● Definitely, I’d salute you for original music vibes! Is Tom Tikka And The Missing Hubcaps band name just started last year when you signed with MTS Records?
Yeah, that’s right. I had never released solo material before and although I could have released the songs just under Tom Tikka, I didn’t want to do this because I was afraid that my music might appear under a namesake’s profile or vice versa. It’s not an unmanageable problem but once you’ve gone through that correction process with all streaming platforms a few times a year, it gets irritating.
The band name was also chosen to honor my late father’s memory. I once accidentally busted one of his hubcaps when I helped him put on winter tires. This was when I was a teenager. He was a bit cheesed off with me as he was convinced that it happened due to my not paying attention to what I was doing. He was right! As usual, I was writing a song in my head.
The fondest memory of that incident is my dad walking up to my room before I turned in. He wanted to apologize for yelling at me, so I’d know that we were good and everything was fine. Upon leaving my room, he jokingly suggested that I should call my band “Tommy And The Missing Hubcaps.” I thought it was the lamest name ever at the time but lo and behold after two and a half decades, it sounded pretty damn original and good.
So in a way, with that band name, I killed two birds with one stone: I avoided the namesake issue and also, got to honor my father. Obviously, it’s the latter that makes the name special to me.
● I’m a bit confused, your social accounts under the name of The Impersonators. Can you please elaborate?
Well, The Impersonators is this duo that I’m part of. If you haven’t checked out the album we released last spring called “Life Of Grant” please do so. I’m proud of that album!
Anyway, to get back to the social media issue. When The Impersonators went on a well-earned hiatus about a year and a half ago and I began releasing solo material, I felt that I didn’t want separate social media accounts for my solo stuff. I mean it’s hard enough to keep up with just The Impersonators social media platforms. Be that as it may, I do understand the confusion. I should probably call the accounts The Impersonators/Tom Tikka.
Another reason why I just use The Impersonators social media accounts is that many of the same people work on both projects. Hence in my mind, it’s all meshed.
● “This Is My Happy Face” album is well written indeed. Tell me more about its preparations, especially during the tough times during the pandemic.
Well, it took a year to write, record and produce. The pandemic didn’t really affect the making of the album since I play and sing everything on the album myself. Well, my producer Janne Saksa shares the instrumental duties with me on “Doormat” and “Heart’s On Fire” but the rest of the album is basically just me. It’s the way I prefer to work these days.
However, the writing process was very exciting! Having watched a Netflix series that dealt with life after death, I had a vision of a concept album that would allow me to indulge in this topic. I’ve always found the concept of afterlife intriguing, especially after a dream involving my late father. In the dream, we hugged and the cigarette he was smoking touched my neck. When I woke up in the morning, I had a red spot just below my ear. Ever since, I’ve been wondering if the spirit realm is more real than we’d like to admit.
Producing the album was the most time-consuming but also the most fun part of the whole project. Michael Stover worked closely with me and Janne Saksa on the production. It was done one song at a time, which gave us an opportunity to give each and every track the attention it deserved.
● Orchestration is an essential element of the album, was it planned during the songwriting?
No, not really. Even “With Eyes Closed”, which only features a classical orchestra (save a few wah-wah licks), was a going to be a lot more traditional pop/rock tune than what it ultimately evolved into. In fact, a rock-version of it exists in the vaults. The problem with that first arrangement was that nobody was really that thrilled about it. Changing it around completely was my attempt to breath some new life into what I considered a kick-ass song. The orchestrated version works quite nicely, I think.
Also, I did want to expand with this album and make it a bit more artsy. I’ve always loved classical music, so it was very natural for me to start writing those arrangements. In addition, Michael Stover encouraged adding orchestration to the tracks. He’d go, “Tom, add strings and horns to this!” He rooted me on constantly and truly worked hard with me on getting everything just right.
● I really loved how each track is unique. Do you think it’s important for an artist to provide diversity all the time?
Thanks. I’m stoked that you enjoy the album. We tried our best to make each track a world of its own.
My personal view is that diversity makes the listening experience more exciting. I’ve always had a hard time listening to albums that lack diversity. By track #4 I’m usually bored if there are no shifts in the instrumentation or the sound. But that’s just me. I know some people have the opposite view on this. They feel that an artist should have a definite sound/style and don’t appreciate experimentation to the extent that I do.
In fact, even The Beatles didn’t release “Yesterday” in the UK as a single because they were scared it would alienate some of their fans. In retrospect this sounds silly but that was a real concern for them at the time. It’s understandable.
● Nowadays, young artists aren’t keen on signing with a label, they believe that the digital platforms are enough for promotion. Do you have any advice for them?
Yes. Rethink your strategy. Shooting music out to streaming platforms won’t get you anywhere. The fact that everyone in the world with a few extra bucks in their pockets can release music through aggregators like CD Baby or Tunecore, pretty much guarantees that there are thousands of releases daily. Unless you have someone marketing your music and promoting you as an artist, you won’t get discovered.
Obviously, it depends on your goal. If you aim at sharing your art only with friends and relatives, then you needn’t do anything else. However, if you want to find a larger audience, then find a label who believes in what you are doing. That’s the only way. There are no detours.
● ‘Doormat’ music video is really nice. Did you collaborate with Elina Suominen in the filming and directing?
Elina’s my wife, so we bounce ideas off each other all the time. However, the video is her baby. She scripted, filmed, directed and edited it. I just did what I was told. She had a clear vision of it beforehand. I sometimes make suggestions but not very often. I think I didn’t contribute to the plot of the “Doormat” music video at all. Often times, I have something little to add but this was one of the cases where I felt that she had it in the bag, so to speak.
It was a little weird playing the part of those two women in the music video but I got the hang of it relatively quickly. We had loads of fun filming it. She wanted it to be very theatrical and that meant I needed to practice those takes slightly more than usual.
The kids were a bit weirded out by Dad appearing in a drag but then again, they’re used to us being crazy creative. I had asked my eldest son to play one of the parts in the video. When he saw the final edit, he said he was glad he didn’t show up!
● I am curious to know more about the topics that provoke you to write about.
Well, I write about life or to be fair, how I experience life. I try to bring in variety. “Hunger Lines” is about the plight of the homeless, “Fly To The Moon” about saving the planet, “Space Cowboys” paints a concerned picture of the X-Box generation and “This Is My Happy Face” talks about the challenges of the white middle-class male.
“With Eyes Closed” is probably the only true love song on the album. I don’t write many of those anymore. I find the modern version of love as complex as I find modern marriages. Quite a few people are into being independent these days and they plan everything else, including their families, around their careers and hobbies. I can respect that but it isn’t how I personally want to live. I am a romantic, who has always looked for that one special soulmate that you share everything with, a person with whom you have no secrets and with whom you share an unbreakable bond, a person who you can approach with any topic at any given time and who always has time for you. This is the story “With Eyes Closed” tells. I once heard somebody say that they’d be happier in a trailer with the love of their life than in a palace with somebody who is merely a good match. That analogy has always resonated with me.
Having said that, I realize that people are different. My way of looking at love isn’t the only way to go about the business of relationships but it’s the only approach that makes sense to me at all, so that’s the road that I am always going to stay on. I’ve been forced to take the wrong exit many times but I always seem to get back on the same expressway. I have no interest in living a life I am not comfortable with. Life is way too short for that.
● Finally, thank you for the chat and tell us more about the rest of the 2021 plans.
Well, there will be one more single out before the year is done. My New Year’s song “By 2022” will be released on December 1st along with a music video.
There will be another Hubcaps single out in February and The Impersonators will release a new album in the summer or fall. Beyond that I have no idea. Looking forward to 2022 though. It’ll be exciting.