Interview by Mike Aylward
FM Radio station owner, family man, and new world guitar hero. These are some terms to describe Ari Lahdekorpi. Lahdekorpi is a former session guitarist from Winnipeg Manitoba who is now located in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He has worked as a sideman with legendary blues artists Pinetop Perkins and A.C. Reed; he has also worked with pop artists like Melanie Doane, Paul Shaffer ( of the letterman show ) , Bobby Vinton, Frankie Laine. Lahdekorpi has opened for such acts as Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and the Allman Brothers, among others.
Lahdekorpi's guitar style is diverse, ranging from acoustic to Blues to Jazz-Fusion. Lahdekorpi has recorded 8 albums of original material from 1985 to the present, the latest project is called "Eurojazz Connection". This project is more of a jazz based project in contrast to the wide spectrum that his other projects cover.
As well, Lahdekorpi opened up his own FM station in Thunder Bay, MAX104 FM. Lahdekorpi has a cult following of dedicated fans around the world, most turning on to his sounds via the internet.
MusicEmission's Mike Aylward spoke with Lahdekorpi about his life, his music, and the challenges of being an Indie musician.
Mike: What was the first instrument you started to play as a boy? How old were you when you began playing? Did anybody (relative for example) influence you to begin playing?
Ari: I started out on the guitar at the age of 12. My interest was fanned by the sight of the guitar players beginning to appear on the CBC from time to time. Back then, we were living in Northern Manitoba and the only TV and radio channels we had were the CBC. I remember being fascinated by the look and sound of the guitar. My parents got me a cheap guitar from the Sears catalogue and off I went...there were no music teachers up north at that time, and no one in my family played an instrument, so I had to figure things out myself. The exercise of analysing the instrument and deciphering where what sounds came from was very helpful to my thinking and problem solving abilities. I remember that one of the early musical groups I saw on TV was "the mamas & papas"...I had a real flashback to those early years when decades later I found myself on stage with them playing "California Dreaming".
Mike: What musicians influenced you as a young musician?
Ari: The question about influences is always difficult to answer because there have been so many. I picked up an album that I hadn't listened to in years a short while back and I was surprised to hear many phrases on it that I had incorporated into my playing! To name a few pivotal artists that had inspired me as a young musician I would have to include Django Reinhart, Leo Kottke, Steve Howe, Rory Gallagher, Roy Buchanon, and Larry Coryell. I know that is a very eclectic list but at the time that I was developing as a musician it seemed that everyone was listening to everything. For me it was really helpful to have a broad musical appreciation when I got into doing session work in the late seventies and early eighties.
Mike: Tell me about playing with Pinetop Perkins and A.C. Reed?
Ari: The gigs I did with Pinetop and A.C. were fun moments because both guys love to cut loose and challenge the players in their bands. It was also fun because those gigs were done in intimate club settings. Pinetop was cool because he would keep looking at me all night as he played his piano solos...kinda like he was saying," watch this!" I learned a lot about blues phrasing and dynamics from those gigs.
Mike: What was your connection to Paul Shaffer, other than he's also from Thunder Bay?
Ari: My connection with Paul Shaffer is primarily through Paul's association with David Smythe. David is a former Thunder Bayite who is a mutual friend of Paul's and mine. David and I used to play jazz guitar duets around town. I have worked with Paul Shaffer on three occasions as guitarist. the events were all one night concerts for various charity causes. The last one we did was about 2 years ago and it included Melanie Doan and Denny Dougherty...that was a lot of fun!
Mike: What do you think were the highlights of your earlier career as a touring musician?
Ari: The moments I will always remember from my earlier years will be some of the moments in the recording studio; working with a lot of great musicians. In terms of the touring days, I will never forget playing at the"Beaver Dam Lake" festival opening for Stevie Ray Vaughn and the Allman Brothers. When I was performing in the back up band for Bobby Vinton, we got a standing ovation after "Johnny be. Goode" one night...I will always remember that moment!
Mike: What led you to give up the touring life? Do you ever miss that kind of lifestyle now?
Ari: I don't miss the lifestyle...but I do miss some of my old friends. when you are out of the circuit the points of reference with other people are different than with an inner core of musicians that you trust and respect. I was led to move on in life because I wanted to find a more "normal" and stable life...start a family...things like that.The music industry is a feast or famine business...
Mike: How do you think new technology has influenced modern musicians?
Ari: A lot of my musical buddies really felt the onset of technology in the early eighties...suddenly there wasn't any work for bassists and drummers...the drum machine and synth came in and for a while "real" players were out of work! But then there was a bit of a backlash and producers began to realize that there is a human element that is irreplaceable by synths. I think that technology has helped to focus attention on "real" music. In terms of recording technology...when I started, the Cadillac system was 2 inch tape into a 24 track never console...now bands like Radiohead are creating incredible music by recording onto software. the availability of affordable, great software is going to help the indie artist compete on a recording level with the majors...so then the focus is going to come back to the root elements of music...the emotion, and any "unique" expression of artistry that may or may not exist with an artist or a band.
Mike: Why did you choose Thunder Bay as your base?
Ari: I came to Thunder Bay because this is my wife's hometown. and, let's face it, Thunder Bay is a North American Mecca for Finnlanders. I was born in Finnland, and I still speak the language, so I feel very comfortable here. I find myself very inspired by the natural beauty in this area.
Mike: Can you tell me a little about your radio station?
Ari: When I was 15 yrs old, my first job was doing a late night radio show...starting up my own fm station is kinda like going back to my roots. I want to see "MAX104" grow into a station that musicians will gravitate to...and allow a platform for new and exciting music. We just started a Sunday night jazz program a few weeks ago...I feel like a kid in a candy shop these days!
Mike: Your music seems very introspective, very personal. What influences or inspires you at this stage in your music?
Ari: The thing about writing, recording, and performing music is that it can be a great release for your inner spirit. My motivation for continuing to paint soundscapes is not for any commercial purpose...it is strictly an expression of my feelings musically. I have a deep seated need to channel things creatively. If I wasn't playing guitar, I would probably be writing poetry, or doing charcoal drawings or something! I am influenced and inspired daily by many things. Sometimes the expression is sorrow...and lately I have lost some members of my family...and other times the expression is angst, or joy...whatever! You are right, the music seems personal...because it is!
Mike: Tell me about your newest CD?
Ari: I just posted a new cd on the internet called "EuroJazz Connection". I was listening to some jazz albums from Europe lately and I really related to the musical pocket they were in. so I included some tunes that I showed some of my European roots. I also have a couple of tunes on the project that I wrote during and after my father's illness and passing away.
Mike: What are your future goals as a musician?
Ari: My goals as a musician are to continue looking for that special moment that connects the spirit and the strings. I hope to improve as a guitarist, writer, and musician. I would welcome the opportunity to get out and tour across the country...but I don't think that is realistic these days because it do it properly, you need an army of support people...and without recording label support, it's not going to happen!
Mike: How would you describe yourself as a musician?
Ari: I would describe myself as a communicator. I also think that I have potential...but I haven't reached the point I want to be at as a guitarist, or a musician yet! If I was asked to describe my style, I would call say that my music falls into the modern jazz / world fusion categories to most listeners ears. You can check out the incredible music of Ari Lahdekorpi on many sites on the internet. Perhaps the best one is MP3.com, which has about 30 free tracks, as well as the option to buy many of Ari's CDs. Ari Lahdekorpi will be playing at the Thunder Bay Blues Festival this summer. If you'd like to hear a New World Guitar Hero, then check out Ari Lahdekorpi.
"from gentle mood music with introspective melodies, to the full throttle ripping solos that have earned Ari the respect of his peers ... truly a guitarist's guitarist " - CBC Radio
"Ari is not afraid to cut loose..."- Guitar World Magazine
"Ari has shunned the travelling lifestyle for that of the stability of small town Canada, even though he is without a doubt one of the best unknown guitarists of that country... A new world guitar hero" - Kuruun Sanomat.
"On one occasion at a local Thunder Bay club, a blues solo by Lahdekorpi reached such unexpectedly stratospheric heights that it seemed to stun both the audience and the rest of the band into slack-jawed wonder." - Doug Ferguson/Chronicle-Journal
Guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, saxophone, midi guitar.
-In The Free Zone 1986
-The Inner Life 1988
-Silence Overthrown 1992
-Aku Stik 1998
-Best of Ari 1985 - 1999
-Autumn Life 2000
-The Surprise Lake Sessions 2001
-EuroJazz Connection 2002