Interview With Finland’s Kepa Lehtinen

Finland’s Kepa Lehtinen has quickly become one of the most intriguing figures in modern classical/electronic music. He writes compelling and soulful new works for piano, double bass, and theremin, the touchless electronic instrument that became one of the most unique sounds invented in the 20th Century. The pieces are incredibly powerful, stark, and otherworldly, possessing a character and musicality that’s not been heard before.

 His latest release is It Is Ok to Be Sad and Dark, a collection of new instrumentals that spotlight Lehtinen’s theremin skills and compositional brilliance. I was able to catch up with Kepa for a chat recently and he shed some light on the new record and how he balances himself between his solo efforts and his work as a film composer. Here’s an excerpt: 

What inspired your new release It Is Ok to Be Sad and Dark?

These are the feelings of winter with no snow here in Helsinki. 

How did you compose the pieces on the record?

I play piano, whatever comes to my mind. Most of it is boring and old but sometimes I find out I have played a gem. Then, I take it and make it better.

What’s the central emotional truth behind these new pieces?

Feelings like sadness or joy are not good or bad, they are just feelings. They come and they go. They are part of everyone’s life.

What drew you to the theremin?

For me (like for so many thereminists), it was to hear Clara Rockmore’s playing,

Do you use the theremin in your film work?

Very little. Using theremin is strong statement.

Does your music have any underlying messages in it?

Strong melodies over anything else.

Is music political? Should it be?

I have been on some political projects, including “I Have Only Just Begun,” a song for gay rights in Russia. It made Boy George cry and Madonna said it is something Putin should hear.  

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your musical life?

Yep. I had my first net live set (with theremin) on jammerdirect. 

What have you been listening to lately?

Placebo, Sakamoto, and Bon Jovi to make me feel good. 

What comes next for you?

This. My solo project (classical electronic) is surely my number one priority. m