[Interview] Exclusive interview with Santtu Laakso from Astral Magic

Dear readers, it is our pleasure to offer you in this article an interview with Santtu Laakso, creator of the Astral Magic project.

Hello, how are you?

I’m fine, thank you! I’ve been taking some time off from writing and recording music since I have too many albums ready for release already (like 6 or 8)! Well I just had to make one new piece yesterday for a compilation album on Institute for Alien Research. A couple of 7” lathe-cut singles coming out soon, only 50 copies each. All good in general.

Your new project is called Astral Magic, what does it mean?

The name of the project comes from an old Dark Sun song I wrote 30 years ago. It’s all about sci-fi, space, astral travelling, magic, mind-expanding…

The sound mixes Psychedelia, Space Rock and Krautrock, where does your passion for these sounds come from?

I’ve been digging this kind of stuff for over 30 years now. Also (old) progressive rock, hard rock, (old) metal etc. even for longer. I enjoy the feeling of supernatural, out-of-this-world experience, blowing my mind vibe, trance and escapism this kind of music often offers. In addition to those styles you mentioned, I also make some experimental, electronic and cosmic ambient music.

You are a very prolific artist, with several releases in 2023, how would you describe the new album “Sacred Mysteries”?

Yes, I think I have about 40 releases out since starting this in 2021… First of all, I always work on several releases simultaneously. It keeps things fresh and more interesting for me. Another reason is that I use lots of parts from my international musician friends and some of them are not always as fast as I am to record and send their stuff, so I’ll have to wait… Anyway, the basic tracks for this album were mostly recorded in 2021 by myself. Most of the stuff on the album is just me. Anton Barbeau from California (he partly also
lives in Berlin) recorded guitars for two tracks long ago, but then I waited for guitars for one track for over a year from a Finnish guitarist but they never arrived so I played the guitars for the song myself and asked for some saxophone tracks from Taavi Heikkilä (Malady). For some reason, my music almost always gets compared to Hawkwind. No wonder, because they are my favourite band! So I guess Sacred Mysteries is a space rock album, but not that heavy space rock stuff. More like melodic, progressive and moody space rock
with some experimental, ambient touch. The mysterious cover art (drawings my by friend Eetu Pellonpää, graphic design by the very talented Andy Wainwright) express the music perfectly.

Both the music and the lyrics are very intense, what themes do they deal with?

Mystical, magical themes, mind-expansion, extraterrestial beings, lost civilizations…

Several artists are participating in the album, what did they bring to the sound?

Since I don’t really consider myself a guitarist (only bought my first electric guitar for this project about three years ago!) it is always good to have more talented players on my releases. Anton Barbeau is a rather prolific multi-instrumentalist sort of like me but just a lot better, so it was great to get him onboard. We’ve been in touch for years but never actually met in real life. He also played on one track on my even more progressive LP Magical Kingdom (Tonzonen Records 2022). I love his style, so I’m happy! I also love sax
so it was great that Taavi from the great Finnish prog band Malady (Svart Records) found time to record his saxophone tracks to the song “Phases” that is one of the best pieces on the album. They give it a bit more jazzy, soulful vibe, I think

You were a member of the band Dark Sun, how does the sound differ from that project?

Well, it was a full band with sometimes as many as seven or even eight members and Astral Magic is more like my studio solo project. In Dark Sun we had also other people writing the music and we did the arrangements as a band. That of course makes the sound differ a bit from the Astral Magic stuff but I’d say the music is still quite similar since my taste in music has not really chenged that much in 30 years. Sad, maybe, but I just don’t enjoy most of the modern fast-food music!

Yours is a solo project, will there be a chance to hear your music live?

This is a question I often get asked… There are two main problems. First of all, I’ve sort of had enough of the “living on the road” thing with Dark Sun. It’s not very glamorous when you are in a small, poor band… Quite stressful and hard, I might be too old for it. I also have a full-time job and family to take care of. Secondly, the other musicians on my albums live in UK, USA, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Russia etc. so it would cost a million to get them together for a tour or something. There have been some talk about doing
some local gigs with the members of the Finnish space/freak rock band Kultti-25 that I have recorded two Astral Magic singles with in their analog studio, so let’s see…

Music is constantly evolving, how do you see the music scene today and in the future?

Like I said, I don’t really care for a lot of modern music. It’s also very sad that (young) people don’t really buy music anymore, they consider it as something to consume for free online. There are lots of great new bands in the psych/space/kraut/prog rock scene, luckily. I still buy quite a lot of limited vinyl editions by these bands but the price of vinyl production is also going up all the time which is very bad. It’s almost impossible to get record deals with the struggling underground labels which is so sad. You have to have
good connections, but even that might not be enough. With ALL prices going up like food and electricity people also have even less money to buy stuff. So in general, it does not look that good. But, we should NEVER give up and must just try even harder to do the thing we all love and support the artists and labels we like! New ways to collaborate and fight the big companies and money-driven mainstream media must be invented.

What advice would you give to young artists approaching music with more elaborate sounds like yours?

First of all, don’t do it for money and fame, it will not happen… Only do it if you really love it and live for it. Make sure your income comes from something else, you are bound to just loose money. Having said that, be active and push your music to all channels you can, get connections, always be friendly and positive, but realistic about your options and possibilities. Be creative and enjoy what you are doing, or stop and think of other ways to express yourself.

Do you have other passions or artistic projects besides music?

Not really artistic projects, but I’m deeply interested in pre-history of humankind, lost civilizations, space, aliens, other dimensions, consciousness, nature, sci-fi, science, supernatural, mysticism, magic etc. Besides making music, I also dj as Dj Astro, but not that often nowadays.

I thank Santtu for the interview and wish him all the best for the continuation of his artistic career.

Thanks a lot for the great questions, most appreciated! I hope that the readers might get interested in my music and check it out on Bandcamp and maybe even buy a download, CD or LP. We small artists need all the support we can get so we can carry on releasing stuff! All my music is also available on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes etc. I’m always interested in doing collaborations with different artists, poets, producers, writers and labels as well as talking with fans so don’t hesitate to take contact if you have something in mind! All Peace to You, Galactic Brothers and Sisters.

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Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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