Pan Sonic Transcript – 1st Interview

SAB – How did you get away with using the name?

Mika – Well, there has not been any trouble yet.  There has been no approach from the company.  I don’t know why, but there’s been no trouble.  WE thought they would contact us, but you know we are not using the company logo.

SAB – What are you going to do when you play live?

Mika – Well, we have these two self made analogue synthesizers, then we have a Roland 808 and 101, and these are all linked together on the console.  So we play everything live, but now we’ve changed our system a little bit.  We bought about two weeks ago a sampler and sequencer, which we are now using in our live show.  It changes our live sound a little, and gives us a lot more possibilities.

SAB – Yeah, I read once that you had someone build your synthesizers?

Mika – Yeah, a good friend of ours.  We don’t personally know that much about electronics, but this guy is a technician.

SAB – Does that make him a third member then?

Mika – Yeah, in a way, he is a third member.  He’s responsible in a way for Panasonic’s sound.

SAB – When you’re listening to Panasonic, do you think it’s better in the background than when you listen to it with a lot of attention?

Mika – Well, it works in a lot of different ways.  People have very different reactions.  Well, I think the best situation would be if it was both ways.  I hope it’s interesting as well if you really listen to it.

SAB – Do you think with these frequencies, there’s some subliminal or unconscious activity which would affect the listener?

Mika – Well, there’s nothing that we would say consciously.  Sometimes, the frequencies are working in quite interesting ways.  In a way, they have their own life.  We are not usually putting those things there consciously.  It just happens.

SAB – Do you feel you let the music make itself?

Mika – In a way, yes.

SAB – Panasonic’s sound is so minimal.  In a way, do you think a lot of Panasonic’s music is implied and not actually present.  As a listener, it seems like you have to create a lot of sounds yourself in your own head.

Mika – I’m having a hard time hearing you … (switch phones, call him back)

SAB – same question

Mika – I think it can work that way as well.  But I think there really is quite a lot of things to listen to in our sound, even though it is happenning at a very micro level.  There’s still quite a lot of things usually in the sound itself.

SAB – I wasn’t trying to say that there wasn’t, but more like say the way sometimes it sounds like a techno beat, but the beat’s been so reduced that you can only hear the patterns.

Mika – Oh maybe yeah yeah.  I think that’s right.  In a way, yeah I understand what you’re saying.  I think it works that way for us a lot better rythmically, if you just leave off the bass line or the synth line that you would normally expect to hear.  Maybe for some people it works better if they imagine sounds themselves.  I think for us they work quite well just how they are.

SAB – Do you place a certain emphasis on designing patterns?

Mika – I don’t know.  We don’t actually much really think that kind of things when we’re doing the music.   We just make the sounds and things.

SAB – That’s fine.  When you record — well, I read about what you were doing with some art group before Panasonic, and you were doing some strange things with microphones — I mean how important do you think that process is in making the music, because someone else could come along and make the same sort of sounds in an easier way?  So do you think process is quite important when you make the music — not just the sounds, but what goes into making the sounds?

Mika – That was a different thing.  When we were working in this group, we made those things in the performance situation.  But Panasonic is more for the sound.  In Panasonic, we are actually not thinking so much of the process.  It’s a different approach.  It’s for the sound.

SAB – Another question you probably get asked a lot.  Do you think you’re geography, and living in Finland influences the music in some way?

Mika – Yeah, I’m sure it affects us.  But it’s in some unconscious way.  Like when we are making music, we are never thinking or trying to make the track about all that snow and ice.  We are just making sounds.  I’m sure at an unconscious level, it is affecting our music.

SAB – I’m sure just being that far North does something to the music.  Do you consider yourselves as minimalists — is it a fair label?

Mika – Yeah, well of course, it is quite a big part of what we do, the minimalistic approach.  It depends on how you describe minimalism.

SAB – Well, do you think minimalism is an easy music to fake?

Mika – Well, there is also quite bad minimalism.  The main idea of minimalism for us is that less is more, to make more out of less.  Things just work better — well, the main thing in our music is the sound itself.  We have found out that the less things you have at one time, then the more you can get out of the sounds themselves.  The whole idea of the minimalism is just trying to get more out of the little things.  I think I would say our music is closer, in musical terms, is closer to spectrum music than minimalism.  Spectrum music is concentrating more on the sound itself than the structure of the piece.

SAB – So does that mean you’re putting the sound through a whole bunch of different effects?

Mika – Well, when we start making a track, we are just looking for the right kind of sound, and this can sometimes take quite a long time to find something that fits into a certain kind of mood that we feel is something we would like to work for.  And when we find other things, we are trying to add things that work with this one sound, and after that we are starting to work for the structure.

SAB – Do you get tired of this one sound before you finish the track?

Mika – Well, sometimes, and it happens quite often, if you working for a long time on the track, in the end you don’t know if it’s good or bad.  You just have to finish it, and listen to it later.  That’s also a problem sometimes, because when you’re working in a hurry, you are coming to forget what you are doing.  It sounds real good, but when you hear it later, it doesn’t sound at all like what it was supposed to.  This happens several times.  The mastering of the records can sometimes be quite difficult, because you have to go to a studio where you have not worked before, and the sound system is quite different than what you are used to.  It might be sounding real cool in the studio, but when you hear them later, it doesn’t sound like what it was supposed to be.

SAB – Well, the studio’s got quite a different atmosphere than where you were recording before.

Mika – And the sound system itself, the speakers, the acoustics, they change all the time.

SAB – Do you think that’s a good thing, that you can play Panasonic’s music on lots of different systems, and it can be lots of different things?

Mika – Well, yeah sure, of course.  But this is true for all different kinds of music, but perhaps in our music the difference is more clear than in some other types of music.  But it is always there.

SAB – Does Panasonic ever get played out in a club?

Mika – Well, in Europe, I think they are playing it sometimes in the more experimental techno clubs and electronic music clubs and places like that.

SAB – Do people dance to it?

Mika – Yeah, well sometimes, I think.

SAB – Well, changing the topic a bit.  You recently remixed Merzbow.  How come do you think people are so interested in sounds that would logically seem unpleasant?

Mika – For me for example, it was quite an interesting idea when I first heard it.  Like the early Throbbing Gristle stuff or the Einsturzende Neubaten stuff.  It was sounding quite disturbing, but in a way still very interesting.  It’s like learning to like some new strange kind of food, like when I was eating sushi for the first time it was quite weird, but then you were getting into the taste and you start to really like it.  It’s kind of like that.

SAB – So in that sense, the boundaries of what people listen to get pushed a long way back?

Mika – Myself, I just enjoy that kind of situation of finding something that is hardly bearable, and then working for it and concentrating to it, and you can be able to enjoy it.

SAB – At the same time, Panasonic has a certain aspect which is somehow more pleasant.

Mika – Sure, we are ourselves don’t see our music as that extreme at all.  We are quite medium in that way, if you compare our music to the most hardcore noise stuff.  Our music is quite pop electro.

SAB – I think that would be quite true.  But still it’s quite theoretical to be pop isn’t it, and maybe that’s not your fault.

Mika – yeah, I don’t know.  I really don’t think much about that kind of thing.

SAB – With the sounds you make, can you find ways that they can do damage?

Mika – Well, there are certain frequencies that can be dangerous with very high volumes.  Well, you can use the frequencies in very different ways.  At the moment, there is a lot of research on how you can use frequencies to cure certain things, like nervous diseases and things like that.  They have been creating this sound chair which has seven loud speakers around a bedlike chair, and they are making treatment for people that have this certain nervous disease which makes them shake all the time.  With these certain frequencies, they are able to relax for awhile, and stay still.

SAB – So that’s quite a positive aspect.

Mika – Well, then you can use them in the negative way as well.  I think there’s been quite a lot of experiments by the army and police how to focus certain sounds on people in a riot or demonstration to make them feel very sick, and to create a certain kind of panic and chaos.  Also, during World War II, they were trying — I think it was the French army — to use these low frequency cannons.  The problem is that you are not actually able to focus the low frequency, so all these people that were experimenting were the first people to receive the damage.

SAB – I think it’s quite strange before there’s Throbbing Gristle and all these noise bands, it’s the government doing all of it first.  Do you feel that there is a certain responsibility sometimes, like when you’re playing live, not to make sounds that will damage the audience?

Mika – Well, I think by the normal type of PA in a concert situation, it’s not possible to make those harmful low frequencies.  It would take a very special type of PA.  Of course, you can make people feel ill or sick with some high frequencies, but usually those things shouldn’t be very dangerous in that way.  They’ll just make you feel a bit sick.

SAB – Well, Merzbow calls his music fetish music, do you think if you focus on that one sound quite a lot, do you think that fetishisizes the sound in a certain way, by paying so much attention to it?

Mika – Well, maybe in a way it’s true, but I don’t see that in a negative way.  That’s just the way it is.

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