Tenhi | Interview | New Album, ‘Valkama’
After several years, Tenhi, being born by Finnish nature and its very spirit, is releasing a new album.
Tenhi expressed the unspoken in the most elegant artistic way, and they always did it since 1996 without hurry, properly, thoughtfully. This continued until 2011 when the band recorded their fifth album ‘Saivoand’. Years passed, news from Tenhi’s world came rarely and we almost believed that the band was put on hold. Prophecy Productions recently announced the release of ‘Valkama,’ Tenhi’s long-awaited sixth album. The album’s title translates as “harbour” or “shelter”. ‘Valkama’ is the spiritual journey, back to the natural state of mind, back to innocence…and sometimes to death. It’s the first interview with Tenhi’s founder Tyko Saarikko after years of being absent.
“Our music has always been a timeless escape from reality”
First of all, accept my sincere congratulations with ‘Valkama’ release; and thanks for your time.
Tyko Saarikko: Thank you. This is the first interview related to ‘Valkama’ so it should be interesting trying to get all the thoughts together. Also really great to notice that we still have people around enjoying our music and eagerly waiting for new stuff.
All of us were waiting for the new Tenhi album for years, and it’s worth the wait indeed. Are you excited that this piece of art is finally done?
I still enjoy them very much. Especially now when some time has passed as mixing and mastering was done almost a year ago and I just finished the last artworks for the album. The illustrations bind together with the music and breathe new life to the songs.
Well, where were you all this time? No reports from Utu Studio, no on-line streaming, there was almost nothing from the band. It looked like you cut all ties with the outside world! Like you found the shelter and didn’t see any reasons to leave it.
We have never been too keen on social media, and we don’t have even personal active accounts on any platform. We used to put some news on our sites about the progress of ‘Valkama,’ but years ago it started to feel ridiculous, and we couldn’t handle it anymore. We decided not to put anything out before we are actually done. I think in the future we will be more active as we hope there won’t be such a long time between new releases.
What was your original idea behind the songs which complete ‘Valkama’?
One idea that came to being was to have more presence than previous album ‘Saivo,’ which was more ambient and introverted. It was this fragile balance between intimacy and epicness – width and focus. Also the song arrangements in our ears are more traditional yet have a typical Tenhi feel to them.
It’s said that you revised ‘Valkama’ original concept and took a decision to move in a slightly different direction.
The initial concept was a fairytale with settings in a worn torn village. The protagonist makes a journey to a island of ”Verisurma” where according to folklore the ones who have faced a violent death bleed forever. The storyline with its themes slowly shifted from the original macabre shades towards a more abstract expression. Some of it was an intentional decision, some subconscious.
Which events did shape the new concept?
The process of rethinking the concept and tilting the angle of it took its time. The final nail in the coffin was the intensifying situation in Europe. Our music has always been a timeless escape from reality to us and so the storyline and the themes felt too close for today. The original story idea could have been tied to the raging war of today, which was unintentional and we wanted to shift away from it. The shift was more obvious in album art and mental state, which of course affects everything.
I’m simplifying, but the general concept of Tenhi was built around the themes of nature and death tightly entwined together. Did pandemic change your views on your approach to the death theme?
I think that we have always revered Death and not taken it too lightly in our music. Pandemic did not affect us in this regard. Personally the pandemic didn’t affect my life too much – I got to do all the things I enjoy the most anyways.
It’s stated that the recording took place in the period from 2014 to 2022. Did you record it in a few long sessions or did you just return to the album whenever you were able?
It was built around a few more active sessions, or seasons should I say, but we were kinda active the whole time. We met basically every weekend at our studio but sometimes we were just hanging around or bouncing some ideas around which might be realized somewhere in the future.
Finland is known with its respectable and careful approach to the environment, and it’s famous with its humble yet stern and picturesque landscapes which was the integral part of Tenhi always.
I think that the links to reality in our music are always more or less subconscious. We try to intentionally avoid putting current and topical issues of the world into our art. Climate change is a depressing thing for sure. And whether we like it or not it will affect us all – thus it will affect our music as well.
What are the key differences between the first version of the album and ‘Valkama’ as it turned out to be?
The biggest change was in overall mood and in concept art. We did however loads of re-recordings and trying different things out with the songs but there aren’t any first versions of the album. Just different approaches or mixes to certain songs. They were in constant flow until they were ready. Some found their final form in different stages of the process. Maybe the biggest change was just in our head, not that obvious to others.
Prophecy Records prepared a few more releases besides ‘Valkama’; they will release Kaski album, a part of ‘Folk Aesthetic 1996-2006’. Will this version differ from the one we heard in this anthology?
There is no new material in re-releases but some of these albums are mastered again for vinyl. I don’t know about the technical details but basically the songs are spread on more vinyl being very long albums to give more physical space on vinyl hence better sound quality.
And the same is about the release of Tenhi’s early works ‘Kertomuksia’ / ‘Hallavedet’ as one album.
I have always loved the demo and its sounds still fascinate me. Actually, there are plans to re-record the song ‘havuisissasaleissa’ from it. The other two songs ‘Näkinlaulu’ and ‘Tenhi’ have already been re-recorded and released on our first albums. We might build something unique around it. Production on ‘Hallavedet’ is quite professional in our album category but I never felt comfortable with it. Straight out of the studio I remember not being too happy with it. It was missing the more mystic feel that is key to our music. After that we took control of the mixing and production, which have led to good and bad things concerning traditionally established sound production I suppose, but at least we do them our way.
And another big release is the ‘Collected Works’ 2023 vinyl box-set.
We are very happy with it and proud that our albums both musically and visually form very coherent wholeness. Only headache was that it was planned together with the ‘Valkama’ release so it all became too much stress at times as I am knee deep in doing all the layouts et cetera myself – that being something I love to do.
‘Folk Aesthetic 1996-2006’ contained a 76 pages booklet with your paintings and there’s the edition of ‘Valkama’ with a 36 pages booklet.
There is a really good communication with our label and we decide these things together. Aside from music, my love is drawings and illustrations so in these bigger formats also the art gets proper space. Generally great to see vinyl getting back as there. The album’s art really shines. I had plans to do this whole illustrated story book – a graphic novel – of the story. I had the storyboard drafted out but the more it was fleshed out the more alien it felt to Tenhi. I like the story a lot and hope I could manage to make it real one day but separate from Tenhi. As stated earlier – we didn’t feel at home with such a strong theme of a certain historic era to dictate or to be too obvious on our albums.
What are Tenhi’s plans for the rest of 2023? Any gigs?
No live shows are planned because we have started to draft new song ideas years ago and eagerly want to start working on new stuff.
How soon will you return after all things related to the ‘Valkama’ release will be settled?
It must be much quicker than this period. One idea is to do something smaller and quicker just to shake all this hiatus off. Maybe on an old cassette eight tracker – that would be intriguing.