Interview - Tom Tikka

Here we are with Tom Tikka. The best way to describe the sound of this artist is to call it retro-flavored pop/rock. Let's have a chat with him about his music and music in general.

Hi Tom and welcome to this interview. Tell us about your latest release This is my happy face.
It all began with a dream. In the dream, I got up to get a glass of water from the kitchen. As I passed through the living room, my late father was sitting on the couch. He signaled me to sit down and immediately, we began to talk about all the issues that had remained unresolved between us when he died. It felt very warm and very real, the sort of dream that you don't want to end. Ultimately, it was my dad who said I had to wake up. As we hugged goodbye, the cigarette he was smoking burned my neck. He apologized. I wasn't upset. The only thing that mattered was that we had gotten a chance to spend some time together. I walked back to bed.

When I woke up the next morning and looked into the mirror, there was a red spot just below my right ear that looked exactly like a cigarette burn. It was the strangest thing! At first, I couldn't believe my eyes but touching the mark made it very clear that it was real and it was there. The question circling in my mind was whether my nightly encounter with my father had been a dream after all.

Wanting to learn more about such phenomena, I began studying life after death and especially dreams such as the one I'd had. While I was getting absorbed in this type of literature and TV programs, I began thinking that it would be rather cool to record an album dealing with this topic. This is how This Is My Happy Face came about.

The writing and the recording took about a year. I worked very closely with Michael Stover and Janne Saksa to get the production and the arrangements just right. Finishing the album required a lot of elbow grease, but it was also heaps of fun. This Is My Happy Face will always have a special place in my heart.

How would you describe your sound?
My music's melodic pop/rock. It's hard to pin it down to one genre. We've tried but the problem is that it's not exactly rock and it's not exactly pop, it's something in between. I call it "retro-flavored" pop/rock. That's the best term I've come up with so far. There are so many genres nowadays anyway. It'd be impossible for me to stick to just one.

What do you write about?
I write about the challenges of everyday life. I do write the occasional love song or maybe even a happy song every once in a while, but mostly my stuff is about life's challenges. I try to keep it real by writing about what's happened to me and how I personally perceive the world. I've always said that I like "me" music for the simple reason that the only person I truly know is me. Writing in the third person is refreshing sometimes but in all honesty, it would still be just projecting how I feel onto another imagined individual.

I do cast myself into a role sometimes. "Space Cowboys" is one of those tunes for instance. It's about a young man being completely addicted to his Xbox. While he has been playing one of his space games, his family's moved out. He realizes this while taking a break to have a few sandwiches. It's actually a very disturbing lyric. I wrote it after a friend of mine told me about a relative of his with this sort of dreadful addiction.

What do you listen to when you are home?
Anything from classical music and jazz to heavy metal. My favorites are The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds and The Rolling Stones, but seeing that I own thousands of CDs, I have a wealth of music to choose from in my library. For a week now, I've been listening to Merle Haggard. He is an amazing artist. The very best that the genre of country music has to offer.

Your favourite live performance so far?
A few years ago, I played at a gathering my friend organized. There were about a hundred people. It was very intimate and a lot of fun. I've played to big audiences and I've played to only a handful of people. However, this particular one stands out for some reason. I suppose I really enjoyed playing my old and new songs, taking requests, answering questions and telling the stories behind the tunes. I loved it.

Tell us a funny story that happened in studio or on stage.
Well, a long time ago, I did a little victory dance in the studio after I had nailed a vocal. I was a wee bit toasted and stepped on an empty bottle rolling around the studio floor while doing my Irish reels. The result was that I fell down and broke my ankle. It swelled up right away, so I was taken to the emergency room where they put a cast on it and gave me crutches. The elderly doctor looked at me disapprovingly and shook his head. "I guess you've now learned to dance more moderately when under the influence," he said laughingly as I walked away.

Well, I should have learned and I should have gone home but alas, young souls are restless, so I ended up at a party a friend was throwing at his family's old stately home. It was one of those places that no one was really allowed to even visit and I knew that if I didn't go, I'd probably never see it as the family had put it up for sale. Well, while everyone was partying, I sneaked upstairs to check out the lavish bedrooms. It was hard enough making my way up this rather narrow staircase with the crutches but coming down it proved nearly fatal. I fell down the last five steps and as you probably already guess, broke my other ankle.

Once again, I was taken to the emergency room and wheeled in front of the same doctor that had treated me the day before. He looked at me long and hard and said, "I'm beginning to think that you are a slow learner." Then he lowered his glasses, smiled and continued, "it's either that or you're a bit sweet on me." I remember all the nurses laughing. To be honest, I think I was laughing a little too.

Your favourite albums?
Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, Revolver by The Beatles, No Other by Gene Clark, Oceans Apart by The Go-Betweens, Out Of Time by R.E.M. and Blow Up by the Smithereens. There are countless other records that I adore, but those ones I keep returning to very often.

A musician you would like to meet for a beer?
I'd love to meet Paul McCartney. He wrote the soundtrack to my life. He's a genius if there ever was one and based on his interviews, he seems to be a pretty level-headed, fun and smart guy. I'd have tons of questions but just meeting him would be fantastic. Too bad it'll probably never happen. I'd really love the opportunity to chat with him.

What would you ask backstage if you were the most important band on earth?
This is a dangerous question to answer!
I'd ask for a great dinner. Also, the backstage settings aren't usually very enticing. The rooms aren't the type that you really want to spend any time in, so I'd probably ask them to make the rooms look as homey as possible. That would actually be rather nice! Now that I think of it, I'd like to have a different room built for me wherever I go: one night, it'd be Edwardian, the next Bavarian. They'd surprise me every night. Now, there's an idea.

What are your plans for the next future?
Man makes plans and God laughs! I love that idiom.
My group The Impersonators are currently putting the finishing touches on a full-length
album. It’ll be our sophomore effort, and the songs for it have been completed more or less.
There are bits and pieces that need to be added, but it’s mostly ready to be mixed and
mastered. That’s what I’ll be working on in the spring

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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