Friday, February 27, 2009

Getting Our Feet Wet

Monday dawns almost as sunny as Sunday afternoon ended, and after a quick trip out to town to buy some cables and food, we're back pool side. But the cover stays on, and I get busy writing while chilling in the sun chair. I end up working on a new approach for "Tugboat's Call", in an attempt to combine a kind of tropical stillness with the mystic vibe of a desert landscape. Getting off to a good start, I realize all I've written so far will probably be better suited for a more up-tempo track, like "Get It Right" for example.

Kari and Johannes grab a mic, some cable, and a laptop and walk right down to where sea meets shoreline for some sea sound recording. Johannes comes back, shirtless, and his sneakers soaking wet. But the duo is clearly pleased with the result. A few minutes later, Mr. Laiho is far less content, when confronted with the shocking news of a steep decline in the hot tub temperature. (It's down to a freezing 34 degrees centigrade!)

I decide to head out for another run. The neck's a little sore, but not too bad. Jog, dip in the hot tub, and then back to working on the "Tugboat's Call" lyrics. There's a beautiful sunset in front of my eyes as I sit writing on the terrace. Kari is jumping around in the backyard taking pictures of the cacti. Yes, cacti. And shooting the sun from between the cacti. I love saying "cacti".

The writing and editing go on for a couple of hours, followed by one of our few dinner outings to Playa Blanca. Over the fish courses in a fairly non-descript seafood joint, we briefly discuss what to work on during the remaining days. "Get It Right" definitely needs some more guitars, and a second verse (originally intended for "Tugboat's Call") is pretty much done and ready to be tried out. And the infamous afro pop monster we've got in the works is crying out for some pan flute action.

We end the night with a brief visit to a small bar owned by some Brits called "Wax". Johannes sends a couple of sunshine snapshots (taken in and around the pool) to our beloved manager and booking agent Sami, while the bar's karaoke master is firing away some UB40. To crown it all, the bar is suddenly invaded by around 20 young French women and a couple of men. Their intense interpretations of U2 and Blondie literally end up taking our breath away. It's time to return to Finisterre.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sounds Like Pan Pipes!

As Sunday dawns, we decide to head out to the northern parts of the island, to a Sunday market in the town of Teguise. It's another breathtaking scenic drive. The black hills are incredible, and the hillsides are full of these symmetrical round craters (apparently for the purposes of growing stuff, vines and whatnot). Every now and then you see the odd lonely looking white house by the hillside. But for the most part, there's nothing but empty space.

Teguise is a fine little village located on top of a hill. The former capital of Lanzarote, says the little tour guide. Unfortunately, the market itself doesn't seem to offer much more than your average collection of fake designer bags and wallets. UNTIL we come across a whole table lined with pan flutes all sizes. The thought of Pekka blowing notes into one of those puppies is enough to make us invest 20 euros into a semi-credible looking instrument. Johannes gets so excited that he finds it almost impossible not to play it while driving us back towards Playa Blanca. As a result, our driver is soon completely winded, and barely able to keep us on the road...

On the way back, we make a rest stop on what appears to be a small wine farm on a beautiful scenic spot. Right by the side of the road, there's also a small white chapel that looks like something out of Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies. Kari is adamant about all three of us posing for some potential promo shots. Of course Pekka will have to be Photoshopped in later. Either way, the pictures (particularly some mad shots of Johannes with his hair open) look great. The early afternoon sun feels really really warm, and there's an incredible silence as we stand around looking at all the hills and plains around us.

Back home, the sun is directly hitting the outdoor terrace, and we quickly roll open the kidney shaped swimming pool. Shirts go off in a flash, and I grab my goggles and hit the cool refreshing water first. Johannes takes a quick dip, but opts on the hot tub instead. Kari stays around a little longer. The sun feels so good I can't stop myself from going on another run. Another five or six kilometers by the Atlantic — ahhh... Although I am reminded of the dangers of exercise at the end of it all, as I pull something in the back of my neck while stretching myself too violently and too late. Always warm up those muscles, idiot.

Kari and Johannes continue working on "Dry Cooler". The lyrics are coming along slowly, and I've been writing for a couple of other tracks as well. But it's coming along, and we should get around to trying out some vocals soon enough. The neck is distracting me, and I decide to put my mind to rest in the kitchen. Three big-ass servings of Spaghetti alla carbonara (with some pine seeds) is tonight's course.

I go to bed hoping my neck still moves when I wake up.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cool 'er down

As the first afternoon rolls on, we finally get the equipment to work (more or less), and as the sun starts to come out again, Kari and Johannes have recovered from the setbacks by jamming together on the guitar and the melodica. Inspired by some Buena Vista Social Club and a 1970's Ry Cooder album, they come up with an idea for a new song. I pitch in with a working title for the song, "Dry Cooler". The relaxed downtempo vibe of the track is quickly captured, and I immediately start writing some new verses for it.

In an hour or two, the atmosphere of the Finisterre Sessions has turned from complete despair to one of excited optimism. Hot damn!

After some initial lyrics are jotted down, I resume my duties as the head chef, and shift my aim to making us dinner. Some more fried sausage with both oven cooked and boiled local potatoes. As the evening rolls around, Kari and Johannes continue recording and working on the structure for the new track. And I get back on my laptop to write some more.

In the end, Kari and Johannes reward themselves for the first day's productivity with another two man hot tub session. (I know.) The wind has changed direction outside, and it's a beautiful warm night out. I myself find the jacuzzi a little too "hot" to handle, and decide to just crash instead. There is hope. Another new track! And we're off!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Clouds Are Gathering

Forget all I said. The first Finisterre morning is a cloudy one. Crap.

Just kidding. Not about the clouds, but it's really not that much of a disappointment. A little, but I guess one can always think of the current climate in Finland. And suddenly +15 degrees centigrade with a chance of showers doesn't feel that bad anymore. I decide to get myself going with a morning run after a light breakfast. Johannes and Kari are just getting out of bed as I head out jogging on the seaside walkway towards Playa Blanca. It may not be perfect tanning weather, but it's sublime for a run. Can't help thinking about the sleet back home in my shorts and t-shirt, happily sweating my ass off as the Atlantic Ocean keeps me company.

Overlooking the shoreline and the beaches are a number of almost identical looking small hotels. I come across some pretty disappointed looking holiday folks wrapped up in their windbreakers. After about four kilometers, it's time to turn back. Didn't quite make it to the village, but the 7-8 km roundtrip is definitely starting to do it for me. And I am suddenly consumed by the idea of relaxing my aching muscles in the hot tub.

As I make it back, Johannes (normally so calm and laid back) is fuming. Nothing seems to be going right putting together the equipment, and in an encouraging manner Mr. Laiho lets us know that it doesn't seem likely we will be able to do much recording at all. In addition, the fuses keep popping. And then it starts to rain.

It's pouring down outside. Kari is chilling out on the couch, picking some pretty somber sounds out of his acoustic guitar. Things could look more promising.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Breaking the Law

After unloading some of our personals, and changing out of flight-wear into something more comfortable, the first afternoon is spent strolling around the Playa Blanca village. There isn't really much to see, and it doesn't seem like the busiest tourist spot in the world. Which is good. The majority of tourists seem to be British. We decided to go for our first lunch in a restaurant by the seaside promenade, having some fresh fish and boiled potatoes canaries style (with lots of salt, and some mojo sauce).

After the lunch we stacked up piles and piles of food at a local supermarket, with the intention to do a lot of home cooking while here. Things get a little rough while exiting out of the parking facility. Our rental car is climbing up a very steep ramp, when all of a sudden either Johannes or the gearbox abruptly malfunctions. In any case, we start going backwards, and pretty much take out the barrier gate behind us. We sort of slide down through it going... well, backwards. Surprisingly enough, the manly looking parking attendant doesn't seem too bothered. He just walks on over and jolts the gate back into more or less its original shape. He does, however, motion towards us with gestures that can only be interpreted as: "Ever driven a car before?" Finally, Johannes manages to take hold of the blue Opel once more, and we quickly flee the scene of the crime. At least we have a full week to come up with a good explanation for any possible scratches.

It's already dark when we get back to the villa. Johannes and Kari start building up our studio in the living room. We've traveled pretty light this time around, at least in comparison with our last recording travels to Portugal in 2005 (when we took off with over 200 kilos of gear). While the fellas get on with the build-up, I decide to make friends with the kitchen by putting together a big feta cheese salad. The producers run into some unexpected trouble with an audio interface that refuses to work, and things are off to kind of a rough start. But Kari and Johannes decide they'll worry about it tomorrow, and quickly climb into the hot tub out on the terrace. The pitch black sky is an amazing sight at night. You can see a gazillion stars.

Coming here, to the Canary Islands of all places, has been such an absurd idea from the get go, that it was hard to imagine what it would feel like once we've arrived. Well, clearly this place is no touristic inferno, far from it. It's a quiet small island beside the African continent with some of the most beautiful rugged landscapes you can think of. There is no doubt that a week from now, we will leave this place loaded with inspiration and motivation for the last couple of months ahead. And with a well-deserved refill of Vitamin D. And if the record sounds as good as we feel right now, then it's all been worth it.

Johannes and Kari exit the jacuzzi for a light evening meal of sausages and salad. After that it's finally bedtime. This day has seemed like an eternity. Turn off the lights (and disconnect the cables).