Jimi Tenor: Finns Ain't What They Used To Be
by Cal Gibson, Magic Feet, August 1995
Jimi Tenor is quite possibly the funkiest dood in the whole of Finland. Then again, Finland may be full of unbelievably funky geezers all being so naturally hep they make Kerouac look like a Tory cabinet member (emphasis on the 'member'): how the funk should I know? What is incontestably beyond doubt is that in his two albums to date, Sähkömies and the forthcoming Europa, Mr Tenor has put down some of the most delicious lo-fi, techno-tinged jazz riddims it's ever been my pleasure to tune my ears into. One listen to the Alan Vega-esque tones of the anthemic Twitch & Brainstorm set-ender, 'Take Me Baby', should be enough to convert even the most fervent lounge-lizard-hater into a sveltely reclining kat purring with eazzzy listening ecstasy. MF, not lacking in the cool stakes ourselves you understand, just had to track this maestro of swing down.
Of course, it's the hottest day of the year so far - had to be really. Jimi's lithe arrangements thrive on either sunshine or 5am semi-dreamscapes - and even MF draws the line at belling someone at dawn. So it's hot, damn hot: everyone's down the park except the faithful MF staff slaving away in the office (is skinning up and listening to toonz still classed as slaving away? Good, thought so), hoping Jimi's words of wisdom will bring some much needed cool...
We catch up with the man himself at the Warp HQ in Sheffield, but he's suffering from the effects of a "nice barbeque" the day before and his softly spoken English sounds dangerously fragile at times - he's talking to us from deep within Hangover City. Not to torture the man too much, we decide to nail it down and keep it brief.
"All the soundtrack stuff, the seventies soundtracks."
Are you making nineties soundtracks then?
"Yeah! I wish somebody would make a movie and hire me... With the Europa stuff, many of the tracks were intended to be in a film, but this guy kept changing the story and what kind of music he wanted, so I had like ten tracks I couldn't use in the film - so I put them on the record."
What are you doing on this visit to Britain?
"We've come over to talk to Warp about possible business, you know, because they're interested in releasing Europa, hopefully it will probably happen. And tomorrow we are going to London to [pause for dramatic effect]... eat fish and chips!"
Does being Finnish affect your music?
"Not so much. I mean, all the music was done somewhere else, most of it was done in New York - the last three years I've lived in New York. But I have just been in Finland for several months, working on this film about the label Sähkö, and now it's ready."
Will the film be getting a British release?
"I dunno, it's kind of a very underground movie, we'll have to try and sell it to somebody!"
Why did you choose to record for Sähkö?
"They chose me - nobody else wanted to do it. I didn't do music for a couple of years before the records as I was... well... I got bored, and there was no reason to do music."
Where do you see your music going in the future?
"Mmm... there's one track which is sort of like 'Technobilly'! [laughs] It will be a big hit! [more laughs] I like rockabilly! I guess I'll do some of this very mellow stuff still and some of the tracks will be harder, but I'm not into very hard sounds, so..."
What did you do when you lived in New York?
"I was a tourist photographer in the Empire State Building! It was fun!"
Were you inspired by the city?
"Yeah, it's great. You hear all the music everywhere so it's nice. But I never went to any of the jazz clubs - I kind of wasn't interested at all. I mean, with jazz, somehow the image of jazz, I don't like it too much nowadays, it's nothing to do with jazz itself. All these jazz schools and theoretical stuff - that's what it's not. All these jazz festivals where corporate people go as if they were going to Wimbledon - I think it's going totally wrong."
Wahey! A touch of jazz in MF, will wonders never cease? [yes - purist Ed] Things are winding up as Tenor pays his respects to Sun Ra and the weirder Coltrane stuff while I plug the extremely strange merits of Albert Ayler. JT can obviously smell the lure of salt and vinegar, so I round it off by asking if he has a message for the harassed citizens of this once fair isle?
"Yeah - Take it easy!"
Copyright © 1995 Magic Feet