Haare – “punk” zen monk (English version)

haare interview Anxious Magazine

Ilkka Vekka, the creator of the Finnish project Haare, has consistently followed his own musical path for many years. Describing his sounds as “psychedelic noise”, he creates albums with a very rough, and at the same time hallucinogenic sound. From album to album, Haare surprises with ideas. It is an unpredictable project with many sound faces. In addition, it is worth paying attention to the album covers, the creator of which is Ilkka himself. In my opinion, they perfectly reflect the spirit of these albums.

Michał Majcher

MM: Haare was started in 1999. How do you remember your beginnings? In my opinion, this project has changed a lot and it is still evolving, and it is quite unpredictable.

Ilkka Vekka: I was admitted into art school so I moved to Lahti, and my old band (Plat Ypus) was coming to an end. I was already into harsh noise, and in Lahti those cd’s & records were easier to find, so I got more into it, and wanted to start making “pure” harsh noise, like Incapacitants and Hijokaidan. The very first Haare recordings were made as a trio with two other members, and then simply fed through a fuzz pedal with everything in the red. It became a nice thick fuzzy wall of noise. After that I started experimenting on my own, as the other guys were not really into noise.

MM:What equipment did you use then and what do you use now to create your sounds?

Ilkka Vekka: Back then I mostly used a turntable, a radio, metal junk, a tape deck and my trusted Dod FX-52 fuzz pedal. I’m still using the Dod, but over the years I’ve amassed a lot of gear. These days I use guitar & ebow, synths, effects, metal junk, gong, old church organ pipes, japanese flutes…the list goes on. Most recently I’ve also started using some drums.

Haare Tantis Noise cover Anxious Magazine

MM: You define Haare’s music as psychedelic noise. In my opinion, this is a very apt term. Your sounds are mainly based on quite rough sounds from post-industrial noise regions. However, everything is hallucinogenic, blurry, meditative. What is “psychedelia” means to you and what is “noise” means to you?

Ilkka Vekka: Noise can be pretty much anything in my opinion, but as in harsh noise, it is pure, joyful, liberating, blissful. This is the goal of Savage Gospel. Psychedelia literally means “expressing the psyche”; so it is an attempt to bring out things from deep inside ones soul. Psychedelic sounds to me come from the sixties & seventies, heavy fuzz, delays, reverb, phases/wah wahs etc. Haare is psychedelic, yet blurry, and often covered in some kind of darkness. I try to combine the rough post-industrial sounds with the beauty of psychedelia. After my first attempts at noise, I realized that the line between noise and psychedelia is actually very thin, and drawn in water. There are psych albums that would qualify as noise, and vice versa. That realization was a turning point for me, and I took a more “composed” approach to my material. On my album “Tantric noise” my guideline was to try to make “a sixties noise album”.

MM: I am very curious which albums with psychedelic music have influenced you and which ones have influenced you with noise music.?

Ilkka Vekka: Instead of giving you top ten lists, I’ll name just the select few that were the MOST influential.

Noise: Incapacitants – As loud as possible, Hijokaidan – Ferocity of everyday life, Metgumbnerbone – Ligeliahorn

Psychedelia: Taj- Mahal Travellers – everything, The Sperm – Shh!, Tangerine Dream – Electronic meditation, Guru Guru – Ufo

I collect religious ritual music, especially Asian, and Tibetan buddhist ritual music has been a very big influence.

MM: In your works of Haare you also use Buddhist terminology. Is Buddhism dear to you?

Ilkka Vekka: I’ve always been drawn to Buddhism, as I relate to the philosophy very much. I’ve been practicing Shorinji Kempo since 1995 or 1996, and Kongo Zen philosophy is a part of Shorinji Kempo, so I’ve studied it to some extent. I don’t consider myself a “practicing” buddhist (organised religion in groups is never a good idea I think) but I try to live according to the philosphy. As Brad Warner, the “punk” zen monk says, the bottom line is “don’t be a jerk”. That’s what everyone should aim for I think.

MM: In 2016 you released the album “Meditations”, on your bandcamp website there is also a meditator in the logo. It is the same with the cover of “Karesansui”. Do you think Haare’s music is meditative?

Ilkka Vekka: In that album title, the word is used in the same way as John Coltrane uses it on his album “Meditations”. It’s a deeper study of the sounds used, ie. the sounds have been “meditated” on. That lp was heavily inspired by The Taj-Mahal Travellers, I wanted to create a similar space as on their albums, but with harsher/heavier sounds. Haare’s music is often too busy to be used as meditation music, at least for me. A few years ago I was contacted by a person who had some concentration issues and mental problems, and he said Haare is the only music that helps him to concentrate and calm down. So it works in some cases, and I was very happy to hear my music was actually helping someone. The meditator on the bandcamp page is me, by the way. “Karesansui” was an attempt at meditative harsh noise bliss, the title is a reference to a zen stone garden. I think the best noise to use for meditation would be HNW, like Vomir etc. Even though that whole genre gets dissed a lot, I like to listen to some of that stuff every now & then.

MM: You are also the creator of Haare’s covers. I must admit that they correspond perfectly with your music. Some of them are very psychedelic and hallucinogenic, and others are very suggestive and blunt in their message, like the works of Gee Vaucher / Crass. You really do make very interesting things. What inspires you when creating them?

Ilkka Vekka: I went through art school and worked as a professional artist for a while, so it is natural for me to make my own artwork (there have been some exceptions though.) I usually start with a title, and then try to think what visual elements it needs to convey it’s message. By the way I’m a big fan of Gee Vaucher, so that’s a huge compliment, thank you! Inspiration comes from psychedelia, surrealism, old graphic design etc., but I often have the ideas in my head from the start and I just have to work to get them out. More perspiration than inspiration, as the old saying goes.

kosmischehexerei Anxious Magazine

MM: You put the inscription “Destroy fascism, love forever” on your albums, which is very dear to me. Don’t you get the feeling that there are still a lot of extreme right-wing people in industrial / power electronics scene?

Ilkka Vekka: Recently, not so much anymore. The world around us has gone so insane that I think most people see where such ideas will lead. Luckily, the younger generation seems to be wiser. They have their own, better ideas. Also, I’ve never seen this as a huge problem in (harsh) noise, it’s been more of a power electronics thing. In PE I understand that it somewhat belongs to the genre in the same derivative way as images of war belong in hardcore punk, but there’s a difference in whether you’re making art about a subject, or promoting an ideology. With the latter I have a problem with. I was raised on punk, and I still have the same mindset.

haare interview Anxious Magazine
Photo: J. Koho

MM: What are the Haare concerts like?

Ilkka Vekka: In live situations, we’re a duo with Janne Martinkauppi (formerly of Hinageshi Bondage, Hetero Skeleton, Mohel etc.) Janne plays samples and gongs, I play the guitar. The sound is naturally more minimalistic than on records, but it’s loud and often pretty harsh. At the moment we have one show booked for the summer (Jattomaa festival outside Kouvola, Finland, in the end of July) and the plan is to bring in a third member; Antti Klemi of Absolute Key, to play synth. We’ve booked a rehearsal for it and I’ve advised the guys that I’d like it to sound like noisy, early krautrock, a’la Kluster and the first Tangerine Dream lp.

MM: Tell me about your Heavy Meditation label. Apparently you had other labels in the past?

Ilkka Vekka: Before Heavy Meditation, I had 26 volts of danger. Those releases were mostly cdr’s and recycled tapes. This label for me is simply a vessel to put out some stuff, most of it mine.

Meteoryt anxious magazine

MM: I would also like to ask about the Polish project Meteoryt, which you released on cassette this year. What is this band? I haven’t found information about the one anywhere.

Ilkka Vekka: I can’t really shed any light on it; a person who wishes to remain unknown approached me with this material and asked me to release it on my label. He actually also paid for 70% of the expenses, I simply helped to put it out. Even though there was electronic music coming out of Poland back then (I have some of the “Warsaw autumn” compilation lp’s) I can’t vouch that Meteoryt really is a) from the 70’s or b) even from Poland. But it’s a cool little tape anyway.

MM: Some time ago, Crucial Blast, in his series Crucial Blaze, released your art zine “Death Psychedelia” with your collages, paintings. Please tell me about it. Have you published your works elsewhere?

MM: Ilkka Vekka: Crucial Blast asked me to, so naturally I said yes. Some of my works have been published in Special Interests magazine, and some exhibition catalogues from the time I was more professional with my art (I think the “Nordic Darkness” catalogue/book may still be available from the Kristinehamn art museum in Sweden). I’d like to make a proper art book some day, but I’m too busy for such a big project at the moment. Also it would be hard to select what goes into it, as my paintings are very different from my collages, so I’m thinking maybe it should just focus on one or the other. I do hope to make it one day, we’ll see.

MM: Apart from Haare’s activities, you create other projects: Kosmische Horror, Sutra, Survival Camp, Cannibal Sauna, Savage Gospel and many more. Can you tell about them?

Ilkka Vekka: Some of these, like Sutra and Kosmische Horror are what I call “one-offs”, projects that I wanted to get out of me, and ones that for a reason or another, aren’t “Haare”. Survival Camp was a recording session with Finnish pop musician Samae Koskinen and Jussi Lehtisalo of Circle, I wanted to make blunt, harsh black metal inspired by Gonkulator and Ildjarn but Jussi turned it into a weirdo noise rock session, heh. It was a lot of fun. Cannibal Sauna is a duo with Vesa, the drummer of Plat Ypus, who has been one of my best friends since high school. We get together once or twice a year at his summer cottage to drink beer, record music, and go to the sauna. Vesa also plays synth on one track on the next Haare lp, actually. Savage Gospel is my harsh noise duo with Janne Laurila. Janne was among the first people to make harsh noise in Finland in the 90’s, he was in a project called All out (featured on Bastard Noise’s “Hails the Finnish sound masters”) and made one solo tape under the name “1%”. After that he played in Avarus and The Anaksimandros, performed & recorded folky singer/songwriter stuff under the name Office Building, and has also made some mainstream pop music. Apart from his pop stuff, he now plays in a children’s music duo, and in Savage Gospel with me. A man of many talents!

Hair Anxious Magazine

MM: Is it true that the name Haare (“Hair”) was taken from the cover of the German edition of the vinyl with music for the musical “Hair”?

Ilkka Vekka: Yes! I collected the tacky Klaus Wunderlich organ lp’s from thrift shops for a laugh (the walls of my toilet was covered with the sleeves), and in one of those albums there was a an ad for this lp. At first I didn’t even know what it meant, to me it sounded like a “krautrockish” name a’la Faust, Eiliff and such.

MM: In 2021 you released two albums “Acid Realm” and “Dimension Ripper”. In addition, there were two splits with Culver and Absolute Key. What are your plans for this year?

Ilkka Vekka: A tape called “Monument” was released on Fanalstatt in Germany earlier this month. I just finished a new lp, Pentti Dassum is mastering it at the moment, and I’m putting the finishing touches on the artwork. It should come out later this year on Rural Isolation Program in the US. I’m also working on another Haare album but that’s still “under construction”. There’s a new Savage Gospel lp too, that’s also in Pentti’s hands right now and we’ll start looking for a label to release it as soon as it’s mastered.

Thanks a lot for the interview! You can keep up with my stuff by checking haarenoise.blogspot.com or following @haarenoise on IG. Please support the Ukraine in their fight against Russian offenders. „Destroy fascism, Love forever!”