Pekka Tegelman & Quartegel
(Kulumo Music)


Back in the late 1970’s, Pekka Tegelman was the guitarist in the Finnish band Finnforest, who released several critically acclaimed instrumental jazz-rock fusion albums on the now defunct Love Records label. The glory years of Finland's Love Records label may be a distant memory among Finnish rock and fusion enthusiasts yet, coming back on the scene, Pekka Tegelman released his long awaited return to the jazz-rock world in 2010 with the CD called Bound, recorded with the group Kulumo. Flashing forward to 2017, after several vocal projects, the renowned guitarist is back on track again with Pekka Tegelman & Quartegel. The nine track CD features Pekka on electric / acoustic guitars and keyboards with the aid of Markku Ounaskari (drums), Manuel Dunkel (sax) and Tero Siitonen (double bass). Mixing and mastering at Nevermind Ranch in California by Pekka’s brother and former Finnforest drummer Jussi Tegelman enhances the album's sound as does additional percussion by Pete Korpela. Compared to the structured, neoclassical rock music of the late, great Pekka Pohjola, for example, the music of Pekka Tegelman is much more jazz-centric, with a keen emphasis on creative melody and improvisation. Speaking about his fondness for the American jazz music from which he partly draws upon for his inspiration, Pekka Tegelman tells, "As for the music, John Coltrane was a big influence on me when I was a kid, so this is kind of a humble nod to the direction of Coltrane’s best quartet with Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison. The material we play is basically “songs”. Hopefully they have a vocal, singable kind of nature." Dunkel’s sax work tends to dominate the album which also features some excellent guitar work by Pekka. Fans of Finnforest, especially their Demonights album from 1979, will find much to like about the freewheeling, improvisational jazzy fusion sound of Pekka Tegelman & Quartegel.

 presents an interview with

: What was the main impetus behind the Pekka Tegelman & Quartegel album and how did you decide on the title of the album? Is the group name a kind of play on words, using your name to merge into the quartet? Why did it take so long to get jazzy, fusion instrumental album this amazing from you?

Pekka Tegelman: Well, there is actually a little wordplay. I just wanted to avoid this “Xx and his Quartet”- tradition Also, I like the word “tegel”, which means “brick” in Finnish—as my forefathers may have been bricklayers, and my father is an architect. So I wanted to have something constructive on the title, yes, and merging it with “quartet”.

I had just finished my second vocal album Aurinko On Meidänkin (“The sun is ours, also”) and I thought it would be cool to release an instrumental album right after vocal, the same year, though it’s tough that didn’t happen due to some technical problems. The vocal CD came out 2016 and instrumental one Quartegel in 2017, both consisting of my own material and performance. I don’t know if anybody has done that…

mwe3: How did the Quartegel group come together? Have you known these players for a while and did you choose the sax sound to give the album a more jazzy sound, say compared to the rock-based fusion of the early Finnforest albums? And how would you compare the sound and scope of the Quartegel album with your other recent titles including your recent vocal pop album and the Bound album by your band Kulumo from 2010?

Pekka Tegelman: I had some difficulties in keeping the “Kulumo” group, together and going, so I decided to do totally another project and same time to fulfill my longtime wish to play with Markku Ounaskari, again. Markku was in my “dreamband” HBA in the 1990’s – with Pekka Pohjola, Jarmo Savolainen, Rasmus Korström, Earl Boncamper and Ounaskari. That group made one recording for YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) and some gigs, including a tour for the Finnish Jazz Union. When Pohjola was, and if he was, in condition to play and use his abilities, nobody could play as good as him, even how good a bassist that guy might have been. He did not only play, he at the same time composed counter-lines, he would hit an open string, if the chord allowed, and then play something on the top of it that suited perfectly to the melody that was been played.
Quite sadly, from that unit, all the first three guys have passed away, so we can meet them only in our memories. May they rest in peace.

But, saxophonist Manuel Dunkel has been strongly on the Finnish scene since the 90’s and I’ve wanted to play with him long time, and this was the opportunity! A rather moving detail, is that he plays with a old Selmer tenor saxophone that was once owned by Rasmus. Tero Siitonen came quite naturally from Kulumo, as he is the trusted one. As for the music, John Coltrane was a big influence on me when I was a kid, so this is kind of a humble nod to the direction of Coltrane’s best quartet with Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison. When I was young, the most wonderful stuff I knew was the John Coltrane Quartet playing "My Favorite Things", which was originally a bona fide Broadway tune! And this was before me and Jussi heard The Beatles. The material we play is basically “songs”… Hopefully they have a vocal, singable kind of nature.

mwe3: I saw that Svart are reissuing the first two Finnforest albums on vinyl, which is strange. Are the Laser’s Edge CD reissues of the first two Finnforest albums still in print? How do you look back to your early works in the 1970s with Finnforest? Do the Finnish kids of today have some respect for the original progressive Finnish fusion music? Is Svart run by younger people?

Pekka Tegelman: I don’t know about Lasers Edge’s business as they have been a somewhat hard act to make contact with even if you are an artist that they have released material from. To put it mildly, they did a great job releasing those albums, but that was about it. I think there is some demand and interest for 1970’s stuff in the younger generations, but it could be quite marginal. I think Svart is run by younger people, but with myself, that is kind of a relative notion.

mwe3: How did you work on finishing the Quartegel album with your brother Jussi Tegelman at his Nevermind Ranch recording studios and what did Jussi bring to the album? How long has Jussi been living in California and where does he live out there? Did you kind of “treat” the Quartegel album with Jussi, adding in overdubs, etc? Also I saw in the Quartegel album credits Jussi added in drums on the track “Time To Time” and the drumming on that track is excellent by the way. Do you miss your brother no longer living in Finland? I guess you only see him time to time these days? Are your parents still alive, other brothers or sisters in Finland?

Pekka Tegelman: We laid the basic tracks in Helsinki, E Studio , with Jyri Riikonen on controls, and I went to do overdubbing, editing and mixing to Jussi's Nevermind Ranch in Green Valley, California because I did that with Kulumo album, and it worked very well then. Jussi has a terrific skills and experience as a sound man and with engineering, and he is of course a great musician and a composer of his own right, so everything went very smoothly.

Nevermind Ranch, some 50 minutes of freeway from downtown L.A., up to the mountains, is a great place to work. The sun is shining and air is fresh and it rains and snows considerably less than in Helsinki. Jussi has been in Los Angeles since the beginning of 1990’s and he’s built a strong career in the movie scene. I did certain overdubs and little polishing, here and there, but you should not be able to hear when and where. This practice may have come from the pop music way of working. Nevertheless, it is the sonic outcome that matters.

Yes we needed some extra punch to the song “Time To Time”, so Jussi played second set of drums, and it came out fine. That was actually one of the titles we played in 1990’s with Pekka Pohjola and Jarmo Savolainen, so this bass riff was originally written for electric bass. The problem with Pohjola, along with some other problems, was that when he was at the top of his game, and there really was nobody who could have taken over the bass duties after him, without sounding lame, however good otherwise. So, that also drove me in the direction of the double bass, which is actually great, because it gives a band much greater and richer timbre.

mwe3: Would you say the music on the Quartegel album has a certain “Finnishness” to it? Is that fair to say or has the main era of Finnish fusion during, say the heyday of Wigwam, Pekka Pohjola, Jukka Tolonen, … the mid 1970s, has passed? Are you trying to revive some of that essential Finnish jazz-fusion sound on the Quartegel album? The days of Wigwam, Pekka Pohjola and Finnforest and the whole Love scene seems like a dream now. All those exciting times etched in your memories.

Pekka Tegelman: All those guys you mentioned, Pohjola, Tolonen, also Jukka Gustavson, they were a big influences on us younger guys, while we were growing and learning. Then later, I did play with Pekka Pohjola and the guitarist Jukka Tolonen, so a lot of mutual knowledge and experience was met. Now that Pekka has been long gone and Jukka getting his life together, and is actually playing bass, I think Gustavson might be one of the only ones still active… Maybe. I myself am only trying to get to play and hear my music, and aiming to get out it, while I’m still able to do it. That is a great privilege. Love Records was a remarkable happening in its own time and the one main thing that I learned from those years was, and from Otto Donner and Atte Blom, the two top guys, is that you can do anything if you really you want it. And you should, because there is not anything coming like, “I’ll do it later” thing. It’s too late. Also, while Love Records has long been gone, the massive catalog of the music it produced in the about 10 years of time still lives on strongly and continues to affect people's lives in a very positive way. That is the very meaning of Love!

mwe3: Tell us about your guitars that you played on the Quartegel album and did you overdub acoustics to make the sound richer and how about keyboards? And how about keyboards you use on the album?

Pekka Tegelman: I basically played Fender Stratocaster for the electric parts and Lottonen acoustic guitar. Some things on acoustic steel string were overdubbed, to get a richer tone. I played the piano parts with E-Studio’s grand piano on the first two tracks, “All Folks” and “Do Ra Mi”, but did some overdubbing with Jussi’s grand piano, that he had just bought a few years ago from Frank Strazzeri (1930-2014), who used to play with Billie Holiday and Roy Eldridge, Chet Baker among others, and played with Elvis Presley on the “Aloha From Hawaii” concert! So there are echoes of history somewhere, if you want to hear it…

At Nevermind Ranch I also used Jussi’s Fender Telecaster with Mad Professor amp and Galen Walker lent me his great Gibson Hummingbird for some acoustic parts. GHS –strings 10-52 is my basic set. Studio keyboards and samples were used when necessary.

mwe3: You’re also an excellent photographer, so did you take all the photos in the CD and booklet? Looks like a monolith on the CD front cover art. Also who did the bird painting on the inside cover and the castle pic in the centerfold and the airplane signifies what? And how about the funfair wheel on the inside of the cover? Have your photographs been featured in some shows or exhibitions?

Pekka Tegelman: Well, I did all the photography, and, as a matter of fact I have a wide collection of images that I work on, when I have the urge. I tend to “document” the places I manage to travel to. The castle is from Yorkshire area in England, the funfair from Manchester, England, and the scarecrow from Veikkola, where I now live, some 30 kilometers from Helsinki. The front cover monoliths are from Boston, the harbor area, if my memory serves me right. And the tree and the aeroplane pic was taken, when I visited you in the Queens area of NYC few years ago, when I was walking back to subway! So, you were part of the process! I don’t consider myself as a “photographer”, as I haven’t studied it, but I like to capture the moment.

mwe3: What’s new in Finland these days? Seems like the world went through a big upheaval last year, and the arrival of Trump, yet people are still fighting for their rights. Do you think the Finnish government will ever legalize Cannabis as a logical alternative to alcohol and even nicotine. Where do you see the world going in the next year or two?

Pekka Tegelman: Well, we certainly did not see Mr. Trump coming, and so didn’t you Americans! As we see, “democracy” is a difficult thing. We see that with the former Eastern Europe. Finland is geographically so at the bottom of the bag, so we have been saved from the most major refugee problems, though in our own scale we sure have to take part in trying to solve this huge global question. Surely, we won’t be trying to build a wall between us and Russia, our borderline is some 1300 km long, so it’s better to still try diplomacy… about substances, I’ll think that historically, Finland will follow what Sweden does first, haha!

mwe3: What other activities keeps you busy in Finland these days? Are you doing production work with other artists and what do you think of the Finnish music scene in 2017? Seems like there’s some great Finnish artists currently but not the wildly creative kind of scene like there was 40 years ago. What other plans do you have for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018?

Pekka Tegelman: Well, as I write these words, I’m at Hydra island in Greece, and later I’ll be paying a visit to the “Roloi” café, a place where Leonard Cohen used to sit and enjoy his spare moments, while living and crafting his poetry in the 1960s. So this is a short term activity for me, right now! But seriously, and still linked to the previous; To write, you don’t need much, so for me that is going to continue. There are many projects that I work on this moment, so I won’t be retiring, though I turned just 60.

I think I have material for few more Quartegel albums, so that is on the menu. I just finished a 3 song single with a great new singer Piia Tuovinen. She sang three of my songs, which I produced and played on, and it should ready for airplay next month. A “forever” project, from 1998, comwith actor-singer Martti “Manu” Suosalo keeps me busy with a Jaques Brel-project, along with my trio and now also with the Tapiola Big Band, doing concerts around Finland. During last 5 years I’ve also made drawings of my cats Dessa and Emppu, both British-cats, so maybe it is time to put them on display!

Thanks to Pekka Tegelman and to Jaku Havukainen for use of his photographs.


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