Non Finnish-speaking Wigwam fans have been left a bit in the dark with regard to the group’s second main man, Pekka ‘Rekku’ Rechardt. As far as I know interviews in English have never appeared before this current one. Certain phrases, however, have slipped through, such as Rechardt’s self-invented label for the music of Wigwam: Deep Pop. Now Rechardt has finally released his first solo LP and speaks his mind on a number of subjects. As you would expect this is a far spell from the usual Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll stories. If you prefer your rock stars dumbed down, this is not for you. If you’re interested in a more thoughtful approach, read on. (the Tanskalainen)

Suonna Kononen, Karjalainen 21.03.2007:

Human being first, guitarist second

[Translated by Mikko Meriläinen & Claes Johansen. The original interview is here.]

There was some talk about a Rekku Rechardt solo album as early as the 1970s. Now, as a kind of miracle, it has finally appeared.

Your CD Snakecharm features some oriental-sounding guitar scales and themes, plus even some Heavy Rock – but none of this will come as a surprise to fans who have seen your gigs with the group, also called Snakecharm, over the last five years or so.

- I worked on this new material already at that time, but only as a demo thing. This isn’t about recycling stuff. Songs like ‘Prayer Arising’, ‘Flying’ and ‘Snakecharm 8’ are all written later on. I’m not really conscious about the oriental aspects – that would be like analysing why you fall in love. You just feel attracted by something, and that’s enough. The oriental sounding scales on some tracks are actually built around the harmonic scale. That is the basic scale of classical music, and the idiom of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. It’s just that I move the root note of that scale, and that makes it sound oriental. It is possible to take standard musical elements and use them in unusual ways. You are still in the same neighbourhood, but new things are lurking around the corner.

You write in your sleeve notes that the album’s main musical characteristics are monotony, repetition and simplicity. Isn’t that being a bit negative towards yourself?

- I am fascinated by ancient artistic qualities, and simplicity is a powerful mode of expression. I was a Beatles fan in my teens, but later on I got seriously into the Blues and started to understand the beauty you can achieve by using more technically limited forms of expression, including repetition. I wanted my solo CD to be built around those elements. It’s like the Shaman tradition where you enter a trance-like condition and open yourself up to new experiences.

Snakecharm isn’t an instrumental album. You lyrics play an essential part.

- I have never been into guitar dominated solo albums. Ultimately, the idea of a band playing together fascinates me more. The guitar must be naturally integrated into the overall sound.

Your lyrics explore the individual person and his or hers position in a universal whole.

- Over the years I have been involved with people who were into these things. I’ve been involved in ideological debate about the nature of individual beings. What exactly signifies a person, as a phenomenon or a being? There are elements in my lyrics that are borne out of these discussions. But I don’t see myself as a representative of these ideas. I just use my artistic freedom and ignore the borders between truth and lies. I can move however I like around issues that attract me. Some of the themes I deal with in my lyrics on Snakecharm are things I find fascinating, beautiful and thought-provoking.

The books by Carlos Castaneda include images that portray the borderland between imagination, dream and reality. He also uses the desert as a powerful metaphor. Have you read any of his work?

- I read one of his books a long time ago. I recall that I found it interesting, but he wasn’t a big influence on me.

At the Snakecharm gigs in 2000 you performed an excellent song called ‘Delirium’, sung by Hannu Leiden. Why isn’t that on the album?

- It didn’t fit the concept. The lyrics on ‘Delirium’ are by Arto Melleri, a fine lyric indeed, and a good song. But we thought it made more sense to make a record with English lyrics. I tried to create a wholesome overall atmosphere. Perhaps ‘Delirium’ will turn up on some other release someday. Longstanding fans might think that the opening track, ‘Regaining Hold’, refers to the old Wigwam classic ‘Losing Hold’. It is obvious right from the first few bars who the guitarist is. What makes up the Rekku style of playing?

- It’s hard to say. I just do things in a way that feels natural to me. I haven’t tried consciously to create a unique style; it has just come to me from somewhere. There is a touch in there that is typical for me.

Your rhythm playing is very colourful. There is a thoughtful, quietly jangling feel in you playing which suddenly bursts out into solos.

- I’d agree with that.

Another of your trademarks is bending the strings and then letting them drop, like bombs from a fighter plane.

- The problem with that is that you can easily break the strings that way, if you bend two strings at once and then take them down. You have to do it quite fast.

Lyrics caught from the blue

The female vocalist on ‘Snakecharm’, Marika Liuski, has previously performed with Five Fifteen, a retro-orientated rock group from Helsinki. How did she end up on your album?

- The lads recommended her to me. I was forming this group with Helsinki musicians. I had spotted Mikko Vuorela when we played with the Stadin Juhlaorkesteri in the summer of 2005, and he is a great player. He recommended that we use Sami Järvinen on drums. We practised for a while as a trio and found it was an environment we enjoyed, but some extra elements were still needed. Then Vuorela and Järvinen recommended Maikki as a singer and we gave her a call. The initial idea was to use vocals as an instrument to create a specific soundscape. But Maikki said she couldn’t do that. She needs to sing about something specific, she needs lyrics. Then the going got rough, but I managed to write the lyrics during the spring and the summer last year. I sat down for a few days and just let it pour out of me as a stream-of-consciousness thing, while I also contemplated some thematic overall concept – the individual viewed as a juxtaposition of soul and destiny. I let the lyrics brew for a few months, and after that it was easy to knock the final few bits into shape.

Many people think that Jim Pembroke wrote all Wigwam’s lyrics, but didn’t you in fact write some of them?

- I wrote ‘In a Nutshell’ and ‘Bless Your Lucky Stars’. I think the latter was credited to Pembroke, but I’m not the kind of person who starts a fight over such things (laughs).

How have the other Wigwam members reacted to your solo project?

- Quite sympathetically. At least there haven’t been any arguments. I haven’t had a lot to do with them since our gigs last summer. A few weeks ago I spoke to Kepa (Jari Kettunen, drums) over the phone. He congratulated me and felt happy for me.

How are Wigwam doing these days?

- It’s a dead season at the moment. Since this last autumn and through the winter I’ve been completely absorbed by my solo project. But there has been some talk of getting a new Wigwam album together at some stage.

Are you taking the Snakecharm project out on the road?

- There will certainly be some kind of a club tour late in the summer. But let’s see now how this record will be received. Hopefully it will excite people.

* * *

You can only be grateful

Mikko Meriläinen’s eponymously titled Wigwam biography (Nemo 2006) was one of the best received rock books during this last winter. Helsingin Sanomat included it in their list of best non-fiction of 2006, and the reviewer of Aamulehti described it as ‘highly commendable’. According to Rytmi magazine it is one of the most refined portraits we have of a Finnish group. Pekka Nissilä, who is a reviewer for the magazine published by the Musician’s Union, called the book very impressive, and Jussi Raittinen – the famous walking encyclopaedia of Finnish Rock – praised it in his review in the newspaper Ilta-Sanomat. What thoughts do Rekku Rechardt have on Meriläinen’s book?

- Positive. I like it, and so do all the others. I haven’t heard one single negative comment. The book is well made by someone who has poured his heart into it and has a lot of respect for the group. You can only be grateful to be treated in such a way.