O’Man has released two EP’s at various streaming services but still wants to keep his identity hidden. Or at least I think it is not his (or hers?) real name. Through some middlemen I managed to get a hold of his manager who finally granted a permission to make this interview. The original questions and this header were translated by Pekka.
Hi O’Man! I’m glad I finally managed to get an interview even’ though it’s only via email. Why you are so mysterious and remote?
Mika? From Japan? Sadistic Mika Kahkonen, haha ha! Remote? Nobody’s been trying to reach me. Nothing mysterious in that.
I presume you are a sideman in some dull band and don’t have the guts to use your own name as a prog rock underground artist?
I have been saved from the so-called cabaret circuit even ’though I did fell there for a while thankfully without it becoming a habit. I’ve done many kind of jobs in other areas too beside music. What makes you say this ain’t my name? I’ve seen weirder names. Is Mika a pseudonym?
Many of the musicians on your releases perform under an alias. Have you told them not to use their real names or don’t they want to use real names when playing your music?
I have only told them what not to play or sing and not too many times. And what do you mean by ”many of the musicians”? Is there somebody under a real name? Next time I’ll use numbers only, that’ll teach them.
How come you have got them to play on these projects as they all are of such a high caliber? Money or blackmail?
I asked. I think I just called and those who answered got in. If they wanted to, mind you. Nobody was ”remote” or ”mysterious”.
You try to keep up a Phantom-like image or a legend by keeping your identy as a secret, don’t you?
Well, of course! The remote Phantom, won’t answer to anyones calls or telegrams!
Could you still tell something about your personal history for those readers who are more interested in humanly things and not in music trivia?
I doubt very hard there’s a single dimwit interested in any other thing than the bleeding catalog number amongst the howling nuff hackits you call your readers. Ok. I was born, was a happy kid, went to school and after that I’ve rambled on through the cosmic path of life, sometimes stumbling to, sometimes overtaking the rocks along the way.
There’s a lot of pointers to the music and players of the past in your music. What’s that about or are you only trying to brag with your knowledge?
The listener can decide those things, that’s the way it’s supposed to be anyway. You come up with a guitar/synth thingy and you think it sounds like what Shawn Phillips would had done in ’74 with M. Frog Labat and of course somebody will say ”hey, that sounds like Crosby and Eno!”. Frustrating but what can you do. That was the bragging bit for you by the way.
Your music sounds like you and is original even ’though you honor your idols. Why do you want to sound like somebody else?
Because I’m a hack. I experiment, edit, cut and paste. That saves me from doing gigs actually. It’d took ages to first learn the things you have played on tape and then to teach them to others. No thanks.
I guess the so-called originality of mine comes from the fact that even if I try to sound like somebody it’ll end up like me wheter I like it or not.
More than half of your stuff is instrumental. It sure isn’t a commercially wise decision. What makes a man to do such left-field music when already on left-field?
When you’re on a left-field and do some more left-field you end up towards middle! I basically do MOR haha! The real reason is me being too lazy. It’s easier to come up with instrumentals and if I can’t come up with any melodies and I can ask some from the contributors. If I can reach them ha ha ha! They will get their credits.
I bet you’re a huge vinyl nerd and your apartment is full of Spiral-Vertigo and current obscure european prog bands’ limited edition releases.
The whole vinyl craze has become such a ritual nowadays. The listening, the sound. I’m seriously thinking of selling my lot because I hate that kind of elitism. I listen to cd’s more and as I usually play them in my car it’s hard to do any kind of rituals there. It’s a pain to try to drive in the lotus position and reciting a mantra detracts from the listening pleasure and also looks pretty stupid when you stop at traffic lights.
You apparently like albums so why do you release your music only as streams?
I like albums? Sure it was sugar you dropped in your morning tea Mika-san? I admit I’d rather prefer a physical product and maybe some day I’ll manage to make it happen. CD, of course. With the vinyl there’s a huge difference in numbers between those who ask for it and those who really end up buying it.
You have succeeded to combine not only darkness and humour but also almost wordless storytelling in your music: both EP’s are concepts in a way (former with a crime theme, the latter with water). You like concept albums or just like stories?
Well, I think the track order may have to have something to do with the theme or concept. I had lyrics for ”Snakes Everywhere” and even sang it myself. That the vocal track didn’t get released is very much related to the fact that I use those guest singers, as ”hard to reach” they might be. Your ”wordless storytelling” theory is correct in a way as ”Snakes” isn’t really about a blessed event at the terrarium. Water theme comes mainly from the track titles. I enjoy certain kind of concept albums.
If you had to choose one song of your released catalog what would it be? The one that you are the most proud of?
I hear flaws in every one of them but currently it would be ”Low Tide”. A Canadian musician and Max Webster author Bob Wegner told me that Kim Mitchell used an alternative guitar tuning (DADAAE) on an early song ”Anna Lea” and I promised myself I’ll come up with a song using that same tuning. Usually these kind of pacts go south but this time it somehow worked. Big part of this success is down to the contributors, without them I would propably still be reciting in front of my record player with my legs in a bad state. Now it took only a few lines. Lo and behold! I gave you some namedropping there for free!
When we will hear the songs live? Rumour has it that in Espoo there are some eagerly awaiting for an O’Man live concert.
Didn’t I already answer that question? Too much hassle, my manager is so skint he couldn’t pay the musicians what they deserve and the numbers coming up to see the gig would probably equal the numbers who’d buy the vinyl. Of course there’s still the mantra…
Do you feel like living in 2020’s or do you long for times that were, say, 50 years ago?
I live in the current even ’though it might be hard to hear from my music. If I long or wish for something it would be that my music wouldn’t sound like it came from a specific era. Within a context of rock music history of course.
What kind of people you assume to be your listeners? What would you like to say to them?
It’s better not to assume anything otherwise you end up disappointed. I wish they are better people than me. That said I’d better not say anything to them except ”thank you”.
Do you have anything more philosophical to say to wrap this up nicely?
On a higher level? If I reached higher I’d lost my balance and with an aching back my philosophy takes a turn to the dark side. Thanks for the interview, Aki.
Thank you, O’Man.
O’ne-ep is in Youtube, Spotify and Bandcamp.
Low Tide -ep is also in Youtube, Spotify and Bandcamp.