Having A Coffee With The (Future) World Star
Tero Alanko, Soundi, December 1995
In Finland, Jimi Tenor is still considered an industrial noise churning freak, although the man himself started his new career as an easy listening musician for ages ago. Now some extra momentum to the career of professional entertainer is given by the recording contact with one of the best known techno music labels in the world, Warp Records from Sheffield, UK.
After having rioted his time as the leader of his industrial combo Shamans, Jimi got sick of banging his head to the wall and decided to change the scene. He left Finland for New York to photograph tourists on the roof of a skyscraper. There some ideas started to spawn in his mind of a totally different kind of music than he had made ever before. Jimi Tenor decided to try his luck with the romantic but a little bit twisted easy listening instrumental entertainment.
The first effort was called Sähkömies ('Electrician'), now at hands there's the second album baptised as Europa. Both these records are released on the Finnish, domestically rarely known, but in the international techno/ambient circles highly appreciated Sähkö label. Characteristic for Sähkö have become its extremely stylish products and the cheap, minimal sound. Of the other artists of Sähkö, especially positive attention has been gained by Panasonic who record their minimalist frequency music with analogue equipment and who have just published their debut Vakio through the British Blast First label.
"In the beginning Tommi of Sähkö just went with his records to those stores and record labels he was personally into. That proved to be a hell of a great way to deal with things. Initially the Sähkö guys didn't have a penny in their pockets and probably they don't have much more even at the moment but now they are world famous on their own field and those records have become just some kind of status products. Sähkö is one of the coolest record labels in the world and they've really got their thing going at the moment. Anything they will publish, those records are going to just vanish from the shelves of record stores, for example in London", Jimi tells.
"Furthermore, it's great that this way kids can find out that they don't need any fucking manager travelling around some fucking music seminars but they can advance their own thing even by themselves."
In Finland there's not much demand for Sähkö's products. So those few records one can get by here come as imports from England.
Also those entertainment landscapes of Europa have been painted -- just fitting in with Sähkö's style -- with analogue gear at Jimi's home.
"On the record not even a multitracking device is used but everything is taped live. You get a good feeling when you can do it over even for a thousand times if you want to."
"I don't have any pinpointed principle, though, that one should use only analogue equipment. The essential thing is that one can do what one will. The old gear is just so much more inexpensive. I couldn't ever afford to buy any new gear, when even some sampler costs about ten thousand marks, that's much more than my present equipment altogether."
"The next album will be recorded with a multitracker but with some cheap gear, though. I suppose it will not be as muzak as Europa. Warp would like to have a couple of faster songs but I haven't got to making them so far."
During this year (1995), there has been some remarkable news stories and even more flattering critics on Jimi, among all, in NME, Melody Maker, Select and in such publications specialized in dance music as Muzik and Magic Feet. He's already the second best known Finnish artist after Hanoi Rocks in Britain. And after the next album he will be the best known if everything's going as expected.
"This year there's been features on me at least in 15 different publications. It would be nice if people here in Finland would just understand the impossibility of the idea that there could be a centerfold story of some Finnish rock band like Waltari or some local metal band in Kerrang or some other magazine like that. Some people here in Finland have been honestly pissed off when they've heard my music does sell on an international level."
"Usually my music has somehow been attached to this easy listening boom, though it's basically a bit more twisted stuff than that. But one the other hand, it doesn't bother me at all. Most magazine articles and critics have been positive on me but there has been some pretty hard slaggings-off too. Something like that this is so bad that even someone like Klaus Wunderlich is hundred times better than this."
Warp hasn't at least yet stuck heavy stashes of money to Tenor's pockets but he's going to be seriously involved in the star-making business. The marketing, videos, image and everything else are going to be organised in a truly professional way.
"As far as my image goes, the central things are a kind of campy recession glamour and romanticism. The idea is to make it look like you mean serious business, though that's a sheer impossibility in fact."
"Your image is a really an important thing. What is of essence is that though many people may not know how your records sound like, they do know what you look like. Someone like Goldie is a good example. He's a big star though not nearly everyone has heard one note of his music or wouldn't even be interested in jungle. Even though he would not publish anything for the four next years, those who have drawn their attention to his image will know and remember exactly what he looks like."
Goldie is these days among the black people of Britain the actual first superstar of the hottest musical trend of the moment, the urban rhythms of jungle. The importance of jungle to the black populace of Britain has already been compared to the meaning of rap to the black youth of North America.
"You don't see many white punters in those jungle stores. There the DJs will spin records and if you want the record currently playing, you just raise your hand. The clerks will pick up your records to stacks and will nod to you if they think you have made a good choice."
Even Warp Records have a number one star of their own now - the super artist who just hit the right vein a couple of years ago and has since been selling truck-loads of his analogue ambient and is also known for his background hissings for a TV commercial of the Pirelli car tyre corporation; from which he, by the way, gathered tens of thousands pounds to his pockets - Aphex Twin.
"That Richard (the real name of Aphex Twin is Richard James) is very good in handling the press. Many of his stories are just sheer piss-taking at their expense. I know the guy and he's a quite normal bloke and sleeps at least as much as me." (Aphex Twin has claimed to sleep only two hours a night - at highest - and composing his music in a trancy lucid dream state.)
"Nowadays his biggest problem is that he publishes far too many records. The record stores don't want to display them any more. He puts out new records all the time, with no labels or anything."
Jimi Tenor and Warp already have thought about some approriate marketing plots for Jimi's next album.
"In addition to make the image known, our intention is to bring along some outrageously commercial producer, someone like Stock-Aitken-Waterman to make some remixes for a couple of songs because in that way one will get loads of commercial publicity. Then one only needs to hope that people will get it."
So, the stardom is waiting just behind the corner?
"Yeah. There's not much money in my pockets yet, but when the next record will come out, I will either be famous -- or helluva famous."
Copyright © 1995 Soundi