Johnny Cash, Neil Young and Cat Stevens. The patron saints of the acoustic guitar and three artists who can safely say they don’t need any fancy artifices to make amazing music.
Not many musicians can say that their voice and the simplest of guitars are enough to create undying art. The Holy Sonic Trinity mentioned before may very easily do so.
However, in a day and age when sophisticated technologies and ultra modern equipment are employed to write music, many artists have forgotten the legacy of compositional minimalism.
Not Antero Lindgren, a Finnish acoustic bard who cultivates the good ol’ sensitivity which transformed Cash, Young and Stevens in iconic figures. Check out Antero’s new album „Mother”.
While listening, read the interview below and find out more about sadness, street-corner musicians and Jesus, the vagabond rockstar.
Who exactly is Antero Lindgren and what is his mission on Sonic Planet Earth?
I was born on the 29th of August 1980. As a kid, we used to move a lot because my father frequently changed jobs. I never got to form many roots in the places we lived in, until this small town called Huittinen, in the heart of the Finnish farmland. There we lived during the depression of the 1990s. I got to see the downfall of the small town idyll and of the functional family unit. There I was first introduced to a feeling that would later on, in my life, turn out to be a warmly welcomed guest. Sadness. I was sad for myself, sad for my parents, for my siblings, and I learned to be sad for a lot of other things too. I was a sad boy growing into a sad young man. But I learned to conceal it and I compensated the turmoil within by trying to make other people smile. A large part of who I am was formed by the pressure of hiding something very grim behind a funny face. None of it was forced, neither the sadness nor the over the top jokes and general mischief. Many of my friends found me annoying after awhile because I drove the craziness well over the line. They just did not know that it was what I had to do to maintain a form, to stay in one piece. So I’m at heart a rambler, a singer of sad songs and a joker. Whatever missions may be set upon such a man, I will gratefully give them what I can.
This might seem a bit far-fetched, but you, and your music, remind me of a character from a book: Jesus from John Niven’s „The Second Coming”. The novel is about Jesus’s second coming to Earth, only this time in the form of a indie rocker who sets out to redeem souls through the power of his tender voice and sentimental guitar. What do you think about that (both the association, and the character)?
In writings, Jesus was a man of the people. He hang out with individuals whom the society considered outcasts, with groups that were thrown outside of what was considered appropriate. If I was to reach people with my music, transcending all lines and levels of society, I guess I could not have it any better. Jesus was also a consoler of the broken and of the hopeless. To comfort is, in my books, one of the highest acts of caring one can offer. To do that with music would give meaning to an otherwise rather pathetic manner of whining. Other than that, being associated, even remotely, with a character portraying Jesus in a book about his second coming…well, I’ve been called many things, more unpleasant than this.
Tell us some stuff about your new record “Mother”. Why the Freudian undertone in the name of the album, and in the lyrics of the song?
Mother was one of those songs that just appeared after an incident, or after the emotions caused by an incident had had their effect on me. Without going into details , the song walks through a scene of a failure to comply. The character then turns to her mother for help with the guilt she feels. A dialogue follows where the failure to comply (which is the monster) is dissected – this is the song. As an album, „Mother” is a collection of songs, gathered in the past ten years. These are songs through which I have practiced how to let my sadness come out – no jokes, just what I feel. These songs where chosen to be recorded from a number of other pieces that I had written. They are the songs that I felt were ready to be shipped out: songs about events in my past that I managed to overcome.
Can we expect a single release, a video, and all the conventional things that come with a new album?
Well, we have a single and video out. And actually since we have no releases outside of Finland, you can find both of our videos on Youtube and on anterolindgren.com. The music – the album – is on iTunes and on Spotify. CDs can be ordered through our label s office, which you can find on anterolindgren.com.
Your music is an inspiring and quite outstanding combination of the likes of Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen and even some Dead Can Dance. It is fueled by this deep well of somewhat “vintage” melodic melancholy. How exactly was your brand of acoustic gloom born in this day and age when most people veer toward more easily digestible tunes?
“Veer”, I love that word! There are many things which contribute to our sound. First, I have no musical school or musical theory background; acoustic guitar is an easy option for songwriting when you are self-educated. The second reason is simple: we chose to go by a certain way. Everybody involved in the making of this album has a strong affection for the old way music was made. This means that when we hear an old recording, be it from the 50s, 60s, 70s or the late great 1980s, we hear something we want to preserve. This is not just a question of “everything was better yesterday”, but it has more to do with the feelings expressed, which were somehow, for me at least, closer and more true in those old Cash recordings, for example. I also believe that a recording, just like a tattoo, is a captured moment and it should always reflect that particular moment only – the one it was captured in. Then and only then the recording is authentic. The next album will be a reflection of its own moment in time, and that moment may differ from the moment of Mother. And it will.
I confess that when I first heard you, I didn’t think you were Finnish. There’s hardly any trace of an accent when you sing and there’s this very “American” feel to what you do? What’s the source of this “internationality”?
Sky-Channel and in particular my favorite kid-shows on the tube, back in the 1980’s – the Fun-Factory. And also MTV, of course. I was raised by the TV for some period of time in my childhood, and that is my best guess for the reason why we sound the way we do. When it comes to the feel of it, it must be luck.
The lyrics center around themes like loneliness, lost loves, fears, longings etc – generally the dark end of the spectrum of human feelings. Apart from personal experiences, what inspires you when you write: any poets, writers, singers that you credit for aiding you in your pursuit for this dark sensitivity?
I enjoy listening to music that carries me away with it, just like I love reading something that really places me outside this world for a moment. And to get inspiration from music and stories, for me, is inevitable. But I still get the most out of what I see every day. I mean, you can be inspired by somebody else s work to a certain point, but after that, if you have nothing of your own to bring to the table, you are just repeating what others have already done. This is one of my biggest fears concerning songwriting. And when you tell stories about life, someone else has already told most of them. Still, you have to give the song something of yourself. It almost feels like it’s not possible. For example, I see myself living the life of my father through my kids. As a father I make almost the same remarks as my dad when it comes to spilled milk and drawings on the walls. It shows how little individuality there is in our lives. Yet, in spite of this repetitiveness, we each tell our own stories. I think this is just another expression of the uniqueness of the moment – even when the things happening within the script vary very little, the moment remains frozen in its particularity. Life experienced through the men before me inspires me, and in this way every song and story ever written exists in everything I do.
Once upon a time, the acoustic guitar was an instrumental staple in many genres. Today, the situation has changed a bit, what with the advent of “technological” artifices; the acoustic guitar seems to have lost its popularity. Would you say your music, which is strongly guitar-driven, tries to reclaim the importance of this instrument?
Humanity’s musical stories have always been „accompanied” by something small and mobile. You will never see a street-corner musician dragging a symphony orchestra behind him, on his way to play on the next street corner. The acoustic guitar has always been an instrument capable of easing the troubled minds of the artists, orchestrating their visions. There are many situations when acoustic instruments are the only choice. Right now, I think there is a lot of music out there done with simple acoustic instruments, that can deliver more than what the electric/electro sounds can. But the two are not mutually exclusive: where there is a will, there is a way, and the more the merrier!
While frantically surfing the internet in search for some information about you, I ran across some Youtube videos showing a kid called Antero Lindgren performing all sorts of Finnish songs. Is that you, or is it just a coincidence?
He is a gypsy boy who competed in some singing competitions dedicated to children in the 1990s. We only share the name, even tough I would like to have a little bit of his vibrato. There is actually gypsy blood in me too, but only 1/16. My great-great grandfather was a gypsy, and I am very proud of this.
Speaking of which, there’s not much information about you online. Is it because you’re a relatively new artist, or because you like the mystery?
I am both new and mysterious.
You’ll open for HIM in winter, at their concert in Turku. How come? Your musical genres are quite different. What are the similarities between your styles and what makes you a good choice? Did you ever think of touring with them?
I have had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Valo on a few occasions and I am very exited about opening for HIM. The reason for this opportunity is unknown to me, but I like to think that someone in the band s organization team enjoys a little bit of Antero every now and then. But who knows, and frankly it does not matter. I will give a worthy display on the 26th and hope that the girls won’t throw bottles at me.
Where else can the good people of Finland, and not only, see you live?
After the 26th of December we are going to take a brake from touring and start to record the follow up album for Mother. That album will be out 2013 and hopefully we can get a release elsewhere in Europe too!
Your personal recommendations in terms of contemporary music acts.
Each to it’s own, as long as you find it exhilarating!