Where are you from? Describe the kind of creative culture within the city you were raised in?
Actually I was originally born in Moscow, but grew up in a small town called Joensuu in Eastern Finland, where nothing much was happening. I found the local music scene pretty dull and introvert. It used to be heavy metal and rock driven community, where hip-hop wasn’t even considered as real music. I never really felt being a part of it. Luckily there was a small group of like-minded people and together we were able to do our own thing, ignoring the surroundings. My biggest respect goes to the event organizers, who truly supported the culture by arranging economically unprofitable events, just to bring creatives together. One of the best memories I have was me opening the night for Slum Village. Imagine that in a small town of Eastern Finland, hah.
Finnish Music is often associated with dark and melancholic vibes. I guess due to lack of sun and warmth. But personally I don’t think that music and environment should speak the same language at all. For me music is a perfect get-away. Soundwise I’m tripping somewhere in LA, while looking into the cold and dark emptiness. Through music I can imagine what the rest of the world looks like – some sort of fantasy.
What made you get into music, who were the people around you who influenced you?
As I described the local music scene, there was not much of interesting stuff going on for me. But without my mom I would probably never have got into music in the first place. She took me to children’s choir, piano lessons and so on. Besides my mom, the most important musical influences I got from MTV, especially Yo! MTV Raps. That program teleported me a million miles away from my surroundings and gave me so much inspiration.
Before MTV, my true passion for hip-hop kicked in when my friend played me ”Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan. We were 12 years old. I was like: this is the vibe and attitude, fuck all the rules. Finnish Hip-Hop scene was elevating fast at the time and soon I found some dope local rap acts as well.
Are there any producers/artist you work really well, what makes your relationship work?
There are many of them, but Monma, Cocabona and Jussi Halme to name a few. Me, Monma and cocabona made a collaborative album Aura for Chillhop Music last year. Me and Monma used to be in the same Finnish rap group for many years and we’ve always shared pretty mutual taste in music. Cocabona is a great Finnish producer and bass player. We’ve been making lot of stuff together and he has also been playing bass in my rap live set. Both are really good friends of mine. I think a trustworthy friendship is a rock solid foundation for musical collaboration as well. I can say the exact same things about Jussi Halme.
How did you develop your relationship with Halme?
Oh, it’s quite a long story. I’ll try to keep it short 🙂
Jussi Halme is a 58-year-old Finnish keyboard player, composer, arranger and producer. His musical style varies between boogie, disco, jazz and funk. There was almost zero demand for these genres in Finland in the early 1980s. To me his music represents an unyielding vision and an alternative to traditional Finnish popular and rock music. It reminds me of Bob James, George Duke and Bobby Caldwell. His first private pressing 7″ single (Funny Funk and Autumn Gold) was released in 1983 and it has become a sort of Holy Grail for DJ’s playing Finnish groove music. It was not made with a huge emphasis on commercial success, which allowed the music to be in the center of attention. This 7” single has outlived many trends and it still lives on and keeps finding new generations.
I heard this rare single from my DJ friend, who used to play Finnish grooves from the 70’s and 80’s. However, it took many years for me to actually reach out to Jussi. Over a year ago I posted a comment on one of his YouTube uploads. It was a song called ‘Early Evening in Brazil’, that me and Monma ended up sampling and recreating into a song called Brazil which was later released by Chillhop Music. That’s where we started.
Since Brazil, me and Jussi have also collaborated on Funny Funk ’18 and my latest single ‘Luv Pact’. We love the same chord progressions and same vibes. Besides making music, we’ve become really good friends, which is even more important. He’s sort of a mentor figure to me now. The one I never had before.
What were early experiences in music, did you start with playing instruments or go straight in to making beats?
I used to play piano and clarinet in an orchestra when I was a teenager. However it was during my puberty, when I found hip-hop and suddenly quit playing piano and clarinet. I’ve been making rap (in Finnish) for quite a while. Started making beats about 10 years ago. After a long hiatus with piano, I’ve got back in to it recently. I guess I never liked playing classical pieces like a robot, so now I approach it through Neo-Soul, RnB and Jazz and I love it.
Are there any other musicians, and DJs in Finland we should be paying attention to?
In my opinion there are lot of very talented musicians in Finland, but most of them are limited to an extremely small target audience because of the language. There is only 5,5 million people living in Finland and our native language is being spoken only inside this country.
Unfortunately this geographical and mathematical fact put local musicians in a challenging situation, where you have to choose between making music for the masses or for a very small group of people. I mean that’s if you want to make a living out of it. I’ve been telling everyone to start making music in English or get some international collabos going on. Thanks to the Internet, the community is where you want it to be.
Anyway I’d like to present both producers and artists here. The complete list would be very long, but here’s a short version 😉
Palmroth (produced by Palmroth, performed by Yeboyah)
Pianomies (produced by Pianomies, performed by Pianomies and Kube)
MD$ and Ruuben (produced by MD$ and Ruuben, performed by Gettomasa)
What musical influences outside hip hop do you have?
Generally speaking, I love RnB, Soul, Latin Jazz, Bossa Nova, Disco, Boogie, Funk, Progressive & Psychedelic Rock. It tends to go in seasons.
I also have a weak spot for different kinds of obscure grooves, but especially the ones from Soviet Union and funky Bollywood soundtracks. Music like this here . I’ve been even running a club dedicated to Soviet Grooves. I just love when different cultures and vibes get mixed. That’s when it all comes together – no borders in music and art.
When can we expect more music from you, and will we see you DJing around Europe or the UK soon?
My next single drops on February 19th!
On March 3rd me, Monmaand Cocabona will be playing live at the Beat Geeks club in Berlin. Really looking forward to that and would be very excited to play more shows after releasing my debut EP through Melting Pot Music at the end of March.