DON JOHNSON BIG BAND
"The smallest Big Band in the World "
Suiciderock: How would you define your band to someone who has never heard about it before?
Tommy: Well, I would suggest to listen to our albums *laughs*. The band is called Don Johnson Big Band, our music style is very difficult to categorise but let`s say that it is something of a cross between different styles of rythmmusic, Hip Hop and Jazz we incorporate that with electronic music sound. Maybe you could say it is something similar to Back, The Beasty Boys and Massive Attack. Maybe we have something similar in the sound. We are four guys with totally different backgrounds. We have elemts of Jazz and elements of Hip Hop. Live we have a really uptempo style, it`s party music. The albums are more down tempo and maybe a little more electronic. We try to keep this kind of organic on stage. Terms like progressive hip hop has been used when it came to categorasing us. I`m the vocalist and most of my parts have something to do with rap. It`s not a really average hip hop group.
Suiciderock: If you had to describe each of your members by using one word how would you do so?
Tommy: Let`s start with our drummer Kari. He mostly plays the drums on stage but he also plays bass and guitar. Kari is "obsessive". He is very straight and he always wants everything to work out good. He is very systematic. Oh now we have already two words… our keyboardplayer Johannes is the "systematic"one, Pekka the saxophone player and he also plays the flute is "the jill out lean back" type of guy. And I`m just sort of nuts in a way. I`m very crazy and monkey like on stage.
Suiciderock: About the roles in your band? Who does the lyrics?
Tommy: I`m the one who is mostly responsible for the lyrics. But of course we work together when we are in the studio for example. I think we usually discuss the themes when we start to work on a new song. But I`m the one who is responsible to put that into words at the end. We have lots of this kind of creativity sessions were we have a closer look at the lyrics and stuff like that. I`m 80 % responsible for the songwriting process.
Suiciderock: What comes first? The music or the melodies?
Tommy: That varies also. But I think the melodies come first and the lyrics come afterwards. But in some cases I come up with the lyrics first and I don`t really know for which song we could use them. It totally depends on the situation. Some of the lyrics are even tried to different songs before they find their right place.
Suiciderock: What inspires you for the lyrics?
Tommy: The beautiful Finnish landscape (* looks out of the tourbuswindow * ). No, life in general has a very big influence in our songs. And the music. I think 50 % of the lyrics are inspired by random thoughts. Some of the songs don`t have much of a lyrical content as well. But mostly my personal life and the life of other people is kind of a inspiration for me. It is really difficult to say. There are also times when there is simply no inspiration.
Suiciderock: Where is the best place to write your song. Do you need a special atmosphere?
Tommy: Sometimes I create a special atmosphere at home. I like writing during the night time or at least pretty late in the evening. But that varies also. I have to work on the lyrics also while we are in the studio. We have this own kind of a recording room in Helsinki. We do most of our work there. Lots of times you can find me sitting on the couch there or in the doorway in the basement trying to come up with something that fits.
Suiciderock: But you don`t need to be depressed while writing the songs. Cause it seems that most of the Finnish musicians or songwriters have to be in a depressive mood to write new material?
Tommy: No, not really. I think it`s just art in general or let`s say different forms of art or culture it`s creative work. I guess people often think that creative work need to bear this angst and depression inside. They feel like they have to be in pain just to create new material. Sometimes this feelings can provide you with inspiration but than again you can also be completely happy and content with your own life and you are still able to create good music. Some music is dark, gloomy and pessimistic by nature and some music is light and optimistic on the other hand. It can effect the songs but even if you are depressed you could manage to write a happy song. It doesn`t necessarily have go hand in hand.
Suiciderock: What can people expect from your life shows?
Tommy: Well, our life show is just a way to have as much fun on stage as possible. We try to keep it life. We`ve never came up with the idea that we should come up with a life routine. We want to have interaction on stage, we simply wanted to keep this exciting feeling alive. We want interaction within the band and within the audience. It`s always nice to go on stage while having this feeling that you don`t know what`s gonna happen. We have some sort of basic routine but there needs to be space to move around and things like that. Today is like an exceptional gig. Only five of us will be on stage. There will also be this beatboxer who joins us for tonight. The gigs we played in the past have always been with the minimum group of six people so that`s gonna be very interesting tonight. Sometimes we have a female vocalist for instance. There is also a great variety in the guest musicians and that keeps it interesting as well. Hopefully tonight will be fun.
Suiciderock: Do you remember your worst show ever?
Tommy: I guess the worst shows ever have been this corporate parties, some private parties. They were put up by a company and people were just having drinks and they were not really interested in us and in the things we were doing. Even if they paid well it was not too much fun. We had a couple of shows were things have gone very bad on stage because of technical problems. I remember when we played a show in Turku last year at the Down by the Laituri festival. We actually had two gigs there. One of them was pretty good. They had a tent like we have today. But the night before we played at a club which was really small with this big fence infront of the stage. The people in the front row could see us and everyone else after them couldn`t. The soundsystem wasn`t too good either. The whole noise level. People kept coming to our soundman and they told him to turn the volume down cause it is too loud. So he needed to fight with this guys for the whole gig. In addition to that the electricity on stage went out three times… It was a disaster.
Suiciderock: Let`s say you have the chance to organise your own festival which bands would peform?
Tommy: It would be interesting to have a festival with Tom Waits, Beasti Boys, Massive Attack, Dire Straights, I would love to organise a really bizarre festival. It would also be interesting to see more experimental djs e.g. Dj Shadow. I would be happy with a whole Tom Waits festival. I have never seen him life and I would more than love to. So if he comes the rest doesn`t matter anymore.
Suiciderock: Your future plans for the band?
Tommy: We will go to Germany, to play in Greifswald in about a week and a half.
Suiciderock: Is it a festival?
Tommy: Yeah there is some Nordic festival. We will play on Wednesday the 9th of May I think. After that we come back to play this big outdoor gig in Helsinki on the sanatesquare before the Eurovision songcontest. We will do almost nothing in June but than we have lots of gigs n July. In August we go to Japan to play at the Summersonic festival in Tokyo and Osaka. We went to Tokyo last year. But that was a really bizarre gig as we have only been there for 24 hours. But the line-up at the Summersonic is pretty cool. They have the Arctic Monkeys, DJ Shadow is there, Gwen Stefanie will perform also. After August we should more seriously try to work on the new album. We never make so many plans in advance. Our album will be released in Japan in February next year. So let`s see if we can play some more gigis over there. Japan is a really interesting market and a really interesting place to go.
And last but not least the question box:
Tommy: The question… "What`s your size of shoes?" It`s 43, I don`t know if you use the same shoe sizes in Germany. It depends on the shoes I`m wearing. *smiles*