Bats out of Helsinki
Rupert Howe, NME 27 May, 1995
"In Finland they don't like it, they think it's really strange," deadpans techno's first cabaret star JIMI TENOR. "In Finland in general, people are not interested in music."
Jimi Tenor is used to being misunderstood. So much that he has succeed in turning other people's confusion to his advantage. Despite being signed to the experimental Finnish techno label, Sähkö, he makes music more suited to hotel bars and seedy drinking dens. Playing live he noodles away on an old Hammond organ, pausing only to pick up his beloved saxophone. In a music scene dominated by uninspired copyists, Jimi Tenor is an oasis of originality.
No surprise, then, that his life has been equally eccentric. For the last few years he has been living in New York, where he worked taking photographs of tourists at the Empire State Building. On returning to Finland he started a film about Sähkö with a grant he got from the Finnish government, ran out ofmoney (he insists on using the most expensive film-to-video techniques) and is currently living in a dilapidated farmhouse which has no running water outside the Finnish capital Helsinki. Every morning he walks over a mile to the nearest well to pump up his daily supply. "It keeps me healthy," he says laconically.
Through it all, however, music has remained his first love.
"I had a classical education - I can play flute, piano and saxophone," says Jimi. "I studied for 12 years at a music institute and it was very boring. But at least I learned to play."
Fresh inspiration came in the form of the Sähkö posse. He had heard them DJing at house parties in the late '80's, but it wasn't until they sent the first album by Mika Vainio, aka Ø, over to New York that he realised they were on to something special. "I was impressed, I couldn't believe this was coming from Finland, the backwoods."
Jimi gave Sähkö some of his tapes and, no doubt sensing a kindred spirit, released his first album, 'Sähkömies'. It didn't seem to matter that Jimi's music sounded nothing like anything else on the label, or that he took his inspiration from another era entirely.
"I really love Barry White and Isaac Hayes, that mellow stuff," he says. "And what people don't appreciate is that it's really good music. Nowadays I don't want to listen to the new music because it's too perfect, all the beats are perfect and all the sounds. With a computer you can spend weeks getting the sounds just right, but it has got kind of boring."
Jimi, it seems, bores easily. After the crazy interstellar house groove of 'Take Me Baby' he is already planning another musical shift, this time towards something mellow... like film music". His geographical roots are even less secure - why stay in Finland if more exciting things are happening elsewhere?
"I guess I'll go back to New York. Or maybe Spain. Las Palmas in Majorca, that is meant to be an interesting place."
And you can be sure that wherever he ends up, others can only follow.
* Jimi Tenor's 'Take Me Baby' is out on T&B Vinyl.
Copyright © 1995 NME
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