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Baker's Dozen

Pan Sonics: Mika Vainio's Favourite Albums
Albert Freeman , September 1st, 2014 07:19

Our series of articles curated by Kevin 'The Bug' Martin continues with a Baker's Dozen from Mika Vainio, solo artist and former member of Pansonic. He tells us about how the likes of Suicide, Neubauten, the Alex Harvey Band, King Crimson and more soundtracked a life of working in slaughterhouses and vegetarian restaurants

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Bad Brains - Bad Brains - ROIR Tape
At this time I was working in a vegetarian restaurant, and one of my jobs was peeling all of the roots in a small, shallow basement. I had a small radio there with me, and they had a radio programme just two hours a day, but sometimes they played interesting things in that short time. One day, they played the first five tracks from this cassette album. As soon as it was finished, I ran upstairs to a telephone to order the tape. I'm lucky I got one. I've been listening to it since then. It's an amazing album, that energy and sound. Another great punk rock album is Land Speed Record from Hüsker Dü, the first LP they made. But the Bad Brains album also has a couple of reggae tracks, and that got me into Jamaican music. I like a lot of Jamaican music, the ska and rocksteady of the 1960s. I like a lot of dub and reggae until the mid or late 1970s, but after that I have not really followed it. Of course there are some great dancehall and ragga tracks, but I'm not so familiar with that stuff. Of course I had heard some reggae before, but somehow the Bad Brains and those reggae tracks got me more interested, and I started exploring. There are so many great names in reggae, it is hard to say… Augustus Pablo made great stuff, Jackie Mittoo is great, Burning Spear is classic. Jamaican music from the 60s and 70s is in a way a kind of gold mine. You can find again and again more great recordings. I visited the Studio One shop… It's not really a Studio One shop, but the one that Coxone had in Brooklyn in New York. It was a curious place because it's not a record shop from the outside… I don't know if it exists anymore after he died. This was in the year 2000 or 2001 or something like that. From the outside on the street it looks like a shop for perfumes and cosmetics or whatever, and behind the desk there were two young women. My friends and I asked them, 'We are not sure if this is the right place, but do you have records here?' They said, 'They are in the other room, in the back.' The records were in cardboard boxes and not in any kind of order, so we just started going through the boxes. It turned out to be kind of a competition as to who finds the best or most interesting things, but after we had spent a couple of hours there we had to give up because there was so much stuff. We didn't have that much budget to buy everything that we wanted.

There were some groups in the 80s in Finland playing reggae, and they were kind of okay, but somehow… There was also reggae from England, but it never had the same feeling as the original Jamaican groups. There were also some horrible groups like UB40 that made this watered down nonsense. In London you have a big Jamaican population, and they were making good ska and rocksteady in the 60s. I used to live in London in the 90s, and I went a couple of times to these evenings by Jah Shaka where he had his own self-built soundsystem. He was deejaying almost like he was at home with only one record player, which was for some reason on the top of the loudspeaker stack. So he would change the records by reaching over his head, and there was always a nice couple of seconds break between the tracks. My friends and I, Ilpo from Pan Sonic and one other guy who was into ska, we arranged these ska, rocksteady, and reggae evenings in my hometown in Finland, just in a small bar and brought our own soundsystem. It was fun; we also used only one record player. There was never much interest; it was a bar, maybe half the size of this café, and we got maybe 30 or 40 people, 50 people maximum there. The use of the soundboard and mixer in dub is interesting, and I'm sure it had some effect on our music. I think you can hear the influence of dub in Pan Sonic sometimes quite well.


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