In Cinema
(Edition Records)


Finland has always been one of the central locations of dynamic, dramatic instrumental progressive Eurock music. Case in point being the much missed musical genius of the late, great Finnish prog-rock maestro Pekka Pohjola. Well I’m happy to say one of Pekka’s two sons, Ilmari Pohjola plays on the 2013 CD by the group known as Oddarrang entitled In Cinema. Headed up by and featuring the music of drummer / multi-instrumentalist Olavi Louhivuori, the seven track In Cinema CD clocks in at 54+ minutes and features an outstanding composite of musicians playing Olavi’s music including Ilmari (trombone, guitar), Lasse Sakara (guitars), Lasse Lindgren (bass, synths) and Osmo Ikonen (cello). Having played with some of the greats of Euro jazz, including Tomasz Stanko, Olavi’s drumming is innovative and excellent and his cinematic instrumental prog-rock sound is the perfect backdrop for these outstanding players. Somewhere in prog-rock heaven, Pekka Pohjola is smiling down on his son and the great music in play on this fascinating Oddarang CD. www.OlaviLouhivuori.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with

by Kevin LeGendre

Although 2013 had yielded a summer that, by British standards, was somewhat heaven sent, the weather took a devilishly mischievous turn in the second week of September. Rain came and went as frequently as our electronic communications are intercepted, if Edward Snowden, still a major news story at the time, is to be believed.

It was thus under a dark and turbulent sky that I made my way to a hotel in King’s Cross to meet Olavi Louhivuori, and even though the foyer was nondescript in design and décor, the mood was lifted by the Finnish musician’s definitely upbeat presence.

Which was hardly surprising as the drummer, composer and bandleader of Oddarang was glowing from concerts at King’s Place in London and the Band On The Wall in Manchester on the previous two nights. Further pepped up by some coffee, he had much to say about where the band is and where they are headed in what looks like a very bright future.

Tell me about the gigs in Manchester and London...

OL: It was great. We had such a good experience in Manchester. We had a nice crowd. The audience was like one of the best ever… really intense. It was a huge reward after a long day because we’d traveled the whole day and we had problems with instruments, we lost the cello… and we had just two hours sleep.

So when we got to play in Manchester it just felt so good, so we got this energy and we still had this energy when we got here [London]. When we got on stage, it was a full house. People were really listening and reacting.

The conditions play a big role. I love working in the studio but now really nice interesting things happen on stage. We’re quite excited.

Do you have a favourite type of venue?

OL: I have to say that now when we played at the Band On the Wall… this is the best possible venue for where we are as a band and what type of music we play. We all felt that the Band On The Wall was that. It was not a typical jazz club. It was open for many different kinds of music and that’s also what we like to do… combine lots of stuff.

Also the venue was not too…. you don't have to dress up. It’s an easy going place. It’s relaxed. Everyone was sitting. It was a really intense, beautiful atmosphere, even though it was a kind of rock club. We can play really hard, heavy loud stuff but really quiet stuff and it all worked beautifully.

Right now, it feels like this kind of club and atmosphere suits us. And also if there is a chance to bring people from outside of a jazz audience to hear us it's also nice. One way to do that is to play in different venues, not just traditional venues.

As you’re not that well known in the UK at the moment people don't have real expectations. In the best case they can be open-minded?

OL: Exactly. It’s really important for me… if you come to hear us and you’re expecting to hear a jazz band you're gonna be disappointed. Most of the people who come have never heard us.

The instrumentation is relatively unusual. How did you decide on this combination or did you not decide? Did they just come together organically?

OL: I kind of decided, ten years ago when I first had the idea for the band. I don’t know how much I remember but I do remember that even before I knew the guys I knew I wanted to have cello, trombone and guitar…yeah I knew the line-up quite early before thinking about who I should ask to play.

I don't really know what was the original reason for that line up. I remember hearing one really nice album with Paul Motian, Gary Peacock and then Wolfgang Muthspiel [guitar] and his brother Christian who plays trombone. I liked that sound, but that was without cello. But I kind heard trombone and cello in my head. I wanted to have a dark sound.

With those two instruments you have the possibility of lots of low register sounds. Do you listen to a lot of bass-heavy music? Does that appeal to you?

OL: Hmm, maybe I do. It could be more like… I was playing a lot of piano trio music at the time [With Joona Toivanen]. So maybe I just wanted to do something different. I was doing a lot of jazz so maybe when I started to think about the combination, the line-up, I just wanted to go in another direction. I decided quite early that I didn't want to have piano. It felt natural.

You can also have a certain melancholy with those instruments.

OL: Yeah, it’s true, trombone is not used that much. In Finland, I don't know if there’s hardly any like jazz bands [with it]. Trombone is more like in reggae music and some horn sections but there’s not that many bands that have trombones as a fundamental part of the line-up.

Trombone is a tricky instrument. You can't do the stuff with trombone as you do with trumpet – or there are not many people who can do that, so that’s one reason. There are a couple of really technical trombone players in Finland, but that’s not what I was looking for.

It’s more lyricism and melodies?

OL Yeah, that’s really important for me. I love melodies. I try to write melodies that are… melodies. You were talking about melancholy… one guy who lives here he was listening to our music and he told me that he misses Finland. When he closed his eyes he said that our music sounded how Finland looks. We talked about melancholy and that’s a big part of the Finnish soul or inner sense, somehow we have this melancholy deep inside the culture, in our nature.

Tell me more about the band. It’s been together ten years now. Have you always played with this line-up?

OL: Yeah, when I formed the band I did have a little more of a chamber-ish jazz idea. Lasse Sakara, the guitar player, was really into Bill Frisell and that kind of sound. He was one of the first guys who I realized I want to have this guy in the band, he was doing something a bit different, he was not this kind of jazz bebop guy.

It was more about sound…textures. And Osmo Ikonen [cello] is my cousin, he’s more like a brother because our mums are twins. Also I wanted to have a guy who plays cello, but not like this really classical kind of approach. So that was an easy choice. Trombone - that was an easy decision. And the bass player, I didn't want to have upright bass.

Why not?

OL: I didn’t want to have a jazz sound. With each player I wanted to have more like a music-making approach instead of a soloist. I was playing so much jazz in traditional line-ups that when I was thinking about forming my own band I wanted to have a different approach from what I was doing.

But these musicians come from a lot of different areas of Finnish music.

OL: The bass player Lasse Lindgren, me and him come from a jazz background, but everybody else comes from different areas.

I first saw you about 12 years ago in the Joona Toivanen Trio at the Yyvaskyla jazz festival. How important was that experience for you?

OL: Well, we still play together but not nearly as much. We’re now just putting up songs for the next album. That trio was like a home where I grew up as a musician. We all started to play jazz together, nobody knew what this music was about so we started to study together and play together and try stuff, which was really nice. Three guys totally open about stuff and extremely excited about everything… transcribing.

In Yyvaskyla at the Jazz bar we hosted a jam even though we were under age. We had a special permit. We were just practicing and playing all the time. And those were really important years. So the value is huge. I don't know what I’d be without that experience

Let’s talk about the new record, In Cinema. There is a film connection, obviously?

OL: We had one session for the movies because we released it as a soundtrack in April 2012 for four short films and then we recorded the album in May. The four short films…. that’s really how things came together. I was really slow with Cathedral [the previous album]. I was playing so much I really didn’t have time to focus, so it took four years, and I didn't want that to happen again. I wanted to make sure I was faster.

We had been thinking of hosting some kind of club in Helsinki. I didn't know what the idea of theme would be, so I got this idea that we should do something with directors, so we had four nights and for each night we had a new director. I knew all the directors so we had a little conversation about the movie they would make and I wanted each director to make more like a video installation, this kind of abstract stuff. The idea was to make this piece of art together, not like music on top of the film …totally integrated. That was a really nice way to make sure that songs would happen. I had a heavy deadline to work to so especially for the first club night, it was really stressful but it was good. It didn't take me long to write the material.

Did you see the images before writing the music?

OL: Yes that was a really nice way for me to compose. I didn't have to sit down and wait for inspiration. I had the picture, all the movies are really beautiful and they have strong themes. Actually, it was quite an easy process for me to compose. It was like a platform that I could use. I always asked to get the movie a week or two before the club night, then we had a couple of rehearsals. Each night when we had the club we played one set of our own music then we showed the film and played together, it was Oddarang in Cinema. That was the name of the club.

After making music for the films, did you want something else for the album?

OL: No, I wanted to have those songs but I had to make adjustments because the movies are long – 15 minutes. We have all of the songs from the movies made shorter but they are the same songs. And then three others. Actually, one or two of these songs were made for the movies but I realized they didn't fit the picture but I was able to use them just as songs.

The connection between music and cinema for you is a deep one.

OL: Yes, it is really. When I was thinking about what kind of approach I wanted to have for our third album I really wanted to have this visual thing combined with music.

Do certain images suggest melodies or rhythms?

OL: Well, for example the first movie I got I watched it and I didn’t do anything. Then afterwards things started to emerge. I spent some days with the piano writing some melodies. I started to think how can I add these melodies to this movie, but each song is different, and a lot of unconscious things were going on.

The picture is abstract in a way… you can just have the faces of people in one movie, different characters, or nature, a branch is moving or something. I really felt the power of music when you add music to a picture - you just add the soul. It made me feel like I have lots of responsibility… thinking maybe I had a totally different idea than them [the directors]. But they were all quite happy.

Do you have any favourite film composers?

OL: I watch lots of movies but I don't have any soundtrack CDs. For me it’s not like you have the music and you have the picture. The movie is the combination.

So what are some of your favourite films?

OL: Being a Finn, I love quite a few Aki Kaurismaki films. He’s a really well known Finnish director. He makes really beautiful, sad, humouristic movies about Finns, he won in Cannes a couple of years ago and he’s really well known. If there’s someone who’s capable of capturing the Finnish character and soul, he’s doing that. I love Italian Fellini, Japanese like Kurosawa. I know there are great film composers, frankly the soundtrack can feel even corny without the film. It has to be the combination.

Would it be possible to see Oddarang performing to a film in the UK?

OL: We did it last April in Finland, we played in an old movie theatre. My idea is every now and again to do a special cinema concert. It’s like another concept. That’s like a special thing that we do now and again.

What about future plans for Oddarang?

OL: Everything was done so intensively for this album. It took only one year to write all the music record and we have the CD in our hands. So maybe I’m now breathing in and let’s see what happens. But ideas are starting to come… slowly.

Thanks to interview writer Kevin LeGendre and to EditionRecords.com


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