Volcano Revisited: Interview with Pekka Vuorinen

Kategorien Interviews

Pekka Vuorinen & Guide Lickle B in Kingston, Jamaica

In 1983 two Finnish reggae enthusiasts traveled to Jamaica to dip into the emerging dancehall scene. Back home Tero Kaski and Pekka Vuorinen published „Reggae Inna Dancehall Style“, the first book about that subject. A few months ago the reissue „Volcano Revisited“ has been released.

Even though „Volcano Revisited“ has drawn a lot of attention during the passed months, only little is known about the authors. Please introduce yourself, Pekka.

Pekka Vuorinen: We both were lovers of black music and started listening to reggae in the early seventies, when Bob Marley and the Wailers hit the market. One day in 1976/77 a slick young copy machine sales representative was at my door. Not selling copy machines though, he had heard that I have quite a few reggae records, and he had just started a radio program at Finnish Broadcasting Company. There and then started our friendship.

Tero – Daddy T-Roy – was The Voice of Reggae in Finland. He had a regular reggae show in the radio for almost a quarter of a century. He was a trained interpreter in English and spoke Jamaican like a native. His Black Star record shop in Helsinki was the meeting place of reggae lovers. There we also edited and published the „Cool Runnings“ magazine from 1980 until 1985.

In the nineties Tero moved with his family to Kuusankoski in southern Finland from where his Black Star shop operated. There the new „Cool Runnings International“ magazine also was published from 1995 until 2001, until his death. Tero died of heart attack at his home January 3rd 2001, only 50 years old.

Tapsa, Tero Kaski & Roy-Cousins
Tapsa, Tero Kaski & Roy-Cousins

Myself, I’m an architect, but after a few years of practice in town planning I switched to the world of computers. In the mid eighties I was too busy to participate in the editing of the „Cool Runnings“ magazine and so the magazine came to an end. In the early nineties I was in charge of the application development of a big Finnish insurance company – Pohjola – when I was badly injured in a car crash and after a while retired. But now I’m in a pretty good shape and this book editing and publishing thing has been good training for my poor brains.

How did you get into reggae and dancehall in a country that must be the complete opposite of Jamaica?

Cool runnings! We were at Cröna Lund in Stockholm when Bob Marley and the Wailers had their concert there. Capacity of the place is about 20.000 and there was over 40.000 enthusiastic Bob Marley fans! Tero had already one of the best reggae record shops in the World – but the business was slow. Coming back home from the concert we decided to educate the Finnish massive and to start a magazine.

We were cool guys from the North, so „Cool Runnings“ was the best choice for a name. Tero was a copy machine expert and knew the best ways to print a good quality fanzine. We had all Finnish reggae lovers writing to the magazine. They – Juha Vaahtera and Tapsa Piirainen for instance – were soon the best Studio One experts of the time. We had around 300 subcribers. Don’t know if they got any wiser but at least we did, the editors and the contributors.

Cool Runnings magazine / Autumn 1982
Cool Runnings magazine / Autumn 1982

In 1984 Tero Kaski and you published „Reggae Inna Dancehall Style“. Was there an audience for such literature in Finland back then?

We had made many trips to London and elsewhere to attend concerts and interview artists. I had been the only white man in a Fred Locks concert when his „Black Star Liner“ thing was actual. And in the Gregory Isaacs concert when he for the first time performed in London. Tero had met Mikey Dread, Little Roy, Norman Grant and others. Together we had interviewed Yabby You, Michael Rose, Sly&Robbie, Prince Lincoln and many others. So we knew the scene and the artists quite well.

But we had never visited Jamaica, never been in a Reggae Soundsystems dance. That was a revelation! Instead of interviewing people for the „Cool Runnings“ – which was in Finnish – we thought the dancehall scene, and Volcano especially, were worth a wider audience, and decided – there and then – to publish a Volcano book in English.

Reggae Inna Dancehall Style
Reggae Inna Dancehall Style

„Cool Runnings“ was a paste and copy fanzine, but the Volcano report should be a real book! We had a reggae friend – Ossi Sillman – who was working in a printer’s shop, and with his help we got the book together and printed. The other interviews we made – at Channel One, King Tubby’s, Harry J., Music Works and elsewhere – we published in „Cool Runnings“ in Finnish. And a few remained unpublished when the magazine was dropped.

Do you know how many copies have been sold?

We printed a huge amount, 2.000 copies! The book was a slow but steady seller. I think Black Star still had a few copies left in the late nineties. It has been very astonishing when people – after buying „Volcano Revisited“ – have told how important that little book was back then, „… telling it like it is …“ in that crucial phase of Jamaican music.

Why have you decided to do a reissue 27 years later?

Graphic designer Petri Aarnio suggested that the old „Cool Runnings“ magazines should be published as a book, he liked both the writings and the outlooks of the old fanzines. „Cool Runnings“ was in size A5 but the originals were twice as big, in fact a bunch of A3 originals. Scanning and printing the originals would make a nice book, said Petri. The book was published in 2008, with my introduction and a few colour enhancements. Quite a tome, almost 500 pages, all in Finnish of course.

Then Petri said the out of print „Reggae Inna Dancehall Style“ book should have a facelift, too. The stories and photos were nice, but the graphic design out of date. Well, okay, I said, but then we should check out all the material we have, and publish a totally new edition. I had Tero’s Black Star ’archives at home, and so I listened through all the interviews we had conducted in 1983. And scanned all the 700 photos to see what it was all about. And the dozen or so Sassa posters, which had been decorating the Black Star shop for many years.

Tero Kaski, Burro & El Feggo Bacca at Volcano HQ
Tero Kaski, Burro & El Feggo Bacca at Volcano HQ

„Volcano Revisited“ has been extended from 96 to 206 pages. Are there any more unreleased stories and interviews left from your trip to Jamaica?

Graphic designer Janina Åberg, who did the actual layout work, had quite a lot of photos where to make her choices on, alternative frames etc. I think she picked the right ones, so there’s not enough material for a second book or so. What I have in mind is perhaps a photo exhibition where the best shots could get a porper presentation in a larger scale. Back then in the mid 80’s we already had a poster of Charlie Chaplin, which was very nice. But that’s just a thought at the moment.

For the „Cool Runnings 1980-85“ book I translated the rare Jackie Mittoo interview which had been unpublished. And there’s also a couple of things which appear now for the first time, like Jah Stitch, Reggae George, Pablove Black and Bagga Walker stories. Now all the interviews are published.

What i like about „Volcano Revisited“ is that it is totally different from all the other books i have read so far. It looks like a book sized magazine and even the stories are different. Other authors like David Katz add interviews to their stories, you made the interviews the stories.

We had interviewed many artists for the „Cool Runnings“ magazines and had our own style. Tero asked the questions while I was taking photos. At the same time I suggested new lines of questioning in Finnish. But some photos are by Tero, for instance Josey Wales didn’t want anybody else around when interviewed by Tero. Some interviews are by me, when Tero was not around, for instance King Tubby and Hopeton Lindo. True combination style!

We didn’t like any „besserwisserisms“, Jamaican artists use their own language and imagery – if you ask the right questions in a proper way. That’s the tough part. Jamaican language is wonderful as such. Finnish is very straightforward language, pronounced as written, so writing Jamaican patois as it’s spoken was natural to us. And all the time we were „on the skin“, no need for binoculars!

Tapsa, Tero, Bunny Tom Tom and Roy Cousins at Channel One
Tapsa, Tero, Bunny Tom Tom & Roy Cousins at Channel One

A lot of things have changed in reggae and dancehall since 1983. Do you pursue the development, still?

Yes, I have far too many Jamaican recordings – and the amount is still growing. Unfortunately I like all kind of Jamaican music, be it mento, ska, rock steady, dub, roots, even digital dancehall of the early nineties! Yesterday I was listening to Richie Spice’s new album. I have also too many dvd’s: documents, concerts, dancehall performances. Luckily I also have other musical interests, especially bel anto operas from early 19th century: Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini. That’s dancehall Italian style!

Is there any producer or sound system you would like to choose for a sequel of „Volcano Revisited“?

In „Volcano Revisited“ we have a nice appendix of Volcano sound system tapes from the period, courtesy of Jayman and Andrew Lee (Who Cork the Dance). The true story of Jamaican music is not told until the history of sound systems is written. The only way to write it is to use sound system tapes. I really hope Jayman and Andrew had the time to publish their collection of sound tapes as a book covering the development of Jamaican sound systems.

King Tubby should have a proper biography published. Maybe not too many facts of his life are known, and maybe not too many photos exist, but a whole heap of recordings where Tubby laid his fingers on circulate. Maybe it’s a mission impossible, but hopefully there’s a dub freak out there collecting facts and checking matrix numbers. Tubby was the nicest man ever, and brutally murdered for nothing.

Let’s talk about the Finnish reggae scene. Who are the most important people like soundsystems, artists, producers?

We have a lively reggae scene in Finland. I asked Pekka Eronen – the publisher of „Volcano Revisited“ and the owner of the best reggae shop in Finland – to answer this question. These are his names to watch:

  • Studio Red, Mikko Rossi (musician/sound engineer/producer)
  • Polarsoul Antti (dj and mixer)
  • Komposti (sound system), Bongo Rhino & Enrico (operators)
  • Intergalactik (sound system, record label)
  • Juurihoito (digital roots)
  • BommiTommi Tikkanen & Ylivoima (studio & band), Raappana,
  • JukkaPoika (artists)
  • Kaikukasti (roots band from Turku)
  • Timi Valo alias Lightman (reggae instrumentals)
  • Puppa J & Tasottavat (reggae band)
  • The Levitators (reggae band)
  • The Valkyrians (reggae band)

Thank you very much for the interview and your works, Pekka.

Some more pictures from the past

Tero Kaski
Tero Kaski
Pekka Vuorinen & Likkle B
Pekka Vuorinen & Likkle B
Tero Kaski, Henry Junjo Lawes and Barrington Levy
Tero Kaski, Henry Junjo Lawes and Barrington Levy
Cool Runnings magazine / Winter 1983

Cool Runnings magazine / Winter 1983

Nils. Ohne E. Mit Hut.
Reggae Vinyl Liebhaber, Sound System Enthusiast, digital interessiert, freier Autor beim Riddim Magazin. Musiktipps immer gern an: nils(at)houseofreggae(dot)de

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