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Interview Mika Vainio
Mika Vainio is not a talker. There are next to no interviews with him to be found on the web and on this one, he answers our questions with the kind of cool precision one would expect from someone who was born all the way up North. And yet, Vainio is not the technology-freak some will probably be inclined to see in him on the basis of his creative output. "The source of my own music is always to be found in emotions", he tellingly proclaims and anyone with an open ear could always hear the man behind the machine even in the harshest moments of his main project Pan Sonic. As the formation has taken it somewhat easier over the past years, Vainio's dolo career has prospered, both as a multimedial artist in the realms of choreography and installations as well as a studio artist with a sizable and highly diverse discography to his name. Two record labels have over time turned into natural homes for him: On the one hand Raster Noton, who are happy to release his more rhythm-oriented pieces. On the other Touch, who have dedicated themselves to his experimental Sound Art repertoire. In both categories, Vainio has recently presented some of his most noteworthy material ever. While "Black Telephone of Matter" (on Touch) is a cinematic microtonal trip of sharp crackles, refined streaks of sine waves and sudden eruptions of cavernous drones, the "Vandal EP" (on Raster) is an undiluted aural attack of ghastly atmospheres and stomping techno-beats mangled through a distortion roll. No wonder Vainio doesn't see much point in talking: Compared to the din his work regularly produces, words must seem terribly puny.
What, would you say, are ongoing fundamentals of your work?
For me, music is a method to understand and examine both the world and myself. To achieve this, I want to go to the micro-level of sound, to taste the tones of neutrinos. I think this is the key element in my musical approach.
“Black Telephone", for example, took a lot of work. I spent masses of time to find the right kind of sounds, to get the right combination of sounds and then finally to edit everything together in the right way. For example, for the first track on the album, “Roma A.D. 2727", I had to create seven different versions before I was happy with it. All in all, I worked on “Black Telephone" for a period of an entire year. And I was revising it continuously.
What did you start with for the tracks on this album?
For me, absolute music cannot exist. Sounds always evoke particular feelings inside me. The source of my own music is always to be found in emotions. There are a lot of people doing music who are not musicians but merely technicians as they do not put anything of themselves into it. My inspiration can come from many different kinds of sources: Visual arts, movies, the weather, books, science, news, nature, steaks in butcher shop etc.... The approach for using particular sounds is actually quite consistent throughout the album, even though ideas and feelings came from many versatile sources.
How does that compare to your live- and installation-work?
Right now, I am in Brussels preparing my new sound installation in Lab[au]-mediaruimte gallery. This piece (still untitled ) will use 7 "tube" radios from the fifties. I am first recording sounds from radios, then producing a piece of music from this material. Then, all of this will be transmitted by a small radio transmitter and received and played back by same radios during the installation. The installation will open November 13th.
German composer Jörg Widmann has mentioned that, to him, one of the hardest aspects is to stay true to your original idea while composing and to take the “necessary" decisions while working on a piece ...
Sometimes, it is more interesting and easier to let the track go "its own way" and ending up with something quite different from what you originally intended. On “Telephone", I however managed to get the original idea across quite well.
There were already some discreet acoustic sounds on the previous Pan Sonic album “Katodivaihe". What is the appeal of combining digital and acoustic material to you?
Combining acoustic and electronic sounds can make for a nice contrast. Like combining a photograph with a drawing in visual arts for example. On this album, there are more acoustic sounds than one might possibly realize, as many of them are heavily processed.
To me, the importance of silence in your music has grown even more on this record ...
Silence is the most important element for me. Just like in traditional Japanese architecture, empty space is the key element. You carve space with materials.
You've singled out the Einstürzende Neubauten and John Duncan as acts which were influential in a way for you. What made and still makes their work interesting to you?
The early Neubauten were impressive, as they could combine very agressive and brutal methods to sometimes arrive at the most delicate and refined musical thoughts. I have not been that interested about them after what they produced in the 80's, though.
As for John Duncan, other than for his impressive art works and performances, I respect the way he has been standing up against the controversy his work has often evoked and for staying faithful to his own ideas and ways of doing things - even if this has often meant a hard and austere life.
By Tobias Fischer