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Kimmo Pohjonen: Accordionist Extraordinaire

By Published: September 25, 2007
kimmo pohjonen

AAJ: Does your music with the string quartet show a different side of your personality? Maybe a more female side?

KP: Well with four string players, there are automatically so many more colors. In Uniko there is a variety of feelings and colors. There are more colors with the strings, but there are also some very strong, powerful, and even ugly pieces. But I suppose you could say that the KTU music is at heart more male, if that is revealed in its audience appeal.

AAJ: So what about more recent recordings? You have had quite a busy time lately with KTU and an album with Eric Echampard.

KP: Well, that was now a couple of years ago—2004 and 05. With KTU's 8 Armed Monkey ( Thirsty Ear, 2005) we used recordings from the concerts in Tokyo, and some from Helsinki. And then Pat [Mastelotto] got to work on them back in Austin, editing, mixing and assembling—a lot of tweaking!

Uumen (Rockadillo Records, Westpark Music, 2005), with French drummer Eric Echampard, was recorded totally in France, at Maison de la Culture in Amiens—totally improvised music. I had Heikki Iso-Ahola there as engineer, which was great for me. Then we mixed it back here in Helsinki, in Seawolf Studios on the island of Suomenlinna—a great place too.

AAJ: OK. While we are on these strange names and places, let me ask about your principles for naming tracks.

KP: Well that's always a tricky one! You know I always try to find something that is direct, and hopefully which is easy phonetically. Maybe that's my Finnish background [being, like Italian, a very consistently phonetic language]. I suppose it's always a mixture, always a compromise of meanings, sounds and letters!

AAJ: Right! How about Uniko for example? And the first tracks: "Utu, "Liuos and "Plasma ?

KP: OK. [Long pause, by KP's standards!] Well "Plasma is obvious isn't it? It's a truly international word. The other two are actually Finnish, meaning types of mixtures or flux—first of light like haze, and then of water, some sort of solution! But it's really not just a translation; it's more a feeling that words don't really give a clear idea of!

AAJ: And Uniko is "poppy, isn't it?

KP: Yes. But it also has the idea of "dream or "sleep from the Finnish uni. And doesn't it sound something like "unique?

AAJ: Yes, I got that! But you never can be sure with titles and names.

KP: Well I want people to get their own ideas and images from my music. It's not my job to predict what they get from it!

kimmo pohjonen

AAJ: But your performances are renowned for their visual features.

KP: Yes. I have always thought that as a performer you really need to think about the way you look as well as your sound. I suppose it goes back to my time as a student in Helsinki working with dancers and choreographers who are so very conscious of their image on stage. So with all my shows I use two engineers—one for sound and another for lighting.

So with Uniko there is surround sound as well as a strong visual show. But then again, in some parts are also periods when there are no actual colors, just the music. The audience really have the chance to add their own choice of colors.

AAJ: Roll on! October 3, 5 and 6—Kronos Quartet, Kimmo and Samuli at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Selected Discography

KTU, 8 Armed Monkey (Thirsty Ear, 2005)

Kimmo Pohjonen with French drummer Eric Echampard, Uumen (Rockadillo Records, Westpark Music, 2005)

Kimmo Pohjonen with Tapiola Simfonietta, Kalmuk (Westpark Music, 2002)

Kimmo Pohjonen, Kluster (Westpark Music, 2002)

Kimmo Pohjonen, Kielo (Rockadillo Records, P Vine [Japan], 1999)

Ismo Alanko Säätiö, Pulu (Poko, 1998)

Pinnin Pojat, Gogo 4 (AMK, 1992)

Photo Credits

Middle photo with Samuli Kosminen: Tuomo Manninen

All others: Kalle Björklid

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