Heathen Harvest: Can you please begin by explaining the history behind Tenhi and how the band formed originally?
Tyko Saarikko: I wanted to record some songs I had written in late 1996 for Tenhi, I asked Ilkka to play the drums for the demo as I had know him for couple of years and we had played together in some occasions. In early 1997 the demo ‘kertomuksia' was released, Ilmari joined the band, just before we made the deal with prophecy, as a bass player but since the 'väre' album he has also played the drums.
HH: Could you please discuss who the present members of the band are and what instruments they play?
- Tyko Saarikko: vocals, synth, piano, mouth harp, didgeridoo and guitar
- Ilmari Issakainen: drums, piano, guitar, bass and percussion
- Ilkka Salminen: vocals, guitar
- Janina Lehto: flute
- Inka Eerola: violin
HH: Please discuss the band members experience as musicians previous to Tenhi.
TS: Ilmari has played in doom/gothic metal band Mother Depth from the early 1990 and he and I have now another band beside Tenhi called 'Harmaa'. We have an album ready and we will release it this autumn by our own UTUstudio, The music is in the same style as Tenhi but with no guitar just piano, drums, bass and vocals. We will maybe also release some ‘mother depth' tracks later. Janina and Inka have several other bands from progressive to folk music, also Ilkka has taken part in some bands that aren't that active anymore for exemple 'Pohakka'.
HH: Who is responsible for writing and composing the songs of Tenhi?
TS: I, Ilmari and Ilkka write and arrange all the music, Janina and Inka improvises their part more or less based on our ideas. Usually some of us writes the whole song and arranges it others just fill their part in. Compromises are avoided as much as possible.
HH: All the lyrics on your latest album “Vare” are all sung and written in your native Finnish language. What has influenced your choice in choosing your native language to sing in?
TS: All Tenhi lyrics are in Finnish from the beginning, Finnish language fits more smoothly on our way of writing music and singing, the intonation follows the musical themes.
HH: Do you feel as if your music reaching as wide of an audience as it may if you sung in a more universal language?
TS: Yeah of course, but many has found the Finnish lyrics exotic and interesting, it helps us to create our special feel to our music. I couldn't picture English lyrics into Tenhi.
HH: Being that you perform your music singing Finnish do you find that you have established a strong native fan base for your music?
TS: Strangely most of our listeners are from middle-Europe or from south-America. Only a few fan mails come from Finland . At some point we got more fan mails from Mexico and South Korea than Finland . So far the promotion in Finland has been really small but it is getting better, as there is good distributor now, also our few gigs here have been sold out.
HH: The music of Tenhi embodies both folk elements and contemporary elements. This mixture of styles ranges from the instrumentation to the composition of individual songs. Is this bridging of elements intentional?
TS: As I mentioned before compromises are avoided and as there are three members who writes the music it is natural that the songs diverse a lot. Still we have a very clear vision of the music and what feeling and nuances we what to represent so the style is easily recognisable as Tenhi.
HH: How did your working relationship with Prophecy Productions come about?
TS: He was very interested in signing us when he heard our demo tape “kertomuksia” back in 1997 and after we send him another promo tape with two songs, which were later re-recorded for our first album ‘kauan', we made the deal for three long-play albums. That deal is now updated for fourth long-play.
HH: Prophecy Productions features a lot of diverse acts but is probably better known for its darker rock and metal acts. Has promoting the album gone well while working with a label with such a diverse focus?
TS: Yeah, for us the most important thing is our artistic freedom, we can do what we want when we want. We can produce and mix the albums ourselves. Prophecy has wide spread of bands with different musical approach and we see more as positive thing, and there is a common feeling that connects some of the artists. There really isn't problem there.
HH: Can you discuss how you perceive the response in the Neofolk community to Tenhi and the several releases you have produced so far?
TS: The feedback has always been surprisingly great despite the genres, we have got excellent reviews in metal, rock, progressive and neofolk orientated magazines. The few bad reviews in metal magazines have criticised the serenity of the songs for which others have praised us.
HH: Tenhi is often described as shamanistic folk music. How did this label come about and how does the band perceive being labeled as such?
TS: There has been several different descriptions for the style, each sounds just as right as anything else. I would rather call it shamanistic rock or prog. than folk...i don't know. Tenhi has only little direct influence from traditional folk music, I mean it is more about the mood and feeling and some of the instruments that connects to that genre.
HH: Can you explain any shamanistic characteristics of the band or music?
TS: We search the unknown worlds and try to bring them into our music. Each album is like a journey waiting, we will guide for a while and then the listener can carry on. A circle is fulfilled when the audience gets the same shivers what we experienced when making the music.
HH: The music of Tenhi seems amazingly intricate and emotional while the lyrics seem much simpler reflections on nature. Can you discuss this dichotomy?
TS: The Finnish lyrics have many sub-levels, words with two or more meaning, the translations are more simpler, they aren't always direct translation just stories with the same feel to it.
HH: Do your compositions draw upon personal experience or is the band striving to create something apart from them?
TS: The lyrics have come a bit more personal during the last years, still they are not about us...we disguise in-depth emotions in imagined stories and myths. Tenhi is representation how we experience the unseen.
HH: Can you discuss some of the personal feelings or themes the band strove to communicate in the “Vare” album?
TS: There never was a discussion how the 'väre' album should be made. There was a general feeling that we wanted to achieve. After hasty mixing session in the Babe music studios it was nothing we wanted so we decided to mix it again in our own studio, also some parts had to be recorded again. That's why the sessions were quite stressful. With this new album the idea is to try a bit more rough approach and not to make it too hard.
HH: There are several parts on the CD “Vare” that the music transgresses beyond typical folk song structures and evolves into what feels like authentic spiritual musical explorations. Can you discuss the openness and exploration that embodies the music of Tenhi?
TS: There are no boundaries when writing music. A song is like a canvas for a painting. Instruments are like brushes to draw a vision in listener's inner eyes. We use instruments freely to achieve the wanted feeling to a song, there is no right way of playing for me, it is the feel that counts.
HH: The music and lyrics contained in the “Vare” album move the listener emotionally as well as spiritually. Has it been the bands intention to craft music that would also communicate to the soul as well as the emotions?
TS: Touching the listener and make little details in our music open for interpretation is what we aim for.
HH: Many Neofolk artists make reference to Nordic mythology or other concrete myths or spiritual references. Tenhi seems removed from such specific references rather abiding in a more obscure and less rigidly aligned space. Can you explain why you have abandoned the traditional Neofolk model of displaying runes and going on about tradition and lost gods?
TS: We try to communicate with the source of those things, you know...more ancient, the very origin from which those traditions were born.
HH: I do not recall ever seeing Tenhi participating in any of the many Neofolk festivals that have erupted across Europe . Does the band ever play live? Do you like to appear alone or are you connected with other Neofolk artists in Europe ?
TS: There was chance to play live in Germany and Russia this summer but we decided to put all our energy on the recording the coming album to get it out as soon as possible, hopefully early next year. We have played in Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig Germany three times and we had a tour with Of the Wand and the Moon and Dornenreich (acoustic) back in 2001. It is great to play live especially if the other bands also help to create certain feel for the evening.
HH: The CD Dig pack that accompanies the “Vare” album is a piece of art unto itself. The band seems very dedicated to following through on your aesthetic and presentation even down to the tiniest detail. This makes for a very grand presentation. Does the band have a unifying theme or vision that you are striving to communicate in your art and music?
TS: The inspiration for some songs might come out of artwork, which are presented on our albums. The artwork of the album fulfils the music and the lyrics, we want our music to be visual for the listener. The pictures bring another level to the music that is why it is so important that we make the artwork on our albums.
HH: It has been 2 years since the Vare album has been released. Is Tenhi planning any future releases? If so can you let us in on what and when to expect something new?
TS: We are currently recording new full-length album. It should be mixed within three months and released February/may 2005. It will introduce new shades but can be easily recognised as tenhi album.
HH: Do you have anything else you would like to share with the Heathen Harvest audience?
TS: Wait for a strong and intense Tenhi album early next year also me and Ilmari have put together our own small record label/studio UTUstudio, where tenhi albums also have been recorded. We will release our first own release later this year, It is our second band Harmaa (=grey) and it will continue the airut: saga which we released under tenhi name before. Until then stay untamed.