Jarmo Saari: Portrait Of A Guitarist As A Young Man
AAJ: Is there any similarity in the way you approach this solo work and your group projects?
JS: It was the same thing with Filmtet and choosing certain instruments – choosing a certain sound. It’s a question of having the approach or sound – whether it was a war movie or whatever, I must have that kind of connection with the subject. And if I don’t find that kind of connection, or aim or idea I am struggling. In fact it was lost for a time this year, when my daughter was born in the beginning of July. I knew that the solo performance was coming up, and the light and sound guys were getting worried: “what’s this thing we’re doing with you, what’s the theme?” My sub-conscious must have been working very hard while I was doing these other things, taking care of the baby, sleeping too little. I still don’t know exactly what the title of it is, but I think I found something with these three work-stations, and presenting myself through my history
It wasn’t a social performance – although I do like to make contact with people when I perform. But it was more like inviting people to visit me at home and see me working with my music. Somehow lately it’s been very important for me lately to try and combine all these elements of my life. That’s why I spontaneously did that song at the end. Somehow there seems to be something happening nowadays that makes the distance between music and art larger and larger. I like the idea of closing that gap. Earlier music had a role for ordinary people, people who don’t usually spend any time listening to music, a role which was very emotional – for example at weddings or funerals. Nowadays music is some sort of a discount product. So I try to make my music not difficult to access and understand, but practical and at the same time of a certain value – sincere, somehow knowing its own value and being proud of it. It’s not about being serious or complicated, but being upright or maybe pure.
AAJ: What about your role in Reuna?
JS: It was kind of ‘buckish’, almost chauvinistic, in contrast to new jazz, which is sort of cool and glamorous or refined; and we try to be the opposite, but still there could be some beauty, though there was still a lot of fuss and saturation about the sound. We tried to touch some other level – but it’s such a funny mission!
But I don’t do that with XL: In fact if I combine everything I do with my own groups my personality can be so much wider - with music I can be so much more than my own self. The details of my own self are something that I can only show on a greater scale to those dearest to me. But with music I can hopefully reach strangers, and give so much more, with some sort of approach – like an actor, just for a moment. It can be very real.
Sometimes I have had this theory of music as characters, so that sometimes when I’m playing I’m thinking how would an 81-year-old Caribbean grandfather play this? It helps me get into the feeling. And when I come up with an approach, I never tell anyone – the place where I go whenever I play a certain song. Or it can be an idea ......of seagulls. It’s my own secret that I’m thinking of seagulls when I perform a certain song. Or it might be my mother! I wrote a piece for my mother. It’s such a nice way of saying certain things to my mother that I would never find the words for. I don’t know exactly what I’m saying, but I’m saying a whole lot. It’s more like the place that I’m presenting to her. Music can be that kind of experience for me.
AAJ: And your future projects...?
JS: To be honest I don’t know if Reuna or Zetaboo actually exist – though I know we haven’t decided not to exist. They’re on standby. It’s not something I am worried about. No one seems to find a way to get gigs – I don’t see how we could tour, with each member of the band doing other things. We don’t have the energy within us to dream up the album, to get the gigs, to get the funding. It’s bad luck and bad timing.
Actually I will be working again with Pekka and Markku. You know in Zetaboo we had a dream that we would go to Brazil and record an album. But it was too difficult finding money or support and everything. But now I have been in contact with a Brazilian writer living in Finland – helping him make his dream come true, helping with producing and arrangements and everything. I have known him for 10 years and I love his music. His name is Sergio Machado and he’s from Rio, although he was born in Bahia, and he’s an authentic interpreter of the style. It’s not like the music of the Carnival or anything – it’s more the real music of Brazil.
And I know I could have picked anybody to help on this, but I felt Pekka and Markku were just the right people, people with the right sensibility, the right concentration and the right sensuality, more than just the right skills – the way I would pick people for any project. It will be released next year (2004) in Portugal and western Europe. I know it will be a marginal record, but I’m very excited by it.
And then there are lot’s of nice things happening around XL: it seems that we will be making our first proper appearances in the USA in the not-too-distant future, if our colleagues in Rockadillo Records come up with the goods! And it could involve a tour in Japan too.
Many thanks to Jarmo Saari for sharing two meals with these discussions, and for taking time out of a busy autumn schedule to provide copious background information. Follow his work with XL and find further links at www.xlfinland.com .