TAPIO YLINEN
Left Unsaid
(Eclipse Music)

 

Eclipse Music founder, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, Tapio Ylinen proves his artistic worth as a solo artist in early 2019 with the North American CD release of his latest solo album called Left Unsaid (The Longstanding Problems Of Happiness). The six-track, 33 minute CD is filled with an array of memorable, contemporary mainstream pop and rock. Tapio Ylinen (pronounced: eÚ-Lennon) comes from the Northern European country of Finland, yet all the Left Unsaid tracks feature Tapio's English language vocals and guitars backed up by the tight rhythm section of Tatu Rönkkö(drums) and Miikkael Anttila (bass). A skillful champion of Finnish rock and fusion music, Tapio tells mwe3.com, "Writing in your second language is never the same as your native language but, then again, I’ve studied English quite a bit and I find that it usually suits rock and blues–based music much better than Finnish. I’ve released music in Finnish as well, like the track “Brother Come Back”. Sometimes it’s possible to translate previous work and sometimes it’s not and so I have songs that either are only in Finnish or only in English and a few that I’ve managed to make work in both languages. Finland has a strong presence in the world of classical music and composers like Sibelius are regularly taught in schools here, so I guess people who listen to more than just mainstream pop are likely to find instrumental music appealing even though it’s been proven by studies that the human voice is the best way to grab the listeners’ attention." A follow up to his 2012 Finnish language vocal album called Nuoruus, the 2019 North American CD release of Left Unsaid is international melodic rock, and with English lyrics printed in the digipak, the spotlight is on Tapio's hook-filled pop-rock vocals and his lively electric guitar playing. Influenced by the classic pop-rock bands of the past, and the cutting edge sound of today, Left Unsaid presents a modern, state of the art-rock sound. With the entertaning sound of Left Unsaid, guitarist / composer Tapio Ylinen establishes himself as an ascending guitar-rock talent. www.tapioylinen.com / www.eclipsemusic.fi




mwe3.com presents an interview with
TAPIO YLINEN

mwe3: You were born in 1980? I was in Finland the second time in the summer of 1980. Can you tell us where you grew up and what kind of music you gravitated to early in your life and how you came to study music and the guitar?

Tapio Ylinen: I was born in February 1980 in Kuopio, a small city in the eastern part of Finland. Kuopio had a lively music scene at the time and my father was friends with many of the prolific musicians there… for example Pekka Tegelman of Finnforest. My father had a band, so I saw him perform quite a bit. He was on television a couple of times and I remember also visiting him at a recording studio making demos. He also had a fairly large record collection of all kinds of music, but especially a lot of the great singer-songwriters of the 60’s and 70’s. So early on I was influenced by The Beatles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell etc... But there was also some progressive stuff going on, like Close To The Edge by Yes. I have a distinct memory of listening to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells over and over again and being absolutely fascinated by that piece of music.

I took a few classical guitar lessons when I was about 6 but the methodology of the teacher wasn’t for me. Also I didn’t really understand the music at the time so I was a bit lost for a while. Eventually I got re-inspired by guitar players like Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton and I decided that the bluesy avenue was the way to go.

I attended an art school from ages 16-19 and got very deeply into the music of Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis and also Finnish prog acts like Wigwam and Pekka Pohjola during that time. After high school I was admitted to Tampere University where I studied musicology and graduated with in master’s degree in 2006.

mwe3: Your father was a semipro musician and what kind of music was he interested in and was that the music you liked early on? Are your parents still alive?

Tapio Ylinen: My parents are alive and doing well. Dad is still making music whenever he has the time. He has released a couple of albums both of his original material and cover versions of his favorite songs.

My father and I generally have a similar taste in music. I already mentioned some of his favorites in the previous question, but he has always had a special fondness for American songwriters. Jackson Browne would probably be at the top of both our lists of great songwriters. I still listen to that kind of music a lot, but I have also since gravitated more and more into the prog-rock and contemporary jazz field.

mwe3: I was speaking to Jukka Issakkila about the importance of early Finnish rock pioneers such as Wigwam and, to my ears as an American, how Pekka Pohjola changed the Finnish rock style of music to a more symphonic form of instrumental rock starting in the early 1970s and even more so during the 1980s. What is your take on the Finnish instrumental rock sound and also the way Finland opened up to rock music during the 1960s and 1970s? I know Jim Pembroke really helped open the rock scene in Finland beginning there in the mid 1960s.

Tapio Ylinen: Pekka Pohjola, Wigwam and Jukka Tolonen certainly had a big influence. I think they raised the bar of the technical abilities of musicians to an international level. Jim Pembroke gave Wigwam some authenticity, an international flare in you will, because of his lyrical and song writing skills. So Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti became the first Finnish bands that could have been successfully exported abroad. And to a certain extent they were.

Pekka Pohjola’s solo works are still quite a unique blend of rock, jazz and symphonic music. Only composers like Anssi Tikanmäki and Juha Kujanpää have successfully done music like that since. He’s still the benchmark for symphonic prog in Finland. Of course Jukka Iisakkila needs to be mentioned here as well as an accomplished prog/jazz composer and orchestra conductor, which is a rare combination.

mwe3: What can you tell us about your company Eclipse Music and your goals and objectives with your company? Your new solo album, Left Unsaid is excellent and you also released Jukka Isakkila’s album Clocks And Clouds in 2018. Are you equally interested in pop and rock as well as guitar-based symphonic rock in the style of Jukka’s album and how many albums and artists are on Eclipse?

Tapio Ylinen: Eclipse Music is a small but vital independent record label that I set up in 2007. Our goal is simply to release and promote music of high artistic quality. We’ve been focusing a lot on jazz in various forms, but also prog, blues-rock, singer-songwriters and contemporary folk and world music… anything that’s outside of mainstream pop, basically. We have released over 80 full-length albums and several EPs and singles, so well over a hundred releases by now. The number of artists is a bit tricky to calculate since many musicians that I work with play in several different ensembles. So it depends on how you count it, but overall there are dozens by now.

I’m glad you liked the album, thank you! I’m open to all kinds of styles of music, but prog-influenced epics are near and dear to my heart. Jukka’s album certainly has its epic moments, which is great. I’d love to have more rock bands on the roster and especially prog-influenced bands.

On the Left Unsaid album I wanted to have songs of similar quality as the late 70's Wigwam albums. "Deep Pop" as Pekka Rechardt called it. That's to say, pop/rock-songs but with a progressive flare. But since we were a trio, the sound of the album was also influenced by The Police.

mwe3: Why did you call your new album Left Unsaid and what’s the chemistry like between you and your band members Tatu
Rönkkö on drums and Miikkael Anttila on bass? Can you provide some background info on the CD? I noticed that some of the Finnish musicians preferred singing in English.

Tapio Ylinen: The name of the album is a reference to how it came into existence. It’s a long story but here’s the short version. We had been playing together since we were teenagers, basically. After several failed attempts on getting a record deal we decided to start recording so that we could perhaps offer a finished album to a label. At the same time a was putting Eclipse Music together, so if a record deal didn’t happen we’d have the option of putting it out on my own label. We recorded the backing tracks in the winter of 2008-2009 and then suddenly Miikkael got a really good gig playing with Jenni Vartiainen who is a platinum-selling pop singer in Finland. So he naturally took that job and was subsequently unavailable for the next 3-4 years, playing over a 100 concerts per year. Meanwhile Tatu got his break first playing with Elifantree (a fantastic prog-pop-jazz trio) and then touring all over the world with the Danish art-pop band Efterklang. So the band was split, waiting developments, and I decided to pursue other stuff in the meantime. I wrote and directed plays, composed theater music and made a solo record in Finnish.

In 2015 my wife died after a long struggle with cancer and I had to think of stuff to do to cope with that. I started recording new material and composing new music after a lengthy hiatus. Eventually, and with the support of the person who is now my fiancé, I dug up the backing tracks that had been left unfinished and finally recorded my vocals and lead guitars. So the things left unsaid back then got a new and much more mature form.

mwe3: Tell us about the leadoff track on Left Unsaid, called “Bright Young Star”. Was it written about someone you knew and what is the message behind the lyrics and does it say something about the way stars today rise and fall so fast?

Tapio Ylinen: The song is not about anyone in particular, but you’re right. It is about the rise and fall of pop stars, but also us as members of the audience who watch these real-life plays happening live in the public eye. There’s something really interesting about the dual nature of celebrity and I wanted to capture some of that in this short story.

mwe3: Tell us about your guitars and what guitars you play on the Left Unsaid album. Did you model your guitar playing after some of your musical heroes and who are some of your favorite Finnish guitarists and bands? Many of the artists I know from Finland were instrumental artists so you’re clearly a new rising sound in the rock arena.

Tapio Ylinen: I mostly play Stratocasters, my 1990 Deluxe Plus model being my primary instrument. I also used a Les Paul on a couple of lead tracks to get a slightly edgier sound and a Sigma acoustic. I certainly have taken a lot of influences from David Gilmour and Mark Knopfler, which didn’t go unnoticed on some of the reviews, both in terms of sound and technique. There are so many great guitar players, but those two have been the earliest influences for me and so that still comes through in my playing.

Out of the many great Finnish guitar players Wigwam’s Pekka Rechardt is a hero of mine. Jukka Tolonen as well. There’s a bunch of great players in my own generation, like Timo Kämäräinen and Teemu Viinikainen who are making great music.

mwe3: “Brother Come Back” is a classic rock song, maybe my favorite on the CD and the timeliness of the message and tempo hit hard. The lyrics are quite moving in that the song speaks of division and redemption in a family setting but does the song also speak of a greater power in life? The track would make a great single.

Tapio Ylinen: It has been a favorite live track as well. The song is an allegory of events that actually occurred. It’s about a friend of mine who went through some fairly severe psychological and substance abuse issues that ultimately, and very unfortunately, affected our friendship. It felt to me as if I was losing a brother, so that song is an allegory of that experience. To put it into a straightforward narrative of actual events wouldn’t have worked as a song lyric. There’s also a Finnish lyric to that song, released on my first solo album.

mwe3: “Life Of A Bird” is interesting. I guess it’s a kind of modern blues, even though the subject says that he “can’t seem to understand how to sing the blues”. Is it a hopeful song or a sad song that arrives at a happy ending? Makes me wonder if we can ever be happy as human beings.

Tapio Ylinen: The lyrics certainly have a blues vibe to them. A man sits down in the park and ponders about his worries and woes… Blues lyrics, definitely. The idea for the music came while I was listening to a Stevie Wonder record. There was a chord progression that caught my attention and while I was trying to figure out the chords I accidentally played an interesting sequence of chords that go through 3 different keys. That chord sequence became the pre-chorus bridge on “Life Of A Bird”. As for the mood of the song, it’s ambivalent. It goes through different keys, never distinctively minor or major. Or maybe I should say sometimes minor, sometimes major. It’s allegorical to life in that way, to answer your question about happiness.

mwe3: “The Great Gamble” is about life and perhaps waiting for the situation to change before you pull the plug? Is life a gamble in your opinion and what’s the safest way to live these days? What do you think is the secret to survival in the 21st century?

Tapio Ylinen: “The Great Gamble” is an older song that I originally wrote in my early twenties. The lyrics were revised a bit for this version. I guess when you’re younger you take more risks and gamble. When you mature you lean more towards safety whenever you can. This song represents that change. It’s almost like an older and wiser version of the main character of this songs is singing the last line “Don’t you gamble with your life” to his younger self. It’s a fairly abstract lyric that I wrote in the spur of the moment and it lends itself to different interpretations.

Overall, I subscribe to a reason and evidence-based world view. So to answer that question about survival, I think we all need solid and unbiased information from the best experts available if we are to solve the big questions of our time, like climate change for example. It’s tempting to look away or believe biased information when it makes us feel comfortable, but unfortunately most facts about the known universe are not comfortable.

mwe3: You wrote Left Unsaid with English lyrics. What are some of the challenges in writing lyrics in English compared to writing lyrics in Finnish? Do your other albums feature English lyrics and are they just as well accepted in Finland as the Finnish vocals? I guess that's one reason instrumental music, especially the electric guitar are so huge in Finland. Have you been to the US yet?

Tapio Ylinen: Writing in your second language is never the same as your native language but, then again, I’ve studied English quite a bit and I find that it usually suits rock and blues–based music much better than Finnish. Finnish is a weird language with long words and difficult grammar that doesn’t always lend itself well to the tight format of the pop song. On the other hand there are many Finnish lyricists who are able to make the language really “sing” and kudos to them. At the moment most Finnish pop music is sung in Finnish to make it slightly more accessible even though most Finns understand English perfectly well. Metal bands tend to favor English and there are some artists who are going for an international career who sing in English.

I’ve released music in Finnish as well, like the aforementioned “Brother Come Back”. Sometimes it’s possible to translate previous work and sometimes it’s not and so I have songs that either are only in Finnish or only in English and a few that I’ve managed to make work in both languages.

Finland has a strong presence in the world of classical music and composers like Sibelius are regularly taught in schools here, so I guess people who listen to more than just mainstream pop are likely to find instrumental music appealing even though it’s been proven by studies that the human voice is the best way to grab the listeners’ attention.

I haven’t had the chance to visit the US yet. I’d love to see New York at least one day. Museums, theater, music clubs, concert halls… There would be a lot to experience. I’m sure I’ll get the chance to come there eventually and maybe even play some gigs.

mwe3: What does “Noble Heart” speak about? It sounds very tortured in part because of the damage the two characters bring to each other. Does the searing guitar solo reflect the angst in the song lyrics?

Tapio Ylinen: “Noble Heart” was originally written in Finnish and for a stage production of a Tony Kushner play I was acting in at the time. It’s a paraphrase of a Dostoyevsky quote in the manuscript that I later translated into an English song lyric. And you’re absolutely right, the guitar solo needed to reflect the tension between the two lovers in the story, so I really went for it. I used a David Gilmour trick from the Division Bell album and used a whammy pedal to get those screaming high sounds. It actually ties in with that album in the sense that the concept behind it was the difficulties in communication, which is what often times ends up destroying a lot of relationships.

mwe3: “Snake In The Grass” closes out Left Unsaid with another lesson of lost love? What’s the lesson in the song lyrics? What is the reference to Scylla and Charybdis about? Is the song about learning life’s lessons too late?

Tapio Ylinen: “Snake In The Grass” is another theater piece and it’s a story about a woman in her late thirties falling in love with a much younger man barely out of his teens. It’s a straight lift from the story in the play we were making at the time. The two end up in a situation that’s impossible to resolve without severe consequences. And they realize this way too late and that’s what the Scylla and Charybdis reference is all about. Whatever they choose to do, it will end badly. The opening line “Mary, Mary, quite contrary” is from an old English nursery rhyme about, according to one of its versions at least, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland in the 16th century who also suffered a tragic end.

The songs on this album seem to be full of tragedy, which, in hindsight, I find a bit funny. It doesn’t really reflect me as a person because, regardless of the tragedies in my own life, I’m quite happy. But, then again, that wasn’t always the case and that may come through in many of the songs. Also I’ve always had a fondness for tragic irony, which, I think, is present in many of my songs.

mwe3: So now with Left Unsaid gaining more interest and your label moving ahead what is coming next in 2019 for the Eclipse label as well as your Eclipse Jazz Club? What are you personally looking forward to this year?

Tapio Ylinen: Eclipse Music, the label, is forging ahead and releasing more music than ever. The new Elifantree album will be a highlight of the autumn season, but also there’s an album by Manuel Dunkel coming out in the spring, which will be a very interesting release. I also have a project of my own; instrumental compositions that have been re-imagined, rearranged and performed by an all star lineup of Finnish jazz musicians. Verneri Pohjola (son of Pekka) will be involved, Teemu Viinikainen is playing guitar and my old friend Pauli Lyytinen is on sax. Lots of other fantastic players as well. It’s called Mortality and it will definitely be a very special album.

On the live music front, I’ll be playing guitar on a special 40th anniversary tribute concert to Pink Floyd’s The Wall album that’s taking place on September 7th at Pyynikki Stadium here in Tampere. We’re going to play the entire double album, so that’s going to be a lot of fun.

The Eclipse Jazz Club will host a series of concerts and there are good things on the horizon for the club project as well. I’m not at liberty to talk about the details yet, but the aim of the whole thing is to establish Tampere, my hometown, as a place for great jazz and prog–related music. There’s a fantastic and well known symphony orchestra here, so it’s already a great place for music, but it hasn’t always been an easy place for jazz for some reason. Even though there’s a really good jazz festival every year, the club scene has been difficult to develop. I’m looking to make a change.



 

 
   
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