PEPE AHLQVIST – The Godfather of the Finnish Blues celebrates his 60th Anniversary
The Grand Old Man of the Finnish Blues, Pepe Ahlqvist (singer, harpist, guitarist, songwriter) is the domestic artist, who on very well-grounded reasons has appeared more often than others in the Blues News’ interviews and longer articles. BN and Ahlqvist seem to have the same pace from the right beginning; Ahlqvist started his musician career in the same year, 1968, when BN’s first issue came out. The earliest and very praising introductive writing by Vesa Walamies appeared in 1972, when Pepe was only 15 years old. Thereafter, there has not been shortage of story topics: at the time of his 30th anniversary, Ahlqvist, now living in Helsinki, was riding high, first taken to the hit lists and soon fronting the H.A.R.P. band, a decade later Chicago Overcoat was reactivated, at the age of 50 he delighted BN’s editorial staff and readership, when he, among other things, recorded with the UMO Jazz Orchestra as a big band solist, and received a scholarship from BN as to celebrate his half-century milestone. In June 2016 Pepe Ahlqvist turns 60 years, and he has not let his ”machine” gather any moss. The reassembled H.A.R.P. band starts/started the touring at the Puistoblues festival’s main concert, and about the same time the Bluelight label released a double collection CD ”One Day Less, One Day More”, which exposes the career of the blues master, now living in Tuusula, from the early years to the present. Busy Ahlqvist had enough time for BN, both to repeat the past and have a look into the near future.
NOTHING BUT THE BLUES – HISTORY IN HIS OWN WORDS
Pertti Kalevi Ahlqvist was born on 4th of July 1956. He was interested in the music quite young. His first musical influences were The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers brought the blues music into his life. Playing the music started to be more and more interesting.
– When in the elementary school I heard The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on the radio. They sounded good. We were so impressed that we, I and my cousins Jarmo and Jouko Poutiainen and Veijo ”Vexi” and Reijo ”Rexi” Artomaa built guitar figures of cardboard and flyboard with strings of cotton threads just to practice the correct stage moves. These were changed to 6-string acoustic guitars with added microphones. And amplified by tube radios, the sound was dumbfound. The first bands were born; City Blues Band and Fire Blues.
– In our neighborhood lived Pauli ”Pate” Lehtinen of my age, and who was in my first bands. His sister was eager to tape pop music on the reel-tape recorder from the radio programs. There I first heard ”All Your Love” by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. It blew my mind, and I got the feeling, this I must hear more.
– Brothers Poutiainen lived in Nastola Pensuo, traditional Finnish county side. In their neighborhood lived Hannu Salakka, later known as Kala-Hande. At his place we used to listen to the ”Hard Road” LP by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, in which young guitarist Peter Green played brilliantly the guitar. His and Eric Clapton’s licks we practiced on our guitars.
Getting the blues records in Finland in the 60’s was not simple. Music stores in Finland were scarce, and their blues assortment was limited. Also the roots music events were really incidental.
– Meeting the Afro-American music tradition happened through the British Blues music. When reading the album covers, I started to be interested in the names of the composers and lyricists. This way I started to get information on the original blues artists, whose records I mail ordered from English stores. The ”Marble Arch” label released European issues from Chess label records. And so songs by Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and like became familiar. When I went to the secondary school in Lahti, it was a quite ordinary sight to see guys walking a blues album under their arm.
– The first time I heard the real blues live was at the Kansantalo venue in Lahti in 1970. Then Eddie Boyd and John Littlejohn performed with a Finnish backing group. Penti ”Baby Boy” Varhama was the supporting act. A couple of years later I went to B. B. King’s concert at the Helsinki Cultural House, and the American Folk Blues festival at the Helsinki Finlandia House, where Big Mama Thornton, T-Bone Walker and Memphis Slim among others performed.
The first bands Pepe played in were those assembled with friends, but as a rather youngster Pepe was playing with nationally prominent bands.
– The first ”gigs” were in living rooms of ours or one of my buddies. The neighbourhood girls were our audience, when we played ”Rollin’ & Tumblin” through tube radios. The first real gig was at the Nastola Palokuntatalo (Fire House), and the band was called as Thermosthat (guitarists Rexi Artoma and Timo Lammi, bassist Risto Pesonen, drummer Matti Termonen and singer/harpist Pepe). The band name was formed from drummer’s surname, because we rehearsed at the basement of his farther’s store building. Sure, I had more ensembles I used play in; Fire Blues was the band we used to play actively in the the turn of the 60’s and 70’s in the Lahti and Nastola area. Thermosthat changed to a band called Pintavika with ever-changing line-ups; Jouni Leino and Roope Rossi were members at some stage.
– The Folk music was popular in early 70’s. I had a trio called Yolk with Kalle Jämsen and Seppo Sillanpää, we played country blues at the Lahti Lyseo (Lyceum) functions with other bands. Lahti’s number one band was Charlies, which was at the same gig with us. The legendary bassist Kari ”Pitkä” Lehtinen asked me to join in the band, and the years 1973-74 I spent touring the Finnish dance halls. In those days it was a habbit to book two bands; one dance band for dancers and one rock band for youngsters.
BYE BYE LAHTI (CITY)
In jams after the band rehearsals an idea of forming a band concentrating on the Chicago-style blues was born. In 1975 Pepe, Jaska Heinonen (guitar) and Roope Rossi (drums) completed with bassist Risto Pesonen founded the band called Chicago Overcoat.
– This quartet went to Pekka Nurmikallio’s Microvox studio to record some songs, which FBS released as an EP in 1976. The band expanded when Timo Kakko entered as the second guitarist in 1976. A visit in a TV program ”Iltatähti” (Evening Star) hosted by Mikko Alatalo (singer, MP) helped to reach a greater public awareness. Next year we got a pianist, Lasse Maatala. This line-up appeared at the first Järvenpää Puistoblues Festival in 1978, and the following year at the first Provinssirock (Seinäjoki), where the head liner was Son Seals Band. Love Records released two albums (”Chicago Overcoat”, 1979 and ”Eyesight To The Blind, 1979), which brought us some kind of cult reputation. Through Live Music associations the gig opportunities increased. We played in various venues, such as in Kaivopuisto (Helsinki), in student houses in Helsinki, Turku, Tampere.
– The third album was in planning stage, but then Love Records bankcrupted. Thereafter the operation of Chicago Overcoat started to decline, and I with Jaska Heinonen (guitarist) and Roope Rossi (drummer) started to form a new band Pity The Fool, which was completed with Pekka Kokkonen (singer, bassist) and Rauno Selamaa (singer, guitarist). This group used to work for a couple of years. No recordings were released, but we were at an memorable joint gig with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells at the Helsinki Tavastia Club in 1981. My last band in the Lahti City area was Pepe Ahlqvist Blues Band (1983-84), where besides me played Jaska Heinonen and Roope Rossi, and Poutiainen Brothers Jarmo (bass) and Jouko (guitar). That band performed occasionally depending on the gig availability. At the same time I did solo gigs with Kalle Jämsen.
– Just before the mid 80’s, I wanted to get my career onward and my musical activities started to move towards the Helsinki metropolitan area – though I still lived in Lahti.
In Helsinki the operations continued in the Pepe Ahlqvist Blues Band with variable line-ups; with such players as Jarkka Rissanen, Heikki Keskinen, Max Tabell, Jan-Olof ”Puppe” Strandberg, and Kurt ”Kurre” Tulikallio. Pepe was in the musician circuits well known, and so player mates were easy to find. With the change the blues musicianship became more professional. In 1986 Pepe moved to Helsinki.
– Kurt Tulikallio knew Risto Asikainen, who worked as a producer at the Fazer/Finnlevy label, and they had done some studio recordings together. I happened to be in the studio, and started to think how to arrange the blues music in a modern way. Little by little we got some recordings done, and an album titled ”Pepe Ahlqvist And The Sunset Boulevard” was ready. We wanted to test this in live situations. The band with the same name was formed. Besides me the line-up consisted of Kurt Tulikallio (guitar), Jussi Liski (keyboards), Timo Pratskin (keyboards), Harri Merilahti (bass) and Anssi Nukänen (drums). This group toured for two years, until Kurt Tulikallio wanted to return to his civil work. He was replaced by Jarmo Nikku (guitar).
– Soon thereafter also Jussi Liski and Harri Merilahti left the band. The new bassist was Juha ”Frank” Tikka. The musical style changed to a mix of blues, rock and funk. Then the name of the band was changed to Pepe Ahlqvist H.A.R.P.
BACK TO THE RIVER
The debut album ” Pepe Ahlqvist H.A.R.P.” brought Pepe’s name to even greater public awareness. The opening track Back To The River composed by Esa Kaartamo became a hit of the late 80’s getting a lot of airplay.
– The debut album’s producer Esa Kaartamo is a brilliant tunesmith! He is got a professional approach to roots music. By combining it with more rocking elements, some delicious products emerged. On that debut album Esa Kaartamo wrote six songs, and Back To The River was a kind of a hit. Even a music video was produced, and it was filmed in New Orleans. During that trip of two weeks more material was filmed. A fantastic trip, altogether.
The second album by Pepe Ahlqvist H.A.R.P. was titled ”On The Ground”, and it was a very succesful entity both commercially and artistically. However, the band consisting Finland’s top musicians needed a new drummer.
– Anssi Nykänen played for two years in the H.A.R.P. band. A gifted player like Anssi gets invitations from others groups. Anssi had to choose, when he was asked to join the Havanna Black band, which was entered in the music circles in Los Angeles. Harri Ala-Kojola was our new drummer. A couple of years after Anssi left the band, also Juha Tikka (bass) started to check-out from the band, and was replaced by Harri Rantanen.
– Pepe Ahlqvist H.A.R.P. was a democratic band, as generally, all the bands I have been in. All took part into making of songs, at least when arranging them. Esa Kaartamo was an associate member in the band. On the last album ”Rocks And Water” some lyrics were by Teppo Nuorva, with whom the cooperation still continues. He is a brilliant writer, who can produce texts both in Finnish and in English language.
– We toured with H.A.R.P. for years in Finland and in Central Europe. The band was put in the yard in 1995. In that stage I wanted a band, which plays a more traditional blues. I had a duo with Jarkka Rissanen since 1990, and we decided to form a band and started to look for proper players. On board came Ykä Putkinen (guitar), brothers Löytty – Mikko (bass) and Sakari (drums). After two years of operation Sakari Löytty went to Africa, and was replaced by Seppo Rauteva. A band titled Pepe Ahlqvist & The Tumbleweed was born.
– In the beginning we played blues covers in an old-school rough style. Little by little everybody started to offer their own compositions in to the set list, which gradually took shape into a tight and tradition-respecting package. In addition to active touring we recorded four albums on the Bluelight label owned by Mika Myyryläinen, ”Small Timer” was the last one. A couple years after the millennium the band’s activities started to fade away, everything has its time.
NÄILLÄ MAILLA – HEREABOUTS
The band called SF-Blues consisting Finnish seasoned blues musicians and experts was formed in the early years of the 2000s. This project-based band has toured every few years. There Pepe reached again more public consciousness.
– Our gig seller Ben Pennanen proposed a band, where besides me would perform Heikki Silvennoinen (singer, guitarist, comedian) and Dave Lindholm (singer, guitarist, songwriter). The idea sounded good, so after contacting Heikki and Dave, we went from reflection to action. The rhythm section includes Jani Auvinen (drums) and Mikko Löytty (bass). The set list includes those well-known songs taken from repertoires of each head liner (Pepe, Heikki and Dave). The debut album ”SF Blues” was released in 2002. During that summer we did about 60 gigs.
– The multi-faceted Dave Lindholm had so many things going on that he left the band after the first tour. We pondered with Heikki how to proceed, and came to a conclusion that we will use guest artists. In 2004 our guest was Erja Lyytinen (singer, guitarist), in 2004 Mikko Kuustonen (singer, songwriter) and Jukka Tolonen (guitarist). This line-up recorded an album in Finnish lyrics titled ”Joutomailla” (In wastelands). Then after two years we gathered together in 2007. On board came organist-legend Jukka Gustavson (Wigwam), and Eero Raittinen (singer, grand old man of rock and blues). An album ”Man – Be Careful” was released. That band toured for two summers.
For a musician, who gets his living from gigging, SF Blues was a pleasant ”summer work place”. Intervals were filled by solo and duo gigs and solo engagements with various bands (such as Tap Jelly Band and The Hoolers). Gradually Pepe was moving as a writer towards the singer-songwriter type material.
– I had been thinking for a while over my next album. When performing as a solo artist, an idea of an album with Finnish lyrics began to sprout. When writing the songs, the old folk and country influences started to sound along with the blues. Recordings were made at the studio owned by Olli Haavisto. Help in lyrics writing was offered by Timo Kiiskinen and Teppo Nuorva, this time in Finnish language. The album ”Näillä Mailla” (Hereabouts) was born.
– Singing in Finnish was not totally alien to me. I was involved in the record by Eero Koivistoinen tittled ”Kallista on ja Halvalla Menee” in 1988 (It’s expensive, but sold cheaply), where I sung two songs Neito (Maiden) and Lottovoittaja (Lotto winner). On some in Finnish-dubbed animated cartoons by Walt Disney, I have performed some songs in Finnish urged by the producer Pekka Lehtosaari.
– At the gigs it works as an extra spice, when I sing some songs in Finnish between the blues songs. Sometimes somebody even asks for a song in Finnish. Mostly my audience is accustomed to my blues expression, and the wishes are such. My output is so large that I cannot remember by heart my all songs. Some of them are only on records, and never performed them alive.
RE-UNION; BIG BAND AND DUOS
When Chicago Overcoat split in 1980, the members of the band made their marks on various groups. The old band mates have met each other in various occasions, and in 1997, it was the time to re-unite.
– The Järvenpää Puistoblues festival celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1997. Chicago Overcoat was the head liner in the first ever festival, and so we were asked to perform in the anniversary happening. When started we did three more gigs: at the Helsinki Tavastia Club, at the Helsinki Seahorse restaurant and at the Roots ’n’ River festival in Rovaniemi.
SF Blues in its original line-up toured in the summer 2012 in celebration of its ten year existence. The big-name group drew large audiences into its performances.
– SF Blues is an ensemble, which always exists. The time tables must be matched well before hand that the tours can be realized. In that group the work ethic has always been high; both by band players and guests. The gigs have been successful and the both sides of the stage have had a lot of fun.
Pepe Ahlqvist has often guested in various big bands. He has performed even with a chamber orchestra on stage. Being a conformable and versatile musician, Pepe enjoys those gigs.
– The big band activities started in 1987, when I had moved to Helsinki. Matti Oiling asked me to join his Oiling Boiling band as a soloist, where Heikki Keskinen, my pal from Nastola times, used to play the saxophone. That seemed to make sense. I settled down with the band’s routines. And it took no time, when I was a soloist in UMO (New Music Orchestra) led by Esko Linnavalli. These guest appearances with big bands I still do annually.
– The project ”Chamber Blues” implemented with the Mikkeli City Orchestra was an interesting experience. With their Chamber Orchestra I played songs I had earlier recorded by accompanying myself with an acoustic guitar. Pity that it was a one-time effort. The arrangements still exist and they are reusable.
Throughout the 2000s Pepe Ahlqvist has done a lot of solo and duo appearances besides other projects. Sure, Pepe has practiced that kind of activities during earlier decades. Let us revise who have worked with Pepe.
– Kalle Jämsen was my duo partner in the early 80’s. Thereafter I toured a couple of years with Pentti ”Baby Boy” Varhama. We appeared a lot at schools, and presented the history of the blues. We had a clear division of labor. Pentti, being a teacher, took care of the schools, and I booked the night appearances.
– When I moved to Helsinki in 1986, Henry Ojutkangas came as my duo partner. He had hosted jam sessions in various places, so he had his contacts. Nowadays, he lives in Oulu, and still is a piety blues musician.
– In 1990 a long-lasted cooperation with Jarkka Rissanen started. H.A.R.P. used to work regular irregularly and a lot of time was left to do duo gigs. Jarkka is a great guy personally and as a musician. With him I practically toured the whole Finland throughout. Moreover, we toured in Canada, and visited a dobro festival in Slovakia. Generally, I with Jarkka used to play mainly with two sheet metal guitars. That duo split up in 2003, when Jarkka moved to his home region, Savo (Central Finland).
– During the Rolling Tumbleweed, my old love to the guitar playing started to kindle again. Though I had been playing the guitar from childhood. In this millennium I have been performing on the ”man and guitar” basis. Duo gigs I have done sporadically with Tomi Leino, Jonne Kulluvaara and with my son Joel.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MEDIA
BN and Pepe Ahlqvist share the joint journey of almost 50 years, but the well-known blues musician has been covered by other medias regularly – both in the print and online journals, on the radio and TV.
– It is quite rare that the plain blues stories would be any hit stuff. On the other hand, the bread can be long, if you only are able to work tirelessly. Visibility in the media is always important, and even for a root artist it is essential that every now and then you flash there. I think that all media are equally important, and although BN is a trade magazine, of course, I give interviews to any media when requested. And, on the other hand, in most of times they deal with music, that is, they stick to the point, and so I do not have any reason to go ”media whoring”. When speaking about the journals, it feels really good when the impulse for an interview comes from the journalists, especially now, when I am nearly 60. Of course, when a new album comes out, my record company offers stories for the media – some are interested and some not, a normal pattern.
– Blues News goes for me to the very youth, year 1968. It was a hard thing, because we liked and listened to the blues music even then. As a 12-year kid it was interesting to read about those names, Mayall and others, who I had heard a couple of years earlier on the radio. About the same time, as important role with BN reached a radio program ”Bluesin maailmasta” (From the blues world) by Pekka Gronow (Finnish Broadcasting Company). It is outstanding that the BN magazine has continued to this day, and at the same time modernized.
AS A BLUES MUSICIAN IN FINLAND
Pepe thinks that blues musicianship has improved during the 2010’s towards even more professional direction. It seems that quality groups emerge all the time. Non-profit associations everywhere in this country and the world, and the challenges of IBC and EBC ilk have contributed to the case, but the basic work is based on the same facts as earlier – especially how each musician is able to invest in his operations and visibility.
– Although the Finnish musicians are not visible or audible that much in the media, something is happening all the time. Many bands are touring quite much abroad. In a couple of decades the operations have become more professional. The level has risen and the things required are done properly. At the same time the performance opportunities have increased and the general atmosphere for live music seems to be bettered.
– Everyday life of the professional musician is all in all quite rude. When you live on the music, it is economically difficult to run a big orchestra all the time, year after year. On the other side, there is a smaller scale, acoustic gigging. It is, however, a part of the same wholeness, and when you work eagerly, the audience knows what to expect. A relatively great number of such small bars still exist, where live gigs of root music have been arranged; above all for solo, duo and trio performers – and that means that a booking of a performer is not an unacceptable risk for the band nor the site owner.
– Moreover, in this our age group of sixties one phenomenon is visible, when the children have left the nest and the liabilities paid, so that generation, who used to dig this music in the 60’s and 70’s, realize that it is nice to attend the gigs – which often start at nine or ten in the evening. But on the other hand, playing places come, and go when the business fails, people stay at home.
– The world is shrinking. All are aware of others’ doings and the sharing of information becomes easier all the time. The blues challenges have been arranged for years, and they are important to the younger musicians. A couple of decades earlier I could have participated myself. However, whether you win or not, if you are active, you are able to create contacts and maybe an international tour. At the same time the blues associations are networking and the names of the bands spread all over the world quite differently compared to the earlier days. I toured with H.A.R.P. in various countries, in Central Europe and elsewhere, but all this has become easier. The basic things have probably not changed. Similarly you drive thousands of miles along the autobahns and sell your own records at the gigs. Possibilities are increased, but exploitation of them still depends on yourself. Any music involved, always your activity is needed. It is youself or somebody in the band, who must be the agent, who tries to arrange things. I have a good agency, whose work is exellent, but it have all kinds of bands in their roster. Therefore, if there is something I would hope in Finland, it is a big agency, which only books bands in the blues and root music genre – a such, which concentrates only on this trade.
THE SONG WRITER AND MUSICIAN PEPE AHLQVIST
Pepe Ahlqvist takes his status as a song writer, singer and musician in a natural way keeping his feet on the ground. The conversation leads to the interpretation of a trend term ”vintage” when referred to the playing of blues music. As a songwriter he relies on an old ”hat” method. As a musician Pepe swears to the name of his kind interpretation, and comments with a little twinkle in the eye that he is really the player of solos; 99 percent as a harpist, and at least 90 percent as a guitarist.
– I have always been writing songs, but it is no end in itself to do everything by my own mind. Sometimes the songs are born in that way, but sometimes in collaboration. Mostly they originate from a riff or a theme played with a guitar – and when a new project is on, the ideas are digged out, and we start to work on them.
– Music is made using a Stetson method, that is, I take a quitar and start a magnetophone. At the studio we then start to record demos. Maybe we record something and listen to it, say, a week later. A such kind of working method is suitable for me, where I do not have to think too far away. When working with the top musicians, the songs always live and shape up as wholenesses. Everybody gives good ideas.
– As a player I do not feel ”vintage”, but the blues I have mostly listened to is really that – especially today. Maybe the time has done the trick for me, when I started in the late 60’s, Muddy (Waters) was no vintage. I have listened to and practiced the music spectrum starting from the Mississippi delta blues of the 20’s. I used to dig among others the sound of Paul Butterfield’s big band, where the players like saxophonist Davis Sanborn, originally no blues musicians, shuffled the deck into mess with jazz, soul and funk. When I started to make music really seriously those old idols are left behind, and I have focused on my own doings. Also my thoughts on cover songs have changed, so that the emphasis is on the freshness of the interpretation and arrangement – so that the result is an original song regardless the writer – me or somebody else. The fact that I know the history sounds there somewhere on the background. With Chicago Overcoat in the 70’s we tried make Chicago-style music as authentically as possible, but even that was not any real vintage – like it was in the 80’s, when double basses and Astatic harp microphones etc were introduced. Our band had a special Nastola-Lahti sound, but we tried to keep up our genre and within the frame work of Chicago blues. That still was partly my ”study time”, and from that period I have retained much that I have been able to exploit in my later proceedings. Although it is nice to listen to the ”vintage artists”, I myself like ”stray” and work with all kinds of musicians.
– All in all, my instruments are rather traditional blues instruments, and I do not seek after my soundscape, but rather from that expression… how I sing, interpret and play my song. Actually I know about the blues harps only the Marine Band harps, and my microphones are those basic Astatics I have owned for ages. The guitars I use are basic Les Pauls, Finnish Flying Finns and acoustic Martins, and my amplifier is Fender. With guitar I sometimes want to test some effect pedals, such as Leslie and Overdrive, but even those are quite ordinary. The clean sound is always a good sound, but sometimes it is good to make it more sturdy. Hopefully my personality comes out with my solos and song interpretations. Sure those things I have thought and planned, but many things happen instinctively. In the end I tend to stick to the basic things, and it will remain as such.
THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE
When talking about the future Pepe Ahlqvist is careful not to step ahead of things, but reveals some news about his forthcoming solo album and the tour of the original SF Blues line-up in 2017. Pepe would like to do school gigs and workshops, if there were sufficient demand for them. In recent years especially the primary school tours have been decreasing, replaced among other things by music courses and music camps provided by the music colleges, and workshops sponsored by instrument makers. Also the commercial and sountrack gigs and the guest appearances in studio sessions, which used to give work opportunities earlier, are now thinning out.
– I have had the honor and pleasure to make music with brilliant musicians. Along the way my co-musicians have been of different styles. They have represented blues, jazz, rock and folk music. I myself am fundamentally a blues musician. By combining different styles something new may arise.
– When I have entered a new decade, something special has happened. When I was thirty years of age I moved to Helsinki, when I was forty Chicago Overcoat was reassembled for some gigs and at the advent of fifty years I recorded the album ”Mr Blues” with the skillful UMO Jazz Orchestra. From that time period, in my memory stays two gigs when I played with Oiling Boiling Band as a supporting act in B. B. King’s Helsinki concerts in 2004 and 2006. Now, when I turn 60 years, I will start a summer tour with H.A.R.P. My next album will be sung in Finnish. I intend to start recordings during this autumn slowly at the studio owned by Olli Haavisto. Next year the tour with SF Blues is awaiting, when the band is celebrating its 15th anniversary, and Finland is celebrating her 100th anniversary of independence. I look forward to gig with my old nice buddies. In addition to the birthday party and the H.A.R.P. comeback one milestone in 2016 is a double CD ”One Day Less, One Day More” (Bluelight, released in June), which consists of versatile Ahlqvist material from years 1975-2016.
– I did the title song with Teppo Nuorva. I have performed it once earlier, with the Mikkeli Town Orchestra at the ”Chamber Blues” concert in 2011. A few years passed, and then this song came to my mind when planning this collection album. I thought that this is suitable for the opening track and for the theme: so the life goes, always one day less, and again one day more. The recording went well and I am very pleased with the result. The album’s closing track is a song ”Samaa luuta ja nahkaa” (Of same bones and skin) written by me and my son Joel. Joel has been playing and making his own music for about ten years, and has been studying music with Ykä Putkinen at the Pop & Jazz Conservatory, and, of course, through me he is caught by roots music. I called Timo Kiiskinen, and he as a brilliant lyricist, produced the lyrics to our song. I hoped for a text, which could be topical, not directly pointing, but somehow between the lines takes a stand that all in this world are of same bones and skin. And in a way, it reflects our father-son relationship. Between these two, I selected the rest of the songs in the collection. Of course, there are some obligatory songs along my career; among others by Chicago Overcoat, H.A.R.P. and SF Blues, but especially on CD2 there are different and rare performances. Yes it required some thinking but there are good compromises. For example, there are three songs taken from the UMO big band sessions, and so is the bonus song ”Everyday I Have The Blues” not included in the ”Mr Blues” album. There are some covers, such as ”Roll And Tumble Blues”, wanted by the producer Mika Myyryläinen. Our version is based on the original recorded by Willie Newbern in the 20’s.
– The music – and especially the Blues – has been for me the spirit and the life. Weekdays pass in the family routines, contacting agencies, and working on new songs. I have had no holidays for decades except my stayings at my summer cottage in Asikkala while working. I am not born on the edge of the cotton field in Mississippi, but I have spent my childhood and youth on the edge of the hay field in Haravakylä, Nastola, singing and playing the blues. Maybe the tempos tend to slow down in the course of the time, but I intend to do this work as long as I can stand.
This article, co-written by Timo Tarkiainen, Jari Kolari & Pete Hoppula, was originally published (in Finnish) in Blues News Magazine issue 3/2016, translation by Aimo Ollikainen. Photos by Pasi Rytkönen.