“I need a bit of isolation to get ideas for my music.” says Jimi Tenor of his life in the suburb of Kontula, where he lives in Helsinki. “I need to be in my home studio and have time to fool around with my equipment. When I get inspiration I tend to be very productive. I like to do quick demos – I’m an ideas guy.”
However, whilst this hugely prolific artist may spend his days walking through the nearby forests picking mushrooms and locking himself away in a flurry of creative activity, the result of the music on his latest record, Order of Nothingness, is far from the sounds of solitude. The album is bursting with life, energy and vibrancy, moving from Eden Ahbez and Yusef Lateef to touches of Highlife, all of which is coated by a sprinkling of cosmic jazz funk. “I definitely didn’t have any theme in mind,” Tenor says of the albums bouncing, varied and buoyant tone. “I just wanted to do an album that has some groovy beats.”
These groovy beats came together through working with “the rhythm geniuses” Ekow Alabi Savage and Max Weissenfeldt. Recorded in Philophon studios in Berlin, the studio was stuffed with a plethora of exotic (although occasionally troublesome) instruments that have been extensively used in making this album, with Tenor often switching between wind instruments and keyboards to create flowing and glowing rhythms.
Tenor describes this type of exploratory music as mind travel music, a practice that attempts to reach outer planetary places through both imagination and sound but avoiding the usual sci-fi-like cliches of what such music may normally sound like. “I can travel to worlds that only exist in my mind,” he says. “The possibilities in this kind of travel are endless. We don’t need to stick to our middle-sized world. We can go to another universe if we want.” For Tenor this results in creating a sort of music that connects on a deep and profound level. “Since I’m not at all religious I have a small issue with the term spiritual music, nevertheless I use the term to describe my own music. I’m interested in science and cosmology but science-based subjects don’t really translate that well to songs, so I try to use a lot of metaphors. In the end all my songs are about love and hedonism.”
The looseness at the core of Tenor’s work, exploring strutting grooves, infectious funk and glistening melodies, comes from his ability to tear through work and not be afraid of failure. Or in actual fact to embrace some failures as a success. “There might be days in a row when I do recordings and end up throwing them all away. Total crap. I have no regrets in throwing bad demos away. Making bad demos has a purpose, you end up knowing what doesn’t work – it’s good discipline.”
He also credits Weissenfeldt in his role as a producer to bring out the best in his work. “I think he made me try harder than usual. Also he chose songs that I perhaps wouldn’t have dared to record, as a result I think the album has a unique sound.” This then leads up to touring the record and bringing Tenor’s inimitable take on mind travel music to the masses. This is an area where he feels bursting with excitement. “When I play live I like to go really deep into experimental improvisation. I love to try stuff on stage that has never been tried. In my regular day-to-day life I’m not a wild person, but onstage I come alive. I almost always perform with my eyes shut, if I look at the crowd…I lose the plot.”