Interview with Vaiko Eplik: “My music loves you too!”

21. April 2014
Jorge Poveda

Vaiko Eplik met Jorge Poveda after the crowded concert at Marine Pavilion backstage. It wasn’t a usual interview, it was more a chat between friends. Vaiko showed his funniest side. Artist in and out of the stage. 

Let’s start from the origins of you as a musician. How was your childhood in Rapla and what was your first contact with music?

I studied piano in children’s music school and I tried to study pop-jazz in Georg Otsa Music School but I dropped out after one year so that’s basically my qualification as a musician. I am a self-taught guitarist and I’ve been writing songs and playing in bands since 14 years old and I don’t stop.

What influences you to create your compositions and all this variety of sounds with the instruments?

Well, the thing is that at some point, when I was a teenager, I used to be in bands but I got tired with certain group of people. You can only play certain kind of music with them. I had big problems with drummers. They said that some songs are ‘too jazzy I cannot play it’ or ‘this is soul, this is not rock music’, so I decided to play drums by myself because I was tired of drummers [laughs]. So since I can play piano and guitar, the bass came so easy. I could work by myself to be more productive, to work faster.

You define yourself as a multi-instrumentalist. Which one is your favourite or the one you have more skills with?

I really like and I really enjoy playing drums the most, but I am not a very good drummer. It is really difficult to have technique on it.

What do you feel when you are on stage with the virtuosity and precision of Kristjan Randalu, the pianist?

This is our second project together. During the first one I was so callow. Now I try all the time to achieve because if you play with somebody as good as Kristjan the only hope you have is to achieve. In fact, he was touring abroad for two weeks. We had some rehearsals before that, but we met yesterday, before the Haapsalu concert, in the airport at 4 o’clock. The concerts was at 7. It’s quite crazy [laughs].

How came the idea to get into jazz music and how was the first contact with Kristjan Randalu? Was it easy to start making music together? Have you been playing together abroad?

It was very funny. Kristjan just called me three or four years ago and he said ‘we should make something together’. I was very surprised and flattered. The good thing about me and Kristjan is that I have the black card and he has the red one, so we have different sets, but we have the full set together.

You have had many projects (Claire’s Birthday, Koer, Ruffus) before starting your single music career, composing music together with other people. Do you miss having this support from other musicians and creating things with other points of view?

Now I am basically in a point where I am a little bit tired of that so I am looking forward to work with people because I’ve played alone in my room for so long. Kristjan is a really good roommate in that aspect [laughs]. The fact is that working alone all the time you get so tired about yourself. I’ve been working on albums from the last eight years just by myself, but I hope I can break that for a bit. [it is] time for change [laughs].

You had a big change in your long music career when you decided to make music only in Estonian language. It’s been a while since you don’t write in English… How is the reception when you play outside of Estonia? Do you still have songs in English in your repertory?

I rarely ever do. I have only one or two gigs every year and there are always many Estonians in the audience. That’s the only reason why I started to write songs only in Estonian. At some point I understood that there are only one million speaking in our language, a few writing songs in Estonian and there are so many people that do it in English… So it’s a waste of human resource if I do it in English. I am part of the Estonian culture so it’s nice to devote on that.

How do you see the Estonian music scene? Do you listen to other Estonian bands or artists?

Well, quite honestly, I only listen to Estonian modern music because you have so much music these days everywhere that I haven’t followed modern music from abroad for years. I like music from the last century more, I think it was better and now I only have time and brain capacity for Estonian music. So I am pretty much consuming Estonian music.

You have your own studio at home where you compose and produce all your music, quoting you: “Home-made music has no rival… From now on to in about five years’ time, record companies will be bankrupt“. Why do you think that? In a monetary world, do you think the art expression should be free in the next future?

I meant the ‘big whales’ but we talk about musical ideas and the quality of music. All the interesting music comes from independent composers, musicians and labels.

Firstly the biggest problem of the music is that music and industry don’t go together very well, or music and business. It is like summer and school. It just doesn’t work. 

The other problem is that people view music as a career option, but it’s an art form. We should all remember that music is art, pop music is art and all sources of music [as well]. Also I like techno. And that’s why I like to make all kinds of music as possible, because there are many kind of music that have never been done in Estonia. We have a lot of work to do in the context of our language and our culture.

I admire when you say that your purpose in life is to “earn enough money to get by, and keep being intelligent and free to be creative with music”. Don’t you feel sad watching the music industry in the highest levels totally corrupted and prefabricated from one big idea to control the masses and their thoughts and keep them in the game of consumption, materialism and not own-thinking?

The good thing is that in Estonia we are very far from it, and it doesn’t affect my life at all because I don’t have a big following audience in Estonia, but they are very loyal.

How do you feel when you listen your previous works? Do you miss or regret something?

I like what Prince said about it: ‘I create, so let’s go and move on‘. [laughs] I really want to create and move on and see how many kinds of music I kind squeeze out of myself. Change is very crucial in our “sport” [laughs].

How was the experience of working for the soundtrack of an animation movie? What is the difference compared composing for an album?

Yeah, I like demanding exercises. For me the more complex, the easier project it is to do it. That’s why I like to work in different mediums as well. I am looking forward to write a musical next year for theatre.

What aspects of a song need to be there, to be good for Vaiko Eplik?

It has to be well written, like Morrissey said: ‘Some music the DJ’s play don’t tell me anything about my life’. And I like to listen music that I can learn something about the person who wrote it, as Joni Mitchell said. And also there is other music that you listen to and learn something about yourself. Good music is always made by good reasons, and you made it, whether you get paid or not.

What does being a celebrity in Estonia mean to you?

It’s strange because you play to such an audience and it is very overwhelming. But I was at my house and there were people partying next door. They invited me to their party and two of them asked me if I am still in music [laughs] because they are in other crowds and I don’t really perform on television, radio, [or do] interviews. So some Estonian people remember just when I was doing music ten years ago. Anyway there is a group of people that are aware of my music and that’s good.

Thank you very much. And I have to say that I really love your music even if I don’t understand it. 

My music loves you too [laughs].