Putting his faith in the natural world around him, Deeper Tales, sees Above & Beyond’s Paavo Siljamäki reconnect with the dance floor, and himself, for his debut solo album under his P.O.S alias.
“I know what it's like to feel this pressure of where you’ve ended up in life. Are you satisfied? Are you happy? I really know what that pressure, and confusion, feel like. But we evolve as people all the time; throughout our lives, we should go through reinventing ourselves. I would also say that most artists feel like there comes a point where they re-question everything.
“I had a burnout, basically. I just couldn't see what I wanted to do. And after my burnout, I was like: what is dance music to me? I don't really know even if I like it. I've heard – I’ve written – too many build-ups! So I thought: that's me done.
“But after a while, I realised: Maybe I just needed to stop trying to do something and let nature help me to find myself again.”
So says Paavo Siljamäki at the top of ’23 as he prepares to launch solo project P.O.S. and debut album Deeper Tales: a deep dance project that’s separate from, but complementary to, his day-job. In fact, a handful of the tracks were premiered during Above & Beyond’s set at #ABGT500 Weekender in Los Angeles in October.
It is, too, world music in the truest sense – round-the-world music, in fact, dreamt up by the musician as he’s pursued a new life: at sea.
The writer/producer/DJ is one third of ground-breaking, record-breaking British dance institution Above & Beyond, founders of London based label Anjunabeats. The “mothership”, as the Finnish musician describes it, encompasses the OG band itself, a suite of labels, management and publishing, event management and production, and a roster of artists operating across multiple iterations of electronic music.
But for all the achievements of A&B – from two GRAMMY nominations for their studio albums, to their own curated festivals, to landmark shows at some of the world’s most prestigious venues, including the Royal Albert Hall, Sydney Opera House and the Hollywood Bowl – Paavo found himself hitting his early forties and hitting a wall.
Certainly, Covid didn’t help. Not only was Paavo the first in their circle to catch coronavirus, in March 2020, resulting in a five-week isolation in London followed by a five-month retreat in Finland – this has been followed by four other bouts of the disease.
In no particular order: his personal life was coming undone. He was wrestling with his sexuality and the shades therein. There were creative and artistic frustrations. There were dark thoughts that were plunging him to rock bottom.
“That’s why the Deeper Tales album art is a rock that's broken,” he explains. “I had a total mental breakdown and wasn't happy with work. It was a full-on midlife crisis.I felt like I had this pressure, and it would burst. But what's ultimately come out is a happier man. Better music. Better art. And that’s why, growing out of that broken rock, are colourful flowers.”
To achieve that breakthrough, change was needed. Partly that was about re-immersing himself in the club culture that had first caught his imagination as a 15-year-old rave kid, and which was one of the reasons for him originally leaving Finland to study in London.
“I’m a clubber,” he states, grinning, “it’s part of my core identity.”
But more drastic action was also needed. Recuperating at home in Finland in the second half of 2020, Paavo rediscovered a childhood passion: sailing.
“When you realise that we're not around forever, it frees you to think: fuck, if I was dreaming of doing something, what am i waiting for? Why not just do it,” he expands. “That's part of this whole thing that has led to Deeper Tales. It's important for me to be creative. Having gone through this experience, I wondered: what do I need to be happy?”
Building himself a nomad studio that can travel with him to the boat, hotel room, wherever he goes, Paavo began following his dream, letting those flowers of creativity bloom. “It’s a real go-everywhere boat, and a really amazing home for me and my girlfriend. And with the studio that works even here, I can make music anywhere.”
“It's literally me bringing this nature into inspiration for music. One of the things that I realised with weather, being a sailor, is how it's ever-changing and really powerful. So I called the track ‘Thunder and Sunshine’ because I wanted it to have the same dynamic feeling like I get from nature.”
Creation, curation, collaboration: it all speaks to the wide-open horizons that Paavo has created for himself in his personal and professional lives.
“There's no feeling of freedom like being at sea,” he says. “When I'm sailing, I synchronise with the sunrise and sunset – we almost always get up at sunrise. So this is like being really aligned with nature. I found that, after my burnout, and Covid, I really found myself in nature. There's something about being closer with nature that is really healing – and very inspiring.”
At sea, at peace, at one with himself: P.O.S. and Deeper Tales are the sound of Paavo Olavi Siljamäki, at last, riding his own wave.