Interview with singer and songwriter Tom Tikka

Thank you for taking the time out to answer these questions, Tom!


Tell us about yourself and what you do in the music industry?


I started answering the question and realized that I wear many hats but I guess first and foremost I’m a singer-songwriter with a long history in the music industry. I got my first recording contract when I was twenty-one and finally, a decade after that, the band whose songwriting duties I shared with my brother Lappe Holopainen got signed by Sony/BMG in 2005. This band was Carmen Gray.


Now, my projects are The Impersonators and Tom Tikka & The Missing Hubcaps, both of which are self-produced. Obviously, I didn’t always play everything or produce my own records. That’s something I picked up along the way. In the Beatles’ Anthology series, Paul McCartney compared the learning curve of a musician to that of a factory worker. You start at the assembly lines and one day you’re in the second-floor office, behind the glass, supervising the manufacturing process in a suit and a tie. I always thought that this is a great analogy. When you cut your first record, the producer is behind the board and sends you off to a room with a small window and gives you instructions as to how to play. Your band is in the control room, the engineers are there and the secretaries pop in every once in a blue moon. Then, little by little you become the guy at the board. In my case, however, everyone else has sort of disappeared. I didn’t just take over the factory, I’m running it all by myself these days. Well, not completely by myself, I produce and record with Janne Saksa and write with Antti Autio but we are doing all of this remotely, at different locations and we have such clearly defined roles that it sometimes feels that I’m cutting records with me, myself and I. Still, I don’t miss having to drive to the studio. I do miss the secretaries though, except that one bald grumpy guy who was filling in for one of the regular girls.


Who has inspired you in your life and why?


My late father is a constant inspiration. He was the sort of guy who never gave up. He was a merchant marine, tough as nails. His philosophy in life was that no matter how hard life hits you, if your heart is pumping, you just get up. Even on his deathbed, he was cracking jokes. He never give into fear. “Dying’s nothing but a thing,” he would say. So when I’m about to give up and fall on my knees in despair, I think of him, smile and keep pushing.


He was also the one who taught me how to approach songwriting as any job. He advised me to find inspiration and not wait for it. It’s because of him that I write a song a day. I treat it like a day job. That’s 360 songs a year. A dozen or so turn out great, most of them are rubbish but at the end of each year, I’ve written an album.


My dad was a real character. Anything he ever did, he did with gusto and passion. Once we decided to go to my godfather’s birthday party dressed up as mafiosos. Man, he went slightly overboard with that. He bought us both tailormade suits and got our hair done Andy-Garcia style, all greased up. We were a hit at the party. My dad did say later on that it was the most expensive birthday party he had ever attended. We never did that again but man, I have great memories of preparing for that. We even learned a few Italian phrases for that occasion. I actually still have that Berlitz language guide in my library.


What is your greatest achievement so far?


Probably the fact that I’ve managed to keep my kids from killing each other. I have six boys, who are all athletes, so you can imagine them going at it. Things can get pretty heated up pretty damn quickly. Just yesterday, the smaller ones were slugging each other like hockey goons. Needless to say, they’re not watching TV for a week.


In terms of music, I’m pretty proud of the ISSA award I won this year.


Tell us about your latest album, “This Is My Happy Face?”


It was inspired by a Netflix series on psychic mediums and also, dreaming about my late father. In the dream, as he hugged and kissed me goodbye, he accidentally burned my neck with a cigarette. When I woke up in the morning, I had red, sore spot on my neck. It was very eerie in many ways. I’ve since been intrigued by the concept of afterlife.


“This Is My Happy Face” is a concept album that deals with those few final seconds people experience before death, that moment your life flashes before your eyes. The album starts off with the suicide of the protagonist and ends in the Garden of Judas, at the gates of Hell. It’s not as grim as it sounds. In many ways, it’s a story of a life led, nothing more, nothing less.


The titular track is my take on the modern person’s need to be happy all the time. I’m a person who reflects on life constantly. I also love being happy but I seem to enjoy a deep conversation a whole lot more than a party. I’m not dissing parties. I love them. I’ve just done them to death. Too much of a good thing, if you know what I mean.


Where is one place in the world that you haven’t been, that you’d really

like to see?


I’d like to go to Iceland. I’ve travelled the world extensively. I’ve seen more than half of it and the places I haven’t been to abroad can wait. The only reason I haven’t explored them is a slight lack of interest, so I’ll get to them when I get to them. But yeah, I’d love to see Iceland, the glaciers and geysers.


Any “bucket list” collaborations and/or stages you’d like to perform on?


I’d love to work with Paul McCartney or Brian Wilson. I think they are both geniuses and basically wrote the soundtrack to my life. Truth be told, I’d love to just meet them. I’m a huge fan and hanging out with them would be amazing. To get to play with them or perhaps write with them would be a dream come true.


Do you have any tips for our readers that are trying to break into the

music industry?


Choose an easier industry. Seriously, there aren’t many professions that are as challenging as being a musician. It’s such a long road. The only way this road is worth travelling is if you absolutely love music and feel that life without it isn’t worth living. That’s when you’ll find even the bumps on the road gratifying. Otherwise, you’ll just run out of steam or end up disillusioned. That’s my advice. Take it for what it’s worth to you.


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