Argon & Organ: FinnScene Early - Synthpop


R.I.P. Mikko Saarela (16 January 1958 - 11 January 2019)

Organ, maybe the pivotal Finnish synth act, was the answer of Poko Rekords label and Mikko Saarela to the futu (as the "futurist" synth pop was called in Finland) craze. Organ was the outcome of the creative minds of Saarela (formerly of the popular Finnish punk band Eppu Normaali) and the synthetic Argon duo of Seppo Parkkinen and Pekka Tolonen -- who had already released one album, Kone kertoo.

"Köyhän miehen Kraftwerk"

Nyt tämäkin on sitten saatu: suomalaisversio saksalaisesta teknorock-bändistä Kraftwerk. Kahden nuoren miehen ja tietokoneen muodostaman yhdistelmän nimi on Argon ja levyn kannessa lukee "Kone kertoo".

Kiitos vain Argonille yrittämisestä, mutta ei olisi tarvinnut vaivautua. Mieluummin minä kuuntelen aitoja "saksalaisrobotteja" kuin Argonia, joka kuulostaa hupaisalta sekoitukselta köyhän miehen Kraftwerkia ja suomalaisia lastenlauluja.

Jos lähtee seurailemaan Kraftwerkin ja kumppanien jalanjälkiä, on löydettävä kovia ideoita sävellyksiin, näkemystä niiden toteutukseen ja laulajalta edes hieman karismaa ääneen. Pelkät syntetisaattorit ja tietokoneet eivät pelasta tilannetta.

- Levyt, Helsingin Sanomat, 5.9. 1981

"Poor man's Kraftwerk"

So we had to get this, too: a Finnish version of the German technorock band Kraftwerk. The combination of two young men and computer is called Argon and it reads on the album cover that "Kone kertoo" ("The machine tells").

Just thanks to Argon for trying but they shouldn't really have bothered. I'd rather listen to the genuine "German robots" than Argon which sounds like a hilarious combination of poor man's Kraftwerk and Finnish children's songs.

If you start to follow in the footsteps of Kraftwerk et al., you have to find some strong ideas for the compositions, some vision to make them come into flesh and at least a bit charisma from the singer for the vocals. Merely having synthesizers and computers can't save the day.

- Record column of Helsingin Sanomat, 5 September 1981

In the beginning there was Argon, a synthpop duo formed in 1980 by Seppo "Ufo" Parkkinen (vocals, synths, acoustic guitar, bass) and Pekka "Tekno" Tolonen (synths, synth percussion, electric guitar). They released for Q label one single, 'San Salvador' and the album Kone kertoo, both published in 1981 and produced by Richard Stanley, a British expat producer best known for his work with Hurriganes. In its day, merely 200 copies of Argon's album were sold and it was panned by critics as "a combination of poor man's Kraftwerk and Finnish songs for children" (the original vinyl LP is now a collector's item). When Mikko Saarela came along, Argon switched its name to Organ (for contractual reasons as Argon was already signed to Q, a sublabel owned by Discophon, which released Stanley's productions).

Organ consisted initially of Mikko Saarela, Seppo Parkkinen and Pekka Tolonen. As the band's instrument arsenal centered around "Zyrgo", an analogue drum machine custom-built by Tolonen that triggered the synth sounds, an additional member was needed to handle the complicated set-up, which was when the bassist Tapani Lahtinen joined, having previous background in progressive rock.

Epe Helenius, head of Poko Rekords (a prominent label in the 70s/80s Finnish rock and new wave), got the band members out of their contract with Discophon. The trio of Saarela, Parkkinen and Tolonen released in June 1981 a single credited as Mikko Saarela's solo, the 7" called 'Kärpästen juhlat'. Polymoog complemented the band's electronic set-up. November 1981 saw another single, 'Kundi meikkaa' (a cover version of a song written by Mauno Paajanen), with Tapani Lahtinen now as the fourth member. The single was released as "Mikko Saarela & Organ". All recordings were engineered and mixed by Risto Hemmi at the Finnvox studio.

In February 1982 came out the debut full-length album, Nekrofiilis (re-released as a CD in 2001, with the singles as bonus tracks). Tracks had been produced illicitly at the electronic music studio of Helsinki University, where Pekka Tolonen had already worked for some time. There the band members spent a whole year, doing regular 9-to-4 days, boosted by coffee and sometimes Seppo Parkkinen's strong home-made brew. The studio hosted not only mixing facilities but also a VCS3 synthesizer and five analogue 19/38 cm/sec. studio magnetophones. The band's own arsenal consisted of "Zyrgo" drum machine, one Yamaha CS-5 and two CS-15 synths. (Also Yamaha Portasynth was played like a guitar during Organ's live gigs.) Alongside Mikko Saarela, also Seppo Parkkinen wrote lyrics for some songs. The album cover art featured a scanning electronic microscope image of a Xyela julii sawfly.

Organ's career was short-lived, as the commercial success was not forthcoming and the futu craze was already waning, anyway. The final release was the 7" 'Suajele mua vähän jostakin päin' (November 1982).

Organ re-united for a November 2007 comeback gig at Avanto Festival in Helsinki. They also played in January 2008 at Helsinki's Tavastia club when Mikko Saarela celebrated his 50th birthday. In May 2008 Organ performed at Club Denaro and in August 2009 at Helsinki's Flow Festival. Sadly, Mikko Saarela died of pancreatic cancer on the 11th of January, 2019.

Organ's most famous song was 'Kärpästen juhla' ("The Feast of Flies") with its anti-war theme, mocking the clichés of some traditional Finnish patriotic hymns -- Mikko Saarela's witty, humorous lyrics expressed some social concern, dealing with the rights of test animals, helping the third world countries, the evils of bureaucracy, the shameful joys of teenage masturbation and so on, all in the best punk tradition. The album also featured an ode to Regina Linnanheimo (1915 - 1995), a star of Finnish cinema from the 1930s to 1950s.

There is one Organ album, Nekrofiilis (POKO PÄLP 33, 1982), and some singles; a cover version of a Mauno Paajanen song, 'Kundi meikkaa' ("A Guy Puts On Make-Up") being the best known of them.

  • Organ @ Discogs

  • Organ: 'Kundi meikkaa' @ Mikko Saarela's 50th birthday party, 16 January 2008 @ Tavastia, Helsinki

    Thanks to Jarkko Kuivanen, Kalle Ahonen & Mikko Ojanen for additional info and Mikko Niemelä, Tuomo Hotakainen & Kalle Ahonen for the scans.

    ORGAN (2012). 12 minutes. English subtitles. Directed by Tuukka Harala. Vimeo.


    NOTE: by clicking some images, you can see larger versions of them.


    /early/synth/organ/pic/argon7-b.jpg /early/synth/organ/pic/argon7-f.jpg

    San Salvador
    Q QUUS-101 (7", 1981)

    A1. San Salvador (2:36)
    B1. Kummajaislaulu (3:23)

    /early/synth/organ/pic/argon.gif /early/synth/organ/pic/argoback.gif

    Kone kertoo
    Q QUUL-201 (LP, spring 1981)

    A1. Venuksesta itään
    A2. Hongkong
    A3. Kummajaislaulu
    A4. Taksi
    A5. Zombi
    A6. Kone kertoo
    A7. (untitled) (backsleeve text: "HUOM! Raita A7 on Applesoft tietokoneohjelma. Jos sinulla on tietokone, voit itse tehdä levyn sanoituksia.")
    B1. San Salvador
    B2. Täysikuun aikaan
    B3. Aurinkolaulu
    B4. Videotwist
    B5. Takapihan kautta
    B6. Kesä '84

    Some info @ pHinnWeb's old blog


    /pic/kundi1.jpg /pic/kundi2.jpg

    Poko Rekords PIS-091 (7", November 1981) (Mikko Saarela & Organ)

    A1: Kundi meikkaa (written & lyrics by Paajanen, arr. Organ)
    B1: Kaavakekauhu (written & lyrics by Mikko Saarela, arr. Organ)

    NOTE: 'Kundi meikkaa' also appears on Poko Rekords' Suomirokkia compilation CD (1998).

    /pic/organ1.jpg /pic/organ2.jpg

    Poko Rekords PIS-112 (7", November 1982)

    A1. Suajele mua vähän jostakin päin
    B1. Neekerisuukkoja

    /pic/orgnekro.jpg /pic/orgataka.jpg

    Poko Rekords PÄLP-33
    (LP: February 1982; CD: late 2001, including also all singles)

    A1. Organ
    A2. Kaavakekauhu
    A3. Itäväylä
    A4. Kolme pennin kymmenystä
    A5. Kolme prinsessaa
    A6. Kani kertoo
    B1. Kärpästen juhlat
    B2. Peilimorsian
    B3. Aknebobbin
    B4. Regina Linnanheimon silmät
    B5. For next
    B6. Nekrofiilis

    CD bonus tracks:

    13. Kärpästen juhlat
    14. Robotti
    15. Kaavakekauhu
    16. Kundi meikkaa
    17. Suajele mua vähän jostakin päin
    18. Neekerisuukkoja

    Band image from the album back sleeve

    Band image & single sleeves from press notes

    Press release notes in Finnish

    (There are some mistakes here: there is no "ADSL" envelope generator, it should be ADSR; also, no "VCF3" synthesizer but VCS3 (a.k.a. Putney) - Mikko Ojanen)

    NOTE: there's a 2001 CD re-release (Poko Rekords) including Organ's all singles. Supposedly mastered from vinyl since some scratches are there.


    POKO REKORDS (Tampere, Finland)

    /pic/saarela.jpg /pic/saarela2.jpg

    Poko Rekords PIS-081 (7", 1981)

    A1. Kärpästen juhlat
    B1. Robotti

    Note: B1. Written and lyrics by Veltto Virtanen, arranged by Organ.

    Mikko Saarela
    Poko Klassikot Nro. 5 (Mini-LP, 45 rpm)
    KLASS 5
    28 October 1987
    A1. Mikko Saarelan Siivet: Lili Marleen (3:05)
    A2. Mikko Saarela: Kärpästen juhlat (3:51)
    A3. Eppu Normaali: James Dean (off Aknepop LP) (1:51)
    B1. Mikko Saarela & Organ: Kundi meikkaa (4:51)
    B2. Organ: Suajele mua vähän jostakin päin (3:50)

    A1. Written/arr./lyrics: N. Schulze - H. Leip, Finnish lyrics: Mikko Saarela
    (p) Unitor Oy 1980 © Apollo Verlag
    Producer: Mikko Syrjä.
    A2. Written/arr/lyrics: Mikko Saarela
    (p) Unitor Oy 1981 © Jee-Jee Music Oy
    Producer: Mikko Saarela & Risto Hemmi.
    A3. Written/arr./lyrics: Mikko Saarela. arr.: Eppu Normaali
    (p) Unitor Oy 1978 © Jee-Jee Music Oy
    Producer: Huovinen - Helenius.
    B1. Written/lyrics: Paajanen, arr.: Organ
    (p) Unitor Oy 1981 © J.V.I. Kustannus
    Producer: Organ.
    B2. Written/arr./lyrics: Mikko Saarela
    (p) Unitor Oy 1982 © Jee-Jee Music Oy
    Producer: Pantse Syrjä.

    Argon playlist by pHinnWeb @ YouTube

    Organ playlist by pHinnWeb @ YouTube

    [FinnScene Early - Synthpop] [FinnScene - The Early Years]