Kotiteollisuus is a popular Finnish band whose name can be translated to “home industry” and is almost impossible to pronounce or remember for foreigners. If you’re not a Finn, you must be a very devoted fan to be able to spell it without making at least five mistakes. Regarding the band’s long history and their niche in the Finnish music industry, Kotiteollisuus are considered to be the Metallica of Finland. The trio comes from Lappeenranta and has already released 10 studio albums. Their latest record, Ukonhauta (Ukko’s grave), went gold in Finland.
According to their official website, “in their homeland, Finland, the band is variously being described as a bunch of homophobic redneck chauvinist pigs, career alcoholics or perceptive commentators on the current state of the nation, religion and human kind in general, depending on the sex, IQ, and state of intoxication of the person that you are asking.” This description fits the band perfectly. Their music is not for narrow-minded people lacking a sense of humor. So, if you are too serious about life and yourself, you better stop reading now because it will only get worse.
Kotiteollisuus’ lyrics give you a different view on life, especially life in Finland. Their music is closely intertwined with Finnish folklore. All this might make an impression that it is shaped for a Finnish mentality only. As a non-Finn and a big fan of the band, I can say this is not true. If you are able to laugh at yourself and the stupidities of life instead of letting them get you down, if you can survive in this world and not cave in to it, if you are able to just keep it simple and not bother yourself with trivialities, if you feel that it is ok to be yourself and do what you feel like doing without being afraid of judgment, then Kotiteollisuus’ music is for you. The only thing left to do is to learn Finnish or get someone to translate their lyrics for you!
The band’s frontman, guitarist, and, vocalist, Jouni Hynynen, kindly agreed to meet us for an interview before their sold-out gig in Tavastia in April 2009. Despite the band’s popularity in Finland, Hynynen is a very witty and open person, without any superstar arrogance.
The following interview must be read through the prism of a healthy sense of humor, keeping in mind everything said above. Reading it with a beer or two in hand wouldn’t hurt either.
Two months ago you released an album and started to tour Finland again, with many of the shows selling out. So how are things going in the Kotiteollisuus camp? Is everything going smoothly?
Everything is fine… 2 months of booze I think, but otherwise everything is fine, yeah.
Rumor has it that 40 bottles of Kossu [ed: Koskenkorva, a Finnish vodka] and released the new album, which went gold. So is that the recipe to make a successful record?
No! And we won’t do it again, it was a mistake. After the studio session we were all very tired and bored. But we had a holiday in there; after that it was easy to go and play some gigs and so on. But no, we won’t repeat this. We are not interested in any recipes.
The album is called Ukonhauta – is there any symbolical meaning to it?
Lots. The theme of this record is how a man can survive in a woman’s world, with all the alcohol and so on. Ukko is something like a male god in this case.
There is a certain hint of religion and folklore in some of your lyrics. Are you a religious person?
Do you go to church?
No. I believe in something. I don’t know what is there, is it a god or something else, but there is someone. But I am not interested in going to church. I like the buildings though, but I am not interested in the ceremonies.
Hongisto once said in an interview that god is the biggest humorist in the world, because he created men. Do you agree with this?
Yes, we’re all of the same opinion here.
You have collaborated with Tuomas Holopainen on some of your previous albums. Did he participate in the most recent album as well?
Yes, and we made this record at his place. He was in America at that time, but he gave us the keys and said that it is ok for us to go there.
But did he play on this album?
Yes, and he is also playing with us here tonight.
Have you ever considered releasing an album in English, so as to go on an international level or do you want to keep your music strictly domestic?
No no. You can hear my English, it’s not enough. We are not interested in singing in English or going to foreign countries. Finland is a big enough place for us to operate.
I have read that you invested in your own tour bus, so that you wouldn’t need to cooperate with irresponsible bus drivers. So what happened to those drivers?
They are dead.
What are the aspects of the business side of music that you really don’t like?
Talking about money or schedules, or making interviews (just kidding). But money is the thing that I don’t understand and I don’t like speaking of it too often.
You have refused quite a few offers from TV-shows. So what do you think of the publicity that being in a popular band brings?
I don’t know. Sometimes it’s ok, but most of the time I don’t care. It’s just something I can’t control. It’s there, but there is nothing I can do about it.
But how for example do you react when people recognize you on the streets or come to talk to you?
It depends. If I have a terrible hangover, I don’t like it at all. But most of the time it’s ok; I’m used to it.
You are from Lappeenranta, which is very close to the Russian border and there is a certain Russian influence on the city. What can you say about Russians?
There are a lot of Russian people in Lappeenranta and I think there’s even too many of them. They come for shopping there and other stuff and there’s too much rush. About 10 years ago it was a small town and now there’s too much of everything.
You were giving a lecture in the Lappeenranta Polytechnic University. How was this experience?
It sucked. [pauses] I think it was nice, though I didn’t really teach, I was just telling about what I do and it wasn’t hard.
But would you go it again if you were offered?
If you could give an advice to a child about living his life, what would that be?
I don’t know. Probably just live, something like that. There are certain ups and downs and that’s life and everybody should go through this.
Are you a strict father? Do you allow many things to your daughter?
Yeah. I just put her in the closet, shut the doors, turn off the lights, and leave her there.
What is your life motto?
Everything is shit.
When you were a kid, did you have any heroes? Who were they?
I think some athletes like Lasse Virén or Seppo Räty and other famous Finnish athletes. But music wasn’t very important to me when I was a kid. I was just listening to it, but I didn’t play anything. I was about 20 years old when I started to play.
What inspired you?
Beer and women, I think. And many musicians are like me. It’s the only motivation to play.
If you could, what song would you choose as an anthem of your life?
That’s very difficult.. Maybe Faith No More’s “Ugly in the Morning.”
In your opinion, which one of Kotiteollisuus’ songs would best describe Finland?
“Ukonhauta” is quite close to this, maybe not Finland itself, but Finnish men. Or “Mahtisanat.” Yeah, that’s Finland. [translates to “power words”; the song is about the most traditional Finnish realities of life, with a hint of sarcasm]
If you were given a chance to go back into your past for one day and be able to change something, what would you change?
I don’t want to go back, I won’t change anything. Always moving forward.
Have you ever regretted being a musician?
No, and I could never be anything else. I have no possibilities to do anything else. I just can’t do anything else. I don’t want to wake up in the morning at 7 o’clock and go to work. It’s not me.
What is the one thing that would make you stop writing music forever, other than death?
I think that is the only thing. Otherwise I will always be doing this.
Your band has a long history. Could you tell one of your funniest backstage band stories?
There’s nothing funny I think. We just drink and pass out, that’s the whole thing. I don’t know if it’s funny, but that’s the only thing we do after the gigs.
Have you ever had any embarrassing moments on stage?
Lots. I have forgotten the words, sometimes I just can’t play, and it still happens.
What about girls in the front row showing you their boobs?
Yeah, that’s the fun part!
LIKE has released a book, Rakkaudella Hynynen [Love, Hynynen], which is a collection of your articles. But would you ever consider writing a real book like a novel or something?
No novels, but poems will be released this autumn and there is some more stuff coming next year, but I won’t speak about that yet.
Did you write those poems especially for this book?
Yes, just for this book.
I have read one of your latest articles about the trend of being an “äijä” [a true “man” with balls]. Apparently you don’t consider yourself to be one. How would you describe yourself then?
An asshole, I think.
We had to finish our interview on that delightful note and to wish Hynynen a great gig. He left us smitten with his charisma. That night the fully packed Tavastia definitely shared our opinion.
People like Hynynen might change the meaning of the word “asshole” into something positive, with a little naughty spice to it. This runaway Santa Claus of Lappeenranta can make anything possible. Just add some booze.
Photo: Jana Blomqvist