Can you introduce yourself? What is your background and how did you get involved in making records? Is music/sound your main occupation?
I grew up in Luleå, a seaside town on the northern Swedish coast. As a teenager I played guitar and saxophone, starting a band with my friends and studying music at high school. At 18 I moved south to do a masters in literature studies and didn't take up music again until ten years later when I sold my saxophone, bought some recording equipment and started to teach myself to record and compose at home. I'm a late bloomer in this sense. I also only realized quite recently just how much my interest in literature and language has influenced my music. Sound and music form the core of my main occupation these days.
How did you end up in Finland? Has the Finnish scene influenced your work as an artist?
My mother is Finnish and my family often spent time on the east side of the bay during holidays. As an adult I started to travel to Finland on my own, getting acquainted with that part of my history and trying to learn the language better. When I started to see my partner, Niko-Matti, I was living in Stockholm and he was in Turku. We travelled back and forth between countries for almost a year on these huge overnight cruise ships that cross the sea in between. When I moved to Finland in 2008, the Finnish music scene had a great enabling impact on me. There was a spirit of community, experimentation and a DIY ethic that made me feel free to explore.
Your latest record is inspired by the essay by René Daumal, On Pataphotograms, in which inverted animal bodies are imagined as plants [Daumal, the French writer, was influenced by both the mysticism of G.I. Gurdjieff and the pataphysics of Alfred Jarry]. Do you normally work around a theme or concept for your records?
I hadn't worked around a concept before Vegetal Negatives and I was actually quite amazed at how much it changed my thinking about sound and composition. I found that it opened a lot of new paths to look for similarities between musical and literary form. I wanted to challenge myself and the way I was working. Imagining the musical form as a web of references and single sounds as poetic images, while at the same time trying to make something that is enjoyable to listen to, was a good way to stay alert. At the moment I'm working on a new record that is more like a mystery box, not as straightforwardly conceptual. It has a red thread and interconnected motives, but a lot of it also feels like moments of hidden meaning that I haven't yet become aware of that are on the verge of telling me something.
Where else do you draw inspiration from?
Living and listening, music and daily sound environments, literature and science. I sometimes like to work while traveling, wearing my headphones on a ferry or a train, watching the landscape while working out a piece.
How is your process of making the compositions? Do you know in advance what sounds you want to record on the field?
There's always a pendulum swinging back and forth between intention and surprise throughout the whole process. You never really know what sounds are going to enter your realm of attention. That's what I like about field recording. When you have the compass set on a loose concept of what you're working on, you can also choose to leave the route. Some things I do look for intentionally, like interesting acoustic spaces with their own specific resonance that in some drastic way transform what is going on around them. Often small hollows, sewer pipes, trash bins, that sort of thing. I tend to like sounds that are vaguely familiar but still not quite known, which invoke vague memories but create new, strange ones at the same time. Sounds that have a connection to the elements are also something I seem to record a lot. Wet, airy, metallic, crunchy. The other part of the process is working with synthesis or instruments. In this case I mainly focus on texture, timbre and harmony. Composing with all of these elements has a lot to do with tuning into where the sounds themselves lead you, then gradually finding out what you're actually using them to say.
Can you tell about your other projects and how they relate to your solo work?
We have a duo, Ahti & Ahti, together with my partner Niko-Matti. Our work pace is slower than my solo work, just because it’s harder to find the time to go to the studio together. But I think the duo work is more than just making music together. It is also a channel to discuss, listen to music, argue about it and learn things that neither of us could find out on our own.
At the moment I'm also working on a performance piece, a chamber opera, together with artists Essi Kausalainen and Jenny Kalliokulju, who come from the fields of visual art, performance and poetry. I'm writing music for a small ensemble of five vocalists including a viola player, a teenage harpist, objects and electronics. I usually like to let different projects overlap and seep into each other, so I'll probably use some elements from the piece in my solo work as well as the other way around, although in a different form.
How did you end up on Hallow Ground?
I sent the album to Remo and I could tell from his reply that he had listened to it carefully before deciding to release it. He is a great person to work with. Communication is everything.
Do you find it difficult to translate the music to a live setting? How was Meakusma?
Meakusma was great. I played a late night show in an intimate space upstairs alongside Lieven Martens. Festival audiences can sometimes be a bit distracted, but the atmosphere in the room was like entering a pocket in time, very focused. I enjoyed that a lot.
I use my live sets as a way to try out new material, new sounds and ways of arranging them. I also rearrange pieces that are already finished, trying to open them up to reinterpretation and the input of the moment, but I find this more challenging as there are so many decisions already made. Whatever is new and still unsettled is more interesting for me to play and hopefully also to listen to.