©Tero Ahonen
©Tero Ahonen

Whether it’s the haunting original jazz compositions with the Ilmiliekki Quartet, the soundtrack leanings of his Oddarrang ensemble, the free improvisation as one-third of the Olavi Trio, or the more experimental (even ambient electronica) solo albums… Olavi Louhivuori is a versatile and ambitious drummer-composer. Oh, and there’s the small fact that he’s Tomasz Stańko’s drummer of choice.

1. What was the first, and most recent music you bought?
The first album.. I think it was De La Soul: Is Dead. I was very young at the time (I think 9 or so), but became a fan because of my older cousin who had it (I also wanted to make an impression on him of course). I bought it as a c-cassette. It’s still one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time. Maybe the seed for my love for afro-american rhythms ( and later jazz) sprang from there.

The most recent album I bought was Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell. It’s not only the most recent, but also one of the most beautiful albums I have heard in a long time. I also bought the same day another great album from a Norwegian guitarist Stein Urheim. I was playing at the same festival and loved his music. This album is a duo with him and singer Mari Kvien Brunvoll. The album is called For Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness.

2. What’s the starting point for a composition? (assuming you have one!)
I think it can be many things. When I’m composing for movies (as I did for Oddarrang’s In Cinema) it is naturally the picture/image, which gives a very nice and inspiring starting point. Sometimes it’s a deadline – when you have no other options than to come up with something, and you just have to start doing something. It’s actually a very liberating feeling when you realize that you can make music without the need for a mystical feel of inspiration. It can be such a mental block. But of course those things happen as well, very randomly and unexpectedly. An idea can pop into my head while walking, riding a bike, standing in a queue, watching nature, watching traffic, when going to sleep.. And then I try to have my phone close by ready to record the ideas.

3. What is the oddest/least conventional sound you’ve incorporated into your music so far?
It must be something I’ve used in my solo albums. I was experimenting a lot with different sounds from nature, especially with my first solo album Inhale-Exhale (Texicalli Records 2008). There you can hear samples of rain hitting our roof, the sound of thunder, the sound of water hitting the shore of our summer cabin, children playing at an outdoor swimming pool. And also the heartbeat of my son, who was at the time still inside the belly! For my latest solo album Existence (Eclipse 2014) I built myself a library of synths with sounds from different samples. I love using natural sounds. They make everything feel warm.

4. How do you bridge the gap between composition and performance?
I remember someone saying that composing is improvising in slow-motion*. I like that idea, and I think it gets quite close to truth for me. Of course you have more time to think, and the possibility to fix and correct your music. But when you get in the zone of composing, it’s not that far away from a performance. It also depends what kind of performance I’m doing. I play a lot of completely improvised music (especially with Olavi Trio), which is composing-in-the-moment (without the possibility to correct!).

©Jori Grönroos
Olavi Trio kit – ©Jori Grönroos

Then again, if I’m performing music that is very thoroughly written out, it might not feel so much like “composing”. But it feels very good and liberating nevertheless. All in all, the reason I play jazz is the beauty of improvising, creating things in the moment.

5. Who is the most inspiring person you’ve collaborated with, and why?
I’m very lucky to have had a chance to collaborate with lots of musicians that I consider masters and who have all been extremely inspiring for me, but if I have to pick one, it has to be Tomasz Stańko. I’ve had the honor to work with him already for more than eight years, and it’s impossible to describe how much he’s inspired me and shaped me as a musician. I had never felt the way I felt on stage the first time I played with him. The energy coming out of his horn just blew me away (and still does, of course!). He’s an outstanding musician, but also inspires me as a human being. I sincerely hope I can maintain his way of looking at the world and getting excited about things happening around when I’m at that age.

6. Where do you stand on the streaming/downloading/file-sharing/musicians-not-getting-paid-for-their-music debate?
Well… I think it’s very important that the discussion is there, and I sincerely hope that the industry (and consumers) will slowly understand the importance of this issue. The damage this change is doing for so many artists is devastating. For me personally, the hit hasn’t been as has hard, since I have always done music that is out of the mainstream (thus far away from music charts) and my income has always been coming from various different sources. But what I see very practically is the change in album-making, since the labels don’t have budgets for experimental/alternative music anymore. Especially studios and engineers are taking a hard hit, when more and more music is being done in home studios. So yes, it’s a very worrying phenomenon and I hope to see a change in it someday soon. This being said I’m a premium member of Spotify and find it an amazing tool for hearing new music. But I tend to buy most of my albums (especially old ones) on vinyl. I just love the format and the whole idea of spending a little time choosing the album, setting it on the player and sitting down to listen to it. Streaming has lots of great sides, but I couldn’t live without physical albums. And of course, it’s very heartbreaking to see small labels and record stores slowly fading away. Those places played an essential role in my growing-up as a musician.

7. What’s next? (musically, geographically, recording, tours, ensembles, anything…)
The future seems very nice and exciting, and looks like I’m going to keep myself busy at least until the end of next year. Right now I’m composing new material for Oddarrang. We are hosting a club (Oddarrang: Laboratory) in Helsinki, where we play new material for live audiences until fall 2016. We will start recording new material at the end of this year. I’m also planning to do more gigs with Existence, which will hopefully take me to Europe, UK and Japan. I will also start making the next solo album in 2016.

On top of my “own” projects, I’m playing and touring this year with Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen (projects Skydive and Rubicon), swiss singer Susanne Abbuehl, Ilmiliekki Quartet (we are releasing a new album and touring Finland in Oct/Nov) and also playing some gigs with Tomasz Stańko. We just recorded our fourth album (Cam Jazz) with Sun Trio (Kalevi Louhivuori, Antti Lötjönen and me). We also recorded a new album for the Olavi Trio, with special guest Wadada Leo Smith (for TUM, due for release in 2017). On top of all that, I’m planning to put up a new international ensemble, but that’s still a secret!

Oddarrang’s latest album In Cinema is available from Edition.

Olavi’s latest solo album Existence is available via Bandcamp.

For more about Olavi Louhivuori, try www.olavilouhivuori.com

* “Composing is improvisation slowed down.” –Arnold Schoenberg