Updated: Dec 24, 2019
Blastromen have been a very interesting addition to the Electro scene, and for so many reasons perhaps. On one hand you could say they have been a bit of a phenomenon, slightly supernatural in the quality of their work and how rapid their success has been worldwide. On the other, their music is rather familiar, a bit retro in its feel, and so you could say also that Blastromen have served as a reminder of a sound that we all grew up on: 80's Sci-Fi and vintage synth music.
In truth however, perhaps a better definition of their sound lies somewhere in the middle of these examples, in that their music is highly influenced by authentic Electro music yes, but also that their approach to composing, programming and even performing is very innovative, raising the bar higher than many have for a long time in this music. Profound melodic compositions, refined programming, and ingenious studio editing techniques come together in their music to form cinematic, highly energetic and simply put, epic tunes that make you move, make you feel, and perhaps most importantly: make you think!
Here in this insightful interview exclusively for Electric Kingdom, we sit down with Sami Koskivaara and Mika Rosenberg of the infamous duo, to discuss their upbringing as young aspiring musicians, their new album coming soon called Cyberia on Dominance Electricity, and what's in store for the future as Electro music gathers much awaited and deserved attention, continuing to catapult the duo into further international success. Without further ado, let's get on with it!
Santino Fernandez: Welcome guys! What a huge honor to get a chance to speak to you both. I know I safely speak for everyone in the scene when I say we are all die-hard fans of your music and incredible performances. Thank you for the breath of fresh, somehow familiar air you have brought to the scene! Let's begin. How did you two first meet?
Mika: Thank you and thanks for the compliments! We’ve been putting a lot of effort, not just only in the detailed productional adjustments, but a lot also on the visual side. We initially met already back in the 80's in the kindergarten and grew up during the years more or less in the same circles.
Sami: Musically we met by doing Mods with Amiga 500/1200 computers and weird electronic devices. The new album even has a track that has a melody from that era.
Interesting, I guess it makes sense you two are childhood friends. The bond you have really comes through in the music I must say. So when did the idea for Blastromen come about then? What were the key influences in choosing the aesthetics, both musical and visual, that you promote?
Mika: After doing a few years of Techno & Mono tracks we started to compose also melodies around 2002-2004. I would say Electro was equally present at the time, but it was more natural way to express yourself with melodic unless you didn't want to do some sort of House music. Our first actual Electro track was "Metal Machine Victims", which was released 6 years after that, in 2010. Of course it's not completely the same but the main elements are original. Next one was "Sense Of Ears", which also had the same destiny to end up in the bedroom drawer for a decade, and was released in 2014 in the album Reality Opens. These two tracks lighted up a spark to give birth to the Electro duo and Blastromen was born.
The key influences comes from Sci-Fi, from past to present, from 20th century to date. Most of the retro Sci-Fi from 70-80's, but I'd still talk about 20th century, because the new upcoming album has a track with a theme from 1920's. Sick, isn't it!?
Visual side salutes to Kraftwerk, Daft Punk and JMJ, but I would say we have found our own way to do the show.
Sami: Musically we are very much influenced by the one and only Kraftwerk, Prodigy and 90’s/early 2000’s Electro like Mr. Velcro Fastener, Anthony Rother and I-F. 70’s and 80’s Sci-Fi movies like Alien, Terminator, etc. of course had also huge impact.
Like I say in the intro...familiar! The environment we all grew up best described through your fantastic music. Right on!
Let's talk about the Finnish Electro scene from both your perspectives growing up. Could you describe it a bit? Has the sound of Electro always been very popular, or has it been fairly underground? If so, what was that like?
Mika: Definitely underground, just like it's been globally. There has been few Electro parties through every year but mostly small or even "illegal" events. We started to do gigs in 2008 and first few years we performed in that kind of events. Later on there has been more vacuum to being asked to play in different kinds of events - EDM parties, Hippie festivals, EBM parties, mainstream festivals. Perhaps it's the energetic music and interesting show that has been the enabler for that.
Sami: Well, there is like 5 Electro bands in Finland so I don’t know is there is any real “Electro scene”, but generally Electronic music scene is doing ok - it’s underground, nice parties, good music and lot of Techno these days.
Seems after the decline of Electro Funk's popularity in the late 80's, that's sadly how Electro was in most parts of the world. Somehow Detroit and Miami always kept it going though.
Alright, moving forward a bit, you have a new album called "Cyberia" coming out soon on German imprint Dominance Electricity. How is this one different from the previous, has there been a different approach at composing and producing this one would you say?
Mika: The spirit follows the same path, but this one has a little bit more soul in it, like atmospheric moods, thrilling scenes, but also energetic and bouncing tracks. Some might say that there are more hit potentials than last albums, ha ha!
Sami: It’s our best album yet! ;-)
"Always when there are possibilities to do good, there are possibilities to do harm..."
When I hear your music, there is an obvious sense of dreaming of a future that is both like and unlike our world. By that I mean, there is an obvious expression of the darkness that surrounds our world and its societal and environmental issues, but also a fascination with technological advancements that haven't fully come to pass yet. Where do you see the world headed, what technologies do you see as being key in helping us evolve the right way?
Mika: Spot on. Internet will expand, IoT takes a huge role, robotics and automation increase, visual contact lens controls take place. These will drag the opposite forces with us. Always when there are possibilities to do good, there are possibilities to do harm.
Sami: Good question! The state of the world is always very divided. In the other hand we as humans (and robots) have accomplished great things. It's amazing that we can basically draw a scientific and accurate picture of the whole universe, its origin and calculate quantum mechanical interactions but then again we are in a constant state of war, kill innocent children with chemical weapons and we are trying to destroy the whole planet with greenhouse gases. Humans are stupid and very smart at the same time. It's very fascinating. Technology-wise we only have one invention to make and that's A.I.
AI is a subject all of its own for sure! A bit scary if it decides between smart and stupid, humans are simply stupid. Then we are in trouble I think!
While on the topic of your general musical themes, I am intrigued by one song in particular: "Concealed Alien Dynasty". There is also the vibe in "Follow The Command" which to me ties into this song with this magnificent Middle Eastern vibe, inspiring thoughts about theories promoted by people like Erich Von Daniken. Maybe I am wrong, but are you guys a bit into the Ancient Alien theory perhaps? I can't help but take that away from the fairly obvious title in that song off the "Blasteroids E.P." on XOX Records. Can you talk a little about your feelings on that subject?
Mika: I’m not personally into any flimsy theories but too pragmatic to rely on the science and facts. What fascinates me in those tracks is the mood and especially the playful thoughts about how it has been in the history. Of course it's a written speculative theory, but for me it's more about a cool story to tell.
Sami: Aliens visiting Earth is always very cool and nice Sci-Fi topic to write songs about, but has nothing to do with reality. It’s all just fantasy. Meeting a real extraterrestrial alien from another star would be like an ant meeting a human - and we would be the ant...
Indeed! Simply put Sami, but profound. Alright, let's talk about your process in studio. What synths do you own, which do see as your biggest strength? Describe your workflow a little for us.
Mika: Sad to say but we have sold the most of our hardware synths. Still it was a calculated move by several reasons. Firstly we wanted to refresh the sound by moving on to new solutions. For example, software synths nowadays totally competes with the hardwares fairly good. Secondly, we didn't want to compromise our sound anymore between the studio and a live show. Now when we are building most of the things up in DAW, we just drag the thing with us on the stage. We still have Novation Bass Station (the new one) and of course the legendary C64-DIY-homesynth which was highly used in Sidtroen. It has the actual MOS8561 in it. Now how cool is that?
Roughly said the workflow in composing follows the sequence: both is sketching some track ideas and compositions separately. We get together to check what are the coolest ideas and elements in those sketches. We store 98% of the material in the drawer to wait for better days to come, if ever. The surviving ones gets 80% of them destroyed and last 20% of them has the remaining cool ideas to be produced further.
As our strength I would count the open-mindedness for all kinds of music, art and self-expression. To be honest, in the meantime I don't listen Electro at all. Not even Electronic music that much. Mostly I feel like listening completely opposite genres like nu-metal, rap, mainstream shit and EDM sometimes. Maybe that brings a strong different kind of vibe in our music as well.
Sami: Cyberia album was still produced with analog gear like Roland Jupiter 6, JX-3P, JX-8P but currently we have almost all digital studio. I’m planning to get some of these new small analog synths when we start to produce the next release. To make a finished track takes a lot of time. First we make some basic template of a song, and we build on top of that if the template have something interesting. Lot of improvisation happens also at the studio. We just play something and if it sounds good we put it in the track. Sometimes it takes years to make one track, sometimes only weeks. Lyrics and vocals comes quite in the end of the process.
I relate a lot to both of your inputs on composing. Glad to hear I am not the only one it takes years to complete something sometimes! :) I also have to relate with Mika on listening to other forms of music, I agree that it really helps in expanding our musical minds, otherwise too much Electronic music can actually narrow the sound we create I think.
So tell me, how do you feel about all the latest talk of Electro becoming the next big sound? Are you seeing some of this response in bookings and in the audience at shows?
Mika: I definitely hope that it is the next big thing and surely a long-waited direction. Electro has a hell of a lot to give as it has been holding back the long grown fruits for so long. Like I mentioned in the previous answer, we’ve had bookings in completely different types of events than just pure Electro/Techno events. Maybe that's a some sort of a sign!
Sami: I hope that our sound is the next big sound :-D
I hope so as well, our music deserves it! So for the up and coming artists, those die-hards that feel so inspired by your music. What do say to them as far as how to make it in the industry? What does it take to be a well-rounded musician?
Mika: I don't feel like being the best person to answer that, but what I've seen and been experiencing:
1. Do what you love to do and do it 100%. Don't search for shortcuts.
2. Don't hold back letting people know what you are doing. Life is too short for that.
3. Connect to new people, influencers, promoters and organizers, and remember to be humble and nice. We need each other to get further and make it work.
4. Go to step #1.
Sami: Do your own thing, get good, never give up.
Right on! What's in store for you guys in the future then?
Mika: Hard to say yet. This year we are touring as much as we can with the new Cyberia vibes and let's see what it brings up in the future. We have exceptionally done also a bit of cooperation with other people, though we typically are lonely riders and want to keep everything in our own hands. In Cyberia album, we got Acid Hausmeister to feature on one of our tracks with his 303. We also produced an uplifting opening track for the new live show which has Laura “Medley” Puentes speaking the statement of three laws of robots. Damn fine results!
Good things usually bring more good things. On the other hand, from time to time, I feel like I have already given everything from myself on this journey, but behind the keyboards, there’s always some new cool and interesting ideas popping out, just like that! Let's see…
Sami: Now we focus to the Cyberia release tour but in the future make more music, maybe something completely different (maybe Techno again), maybe something else who knows. I would like to do some collaboration again, maybe with Morphology because we have been planning it for a long time. Overall I’m very pleased that the Cyberia album is finally coming out because it took so long to make. I’m really happy of the outcome and can’t wait to have the vinyls in my hands. Now it’s time to start doing something exciting and new from clean slate!
Great stuff, thank you guys. I know everyone is very excited about the new release, so anxiously we await! Let's see what more the future brings. Be well you two!