Heathen Harvest: The wooded vastlands of Suomi have given birth to the duo of Mikko Pöyhönen and Antti Paavilainen who collectively form the neofolk outfit Tuhat Kuolemaa Sekunnisa. There are a lot of neofolk outfits from Germany, England and the UK, but I don’t recall too many from Finland – Tenhi and Nest are the only ones that come to mind. Although neofolk is as good a description as any for their music but they are not terribly keen on this description of their music.
Tuhat Kuolemaa Sekunnisa:
[Neofolk] has become to mean a very particular way of expression, pretty much all the bands naming their music as neofolk doing the one and the same thing - copying Death in June
HH: This initially seemed to be a rather ironic statement in light of their heavy reliance on neofolk but Antti elaborates..
We don't want to restrict our music and ways of expression to some prescribed forms/themes.
HH: Ah. This appears to be the usual artistic reluctance to attach a tag to their creations, considering it akin to a creative straitjacket, which only musical Houdinis can cast aside. In any case, being influenced by a particular sound is not the same as performing that particular sound, and whilst neofolk plays a significant role in their musical constructs, so too does their Finnish heritage.
Initially, they were not interested in their heritage and initially started life as Green Symbol, in 2003 -2004, while Mikko was doing his civil service.
The whole thing was more of an experiment with acoustic guitars combined with synthesized sounds. The songs were far from the personal themes and experimentalism we're doing with TKS, with more emphasis on political issues, something we do not do anymore.
HH: Green Symbol wrote songs in English but Tuhat Kuolemaa Sekunnissa stick to their native tongue.
Tthis was a conscious choice. I had severe difficulties writing interesting lyrics, which is one of the reasons we decided to quit with GS. Finnish is our native tongue, we relate to it and with it I can create what ever I want.
HH: Speaking of which, their band name is a mouthful and translates literally as ‘a thousand deaths a second’. And I thought they were peaceful, tree huggers.
[This] is a harsh, strong name for a harsh, strong artistic cause, even if it is a bit long. I tried hard not to pick a name that easily turns into a symbol. Of course with language, that's impossible, but I think we did well. The songs deal with personal issues and completely ordinary stuff, although werefer to key points such as nature, historical figures (mainly Finnish cultural heroes and reformists) and Paganism.
HH: The topic of Paganism is inevitable when dealing with a nature-orientated folk project - the only question is when the topic would be raised. This naturally begs the question as to whether they identify with one of the Pagan schools. Antti denies this in a rather roundabout way, referring to a general sense of spiritual fulfilment rather than a slavish following of ‘hammer and runes’.
Spirituality, being a comprehensive way of life and view of world rather that some separate part of it is of course somehow reflected in everything one does. For me, particularly playing live is always somewhat transcending' experience, for the vast energies that playing music and the tension between us and audience creates.
HH: Mikko expresses a similar need for spirituality not allied to a religious tradition.
I am not a part of Paganist revival groups or anything, and I feel that there is an urge, a true need for primitivist representation of ideas, religious and other, not by imitating archaic methods but creating new myths. Nothing wrong with religious traditionalism, but I think we're past that. That's my true calling with Tuhat Kuolemaa Sekunnissa: to create a new tradition.
HH: Talk of traditions inexorably steers the discussion towards the revered Finnish text, the Kalevala
and whether this ancient work has had any impact on their music.
Kalevala is such an important and essential text in Finnish cultural history that it echoes in everything that we do, whether we want it or not. I don't put much emphasis on it, but still old melodies and language make their way to the songs.
HH: Finally I ask what the future holds for the duo.
We are in the process of recording a new album. I think it will be out during the first quarter of 2008. Also, after a slow start, we seem to have gotten a steady flow of live shows.
HH: I will not be in apposition to see any of their shows, but those who can, are encouraged to see them. The rest will have to settle for their sophomore effort, which should be out in less than six months.
Pictures courtesy of Qwallath of Evening Of Light