Finnish Jazz. Interview. Jazz & Fly Fishing

Foto: da internet.

Interview with Jazz & Fly Fishing

Review to Slow Walking Water

Four guys sharing two passion: jazz and fly fishing. Thousands kilometers travelled through Scandinavian countries, performing gigs in the clubs and fishing in open spaces, all filmed by a troupe of professional videomakers. These are the factors behind the new adventurous-musical project of Jazz & Fly Fishing. The leader of the band, the Finnish piano player Joona Toivanen and Swedish member, drummer Fredrik Hamrå, told us about their journeys and debut release Slow Walking Water.

Jazz Convention: When and how did the idea of “Jazz& Fly Fishing” music and video project start?

Joona Toivanen: I got the idea of having a fly fishing band when I was touring with Joona Toivanen trio. We went to places with fantastic fishing waters, but there was never time to stop and fish. Tapani played bass in that band too, so we could make a few casts every now and then, but the drummer, Olavi Louhivuori was not that keen on spending days fishing. So the idea came: what if all the members in a jazz band would be crazy fly fishermen? While all this was going on in my head, and I had contacted some musicians, I heard about a guy in Finland who also had plans to combine jazz and fly fishing. I did some investigations and got his number. Soon we met and had a chat over a couple of beers. He was a film producer with passion for jazz and fly fishing, and his dream project was to make a documentary of these two and I had a band. That’s where it all really started. At a bar in Helsinki.

Fredrik Hamrå: For me it was when Joona mentioned to me the plan. “A dream come true-moment”. We met in Gothenburg, rehearsed and planned for the first tour.

JC: What came first? The music you released in your debut album Slow Walking Water or the idea of filming your journey through Scandinavia?

JT: The idea of filming came first. Then we met with the band, rehearsed some tunes and recorded an EP. We started booking gigs and did a 6-weeks long tour with TV cameras following us. After the tour we went to studio and recorded our debut album.

JC: One of the main prerogative to join the band was being at the same time a jazz musician and a fly fisherman. Was it difficult to find people with these characteristics?

JT: My brother Tapani and I have been touring and fishing together as long as I can remember, so he had of course to be the bass player. When I had moved to Gothenburg, Sweden, I met a crazy drummer who also was crazy about fishing. Me and Fredrik Hamrå have been playing and fishing a lot together. He’s a fantastic guy, fantastic drummer, and he knows how to catch fish! Still, I had a quartet in mind. The fourth member was a little bit more difficult to find. It all happened by accident, when I was browsing some myspace sites. I saw a picture of a guy holding up a huge arctic char. Below was written: “Håvard Stubø – jazz guitar player. Spends all his free time fly fishing.” That sounded good, and so did his music, so I mailed him and got an answer right away: He was in! It was a bit of a gamble to form a band with a guy you had never met, but he turned out to be a great guy. It was easy to make music with him, go fishing with him and whatever. Nowadays we all are not only band mates, but good friends also.

JC: Can you explain us what fly fishing is about and how different is it from other kind of fishing technics?

JT: The main differences in fly fishing compared to other fishing techniques is that you basically use the line as casting weight. The fly line is thick and heavy, followed by a thinner leader where the fly is attached. So the fly line is the weight you cast, and the leader prevents the fish to get spooked by the thick fly line. The casting technique is a big part of fly fishing, and makes it fun and interesting even when the fishing is slow and you are not catching fish.

FH: Fly fishing is something else than fishing, I would like to say! I do (of course) respect “regular fishermen” but I also have to say that to me, fly fishing is much wider, bigger and… basically more fun. It requires more knowledge since you have to know how to cast, how to tie flies, how the nature works in some way and so on. Of course there are many “regular fishermen” who know a lot about fish, insects, wind and weather, but they don´t always have to know this in order to catch a fish. When it comes to fly fishing, there are few situations where you just cast without first checking the surroundings, the wind, what insects are flying up there… Regular fishing = relaxing, fun, friends, beer. Fly fishing = soul, concentration, fun, hard, easy, boring, fantastic, art…

JC: Your compositions displays an etherogenic collections of mainstreamed, jazz club-oriented tunes, landscape-designing slide guitars compositions as well as interesting harmonic and rhythmic ideas with a modern jazz approach. How did you put the pieces together for your debut album? Did you follow a common musical link or just put inside the music that each member wrote for the album?

JT: We all brought tunes to rehearsals, we tried them out and selected the ones we liked. One aspect was that when touring up in the northernmost parts of Europe, you might not find concert halls with great acoustics and grand pianos in every town. I’m playing a lot of Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer both on the album and the gigs. And that sound blends very well with Håvard’s guitar, and I guess that’s a part of the band’s sound today.

JC: It’s also possible to recognize a different approach in each member’s different composition signature. Can you add some words about the other members of the band and their musical influences?

JT: I guess you’re right. Of course we all have different musical backgrounds and that gives a flavor to the music. Håvard has a fantastic groove and a bluesy approach, whereas my playing is often lyrical and painting. Fredrik is very versatile drummer who can basically play any style, and he also writes fantastic music. And Tapani, whatever he does, he turns it into gold!

FH, JT, Tapani Toivanen: Nordic combined Keith Jarrett and some american spices.

Håvard Stubø: Blues, bebop, pop and nordic jazz

JC: How did you arrange the video-making of your trip and which were the biggest difficulties in filming this long journey?

JT: We had a production and film team working on the documentary part. We took care of the bookings, the gigs and together we planned the tour with fishing trips. The logistics were probably the biggest problem: We were seven guys travelling thousands of kilometers in two cars and a caravan. We had fishing gear, instruments, hiking gear, gig clothes, computers, cameras, tents, sleeping bags etc. The cars were packed with gear and the schedule was tight. After a late gig we often had to drive hundreds of kilometers the same night, just to have time to fish and film, or make it to the next gig. And then you get a flat tyre…

FH: One hard thing is to get good material. When fishing, things doesn´t always turn out as you plan… When playing it is kind of hard to shoot with the camera. It is also a great challenge to stick to the red thread, to have some story and at the same time get the reality on the camera.

JC: Let’s talk about the tour that touched many places in the Scandinavian countries. How many venues did you play and fish at, until today?

JT: We’ve played and fished in a great number of places by now. Both in bigger cities and tiny villages. We’ve also fished in downtown Olso, as well as in untouched wilderness after long hikes. The summer season in Scandinavia is very short and we have to make the most out of it when it comes to fishing. It’s easier with concerts, the gig season never ends!

JC: The better, the funniest and the worst moment during the tour?

JT: The greatest moments were when everything went on fluently, without stress. Playing gigs, fishing, eating, moving, setting up the camp, seeing new places, taking a beer in the evening with good friends. Those are things we dream of, and when they come true you feel lucky and happy. The funniest moments always happen with Fredrik. I can’t think of a single one but we had great laughs! The worst moments were waking up in a tent that is 50 degrees warm (a tent is like a greenhouse when the sun is shining, and in summer above the arctic circle the sun never sets!). That’s when you are close to real panic before you get out.

FH: Best: the french kitchen (we haven´t been to Italy yet…). the funniest: when one of us suddenly fell of the chair at the polish supper. The worst: Hard to say, we always have a lot of fun…

JC: The best place you fished and the best you played?

JT: We had some fantastic fishing especially in Norway. Håvard knows a lot of waters in Lapland region, and we were lucky to fish some of those in good weather conditions. Different gig places have different moods. I really liked the gig in a small barn in Finland at one of my favorite waters.

FH: Oh, that is a very, very tuff question! I very much enjoyed fishing at a secret lake called X, a truly fantastic place. The best gig-place is also quite impossible to tell. Sometimes it is fun to play in very small? places and sometimes magic moments come while you play in front of a big audience. I actually liked our release-gig in Gothenburg very much.

JC: If each of you were a fish, which fish would it be?

JT: I would be a trout. It’s a survivor, and feels at home in many different waters.

FH: I like this question and have very straight answers to it: Håvard would be a Pike, Tapani: a cod, Joona: a salmon and Fredrik: a perch

JC: Who, among you, has the best score in fishing?

JT: I think when it comes to hours spent fishing, Håvard ranks highest. He also catches a lot of fish. But my fish/time ratio is pretty good too.

FH: I guess it comes to what specie you count. It varies a lot but so far, if we add all the hours of fishing we have done, Håvard might have caught the biggest one!

JC: Looking the videoclips of your fishing performances on your website is possible to notice that the casting act of fly flishing is similar to a dance. Did it sometimes inspired some music ? Do you usually have a music in mind while waiting for the fish to be catched?

JT: The tunes that come to my head while fishing are always terrible! I think the creativity is channeled into the actual act of fishing. But spending time in the nature and fishing really gives some dimension to playing and composing music.

FH: Sometimes I sing while fishing, sometimes not. Håvard is a nice dancer, maybe he dances while he is casting!

JC: What’s the response that the first season of videos had on the viewers? Did people start to listen more to jazz or practicing more fishing? Did they recognize the members of the band on the streets?

JT: We’ve so far screened the 15 minute trailer from the season 1. Many flyfishermen told us they had never listened to jazz before, but liked the stuff we did. We are not celebrities (yet!), even though our producer got VIP access to a night club because the doorman recognized him from Jazz & Fly Fishing!

JC: A second season has been planned. Which will be the news in the next season?

JT: This time we are doing all the filming ourselves. We got really into movie making during season 1 and now all the band members have professional camera gear. This way we always have a camera where the action is, and it makes it easier to get good shots. We just came home from a tour in France and Poland, and we captured some really nice material there.

JC: You also started a “Shadow cast” video contest? What is it about?

JT: The shadow cast come from the Hollywood film “The River Runs Through It starred by Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. The beautifully visual cast was performed by a stuntman, Jason Borger, one of the greatest fly casters in the world. Today there is a great number of fly fishermen performing all kinds of possible and impossible trick casts to improve the fish or other fishermen. We made a sort of parody about it in a small blog movie. We called this cast “Shadow cast”, and the video got widely spread on the internet. Then we decided to start a “Shadow cast” competition where anyone can send their most original casts. The best part is that you don’t have to be a fly fisherman to do this – just see for yourself at the entries on our website!

FH: The shadow cast is about, I guess we could say, remove the snobby feeling that some fishermen tend suffer from!

JC: What has fly fishing in common with jazz?

JT: It’s all about improvisation. As a jazz musician you have to adapt to the venue, audience, sound, other musicians’ playing etc. And it’s the same thing for a fisherman: the weather changes, the fish behave differently, water level, insects… You have to be in the moment, adapt, and make the best out of it.

FH: Feeling, improvisation, fun, waste of money…

JC: Has the travel inspired some new music? What’s in the future of Jazz & Fly Fishing project?

JT: Sure. We have written new tunes, and some of them are already recorded. The next step is to release Season 1 on DVD. And we are all the time looking for interesting places to visit, to play jazz and go fly fishing!