Let's discover Mokoma for yourself
Mokoma is considered to be one of the most interesting Finnish bands. Combination of different styles, excellent and deep lyrics and all this is Mokoma. Having been collaborating with EMI and received from them a further refusal to cooperate, they decided to take their own road and established a new label which is called Sakara records. At the moment guys continue their own road: record new albums, with every new one polishing its sound and making it better and better.
For people who don’t speak Finnish language it might be hard to understand what they are singing about. But those feelings that Marko put in the lyrics, and musicians into music, can’t leave you indifferent, because those feelings are coming from the heart.
We got the great possibility to talk with Kuisma, who is a guitar player of Mokoma, and Janne, who is a drummer. And maybe it will let you to discover Mokoma for yourself.
- Do you remember how the history of Mokoma has begun?
Kuisma: I think the first demo tape was in 1996 or in 1997.
Janne: It started as Marko’s solo project and now we’re a band. After the second album this was like a band album. I guess the first album “Valu” was Marko’s project and then he found good guys and we made a band.
- When all the other guys joined the band?
K: Actually I was involved in a very first album as well and I played the first Mokoma gig. There was Marko, but we had another drummer which was also called Janne, and bass player was different from now. Maybe 2 first gigs I was playing guitar by myself, then Tuomo joined the band and I think he has played in almost all the Mokoma gigs as well.
J: So you are the only member except Marko from the former line-up?
K: Yeah, I have played in all Mokoma gigs. Good luck!
- And you Janne, how did you join the band?
K: We’re all childhood friends almost.
J: Yes, this is funny, because we’re from the small city Lappeenranta, so we know each other from we were teenagers, we’re high school friends and I knew Marko before. You know, in small town it’s always like that. You know everyone who involved in heavy metal or so.
K: There was maybe, let’s say roughly, thirty guys within our age group, and the guys were jumping from one band to another as long as they found some combinations.
- You founded you own record label Sakara records. How did you come to this decision?
K: We didn’t have any other choices
J: We got rejected from EMI (Oy EMI Finland Ab) and we didn’t find a new label.
K: So it was like that: we did two first albums, we got signed to EMI which was obviously very big record label in Finland and did two albums with them. I think the music was a bit different back then and we were looking for our own sound, but albums didn’t sell very well. Original producer that we had, who actually work in EMI as well, had a very strong believe on lyrics side. He was trying to build like a long term project, he knew that there is something in it. But label he was working with didn’t believe in it, because two albums we did with them didn’t work that well, and then we had a demo tape for the third album which was like kick ass, but they didn’t believe that. We tried to offer tape to another labels, but there were always some kind of: okay, this is good, but you have to change the singer, what a joke for us, so no match with the labels. So we had to find a way to release the music that we love very much.
J: The idea back then was to combine Finnish lyrics with thrash metal things. We listened to trash metal when we were young. It was quite obvious, so why not.
K: And actually there were bands like The Haunted for example, who had huge influence on us. They were the sort of revival of thrash stuff and we were very much into that.
Maybe we tried to be more pop/rock kind of band or alternative grunge shit or whatever in the first records. We were looking for the right sound. And then we thought: we can play this kind of music, we can build a meaning for that kind of music, so it felt very natural.
- Which music has influenced you at the beginning and at this moment?
K: I think we have been listening quite a lot of thrash metal 80s-90s.
J: But as you can hear the songs are like pop songs where there are elements from thrash metal, from black metal. We like good music with which you can sing along.
K: So actually that maybe difference between us from another metal bands - we are sing along band. We try to take the best elements out of a lot of things, but to combine in our own sound. I can’t say another band that actually do same kind of thing that we’re doing - Stam1na is quite close, but they are not in pop rock, they don’t go there yet. I don’t know, they’re so talented song writers so why not they do that as well.
J: We are quite different guys listening different music, lots of music, so when you combining it that’s Mokoma.
- If to compare Mokoma at the beginning and now what is the main difference?
K: We have learnt how to write good songs. We have grown up on that way.
J: Because if you do these things for many years you can experience, you get older and wiser in many ways I guess.
K: Maybe we have found our own thing and we have to sort of polish it all the time. So we have been quite consistent in our songwriting: even if you listen to the first album, there are still things that we could use now, but maybe the combination was a big different and the overall feeling was a big different. But we’re polishing it, we’re trying to learn how to make the best Mokoma song ever and that’s the project for every record.
J: We’re like old couple, we love each other, but…
K: Not that much. It’s very fortune that we don’t live in the same house. We have some time for ourselves and our families and everything.
J: Yeah, Mokoma house it’s not gonna happen
K: But maybe later…
- The lyrics of Mokoma are considered to be one of the best Finnish lyrics, but it’s hard to translate it or understand for not Finnish people, right?
K: You cannot translate lyrics I guess: some parts of lyrics are quite universal, but quite a lot of the lyrics are linked to the Finnish culture, so you have to know some internal extra references to Finnish culture to understand those. And I can’t say that I understand the lyrics very well, but I have grown into understanding of it more and more.
I think that main talent of Marko is to write music that actually touches people. He’s very empathetic guy, he can actually jump into someone else's trousers and sing about that situation. He writes a lot of things about what has happened to himself too, and what he is experienced. He can really relate to other people's feelings and that’s his talent.
- What is the closest theme for you in Mokoma songs?
K: I like the depression theme that was going on in our latest album. The songs are so strong. Depression is one of the shittiest conditions that can happen to you and Marko has described it in the album very well. That’s the theme album about 11 different kind of diagnosis of depression. And they’re not even about human depression, in the last song there is a dragon who is depressed.
J: But you can find yourself.
K: Our sixth album “Kuoleman Laulukunnaat” was mix about breaking up, divorcing and about breaking those promises. That was 11 songs about that. It’s a very hard subject, but you can sing about that in so many ways and that’s talent of Marko.
J: That was the first album that went gold, gold record.
K: And of course you could say that’s very opportunistic way to do that. Because everyone has those feelings so let’s sing about those, but you can do that in so many ways and I think that Marko is quite cool, it’s not like crying or weeping.
- Did Marko ever write songs about you?
K: As a persons? I think he has done that as well, I think I know couple of songs. I write some of the music for our band and when there is a song I have written, the music from my mind, Marko might somehow relate to some stuff that I said. But that’s how he jumps to another person’s skin and tries to figure out about his feeling or her feeling or whatever.
J: He knows us too well.
K: That’s the talent of a storyteller, or a songwriter, you can actually relate the other people issues. And it’s just rock music so I don’t mind. It’s not too personal in that way so…
J: No names!
- Now is the question about your latest album “Elävien Kirjoihin”: there are a lot of very good reviews about it.
K: I think it might be artistically our best album ever, so that’s a lot to say for a band 10th album. But I think something a bit out of our ordinary process happened there. We used a little different team for mixing and mastering so we got a little bit different sound for that record which has been huge for us.
J: Jens Borgen. This Swedish guy mixed and mastered the album. I’ve been asked for many times why this new album is so cool. I don’t know because we went to studio and started to record the songs, it took half of the year, something like that, just as we usually do. When I heard first mixes from different songs I had a feeling that now something is going on. But that’s the things you cannot plan: let’s make the best album so far. It doesn’t work like that.
K: It’s also bit more expensive than our last album. Not much but I think the difference is bigger. I don’t know what we will do next, but it makes you think. And no offence to the guys we were working before, but there is different level on the album. And that’s talent of Mister Jens Borgen.
- In some songs you use harsh vocal, for some it’s clean vocal. Why?
J: Marko has many voices.
K: Yeah, he has different tools to express different feelings so that’s one of the strength that we have. We don’t have like one way street we have to do, people expect us to do, that kind of thing. We have created the musical freedom for us. We’re band that can express ourselves as we wish, so there are chicks wearing the summer dresses there and then there are thrash hardcore youngsters watching our show and everyone is enjoying in their own way.
Marko is very strict about that. If the lyrics are something that you can shout then you can shout, but if the lyrics are about flowers and peace, you don’t shout stuff like that. So then you have to use another kind of approach. And that’s the strength for our band and that’s why we’re doing our 11th album really soon I guess. We’re not like one trick pony, we’re not doing one thing again and again. We’re inventing our own sound every album.
J: And next album we cannot sing about depression.
-There is a song from album “Sydänjuuret” which is called “Sydänjuuret” as well. Can you tell about this song?
K: It’s an anthem for the things that are good in Finnish people, I think.
J: I don’t wanna explain Markos feelings so…
K: It’s an appreciation song for stuff that is good about Finnish people and the cultural richness. In the chorus, there are things that "mother has given you" and that is a lot of things in Finnish language. And your father, he has given only the land, the The Fatherland. And that is a very strong word for Finnish people. And it’s not even about your political opinion or shit like that. It’s just the country that we’re living and we are proud of. The song is also about the northern sky which is very used term that the Finnish bands use when they sing in English. I think that’s the only song we use that kind of appreciation for the nature and for the people who live here. Sydänjuuret can be translated as "the roots of your heart".
-There is one documentary about Finnish guy who moved to Sweden when he was 3 yeard old, and then he went back to Finland, but he left his heart is in Sweden…
K: Maybe his root of heart in Sweden then. And that’s very understandable.
J: We live in different cultures. We live close, but
K: There is a difference. We have more in common, but we have differences. But there are also around Finland. We have this amazing opportunity to see a lot of different kind of areas in Finland, in which we have cultural differences - within this small country. People in Northern Finland have different values than people in Helsinki metropolitan area. They’re very small differences, but big enough that you can have a discussion with those. My hobby during the touring is to go to a chain hotel lobby. They have the same kind of uniforms and processes there, how people have to do their job in the hotel lobby. But they still have local cultural nuances how they actually serve the clients there. And I enjoy watching how a guy in Kouvola or a lady in Savonlinna talks to their customers. It’s a small difference, but it’s noticeable difference. And that’s richness.
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