a.k.a. Noise Production a.k.a. Kohinatuotanto a.k.a. Mike "Not"
Interview: Erkki Rautio / pHinnWeb
30 May 2002 -- Who is the missing link between Tampere's hip hop and gothrock subcultures? Who for over a decade has created electronic music of many genres plus tens if not hundreds of hours' worth of unreleased reel-to-reel tapes, DAT tapes, home-burned CDRs -- yet has remained all this time in the musical margins and underground because record companies haven't pricked up their ears? Who has during this time honed superior skills as a producer and sound engineer & whose services have been used by Finnish hip hop chart act Petri Nygård, his backup act Nuera and also the rising local gothrock talents Suruaika and electro duo Kompleksi?
The answer is Mika Paju, also known as Mike Not and as Noise Production. He has just released an album under his Kohinatuotanto alias (Finnish for "Noise Production", naturally) called Äänikemia ("Sound Chemistry", pHinnMilk-2), the alchemistic sound experiments of which take place somewhere in the twilight zone of IDM, Mika Vainio-style minimalism and monotrax-related tribalism.
I've been honoured to know Mika personally for years during which time I have learned to know him as a trustworthy man who is always willing to offer his help, advice and technical knowledge to other music-makers. Not to mention also helping to bring some mix CDRs of certain local amateur DJs -- more or less deficient in technical skills -- into a somewhat decent and listenable form...
It's a crying shame that talents like Mika Paju have to struggle from year to year in virtual anonymity and near-poverty, while at the same time half-assed one hit wonders gain popularity at music channels, speeding at their videos with sport cars like the upstarts they are; while their music(?) is unimaginative mass production targeted at the lowest common denominator between soft drinks and ladies' accessories commercials. Maybe the situation is now about to change -- at least just a little bit. Ladies and gentlemen: the real underground hero of Finnish scene -- Mika Paju.
- Mike "Not"? How on earth did you get your nom-de-guerre?
In the 80's there was this guy Mike Platinas, who produced the two first Maxmix records, of Spanish-Italian origin. So, as a joke I took the alias Mike "Not" Platinas, the latter part of which then gradually dropped off.
- In its beginnings Noise Production was your project together with Jazzy-O (a.k.a. Jani Ojala a.k.a. DJ Jasse) until your ways parted. How did you start making music?
It started with two C-cassette decks and turntables. In the way of a DJ mix style, I stole beats and "sampled" records to beat tracks. Then finally I bought Roland Juno-6 and TR-707... and my mate Jazzy-O had Casio HT-3000 and Roland S-10 sampler.
- Are there any people, who would have influenced you?
Well. My influences have come from the 80s Detroit House, Acid House and New Beat, but also grim electro and EBM, Electronic Body Music have been there.
- How would you characterise your musical style?
Well, in a way my music reflects my own moods, so maybe that's where my so called gloomy sound comes from. On the other hand I do whatever I want. I don't want to compete with any commercial artists because here in Finland there are no "superstars" like Sasha or so. Finnish scene usually drags one year behind the rest of the world.
- And what artists you're most into these days?
Nine Inch Nails, Front Line Assembly, OHGR, Cevin Key, Delerium, Download, Future Sound of London. And, erm, Marilyn Manson too.
- Have you been involved with the party scene? For example, organising events, DJing, and so on?
Well, I've done some rave stuff, but we don't talk about those!
(That's unnecessary modesty. Mika was involved in organising parties in the beginning of the 90s, in the third floor of Tampere's legendary Laterna, where clubs such as No Go and Frantic (for industrial/goth), which made some local history. I recall, though, having visited one of Mika's acid/techno clubs and being possibly the only paying customer, so maybe this explains why Mika is not too eager to reminisce those days. )
Well, about my DJ gigs, I could mention the Element clubs at Laterna in 1992-93, which I co-organised myself. Then in 1992 I played at an illegal warehouse party at Valio Cheese Factory. The style then was cold German techno, with some industrial tracks at side. There was no breakbeat them, except for some Altern 8. The prevailing style was British rave, acid house, acid rave.
At Tampere's L.A. Garage I DJed a bit at the clubs held by Samu Mielonen in Thursdays. Then in 1996-97 Mauri Tusa had some sort club at the same venue, where we once spinned with Sakari Karipuro, but people didn't quite get it. At Afterhours gothic club of Yo-Talo I DJed once, but obviously the audience and I had differing ideas what "industrial" music is about. I was told that the records I played (Front Line Assembly and old EBM) were too "trance"...
- What do you think about the current DJ culture?
Is there one? I don't know. Superstar DJs can't do much mixing, just play one record after another. The whole thing has turned into CD mixing, which doesn't excite me. Vinyl is vinyl, and mixing it is an art. There's this common delusion that a DJ will get all the ladies; but fuck that, you don't have any time when you just try to concentrate on mixing.
- This takes us the legendary [sic] 80s Tampere DJ Manu (a.k.a. "Macho Manu"), who later on found Jesus and subsequently sold his enormous record collection at Tullintori shopping mall (yours truly picked some early Warp releases there). Manu had, at local Radio 95,7, the famous chart show "All The Hits And More", which I always listened to eagerly with one ear glued to my speaker. Another popular disco show of the time was "Ocsid" at YLE, hosted by Tapani Ripatti, who was a Radio Personality. Were you listening to these?
Ocsid had a great sound, the guys kept twiddling the knobs a bit. The megamixes were totally ruled by their comical sounds. My interest in mixing records arose at that time and I was dreaming about my own set of Technics. Well, now I've got one.
- So, one might think that your influences came from the 80's?
Not exactly. I did listen to Italodisco, but maybe even more I was influenced by Belgian New Beat style of the years 1988-92. A band called Split Second of Belgium has similar stuff with melodies to what I'm doing myself, a bit goth-like.
- What kind of equipment you create your music with? How, for example, was Kohinatuotanto's Äänikemia album born?
I've gathered a bit of gear, but it is worth to check out my homepage, so you'll find everything essential there. Kohinatuotanto was created with some samplers and different test signals. I can't exactly remember how the album was born but I guess I was bored and started working on something. Finally I got two hours of stuff on DAT.
- Isn't it a bit out of the ordinary that the same person should produce both gothrock and hip hop, which are like night and day as far as stylistically and popularity?
Well, I also produce myself and have created all sorts of music: techno, acid, industrial, ambient and so on. Everything except polka. With me more commercial projects haven't gone through with record company bosses. On the other hand, my sound is quite timeless, though. For example, Kohinatuotanto's album had been recorded during 1997, but it still sounds fresh.
- How did your co-operation with Nuera, and through them, Petri Nygård start?
Around 1991 Jazzy-O dropped by with Pete Laurila to test what their rap music would sound like on tape. That was the start of it. We did legendary jam sessions on tape with Pete and Jasse; I took care of the turntables, beats and scratches, Sami Heikkilä played live bass. I have already done three full-length albums for Petri Nygård and a couple of singles. (I've also created some electro mixes of Nygård tracks, which still remain unreleased.) With Nuera I've mostly helped with mixing and mastering.
About other Finnish hip hop stuff I could mention the first demo of Kontrasti that I produced: there was also the track "Turkisko murhaa?" ("Is Fur Murder?"), which was later officially released on Pyssy Recordings of Okke Komulainen and DJ Infekto. I've also produced Flegmaatikot: their first single, mastering and mixing.
- How about this gothic stuff then: you produced the album of Suruaika ("The Time of Mourning"), which came out on Turku's Plastic Passion label?
I was the producer on Suruaika's album. In other words, I took care of everything from A to Z with the band's henchman Matthew Mawby. I got acquainted with the band through the Afterhours club. Toni of Suruaika I got to know from the Electric Pleasures vs. Frantic Club in 1998, where I was playing live.
(Indeed. This humble interviewer was in fact co-organising said party, held at Villa 1898 club which was then held at Finlayson Palace. The other live performer was Virtalähde. I will forever remember how the managers of Villa had for some inexclicable reason double-booked the venue, with a pre-Christmas party of businessmen taking place simultaneously with our event. It was somehow perverse to gaze at drunken middle-aged people in their suits and jackets dancing in pairs, when we spun Christopher Just's "I'm A Disco Dancer (And A Sweet Romancer)" and other electro, techno and industrial. An authentic (and typical) Tampere club experience. )
- What kind of experiences you've had with live gigs? Any interesting anecdotes?
Last time I've played live at Uforock at Telakka club on the 16th March 2002. The first five minutes I had some troubles with my 202 being out of sync but it got better towards the end. My gig lasted 20 minutes in all, and no one really listened to it. Of the other performers I liked the most ICEBeat Jonga who were sort of ambient with vocals and Tibetan/Lappland influences. I had no time to check out Veltto Virtanen [a yesteryear Finnish "cult" rock performer, professional psychologist, ex-MP and an all-round weirdo celebrity], but rumour had it that the guy was quite drunk...
I usually have a complete urge for doing gigs, but then I remember how crappy road managing and setting up a sound system usually is, especially when you have to do it all alone. And you can't even drink any booze, for fuck's sake. And usually the gig fees are really laughable. So one would really have a need for road managers.
There's a dark shadow following me, bad karma, which destroys any places behind me. Heh, I was once having a gig at a Silja Line ferry somewhere around the coast of Estonia. It was about 1992 or so. Anyway, it was the same ship that now lies at the bottom of the sea [a 1994 sea tragedy of MS Estonia when 852 people drowned at the Finnish Gulf]. I've also performed at Tampere's Näsinneula Observation Tower, so I'm now wondering when it will collapse...
- Your Top Ten for the moment/all-time?
I can't tell the Top Ten for the moment, because I haven't bought any records lately, but the all-time chart would be something like this:
Future Sound of London: Dead Cities
Front Line Assembly: everything
Nine Inchs Nails: Pretty Hate Machine
Delerium: the early stuff
Marilyn Manson: everything
Prodigy: Jilted Generation & Fat of the Land
Skinny Puppy: Too Dark Park & Rabies
- What do you think of the latest electro stuff?
Well, Kraftwerk is above all. I paid a hell of a lot for Kraftwerk's 'Komputerwelt' 12"; you know there are versions of those Kraftwerk releases both in English and in German. Dopplereffekt is quite traditional. Japanese Telecom sounds partly computer-created. There is a lot of rhythm but maybe that old exotica is missing. Kraftwerk always uses only certain beats; these days rhythms are more fragmented breakbeat-like, such as Aphex Twin for example. There is so much musical output these days: anyone can become a musician, because the computers offer just anything and you don't have to break your neck chasing for those "authentic" instruments.
- How would you comment on Finland's current musical scene?
Huh!!? Well, in fact anyone who owns a personal computer can create music. But well, great thing in a way, but I don't want to comment on it. Generally the scene is jaded. There's always some action in underground, though.
Do you have any sort of vision of the future direction of electronic music and music scene?
I've noticed that when computers have become widespread, everyone has turned into software synths and the music has become faceless and cold. I still dig the hardware machines [i.e. the actual instruments, not computers]! They've got "that sound", which you don't have to model digitally!
- What kind of music would you like to create most now?
Back to basics. Electro, in good old school style: 808 and that gear. It would nice to do some ambient, especially now in summertime. I've had a Front Line Assembly style project under development for a couple of years but I need to get into the studio with that, to get the sounds in order.
I've also got a funny side project called FSD with Sakari Karipuro. In the beginning our goal was to follow the "Dogme" style, that is, one was only allowed one chord, the instruments should cost no more than 1.000 Finnish marks and so on. We did our first record with that set-up, but mono sound had its limitations. The next record will be electro-based. Sakari is heavily Detroit-influenced. With computer I can fiddle more around with rhythm. With hardware-based instruments the tracks will become more linear, you don't fool around. The material I've created with computer is not so danceable; you can break the rhythm more.
- How about your future plans in general?
Trying to stay alive and one day get some material out on a major label. "To become Kraftwerk".
- Your favourite question they never ask in interviews?
"Would you like a beer? It's on me, mate!"
Listen to Mika Paju's music @ MySpace:
Noise Production Noise Production 2 Kohinatuotanto
Thanks for the translation assistance: John Fanning
Copyright © (for the text) pHinnWeb 2002.