Finnish jazz tends to be well-respected but not necessarily well-known. As one-third of Black Motor, Simo Laihonen has maybe been more active than most in building a vibrant improvisation ‘scene’ in his adopted city of Tampere. Add to this his work with saxophonist Jorma Tapio, and recently landing the drum chair in the rebooted Sound and Fury, and the modest Laihonen has become a drummer (and flautist) to watch: well-respected and increasingly well-known…

Simo pic
(picture by Antero Mentu)

1. What was your first musical instrument, and what did it mean to you?
Drums. Joy, excitement…

2. What are your non-musical influences?
Experiences in life. Inner and outer movement. Innumerable forms, all music.

3. How does the balance of preparation vs. improvisation change according to the project? (e.g. in a band setting, or working with theatre, dance, etc.)
How much preparation is needed in a certain situation is determined by the combination of people, the direction of the project at hand and how much of a predetermined structure is involved. Planned structures or not, the main thing is for people to get a chance to be together for the necessary length of time so that the outputs of the project can extend naturally.

4. Best and worst moments playing live?
Sometimes it’s effortless, sometimes it’s not. Things happen sometimes with ease, sometimes there is hindrance.

5. Edward Vesala was an early influence and you’re now a member of Sound & Fury. On several websites you’re cited as “one of the most original and important torch bearers of the Vesala idiom,” * – what would you say you bring to the Vesala legacy?
*(quotation from Petri Silas)
Vesala’s music, in a compositional sense and in the drumming aspect, has been a big influence, a gateway. I can see how I’ve been influenced by it. But what comes out, I cannot say. That is for someone else to decide. My intention is not to play any particular type of music. The inner qualities in Vesala’s work is something that I can see as an evolving legacy. And those are the universal aspects in this particular language, found everywhere in all eras.

6. Where do you stand on the streaming/downloading/file-sharing/musicians-not-getting-paid-for-their-music debate?
How could I own something that I’ve only been helping to get delivered? Is it still necessary to compete with the same old parameters of the economic system? Of course, we need common sense to support ourselves and for the music community to sustain itself. Could we see this phenomenon we call music as a part of fulfilling the basic needs of humanity and being an active part of evolutionary processes here on Earth? An artisan’s offering that fills a need, in the immediate or farther environment, will be supported and sustained.

7. If money and time were no object, what would your next project be?
There are many things I’m hoping to be able to do, but what is necessary and at what moment, I cannot say. I’m looking forward to some “woodshedding” in the near future!

For a sample of Simo’s playing, this clip shows a duo with another great Finn, Mikko Innanen; at Huurupiilo, a venue fast becoming a centre of improvised music in Tampere.

For more Simo, I can personally recommend Yöstä aamun kynnykselle (2013, Lumpeel Julkaisut), and Rubidium (2012, TUM Records).

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