Interview & translation from Finnish by Erkki Rautio / pHinnWeb
December 10, 2001 - The most attentive of those checking out pHinnWeb may have noticed that this site is not only about techno and electronic music, but also all sorts of avantgardistic and "multidisciplinary" experimentations are an essential part of pHinnWeb's agenda.
Therefore it's no wonder that some of the greatest Finnish sound experiences during the last years have been provided by Kemialliset Ystävät ("The Chemical Friends") from Tampere, led by one Jan Anderzen (who looks -- but doesn't sound -- a bit like US pop troubadour Beck) and ably assisted by his cohorts, the music of which is an eclectic combination of acoustic lo-fi rattlings, folk and psychedelia, sounds from the cellar or from beyond -- being perhaps even some sort of musical counterpart to the crunchy animation film surrealism of the Czech director Jan Svankmajer.
These days, alongside music-making, Jan Anderzen studies visual arts in Tampere, is involved in the local monthly club Mental Alaska devoted to postrock, folk and psychedelia, runs his own record label Vauva ("Baby") which has gained some recognition even in The Wire magazine, and edits his Hindupyöräilijä ("The Hindu Cyclist") fanzine.
- How did you start with music?
I started to write music about six years ago, the same time when Kemialliset Ystävät was started. I was then at high school and enthusiastic to experiment with all sorts of possible ways of expression: the still and moving images, sounds and even theatre. I had been listening to punk rock for a while and even to some more peculiar bands, à la Bad Vugum Records [a Finnish cult label known for eclectic releases such as Jimi Tenor's earliest works with his band The Shamans], and I had learned that the musical "playing skills" can be understood in several various ways. Except for some electric organ lessons I had suffered when I was a kid, I took on guitar quite innocently.
- How would you describe your musical style?
I try to keep KY constantly moving, although it feels that certain things recur over and over again. These things are obviously somehow important and make our music sound just like Kemialliset Ystävät. Being trendy has never been high in our agenda. I wish that at its best KY could whisper out some tiny secret about the essence of the whole universe.
- Can you tell something about your influences?
The music of Kemialliset Ystävät has often been characterised as original, although my own musical influences effect the direction my work takes, often very strongly. Those people who are aware of my music-listening habits probably can detect easier than others the ghosts of my own idols there. In my latest tracks I've been inspired among all by the Third Ear Band, Moondog and all kinds of psychedelic folk.
- And what current artists you're most into?
To name a few: The Tower Recordings, Charalambides, Stone Breath, Six Organs of Admittance, In Gowan Ring, Joshua and Fursaxa.
- How did you obtain your recording contracts?
In the beginning, by some chance demos I sent out, but I'm glad these days those people who are interested contact me by their own initiative.
- What kind of feedback have you received from your work?
I've received comments mostly from the people I know and to whom I have wanted personally to send my records. This feedback has been, with no exception, very encouraging. Especially great for me was the praise for 'Pieni Palatsi' ("A Small Palace") 7" I received from some international magazines. Byron Coley's review for the The Wire magazine made me most happy, I think.
- Tell me something about your live performances.
Kemialliset Ystävät has never been an especially enthusiastic live band, and I have often refused gig offers. I've got no need to shock people, and I'd rather perform to such audience which I think would receive my music with open minds. The latest tracks have mostly been constructed in studio, and the only way to perform them would be to play unreleased material from record. Last summer I prepared a slide show, which I have presented for a couple of times accompanied with music, and the audience seems to have been mostly happy with that. The thanks must certainly go to the electronic music scene that this sort of "live" can also be accepted these days.
- Your All-Time Top Ten?
As of writing this, these come first to mind:
Vashti Bunyan: Just Another Diamond Day
Alice Coltrane: Journey in Satchidananda
Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left
Faust: Faust Tapes
Pearls Before Swine: Balaklava
Pekka Streng: Kesämaa
Tyrannosaurus Rex: Unicorn
Velvet Underground & Nico: s/t
Robert Wyatt: Rock Bottom
Neil Young: After the Gold Rush
- How do your studies of visual art fit together with music-making?
At the moment creating images and music live in peaceful co-existence and support each other for me. I've got almost too many projects for both of these areas now. Though I don't see much sense in studying to be an visual artist.
- You have also published your Hindupyöräilijä fanzine. Tell something about that.
We started Hindupyöräilijä with Mikko Kuorinki some years ago. Our intention was to find about some people you wouldn't have any info about otherwise. Every time we heard some interesting new Finnish band, an interview was organised immediately. So, it was a quite traditional fanzine but the subjects and overall emphasis was a bit different from others. HP's future doesn't look too bright now. The latest issue has been finished for a really long time now, but partly for some unknown reasons hasn't found its way to the people. So, please be so kind, someone, and fetch it from my place to be copied.
- How would you comment the local music scene at the moment?
The Mental Alaska club has caused myself and many other people plenty of joy and hopefully does so also in the future. I don't really know about any scenes, it all feels very fragmented. It has been glad for me to find out how even some big music magazines have been excited about the same things which I find important myself.
- Do you have any idea to which direction the music scene in general will develop?
No. Personally, I wish there was more interest towards acoustic music.
- Your own future plans
I'm glad that it's been relatively easy to get all my music published. Hope this is so also in the future. It's hard to predict to which direction Kemialliset Ystävät will go musically: I have surprised even myself many times. I believe that with my friend Matti we will turn Vauva Records into a really fine and unique record label.
- Your favourite question they never ask in interviews?
My energy ran out here.
An example of Jan Anderzen's artwork.
Hindupyöräilijä cover art by Sampen / Unidentified Sound Objects
Copyright © (for the text) pHinnWeb 2001.