Pekko Käppi – Interview
Seeing your favorite bands and having a good time with friends in a unique atmosphere are some of the best sides of festivals, but what makes them even better is having the chance to discover new bands you might not give a listen to otherwise. This might just be the case for many metal heads with Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L at Tuska Open Air Metal Festival this year. Via Roadburn Festival and a gig with Amorphis, Pekko is now bringing his electrified jouhikko to Suvilahti. Time to find out what a jouhikko actually is and why skulls and more cheerful folk tunes go hand in hand in this interview.
Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L is a band from Tampere, Finland, whose name means Pekko Käppi & Bones of the Dead Crazy Horses (Kuolleitten Hillittömäin Hevoisten Luut), and their music can be described as Scandinavian voodoo that combines folk tunes, magic, and dark rhythms with pop, rock and psychedelic elements. Definitely not a band that comes to mind immediately when thinking of Tuska Festival’s usual line-up. Which is exactly why I wanted to have a chat with Pekko and find out how this came about.
The Metal Phenomenon: If someone doesn’t know the band, how would you describe the music?
Pekko Käppi: Our music can be called “strange and sweet smelling-protoprotoproto-heavy”.
TMP: You “electrified” the traditional Finnish jouhikko. Could you explain what the jouhikko is and why you “electrified” it?
PK: The jouhikko is a bowed lyre, one of the oldest bowed instruments in Europe. Hundred years ago there were only a handful of players left in Karelia and Estonia.
I had to electrify my jouhikko for functional reasons. Roughly twenty years ago I was playing on the streets with a bagpiper and needed to boost the volume of my instrument in order to compete with the pipe. My amp was so small that I had to turn it all the way up and so it was also heavily distorted. I enjoyed the sound and started to develop also that aspect of the sound.
Pekko Käppi with two jouhikkos (Photo by Ninni Luhtasaari)
TMP: You are playing at Tuska Festival this year. Is this your first time playing at a metal festival? How did that come about?
PK: A couple of years ago we played at the Roadburn Festival in Tillburg at an evening curated by Einar Selvik (Wardurna) and Ivar Björnsson (Enslaved). Oh, and Einar is actually a really good jouhikko player as well. I am only guessing, but I think my appearance with Amorphis last summer had a lot to do with the fact that we are playing this year at Tuska! And I am very thankful for that.
TMP: How do you think Pekko Käppi & KHHL fits into the otherwise very metal line-up?
PK: In my mind we fit everywhere in the musical universe. Also, it seems that metal people are quite open minded and many of the bands are flirting with the ”folk” elements anyways, as are we.
Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L: (Photo by Konsta Leppänen)
TMP: What is your relationship with metal music?
PK: I had quite ”usual” small town metal listening childhood, and I do enjoy many of the aspects of metal music. On the other hand, I am well aware that ”metal music” is quite broad concept nowadays and I am not sure how one can generalize the genre. Anyways, I find that metal is often quite emotional in the many meanings of that concept.
TMP: Your background is in folk music, and metal has been called Finland’s new folk music. What are your thoughts on that?
PK: This happened roughly twenty years ago: The accordion playing grandfather of a friend of mine was listening daily the music stations on the radio, and one day when my friend went to see him, she heard him play Enter Sandman. That kind of sums up my thoughts. Although, I am not sure how metal Metallica is considered nowadays.
TMP: Your music as such is overall relatively cheerful I would say, but you incorporate skulls and a darker imagery into the visual presence. How do you see these two aspects?
PK: It’s a quite basic thing in many folk music traditions to use relatively cheerful melodies while singing bloody and gloomy stories of murder and chaos and such. I like the contrast, and it’s quite boring to sing a sad song in minor. Skulls and darker things are essential part of life, not only “metal life”. I just read an article that describes how in the 15th Century the archbishop of Uppsala, Jakob Ulvsson, was walking around the church yard with a skull of Saint Katarina in his hand and was kissing the skull on the mouth. That is somehow deeply touching. Also, in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York there’s a beautiful lyre from the early 19th century made out of human skull, and as we know the jouhikko is a lyre. TMP: What can the Tuska audience expect from the show? Will you make it “extra metal”?
PK: There will be skulls, real skulls. We just rehearsed about 60 songs for the summer tour, and we try to keep the set evolving every night. I think it’s possible that we are drifting to certain type of song from those 60, BUT it would be silly to try to make it extra anything. Maybe extra good!
We are really happy to play at Tuska 2017. Be seeing you!
– – –
Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L play at Tuska Open Air Metal Festival on Friday, June 30 at 18:30 on the Inferno Stage. All information about Tuska Festival can be found here.