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INTERVIEW WITH SANTTU LAAKSO of ASTRAL MAGIC (3rd June, 2024)

Q: Santtu, I am listening to your latest release “Shadows Over Jupiter” remixed. I believe this music originated in a limited tape edition and the new Bandcamp is a CD remix with bonus tracks. Were these from the same sessions and why did you decide to re-release this particular album?

A: “Shadows Over Jupiter” was only released as a very limited (50 copies), numbered edition tape in 2021. The tape sold out in a few minutes. I had the idea of releasing the album also on 2LP with the three bonus tracks recorded around the same time, but it is just too expensive these days and none of the record labels I asked was interested. This year I got back to the album and decided that it also needed some sonic improvements, so I remixed all the tracks and released it on a limited-edition CD. I wanted to have some kind of closure to this and give the fans the opportunity to buy a physical item again.


Q: It will be obvious to anyone hearing your music for the first time that a major influence is HAWKWIND. How did you first get into them? 

A: I was into metal in the 80s and always wondered what this band HAWKWIND was that some of the bigger guys had written on their jackets with all the heavy metal band patches. In 1989 I got a loan of “The Hall of the Mountain Grill” cassette tape from our band’s drummer and immediately fell in love with the other-worldly sounds of the band. In 1990 I went to London and pretty much bought the whole back catalogue that was available then on vinyl. Still on the same trip!


Q: What are your other main influences? 

A: BLACK SABBATH is perhaps my second favourite band, but I also love for example GONG, STEVE HILLAGE, PINK FLOYD, TANGERINE DREAM, THE BEVIS FROND, SUN DIAL, OZRIC TENTACLES, and VIBRAVOID just to name a few. I’m a big music fan and collector.


Q: I first heard your name in a band called DARK SUN. What can you tell me about this group and other groups you have been in? 

A: Yes, DARK SUN was a psychedelic space rock band we formed with my friends in 1991. We recorded a few demos, a 7” single and one studio album “Feed Your Mind” that was originally only released on CD (1997) but a 2LP version with bonus tracks appeared later (2016). A live LP of Hawkwind covers called “Ice Ritual” featuring NIK TURNER was released in 2000 and a CD version with bonus tracks the following year. We played quite a lot of gigs in Finland (and also in Germany and Sweden), some with Nik Turner, until 2006. The band went on hiatus in 2007, but we have put out some low-key CD-R releases even after that. All this stuff can be heard on the Astral Magic Bandcamp site. My bands before Dark Sun were Oppression (speed/thrash metal) and Exitus (doom metal). You can find archive recordings by both. After Dark Sun I did not play actively in bands for years. I played a little bit with my friends in Octopus Syng and UFO-Tutkimuksia just before Covid-19 hit.


Q: What made you decide to form a solo project after Covid- 19? 

A: Well, I had the idea of starting a solo project and getting into home recording for years. When the lock-down started, I had no more excuses to postpone this since I had plenty of time on my hands to spend at home! It was also a question of finding something interesting and fun to do just to stay sane. So, I bought some equipment and got going.


Q: I see one of your main collaborators is JAY TAUSIG. I believe he comes from Nevada, a long way from Finland! How did you first meet up with him and what does he bring to your music? 

A: I’ve been active in space/psych/prog/stoner rock circles for decades since I used to write a lot of reviews, interviews etc. for various zines and websites as well as organize a psych club and a few festivals in Finland. I also play records as DJ Astro (I DJ’d at Roadburn Festival for many years, for example). Because of that I know a lot of musicians from all over the world so it’s easy to find guest musicians for my releases. I’ve been in contact with Jay for a long time, but we have never met in person (yet). He’s just an amazing multi-instrumentalist and so full of music and ideas that he was one of the first to think of! He plays excellent guitar, drums, keyboards, flute, saxophone, violin, has a superb singing voice etc. He’s also very fast just like myself, I hate to wait for tracks over months and months, so he’s just perfect to work with for me! I have also contributed to some of his recordings, and we have some other projects together as well. He’s also a very nice guy! 


Q: Another of your collaborators is multi-instrumentalist JONATHAN SEGAL who was born in France I believe, but now lives in Sweden. Again, how did you hook up with him and what does he bring to the music? 

A: Jonathan was born in France but grew up in California and Arizona. He’s been in groups like CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN. He is a professional musician and has actually studied it too! My good old friend SCOTT HELLER originally said I should make music with him, an excellent idea! I had already met him when they played in Finland with their jam band ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE. Jonathan has played on more Astral Magic releases than anyone else and he also masters most of my stuff nowadays. He usually comes up with some nice guitar and violin melodies that add a lot to my music. A very useful guy to have around! Also, he very fast and efficient, and a cool person as well.


Q: Who else have you collaborated with?

A: Phew, there are dozens of people I have collaborated with in Astral Magic... I’ll just name a few: SHANE BECK (The American Poet), NIK TURNER (R.I.P.), PETER BINGHAM (SENDELICA), ANTON BARBEAU, BRIDGET WISHART (ex-Hawkwind), FRED LAIRD, DR. KOCH (VIBRAVOID), ALISA CORAL (SPACE MIRRORS), KEV ELLIS, GREGOY CURVEY (THE LUCK OF EDEN HALL/ CUSTARD FLUX) and PAUL ROLAND.


Q: You have released a lot of music! For someone unfamiliar with it - where would you recommend that they start listening, and which recordings are you most pleased with? 

A: Oh man, this is a tough one. I’m happy with all my releases. For prog fans I would recommend “Magical Kingdom” (LP out on Tonzonen Records) or “End of Time” (CD on Astral Magic Music). Space rock fans will enjoy “Lords of Space” (LP and CD on Clostridium Records), “Ad Infinitum” (CD on Astral Magic Music, LP on Magritte Records) and “Cosmic Energy Flow” (CD on Astral Magic Music). Those who prefer 60s/70s styled psych rock should try out “Am I Dreaming?” (LP and CD on Astral Magic Music) or “Strange Sensation” (CD on Astral Magic Music). For more experimental, synth-oriented and electronic stuff try out “Apparition’s Breath”, “Balance of Oblivion” or “The Sacred Paths”. “Cruising the Celestial Highways” is my instrumental Krautrock album. I’m especially proud of the CD EP with Paul Roland called “Mind Melt Machine” (CD on Astral Magic Music, soon also on 10” lathe-cut). I also love the 7” lathe-cut singles I’ve done, there’s just so much stuff! Over 40 releases, can you believe that?

 

Q: What are you trying to convey or express in your music? 

A: first of all, I believe in the healing force of music. It can really do miracles and take you to places. I hope my music can help people to relax and unwind, get a little spiritual escape form the troubles of our everyday life. Music can transport us to other dimensions, make us experience magical moments and help us to evolve into better, more loving and understanding creatures. It is a universal language and an emotional bridge and communication devise in between humans and other life forms as well. I try to express that we all are one. Please learn to live in peace and harmony. 


Q: What are your ambitions and plans for the future? 

A: It would be wonderful to have a label backing instead of having to release most of my stuff on my own but I understand I operate outside of the music industry norm so I guess it will not happen. I’m too tired to even try anymore. This whole thing has been my personal experiment as well, just to see how far I can go in my own terms releasing whatever I feel like and as often as I want. I think I will keep on making music as long as I can and enjoy it, but I might stop putting out physical formats next year. It’s just too expensive and it seems like most of the people just listen to digital music anyway. Maybe just one CD or LP a year, like normal artists. I have often been asked to perform live but I think it will not happen. It’s better just keep this as a solo project with collaborators rather than forming a full band. I really don’t have any dreams about being a touring musician, it’s just too hard and harsh. Been there, done that. But who knows... 


Q: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

A: Thanks a lot for the questions! For all the readers: I hope you can find time to check out my music and if you like some of it, please support me by buying the stuff! All my money goes for the next releases... If you don’t collect music in physical form that is alright, maybe you’d still want to get all the 59 releases on my Bandcamp site in digital form for just under 50€! I really need some more fans to keep this going. Be nice to each other but don’t believe everything you’ve been told!


Thanks for agreeing to answer these questions! 

My pleasure! 

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