, which I used here and there on the album. My Ibanez 12-string
acoustic is one you can hear also, giving some Cuban feel on a few
Who is in your band and can you add something about the bands
chemistry on the CD and in a live setting. They sound totally in-sync
with your vision and style.
Härkönen: My band, Kepa Härkönen & Surfin'
Reindeers includes my long time friends Robban Hagnäs (bass),
Daniel Hjerppe (drums) and Pekka Gröhn (keyboards). Those guys
are from The Wentus Blues Band. We also worked together as The Kathmandu
Blues Band, touring in Scandinavia, India and Nepal with Sean Carney
and Shaun Booker from Ohio, in the USA. So, we knew each other very
well and we had the same kinds of ideas about what we wanted. I first
recorded demo versions of my tunes in my home studio and sent them
to the guys to listen to before we recorded. With these guys, it was
just a perfect combination and chemistry in the studio, and everything
worked absolutely perfect. We do live gigs now, too. Im so grateful
to my friends!
mwe3: You just traveled from Finland for a vacation to the
country of Vietnam. What was that like?
Kepa Härkönen: Talking about the world of music,
I just had a 2 week vacation in Hoi An and Hanoi, Vietnam, a place
far away from Finland. I really enjoyed this trip and I heard some
really interesting local music. I liked those melodic lines, and maybe
I will use a couple ideas from there for my new instrumentals.
Now with the release of Spicy Tales & Spacey Tones what's
coming up next for you? Have you gotten some acclaim in the other
European countries and how about in England and Australia? Seems like
the timeless instrumental guitar sound has a strong, devoted fan base
Kepa Härkönen: Im really humbled, thankful
and surprised from all the positive feedback and reviews this album
is getting around the world, from Australia, England, the USA, Sweden
and Finland. Instrumental guitar music seems to have lot of friends
Its great! Now Im gigging around with my
band and play my music. We have some special gigs coming up this summer.
And I already have some new titles, Im just waiting on making
I hope I can start making my next album maybe
in a year or two.