Having released two albums in the past 12 months, Mikko will add a third record to his critically acclaimed Amen album series in June. Celebrated in Finland and beyond for his inventive stylings, his unique storytelling and his mesmerising vocals, Mikko found himself nominated for the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize in 2017, and has already been announced to perform at this year’s Flow Festival in Helsinki.
But ahead of all that, we’ve invited the Finnish artist to join us at Ja Ja Ja in Berlin, where Iceland’s aYia and Norway’s Sandra Kolstad will be appearing on the same bill. Join us as we get to know Mikko better below, and we hope to see you at Ja Ja Ja Berlin on Wednesday 12th April!
Ja Ja Ja Proudly Presents:
Sandra Kolstad | Mikko Joensuu | aYia
+ DJ KIVI
Spotlight Interview: Mikko Joensuu
For those that haven’t met you yet, could you please introduce yourself – who are you, where are you from, and how would you describe what you do?
My name is Mikko Joensuu. I was born in Alajärvi, Finland but I’ve been living in Helsinki for the past 11 years. I write music, record music and sing and play the songs live. For years I played my songs alone but for a year now I’ve had the privilege to play concerts with an 8-member band or even a 30-member group including a choir and strings.
Some of our readers will know you from your previous endeavours in the band Joensuu 1685, but over the past few years, you’ve been embarking upon solo work – and 2016 saw you release two albums! So let’s start at the beginning: can you tell us a bit about Amen 1, and why you decided to release this as the first in your Amen album series?
In 2013 I realised that after years of just writing songs, I had written an album which contained three albums instead of one. After this epiphany, if you will, it was clear that Amen 1 is supposed to sound the way it does and have the songs it has. It is the first step and the first part of the three but like all of them, it is also its own album and its own world of music and thoughts.
Then let’s move on to Amen 2, which landed later on in 2016 and took a different sonic path to the first record – what would you say were the main ideas behind and intentions for that record?
It is about relief, forgiveness and letting go. Some years ago I went through a period of deep anxiety and depression. Amen 1 was dwelling a lot on these feelings and ideas. I wrote the songs on Amen 2 at a time when I first started to feel that this period was maybe coming, or already had come to an end. It was also at those times when I realised that my lifelong companionship with God came to a conclusion that He, who once meant everything to me, no longer existed. These were the core-ideas how Amen 2 came to be.
And Amen 3 is due to land in June (and we’re very excited to hear it!) – so what are the ideas behind this third step in your journey? And especially the story behind making the track ‘House of Fire’?
It’s an album that rests on the feelings and emotions the first two have left me hovering on. At the same time it’s a clear journey from A to B but it really has no end or a beginning. Like a clear solid road on which I really can’t feel the ground. It’s a more metaphysical album than the first two, if this makes any sense. The songs are more or less 15 minutes each so I guess it suites a patient ear.
Like with all of the Amen songs, I recorded most of ‘House Of Fire’ in my family’s cabin in Lappajärvi. I continued making Amen 3 last fall after I was done with the first two. Until that time ‘House of Fire’ was an instrumental song. The second part with lyrics I wrote last fall. Even though the broader concept and music of Amen 3 was clear to me already in 2013, I wanted to keep the last album as free of thought as I possible could. I felt it was important to write a lot more on it after the actual release of the first two, so that it would consist of a genuine and a whole emotion of an end. So a lot more happened on Amen 3 in the last months compared to the first two.
With three records released in the space of a year, you must be a pretty prolific songwriter – so how does your songwriting process typically work?
I wouldn’t say that. After all, it took me about 8 years to release some 25 songs. I do write music all the time, I just like to take my time before I know if it’s worth releasing. I don’t really have any specific songwriting process. Sometimes I make noises with things and I like what I hear. Other times I hear noises in my head and try my best so it can be heard. By noises I can mean a synthesizer, drum machine, computer, guitar, piano, banjo, percussions or just some junk lying around. There’s lots of noise around and lots of tools to make noise with. Some noise can inspire to write music that becomes a song, an album or many albums.
And how about life after Amen 3 – will there be an Amen 4? And will the summer see you taking the three records on the festival route?
I’m very excited about life after Amen and there’s lots of different kinds of music I could image myself focusing on next. Whatever it will be, it won’t be called Amen. I guess I’ll be playing these songs live for some time but at least this summer I’m gonna take it pretty mellow. Set my senses straight.
As an artist, where do you find the most inspiration? Do you tend to find it in other music, or do you look to nature, films, people (etc.) for more inspiration?
I’ve never really looked for an inspiration but of course anything can be inspiring. Movies, books, music, art, people, ideas, words, science, nature, history. You know, all things that interest you. You suck them in like a sponge and then add them to what ever you already had in stored. Sometimes you can immediately notice something inspiring and sometimes it takes time for things to wander and mix in your head until you suddenly come up with an inspiring idea.
We’re VERY much looking forward to you joining us at Ja Ja Ja Berlin! What should we expect from your show there?
We will be a 5-member band. 4 of us singing. Not much noise. Looking forward to be there too!
We’re all avid new music fans at Ja Ja Ja – so do you have any good new music tips to share with us?
I haven’t really been listening to music all that much for some years now. I know Delay Trees just released an album. Zebra and Snake released a great EP last year. Then there’s one artist called Jukka Nousiainen who really blew my mind away few months ago. His latest self titled album is truly stunning.
And finally, what does the rest of the year hold for you?
Right now I’m arranging the music of Amen 3 to be performed live, so I guess I’m playing all of the albums live at least until the end of the year. Apart from that I really wanna focus on writing more music.