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The most famous act to originate from Sahko Recordings, Panasonic (now called Pan Sonic), first came into being in the summer of 1993 through the meeting of two creative minds, Mika Vainio (born 1963) and Ilpo Vaisanen (born 1963 in Kuopio, Finland). Vainio had worked as a DJ in the 80s and created his own music with Pertti Gronholm, as Corporate 09. Vaisanen was originally from Kuopio, Finland and ended up in Turku because of his studies, where he joined the members of the Hyperdelic Housers group organising rave parties; Vainio and Tommi Gronlund - who was to found the Sahko label - among th ...read more
The most famous act to originate from Sahko Recordings, Panasonic (now called Pan Sonic), first came into being in the summer of 1993 through the meeting of two creative minds, Mika Vainio (born 1963) and Ilpo Vaisanen (born 1963 in Kuopio, Finland). Vainio had worked as a DJ in the 80s and created his own music with Pertti Gronholm, as Corporate 09. Vaisanen was originally from Kuopio, Finland and ended up in Turku because of his studies, where he joined the members of the Hyperdelic Housers group organising rave parties; Vainio and Tommi Gronlund - who was to found the Sahko label - among them. Ilpo Vaisanen had been responsible for the official Down By The Laituri 1990 festival poster, and was during that time also a member of Ultra 3, an artistic group of wide-ranging interests which, after Mika Vainio joined, was renamed to Sin O. (Vaisanen was also involved with Guerilla Jazz Rules group.)
Mika says: "In the early eighties, we were very interested in industrial music like Throbbing Gristle, Einsturzende Neubauten and Suicide. Eventually our musical tastes turned toward reggae, hip hop and experimental music. When acid house began, that obviously heavily influenced us, but we haven't been following that scene either for several years now."
The one-time third member of Panasonic, Sami Salo, finally joined in 1994 after having come to contact with Vainio and Vaisanen through Sahko (for which Salo had recorded a 12" as Hertsi), and their first EP was also released that year. Paul Smith, the main man of Mute's sublabel Blast First, saw Panasonic's gig in England at a club called Vox in autumn 1994, and eventually signed the act to his label. Pan Sonic's performance at New York's Disobey club of Knitting Factory in early 1995 also increased duo's popularity Stateside.
So far there has been three Pan Sonic albums from Blast First, Vakio in September 1995, Kulma in January 1997 and A in February 1999; with also one EP, Osasto out in July 1996. Furthermore, they broadcast a live session with John Peel for BBC in autumn 1995.
Panasonic performed at the end of 1995 in a car park in London's East End with a notorious Audio Weapons Armoured Car System - or 'Advanced Acoustic Armaments' sound system rigged up on an armoured car - featuring a 5K turbo sound PA which was built and developed by Jimmy Cauty of The KLF fame. According the rumours the device was similar to those the police's riot forces were using, causing low frequency sounds to accelerate the rioters' bowel movements, thus incapacitating them by making them mess their pants... (As Jimmy Cauty is known as the master of disinformation, these rumours should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.) At a recent Ars Electronica festival of Linz, Austria, Pan Sonic played in a train which circulated around an industrial area.
Other memorable Pan Sonic prank was, of course, the group's original name nicked from the famous electronics manufacturer, which must have caused many frustrations to their record label. As Toshiba, the Panasonic Electronics' biggest competitor in Japan had plans to licence the group's music from Blast First, the change of name seemed to become more probable all the time. The latest news tell that after having been contacted by the lawyers of Panasonic USA, who threatened the act and their record label with legal actions, from spring 1998 onwards the duo is officially to be called Pan Sonic. Thus were also crushed Ilpo's hopes that the band would have been sponsored by their electronics giant namesake...
Pan Sonic cite as their influences, first of all, Alan Vega's and Martin Rev's legendary proto-techno duo Suicide (with which they were gigging in March 1998; not to mention the recorded collaboration with Alan Vega), industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubauten, the French "musique concrete" composer Pierre Henry and the eccentric cult rockabilly musician Hasil Adkins - Mika Vainio has sometimes jokingly called Pan sonic's music "horsemeat rockabilly". Their sound is, according to Mika, increasingly moving away from the regular 4-4 techno, and is now, for example, inspired by old Jamaican dub reggae and ska. And of course rockabilly, which Mika likes with a late-70's Eno-ish twist. Unsurprisingly, Japanese noise artists, such as Pain Jerk, have lately inspired Pan Sonic. Mika considers their Japanese gigs with Yamatsuka Eye of The Boredoms some of the most important during their career; especially the Tokyo night was received very well among the press and the audience. Furthermore, Mika and Ilpo are into Hurriganes [sic], the "legendary" Finnish power trio of rock'n'roll Neandernthals back in the 70's (the band's drummer-singer Remu couldn't speak English, so the lyrics were written phonetically for him, and so on).
Mika isn't really into today's "electronica" and its computer-driven sound, though Pan Sonic have increasingly delved into modern sampler technology as of late. The group also has an "extra member" called Jari Lehtinen who's responsible for building Pan Sonic's instruments with which their extraordinary humming sounds have been created. Mika describes their custom equipment: "We have a synthesizer which is one big box that has twelve oscillators on it; you can connect them to each other and modulate them together. We also have this small synthesizer which is built to an old typewriter - we call it 'Typewriter'. We have several drum modules to make rhythmic sounds which we are using with an 808. Jari Lehtinen is also building us this large synthesizer that will have eight oscillators and a cross connection board, like the early 70s, late 60s synthesizers." Alongside Typewriter, also known as "Complex Sound Generator" there is also a self-built, approximately six metre-long infrasonic tube, called "John Holmes".
Pan Sonic now use also samplers and a computer based sequencer, MPC2000. So they can leave the "fishing box" back home since it doesn't travel well. Mika says he doesn't really know anything about computers or MIDI-based music nor does he want to. He is very much into sounds felt by the body and the effect of frequencies on the brain.
As to Pan Sonic's live presentation, they opt to stay true to their harsh, minimalist nature. On stage the band is illuminated by blue light and stand behind their equipment, intently tweaking knobs and levels. Another creation from their engineer friend provides the one changing visual. "We have this oscilloscope which is connected to a video projector. It's just a simple white line on a black background behind us which reacts to our frequencies and the sounds that we are making. That's the only visual thing but I think it works really well."
Pan Sonic thinks they usually have their best gigs in Germany, because of the electronic music tradition there from the 1950's onwards. They also mention France for the same reasons. Americans in their turn, Vaisanen laughs a bit ironically, consider everything coming from Europe being automatically of very high quality, since this continent is regarded there as a kind of "cradle of culture
Similar Bands: Autechre, Skinny Puppy, Einsturzende Neubaten, Throbbing Gristle, Vladislav Delay
Contributors: porch, Ponton, Adash, Avagantamos, SandwichBubble, Adash,