Panasonic SAB Interview Transcript #2
SAB - Can you hear me okay?
Mika - It’s very quiet, but I can hear you.
SAB - Are you in New York now?
Mika - No, I’m in Barcelona.
SAB - It’s pretty nice.
Mika - It sure is.
SAB - I guess I’ll just start asking questions right away. I was listening to one of the tracks you did with FM Einheit, and it kind of occurred to me that a lot of the music you make moves at a similar pace to the heartbeat?
Mika - Well, we made a full length CD. It’s been ready now for a while, but for several reasons the release has been postponed. There are several different types of tracks on this CD. There’s rhythmic ones, but there is also more quiet, very simple minimalistic ones. Did you say that you heard one of the tracks?
SAB - Yeah, just one.
Mika - Oh really, where did you hear it?
SAB - There’s an English magazine called Obsessive Eye.
Mika - Oh right, they had the 7 inch.
SAB - So was the heartbeat a conscious influence on that stuff? Do you think of the heartbeat in terms of the speed of your music? (He’s coughing.)
Mika - I’m sorry. I have a cold. (A long silence.) I don’t know really. I’m sorry.
SAB - That’s no problem. One thing that was making me think of that — do you think dub reggae is a fairly big influence on what Panasonic does?
Mika - Yes, I’m sure it is a big influence. Maybe you can hear it more when we play live. Using the echos and delays. We really like a lot of reggae. It has an influence on our music, but it’s not very direct.
SAB - Yeah, in the echo, I can hear it. Are some of your sounds created — like if you put the sound through the echo — are some of the sounds just created by the echo, like the original sound is lost. Do you do quite a bit of that?
Mika - Yeah, we do that quite often.
SAB - What sort of equipment do you use for your echo?
Mika - It’s very simple. It’s a delay unit by Korg. And then we have a small Boss delay pedal that we use.
SAB - I’ve heard you guys don’t use computers?
Mika - We still don’t use a computer. But we have a digital sampler and sequencer now, which we’ve had for about a year. But most of it is still analogue.
SAB - This is the first album with the sampler?
Mika - Yeah, that’s true.
SAB - You can tell there’s a difference. I haven’t seen you guys play live yet. I think the record is quite nice listen to it. But I’ve heard that live you’re much louder.
Mika - It’s more, how should I say it, it’s more aggressive, more rough sounding, and then we also improvise. Many of the tracks which are originally from CD are quite different when we play them live. I think it’s quite different from the CD.
SAB - Is what you do live kind of like dubbing what you do on record?
Mika - Well, we also usually play tracks live which are not recorded. There are some tracks that work really well live.
SAB - There’s a lot of really high frequencies. So do you think a lot of people hear your music differently, because a lot of people can’t hear high frequencies?
Mika - Especially older people. They can’t hear high frequencies. It’s possible that older people can’t hear a lot of it. Also, it depends on the acoustics. It depends on what space you’re in. It can change quite a lot.
SAB - I heard that if you’re a man, when you get old, you can’t hear high things, but women can’t hear low sounds. Is that true?
Mika - I don’t know about this.
SAB - Maybe it’s not true. When you’re recording the music, does it get hard for you to hear the high sounds? Does it hurt your ears?
Mika - It doesn’t really hurt. But if you have to listen to them for a long time, it starts to feel a little bit unpleasant. Sometimes, I have to take a break for recording. I like the high frequencies, but not for too long. They can make me feel very ill or unpleasant. I know many people who don’t care. It’s okay for them. But for me, I cannot listen to them for a long time.
SAB - I also read somewhere that you record your records live. Like you do it all at once, onto two track.
Mika - We record everything straight to a DAT. There’s no possibility of making any remix in that way, cause we don’t use any multi-track. We play in the same way that we play live. We still do it like that.
SAB - It makes you think fast, cause some of your songs are just two minutes. It doesn’t give much time, if you screw up.
Mika - I’m sorry, it seems to be very quiet. I don’t always hear you.
SAB - Have you done the album with Suicide now?
Mika - Yeah with Alan Vega.
SAB - Do you know what attracted him to Panasonic’s sound?
Mika - Well, he just said that he likes our music. He said he hadn’t heard anything like that before. He really got interested, and then he agreed to work with us.
SAB - Had you heard much of Suicide before?
Mika - Oh yes. We are both old fans, since the first Suicide LP came out. The first Suicide LP made a really big impression on me, and since then I’ve been listening to them, and also the solo stuff by them.
SAB - Which other electronic records were early influences?
Mika - The very first one was Kraftwerk, but then I got to Brian Eno and his Ambient works, and then a little later I heard the first Suicide, and then Throbbing Gristle, and then Einsturzende Neubaten. And then I heard some of the electronic composers. This was in the late seventies, early eighties.
SAB - And Panasonic’s been around since the early nineties?
Mika - Yeah, ‘93.
SAB - So which sort of music do you like in the last couple of years?
Mika - I’m not listening much to so-called techno, or that type of music, at the moment. I really like the old acoustic blues and rockabilly and early reggae. These sorts of things I’m listening to a lot. And then I’m listening to a lot of experimental electronic and Japanese noise. Those are the main things.
SAB - Yeah, I listen to a lot of reggaem actually. What’s rockabilly like? Is that the stuff from the 1960s in the States?
Mika - No, it was before that. The main rockabilly in the States was from about ‘55 to ‘58, and after that it went more rock’n’roll. Rockabilly was more hillbilly, country based.
SAB - Have you heard the first things Elvis Presley did?
Mika - Yes, I love that. That was rockabilly.
SAB - What else is there? I don’t know much else.
Mika - Well, for example, Carl Perkins is well known. And Charlie Feathers is one of my favorite. A guy called Sanford Clarke. He made a couple of great tracks. And Billy Lee Riley. He’s really good.
SAB - With the way those records were recorded, they didn’t use very much equipment — so do you think Panasonic records in a way that is similar?
Mika - Maybe in some ways. It’s recorded live in a way. Nothing that can be remixed later.
SAB - Do you think Panasonic’s quite organic?
Mika - Yeah on some tracks. The thing I like on analogue instruments is that on a micro-level it is always changing a little bit. It’s never the same. In the digital sound, it is cold information, which is always the same.
SAB - Yeah, I’ve heard that about analogue. Like if you walk away from it, it changes. So you have a friend who made the instruments you use?
Mika - Yeah, we have a friend in Finland, who is a technician, who made a lot of analogue synthesizers, and those synthesizers are the base of our sound. What you hear on our CDs, what we have recorded, about 70% comes from those instruments. And when we sample, we’re usually sampling our own instruments.
SAB - Do you ever take outside sounds, or musique concrete sounds?
Mika - Well, this far we have never actually done that. We have sampled some acoustic sounds, but I don’t know if it’s really comparable to musique concrete.
SAB - You’ve done two remixes that I really like, the one you did for Bjork and the one you did for Ryuichi Sakamoto. When you do a remix, do you change the way you record? It’s a different set-up. Do you still record the remixes live?
Mika - Yeah, we do the remixes the same way as we do other things.
SAB - Do you just play the person’s song through and put it through an effect or something?
Mika - With remixes, we sample from the original track. Usually, we pick one or two sounds, and then add everything else by ourselves.
SAB - When you work with Bjork or Alan Vega, do your strategies change when the voice is on the track?
Mika - We work a little bit different. But our music has always been quite minimal, so in our case it doesn’t change that much. For Alan, there was room to sing anyway.
SAB - Do you place a lot of emphasis on where the sounds are in the stereo spectrum? It sounds like its quite important where the sounds are placed between the speakers.
Mika - Right, yeah, that’s also quite an interesting area of work, the stereo picture, or the sound picture (can hear a cat meow in the background), the patterning of the sound, what direction they’re coming, and what kind of effects we use, and different sounds, which changes the stereophonic feeling.
SAB - On the sampler, is there something that lets you do it exactly?
Mika - Yeah, I think we could do it. But we’re not using it that way. When we’re recording, we often to do it manually, if we’re changing the position of the sound or the acoustics.
SAB - There’s a lot of surprises in the new album. It’s funny — the fourth or fifth track just stops in the middle. At least when I read about Panasonic, do you think it’s quite emotional music, and some people forget this?
Mika - I think there is quite a lot of different emotions, and I know many people miss it. They think it’s all really unhuman and emotionless, and some of the tracks, it’s true. Some of the tracks we are trying to reach a feeling of, um, emotionless, or something like that. But then there is still in many tracks different kinds of feelings. It’s quite humourous, too, sometimes.
SAB - I’ve asked all my questions mainly. But just one or two more. What are you working on right now?
Mika - I’m doing some solo stuff at the moment under my own name.
SAB - What else will you have coming out in 1999?
Mika - There will be a Panasonic EP that will have straightforward rhythmic tracks, and I hope the CD we made with FM Einheit will come out.
SAB - Any remixes?
Mika - There’s nothing coming out right now.
SAB - Have you done many remixes?
Mika - Not since the Sakamoto one.
SAB - And now in Spain, you’ve set up a studio?
Mika - Yeah, I have the same system as I had in Finland, as in London. It’s quite small. I don’t have many instruments. It’s quite easy to move. So I have it here now.
SAB - Does your music change a little from place to place?
Mika - A little bit, but in a very indirect way. Of course, my music is slowly changing.