Monday, September 27, 2010



"I pray, and to all gods, that the battery of the laptop doesn't run out", unshaved and Mayhem-shirted Lauri Ainala says as we walk down a street washed by early september.

"Because there's no electricity in the place where we are going to."

What or where that place actually is, I have no idea. I was invited to their "murju" ('hovel') a week before to come to see the recently finished Unien Savonlinna ('Savonlinna of Dreams') DVD. As we talk I'm being led away from the suburban area where we just met, but not really far. We cross a road and dive into the woods; Lauri asked me to leave the location unnamed, though there's definitely no address to the place where we are going to.

Since the last time we met he has become a father and has moved to a new apartment with his wife and daughter. When I ask about the state of his music projects, especially Paavoharju, he tells me to ask his brother Olli about that since he's the one who writes the songs mostly. But Harmaa Getto are making a new album, this time inspired more by Rage Against the Machine and Korn (!) than Cypress Hill. Didn't see that one coming, but as their listeners already know, any ingridient will practically transform in their hands.

There's also something totally new on a planning level that really makes sense also written down: a black metal collaboration of Lauri and ex-Callisto singer Markus Myllykangas, Lauri being there more of a producer. His talk about cutting and looping the other guy's screeching mess sounds exciting to say the least. If he approaches black metal the way he approaches folk, pop and hip-hop, one can expect something exceptional coming from their camp in future. After a few minutes of walking, talking and pushing branches out of the way I can already smell smoke and hear continuous speaking from a distance.

I say hello to people I've seen in several pictures, videos, gigs - they are part of the loose Savonlinna collective which includes acts like Harmaa getto, Paavoharju and Joose Keskitalo. Frankly, calling them a collective sounds wrong, sort of planned and organized, which is misleading knowing that their

art rises from their friendship and not the other way around. Sometimes they do refer to themselves as 'Tuotteen pojat' (boys of Tuote), after the old dairy they used to live in. Which is more based on the way they live than the actual music, but then again, in their world these seem not to be two seperate things. This is what Unien Savonlinna is about.

There they are, Lauri's brother Olli, long-haired jolly fellow called Ragnar Rock and artist/showman Murska Murre drinking and fixing fire. Their hovel turns out to be a couple of abandoned and sprayed containers. They've built a stairway to one of them of old wheels and planks, I climb there after Lauri, inside the container through a white curtain. It's darker inside, Lauri lights a few more candles and hands me headphones connected to an old laptop. The container is crappy, mouldy and not balanced at all, but maybe it's better that all the liquids drain to one side.

"I bet it's going to be cold, how do you keep yourself warm here?" I ask.
"Oh well.. " Lauri says and seems like he had never thought about that before.
"Let's see what we could get for you. You could sure take some booze."

Lauri disappears, I put the headphones on and open a bottle of cheap redwine I brought with me. I think about drunks, power cuts, Russia, rabbits, woods. The chair I sit on is soft and comfortable and I actually don't feel cold at all. They've carried some sofas here too.. And what's that thing hanging from the ceiling? Man, this dim candlelight and all .. Lauri brings me a pullover and goes away again, I start watching the film.

Unien Savonlinna feels very familiar immediately. It is the same continuum with their music, artwork, images and video clips seen before. It's the same world spread in front of you, but what comes out is somewhat unpredictable. During the first minutes images and events dance on the screen accompanied by 'Kevätrumpu', so many that one has to let it go subliminal and take the linear collage as it comes.

Unien Savonlinna is made of footage Lauri has collected during the last few years with his digital camera that has travelled with them. He got the memory stick full with gigs, rehearsals, their adventures in forests, hanging out in deserted places they've found, building their own sauna, swimming.. Anything.

Unien Savonlinna is definitely not a rockumentary. The only interviews and monologues that there are include no subtle self-hype (like recalling Roskilde backstage highlight moments.. which they could have done). And it hardly includes any eyes half open self-analysis nor feasting too much on their exceptional biography. Instead it's more of a pixelized dream, with haunted stories, abstract clips of artificial poltergeist. Despite all the talk and documented events there is something unsolved to it. Like a mute self-image, low fidelity Tarkovsky.

But they do tell a story, a surreal bedtime story, that is. It is not made up, it's truly their life but what makes it surreal is that it doesn't happen within the urban frames, modern society norms. And this means more than eating gulls, it's about embracing all the filth in the world. Tempting to say that it's Nietzsche in practice, but these guys don't want only to provoke, they just seem to see world this way and think it's gorgeous.

Stylistically the footage is diverse, containing detective-style detached mumbled storytelling, music videos, unexplained atmospheric moving images and interviews, everything covered with their music, of course. One of the more entertaining moments, Harmaa getto's "Harmaata ku harmaata" music video has that right defiant attitude that makes you know that hip-hop is sure dead but it crawled back from its grave. It's basically just Lauri and band member Arwi Lind jumping around in the very same place where I watch the film.

One of the more normal moments are seen when finnish long-term troubadour Ville Leinonen and Sami Sänpäkkilä share their memories of Paavoharju on a balcony somewhere, speaking surprisingly as outsiders despite their work with the band. Sami tells the story behind finding and signing Paavoharju, a revealing little story somehow.

Emotionally the most twisting moment is a few minute incoherent talk of the original Paavoharju lead singer, classicaly trained and opera-oriented Soila. In dark, she tells weird things about the first days of the band, of collecting mirrors, teasing a bee in a jar and recording it. She also tells about how she lost her mind back then, which obviously is the reason for her smaller role in the band now. She's still around though, you can hear her as the higher flying siren in Paavoharju's records.

The film ends to an autumnal feel, in the way probably all the little creatures in our backyards experience it - the summer is gone and where do we go now. Before I had stopped the film for a while to find a pen and my notebook from the bag and to take some more wine, and then behind the walls of the container I could hear the guys speak about their health problems and other issues. These and other things shared with me during the night - face-to-face or not - are of a private kind, but it can be told that some of these guys have had some really hard times lately.

Oh yes, the reality, from the button-your-shirt brush-your-teeth point of view. Though it's nothing like in the dollar world thanks to our socialdemocratic roots, it is still rather difficult to be an economically succesful artist in Finland. As they're not involved in the so-called (rather well-supported) high-culture nor the radio hit mega tour bus world, some of the guys' main source of income is the unemployment support from the government. Now we are by the fire warming our hands and waiting for the chicken to be well-made. I think about this sense of ascetic gravity there is in their life, and of some reason I say it out loud: they want to live at the bottom.

"At the bottom but at the top at the same time" continues a long-haired friend of theirs.
"No, this is not living at the bottom at all. Not at all." Lauri reacts strongly.

More and more people come and join us, now it's like a weird nocturnal grill party, beer, chicken, sausages. It's really dark and I slip as I walk down from the container, wet wheels make nasty stairs. Other guys come to help me up and ask if something happened, but I'm fine.

Later in the dark forest, a sofa making a nice seat for the audience, Murska Murre gives us a great, intense melon crushing fire show starting with his gloves in flames, giving his friends a heart attack since they know that Murre doesn't know any of that shit. He also presents some of his freestyle rap skills after some more booze, have a look:

I talk with Lauri and Olli about their creative work, latter having some sort of a writer's block right now. He has worked on some solo material for a while but nothing's happening these days. He also had some sad news: a while ago he left the fuzzy and warm cassette pop band Cocein where he used to play keyboard and guitar. Lauri has some rather modest wishes about the impact of his work, referring to the DVD mostly:

"It's enough if someone can be just inspired by this, just like the guys who built the sauna."

A group of their fans had built a sauna by themselves as a tribute to the one built by these fellows some years ago in the middle of nowhere. It can be seen on the cover of one of Joose's records, for instance. The fans contacted them and they are going to drop by there a couple of days later. Lauri also emphasizes that the whole DVD (and music) was made with equipment that basically everyone has, a cheap digital camera and a slightly outdated laptop, as if putting them on a same level with everyone. But somehow this just adds mystery, making them some sort of wizards who create a lot out of nothing, with nothing.

I say goodbye to Lauri who stays at the party. I leave with a few guys but there's even more coming to the woods as we go. Before we spread into the night, Murska Murre hands me the mask he wore in his show to have as a memory.

- - -

The next morning I wake up rather late. The clothes next to my bed have that camp smell, they were fully smoked last night. I go to the bathroom and notice a contusion on my leg from slipping last night. There's dirt and soot under my fingernails, I look at my hands wincing mildly like a decent man would. But then I see myself in the mirror and I smile.

Unien Savonlinna DVD will be released in october-november 2010 via Helmi Levyt and Fonal Records. The DVD has two sides: one for PAL and the other for NTSC, and it includes subtitles in english and a 20-page booklet with images and english text.

Unien Savonlinna
Lauri Ainala
Harmaa Getto
Joose Keskitalo