Name: Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola
Occupations: Musician, composer, record producer, sound designer (Tapani Rinne), composer, musician and producer (Juha Mäki-Patola)
Current Release: Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola's Open is out via Hush Hush.
Juha - Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto: Vrioon;
Tapani - Einojuhani Rautavaara: Cantus arcticus, “Concerto for Birds and Orchestra”
If you enjoyed this interview with Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola, visit their respective homepages: Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Juha - I started writing music when I began playing instruments in my early teenage years. But the music that I make now saw its early stages about 5-6 years ago and it was the period when I decided to focus more on composing and producing, and I left other projects I was involved in behind.
The artists that really got me to where I’m at now were all creating exciting ambient and neoclassical sounds, both old and new — Jóhann Jóhannsson, Nils Frahm, and Max Richter, as well as iconic artists such as Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Alva Noto, just to name some favorites.
[Read our Max Richter interview]
Tapani - As a teenager I was listening to everything that crossed my path – Boston Pops, Weather Report, Suzi Quatro … and a lot of Finnish music, too. Basically it was all about sound! No genre limits.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Juha - The transition towards own voice came by writing lots of sketches and recording demos … And when I reached the stage where I started to get good feedback from Alex Ruder of KEXP and Hush Hush Records, it cleared my thoughts and I started to hear the path of what my own voice could be.
I think it’s always researching new sounds, moods and genres so it's an endless exploration towards finding new sonic palettes to my own voice.
Tapani - I went to music school and later Sibelius Academy to study clarinet playing. At the same time I was playing saxophone in many rock and jazz bands. In my twenties I did a lot of freelance work playing in recording studios, TV shows, and theaters. Then, at 26, I decided to focus only on my own music. I stopped freelancing and founded a band called RinneRadio.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Juha - One part of me is very restless so it pushes me to make music consistently and quickly. But luckily I also have a calm and focused part so I can get more into the process of establishing songs and finding new shades for demos and sketches. It’s also my method of making music ...
First I play and record many sketches and if some of these speak to me then I start to establish it towards a more final version.
Tapani - Being a musician is a big part of my identity. I create what I feel.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Juha - I feel that my creative challenges have pretty much stayed the same since the very beginning ... it always takes time to catch some kind of lead idea for an album or other works. Several hours of playing and trying to catch a good melody, motif, or chord progression. I am extremely happy that nowadays I have many wonderful collaborators with whom I have an excellent dialogue. So sharing thoughts and ideas with other helps a lot.
Tapani - I like creative challenges. But the real challenge, not a nice one, is how to make a living by producing non-commercial music. So the basic problem has not changed.
However, things are getting better as people have found our music and want to also use it in many various situations like films, dance pieces, and so on.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Juha - I just had some guitars and a 4 track cassette tape recorder in the beginning. When I was in my 20s I started to work in some high-end studios and get familiar with high-quality analog gear and instruments. Several years ago I started to get a nice collection of analog recording gear, synthesizers, and instruments. And it was a very good decision, as now I can reach a very good workflow and be productive.
Instruments (piano, synths, guitars) are my tools for my expression, but an example of something wonderful is a pre-amp that can help you attain a sound you’re looking for. So all instruments and recording gear I build a comfort zone where the workflow can find its flow and helps me to complete my work.
Tapani - Basically I’m quite lazy to study new methods of making music because playing the reed instruments on a high level is so time consuming. But because I’m interested in new sounds and aware of the possibilities of new technology, I have put together a pretty nice pedal board full of exciting effects for the bass clarinet. And I like to work with talented people who specialize in the latest studio technology and are very good in that – like Juha. (laughs)
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Juha - I started to play guitar and saxophone when I was young and I focused on learning to play jazz and many other genres. My first big change was to get into the world of keys and synths. Soon, I realized how versatile the piano as an instrument can be. Whenever I take the cover off from my piano and play it, it's so fascinating ... I really love its wide and profound sounds and also use lots of sustained sounds or rhythmic loops made from piano sounds as layers on my works.
Tapani - Drum machines, MIDI, sampling, computers. Let’s see what comes next. Algorithms …?
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Juha - My collaboration with Tapani and working on our collaborative debut album Open was a beautiful process. We were strangers to each other until January 2021 and then we wrote and produced several songs in 3 months just sharing ideas and sketches back-and-forth over the Internet. It was so wonderful how quickly we reached our shared sonic visions. It’s always fascinating when a collaboration starts spontaneously and it reaches a very productive musical correspondence.
Tapani - When Juha and I made Open it was mostly file sharing. Playing, recording, and sending back. Very intuitive, not so much talking.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Juha - I always go to my studio after having breakfast and taking my son to preschool. I have two kids (6 years and 9 years) so I need to be very effective during the day.
In the studio I start to play piano, synths, or guitar and if I catch some nice ideas I start to record these down. I also work in the late evening if there's work to be finished or a song idea that motivates me to get it done. If there’s an album production going on, it’s always easier to hear a song good enough to place it on an album. But if there’s no album in the works, then I look for possible interesting sounds or melodies, motifs, etc.
I also would love to work on more film composing so I’m practicing this and exploring ideas and sounds to use for film composing.
Connecting with collaborators, working for PR, etc. is also a very big part of my daily routines but these I normally do in the afternoon or evening.
Tapani – The daily schedule varies. There are two personalities of mine, performing artist and composer. And sadly there is the third me too, Tapani the office clerk. The number of non-musical to-dos has been increasing all the time. So, it is very important to keep in your mind that there are also other people living in the same house with you. Balancing the use of time between work and family is essential.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Juha - My debut album ‘Breath’ is important work for me because it started my collaboration with Hush Hush Records and Alex Ruder. My upcoming collaborative album Open with Tapani is a very special work, too.
I think every album is in a way breakthrough ... you put energy and focus into an album over several months and challenge yourself to explore something you haven’t done yet. I really love working on an album because there is such a wide spectrum of emotions and thinking going on during the process. Often ideas can just be a cool sound, a nice motive, or a chord progression and then starting to create layers on it and hopefully getting a nice song finished.
I also feel there’s certain moments I’ve experienced, places I’ve been, or things I dream about that end up being a part of my music.
Tapani - Making music is the greatest motivation in itself and every new tune feels like a breakthrough. I don’t know, it is hard to see whether you are in the middle of making something radical or just making another rather good piece of music. Afterwards it is easier to say how things went.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Juha – The ideal state is a workflow where I have 2-3 good songs for an album. Then I start to explore and expand on these ideas. And I always try to create better songs and challenge myself.
It’s always very helpful to share these songs with someone to get straight feedback. I always share my music with the record label or other collaborators in the very early stage to get feedback to determine which songs are worth continuing. And if someone says that the songs are sounding good then I'll get a nice boost and might get some more songs finished in steady precision.
Tapani - The best motivation to be creative is a deadline. Just start working!
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Juha - Yes, music opens emotions so it definitely can have a huge impact ... but I guess mostly, a healing power for me comes from calm and beautiful music that can take my thoughts away from some stress or stressful thoughts. But I think it can be any style of music that can work this way.
Maybe the closest hurting aspect comes from physical side that I’ve met several times ... if music is played too loud it hurts and as an active music maker I’m sometimes suffering ear problems.
Tapani - Art is a purpose in its own right. Besides that it can have other values, too. In some cases the connection to the meanings is direct. I have a lot of experience of commissioned work – music for films, theater, yoga, installations, dance pieces etc.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Juha - This is very interesting and challenging for artists … obviously we are hearing, seeing, and feeling a lot of pieces of art and these are affecting us and going into our subconscious. We must be very aware of what’s happening at the music genre level we are operating on and also if we’ll go towards any cultural / gender / social specific areas then we must do research before starting to make a piece of art.
In music we are always balancing the question of whether a song or piece is somehow too close to some currently existing music or artwork. So it’s a fine balance that makes our work challenging, but also forces us to open our minds and consider what we are doing. Having a dialog with the record label, curator, or other artists helps a lot in this issue.
Tapani – This is a broad and multi-level issue. Let’s put it this way, as an artist it is good to be aware of what is going on in and around the world. And as human beings we must respect all people.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Juha - Synesthesia is a very interesting connection between different senses. But I don’t have it. My experiences to senses overlapping are somehow connected to sleep and especially to the moment when I’m between being awake and sleep.
I often listen to music when I go to bed and enjoy the state when I’m floating in the middle of consciousness and unconsciousness. I feels like all senses smoothly blend together during this time and it gives me a very relaxed state of mind.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Juha - Art and being an artist is a part of me and I can’t live without art and the experiences that different pieces of art provides. I’m not actively thinking about any political aspects in my music but I definitely stand behind all human rights, peace, environmental rights … actually one of my piece will be in a US documentary film that supports people in an environmental right issue.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Juha - Music is abstract and works through our senses. Words can express the same but more rationally. But also words create worlds that are very deeply emotional. Obviously I’m expressing myself with music, communicating and getting to know other musicians through music.
Tapani - This can not be said with words. (laughs) Like Sibelius said “ Music begins where the possibilities of language end”.