Ladies and gentlemen! Adjust your pacemakers -- it's Panasonic

Riku Sanaksenaho, Hootch Vol. 1. #1 (1/1997)

It's true that the Finnish electro wizards of Panasonic have not yet been sued by Panasonic -- the mega corporation. It's also true that their name and logo are complete rip-offs. But everything else is not. This is a short introduction to the amazing world of audio frequencies.

In the beginning there's a bleep. Then another bleep. That goes on until a thumping noise comes along.

And the sound from a nuclear reactor going berserk. All kinds of sounds... aaargh. Yep, it's me making a description of one of Panasonic's songs. Doesn't sound too convincing, does it?

It could be the sounds of hell to somebody -- analogical synthesizers speaking weird tongues... but it's really just music -- music that slips easily away from categories, music that basically sneaks into your ears, grabs you by the good old myocordium, twists & turns it a bit... and then you feel good.

What is it about? What's your definition of the Panasonic sound, Mr. Väisänen (devices, plugs, electricity)?

-- It's horsemeat rockabilly.

-- That's pretty correct... hehehe... actually, confirms Mr. Vainio (electronics, devices, pluggings).

Horsemeat and rockabilly go together well. It's just that you don't see a big fat double bass and guys with grease in their hair when Panasonic gives a live performance. There's a pile of anti-rock-a-billian gear and two guys (they used to be three just a few months ago) with their hands making gentle and decisive moves on different controllers & switches. And they make rock-a-billy for the hell of it.

How's this departure of your third member affected your work? Is it two thirds of the sound, or what?

-- Now it's techno with us two, hahaha. No, it's just a bit different nowadays...

I don't need to point out what an idiot I am with these tools electronic music is made with. Panasonic have got their stuff together from here and there -- some old synths are accompanied by custom-made machines built by an "outside member" of theirs, a Mr. Lehtinen.

-- Without him it would be quite different... different sounds. Those devices have got their unique sounds, which pretty much makes the Panasonic sound.

Do you rehearse a lot?

-- It depends. Now that we're working on our new album (this interview was done 10/96), it's been a couple months of constant rehearsing, almost every day. Usually it's quite irregular, though.

How do you come up with your songs?

-- It varies. It could all start with a certain sound and then...

-- Sometimes we may even have a plan; but usually it's just turning the knobs 'til it sounds good.

One thing that used to bug me. Do your songs sound 100% same every time you play them -- that is, do you improvise at all?

-- A bit. The basic structure is always quite the same. We play the numbers through so many times that the structure becomes clearer and you'll be able to tell when it's time for phase B and phase C and so on...

-- When we play live there's always room for a little improvisation, too, concludes Mr. Väisänen this interesting topic.

Did you know that Mr. Vainio has made his mix on Björk's 'Headphones' on her recent remix album,Telegram?

Panasonic are currently signed to Blast First, the discoverer of Sonic Youth and who knows what else. In 1995 they put out a long-play called Vakio and autumn 1996 saw the release of their second BF product, Osasto EP. How did you drift into the arms of Blast First in the first place?

-- Well, they kinda contacted us. They saw one of our gigs in London.

When was that?

-- Autumn 1994. In a club called Vox. Paul Smith (BF main man) saw us and apparently liked what he saw.

Panasonic have played most of their shows outside Finland, mostly due to lack of demand here. Furthermore, they haven't even bothered themselves by contacting any gig-organizing agencies or people, neither in Finland nor abroad:

-- Our gigs are mostly arranged by some people we know. Like in the States we had this guy who took care of things at that end.

A little word about the future to make a short story sweet. At the time of writing this Panasonic have just returned from a successful 6-week trip to England and Japan. Their new album, Kulma will be released in the end of January. And the latest, hottest news tell that later this year Panasonic will be joining Swans on their final tour. Heavy. Stay on your HOOTCH Channel for more Panasonic news, coming sooner or later, near or far...

Copyright © 1996 Hootch

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