Gruth is the artistic project of Juha Puuperä, a Finn who has spent considerable time in London, Berlin and Brazil, where he has lived for the past 2 years. Following his first vinyl EP Futile Demise on the Brazilian label Tormenta Electrica, his next release Laments, which comes out on a limited edition cassette in the end of July on the same label, takes a different path that forms a part of his sleep concert concept, which he’ll explain in-depth in this interview.
Hi Juha, first tell us about the concept behind Gruth.
Gruth is my humble attempt at a multidisciplinary art project to express the darker side of myself and my feelings such as hate, pain, suffering and grief. It's both a form of therapy and a coping mechanism, while it is also an attempt to create something new and unique, to try to experiment with things and discover new grounds in music, as well as other forms of art. With the project, I write different types of music and do ritualistic DJ performances where I collaborate with other artists in clubs and live venues. Currently, I’m editing a video which I shot in Paraty and Trindade with my Brazilian artist friend and ex-flatmate Volatille Ferreira for a track that’s coming out on my second vinyl EP later this year on Tormenta Electrica. I’m also working on a sleep concert concept and hope to start hosting some around Brazil in the near future.
Tell us more about the club rituals - how did it all happen?
The club appearances in São Paulo took a different turn from the earlier DJ sets when my friend and ex-flatmate, Elsiane Monstra, taking inspiration from my concept and sound, joined the dancefloor during one of my gigs and started doing an improvised performance wearing a self-made black cape with dirt covering his face and arms. My Gruth DJ sets always began with non-dancefloor music to create a sense of mystery and proceed in a ritualistic fashion into more alternative dark techno sounds. Since he joined in with the performance, we started to do this regularly and it became a fuller, more accomplished improvisational joint performance. Now, after a few years, we are also doing strictly experimental performances of up to 45 minutes of length, consisting only of a selection of music ranging from ritual ambient to industrial to power electronics to noise to avant-garde to modern classical music; anything that fits the mindset of the project.
How do these club appearances fit in with your own music?
Even though my own music is perhaps less focused on the club music side of things, I have 12 years of experience playing in clubs. In my DJ appearances, I love to blend a more unexpected and wild selection of music with more functional, but still alternative, underground dance music. Recently, I performed with local artists Ramon Ortiz and Carol Mendes in the Porto Alegre concert venue Bar Opinião to a bigger crowd than I am normally used to playing here since the settings are generally more intimate. Somehow, all of my music always ends up having this ritualistic quality and the club appearances with the ritual performances suit this. I also see art and music very much as a collaborative effort, so it feels natural to do things with other artists and those involved in other art forms.
How about the sleep concert concept you mentioned? What is that exactly?
The Gruth sleep concert concept is naturally inspired by Robert Rich and his original sleep concerts that took place back in the 80s. The idea is to host a concert in a similar fashion and invite the audience to sleep overnight as music is played. However, this is no live performance; after my 15 years of DJing, I am fascinated by the idea of a sleep concert as a kind of an anti-rave DJ set. I ended up doing the first one spontaneously at Insomnia Festival (Tromsø, Norway) in 2014 in an intimate setting for a small crowd. Since then I have been developing the concept further and getting deeper into pondering whether or how it is possible to control the human mind in a state of sleep with sound. I also consider the space where these concerts will take place and how it affects the experience. It interests me how such a personal and subjective thing as sleep can become a collective experience in the same way as the usual 'ritual' of the dancefloor dance music set. Among other things, I’ve been sporadically planning the concept further and now my intention is to start hosting these concerts in different cultural/ art spaces around Brazil.
How do you see this project evolving in the future?
My regular artistic collaborator KuJo does research into the interaction between sound and the brain, thus combining both science and art into her practice. I can see my sleep concert concept mixing with her work in the future; that is, studying sound from a scientific perspective as a physical, psychological and social phenomena and picking the musical selection for the concert based on this research. Currently, however, I’m more occupied by the Gruth concept, which is more focused on trying to study the darker side of human psyche; therefore, the intent is to host sleep concerts that hopefully have the potential to induce nightmares.
Elsiane Monstra, during an improvised ritual performance.
Would you say this sleep concert concept has inspired your music in any way and/or the way you approach composition?
For me, all of this is interconnected. The two pieces on the Laments cassette, which comes out on the 31st of July on Tormenta Electrica, came about as I wanted to write original music that I could be included in the sleep concerts. I set out to compose pieces that are meant for listening when taking a nap or going to sleep, or at least listening with eyes closed, without any visual distraction. Primarily, the ideas and techniques came from contemplative minimalist music/modern classical, as I find that minimalism and repetition in long, drawn-out pieces work well for the brain process of sleep. Lament II also layers recordings of mine from a beach in Guarujá, as I’m very inspired by the hypnotic sound of the sea here in Brazil, particularly the sound of the waves hitting the coast.
What are you working on at the moment? What is there to be expected in the future?
Currently, I’m recording different beaches around Salvador de Bahia for some intense and aggressive noise compositions. I don’t think they will be for people to sleep to, but rather for some kind of sick, violent meditation. My second vinyl EP Befallen will come out in a few months, also on Tormenta Electrica. It features two fresh tracks of mine written in Brazil, as well as collaborations with Kamikaze Space Programme, Ikola and KuJo.
LAMENTS by GRUTH - OUT TUESDAY 31.07