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Interview: Finland-based Guitarist Pauli Saksa

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Q: When did you decide to become a guitarist?

A: At the age around 15, I played both piano and guitar. My piano teacher advised me to apply to a piano conservatorium in Helsinki. I passed the examination, and the headmaster asked me if I play other instruments. I told him the guitar. He said that I should leave it, ”your beard will turn grey when young if you practice music as guitarist." That was likely very good advice as when I left the building I had made the decision to concentrate on guitar and abandon piano. Then I applied to Oulunkylä Pop/Jazz Conservatory, and the route was paved.

Q: Growing up, what guitarists did you admire the most? Which of them had the most creative influence on you?

A: During 1970s it was Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison from the rock side and Joe Pass and Django Reinhardt from the jazz side. Later, Eric Johnson and John Scofield were likely influences. Although the last two have quite different styles, they are very melodic, awesome composers; they have impressive harmonies and explore a rich set of sounds. I have always admired also George Harrison's less is more expressive and stripped-down solo work in the pop genre.

Q: Where did you learn how to play the guitar?

A: There were several excellent teachers at Oulunkylä for the basic techniques and band playing as well as for music theory. I have played piano also as it is an invaluable aid in composing.

Q: How would you describe your artistic evolution? In what ways do you feel you have grown?

A: Artistic evolution? If considered through the years, probably there is a change from straightforward jamming towards more composed stricter musical pieces. Soloing is always a part and really the nucleus of jazz but more like in shorter bursts and bridges than minutes long. I feel am able to make better compositions than earlier. Sometimes I feel even the composition is more important than playing. Naturally, one wants to be a part of it, but often not in the main role like some tunes on my recent record indicate.

Q: What is the jazz scene in Finland like? Are they supportive of independent jazz acts?

A: The jazz scene is very concentrated to a few bigger cities; Helsinki as the capital is in a central position. There are a great number of concerts in various small to medium size venues, but few permanent clubs. To my understanding there is a good amount of performing opportunities for independent artists, much better nowadays than 10 to 20 years ago.

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