'Go Supersonic' is a real belter of a track, and makes its home in an equally out-there and wonderfully conceptual record, heavily inspired by Atlantean culture, Venus, sci-fi futurism and reincarnation written of in the mystical 19th Century novel ‘A Dweller On Two Planets’.
Even more spectacularly Jari and Paul donate all the profits from the sales of the album to the John Nurminen Foundation to be used in the Clean Baltic Sea project. The aim of the project is to protect and achieve a visible improvement in the condition of the Baltic Sea, one of the most endangered and polluted seas in the world.
Et voila, the interview!
The album is from rather an esoteric source; could you sum it up briefly for our readers, and how did you first come across it?
Queen of the Wave is a pop opera based on the legendary and very strange 19th century sci-fi book “A Dweller on Two Planets” that deals with life on Atlantis and Venus, virtual reality heavens, nuclear powered airships, battles against evil high priests and demons etc. etc. The book was a flea market discovery: like many creative crate diggers, I don’t just collect vinyl but all kinds of special pop culture material.
Can you describe the process you went through to tie all your inspirations and source material into a narrative, and then into a tracklist?
The album is a concept album, but in a 50’s/60’s sense of the word. The books and its sequel “An Earth Dweller’s Return” were sources of inspiration right from the beginning. Actually Paul composed the first tunes after just reading the table of the contents of the first book. That alone is pretty far out material! The hard part was to decide the approximate tune order very early in the process: for example we simple couldn’t sink Atlantis in the beginning of the album. We’ve actually explained the process on the second “Album Companion” digital mag that you can download from our site (Ed - We recommend that you do, they're entertaining reading!).
Which was the hardest song to realise, and why?
By far the hardest was the final tune, “Riders on the First Ark”, because it’s both rather simple yet full of little details and sounds. Like with any good opera, the end needed to be magnificent, so there’s everything from a pipe organ to a choir, from the double bass drums to a fuzz lead guitar and the obligatory high soprano voice that gets the last note.
The album took years to make, partly because of the wait for the restoration of the Stalacpipe Organ; what inspired the patience and was it ever tempting to finish the album without it?
We simply couldn’t finish the album without The Organ: to me the mere concept of it is more magnificent than the entire music output of the 80’s … and that includes Dio’s “Holy Diver”. Besides in the first book the main Altantean temple is described as a “huge natural cave inside a pyramid, containing stalactites and stalagmites and housing a giant magical organ”. I challenge anyone to find a more perfect match between a story and an instrument!
Was it ever intimidating embarking on such an epic adventure?
What was slightly intimidating was the actual recording process at the Luray Caverns: because it was a national holiday, and the caverns are a big tourist attraction, the owners didn’t close the place during the recording session! So there was a tourist group after a tourist group, and the happy guides were telling people about “the first ever composition for The Organ” and “Here’s the composer himself!” Poor Paul, dressed for the occasion in a white tuxedo, had to keep taking bows and wait patiently for a long enough pause between two groups to get a good take. If you listen very carefully, you can actually hear some distant sounds of some tourists chattering.
You’re a core team of two, and you utilized numerous friends/collaborators on the album. How important is working with others to your creative process?
Me and Paul are more like directors and the entire process is closer to a making a film than the way bands make records. Paul is a ridiculously talented multi-instrumentalist, whereas I don’t play any instruments and although I’ve been writing the vocals and the vocal melodies, I’m a worse singer than Joe Meek was. I also come up with ideas (a lot of them) and instead of instruments I play musicians, giving them basic guidelines and coaching the best possible performances out of them. Most of the musicians on the album are friends and friends’ friends.
Will we ever hear more from these characters?
Do you mean the musicians and singers? Oh you might already have: for example Kai Hahto is a legendary Metal Drummer, ArcAttack was in “America’s Got Talent”, Chris Cote’s band “Upper Crust” has performed on “The Late Late Show”, boi Crompton recently toured with Cat Stevens … you should check out Teppo Mäkynen’s and Johanna Försti’s (they both perform on “A Night and a Day”) band “Jo Stance” – some really nice 60’s soul. I’m very inspired by the late 60’s US west coast style of making records by employing the best possible musicians to create the music, like Brian Wilson did with “The Wrecking Crew”. Btw. I’m really looking forward to seeing the film about them! (Ed - Actually, I meant the characters in the story but that definitely works too!)
Atlantis is a great (fictional?) city to base a concept album - but which fictional city would you most like to live in?
To be precise Atlantis was actually a big continent, and in the book it sank because of the selfishness and greed of men. Something the greenhouse effect is already doing to smaller Pacific Ocean islands. But a choosing a city – that’s a difficult but great questions … I think I’d go for some peaceful Star Wars city like Tyrena simply because of the chance to explore that universe and see other intelligent life forms. The Fermi paradox is a dreadful thing!
How do you feel about the album’s reception?
It’s been wonderful; I’m VERY surprised that so many people get it! So far my fave feedback has been "This album is actually 4/5 for me because I hate this type of music, but this band just does it all too well..." and the second best is from a journalist who wrote that the music and the sound of the music reminds him of the C-cassette of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” he used to listen to when he was a kid.
What can we expect next from Pepe Deluxe?
As we now have the largest musical in the known universe on our album, Paul thinks the logical step would be spending four years on training some insects so we could have the world’s smallest instruments on the next one. Or we could surprise everyone by producing a minimalistic 80’s synth pop album with “touching” lyrics. The fact is that we don’t know, we never knew and probably never will know what we will do next. An adventure is not an adventure if you know what’s gonna happen!
”Go Supersonic” is released on 21st May on Catskills and includes a Remix by Husky Rescue, a Mix by Secuem (who won a Husky Rescue remix competition in 2011) and Voluntary Butler Scheme Mix.