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Kimmo Pohjonen: A Very Cool Instrument

By Published: June 4, 2013
KP: In the late '90s, at a folk festival in Finland, an older musician told me that he used to play accordion for wrestling matches. I thought it was a joke. I had never heard of this before. I went searching the files—old newspapers—and there wasn't anything about it; nothing was filmed. For me, it was such a strange subject, and I wish I was there at the time to see an accordion player playing against a wrestling match. Then I started to interview old wrestlers and old accordionists, and I found out it was a useful combination to have an accordionist playing during a wrestling match.

I heard lots of great stories about what was happening at the times, I thought: I have to do it again. I got ten wrestlers and I used old stories, but when I'm working, everything I do has to have that feeling that what I'm doing is something new and that it hasn't been done before. Then we created some sort of a musical performance or theater based on those old stories. It was great. It was wonderful. The work I did with the wrestlers was an example of what I like to do— pure musical projects where I only play music. This includes projects with machines or ballerinas. Those projects are another part of me and I like visual things in a manner that I feel people haven't done before. At the moment I'm working with a ballerina—I never thought that I would ever work with a ballerina [laughing]. I like to amuse myself by doing different things and the wrestling project was really a great opportunity to get to know all those guys that I never knew existed. It's really crazy sometimes what can be cool.

AAJ: Earth Machine Music is another experience for you, consisting of farmyard sounds and machines that you trigger with your accordion.

KP: For Earth Machine Music, I recorded sounds in the country and made music out of it. Some of the sounds are triggered by the accordion and sometimes I use those sources of sounds during the performances like driving the tractor in front of the audience and putting microphones on the engine. Using all that gear as a sound source is great and in moments like that it is very visual. The audience can actually see what those sounds are like, as well as the music composed for those sounds.

AAJ: What sort of moods and ambiances did you seek to capture on EMM?

KP: I'm someone that was born in the countryside and for the last 20 years I've been living in Helsinki. I feel people are not really interested in what is happening in the countryside at the moment. Most of the time, when we hear news from the countryside, it's either bad news or sad news. Therefore I did this project from a different angle and I did it by performing for people in the countryside. All of the concerts were done in the countryside. For example, for the concerts in England, people had to travel from the cities into the countryside where the farms were. I felt very strongly that I had to be there and work with those people, even though they didn't have a clue what I was doing. They were very nice and open-minded, and were both willing to participate, and very grateful that someone was interested in them. Also there was a social aspect to this project.

AAJ: How did the Murder Ballads project with Heikki Latinen come about?

KP: Heikki Latinen is my mentor, a former teacher, and is someone who has always encouraged me to do my own thing. We got an offer from a festival to make this project about murders. In Finland, there were always songs with different angles towards murders. Of course, a murder is a horrible thing, but there is a black humor present in those songs. For example, those two guys that are featured on the front cover, I used to sing songs about them when I was younger. In a way, there was a kind of admiration for these guys.

I remember when I sang how one of them was addressing the other: "You kill this woman's husband so I can marry that woman." I remember when I was singing that song as a five year-old boy, there was an admiration. Therefore, when we set out to do this record, we wanted to have different angles to the subject—lamentations, different kinds of murder songs—and make a compilation out of it. Of course, making a record with a hero of mine, Hekki Latinen, means a lot to me.

AAJ: What inspires you to write new music as you simultaneously juggle various projects at the same time?

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