The Heroine’s Journey of Catself

 

What is the best thing that I love about my work?

I think what I love the most is that it consists of so many important elements. There is no monotony,

Or actually maybe this is not the thing that I love the most – it is the thing that suits my character and I find this changeability comfortable. And what I love the most is the process of capturing something that seems to come from another world, from some mysterious space, from another universe, and putting it into a form that is possible to show to others. At first it is in that space, then it appears in my head, sometimes all at once and sometimes bit by bit, and at last it is a recorded song, or a song that is ready to perform. It feels very pleasant when something comes into existence like that.

What is my idea of perfect happiness?

I have to first think what is my idea of perfect. When something is perfect, it has reached its best state and cannot be better, so it is finished, and that is a bit sad. For me, something that is perfect should be still growing. So my idea of perfect happiness would be something that keeps growing and developing. Making a new recording and hearing it grow and improve is quite an ecstatic experience for me. It helps that I feel this way because it takes really long to finish a recording project so without really liking it in an almost physical way it would be difficult to ever finish anything. But similar ecstatic happiness can be found in other ways, too. For example, in relationships with people – spending time with someone important to me and feeling understood, and beginning to understand, getting to know another person. Also, I often feel very intense happiness when I am on a hike or walk in a new place. Walking and seeing the landscape unfold and seeing more and more new things, wondering what I will find if I walk longer and longer and then satisfying my curiosity. That is a very important kind of happiness and an essential part of life for me, discovery, satisfying my curiosity. It can be about so many things – seeing new places, but also learning new things, finding out how things work, learning instruments or languages. I can’t imagine life without it. In a way it is sad that we will never have enough time to discover everything we want but on the other hand we can never run out of things that are unknown and interesting.

What is my greatest fear?

I don’t know exactly. I don’t have one greatest fear and I’d rather not try to search for it in my mind.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

I am not happy with how I seem to come across to other people in some situations, especially in professional or semi-professional situations. I don’t always succeed at it because I also like to be honest, but I like to be polite to people, and I think I am rather kind, and I don’t like to make people feel bad. And these are all good things but I think this makes me seem a much softer person than I really am, and it encourages some people to try to take advantage. When you appear to be hard and scary, people won’t try some things with you. But when you’re nice, they will go much further and in the end you have to be much harder and tougher to make them realise they have made a mistake. It is quite exhausting. At the same time, I can be rather harsh with people who know me well because I don’t have the patience to try to hide my annoyance or put something that I have to say in more delicate words. I think that because they know me, they should know I am not mean and don’t say things with the intention to hurt and I hope they realise it, but you can never know what other people really feel. So, in some situations I probably seem too soft and in others, too harsh. It could seem it should be easy to try to be in the middle somewhere but it doesn’t work that way.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?

There would be too many to mention. I admire people who do what they like and follow their ideas and imagination instead of focusing on what others might like, and manage to succeed with it. I also like it when women artists do a lot alone. Agnes Obel, for example – she didn’t try to make music that would become popular but followed her ideas and taste. Now so many people love her music. Another artist from Scandinavia, Swedish artist Jenny Wilson – also a very creative and inventive artist. Finnish musician and producer Oona Kapari is another example. Julia Marcell from Poland, another immensely creative and versatile artist – I admire her art and also many things about her way of working, for example how deeply she prepares for each next project. American singer-songwriter Weyes Blood mentioned in one of her interviews that women in music work differently compared to men – that men tend to work in teams and women are lone wolves. I find it quite true, there are so many examples of that, and I think that in this way very original art is created. I don’t want to somehow put down the male artists, and I don’t like this division male-female in art, but there is something distinct in the work of many female musicians, and I think it is because of working alone in a special way.

What is my greatest extravagance?

Hmm, what would be my extravagance – do you mean a weirdness? I can think of one thing: I eat according to my blood type, following the guidelines of Dr Peter D’Adamo. I found out about his research and his book “Eat Right 4 Your Type” already years ago when I noticed I had some food intolerances but was not sure exactly what they were. What convinced me to try it was that I was sure that at least it wouldn’t hurt me: I had to avoid some foods from each food group but not entire food groups. I was surprised what difference it made to the way I felt. Some people find it very strange.

On what occasion would I lie?

I would lie to get myself or someone else out of a seriously dangerous situation.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

Ironically, part of what I like the most about it is also what I dislike. I like the variety and doing different things, but I do not like having to do everything on my own. It takes up very much time and it is not effective. It hurts me that I can’t record as much as I would like to because I need to spend crazy amounts of time online looking for shows. It hurts me that to book a little tour, I have to sit glued to the computer for three weeks 11 hours a day, that out of 200 people I contact one will check out my music and the rest will not click on the links or maybe won’t read the email; it exhausts me that occasionally a show gets cancelled when you are on the way there and you are left with no money, nowhere to sleep and a non-refundable expensive ticket. Such adventures are colourful when you read about them in a book and when it is a book of fiction but when you live it, you hate it.

Also, it saddens and worries me that music in general is less and less appreciated. I feel a bit like a maker of useless things. And it leads to extreme financial insecurity, which is another serious disadvantage of my work. It is hard to be self-employed no matter what you do, but with artistic professions like music, some people think that just doing it should be the reward. It makes it hard to survive.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

I was so surprised and happy when in my first year of making music (in a serious way) I was invited to perform at a festival in Morocco. The organisers found my music on MySpace and invited me to represent Finland.

Unfortunately, that happiness was followed by some disappointments. On the stage in Marrakech, the sound was very bad on the night when I performed – the sound engineer didn’t do his job, I later heard what had happened and it was a very strange and sad story. It was overall a beautiful adventure but could have been better.

Several years later, in 2016, I had a similar great experience when I played at a festival in Mongolia. But that also was followed by sadness because I would like to go and perform there again, and stay a bit longer and discover more about that fascinating country.

And one more example of happiness followed by extreme disappointment: when I reached my crowdfunding target and was able to record my debut album, but then the crowdfunding company went bankrupt, and before that had spent parts or sometimes whole budgets of artists. I was one of the lucky ones because my album was already finished and I “only” lost the funds for the physical CDs and promotion, but I was left in debt because I had already had a videoclip made, and had a photo session. It took me two years to pay that debt back, and my album still has not been released.

If I could, what would I change about myself?

I would like to go back and edit my childhood. I would have liked to start learning the piano at the age of three or something similar. Then guitar, much earlier than I did, maybe about the age of five. Then more instruments. I wanted to do it already then but I didn’t know how to convince my parents, or: I didn’t know it was possible. I thought you had to have the instrument at home to learn, I didn’t know you could practice at the school, and when I found out, already as a grown-up, that it would have been easily possible, my heart broke. I would have liked to have more freedom. Although it was interesting then and is interesting now to remember, maybe I would have liked not to experience living in Poland during communism as a child when very little was possible and available. I also would have edited out the humiliation of my first trips to Britain as a teenager when I had to be interviewed on the border and convince the officials that I was going there to visit my relatives and not to work, which would have been then illegal. I think such experiences damage your self-confidence and the feeling you can do anything in the world. The message I often got as a child was that when you want something very much, this is precisely the thing you are not allowed to have. It is damaging. And I think I have done quite well considering, but I would like to have more ease and trust and some kind of entitlement – and I don’t mean it in a bad sense – that some of my peers who were born in western Europe have. For example, my Finnish friends for whom it was/is so normal that you go interrailing, get a summer job, study abroad. When I got a scholarship to study in Finland (I studied English, in Poland and Finland, Master’s degree), it was available only to two best students from the faculty.

Some people think that it is good to face difficulties because you learn that life is hard and it makes you humble. But I don’t think it is good to be “humble” when you are very young because it stops you from trying things. I think it is better to have this innocent conviction that the world out there is all open to you and welcomes you. Then you go into it with much more strength than when you expect someone can any moment step on you, catch you, eat you, arrest you or deport you for committing some crime like – working. There is time in life for disappointments and hardship and disillusionment but that is not childhood. When you are very young, your batteries should be charged, so that later you see the world as a sea of possibility and hardship as islands, and not the other way around.

So, yeah, this is what I would like to edit out, some of this difficulty, scarcity and forbiddenness. Maybe I would have more power then to do impossible things. Maybe I could see some ways, some doors that I can’t see now. Maybe I could get my album released and move everything forward.

What is my greatest achievement in work?

One of them would be my still unreleased debut album, recorded with the accompaniment of Polish folk band Saint Nicholas Orchestra. It is beautiful, and I know that most people would say it about their own project they have worked so hard on, how can you be objective, but I think I can be objective in saying that there isn’t another album that is very similar to this. I am sure there is a place in the world for it and I hope I will manage to convince the right label to listen to it – because actually this is often a really difficult thing.

My other biggest achievement is my latest recording, “A New Green”. The album was recorded in a great studio by one of the best Polish recording engineers, Tadeusz Mieczkowski, and with great folk musicians. But my latest song I recorded in my studio and completely by myself. I was very happy with it when it was finished. You can buy “A New Green” via this link.  

Where would I most like to live?

I like to move around and this touring life, and staying in different places, feels very good to me. But yes, I would like to have my own home. I would like to live in one of the Nordic countries, and best the colder ones – Norway, Sweden or Finland, where I live now. But I am not too happy living in Helsinki area in Finland. I have trouble with the asphalt dust created by the studded tyres which most Finnish drivers use for 8-9 months a year. It is such an old-fashioned invention and it is so sad that they are still using it, although it destroys the air, the roads and people’s health. In spring Helsinki area is all grey and many people get trouble with this dust, but they accept it as a normal part of life. I am really sensitive to it so I have to leave the country when the dust is bad. It is sad not to be able to be in your own home when you want to so I would like to live somewhere further north where there are fewer people and cars and it is cleaner.

What is my most treasured possession?

I should say my instruments, and some of them are irreplaceable, but I say: my body. I know my body is not a possession but it feels like that. Lately I had to have some operations, and especially one of them was really expensive. I shouldn’t need this kind of motivation to respect my body, and of course I have always tried to take care of it and keep it healthy, but after that I started feeling my body has financial value. It is a bit sad to see your own body in this way but this is how I see it now, sometimes, as a vehicle for life. As something I should take care of not because I want to feel good but because it cost money and I might not be able to afford it again.

What is my most marked characteristic?

Giving long replies to short questions.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

A place a bit outside of my city will have to do. It is Kopparnäs, the place a little west of Espoo, where I live. It is a peninsula with a hill with an ancient Viking burial ground. The view from there is so beautiful it is not surprising why they chose that place for their graves. I filmed one of my videos on the shore of Kopparnäs, “A Shield”: 

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city?

I can’t think of one place in my city but I do have a favourite place to go out, have a drink and listen to music in another city in another country where I spend a lot of time in, in Groningen in the Netherlands, and that is Petit Theâtre. It is a beautiful jazz club with great sound and also excellent coffee, wine and atmosphere. I have never gone out very much so I have never in my life had a “regular” place to go to, but that is my comfortable place.

What books influenced my life and how?

I have read so many books that it is difficult to choose. When I was a child, the stories of Hans Christian Andersen influenced me very strongly, with their beautiful sadness and darkness. Then, books of Stanisław Lem, which I consider the best science-fiction ever, and after reading them, most other science-fiction seems bland… The Narnia tales. The novels of Iris Murdoch, in which I admired the most how the world of the novels is so multi-layered and in a way comes out of the book to encompass the reader’s world. If you read them in a certain way, they are books that eat the world.

Who are my favorite writers?

I will concentrate on my favourite living writers. Peter Høeg is to me the most powerful writer. It is a shame that he doesn’t write more but on the other hand, books like his maybe just can’t be written more often. I have recently read his book which is not his latest: “The Elephant Keeper’s Children” and it impressed me incredibly. It is so funny, smart and insightful, and I am not going to say any more. Just read it. More of my favourite writers: Jo Mazelis from Wales. I especially admire her short stories because of the mood that my favourite literature has: magic and beauty tied together, creating a secret. If you feel a certain way while reading them, you are in. Another favourite writer of mine is Stephen King. I think he is incredibly underappreciated because of the type of novels he often writes, but some of his books are absolute masterpieces. One of them is his book “On Writing”, which I would recommend to all creators. And one more writer, this time from Poland: Małgorzata Warda, whose one book has so far been translated into English: “5 Seconds to Io”, and it is science-fiction which I enjoyed very much although I have read Lem, and that really says something.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen to on my last day?

I don’t think I would want to listen to any music on my last day, or not on purpose. I think I would like to be somewhere in nature and listen to the world’s sounds. I would of course have bits of different music in my head, the way it usually plays when I am not listening to anything. That would be enough.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?

Huckleberry Finn.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

There could be so many but I like to think of one who is my relative. In her forties, she learnt Italian and went to Italy to work. The jobs she has been doing there are not jobs that you could see as glamorous but for her it was the way to see more of the world and live a different life. I think it was such a brave thing to do and I really admire her. Big things don’t always have to seem big to other people. It is about the possibilities they give and what they help us do, how they make our world bigger and life more interesting.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?

The excellent Swedish film “Sound of Noise”, but after seeing it once you would probably like to see it again.

What role does art play in my life and work?

Art is an essential part of my life. I couldn’t imagine my life without it. It is not just that it is important, it has just always been part of it, and all forms of it, and both experiencing art and making it.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

Christer – he made my website for example and helps me with so many things. And then there are my Album Funders who made it possible for me to record my album and now have been waiting for it impossibly long. And my friends, and some of my family, and some of my friends actually feel like they are family. People in whose homes I stay when I am moving around looking for concerts to play, and sometimes playing them.

Who would I like to work with in 2019?

So far, I have worked with everyone I wanted to work with. I recorded with Saint Nicholas Orchestra, my folk heroes, a superband from the city of my childhood. I have toured (a little) with Julia Marcell and (quite a lot) with Chabliz. I have even recorded some backing vocals for Chabliz. There are some people I wouldn’t mind working with but I won’t tell, because if I do, it might not happen.

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2019?

I would like to meet my future record label.

What project, in 2019, am I looking forward to work on?

I have so many started recording projects of my new songs and I would like to finish them. Also, I would like to start working on my next albums but first my debut should be released. But another important project would be a music video for the band of my friends which I would like to direct for them.

Where can you see me or my work in 2019?

You can hear a lot of my songs online, and see a lot of my videos. You will find them most easily by following the links on my website: www.catself.com. And welcome to my social media: Facebook, Twitter. I do my best to keep them interesting and real.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?

There are things you don’t want to stop doing because they are not only your job, or even career, but your essence, the area in which you can be creative. If there is something that is important to you in this way, you want to keep on doing it till the end, I think.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?

I suggest you invite Shjazz, a jazz singer and songwriter from Groningen. She does more things but it will be more interesting if she tells you about them herself!

How can you contact me?

It is best to contact me by email: catself@catself.com or booking@catself.com when it is about booking a concert (please do that. You will make my day).

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