ROGER: Helsinki-Manchester Express

Interview by Erkki Rautio / pHinnWeb


29 July 2003 -- Roger are Teemu Metsälä (a Finnish ex-pat) and Andrew Odia, who reside in Manchester, UK. Roger's singles such as Give Me Love Or A Brand New Car (for their Mancunian label Mate Recordings) and Hand In Motion have already made waves and created positive interest both in British and Finnish music media. Roger also runs a club called Music Is Better that takes place both in Manchester and Helsinki.

I witnessed Roger's live performance in February 2003 at Yo-Talo of Tampere (a post-industrial town often called "Finnish Manchester", by the way). Their music and Teemu's singing made me think perhaps of someone like Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Beloved or Momus; very "British-sounding", slightly melancholic but still dance pop, with songs of bittersweet and a bit sardonic lyrics such as 'Give Me Love Or A Brand New Car' and 'Helsinki Blondes'. This interview was conducted in the aftermath of Helsinki's Koneisto festival in late July 2003, where Roger had performed at Hietsu Beach.

- So what's now happening in the life of Roger, any news?

It's currently an exciting time in the life of Roger! The two members of the band are split between Manchester and Helsinki, but we're both in Helsinki at the moment for the Koneisto Festival. We played a live set at the opening party at Mbar -- great music all round, finished off with some fine DJing from Annie and T. Kaukolampi from Tellé. We also played at Hietsu Beach on Sunday -- excellent party atmosphere, and the largest stage Roger has played on yet.

- How did you start making music in the beginning?

We come from very different musical backgrounds: one from the world of leftfield electronica, the other from the singer-songwriter tradition. It's probably that polarity of musical tastes that makes the Roger project so exciting. And it's this complete clash of ideas that made us originally think that by working together, we could create something quite special.

- How would you describe your style of music?

We are an evolving band. We're not so much seeking a "winning formula", rather we're just always trying to keep things musically interesting -- for ourselves as well as for the people who come to see us. So we wouldn't like to say exactly what we are as we're not quite sure ourselves. Whatever we do, and whatever instrumentation we use [be it synths, guitars, whatever], there's always a strong song at the heart of everything, and it's hopefully the songs rather than the style that people remember Roger for.

- Are there any role models or influential artists for you?

Andy: My biggest influence is probably not a single person, but the city of Sheffield -- the spiritual home of electronic music in England.

Teemu: Everything Manchester maybe, and bits from New York of course, both cities with thriving and ever-changing underground cultures and individuals fulfilling their dreams.

- And any current acts which would particularly impress you, or you feel are on the same wavelength with you?

We'd like to say Talking Heads, as they should still be current to any lovers of music.

- What kind of equipment you create your music with?

Electronic and acoustic.

- How did you get a contract with Mate Recordings, and how has it been working with them?

Danny (Mate label boss), had known Andy for some time, he had managed guitar bands previously, and also works as a DJ & producer, when he saw Roger, we think he got it immediately. There were so many ingredients from all the types of music he loved, as far as a contract goes, he said: "We'll work something out", and we still are.

Working with Mate is very easy, we have a team of people who contribute on many levels, we are never told what to do or how to act, mostly our ideas are nurtured and added to by the label, it is non-restrictive and that's the way we like it, aha aha.

- What about your live performances, and any interesting anecdotes about them? What have been the best and worst places to play, for example?

The best place to play was probably in Tampere. We did a short Finnish tour in January/February 2003, playing Helsinki, Turku and Tampere. All memorable occasions in their own right for different reasons, but Tampere was special for us as it was the first time we'd played together in Finland, the birthplace of the band.

The worst place to play was probably a record label launch we did at the End of The Month club in Glasgow, Scotland. Not because of the club itself in any way, but rather the journey there. There was a major traffic accident on the motorway we were taking to get to the gig, which meant we had to take a massive detour along narrow, winding, hilly country roads, in a tiny car full of equipment which kept scraping the road every time we went over a hill. We spent hours navigating the Scottish countryside before eventually arriving at the venue 5 hours late, tired, with the exhaust almost dislodged from the car. Not the best frame of mind in which to perform.

- How's the music scene in Manchester at the moment? For example, any good clubs there?

Manchester's a music city at heart, so the scene's as healthy as ever. The city of course has a strong guitar-band tradition, but there's also a strong electronic music community growing there. There is definitely a "scene" of some sort, but not on a massive scale. It's currently compact and interesting. There are bands like Bynatone, Performance and DoubleJohnGrey [strange name but good music]; labels like Mate, Valentine and Phush; and club nights like Music is Better, To Amy with Love, Chips with Everything, Club Suicide and TVOD.

- Your own Top Five for the moment/all-time?

New Order - Everything's Gone Green
The Fall - Hit The North
The Forgemasters - Computer Warrior
The Cure - A Forest
Cabaret Voltaire - Sensoria

- Your own future plans now?

We're currently working with our producer Danny Webb on new material for a long-player which should hopefully be ready by the autumn. Musically, it's going to mark a new stage in the evolution of the band, and that will also translate into our live presentation as well. We also have a track coming out later this year on the Mate Records compilation, Music is Better, named after the club we run in Manchester [and also Helsinki].

- Your favourite question they never ask in interviews?

Manchester United or Manchester City?

Copyright © (for the text) pHinnWeb 2003.

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