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Winny Puhh: the almost-Eurovision-guys

Valner Valme, Postimees
Valner Valme, Postimees

Youtube millionaires still paying to do the band – a costly hobby

By last Friday, the Winny Puhh song Meie­cun­di­mees üks Korsakov läks eile Lätti had amassed 1,479,000 Youtube clicks. To round it up a bit as it’s on the rise anyway.

Naturally, now they demanded an album. The last one (second, all in all, the first being the 2006 Täämba õdagu praadimi kunna) Brääznik being over three years old by now. So now, Winny Puhh has a CD collection out, Pole see jõumehe elu üldse kerge, with the band’s ten top hits on it minus Kala tatt… featuring, however, Peegelpõrand, Nuudlid ja hapupiim, Vanamutt, Kolm põrsast, Wonderbra etc.

The hardcore-punk-group, dating back to 1993 at Põlva Upper secondary School, rarely puts up its frantic stage show and, even at peak of fame, will not do too many concerts. Doesn’t talk of taking America or Australia or Finland. The band is still just a hobby. Done for the fun of it, enjoying the shows to the max. Guitar player Ove Musting (artist name Jürnas Farmer) shows knee split at last concert: platforms come too narrow. Next, Winny Puhh plays the club On The Rocks, in Helsinki.

NB! Red-punk-haired guys and Centre Party internet commentators: with Winny Puhh, we do not have to do with young hooligans, rather decent, recently middle-aged family men with highly qualified non-punk jobs at Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) and elsewhere.

Hello, Indrek Vaheoja and Ove Musting!

(in chorus) Hello, dear Dictaphone.

Yeah. Doesn’t take pictures, but does all the rest. Records voice, plays it back! So, you’re all golden: 20 years in action according to Wikipedia, hit collection, millionaires.

IV: Actually, we’re 19 years of age. That’s false information.

OM: I have spread that 20-years-thing on purpose. I have the problem of looking younger than I am, so I pushed the year of birth backward.

IV: September 28th 1994 is the right start date.

I saw you play at Harjumäe, 1993. Maybe it was some other band… Million plus clicks – surprised?

OM: Sure. We realised the circus will make a splash, but outside of Estonia like that… Couldn’t foresee that coming.

IV: Actually, we planned an album with new songs by spring. Then we just happened upon the Eesti Laul [contest for Eurovision], got to next round, and the next, and then we needed an album as the others sold out, and then we did the collection. So the plans were all messed up.

Now, there’s hardly any Estonian comments left, it’s all Brazilians and Americans and what not.

But you’re not the Estonian Youtube top.

IV: Kerli has different numbers altogether. Bemmi kummid and Põhja-Tallinn are ahead, I think… But we have the speed record, I guess: rocketing like that. Let’s see, after four years, how it’ll be with Bemmi kummid!

OM: We’re very niche with our music, for the really big and the small melomaniacs. So getting this to mainstream is quite a thing.

Birgit Õigemeel’s Et uus saaks alguse has, with all the different clips, gotten about a million less: 479,000. Strange. So, should ERR make a switch, sending you instead?

IV: Of course. It seems we’re real good at stealing the limelight. ERR, however, seems awkward at promoting their song. Or unwilling.

OM: Eesti Laul, still, is the best promotion for Estonian bands. All who make it to semi finals, even, say concert etc invitations come like a flood, then – in Estonia, that is.

IV: And then there’s the Eurovision fans around the world, watching all the local competitions and steaming it all up.

Your Cundimees song is the exact opposite of a typical Eurovision thing: not slow, not melodious, not boring.

IV: We really worked at it. Whatever seemed to be good or real beautiful, we turned it around, spoilt it. No to harmony. Whatever was easy on the ear, we destroyed it. It’s kick in the face, brutal. The three minutes of it.

What next? International breakthrough? Have world tour invitations? To Australia?

IV: The most tangible is Helsinki, April 30th. Vappu-eve, lots of folks, probably. Concert organisers included. Many of whom have heard nothing by us save Korsakov. They’ll be wanting an overview.

OM: They want to get a picture and as this is my thing (Ove is one of Estonia’s most highly valued TV directors) and I can’t be on stage and produce the picture, all at once, we don’t have much concert material in video.

There’s been some talk farther away, lots of email. Up to US. But nothing definite. And a concert in some faraway corner of the world needs more preparation. Not worth the trouble. Just air, basically.

IV: Why do a random live at some hamburger joint. What do we have to prove? Nothing.

OM: Many a band is ready to play wherever, earn a penny. We don’t live on that and… not worth the trouble, honest! Just to travel?! Thanks a lot…

IV: That’s nothing, nowadays. All bands who so desire pick up the phone and go. But we are a telegenic bunch, also. We want a concert to be visually real cool.

You’re in your late 30ies. Did all that success come 10 years too late? Not eager to run at any signal, anymore? Too late to conquer the world? Maybe you’d play the Australian hamburger joint, if you’d be 26 or 27?

IV: Yep, sure! Then we’d have been in a place to have taken the back bag, grab guitars, go conquer America. But then: we’re from South-Estonia, you know. Seen the cheaters, those wanting to make money off of you. The more the time passes, the more they’re out to get something out of you. But we’re crafty, we’re not to be fooled with. Pay us first, then we’ll see. Right now, the so-called friends mushroom like crazy.

So, stars overnight, you keep your cool? Both feet on the ground?

OM: The initial days of the inquiries from abroad and heightened focus, we overheated a little bit, almost. Felt like a fairy tale. But then: good to be older. Keeps head cooler. And we can play a bit better than ten years back. And we’re still strong, physically, so we can enjoy the show.

IV: An yet, we’re still crazy and bizarre, at nature. So what’s the difference, kids in big men’s’ pants – still hanging by the rafters. Not normal.

OM: First things first: fun must be had. Therefore, we don’t take all them invitations – if it’s not fun, why do it? We don’t even want work to be work. To say nothing about fun.

IV: last year, we only did three concerts. This year. We’ve had one. The second one coming soon. For the summer, there’ll be more, but never like Thursday-Friday-Saturday, in a row.

Never really earn on it, do you?

OM: «Really» is well said. For as we add it all up, whatever we have made on CD sales and concerts, and then what we’ve spent on rehearsals and the whole thing, we’re deep in the red.

IV: First: we are six of us. Two drum sets, two guitars, base, amps, all the stuff and costumes. To carry all of this around, the logistics and the transport – real expensive.

Better have a folk trio. Ford Ka, for instance. Acoustic guitars unto the roof and… Adieu!

IV: Yep. One at the wheel, the other on back seat. Sipping.

But it lets you live? The band, I mean?

OM: Depends on the dosage.

IV: Should we overdo it, life would suffer. In 1997, we went to an amusement park tour. Played different places every Sunday, badmouthed and caroused amid the merry-go-rounds. Then went our separate ways. We have learnt now to pull back, if it gets too much. We get to quarrelling at once, if we’re together too much.

OM: Every rehearsal, we start with a wrestling match. As we still haven’t managed to settle who is the leader.

IV: But then there were too many injuries. And now, whenever there’s trouble, I immediately say I’m the weakest. Earlier, I wanted to wrestle real bad.

For a niche band, you got loads of hits, really.

OM: We never panned a song. Somebody takes something to the rehearsal and we see what happens.

IV: Lyrics come in the process. Peegelpõrand, for instance, came over a weekend trip. It worked and then all we had to do was do it.

OM: Nuudlid ja hapupiim happened as I was driving to town, from the countryside. The engine went dead and I got to having this riff in my head.

IV: And the lyrics had been there, before. Straight from life itself. It’s all practical everyday fun.

Nice, lots of absurd happening in your life.

IV: The best place for lyrics is Central Market [outdoor grounds], Tallinn. Look around there and ideas just come. It’s me doing the lyrics, as a rule. Ove does the visuals. Silver Lepaste does the music. They often tell me not to get too… deep.

OM: Don’t accuse us of being overly concentrated. All’s natural. Musically we’re a MTV generation band. Back when, at night-time, music came from MTV, not available elsewhere.

My what harmonics. Indrek, how come you sing so high?

IV: Blame my mother, and father for sure, and the Põlva boys’ choir leader who made me sing these fine stuff. Used to be hoarse, in the beginning. Takes some practice. With, Korsakov, I walked around, headphones on, just kept yelling.

Ove, you’re a director. Why so few videos? But what you have, are brilliant.

OM: That would take resources. We do plan to have some more. But, yes: we have the advantage of giving the video birthed in our own heads. There’s nobody to say: don’t do it like this.

Winny Puhh

•    Indrek Vaheoja (Korraldaja-onu) – vocals

•    Silver Lepaste (Kartauto) – guitar

•    Ove Musting (Jürnas Farmer) – guitar

•    Indrek Nõmm (Koeraonu) – bass guitar

•    Kristjan Oden (Väikepax) – drums

•    Olavi Sander (Põhjakonn) – drums  

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