"If Jimi Hendrix came up now, he would be slated by the judges of 'Idols' [an internationally syndicated tv show dedicated to headhunting future pop stars, the Finnish version of which has raised controversy because of the over-the-top dramatic seriousness of both the judges and the pop star wanna-be's - Ed.]", Kari Peitsamo opines. The same could be said of Peitsamo himself. He has always been living proof of the fact that "the gatekeepers of the consciousness industry that grinds the individual to a grain of sand" ultimately cannot make people express themselves according to the demands and expectations set by the consciousness industry. For decades, Peitsamo himself has been an idol for the non-conformist Finnish youth. His latest surprise moves include signing up for parliamentary election as a candidate for the Communist Party, giving up releasing records (apart from the election single and the Avantoscore 2003 compilation), and taking up a new day job as a gravedigger. "The whole output of an artist can be seen as one work of art, and mine happens to be this crazy collage."
When he started his career in 1977, Peitsamo was particularly at odds with the rest of the Finnish rock scene, which was teeming with experts of guitar technique and rebels oozing male hormones. The exceptionally normal-looking geek who talked about Franz Kafka and Paul Klee in his interviews had the courage to take the stage at rock festivals to perform his quirky, childlike songs with his hesitant voice, accompanied by the least confrontational rock band imaginable. The following year Peitsamo took his provocation even further and recorded the beautifully poetic and mutedly acoustic Vedestä nousee kasvi ("Plant Rising From the Water") LP. The end of 1978 saw the culmination of his early years: Puinen levy ("Wooden Disc"), an EP of avantgarde freeform piano, screeching violin, and repetitive, minimalist guitar. Avanto is proud to host the updated live performance of this gem.
"I consider myself one hell of a hero, simply because I refuse to be ‘one of the pretty people' in any sense. I won't even assume the role of the iconoclast. The whole idea is to always pull the rug from underneath everybody. I've seen how everything turns into aestheticization. I believe, when you really think about it, people in serious rock magazines are just as snobbish as those in the high-brow cultural papers. The form is a little bit rougher and less analysed, but it's still all about the form. Which is terrible. You could always make the claim that art also helps us see reality, but I claim that art is only born when neurosis is born." (Kari Peitsamo, 1981)
The best-known track from Puinen levy, Puinen koira ("Wooden Dog") is, indeed, based on anguish and neurosis. Even though Peitsamo is often seen as the merry joker, this darker side has been present in all of his work. The atonal screeching in Puinen koira just puts it bluntly to the fore. Seeing Ornette Coleman play at the Pori Jazz festival was also something of an influence: "It was obvious he couldn't play the violin at all, but he still kept making that screeching racket over the rest of the band, and that really impressed me."