Picturesque Vibes of Himmelbjerget – an interview with Erki Pärnoja and Ulrik Ording

02. May 2016
Geroli Peedu


Guitarist Erki Pärnoja released his solo album Himmelbjerget in the end of 2015. The album is a mix of guitar, analogue keyboards and bass sounds which were mainly recorded in a tiny studio of Telliskivi Creative City during the night hours. The music is for a film yet not made says the author.


At Jazzkaar Erki was performing with a live band consisting of international musicians: Jonas Kaarnamets (guitar), Filip Leyman (keyboard), Ulrik Ording (drums) and Peedu Kass (double bass, bass guitar).The performance on Thursday night was a powerful experience full of uplifting vibes. Reporter Geroli Peedu spoke about the background of Himmelbjerget with Erki Pärnoja and Ulrik Ording.


What has brought you to making music?


Erki: I come from a family with a lot of music traditions, but there were no professional musicians, really. But like it is in Estonia that everyone’s parents are singing in choirs or play in an orchestra or folk group, so my grandmother, mother, uncle were all singing. My grandfather whom I never met used to be a trombone player in my grandmothers’ band.


Ulrik: But you played the trumpet as well.


Erki: Yes I did. I got it from my grandfather. It used to be really high up on a shelf with my grandfathers trombone. He had passed away by that time, but when I was a kid I always wanted to go up there and reach it. I just had to wait to get it. I grew and reached it and so, started to play it. I had guitars and different musical instruments around at home but I’m the first sort of professional one of the family.


Ulrik: My family never played music. There is no background in my case, it’s just me.


Who has influenced you?


Erki: My childhood inspired me to make music. Especially the influence from my uncle who was playing in a sort of a rock punk group and I got to be in the environment, surrounded by the musicians or just hearing how somebody who’s in a band listening to music and how they collect music and how passionate they are about it. So it’s like you learn from them and get infected with the music ‘disease’.


What made you to work on Himmelbjerget?


Erki: I came to this out of a need to write music. I had written a lot of music that I couldn’t really get out of myself. I could write those songs, I could write down the ideas and record them, but if you can’t really share them with anybody, you do not get that liberating feeling.


So really I needed to do something and had time and space for it. I looked at the ideas I had written and made songs out of them.  During that process, new songs were born. I didn’t use any of the old songs that I had written in the past but came up with six new ones.  Then, instantly I thought about Ulrik and that we should have a long distance recording.


How was the album born? What was the creative process like?


Erki: I recorded my stuff in Tallinn and sent it to Ulrik who lives in Sweden. After two first songs Jonas Kaarnamets also joined in.


Ulrik: Yes, Jonas joined a bit later. At first it was a bit strange for me. It supposed to be this really relaxed project. Erki told me: “I’ll send you this and you could try to record something.” So I recorded something and tried it out in my studio in Stockholm, but then a week or two later it came clear we need to get things done to release the album. It was a matter of weeks all of a sudden. So I got Filip Leyman to record the album.


What is the album about?


Erki: I think it is the emotions, the things that I notice or the emotional states. That’s also what the songs are like on stage. The main things aren’t what we play but the atmosphere or the emotional state that we create with each song. I really like those pictures or those vibes that you can be in. And it has to do with Denmark, obviously. The mountain is over there.


Ulrik: But you have never been there, right?


Erki:  Yes, I have never been there, but we’re going to go. I really like the idea of the Himmelbjerget (a mountain in Denmark, meaning The Sky Mountain – G.P.). It connects us, me and Ulrik. It was one of the first conversations we had when we spoke about the landscape of Estonia and highest mountain of 318 meters and then Ulrik said that in Denmark it’s a bit less.


When I was looking for a name for the project the mountain was stuck in my head and I felt it connecting. I like the idea of Himmelbjerget being a mountain, presented as this huge thing, but if you measure it in system, it’s not.


What is the role of music in your daily life? What do you listen to?


Erki: I think I’m going back to the way I used to listen to the music as a kid when I just had maybe few CD’s that you really listened to. So now it’s music made by friends. It is so much easier for me if I know the people who are playing. I have this other connection and thankfully I know a lot of musicians that do a lot of music.


Ulrik: For me is basically the same. I’m listening to the records until you know almost everything there is to know in that record. There are periods that I do not want to listen to music at all -different periods [call for] different music.


What kind of experience you await for your performance in Jazzkaar? What do you hope to offer?


Ulrik: Good energy! If the energy is right, it’s going to be great.


Erki: I agree. I’m really looking forward to this. It felt really good on stage; we can be tight together and it feels good. Half of the material we are going to perform is from the LP and the other is new music.


Ulrik: Maybe you are going to hear some new songs at the performance.


What are you working on now?


Erki: Right now we are thinking of the new album. Soon, we hope to get working on it.