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Interviews

Zetaboo: Ethnic Jazz from Finland

By Published: November 7, 2006

AAJ: You and then the band got very involved in the albums that you were producing for some other Finnish artists?

JS: Yes. First there was Susanna Haavisto and Kadonnut Tie (Lost Way, 2005). It was a very exciting project when Zetaboo was working with other solo musicians, like Severi Pyysalo playing vibes and then Arttu Takalo, who played them on the tour; or working with strings. And of course having Susanna's talented input on vocals and her interpretations, it felt really exciting. We really had something to offer as a band—sensitivity and a willingness to experiment.

Then there was Sergio Machado's album Quintal (InTimeMusic, 2004). In fact Marko had been very heavily involved in Brazilian music since first visiting there in the 1990s with Värttinä, but this gave us the chance to really investigate the music ourselves, and see what could be in it for us. We had the chance to go there and learn as much about the way of life as the richness of the music—its African and American influences. We noticed that it is impossible to come up with any "book of rules for their music, which can happen in jazz music. It was also the way Brazilian musicians present themselves—they don't seem to know about the fear factor! Marko really took this opportunity to go deep into Brazilian styles and arrangements, and also my vocal style have been influenced by hearing people like Joao Bosco and his solo work.

This year also I was involved with producing an album for a young Finnish singer Hanna Marsh, Chameleon Girl (EMI Finland, 2006). So again I could offer some sort of succor to the band, and in turn rely on their support and input. Once again we had a solo artist who felt very comfortable with us and appreciated the chemistry we had between us. It enabled me also to have more freedom by giving more space to them Marko especially took over the percussion, and Arttu Takalo and I did the string arrangements.

AAJ: And so to the latest Zetaboo album

JS: Well, the concert at Ateneum [Helsinki City's main art gallery] last November was part of a series of more folk-oriented Finnish bands. It was very much of an experiment and we only made decisions about the new album after that gig. We felt good enough, so we ended up going to the studio.

Even though some things weren't finalized, we just wanted to run through some fresh tunes. I think we were very nervous, because in a way it was again, after so many years, just the four of us. It was an important gig, as we had to find our old routines. I don't think it always has to be such a superior performance, just a start for some nice times together.

AAJ: What was the process of involvement for the band?

JS: It was a year ago when I wrote little letters to old band members and made demos of these new tunes. I wanted to surprise my friends, so I worked for maybe half a year just by myself writing some music and making demos, and at some point I noticed that there was so much material that it could be an album project. I gave a CD and this letter to everyone just asking them to listen to it, and to individually tell me if they felt like joining me.

It was kind of funny, because the band was already really present in my tunes and all that remained was asking if they wanted to be physically involved! It was very personal music that I had written alone, and it was clear to me that if these people weren't willing or were too busy, then I would leave it and do something else. I wasn't ready to record this material with any other group or ensemble. Always when I'm writing and after the very first ideas I normally know whom I want to work with. I also wanted to write something that would be inspiring for just these personalities. I love the way Anna-Mari plays the accordion and the way she sings, the qualities of Pekka's playing that you don't hear elsewhere, the imagination of Marko I was nervous about how they'd react.

So after just a couple of rehearsals we had this gig, and we all knew that it was far from what it could be, because most of all we were lacking the routine. But Pekka started backing me up with the idea of a new album, already showing a green light to continue with it on Aito Records, even though Zetaboo has always been on the far side of his vision for the label. And Marko was backing me up musically; he kept calling me up, and we met and he said that he had so many ideas how we could do this. When I felt tired and fed up with this material, he was the one who said that now we have to set up rehearsals and I'll show you what I have in mind. It felt really good, that the people around me started to take responsibility, because I had already done so much work. Now I wanted to hear their ideas and stop being the person making all the decisions.



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