Q: When and how did you start playing the violin?
A: My father owned a violin. He played it when he was young, but not anymore when I was a kid. There was always music in our house, my parents loved music and listened it all the time. When I was about 6 or 7 years old I started to play violin. At that age I was drawn strongly to classical music. I really loved it, and Bach was my absolute favorite composer. I played classical violin until I became around 13, by then I realized that for me something was missing. Improvisation! Due to the academic teaching of classical music improvisation vanished, at least during the last, say, 50 years.
I started to experiment with several other musical genres and to listen to all kinds of music. One of my big favorites was, and still is, Jethro Tull. I wanted to play on my violin what Ian Anderson played on his flute. This band was one of the biggest inspirations for me.
In 1998 I went to New York to study improvisation, and ended up in the jazz-department. I admired the American avant-garde composer John Zorn, who was one of the founders of Painkiller, a band who played a mix of avant-garde jazz and grind core. Since those days I am trying to find unconventional ways of using conventional instruments. Maybe ten years ago I started with my Shamanviolin project. I play the melodies of the authentic shaman songs from Siberia on my violin, and play the rhythm of the shaman drums by stamping my feet with ankle bells. Herein lies the beauty of the arctic music; you usually play it when you are alone, and have total freedom of expression. Nowadays there are far too few people who do solo performances.
Q: If you feel that way, why did you join Korpiklaani?
A: Well, Jonne asked me. ( Laughs) No, of course that’s not all. My arctic realm has a strong link to Jonne’s living in Lapland, tending reindeer, and his shaman background. Sometimes things come together so nicely. Some time ago I heard that Korpiklaani was looking for a violin player, and I gave that a thought. But at that time I was occupied with other projects, among them a theatre play about the indigenous Khanty people from Siberia. So it was no option. Now, that project has ended, and I was doing only compositional work. I missed the actual playing and therefore I accepted when I was asked. With Korpiklaani I’ll get the opportunity to play a lot, and face new challenges. Maybe we can join our creativity and do some interesting things together, like joiking together with Jonne. But at first I have to learn the Korpiklaani history. This band feels good to me, they know what they are doing. Besides all this, I like their humor, their joy, the combination of metal and folk elements, and the wild things they do on stage.
Q: You’ve said you like their sense of humor, is humor important to you?
A: Humor is very important to me. Finnish people are said to be so melancholic, but that is not as bad as others think it is; we don’t take that all so serious ourselves. Our melancholy is often mixed with humor. I think that our link to nature causes this melancholy; because we have lived so closely to nature we sense the madness of the modern world more deeply. We have to balance between a holistic (natural) life, and the madness of modern society.
I grew up near Helsinki. But every summer our family spent 3 months on a small wooden sailboat. Often we did not see a living soul for weeks. We lived a fully nomadic life during these months, and that was absolutely great. My parents taught me the respect for nature and how to live in the nature without leaving a trace. It’s quite the opposite from the way most people live. Even in Finland we have lost most of the forests in natural state.
Q: You are a shaman. What does it mean to you?
A: One of the basic principals in shamanism is knowing that everyone is the creator of their own world. Our perception of the world shapes our experiences and eventually creates our life events too. I think that most of the people in the west are living from the feeling of being a victim. A victim for bad health, bad politicians, corporations or whatever. But in reality we should step out of that role and take a full responsibility of our own lives. The more you take responsibility, the freer you become. Our society doesn’t teach people to be themselves anymore and many of us have lost the power to live that way. But it has been so for only about 150 years. It’s not that long compared to the 20 000 years of shamanism.
Q: I’ve heard you get into trance when you are playing the ‘Shamanviolin’, can you tell something about that?
A: Through studying the authentic shaman songs I started to learn the authentic way of performing them as well. It is an active trance, which is purifying and healing, and not just to me, but also to some people in my audience. This active trance feels like some sort of uplifted concentration, and is different from a passive trance that is often reached in meditation through relaxation. In this trance state people find a deeper connection to who they are deep down, and afterwards they feel more appreciative towards who they are themselves.
Link to original interview