As the new label Kieku Records launches in Helsinki this week, Nick Triani chatted to co-founder and music renaissance man Jonas Verwijnen
Eleven years ago or so, two Finns relocated to Berlin and created something special. In that time Jonas Verwijnen and Janne Lounatvuori have been building a reputable studio whilst producing, recording and mixing all kinds of interesting records for artists from all corners. They’ve also been doing other stuff like managing, promo work, live sound shaping and making their own music. Actually, they’ve been doing it all. Or almost. It was perhaps inevitable that the Kaiku Studios crew would start a record label – and this summer they have; Kieku Records. That inevitability doesn’t distract from the fact that this is pretty darn exciting.
Jonas is someone I don’t see enough of. I have bumped into him at airports occasionally, but nowadays I probably spend most time catching up with him during random encounters at Flow Festival every year. This year – for a change – it was at Sideways. And, a little confession from me at this point. I have to admit after all these years, I still struggle with pronouncing Jonas’ surname, Verwijnen. Sorry Jonas.
Ahead of Kieku Records Helsinki debut this coming Thursday, I sat down with Jonas to discuss Berlin, the ‘business’ and why to start a record label in 2018.
Nick Triani: Why do you think Berlin has become a city that appeals to a lot of Finnish musicians as a place to relocate to? How hard was it to establish Kaiku studios?
Jonas Verwijnen: Well, first of all I think Berlin’s attraction is the cheapness and being an open minded place. For us to create the studio was fairly easy and painless, as well as opening a company based in Berlin, Germany. It took us about 2 weeks and we had a space on a ground floor apartment building, which is kinda interesting when considering the neighbours – because we make sound. But we are still there.
NT: Do you think you have a production sound? You’ve lived in Berlin for over 10 years, how has it changed in that time?
JW: Do we have a sound…? Hmm.. I don’t know really… I just listen to music and then mix it. I’d say because we have a method of doing things a certain way, that could basically generate a sound.
“I’d say because we have a method of doing things a certain way, that could basically generate a sound.”
JW: Berlin has changed a lot! It’s pretty insane to see. It kind of creeps up on you, you don’t really realise it on a day to day basis. For example, when I moved to the first place where I lived, Friedrichshain (close to Ostkreuz) the area was very empty and full of free space. Also, I remember people talking about buying flats in Neukölln for 40,000 euros. That’s not how it is anymore. Also traffic jams at 8am and 6pm are insane now.
NT: What would you see as the biggest differences between the German music scene and the Finnish one?
JW: Hmm. Germany’s scene is pretty big compared to the Finnish music scene. I wouldn’t compare them. The German scene is also separated into different cities like Hamburg and Koln. The only one I can really say something about is Berlin, and that’s really an amazing music city – has everything from everything and EVERYONE is there. The Finnish music scene has changed a lot since I have been living in Finland. And I think the change is good!
NT: Why start a label in 2018? Do you have a strict A+R policy? The concept for the label is great, please expand?
JW: The label started because artists were asking me why don’t I release this and that, etc…We (me and Janne Lounatvuori my Kaiku Studios partner) always thought we are not a label because of all the other work we do. But then I started thinking a lot and found a concept around the notion of Jekyll and Hyde. Or Tom and Jerry. These two opposites that make a whole.
JW: The A + R policy is pretty loose – we have many musician friends who send me music and we know so many bands, so we have lots of options. But I do want to push new music – and I’m actually missing a bunch of new Finnish music to put out there in the world.
NT: It’s interesting to me that Kieku is being labelled a Finnish record label by yourselves. Is this acknowledgement that we’ve now reached a period in time where it’s OK to have a label from Finland?
JW: It’s the coolest thing to be a Finnish label!
NT: Your label bio states that Kieku “will operate unhindered from the usual industry trappings that come with conventionally releasing their music.” This suggests to me a label not bothered by Spotify playlist obsessions, radio play, pressing vinyl etc.
JW: I think good music will always be liked and I hope people like the same as we do. I do believe that the singles format is very approachable. I remember getting 12” singles ready when I was younger – now the content is just digital.
“I think good music will always be liked and I hope people like the same as we do.”
NT: What does Jonas do away from music? You are involved in so many facets of music, do you have a get-away or something that helps you unwind?
JW: Heh. Surfing! I live it, but i don’t get to do it so often.
NT: What can we expect from the Kieku Records evening this Thursday?
JW: An amazing party!! Tons of indie and psychedelic pop and RnB and Hip Hop! Maybe some oldies. Also JFDR is playing who’s is PHENOMENAL!!!!!
NT: Finally, what advice would you give to a young Finnish band looking to break international borders?
JW: Make music everyday and be critical and listen to criticisms as a positive thing. There are 2 options how to break internationally; either (1.) You make such an amazing pop song that every one wants to hear it or (2.) you make music that no one has ever made before.
“Make music everyday and be critical and listen to criticisms as a positive thing.”
Kieku Records night at Siltanen, Helsinki, 21st June, with live performance from Jfdr and DJ set from Jonas.
Kieku Records online