ENTREVUE / INTERVIEW
The Samurai Of Prog
With: Kimmo Pôrsti
ALBUM REVIEW HERE
Denis Boisvert - June 2021
Hello and thank you for this opportunity!
PP: First, how do you find the time to give this interview? Are you not supposed to be hard at work on another album to break a record?
K.P: Good question indeed :) I must say that music has kept me busy lately, but I am just humbly grateful for that. I just finished mixing The Samurai of Prog's The White Snake - Grimm tales II. It is going to be a great follow-up to The Lady and The Lion – and differ-ent enough as far as I see.
This has nothing to do with breaking the records or such, that is not my purpose in any way; this is not sport:) It is just love for the music – combined with a little unrealistic sense of time:) I have been given the opportunity to work with wonderful musicians and great music, so it is very difficult to say no - although it could be smart to say no every now and then.
PP: After C.S. Lewis, now the Grimm Brothers, any chance of hearing your interpretation of Homer, Tolkien or even Frank Herbert's Dune? Who is the big bookworm in TSOP?
K.P: I must point out that we have not done an album as a tribute for C.S Lewis' Narnia. That was our intention last year, so you probably have seen some preliminary posts about that. However, we were banned to do such an album. When I confirmed the issue with C.S Lewis' right holders – telling that we are planning on making an album based on the stories of Narnia, we were told that music and music publishing rights to THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA are licensed exclusively to Netflix and therefore we are not able to create and produce an album based on THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.
So, we decided to make an album based on the stories of the Grimm brothers instead. Before Grimm album(s) we released Beyond the Wardrobe, which is not involved with Narnia, either.
There has already been two Colossus Project tribute Boxsets based on Homer's stories: Odyssey and Iliad. So, it is very unlikely that we'd do anything related to that. Moreover, Tolkien is so widely covered among the Prog bands ever since Bo HANSSON that I don't know about that...
Marco is definitely the main engine for creating these ideas. So, if we make a concept album, the primary idea comes just about every time from Marco.
PP: If Marco is the Samurai? Which of you is the Ninja? The Shogun?
K.P: The Samurai of Prog was a nickname of Marco, which he had used in a couple of Colossus tribute album's tracks. When making the first album Undercover, it was only natural to use that name, as TSOP started out as a Marco's project. It just happened that quite soon it evolved into a real band with 3 members.
I am afraid that the following does not really relate to Ninja or Shogun, but it is clear that we all have own share of work to do: Besides being the origin of constant ideas, Marco also takes care of many practical issues as his knowledge of the prog field is so broad. He is very good in finding and inviting new collaborators and arranging things with dif-ferent musicians. Steve is specialized in finalizing more or less unfinished songs that we receive (by creating melodies and writing lyrics etc.). My job is to put the whole musical project together and do the final production with mixing and mastering (for some reason it happened that ever since The Imperial Hotel I have been doing the mixing and master-ing of our albums). And of course, our albums are released by our family-owned small company Seacrest Oy - with the invaluable help of Marco in the PR and marketing.
PP: You have an interesting trajectory as a group. First with roots in the Colossus project, promoting Finnish Prog music, then with your cover works (Undercover), then with your restoration projects (e.g., Lost and Found) and now with your original material and a clear tendency toward classical literature. Where will you go next?
K.P: The Lady and The Lion – an album based on the stories of Grimm just came out and the follow-up: The White Snake will be out rather soon as it is almost ready.
After doing 3 albums in a short period of time with TSOP Steve is now very much in-volved with UPF, Unitopia and his group Resistor, so after summer a new album by Ber-nard and Pörsti, “Robinson Crusoe”, will be released. We will also release Omnibus II – a Boxset of some sold out TSOP albums with bonus tracks.
Besides that, there are also a couple other projects coming up as well and I must also confess that my next solo album is quite advanced already.
PP: You are known to give your many collaborators a lot of latitude regarding composi-tion too. How does this work in practice? What do you ask them specifically? Do you give them a blueprint?
K.P: I would say that musically the collaborators are quite free to take it to the direction that they want. If we have a theme or concept for the album, we naturally want to point that out to be taken into consideration in the composing process. Very seldom we may express a wish if it should be an up-tempo-track or slower track etc. – depending on the other material we have for an album.
How the things proceed may vary from song to song. Some of the compositions (and arrangements) are almost complete when we receive them, so we just have to think how to do our part and whether it needs some finalization. Sometimes the composition is al-most ready, but we suggest some changes for example to the structure of the song. We have also received some compositions that are more or less sketches – sometimes far from ready. But if we hear that there is a potential we proceed with the sketch – and, as said, Steve is very good in finalizing those.
PP: You are truly a multinational band with roots in Italy, the Americas, Scandinavia and even Japan. Any plans to explore more cultures through your music (India, China, Afri-ca, Aboriginal)?
K.P: I must say that the ethnic exploration is perhaps not necessarily the best-known trademark for TSOP, so I don't know if that will happen or not. However, our Guildmaster project (with Marco, Rafael Pacha and Ton Scherpenzeel) has more international and ethnic elements; there were even couple songs with eastern influences in Guildmaster's first album – and maybe more in the second album.
PP: The Lady and the Lion brings back Steve to the fold. It seems to me that you are more complete with him aboard. How would you describe his contribution?
K.P: I already explained Steve's role (besides singing and playing violin, flute, and gui-tars etc.). Before Lady and The Lion Steve had already a great role in Beyond the Ward-robe, which was released last November – for example in songs like Forest Rondo and Another Time.
I must say that Marco and I are proud of Gulliver and La Tierra as well. Those albums have been well received.
PP: Anything else about 'The Lady and the Lion' that you want to share?
K.P: As we had so much material, we decided the split the project in two: The Lady and The Lion being the first part and The White Snake being the follow-up slightly after. Again, we have a great bunch of very talented friends joining us, like Ton Scherpenzeel, Jaime Rosas, Alessandro Di Benedetti, Octavio Stampalia and many others.
PP: The name progressive rock can be quite inclusive. What is your own definition?
K.P: As far as I am concerned the title progressive rock can be a little misleading today. At least 90 % of today's prog is not progressive if you compare it what happened around 1969 – 1973; the best works of Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis etc. At that time, those mas-ters were really exploring some new territories and creating something completely new. Naturally, it is not possible to do so anymore to that extent. So, maybe a better definition would be art-rock or symphonic rock?
Anyway, for me the good prog is something that is played by human beings, not ma-chines and that it really conveys and evokes emotions.
PP: Given the abundance of new music and with the omnipresent digital world, how do you try to reach new listeners?
K.P: Well, to be honest, maybe we are not trying that very actively – I think they find us :) Our resources for extensive promotion are rather limited. We are also quite old-fashioned in that sense that we see an album as a one entity – including the artwork. So, we are not trying to make hit singles for Spotify's play lists; we keep on doing what we have done for the last 10 years: making music as well as we can under these circum-stances.
PP: Finally, the pandemic has virtually stopped live music. Do you plan to hit the road when this is over and perform in a few festivals?
K.P: TSOP is mainly concentrating on recording, not playing live. Marco is not so thrilled about playing live, his last performing concert was in 1979 in Rome, Italy with his Punk band "Elektroshock", therefore I do understand him. Also, the fact that Steve lives on the other side of the Atlantic does not make it easier. Both Steve and I have been giving concerts with our other groups. Well, I have been playing with the idea of one day having a live project related to TSOP music etc. But it would be hard to do without Marco.
PP: Thank you very much and keep up with the good work!