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, Ive studied
English quite a bit and I find that it usually suits rock and bluesbased
music much better than Finnish. Ive released music in Finnish
as well, like the track Brother Come Back. Sometimes its
possible to translate previous work and sometimes its not and
so I have songs that either are only in Finnish or only in English
and a few that Ive 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 its been proven by studies that
the human voice is the best way to grab the listeners attention."
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
presents an interview with
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
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
60s and 70s. 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 Oldfields
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 wasnt for me. Also I didnt 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 masters 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
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
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 Pohjolas 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. Hes 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 Isakkilas
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 Jukkas 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. Weve been focusing
a lot on jazz in various forms, but also prog, blues-rock, singer-songwriters
and contemporary folk and world music
anything thats 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.
Im glad you liked the album, thank you! Im open to all
kinds of styles of music, but prog-influenced epics are near and dear
to my heart. Jukkas album certainly has its epic moments, which
is great. Id love to have more rock bands on the roster and
especially prog-influenced bands.
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
whats the chemistry like between you and your band members Tatu
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.
Ylinen: The name of the album is a reference to how it came into
existence. Its a long story but heres 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 didnt happen wed 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
youre 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. Theres 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 youre clearly a new rising sound
in the rock arena.
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 didnt
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 Wigwams Pekka Rechardt
is a hero of mine. Jukka Tolonen as well. Theres 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. Its 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 wouldnt have worked as a song lyric.
Theres also a Finnish lyric to that song, released on my first
mwe3: Life Of A Bird is interesting. I guess its
a kind of modern blues, even though the subject says that he cant
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,
its ambivalent. It goes through different keys, never distinctively
minor or major. Or maybe I should say sometimes minor, sometimes major.
Its allegorical to life in that way, to answer your question
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 whats the safest way to live these
days? What do you think is the secret to survival in the 21st century?
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 youre younger you take more risks and
gamble. When you mature you lean more towards safety whenever you
can. This song represents that change. Its almost like an older
and wiser version of the main character of this songs is singing the
last line Dont you gamble with your life
to his younger self. Its 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.
Its 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, Ive studied English
quite a bit and I find that it usually suits rock and bluesbased
music much better than Finnish. Finnish is a weird language with long
words and difficult grammar that doesnt 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.
Ive released music in Finnish as well, like the aforementioned
Brother Come Back. Sometimes its possible to translate
previous work and sometimes its not and so I have songs that
either are only in Finnish or only in English and a few that Ive
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 its been proven
by studies that the human voice is the best way to grab the listeners
I havent had the chance to visit the US yet. Id love to
see New York at least one day. Museums, theater, music clubs, concert
There would be a lot to experience. Im sure Ill
get the chance to come there eventually and maybe even play some gigs.
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?
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. Its a paraphrase of a Dostoyevsky quote in the
manuscript that I later translated into an English song lyric. And
youre 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? Whats the lesson in the
song lyrics? What is the reference to Scylla and Charybdis about?
Is the song about learning lifes lessons too late?
Tapio Ylinen: Snake In The Grass is another theater
piece and its a story about a woman in her late thirties falling
in love with a much younger man barely out of his teens. Its
a straight lift from the story in the play we were making at the time.
The two end up in a situation thats impossible to resolve without
severe consequences. And they realize this way too late and thats
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 doesnt really reflect me as a person
because, regardless of the tragedies in my own life, Im quite
happy. But, then again, that wasnt always the case and that
may come through in many of the songs. Also Ive always had a
fondness for tragic irony, which, I think, is present in many of my
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 theres 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.
Its called Mortality and it will definitely be a very
the live music front, Ill be playing guitar on a special 40th
anniversary tribute concert to Pink Floyds The Wall album
thats taking place on September 7th at Pyynikki Stadium here
in Tampere. Were going to play the entire double album, so thats
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. Im
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 progrelated music. Theres a fantastic and well known
symphony orchestra here, so its already a great place for music,
but it hasnt always been an easy place for jazz for some reason.
Even though theres a really good jazz festival every year, the
club scene has been difficult to develop. Im looking to make