From the late sixties onwards Jukka Gustavson has been one of the most significant personalities in the Finnish rock scene. As a member of Wigwam’s early line-up he was, perhaps, the group's most important and innovative force. After leaving Wigwam in June 1974, Gustavson got seriously involved with religion and has since pursued a career as a solo artist as well as worked with a group called Sahti.
Born 17 October 1951 in Kallbäck, Sipoo, Gustavson had piano lessons from an early age. He would often find himself sitting at his parent’s piano at home, trying to copy the music he was listening to on the radio.
In 1966 he joined his first band, called Hollymakers. He borrowed an electric piano for the audition and was straight away accepted as a member. With some financial support from his parents, Jukka subsequently purchased his own first electrical instrument, an Italian Farfisa organ.
In the autumn of 1966, after several line-up changes, Hollymakers changed their name to TOJ Limited. Around that same time Gustavson saw The Spencer Davis Group perform in Helsinki. He was strongly impressed by singer/keyboard player Stevie Winwood, and shortly after the stage repertoire of TOJ Limited was augmented by several Winwood compositions. In the autumn of 1967 the band’s drummer was drafted for National Service, and the group split up.
By that time a new line-up of another band, The Roosters, were formed around drummer Raikka Rautarinne and guitarist Nikke Nikamo, who enticed Gustavson to join as well. The Roosters were very much ahead of their time, playing a style of music that others would only pick up on several years later. Whilst in the group, Gustavson started writing his own music. Among these early songs was the composition ‘Luulosairas’, which the Roosters would perform live at gigs. Otherwise their repertoire consisted mainly of songs by Traffic.
The Roosters broke up in the autumn of 1968, but before the year was over Rautarinne had formed another band. Apart from himself and Gustavson the group consisted of Hannu Vihunen (bass) and Reijo Karvonen (guitar). The Roosters and Wigwam were promoted by the same company (New Joys Productions), and during the spring of 1969 the two bands found themselves touring Northern Finland together. It was in the aftermath of this tour that Gustavson was asked to join Wigwam.
Internal differences eventually caused Gustavson to leave Wigwam in June 1974. Following this, he worked for a few months as a mail man whilst trying to continue composing. This proved too much of a task and he decided to go back to concentrating on the music. He had already commenced work on a major composition, intended to follow up some of the ideas he had utilised on the two Wigwam albums ‘Fairyport’ and ‘Being’.
During the winter of 1975 a group of dancers from the National Finnish Opera House made contact with Gustavson and Pekka Pohjola. The intention was to make a modern ballet, and the dancers needed someone to write the music. Pohjola didn’t have the time, but Gustavson soon started working determinedly on the project. In February 1975 preliminary discussions around the project were held, and soon after Gustavson formed a band to perform his new material. The line-up consisted of Gustavson (keyboards), Pekka Pöyry (saxophone/flute), Esa Kotilainen (keyboards), Heikki Virtanen (bass), Tomi Parkkonen (drums), and Juha Björninen (guitar). Gustavson wrote the libretto for the ballet and started work on the remaining music in May 1975. In August a demo tape was finished for the dancers to rehearse to. It turned out that Jukka Gustavson had become very pressed for time, and the music for the second part of the ballet had to be written in only three days.
The ballet, titled ‘Yksin Yhdessä’ (‘Alone Together’), was premiered on 5 October 1975. In total, it was performed thirty times. Due to financial circumstances the team couldn’t travel much outside of Helsinki, so only four shows were performed outside the capital. The second part of the show (which did not feature music by Jukka Gustavson) included themes by Mozart and Bach, Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, Stevie Winwood’s ‘Do Yourself a Favour’, and Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin' In The Wind’.
Gustavson furthermore did some gigs with the ‘Yksin Yhdessä’ group, as well as with a straight touring band, who played a string of ‘Dylan Evenings’, where Gustavson’s version of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ received some positive reviews. The ‘Yksin Yhdessä’ group, augmented with a huge woodwind orchestra, also made a studio recording of the first part of the ballet. This was done in two stages, during April and May 1976, and from April into July 1977. This, the first of Jukka Gustavson’s solo albums, was titled ... Jaloa Ylpeyttä Yletän ... Ylevää Nöyryyttä Nousen ... (in translation: ... Pride is an exalted purchase ... humility is the lever sublime ...), and finally got released in the spring of 1978.
The album, which is constructed around themes from the Old Testament, expresses Gustavson’s firm religious believes. It aims to describe through instrumental music the Creation, the Fall and finally the appearance of the arch angel St. Michael to save all of mankind. The outstanding artwork for the sleeve is by Alpo Vanninen after Gustavson’s instructions. With the album comes a booklet in which the composer explains each part of the work and the parts played by each instrument. Gustavson's original intention had been to include a 50 page book, but Love Records rejected the idea because of the expenses involved, and because they didn’t see it as their job to promote the philosophy of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Consequently, Gustavson had 100 copies of the book printed at his own expense and sent it out as a free bonus on special order to fans showing an interest.
In 1975 Gustavson received a one-year grant from the Finnish Arts Council, which enabled him to concentrate on his music and involve himself in the aforementioned long-term enterprise. The result was a truly ambitious album, which unfortunately remains vastly unnoticed. Around Christmas 1977 Gustavson was playing with a group formed by bass player Harri Vainikka. After eighteen months with no public appearances they started gigging under the name Sahti. Apart from Vainikka and Gustavson the group consisted of Pekka Hedkrok (keyboards), Pekka Nylund (guitar), and Pekka Suvanto (drums). Sahti aimed to create music of ‘absolute beauty’ and all their compositions were written collectively. However, gigs were few and far between and mostly unpaid charity events.
Unable to make ends meet Gustavson had to start working as a cleaner at a post office. Finnish record companies showed no interest Sahti, who couldn’t even afford to make a demo tape. Fortunately, the group were invited to do some recordings for Finnish national radio, and a series of fine compositions by Gustavson, Hedkrok and Nylund were thus broadcast. During the autumn of 1980, Sahti performed two farewell gigs in Kaivopuisto and Tavastia Club. The latter included a blues classic, ‘Need Your Love So bad’, which was shortly after released on the album Tavastia Live.
In October 1978 another experimental ballet with music by Gustavson was premiered. Titled Valon Vuoksi [For The Light], it was once again recorded during two long studio sessions, in September-October 1978, and during March-April 1979. For the first time Gustavson used the same work procedures as a classical composer. On the LP resulting from these sessions he was backed by Tim Ferchen (percussion), Pekka Suvanto (drums and percussion), Gunnar Laus (alto flute), Panu Autere (oboe), Pentti Mikkonen and Seppo Ristolainen (both viola), and Risto Fredriksson (cello). The choreographer was Leena Gustavson (Jukka’s wife). For a while Gustavson had been attending concerts by a band called Kosmopojat and a string quartet led by Ismo Laakso, performing modern, improvised music by Laakso.
In the spring of 1981, Gustavson released his third solo album titled Toden Toistoa (The Repetition of the Truth). During the work he was once again facing grave financial difficulties and had to turn to relatives in order to finish the LP. He also received a grant of 7,000 Marks from the Georg Malmsten Foundation.
The album was recorded in September and October 1980 at Photosonic Studios in Helsinki. It consisted of Gustavson’s own songs performed in Finnish. The backing musicians were the familiar Sahti members Suvanto, Vainikka and Nylund. Also appearing were Tim Ferchen (vibraphone, marimba) and Seppo Tyni (solo guitar on one track). The style was closer to rock than the two preceding albums. Unfortunately, this excellent record did not reach a broader audience, either.