Though some of you may not believe it, there was once a band called LES
that I was fortunate enough to form with a fellow high schooler, Heikki Palomaa.
The original bassist of the band, as it happens, was Mr. Erkki Seppänen, who
has recently made a name for himself with bands such as Kypck and Dreamtale.
Some time around 1997 (the band was formed probably in 1996) Erkki kindly requested
a permission to resign, with the hope of launching a (more successful) solo career.
The happy news is that the band is back
– after nearly 10 years of silence!
This is how me and Heikki looked back in 1998:
The perpetual dynamic duo of the band, we Heikki & Heikki in fact never officially
put an end to the band project, so after all it’s been natural for us to get back to playing.
This is how our logo looked like, and as we suppose,
will look like from now on [co-designed by the two of us]:
Throughout the years, we’ve been happy to host some other prominent artists as well,
such as Mr. Ossi Koskelainen (now the artistic director of Helsingin Ylioppilasteatteri).
Stay posted for plans to release a five-song EP
from LES for Internet distribution in January 2012 …
… and I can’t help indulding myself in listing
the preliminary list of songs to be featured on the EP:
- Reverse Prophecy
- Double Worlds
- Flip My Life
- Why We Fight
Since some of my readers might wonder as to why my section on MUSIC is intermingled with observations on classical music AND rock, permit me to spend a moment attempting to say a few words on how I conceive of the inter-relationship between these two stripes of music…
For clarity, a short autobiographical detour: like so many people coming from Northern Finland, I had my musical roots in heavy metal, as after certain youthful experiments with computer and synhtesizer music it was bands like Metallica, Pantera, Paradise Lost, and Sepultura that blew my mind away in the 90s. Most of my best friends were playing in bands, so I felt like I needed to take up an instrument as well, and my choice were the drums!
A few years later I found myself slapping my thighs in the shower, to the opening beats
of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” (one of the very first songs my first band would play)…
Skipping over all the intermediary (or less serious) projects, by far the most extensive band project of mine has been LES, the Oulu-rooted band briefly described in the above entry, formed in 1996 and to have recently triggered a genuine attempt to get back to the business of playing! After LES’s first period of activity (from 1996 to 1999), things were gradually winding down, and I was trying out different methods of making music, in particular, experimenting with large-scale improvisation with Erkki Seppänen under the project band DARWIN. Not long thereafter, I reached a point when I felt like I needed something more complicated and challenging than the relatively straightforward rock and metal I was mostly accustomed to listening and playing.
And thus my heart was captivated by … progressive rock, and above others, King Crimson, all of whose records I bought and was starting to be severely moved by. And as you might guess, their pseudo-classical overtones — most prominent in tracks such as “Prelude: The Song of the Gulls” on the heavily under-rated record Islands (1971) — were only one step away from opening my eyes to classical music, with which I began the extended process of getting to know one anohter around the age of 21, and the work continues…
Here’s one of the best pictures taken of LES back in the 90s, by the bassist Riikka
(shown on the left, and missing Ossi Koskelainen, shown on the earlier pic above…)
Back to the inter-relationship between classical music and rock ‘n roll. There are moments when I feel like these two realms should be distinguished by terms of their own (instead of them both, often equivocally, being called “music”), so different are the principles and conventions on which they dwell. When I started getting into classical music properly — and for me, this originally meant chamber music made so easily accessible by my hometown’s Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival — I went through emotions I could never have imagined in a rock concert. One brief example: when I first heard Shostakovich’s piano trio p. 67 in a concert (I wasn’t previously acquainted with the piece), the music moved me to incessant tears from the very beginning to the very end. (The piece was played by the cellist Natalia Gutman and two other younger Russian musicians.) After the concert, I could hardly recall any melodies from the work, yet in the concert I felt like I was following every single moment of the music’s being born upon hearing them.
Before circling back to rock, let me add this: I genuinely think that every friend of music, whether they savor rock, metal or jazz, should at least be open to the possibility of such experiences sometimes happening. I find it symptomatic of something like cultural myopia that certain people never really take the effort to approach classical music with an open mind (a similar case would be much more difficult to imagine, say, with classical authors such as Dostoyevsky or Tolstoi, whose novels even anti-classical readers have often, at least partly, read with enthusiasm). I don’t want to say that classical music is in some ways better than rock, but I’m convinced that the most impressive classical works, when they are artfully performed, express things that can’t so easily be expressed in the medium of rock.
And from that, the inverse of what I have just said follows: if classical music can express things rock ‘n roll can’t, so also rock has the gift of voicing things that are not so easily audible in the realm of classicism. I won’t attempt to say what such things are — be they the special traits of Metallica or Beethoven — since I find it more important to cherish this difference than to attempt to situate it … I believe, in other words, that it’s a large enough claim to make that there are such things as the distintive languages of rock and classical music, since connoisseurs of music (on both ends) often act as if their realm encompassed everything.
And finally, you might guess that I have overcome my earlier period of severe exclusionism in listening to only classical music (I went through a period like that after having moved far enough from my roots in rock). I now think that rock ‘n roll has been and will be such a central part of me that it would be preposterous for me to deny it. My strategy in coming to terms with the differences between the two stripes of music, then, will be to leave open the question as to how their strife will be settled in the future (or whether it’ll need to be settled in the first place)…
Rock, for one, asks for no permission in making us dance!
[The pictures in this post taken by anonymous photographers, from alongside
the versatile paths of LES and their frequent gigs played in Oulu in the late 90s.]
The best possible news for many a lover of L E S … !
– Yes, we do have our first full-length album coming up!
The songs to be included in the record will be tentatively titled as follows:
- Dark Night Wind (Kovalainen)
- Chalk Circle (Palomaa)
- Ancient Forms (Palomaa)
- The Ideal Type (Palomaa)
- Into the Sea (Palomaa & Kovalainen)
- Outsider Superior (Kovalainen & Palomaa)
- Delirious Love (Palomaa & Kovalainen)
- Wipe (Kovalainen & Palomaa)
- Frozen Sparrow (Palomaa & Kovalainen)
- Minor Fortunes (Kovalainen)
All in all, it will run up to about an hour, including a 12-minute track about the end of days … as well as a five-song series of catchy pop tunes composed by Mr. Palomaa!
If all goes well, there will be a piano added to the familiar instruments in a few songs, and our new bass player Juha will be playing a few guitar parts and singing a bit, too!
Scheduled for release in the spring 2013 … in the meantime,
we’ll be hoping to see you in some of our upcoming shows!
For one, we’ll be playing a gig at Nuclear Nightclub
on Thursday 13 December 2013; more info will follow…