How does one pair sermons on feeding the body of Christ to pigs with the sublime harmonies of revival hymns? In the universe created by Lauri Ainala, devotion and blasphemy come together like old friends. Known as one of the key members of the mysterious experimental forest folk entity called Paavoharju, Lauri Ainala’s latest work “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” is a haunting soundscape of disintegrating hymns and bleak drones.

I remember the first time I saw Paavoharju play in the attic of an old wooden house in Savonlinna in 2005. The band seemed to be channeling music from another world, and somewhere in the corner of the stage Jenni was singing like some strange bird of paradise. I was mesmerised by the band, and reading through their interviews Paavoharju became interweaved in a mythical world in my mind – a world of abandoned buildings, forest folk, born again Christians and revival hymns.

“Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” consists of field recordings made by Lauri Ainala at the Saari Orphanage revival meeting (Saaren Orpokotijuhlat), the annual religious meeting of a Christian revivalist movement called Uukuniemeläisyys, named after the town of Uukuniemi in South-Eastern Finland by the Russian border. One of the key figures of the Uukuniemeläisyys revival movement was Helena Konttinen (1871–1916), known as a “hibernation preacher” due to her sinking into a state of slumber, where she would receive apocalyptic visions and gain clairvoyant abilities.

In this interview made in January 2017, Lauri Ainala shares his thoughts on hymns, faith and blasphemy. Hymns are infused with memories of childhood, celebrations and funerals. Their sorrowful tones are embroidered with memories of a time when the only solace for the people was the thought of salvation in the afterlife. Maybe that’s why in all it’s otherworldliness Paavoharju’s and Lauri Ainala’s music has always felt like coming home.

This interview is an abridged version originally published in Finnish in print in Sudenmarja Zine I and in the insert included with the box set version of Sudenmarja’s 2017 cassette release of Lauri Ainala and Olli Aarni’s live performance of “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” at Maagillinen Teatteri free festival in Tampere in September 2016. Svart Records also released Lauri Ainala’s original solo work “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” in late 2016. A book covering the early days of Paavoharju called “Tuote”, edited by Lauri Ainala, is out May 5 on Svart Records along with the CD/LP compilation “Unohdetaan jo se taivas” featuring early recordings by Paavoharju and Joose Keskitalo. Paavoharju is playing a one-off tribute live show at Korjaamo, Helsinki on May 9, 2018.

The material on “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” is pieced together from recordings you’ve made at Saari Orphanage revival meeting. Tell us something about the background of this project – when were the recordings done and why did you want to make a work about the Orphanage revival meeting?

“I’ve had this thought about making virsiambient or “hymn ambient” for fifteen years. The first experiment on the subject can be heard on the track “On yhä hämärää” on Paavoharju’s “Yhä hämärää” album. Already back then I was thinking about making an ambient record based on hymns. The Saari Orphanage revival meeting has such a strong connection to my childhood, youth and the history of my family that choosing a time and location was easy.

“I recorded the raw material on “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” at the 2015 meeting, where I was camping and boozing up with Revon Akan Poika. After I returned from the meeting, I started to go through the material, and in a couple of weeks from there I started to peel the “songs” forth.”


The Saari Orphanage meeting has a strong connection with a revivalist movement called Uukuniemeläisyys. What kind of relationship do you have with Uukuniemeläisyys?

“My father’s family is from Uukuniemi and his mother had been to the first Orphanage revival meeting at it’s original location at an orphanage (now on the Russian side of the border, ed. note). My parents didn’t feel they were part of any particular movement, going to the Orphanage meeting was more like an annual custom. The meeting preached a simple message of mercy which fit well with my parents’ beliefs. In my childhood we also often visited Herättäjäjuhlat, the revival meeting of the Awakened – that is, the devotional summer meeting of the Körtti revival movement.”


The guy who reviewed your album “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” on Svart Record’s on the Metalliluola forum said he felt worried for the children of the Uukuniemeläisyys movement after he listened to the record! You have been going to the Orphanage meeting with your family since you were a child – what kind of memories do you have, how did it appear to you as a child?

“Great memories of summer’s end. Though when it rained, it was quite boring, because you could only stay under a shelter listening to old grandpas and grandmas singing hymns. It was a safe atmosphere, and the program unfortunately didn’t include any horror or hibernation sermons.”

“Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” reminds me of Leyland Kirby’s work under his The Caretaker moniker where he deals with themes of disappearance and decomposition of memories and cultural objects. “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” is a sort of document of the Saari Orphanage meeting, but at the same time the frail and blurred soundscapes on the record remind me of a memory fading into oblivion. Did you want to create this kind of image of evanescence? In these times of shallow individualism and consumer culture it seems that communal traditions are fast dissolving – do you think we lose something important if traditions like the Orphanage meeting cease to exist, or are they only relics of the past better left to wither away?

“Yes, I did want to create this sort of image. The soundscapes represent my memories from the meeting and of the faith offered at the meeting. They also describe my current relationship with faith better than any words could.

“I wouldn’t say these traditions should wither away, but I think it’s just what is happening. I don’t see myself returning to the meeting in a spiritual sense, even though I hope I would. Hopefully communal traditions will continue to form in the future as well. A few years ago I started a community called Savonlinnan Palvojat (“Worshippers of Savonlinna”), and I hope to see it thrive.”


A lot of the material on “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” consists of chanting hymns, and hymns of Zion are often cited as an influence on the works of Paavoharju. What is it about hymns that touches you? Of course, chanting hymns is an essential part of Christian sermons – does music or making music have some spiritual aspect for you?

“The sound of hymns has been imprinted in my consciousness since childhood, so it would be strange if they had no meaning for me. Many hymns also have these amazing lyrics which nowadays stir conflicting emotions in me – which is great. The spiritual aspect is strongly connected with memories and the subconscious, so I don’t think I will ever be rid of it.”

I find the albums by Paavoharju as well as your work “Orpokotijuhlat Saarella” beautiful and at times even devotional, but for example the visual esthetic you use on videos or Paavoharju’s style of communicating on social media often has a sort of grotesque or even macabre imagery and humour to it. I just read “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” by José Saramago, a fictive biography of Jesus which is also at times a quite grotesque and fleshly account of the life of Christ, sometimes in stark contrast with the teachings of the Bible.

In essence being a Christian means following Christ, and if you think about the life of Jesus, there are a lot elements which are repugnant and unpleasant. However modern imagery of Christ tends to be quite clean and gentle. Do you feel the image of Christianity and Christ offered by the modern church is too polished? Is the combination of the mundane and grotesque with religious devotion in your work meant as an act of blasphemy or do you think holiness can also be found from what at surface seems ugly and repulsive?

“I’m not really bothered by the image offered by the church, but the record is still blasphemous. However, it is also a kind of praise, and a piece of shit in a soup served to protest amongst others passivity, the box houses of the box man, urban culture of rich youth, Kirkko ja Kaupunki newspaper (newspaper of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, ed. note), moving away from Savonlinna, blatant consumerism, money worship, spiritual whoring and Pentecostalism. I have found much peace in a dark and desolate shack. By the way, Joose (singer Joose Keskitalo, ed. note) used to have a poster on the wall of his craphouse with the words “Even here God hears your prayers”. Also the Holy Fools-for-Christ are revered in the Orthodox church!

“”A Fool-for-Christ mocks the world through the methods of inner freedom, virtue, play and laughter. He questions all attempts to reduce Christian life to exemplars of chastity and conventional morality. The fool’s ridicule is also aimed at legalism, anything that seeks to transform Christianity into rules and laws.”

“I believe you can be a Fool-for-Christ even if you don’t believe it.”


In an interview by Parikkalan-Rautjärven Sanomat local newspaper you said you left the church some years ago, and that “from some point of view the music on the record is anti-Christian”. How is it anti-Christian? Why did you decide to leave the church – have you given up faith entirely (if you ever were in the faith at all) or did you just feel the interpretation of Christianity offered by the church was not for you?

“I’ve left the church twice. I’ve never given up faith, but I don’t feel like I am in the faith either. On the other hand, the book “Kallis hunajan pisara Kristus-kalliosta” says: “You say that you cannot believe, you cannot repent. – If you have nothing but sin and wickedness, the better suited you are for Christ. Go to Christ with all your unrepentance and disbelief to find faith and repentance in Him, for it is blissful.” Chaos has always fascinated me, whether I was in the faith or not.

“Apparently many people have found the soundscapes of the work to be distressing or scary. The record does not preach the Christian message of a resurrected Saviour. On some gigs the elements which could be construed as anti-Christian have been more present in the sermons of Jesus of Arimathea. Those sermons deal with rape, murder and feeding the body of Christ to pigs. I would still say that the record is much more Christian than the hymn albums by Samuli Edelmann (Finnish actor and pop singer, ed. note), which are shit spawned in the depths of the abyss.”

Helena Konttinen (1871–1916) was one of the key figure of the Uukuniemeläisyys revival movement. I was reading a Christian internet forum where on the one hand Konttinen was seen to be somewhat “shady, obscure and dangerous” and on the other hand she was considered a true prophet of the Lord. What do you make of Konttinen and the visions or sermons she received during her so-called hibernations?

“Well, it’s true that from a modern point of view many of Helena’s visions come out as the ramblings of a psychotic person. However, things that are scary in a shady but original way are always to my liking. As far as I know the predictions laid out in her prophecies have not come true, so in that sense you could say they were false prophecies. But does it really matter? I also recommend reading Helena’s speeches, as well as the book of Mormon, Vartiotorni magazine (religious magazine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, ed. note) and Genuine Nebula’s livejournal.

“In the speeches held at the Saari Orphanage meeting today Helena Konttinen is mostly seen as a historical figure who had an impact in the birth of the revival movement. She is appreciated and remembered at the meetings, and her grave, located at Uukuniemi, is visited, but Helena’s teachings and prophecies are not given much of an emphasis these days.”


Judging by K. K. Sarlin’s book on Helena Konttinen, “Eräs meidän ajan profeetta” (“A Prophet of Our Time”), it seems that Konttinen’s sermons also had quite a strong apocalyptic note to them. In these times one cannot help but ask, do you believe we are living in the end times – whether it be a biblical last judgment, a more concrete collapse caused by man or natural catastrophe or a metaforical ending of a spiritual era?

“No, I don’t think so.”

Pauli Samuli Huttunen

Writer and Visual Artist at Sudenmarja.
To bring to light the hidden things of darkness.