Pan Sonic, originally known as Panasonic until the electronics company made them change their name, was a collaboration between Finnish electronic musicians Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen. The pair recently announced that their new album Gravitoni, now available from Blast First Petite, will be their last. Mika spoke with me by phone about the reason for the split, the new album, and his plans for the future.
Klint Finley: I guess I’ll start with, just to get it out of the way, the announcement has been put out that Pan Sonic has split up, so was this an amicable split?
Well, let’s say that we don’t have any plans to start again, but maybe we do one day. It’s still open, but I don’t think, at least for a couple years, we will not do it.
So are you willing to talk anymore about the reasons behind the split or do you want to leave it at that?
Yeah, why not. There has been no argument or bad spirit or anything like that. It’s just that after, we’ve been doing this for over 15 years, it’s time to stop and concentrate on our own solo things.
So is that what you’re going to be concentrating on now, solo work?
Yes. Solo work, then I work with a couple of other people also. There are lots of projects going on.
Will Jari Lehtinen still be working with you and/or Ilpo?
Not really, not for a long time actually.
What can listeners expect from the new Pan Sonic album?
Compared to the one before, it’s more minimal and basic. We kind of wanted to go back to the old style, minimal tracks with quite strong sounds.
Are there any guest artists on it or is it only you and Ilpo?
It’s only me and Ilpo this time, yes. It’s quite basic.
Did you collaborate long distance on this album, with you working in Berlin and him working in Finland, or did you get together in the studio to work on it?
No, we were working here in my studio in Berlin.
Pan Sonic is known for recording live instead of using overdubs and sequencers. Has that changed at all?
Well, since the last album before this new one we’ve been using multitrack, so we’re doing overdubs now.
Have you experimented with using software – like software synthesizers or sequencing – or are you still using only hardware?
I’m using only hardware. I don’t really want to do any computer thing. I think it would change my whole approach to the music. It feels quite boring for me, I don’t want to go for that.
The record business has been going through a lot of transitions lately through music piracy through the Internet and there’s also the economic crash that makes it harder for people who might want to pay for music to actually pay for music. Has than been affecting you at all? Do you have any thoughts on that?
No it’s not affecting me that much, I think it’s only a problem of the record labels and big major artists. But for smaller artists and people like me we get very little money from the record sales altogether. The main source is playing live, that’s where the income is coming from. And I possibly think the music is available on the net because there are a lot of people, for example in South America, who could not afford to buy any CDs but this way they can hear the music, the music is available.
Mika playing live at In Touch Festival, Minsk. 2009-02-28
So you say most of your money comes from playing live, so will be touring solo to support your new work?
Yes, and I’ve been doing different things also. I’ve been working with a dance company making music for them. And I do sound installations too from time to time, so there’s income coming from that also.
Can you tell us about some of your sound installations?
Yes, sure. I would like to do them more often now that Pan Sonic is over, if I have more time. My last piece was in Brussels in November. It contained 6 off-tune radios. And I created the sound in the gallery with these radios.
Do you have any advice for new experimental musicians who are just starting out?
I would say they should just trust themselves and not think too much about what others think.
Video interview with Mika from Brainwashed.com. Mika talks about the history of Pan Sonic.
Unofficial Pan Sonic site from Phinnweb. Most complete resource for everything Pan Sonic.
Mika Vainio page from his booking agent. Watch here for tour dates.