“I believe that I reached my creative peak at 17. That was a time when I wrote about one song every day or at least some poetry. The ideas seemed to come out of nowhere. Sure, a lot of it was silly crap, but it was nevertheless my own crap! I may have a bit more experience as a writer, musician and singer now, but the bubbliest time of ideas was definitely then. Luckily, I can still sometimes go back to those works and get something fresh out of them, a different point of view, engaging in a kind of plagiarism of myself. That is, of myself 18 years ago.
What I write nowadays tends to be more grounded in the outside world, current events, politics etc., and it takes a bit of extra effort to convert them into artistic form. Music helps in that. Music is still as important as it was back then. Nowadays it’s just more of a catalyst than an end in itself. It is also an end in itself, but there’s another side to it now. Perhaps that’s not completely boring? Perhaps it makes it richer? In any case, recent albums I’ve written have definitely been artistically very unique, satisfying and cathartic.
My intellectual peak most likely occurred at the age of 24. After graduating from Oxford, I felt I had obtained the necessary tools to understand or at least seek to understand the most important scientific and political issues surrounding our lives. Still, I easily recognized minds more brilliant than mine, having had the privilege of actually befriending some de facto geniuses. I was never a genius, but I read voraciously, worked hard and I saw the connections to a larger whole of what I was reading. Nowadays, I don’t read as much, and I can’t focus on academic work for 8 hours in a row, as I used to. Maybe the only thing that remains is the ability to connect the dots, to generalize and to argue for a coherent viewpoint. Or to write about it. Or then again, the biggest difference maybe that I’m more at ease about being wrong. I’m not really afraid of losing an argument. I still don’t like it very much, if I’m wrong, but I feel it doesn’t impinge on me personally that much anymore. Reality doesn’t care if I don’t like it.
In terms of physical prowess and condition, I reached my peak around the age of 26. I did some ten kilometer runs regularly, while bench pressing a standard 150 kilos. Practiced some martial arts, too. Nothing amazing, nothing superb, but something I was content with. Today, it’s mostly gone. I admit that most of it is due to the fact of doing around 60-70 shows a year (and enjoying the benefits of that). I just recently heard of an acquaintance, also 35 years old and also a father of two, who suddenly died of a heart attack while running in a hangover. So, maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t pushed myself too hard in that respect.
If there’s something that I am actually disappointed in, it is not the state of my creativity, intellect or physical condition – they’re still well over acceptable limits. Rather, I am disappointed in the way I have been rejected in the marketplace for jobs in Finland, after I graduated. It was a genuine surprise to me, and even some of my former classmates from Oxford find it hard to believe that someone who graduated with a First Class degree from Oxford – something I’m still immensely proud of – couldn’t find work. It’s been ten years now since I moved back to Finland and I have had only two job interviews, ever. I did another Master’s Degree in Finland afterwards as well, but to no avail. I suppose it was wrong to focus on science and philosophy… The applications I’ve sent run in the hundreds. I got a part-time job as a language instructor in the other interview I did, but all others have pretty much turned my applications down without any contact. After nine years, I finally gave up and started doing my third degree, in accounting, which I have been doing anyway while running my own business, Miliisi Music, which is fortunately doing well. It still feels weird that an Oxford First has no cache in Finland, at least not outside the academic world, but I decided to stay here in order to focus on music as my first priority (and later of course my family). Having a day job would make things easier, naturally, but I suppose, if you look at my life history as being that of an outsider from birth, then it is rather reasonable that I would remain a social amoeba in my adult years. It has its benefits for an artist, for sure, but it’s somewhat destroyed my belief in any kind of meritocracy in this society.
All in all, I’ve sacrificed quite a lot to accomplish some of my goals and dreams in music. This year one of my bands released the 8th album that I’ve done. As the first one came out in 2007, that makes a total of about one album per year, which was something I aimed for when I started doing this professionally. The total number of shows in those eight years is a bit over 400, including some shows abroad, which was another goal – something I believe most musicians share. Furthermore, as most of the supporters and fans seem to come from abroad (“no prophet is welcome in his hometown”), it has made these shows and the feedback of those fans even more important.
What I’ve also tried to do is devote my energies to the things I really believe in. I’ve turned down at least a couple of offers over the years of joining a band or a musical project that would have been quite successful, even lucrative (and proved to be so in retrospect), but which just didn’t feel right. Also, I have reached a kind of point of maximum saturation in terms of the creative energies and time that I can reasonably give to the bands that I’m involved in AND be satisfied with it. That means that joining those projects would’ve also meant giving up something else that I was committed to. I know nothing lasts forever, but if there’s still something to give and receive while being in a band, I don’t think it’s healthy to leave.
I do still have dreams – or actually plans. Time will tell how they’ll come to fruition. My solo album is something I do intend to do at some point, probably the first one in my head right now. And I also have another musical project in mind, which will be something completely different to all my current bands. If the time is right, they will happen.
I have thought about leaving the bands I am currently in. In fact, I have more than once considered about quitting music completely, as it is indeed one of the most difficult and underrated crafts out there, especially at this level. It is very exhausting and draining at times. The reasons for not quitting are really quite simple. First of all, there’s always the music. The stuff you’ve poured your soul into. The melodies and words that make you transcend yourself. There are, fortunately, moments also when there’s only the music that matters. You can be on stage in front of a thousand people or ten people, but when you close your eyes – there’s just music. And that’s still beautiful.
Another reason is of course the people. It’s my bandmates with whom I share a special bond. Something that is quite unlike any other relationship on this earth. There’s something about CREATING together, and giving everything you have physically on stage, that really overwhelms me. It’s something I can never let go completely. Then there’s also the people out there, who listen, sing, partake, write to us and come to the shows to create that experience. That of course makes it even more worthwhile. I’ve said it somewhere that one letter from one person, 6000 kilometers away, can push you past the hard times. It gives significance to what you are doing, when you yourself cannot see it. And I’m very grateful to the people who’ve written and who I’ve met over the years.
Finally, I am mostly grateful to my family. It would’ve been a very different life without my wife and my children, whom I love to death. They also sacrifice so that I can do music, write and survive. There’s is probably nothing I can do or say that’s enough to express what I feel for them…”
In Tampere, Finland, June 4th, 2014