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VanderGraafKommandöh View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Interview - Jarno Sarkula (Alamaailman Vasarat)
    Posted: August 06 2008 at 01:48
It is with great pleasure that I can post a very interesting interview with Jarno Sarkula, saxophonist of Alamaailman Vasarat.

The interview also will be interesting to fans of Höyry-kone, a band several members of Alamaailman Vasarat (including Jarno, then on bass) were involved in.

I would like to thank Jarno for taking the time to answer my questions.  I hope you find the interview interesting.  I know I certainly did. Clap

So, without further ado...

James R. Yeowell's interview with Jarno Sarkula, conducted via e-mail during 2008:

1. I firstly wish to go back a bit in time and ask those of you involved,
about Höyry-kone. I gather the band was formed by Teemu Hänninen (drums) and
Jussi Kärkkäinen (guitar) in around 1991, but the band had several line-up
changes, including the addition of Jarno Sarkula (then on bass), Marko
Manninen ('cello) and Erno Haukkala (trombone), now all of course, members
of Alamaailman Vasarat. How did you all meet-up in Höyry-kone and what
were/are your musical backgrounds?

JS: Back in 1994 I was asked to join the band because Höyry-kone had just made a
record deal with Swedish record company APM and they needed a new bassist. I
was then playing with Teemu in an experimental trio called Logik, bass and
vocals. Already rehearsing at the same premises as Höyry-kone, I guess I was
the “logikal” choice. I learned the existing material and had time to make
one composition for the first album, called “Kosto”. Marko, former cellist
of the band called Kalastaja, joined Höyry-kone a bit later than me and I
think we really got to know each other at the studio. Years later, at the
last hours of Höyry-kone, Erno Haukkala also joined the band for a few gigs
and Iron Maiden tribute song Trooper.

2. The music performed by Höyry-kone is often quite different to that of
Alamaailman Vasarat, sounding a lot of the time like King Crimson and
Anekdoten (plus many other bands) at times, yet tracks such as "Baksteri"
are reminiscent of Alamaailman Vasarat's sound. Did everyone have similar
musical interests, or did some of you prefer progressive rock and metal,
over more traditional, stripped-down music (such as klezmer, chamber rock
and Finnish folk (Karelian)?

JS: Funny enough, Baksteri is certainly closer to Alamaailman Vasarat than
anything Höyry-kone did, although it is composed by Tuomas Hänninen, the
guitar player! To my understanding, Teemu, Jussi and Tuomas listened to King
Crimson and Magma back in their youth and I’m quite sure it influenced their
compositions and playing. I didn’t know those bands that well, I was more a
Rush, Marillion and Metallica kinda guy, but had already sort of grown out
of prog thing when I joined the band, as had most of the others. I guess the
only band we all had in common was Iron Maiden. We have a lot of fond
memories playing ‘Maiden, drinking and weeping on those superb albums. Oddly
enough, back in those days, none of us really listened to klezmer or any
other music which might have resembled Alamaailman Vasarat.

3. I notice that Jussi Kärkkäinen is also an engineer for Swedish
progressive rock band Anekdoten, did Jussi know the members of Anekdoten
before forming Höyry-kone or did this occur after Peter Nordins guested on
Huono Parturi and also how did Peter Nordins become involved?

JS: I think we all got to know Anekdote quite early on because our record
company guy knew them, they were practically neighbours at Boerlange,
Sweden. We performed there once too with Anekdoten. During the years we kept
in contact and saw once in a while at various happenings. At some point
Jussi even dated Anna Sofi, if I remember correctly. When we decided to have
a few double drum tracks for the next album, Peter Nordins was a clear
choice. He also joined us for a few gigs in Central Europe back in 1997.

4. What are the rest of Höyry-kone's members doing now?

JS: Jussi is playing in a band called Kivireki which is about to release their
first album. Tuomas plays some guitar every once in a while but is not
really involved in music making these days. Topi Lehtipuu, the singer, has a
fine career in classical music area, probably singing in some big opera
venue as we speak. The rest are in Alamaailman Vasarat.

5. For the benefit of those who may read this and may not know how
Höyry-kone and Alaamailman Vasarat sound, could you maybe describe their

JS: Well, Höyry-kone is progressive rock and Alamaailman Vasarat is fictional
world music.

6. Although it maybe difficult to do via the written word, how do you
pronounce Höyry-kone and Alamaailman Vasarat?

JS: I really don’t know how to write down Höyry-kone as pronounced. For
Alamaailman Vasarat, someone once had a suggestion – “Alan mailman was a
rat”. So, our friendly mail delivery guy was actually a rodent. Funny and
quite close. In English the names are “Steam engine” and “The hammers of the

7. Currently, both Höyry-kone albums Hyönteisiä voi Rakastaa and Huono
Parturi are out-of-print. After conducting a poll on Alamaailman Vasarat's
website a while back, has it been determined whether either of these albums
will ever be made available again?

JS: We’re still in the process of thinking about releasing them through our
current record company and maybe even license them to Central Europe. But
nothing is certain just yet. Sadly, album sales are going down all over and
releasing Höyry-kone might not be financially feasible, at least not in a
form of a CD. So, we cannot make any promises, but let’s hope for the best.

8. Jarno, at what time did you learn to play saxophone, was this before the
formation of Alamaailman Vasarat? Did you learn the saxophone because you
were forming Alamaailman Vasarat, or did you learn it because you wanted to
learn a new instrument?

JS: I started to learn saxophone the same day I founded Alamaailman Vasarat with
Teemu Hänninen, which was also the day I bought the damn thing. This was
sometime May 1997. I had been playing a little bit of flute earlier so
starting to learn sax was not totally weird experience, though it did take a
lot of practice to get anything out of it. Soprano sax is not really the
easiest sax there is, it was very hard for the lips from early on and still
is very difficult to play in tune. Why sax? Well, back in those days, I
wanted to learn a new instrument and start a new band which would take me
further away from guitar-based music and old progressive habits. I was also
somewhat bored with bass. It simply didn’t have enough timbres and sound
options for me. Though difficult and frustrating at first, sax offered me
plenty of new ways to express myself. And being both bassist and woodwind
player gave me broader view as a composer. Funny enough, when I compose in
my head, I still see the neck of bass in my mind. I guess that what you
start with stays with you forever.

9. The sound of Alamaailman Vasarat is also interesting (I know of no other
band that sounds like them myself), whose idea was it to combine 'cello,
pump organ, saxophone and drums, or was it a band decision? Personally, I
believe it works exceptionally well.

JS: We didn't have that much idea about the lineup at first, although I made one
clear rule - no guitars! But I do remember talking about pump organ with
Teemu the same day we founded the band. It was not really a mandatory thing,
but when I called the only keyboard player I knew (Miikka Huttunen) I was
very happy to hear he had a pump organ lying unused somewhere. We played
with pump organ for many years before adding the piano (and later melodica).
Marko came along when we were in a party somewhere and I just realized that
cello would be a nice addition. Marko joined immediately when asked. After
rehearsing some time as quartet we realized it sounded too thin with just
soprano sax on top, another melody instrument was needed. Someone
recommended this weird, tall trombone guy and after a little while, Erno
Haukkala was in the band. Sometime after the first album, Marko hurt his
hand pretty badly (while drunk) and we had to find a replacement for the
gigs already booked. Tuukka fit in perfectly and when Marko was healthy
again, we discussed about the possibility of having two cellos instead of
just one. I must say, it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Two
cellos are really the fundamental, maybe the most important aspect of the
Alamaailman Vasarat sound.

10. In regards to your sound, a fellow Prog Archives poster Hugues
Chantraine, was curious as to how you make your 'cellos sound like metal
guitars and basses and who came up with the idea?

JS: Back in Höyry-kone days and even earlier, Marko had already made some
experiments with guitar effect pedals. I think he used some effects in
Höyry-kone albums, but they were buried far in the mix and couldn't compete
with guitars. Well, we all like heavy metal stuff so it was quite logical to
end up using guitar pedals in Alamaailman Vasarat. Early on, it was just
some basic distortion pedals which didn't sound that good. When we were
recording the first album, I borrowed good amps from our guitarist friends
and for the first time we got a somewhat decent distortion sounds. That
changed the whole thing and made a lasting impact on Alamaailman Vasarat
sound. These days, both cellists use Pod's to generate that wall of
distortion. In studio, it is combination of amps and digital distortion
emulations, much like any guitar band would use. But sound is always
different and more organic because cello itself is so much else than your
typical guitar, even through effects.

11. What goes into recording an album? Are the compositions rehearsed avidly
first, or do you ad-lib a lot? Do you generally take the first take, or do
you listen back and choose the one the band feel is the best?

JS: For the slower ones, the ones we call "crawling grave songs" we do some
adlib and let the moment carry us away; maybe even get some bad hangover to
help us get in the mood. But for faster songs, we arrange them quite
strictly beforehand, at least the drums, pump organ and lower cellos.
Afterwards I usually add quite many tracks of different woodwinds on top of
it and there will be a lot additional cellos and brass too. Final decisions
are left in the mixing phase where many tracks are just muted in search of
best form for the song.

When it comes to recording, we prefer to have only few takes, especially for
drums. I have a special method called "producing by yelling". It simply
means that for every part change or special fill I will be yelling to
microphone beforehand, reminding the drummer that there's a change coming up
just in case he forgets it. This way we don't have to stop the recording
because of a simple mistake and start all over again, thus losing eventually
the freshness of the performance through many takes. Sometimes we do record
a few extra takes in faster and slower tempos just to test out what is the
right speed for the song. In almost all cases we choose the correct take on
the spot and never leave the alternate takes behind.

12. You also have many black-and-white films that accompany the music and
these films are always fun and interesting to watch. Whose idea are these
films and who is the primary film-maker in the band? Do any of you have a
background in film making?

JS: Those films are made by Markku Mastomäki, a good friend of ours. He saw our
music as a B&W films, maybe resembling something from the early cinema days.
We made the scripts together with Markku and then gave him free hands. I
remember one funny incident though. When he was editing "Kebab tai henki!"
our first music video, he was frustrated because he had such a lot of good
film material but the song was too short. Marko and I went to rehearsal room
and made a new part for the song, just for the video's sake! Markku was
surprised but very pleased. The new part ended up in the final version of
the song too.

13. On "Maahan", there is a more avant-garde sound than on previous albums.
Was this a conscious decision or do the band members have a philosophy of
always changing the sound for every release?

JS: I haven't really thought of Maahan being that avant-garde, actually I don't
even know what that means musically. Ok, there are some new instruments such
as contra bass clarinet, tuba and melodica, but the core sound is still
Alamaailman Vasarat and compositions do have familiar elements. Maybe it is
more refined in terms of arrangements and compositions are more complex with
few odd meters here and there. But avant-garde, prog, jazz, experimental?
These are just terms and definitions which have no special meaning to us.

14. How did Tuomari Nurmio become involved?

JS: We saw him at some festival and ended up talking about possible joint gigs.
At first, we played only Tuomari's old songs revamped in Alamaailman Vasarat
style. Later, we decided to make a whole new album. Though not very big
thing overseas, here in Finland it gathered five stars in every rock
magazine and climbed the charts, mostly because Tuomari Nurmio is very
famous here but also because the album was good, combining both our sounds
and styles in a very interesting way.

15. Is there going to be a release of the music from Tatu Pohjavirtu's
Elukka film that Alamaailman Vasarat supplied music for in 2006?

JS: I'm quite sure the soundtrack won't be released separately, but we have been
talking about including the whole film and its soundtrack as a bonus
material for the upcoming live DVD.

16. You are already recording for a new album, which is slated for release
in Spring 2009, could you tell us anything further in relation to this new

JS: It will be a concept album based loosely on the works and adventures of an
early 1900's Finnish explorer Huuro Kolkko.

17. There is also a planned DVD release, again, can you tell us anything
further at the current time?

JS: We still have some gigs to capture before we can be sure whether we have all
the material we need. If all goes well, it will be released sometime next
autumn. In addition to gigs, there will be all our music videos, probably
the Elukka film and its soundtrack as I mentioned earlier and maybe some
surprises too. We'll see what happens...

18. Have you all been enjoying the recent gigs in Japan, Spain, Russia and
Germany and have the band been received well?

JS: Oh yes, those gigs have been a real pleasure in many ways. It is always nice
to see people in large numbers who are just totally surprised. Sometimes you
see Alamaailman Vasarat T-shirt or two in the audience and realize there are
fans in the audience regardless of what kind of festival it is. That is
heart-warming too. Overall, I think every gig we've played at, people have
liked us. That is a good thing and a solid foundation to build on.

19. In reference to influences: what bands and artists from the klezmer and
eastern-bloc background are your influences, if any? How important is
traditional gypsy/folk, klezmer and Karelian music to you?

I'm not sure if I know any klezmer bands really, at least I don't own any
albums. Other band members might have some klezmer stuff on their shelves,
but I don't know about it. Although it might seem surprising, we don't
really listen to any gypsy stuff or anything else we may resemble. When it
comes to Karelian music, I don't like it at all.

20. Would you describe yourself as an avant-garde (progressive) band, or
even a Rock in Opposition band, or does pigeon-holing and genre-specifying
not concern the band members?

We could be considered progressive if you really go deep into the meaning of
the word, because we try to better ourselves and refine our music every time
we release something, ie. go forward. But I don't really like to think of us
as avant-garde or progressive in terms of genre. When it comes to Rock in
Opposition, I don't even know what that means so I guess we're not that
either. Funny enough, when we are at prog gatherings they say we resemble
some prog bands we've never heard of. And when we're at world music
festivals, they say we're influenced by some world music bands totally
unknown to us. It seems the genre we're in is more dependent on the listener
and occasion rather than anything else we ourselves think of. This doesn't
bother us at all, it simply means that our music speaks on a higher level
and reaches people outside genres.

21. Many websites label both Höyry-kone and Alamaailman Vasarat as
progressive bands, so it is only natural to ask what
progressive/experimental bands have influenced you and which ones you enjoy
nowadays? Especially as there seems to be a resurgence in more experimental
music since the 1990s.

JS: I don't know much about what the other guys listen to these days; it seems
we don't talk about it much, we just keep doing music and go home :-) I
enjoy some jazz once in a while and Tom Waits is always good. Maybe some
older musicals, movie soundtracks and jazz standard songs with some Iron
Maiden thrown in when I'm feeling nostalgic. Although not a big fan current
pop music, I always catch something somewhere I like and hum it.

22. (A tongue-in-cheek question) Are there any other bands from the mystical
and mysterious world of Vasaraasia, which is - of course - where your roots

JS: Not that I know of. If you find one, let me know. It would be nice to talk
about home.

23. Finland has had a strong musical foundation since the 1970s, with bands
such as Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti and of course, individual
musicians such as Jukka Tolonen and Pekka Pohjola. How influential was this
burgeoning Finnish music scene on the members of both Höyry-kone and
Alamaailman Vasarat?

JS: I always liked Wigwam and also some Jukka Tolonen solo work, maybe some
Piirpauke too, especially Sakari Kukko's soprano sax playing. Then again, I
haven't heard Tasavallan Presidentti much nor many other old Finnish prog
groups. To my taste Pekka Pohjola is way too boring. Maybe all those bands
had some influence on some Höyry-kone guys but I'm certain they haven't
influenced Alamaailman Vasarat that much. But I do have a great respect for
experimental Finnish jazz bands like Krakatau and Edward Vesala's projects,
but they're so far from Alamaailman Vasarat's music that I think the
influential link is quite thin, more in the ideological side than musical.

24. There seems to be a musical resurgence in Finland at the moment,
primarily on the metal front, with bands such as Nightwish, H.I.M., Children
of Bodom, Sonata Arctica and 69 Eyes becoming extremely popular and of
course, from a similar angle to Alamaailman Vasarat, there is Apocalyptica;
how much do you embrace the current Finnish music scene and what bands (from
Finland) do you all currently enjoy listening to?

JS: I listen to some older Finnish singers such as Kauko Röyhkä or even J.
Karjalainen. Maybe some Finnish world music bands and newer jazz too, though
their names escape me. Those Finnish bands currently doing it big time
overseas are not that interesting musically and they're also "old news" here
in Finland, many of them veterans here before their success abroad.
Generally speaking I guess we don't have that much interest in Finnish music

25. Finally, what is the band's angle on the digital music age and do you
believe illegal downloading is ruining the music industry? How much are the
band embracing legal downloading services, such as iTunes and do you believe
this will be the future for listening to music?

JS: I'm pretty certain the music industry as we grew up knowing it will change
for good and soon. Album sales are going down every year and there are
already a whole generation of people who know only mp3's and maybe never
bought an album. Illegal downloading is a bad thing for industry and music
makers, but it's not necessarily something we should blame the consumer on.
Somewhere down the road CD's got too expensive because there are so many
costs involved and most of them unnecessary. I still don't understand why
the record company gets maybe 8 euros from the CD which is selling in the
store for 20 euros. I still find it hard to believe that storing a 90 gram
CD in a distributor's warehouse costs some 2-3 euros or even more. It's not
even milk or ice cream! All those little costs here and there benefit only
the people who have nothing to do with making the music and in the end the
consumer has to pay for it all.

I'm sure most people will pay for music as long as it is reasonably priced
and made easily available. Cutting the middle men will make the music
affordable for the consumer and money will go to those who actually deserve
it - the people who make the music. I'm sure most people would be happy to
know their money is reaching the right people. In the future Alamaailman
Vasarat will take this road and we sincerely hope our fans will follow.

Alamaailman Vasarat PA profile here:

Edited by ExittheLemming - March 03 2012 at 20:31
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Apsalar View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2008 at 04:42

great work, james, i've been looking forward to this interview for some time. very interest read, especially, for me, the section of Hoyry-kone, their second album is a personal favourite from recent times.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2008 at 09:32
Fascinating read.
Funny how he says that AV is totally unrelated to the prog world.
Maybe we should remove them from PA, then?... LOL
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2008 at 12:55
Originally posted by avestin avestin wrote:

Fascinating read.
Funny how he says that AV is totally unrelated to the prog world.
Maybe we should remove them from PA, then?... LOL

I was thinking the same thing! LOL  Still, Hoyry-kone are very much prog, so this interview still has much merit. Wink
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2008 at 15:06
Excellent interview! ClapClap
If it helps I'll buy 15 each of those Höyry-kone albums to get them reprinted. TongueBig%20smile
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Warning: Listening to jazz excessively can cause a laxative effect.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 23 2008 at 19:56

Excellent interview James!! Very nice reading

Follow me on twitter @memowakeman
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 30 2008 at 06:40
I thought for sure they cheated and used a guitar on some of those songs!... guess not haha
Great read, thanks James.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 31 2008 at 13:26
No problems guys, I'm alway happy to be of assistance. Big%20smile
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