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On the Spirutual Side


Архив интервью | Русская версия

Jaani Peuhu, the mastermind behind Finland's Iconcrash, is a very interesting young man. I am not talking about his unique image, music that is not easy to comprehend, or mystic world view, as these are “effects”, not the “causes”. The cause is that he is very interested in the outside world and the people inhabiting it. His outlook is far from trivial, he is not afraid of seeing things from a different perspective, and he is not afraid of speaking out. That is why it is interesting to listen to him, it is interesting to ask him questions, and his answers don’t sound like something you’ve heard a million times before. It cannot get worse when a public figure starts telling the same things in every interview regardless of questions – just because “that’s the way it should be”. Then you don’t feel like a human being, but rather like a robot who can only press the “Rec.” button on the tape recorder … But I don’t think such a situation is possible with Jaani. For him an interview is not just a way to get “exposure”, but also an opportunity to share his thoughts, feelings and hopes with the outside world. Our conversation with him turned out unpredictable, vivid and captivating. Over 40 minutes we managed to discuss everything from peculiarities of our peoples’ religious backgrounds to abused feelings of an ashtray…

In the very beginning of your career you were working with some other bands just as a musician, not a songwriter. Why have you decided to create your own band? Didn’t you like what your previous band mates were doing?

Well, I’ve always played all kind of instruments. But being a drummer is just being a drummer, and I wanted more. It was a kind of accident that I got a record deal. I was just playing and recording some songs for my own pleasure, then I was out with my ex-band’s record label A&R, I played some songs to him just as a friend, like “I’ve been doing this kind of stuff” and he was like “Fuck, you want a deal?”. I went like “ok”, and that’s it. So I started this project and it totally blew me away. I felt so home doing my own music. So I sold my drums and bought a better electric guitar and created a band around me…

But when you were recording your first album “Nude” there wasn’t any band around you, was it? As far as I know you made it all by yourself.

Yes, that’s my solo album.

And now you’re about to release the second album (“Enochian Devices”), which was recorded with this band. Do you feel any difference between working alone in the studio and working with these people who play with you now?

I had other musicians on my first album also. I was just creating the live band then. And guys played in some songs already there, not these guys though. But I’m used to work with the band, because I’m “band dude”. It’s really natural. With these guys we’re like a family, and I enjoy it much more, because I can share it, you know, share the ups and downs. It always feels much better, if you can share our goals. When a good thing comes it’s (raises his hands with clenches fists and holds his head up) “Ta-da!”, but it doesn’t feel like this when you’re alone. When you’re alone it’s like this… (repeats the same gesture, but then shudders and puts his hands down in disappointment) It’s not for me.

How did you find all these guys?

It’s a kind of dream team. Anu, the keyboard player, used to play in a band called Viola. And we were actually in a club playing with Viola. So we’ve been friends for ages with Anu. Then she didn’t play in Viola anymore, and I wanted a keyboard player, so it was pretty natural to ask Anu. Riku, the bass player, was actually in the first Iconcrash sessions. I was working with the demo versions of the first album and Riku was already there, but he was so busy with the other bands that he didn’t join then. But he moved to Helsinki some time ago, and than “the circle closed again” and it was like, “Yeah, now it’s your time”. And our drummer – I saw him on TV years and years ago and I was like: “Fuck, this guy is good!” I was a drummer than and I knew that this guy is the best. When we needed a drummer I called people and asked if anybody knew Oskari and than he came to our studio and that’s it. It was like “love at first sight”. And Matti, he’s also an old friend of mine; he was playing some tracks for “Nude” also. And at that moment he was also very busy, but now I have this team and we’re so happy! It’s amazing. I’m not missing my solo career at all.

The name of your band (Iconcrash) is quite special. When I heard it for the first time I thought it must be some kind of black- or death-metal band… It sounds very antireligious.  So what’s your relationship with religion like?

I’m super religious. I can tell you a story about our band’s name, though every time it’s a different story… Maybe it was an angel who gave me the name for this time… But the boring version is like this: these are two words that I like… And crashing the icons is what I try to do, because I’m a super religious guy, but I’m not following any religion. I have my own one, and it’s like global version of all kinds of religion. I carry all kind of marks on me. (shows me his hands covered with tattoos depicting various religious symbols) From Tarot to Indian symbols, and angels and all kind of things. And I also used channeling for this album. One song was recorded when I was in a kind of trance… I wrote the whole song – the melody and the lyrics – in 30 minutes and started recording. And in the morning it was ready, so it took me one night. The next day I went to Google and tried to find what it was that I was writing, because it was such weird stuff… I found information from really old writings and it was old English. I had no clue what I was writing. I have English friends, to whom I always send the lyrics to check the language, and they said, “It’s perfect English, but it’s really weird, so we even couldn’t get it”.

Oh, unbelievable! Let’s talk a bit about your musical style. As far as I know, your father’s a jazz musician. Has he affected your tastes and your style?

Oh yes! I didn’t choose this style, it’s chosen me… I haven’t been thinking about what kind of music I was writing, I’m just writing. I started writing my own songs when I was 13 or something and than I was recording them, and since than I’ve been in the studio all my free time doing my stuff. On the first album there’s a song that I wrote when I was 16 or something. I was listening to my old demos, and one of my best friends said: “You should rerecord that one” – and I said: “Yeah, you’re right”.

Your videos are really catchy and interesting. Do you come up with the ideas for these videos or do you just listen to what the professionals say?

Yeah, totally, I have ideas for them. We’ve done only one kind of “professional” video – “Strange, Strange Dark Star”. The videos for our first album were really low-budget videos, and it was luck that they became famous. And the first album wasn’t that deep kind of stuff, because the lyrics were more like that shit about relationship. But I’m done with this stuff. I want to go deeper, I want to write about the things I’ve been going through all my life – on this spiritual side. It’s been always like that since I was a kid. I’m really OK with all kinds of spirits, and they have always been a part of my life. Now I feel it’s time to start working on that stuff. It felt kind of “shallow” to sing about relationship, because I feel much more and there’re so many things I’d like to tell people, kind of “open their eyes”. I’m not trying to promote any kind of religion, but I’m just trying to make people think what feels right to them. I’m not telling them what they should think. I’m just trying to make them learn about spirituality and think about their life and what happens and why, what kind of path they could choose, you know…

And what about your image? You have these promo photos for your second album – you’re pictures with white hair and white skin. What’s the main idea of this?

It just felt right… I’m so bored with this… You know, when all the rockers should look like a band of bears. That’s totally fine, but you know, all the big artists I’m listening to have created their own sound and they have also created their own world. And when you start listening to this music, you can go deep into their world. That’s the thing I want to have. It’s much deeper stuff; it’s not about the make-up… Those pictures are kind of “angelic” and angels are one of the themes of the album, so there’s a connection with angels…

I read in some of your interviews that to write a song you have to go somewhere, because you can’t sit at home and write stuff. Does it mean that your own everyday life is not enough for you to get inspiration?

No, it’s just because I try to keep my home as a non-working environment. There are places that are really inspiring. I like going to my father’s private studio in the countryside. I’m always working there at night, and when I go out it’s totally silent, you can’t hear a thing! It’s my own head that is creating the sounds. It feels really good. I really like going to churches and to some really quiet places. And when I’m at home I really try not to write music. I love to write in the studio. There are a few songs I wrote in the studio when we were already recording the album. And now I have my own working space – like a little studio, so it’s only for writing music.

Do you write anything while traveling? You know, for example, going somewhere by train is quite inspiring, I believe.

Yeah! I like writing in airplanes or something. But I need to be in the right mood for writing. I have to create a whole world around me. And I can’t do it somewhere, where there’s so much noise. I need a kind of trance, a special feeling. I need to see the whole situation, where I am in the song. If I’m writing about an ashtray (there’s one on the table in front of us), I have to really think about everything in the ashtray: the ashtray’s history and what kind of ashtrays does he know and if other ashtrays are treating this ashtray badly… There has to be a whole story, then I start writing about it. But on this “Enochian Devices” album, everything is from my own life, everything that has happened to me. It was a bit easier, because I didn’t have to create a kind of “fiction”. But I have to go back to that moment and try to remember what happened and feel that presence of the spirits.

Talking about “Enochian Devices”, the name sounds a bit strange. What does it mean?

Well, enochian is an occult magic system. And there’s also enochian language, which is angelic language. The language of the angels. Enochian magic is really very powerful magic and it’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s something you shouldn’t play with. It’s not satanic or anything like that, but it depends. There are all kinds of spirits, so you get what you ask for. If you’re living a really negative life and going through all kinds of shit, studying Satanism or Satan worshiping and watching horror movies and listening to black metal only, than you are summoning evil spirits. The good ones don’t give a fuck about you, because you’re not interested in them. And if you are a spiritual person and interested in the spirits, than they’re interested in you. They know if you don’t give a fuck. If you really don’t give a fuck, you just want to watch football and drink beer, you will never experience anything supernatural. Because for them it’s a waste of time also. How can they contact you if you don’t see them? If you don’t wanna see them… 

You mean that you want to see them and you see them, don’t you?

Yeah-yeah, all the time.

And what happens then?

Well, it depends on a day and on what I wanna do… Sometimes I’m closed down, I don’t wanna see them, I want to concentrate on something different. I was closed down for many years, but than I started channeling. I was more into occultism when I was a teenager, so I was more interested in the evil stuff… There were really dark times, but you need to know the both sides. But during the recording of the album we had to ask a witch to clean the studio at one point, because it got so fucking weird there. It was so cold that you couldn’t even be there. That’s one sign for you to feel that the spirits are near – you feel cold. If you’re talking about that stuff and you’re interested in it, then you’re opening yourself to the spiritual world and then they come. And you can feel the chill.

Sounds a bit scary…

No, it’s not. There’s nothing about it, it’s natural. It’s not anything evil.

Do you feel that you’re a kind of mediator between our world and the world of spirits?

Well, yeah, I kinda feel I have a mission. There’s a song called “Mission” on the album also… I have to do this.

Ok, you said that there’re great differences in your albums lyrics wise. And are there any changes in your music?

No, not really. We’re just moving forward. The first album is perfect as it is, I wouldn’t change a thing. And this one is just like it is. And the next one could be whatever, I don’t know… We’ll see than. But I don’t think there were big changes so far. I wrote hundreds of songs for this album, so there was material to choose from. I wanted to make a strong compilation of songs, with slow ones and pure rock ones and so on. So you can listen to the album again and again and again. First when you listen to it you go like, “Oh, this one is a totally different kind of stuff then this one…” But when you’ve heard it for ten times, it feels like natural. There’re different sides, different kind of moods… And if you’re not interested in the spirits… The lyrics have been written the way that they can be read as relationship stuff. But most of the times I’m not singing about some girl. It’s some angel or some spirit or god… And if you don’t know what I’m interested in you can feel like, “Oh, yes, that’s true, that’s how I feel about my girlfriend!”

Don’t girls inspire you at all?

Not on this album, no. But I think the next one will be much different. I did this album already, so I have to move on. And of course girls are very inspiring! But for me being totally in love is the worst thing that could happen as a writer, because then I just write, “Ah, I love you baby girl, I miss you so much!” (laughs) And that kind of super fucking cheesy stuff is something I don’t wanna release. I can write those songs and give them to the lady I’m writing about, but not to Iconcrash. Maybe my next solo album could be like that kind of stuff, but it doesn’t fit Iconcrash.

A solo album? Why? You said you feel great with this band!

Well, of course I want to make a new solo album at some point. I wanna do some different kind of music, maybe something like me with acoustic guitar and my father playing contrabass and my sister playing accordion… It will be super uncommercial. I don’t mind. I don’t give a fuck if other labels and radios won’t be interested in it. It’s a totally different story. I just love writing music. And if I release a solo album at some point, it will be something totally different.

I have a kind of strange question, but still… The first thing I heard about your band was that it’s the band where Ville Valo’s younger brother played. What do you think about that kind of public’s attitude to you?

(at first doesn’t understand the question, then sounds a bit confused) Well, in Finland nobody gave a fuck… I just don’t understand it. I’ve been playing with amazing musicians and Jesse is one of them. He’s a great guy. All of my band mates have brothers and sisters, and if you know Jesse’s brother, that’s nice. But the Finnish media have never asked a single question about this subject. That’s weird. In the interviews we just talk about our music… But I know that some people may be interested in our band because we’re working with the label of the guys from The Rasmus – Dynasty Recordings. But they have nothing to do with our music. Ok, they have much more to do with our music then Jesse’s brother (grins), because they’re releasing it…

Can you describe your performances for those ones who haven’t seen you on stage but would like to? Do you have a kind of special show?

Tonight on this mini-tour we couldn’t bring our show. We haven’t played nor released our albums here… Ok, we played here years ago. But it’s too expansive to bring the whole show, all the lights and the stage wardrobe and so on… So tonight it’s only our music. But that’s totally fine, it has to be enough. But next time we’ll bring all our production here, than we can show the whole show. The video screenings are really important part of it. There’s a video DJ, when we’re playing he’s mixing his video stuff. It’s cool. There’s religious symbolism and all kind of weird stuff. The whole show is created the way that it can bring the real essence of the songs better. It makes them much deeper. But this time we just couldn’t do it.  You know, life is like that.

Do you give your songs away to some other artists? I read in the Internet that you’ve written one song for the Eurovision Song Contest…

Yeah, that’s true. We wrote it with Pauli (Rantasalmi) from The Rasmus for a band called Kwan. It was fun. And actually I should start writing much more for others in the future. I love writing, I can write like 5-6-7 songs a day and we can’t use them with Iconcrash, because they sound like totally different kind of stuff. So it’s really natural to give them away somewhere, so people can hear them. And that’s why I’m gonna do this solo album, because I have a lot of songs that don’t fit Iconcrash. It would be pity just to leave them somewhere. It’s better this way…

But if you give them away, wouldn’t you feel like these people don’t do them “right”, like they don’t understand this song like you understand it?

Well, with this Eurovision song it was just fun, because I knew who I was writing for… I take it as a challenge, you know… The song has to be that good, that it doesn’t matter who plays it. But of course I’m really picky about the songs and who can play them or record them, because I need to like them personally, you know. If they are like racists or something, I’ll never let them record my stuff. No fucking way.

You’ve been in Russia several times, so do you have any established opinion about it?

Yes, I love it. I had really good experiences here, but not the stuff I could tell the media. Good gigs, lots of new friends, a lot of fun, good food… Everybody is so nice. And Russian girls are so pretty. And of course I like this spirituality here in Russia, because today I visited an Orthodox church… It was pretty far from the city. And it was so beautiful. In Finland if you’re going to church it feels like you’re going to kitchen or something. There’s nothing to do with spirituality.  The whole Lutheran church in Finland is like a show. But here it’s totally different. If you go there you can really see the people praying in front of the icons with candles and so on. You can feel that it’s something really important for them. In some cases it’s all you have - your faith. When life is really hard you can see what a big thing it is. It’s something that really touched me. It’s from the heart here. And in Finland it’s a fucking show. One day I was talking with my grandma, and we were talking about angels. And she was like, “Jaani, you know, some time like six years ago I saw an angel”. And she told me the whole story, and it was really beautiful. And than she said, “But I’ve never told this story to anyone”. I was like: “Why?” – “Because they would think I’m nuts or something”. What the fuck? All the grandmas are praying all the time, they’re reading the Bible and going to church… And the Bible is all about this spirituality, it’s all about stuff like angels… But at the same time you can’t talk about them, you can’t see angels, or they will take you to hospital. It’s all hypocrisy, you know! It’s so weird! Here religion is important for people. In Finland it’s something you learn at school and you know that it’s good to pray sometimes, then you can go to heaven. But it doesn’t matter if you fuck everything that moves. You just pray before you go to bed, and it’s all fine. Just think about Catholic priests, who are molesting little boys all around the world. You can read it in the papers; it’s a big problem in the Catholic Church. They talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.

I’m afraid it’s time for us to finish our interview, but maybe you have something to say to your fans and all the people who may read this interview…

Well, we have the amazing Iconcrash family, we’re really good friends with our fans. We don’t believe in fanaticism or stardom or something like that. So if you like our music, then join our family. We talk to our fans all the time, we have weekly messenger meetings with them, so they feel like they’re a part of the family. And that’s the way it should be. Everybody is welcome to talk to us and write to us if you have something to ask. We always reply to e-mails, if we’re able to. Sometimes we’re too busy, but we do our best. And we have three street teams, one is in Russia, so it’s one way to join us. Well, just join us!

Iconcrash on the Internet: http://www.iconcrash.com

Special thanks to Maria Loginova for arranging this interview

Ksenia Artamonova
October 1, 2009
(с) HeadBanger.ru

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