Sometimes when you meet a band you have an idea what will happen. Sometimes not at all. You prepare your questions and you look forward to have a good time or an interesting, deep-going conversation or get some hard business facts. And at some very rare occasions you get that all when expected none of it! You were not really confident how to get the conversation running, perhaps. But then we’re speaking here of Turmion Katilöt, a band that for me more than any other never fits in any box. They are unique in the very best sense of the term and, personally, that’s what I love them for. Thanks for the inspiration!
Their new album “Universal Satan” has been released today. Make up your own mind about their music but don’t forget to read here, why the world is our living-room!
I met Mc Raaka Pee (aka Petja Turunen) and ShagU (aka Saku Solin) during the Dark River Festival before their show. The idyllic setting of the cosiest-ever festival made the perfect frame for this true highlight of interviews: I am late as another interview took a little longer. But Mc Raaka Pee and ShagU remain relaxed. There is food and beer for free which is still a benefit they appreciate when playing shows. But first they explain me that the ongoing hot and dry period in Finnish was called “sex heat” or literally “sex hell”. “But when there is cold there is also darrrrk”, Mc Raaka Pee points out in a dramatic voice I will hear several times again.
Turmion Katilöt – the Band and the Label
For many years the record labels have mostly complained of dropping sales figures. And in this situation Turmion Katilöt quit their contract which is the moment the label Turmion Katilöt is born. How did they do it? “Äh? Well. Just do it”, Petja says as if it was the most natural ever. “We just did! As we had problems and we couldn’t release our album, we put it for free in the internet and basically start from the nothing.” He points out that they have great respect for the staff from their former label and have remained friends with them.
I wonder where they see themselves as musicians and label representatives in relation to their fans. Is it due to their fans that Turmion Katilöt made it through this crisis? The answer is easy. “Without them, there wouldn’t be us and without us there wouldn’t be them”, Saku sums it up. The label Turmion Katilöt is meant to support the band and restricted to sign bands directly related to Turmion Katilöt. “They are all Turmion Katilöt”, Petja says. All are Turmion Katilöt or family, like Petja’s wife, as Saku adds. They have no intension to outgrow this frame. “So the label is basically like Turmion Katilöt”, Saku explains. Petja goes on: “We want to keep it that way because actually, we are the employers and the workers. We don’t want other bands. We don’t need to expand.” In that regard the label surely is no more than a tool and hardly to be compared to classical record companies. And still the construct from band and label is enough to make the band members’ living. As I ask it, Petja replies, “Yeah, I breathe!” with a frown while Saku highlights: “I am a full-time artist.” He is also playing in Fear of Domination and Stereo Terror DJs and explains in bit more detail that Turmion Katilöt might not be the sole but the main source of his income. He is happy that I can make albums with Turmion Katilöt and live from his ambition to be an artist and to make music. “The business – it’s not big, but you can rely on it”, Petja describes, “on some levels, if you are not greedy. We are really humble people”, Mc Raaka Pee points out. He explains that there is enough to live from but not for an excessive life style.
The new album is released today. Speaking of it, Saku and Petja at times seem to share one mind. ‘Universal Satan’ “will be really dark”, Petja promises. “Not shocking”, I ask in return. “Not shocking!” – “Not surprising?” – “Dead!” And Saku continues, “not that disco dark moments that we already had.” Petja: “No, it’s sad, really, really sad!” Then Saku explains: “I think sad is like even closer, not even than dark, maybe more like sad.” Petja theatrically says: “We need to cry now!” But Saku remains quite excited: “Disco has become raves.” Petja illustrates a scenery in his dramatic tone again: “Well, there is a disco and the rave has gone bad. And there used to be like sprinklers in the ceiling where the blood comes out. But now it’s only tears and human souls”, he ends in very low voice shifting in a meaningful but short laughter. “No, it’s only deep! And sad.”
Petja has become talkative: “Then this is another challenge for the audience because I think this album is a real masterpiece. There is first time – there is virginity for Turmion Katilöt! – first time on a Turmion album, there is full album with two singers, like 150 % to the songs! I do know a few people who will cry and I know a few people who will definitely smile and that’s enough for me. That’s enough for Turmion Katilöt.” I frown on the contrast of the appearance of Mc Raaka Pee and the extend of emotionality shown openly by Petja. “Well, the album that we have made now it makes me really happy”, he says, “so I am like really a bad guy because I am happy. I am not always happy. But now I am because this is so deep inside of me. – Better be happy!” The moment bears some intimacy.
When the Band Plays It, It Becomes a Turmion-Katilöt Song!
“Well, I have been looking at Petja and his creative work which is to stay out of any kind of influences. So I don’t know besides those kind of disco you played back in the day.” – “Well, I don’t listen to music at all” confirms Petja and goes on, “well, Bobby (Undertaker aka Miika Närhi), he is like a music enthusiastic. He really uses music and collects and knows really, really much about those things that he listens to from heaven to hell. And (Janne) Tolsa (aka Run-Q) – who also composes really many of those songs that we have been using for the next album – well, he is just old!” We’re laughing again. “He has heard everything and’s now listening to new stuff while skiing to work.” Saku comments: “So, I think this is a quite combination.” – “So, this is madness”, Petja sums up, “I don’t wanna listen to anything, one knows anything and one knows where the people goes!” Asked if they would simply mix all those influences, Petja replies: “No, we have our own style.”
I am asked to guess the composers of each song on ‘Universal Satan’ But I’ d surely fail! Petja replies very naturally: “That is for sure. Everyone would fail because it sounds like Turmion Katilöt anyway.” But how do they make their songs sound like their songs? “Well it’s more like, if Bobby or Petja or Janne comes with one of their basic idea of a song and of course everybody else brings a little bit of his influence in, it but still it’s like Petja said, it’s like Petja’s song or Janne’s song or Bobby’s song. The main thing in the song is still from one person”, Saku illustrates. Once more Petja makes the point: “And when the band plays it it becomes a Turmion-Katilöt song! It doesn’t depend on who is the composer.” He adds some perspective by changing to the early days: “First albums were like me and guitarist [Lassi] Kauppinen [DJ Vastapallo], machine drums and only us. But now there is really fucking loud band on the next album.” He laughs out loudly. “It’s kind of brutal and I am little bit afraid where the atmosphere takes us. But maybe next album will be like happy rain.” Now we all laugh again.
Before ShagU there was Spellgoth (aka Tuomas Rytkönen) who by the way still does the band’s artwork. I read that it is important to Saku neither to be Tuomas’ replacement, nor successor as I suggested. “I’m just me”, he says, as humble as he is. Petja called Saku asking him “Would you like to join us?” Just like this. “I’m not coming in anybody else’s shoes. I am coming in my own shoes”, Saku explains. “But I don’t think about alias persons like this. It’s just like me going on stage and giving all I have”, Saku replies to me asking for the background of ‘ShagU’. “I think the audience is getting more of an idea of the stage person ShagU.” The name goes all the way back to his times as a club DJ.
Never Stop! That’s the Point.
“Yeah, it just comes from me. I’m not planning it like this kind of move”, Saku describes his show. And Petja fills in: “Well, we don’t plan anything. If you ask, what happens next, then I say, I don’t know!” We all laugh. Especially in the beginning Saku used to ask Petja: “What shall we do now?” And he would say: “Let’s see what will happen.”
Turmion Katilöt play amazing shows and the audience love to celebrate those excessively. “This is kind of hippie”, Petja explains. “The mentality has always been like free-minded and open-hearted. Do something. Start it. And see what happens. Never stop! That’s the point.” Is there some feedback they take into their show? Now picture Mc Raaka Pee and the rest of Turmion Katilöt in their stage outfits rocking and shocking as their shows are. And then Petja tells us: “Yeah, the most important feedback for me is the audience feedback at concerts and small gigs. That gives you a feeling to do something. I think we might guide somewhere – the audience with the music. You can see the feelings and it’s like really touching! Because it’s shared moments. It really makes me love it because it’s everything I have! Like, with this life. I cannot be without music. I can be without everything else. But this is a must. So it’s really important to feel the audience.” Touching!
Turmion Katilöt tend to integrate popular visitors into their shows. I wonder how long it takes to arrange such a visit. “I know this case that you’re speaking of it and it was two hours.” Petja refers to Marco Hietala and Tommy Salmela dressed up all like girlies joining one of their Kuopio Rock Cock shows. But the one I attended was another one. The visitor was Kaija Koo. “Ahhh, Kaija Koo. That was one hour. Just one phone call. Because I ask her to sing my other band’s album. She would feature there but we couldn’t arrange that. So we were on the Kuopio Rock together. So I called her in the hotel room. Do you know the song …? ‘Yeah, I know the song.’ – ‘Well, if we mask you, hopefully you can come to sing?”, Petja tells the tale. She sang the song on the phone just to make sure. “I’ve been a fan of Kaija Koo”, Petja admits. They both point out how important the fun during the show is. They play a bit suggesting that Kaija might have a role on their soon to be released album. By the way, they didn’t spoil me that this time Netta Skog would pay them a visit with her accordion on stage.
Turmion Katilöt and Tarot
Speaking of Kuopio, I take the opportunity to ask for a show that is special to me although I could only watch the videos of it. It was their gig at the Kuopio Rock Cock 2017. Their visitors then were Tarot. Both bands come from Kuopio and as Petja points out “Well, we have discussed about a cover version of a Tarot song for a long time. It was a joke or a line among the speeches and the posts between us. And then when Peccu [Cinnari, Tarot’s drummer] died – also rest for his soul – I don’t think it was like for us it wasn’t like only a memorizing moment. It was Tarot moment for us. But at the festival, we wanted to appreciate his work for the Finnish heavy metal and stuff. But Turmion Katilöt it was 100 % turrrrrbo of a Tarot version, and we just wanted to do it because that was the moment to do it, and it was really great.” They played one of Peccu’s songs, ‘Crawlspace’. “IT was the right moment because Turmion Katilöt and Tarot are really close. Because we have done cooperation with several stuff and it goes way, way beyond my memories.” Petja’s voice fades and Saku reminds us: “Like we said: Janne is really old!” Laughing I ask them to be politely keep in mind that Janne, who is also hitting the keys for Tarot, is hardly older than me. “Well he is only 10 years older than me”, Petja points out laughing. “So when he turns 50, I turn 40. What kind of a party is that?” It will be a big party, Saku confirms and Petja reveals that he can’t speak of it as “I am afraid of that”. As we all laugh out loudly Saku says: “People will sing songs of it!” It feels a bit more like a threat than a promise to me.
Joker and Darth Vader and the Bathroom Incident
I thought it was time to come to an end when I set out for an odd question. But then what is odd her and now? Who would be the supervillains of their choice to add to their next shows, I wonder. “Well, personally for me it would be Joker”, Saku immediately and quietly says. “It would be totally from the Batman series, not the newest who played that, Jared Leto, but like Heath Ledger or any of the older ones.” Petja makes use of a short pause: “Darrrth Vaderrrr!” he hushes more in a threatening tone and with the image of Joker and Darth Vader joining Turmion Katilöt on stage tonight I can’t stop laughing yet again. “If you didn’t even notice, they went to the bathroom together. So I was like ‘Oh, now is the time!’”, Saku comments Antero (Seppänen, aka DQ, drummer) and young woman leaving the small bathroom that opens to the dressing room we are in. They had entered perhaps three minutes earlier. I mention that they were very quick, indeed. “Oh they’re really quick, man”, Saku replies and Petja comments: “Quick lick! Lick quick, liquid!” While we laugh, Antero remarks: “Choose yourself!” We’re laughing again as they leave the dressing room.
The Great Gatsby
I give in to temptation and ask another odd question. What would an Andrew-Lloyd-Webber musical of Turmion Katilöt be like? It remains silent for some seconds. Then a short discussion how I meant the open question. I caught them by surprise. “It would be quite like The Great Gatsby”, Petja explains what Saku comments with a half loud laughing. “But only more sex! And like more tears! And more dramatic things, but after all basically love”, Petja ends and Saku says: “I was thinking more ….” as Petja suggests in the same moment another musical and Kaunis Kuolematon begin their show [the stage is nearby naturally], I have no chance to tell what is suggested. They speak of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and adding more drama to it some seconds later. And while Petja wants to return to his first idea of The Great Gatsby, Saku suggests to combine Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with Pulp Fiction. “Well, Pulp Fiction is like the ride back home”, Petja says laughing. “Head-blow-up in different ways”, he goes on while we are all laughing. The conversation arrives at a more abstract level: cleaning the car from Pulp Fiction should add some idyllic momentum. Then they go on to the concluding to be heading ever more from a theatre show to a reality show-like thing. “But the great thing is that this is legal”, Petja points out. Ok, I need to make sure here that we were all clean and dry as the sandy soil outside dressing room! “And we just measure the audience how much they can take and make another level and think ‘do you like it more? Less? Oh come on. You can take it!’” Can they take this? Can you?
Somehow we come back to ‘Universal Satan’ and they encourage me to write a review. But I don’t write reviews actually. “You can tell what you feel about it because it’s all about feelings. It’s loaded with different kind of feelings and that’s the point of the next album.” If I have a story or the music associates with a story I will feel the urge to write and do so. Music is emotion to me. And I can’t rate emotions. They both agree on that and emphasize: “It has to ring with emotions and it has to bring emotions like to an audience. Like Petja said, to see all the audience cry or smile and jump and party the arse of it and it’s like the best you can see and that’s something that we do that matters us so much and gives so much to them as well. And then it gives them a smile and gives them a reason to smile tomorrow.” – “We’re just trying to express our feelings.” Once more Petja points out how important the audience is to him. Then he switches the topic and the most intellectual part of our conversation begins: “… I just try to explain very sad and happy, and I need to say the fucking world is ours! Never been better. Don’t complain! Just fucking live! Now. It’s now!” That was a very cool statement for a headline I think and am tempted to leave.
Schrodinger’s Cat in the Living Room
But the conversation naturally continues. Petja: “Well, that’s the point of our work on the next album. Trying to say…” – Saku: “… that it’s all universal.” Petja: “One moment in the world.” Me: “I’d rather say that each moment is unique.” Saku: “Yeah, but this one moment is universal. Everybody is having this one moment right here, right now, right at this place or right at that place where they are”; Saku says excitedly. “IT only matters what they do with that moment.” Petja: “And I think that this moment now is all the time. Because now is everything you can remember from the so-called past to the so-called imaginative future. Everything is now! And the past is also now because you can remember and you live it now.” I never expected to discuss a Schrodinger’s Cat question with Turmion Katilöt or actually any musician in an interview at all! But we do. I point out that our statements simply differ in the angle from which we look at the same phenomenon. “Yeah. And there’s lots of things that people do wrong now.” – “Despite better knowing?” I wonder – “I am one of those. Everyone knows the feeling and that’s the feeling that we are also trying to explain on the album. The thoughts that we are so saaaaad but so humble and loving because there is always one who will hug you and encourage you because you are a human.” – “And basically the world is our living room. Think about it!”, Saku encourages me. With a little distance I see people consuming life like a TV program, passive and distant where interaction was appropriate. In another angle the world has grown small, small enough to present itself in a TV program or smart phone app we use while chatting with Mum and posting our tax declaration. “If you’re not hurting anyone, why not.” If you’re not hurting anyone echoes in my ear. And there, another angle pops up in an image in my head. Soldiers at computers staring at scree. But what looks like a computer game is drone war reality. What’s the difference to you or your child playing a video game on your living room TV? Petja: “But everyone wants a different channel. Listen fuckersssss!” All tension erupts in a joint laughter. “So we need to do lots of tele-visions.”
I hoped for an interesting conversation and found myself in philosophical discourse. I hoped to learn about my interviewees personalities and were allowed even to explore the sharp contrast between the appearance of their aliases and the depth of their intellects and emotionality. Lately, I discussed with a friend that art must remain explorative and accessible to be art in our views. From that perspective Turmion Katilöt to me associate with a cubistic painting perhaps some early Picasso. The more often you look at the expressive colours and forms the more you find in it.
Thank you Saku and Petja for smashing some more stereotypes! And thank you Hannu (Vuotilainen aka Master Bates) for arranging this interview! The world is ours!
All photos by Ms Cesar Little during the Dark River Festival 2018 in Kotka/Finland!