A Mythological ManTram driver by day, disco don by night: Jaakko Eino Kalevi might not have the easiest name to remember, but his enchanting dream pop gems will stick with you. Here the Finnish multi instrumentalist speaks out on his new album, eternal energy and nightmares about ecstasy pills.
THE RED BULLETIN: A lot of people might think your new album is your debut as it’s your first record released on a big label. But actually it’s your ninth, right?
JAAKO EINO KALEVI: Technically, yes. My first release under my real name came out in 2001. So it’s been 14 years.
For a 30-year-old that’s quite a lot of releases, especially since they range from jazz to cosmic disco. Can you walk us through your musical journey?
I listen to a lot of different genres, so it feels natural to make different kinds of music. As a teenager I listened to Aerosmith and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Then I got into prog-metal, stuff like Dream Theater, then into hip-hop and reggae, then into jazz and punk. Recently I’ve been exploring pop music more.
Your interest in pop music seems to have left its mark on your new album. All the songs sound quite soft and wispy, almost mythological.
There’s a quote by Kari Kosmos, an old Swedish writer and musician I really love. He said, he’s not a biological man, he’s a mythological man. He also has this theory that he could filter all the toxins out of cigarettes with his mental power in order not to get sick.
Interesting. How does that apply to your music?
I don’t know. Maybe I can filter the toxins out of pop music.
Some critics label your music as dream pop. Are you okay with that term?
Well, I think it fits. I find inspiration for lyrics in an online dream forum. It’s fascinating what people dream about.
Do you have interesting dreams yourself?
Last night I had a dream within a dream. In the dream above I was hanging with Jarvis Cocker and Ariel Pink. In the dream below I told someone about that dream. But I had problems speaking because I hid a lot of ecstasy pills in my mouth.
Wow. Have you tried to interpret that dream?
No, I haven’t thought about the meaning yet.
I heard you used to work as a tram driver in your hometown of Helsinki until recently.
That’s true. I started the job in 2006 and quit early last year. To be honest, I miss it a bit. I like the trams in Helsinki a lot, because there they are more important as a means of transport than in Berlin, where I live now.
I bet this job led to some pretty interesting experiences.
Once I stopped a fight between two men by just announcing, ‘please stop the fight.’
Does that mean people in Helsinki are very well behaved?
I don’t know. Maybe they just believed me. What I liked a lot about driving the tram were diversions, because often the job can be very boring. The good thing is, it’s relaxing, just driving and listening to music.
Are you allowed to listen to music while you drive the tram?
Sure, why not? I think it’s fine. Many times I would listen to my own music and think about what to add to my songs. You have a lot of time to think as a tram driver.
Speaking of Helsinki, there are a few songs in Finnish on the album.
It’s funny, I just recently realized that all the spoken word parts on the record are in Finnish and all the singing is in English.
Why do you think that is?
Good question, I don’t know.
Is it because it’s easier for you to express intimate thoughts in Finnish?
Obviously I have a closer relationship with the Finnish language, but there are not any intimate secrets on the album.
What does the song title Ikuinen Purkautumaton Jännite mean?
It means voltage that never drops, eternal energy.
Is Finnish a good language for writing music?
Some people say it’s melodic, but I don’t think so. For me it’s mainly about bringing in contrast. Also, people outside of Finland, they don’t understand what’s being said and I like that. It adds a bit of mystery. It’s like, hear the sound of the language and imagine what it could mean.
What’s your favourite word in Finnish?
Tutuntuttu. It means, a friend of a friend.