QUICKIE OF THE WEEK: A short interview with Sanja Audy, Juska Salminen und Markku Nykänen (Reine)

written by Marko Jakob

Pix666: Hello Sanja, hey Juska and Markku. Thanks for your time. How are you doing these days?

Sanja: Hello! I’m great, thank you. It’s been a busy year, but I’m very excited about our new band. It’s like a breath of fresh air; it keeps me energized.

Markku: I’m doing well thank you! I’m keeping myself slightly busy just now, which is a good thing.  We also set up a production company with Juska, Concrete Media, at the same time as the band, so I have little time management issues sometimes, heh.

Juska: Really well, thanks for asking! Covid is still here, but hey, it never takes away the ability to create. Hence, Reine and Concrete Media. A massive boost to my system to be part of both.

Pix666: Your band is still quite new, there is not much information about you on the internet. Please introduce your band and tell the readers what kind of music you make.

Sanja: We are still discovering what we want to do and where we want to go with Reine. The best part of it is that there are no limitations, so you’ll probably be hearing many different songs. We draw inspiration from various music genres: dark electro, synthpop, industrial, gothic metal, 80s retro, deep house and even classical music. We are also in love with Finnish nature, tales and legends, in addition to high tech stuff and roleplaying games, so some of that will naturally come out in our music.

Markku: Yes, the band Reine is definitely fairly new, since we formed it about a month ago. Right now we have three permanent members. Sanja is in charge of the vocals. I play all stringed instruments and also some additional ones. Juska of course does the keyboards. In our first song “Panacea” we had on acoustic drums great session drummer and friend Antti Laari (Lodger, Homespun, Ja he ovat Jehovat).

We have no exact guidelines in what genre we should sit in. We try to keep our music simple. We have a bit of a punk attitude with this, not that we would play punk music, but that anyone could basically play our songs. It’s not like we couldn’t play or do complicated songs; quite the opposite, but the atmosphere of the song is a priority for us, we have no need to prove that we can play, we just conduct moods and feelings via music. We do not fear to use old clichés, ‘cos those just work musically. We all are fools for gloomy, dark and catchy melodies with plenty of hooks, therefore those are things you will be hearing a lot.

I would describe our music like this: Imagine Till Lindemann getting a bastard child with Tarja Turunen and putting that child in a deep house party, not in Ibiza but in the middle of Northern woods. Someone already commented that we sound like Finnish fairytale, so I guess we play Fairymetal.

Juska: I guess they said pretty much everything. I just want to add that I feel our music to be some sort of mystery. Like that fairy in the forest waiting to be found, but always somehow manages to escape. One who listens can peel layers and we give more riddles to solve. 

Pix666: Did you play in other bands before you joined Reine?

Sanja: I come from a musically very accomplished family, so I grew up around music and musicians. I went to music school and played piano, but singing was always my one true love. I sang in several choirs for years, and in a couple less known projects with friends before my move to Finland. I wrote and co-wrote lyrics for both known and unknown bands, mostly in the metal scene.

Markku: I started playing at a young age in a band called Insanity, sometime in the early 90s, but after a few sold out gigs, it ended short when the singer tossed the microphone on the floor in front of a full hall at the beginning of the first song of the gig and left without saying a word. It was a bit of a distressing situation for the young boy.

Since then I have played in numerous projects, but they have remained mostly projects.  A few fun projects have survived for next generations, for example such as “Steve Gates – Slave” on YouTube where I also tried my wings as a singer.  Another hilarious project to do was “PrrMotors”, we had a goal to release 10 albums in a year, but our internal organs only lasted as long as making 6-7 albums, If I remember correctly.  However, these “masterpieces” can still be found in Spotify and iTunes.

Juska: My first band was called The Swampies. Next band was Mary-Ann, which became later on to be To/Die/For. I was asked to join Mary-Ann, because they changed the music style from glam rock to more gothic, and needed a keyboardist. After Mary-Ann I joined H.I.M.

After I quit HIM and managed to fight through the rough year of hardest burn out, Santeri “Sande”  Kallio from Amorphis asked me to play in his other band Verenpisara (Blood drop). Also Tomi Koivusaari and Niclas Etelävuori played in the band. I felt really honored, as I admire Sande as a keyboardist and other guys as well as musicians. I mean Amorphis is awesome. I played a few gigs with them. Loved it. Then I played on and off in To/Die/For. Last time during 2010-2013.

Pix666: Does Juska’s experience from his time with H.I.M. and To/Die/For help you with your start with Reine?

Sanja: Definitely. Juska’s experience and professionalism has been a tremendous help. I’m exceptionally lucky, because guys have been around in the scene, and they know how the game is played. Most of all, they understand the music. It all makes my job a lot easier and lets me focus more on the creative side and enjoy doing what I do. And that’s the whole point, to do what we love and love what we do, no stress.

Markku: Of course it helps. Juska is super talented musically so we do not even need to plan anything when Juska is doing his parts to songs. Everything works very naturally and easily, this is the best thing about working with an experienced musician.

Juska: This is the first time in my life that I will “deploy” my past experience in HIM. For me it’s been a massive journey to come back alive after departing from the band. I fell into a dark abyss and slowly swam to the surface. But I didn’t know how to live with HIM. To be an ex-member, is that pathetic..? To be proud, can I really feel that way because I gave up..? In the end I managed to win the battle. Now I feel it’s time to completely be who I am, and add those elements to Reine’s music. Obviously I have experience being in a quite famous band, so I think it’ll help.

Pix666: A few weeks ago your song ‘Panacea’ was released. How were the reactions of the fans and listeners so far?

Sanja: I’m still overwhelmed by the flow of positive feedback and support. We went into this with a laid back attitude, honestly not expecting that things will go so well and so smoothly. There are going to be some bumps on the road for sure, but we’ll tackle them along the way. For now it feels great to just enjoy the ride.

Markku:  So far, we have received only positive feedback, so I want to believe that we have done something right, but there must also be room for constructive criticism.  My 14 years old godchild also praised the song a lot and added it to her playlist, this felt really good.

Juska: Not that much to add. My wife, mom, dad and also youngsters who I work with, they all liked it. And that’s a lot! And Markku, I have to make a little tiny correction there. We have two thumbs down on Youtube, heh! 

Pix666: A nice video has also been released for the song. As a guy from central Europe you have the imagination – Finland, a forest, a lonely cabin in the woods – then a brown bear must have been nearby. Where exactly did you shoot the clip and did anything unusual actually happen during the shooting?

Sanja: One thing I will always remember is the cold. It was an extremely windy and freezing day. We had trouble flying the drone, my hair was constantly slapping me in the face, and walking barefoot through ice cold water was hilarious because it felt so insane. Another fun and chaotic fact: we filmed it before the song was done. So at the end of the day we went to the studio to record the vocals.

Markku: I would like to say we ended up on the bear’s menu, and we had to eat our way out of its stomach using only our gums, but we didn’t have that kind of luck this time.  We filmed the video in Kouvola a few kilometers from my house, in the woods where I go to pick mushrooms, and I know what you think, not such mushrooms.

Filming conditions were somewhat challenging in terms of weather and we had only one assistant, Carita Koivumäki.  Sanja was a real guerrilla, in her light dress, although the air was about 4°C and the wind gusts over 10m/s.  She is really completely used to these lovely Finnish weather conditions.  The shots went quickly in about an hour, although I had to cut back a bit on the aerial shots I was looking for, because the gusty wind wasn’t a good thing for even a big drone.

Juska: For me it was just awesome to see the end result. When I came to play my part, Markku was sawing a stand for my keyboards out of wood. Already that made my day! But without exaggerating, we shot mine and Markku’s part in half an hour.

Pix666: How do you create your songs? Is there a certain plan? Who in the band is responsible for what and what themes are the lyrics of your songs about?

Markku: So far, I have composed the backgrounds of the songs, out of necessity alone, because it has been difficult to arrange a common time and travel between cities safely during Covid. But once we get together the songs are completed in an instant with these talented guys. Sanja did the lyrics and she can tell you more about their backgrounds.

Sanja: I wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies for songs we made so far. It came easily and extremely naturally because Markku composed everything, so my part came when everything else was already done. The lyrics so far have been a spur of the moment inspiration, although we have some plans to tell certain stories in our songs, perhaps with a bit of mystery. I feel most at home with positive or emotional themes and singing techniques, so there’s probably going to be more of that. No aggressive, or nervously angry vocals. That just isn’t me.

Juska: I’ve just joined the band, so I’ve done some arrangements. But I’m really excited. This time I can as well compose and hope to write some lyrics too.

Pix666: Have you written any more songs during the last time. Will there be a new album from you in the near future? Well, I would be happy.

Sanja: I truly hope so! We are all very willing and excited, and there’s definitely a lot of inspiration and material. It’s just the matter of logistics and coordinating our schedules.

Markku: I think the release of the album isn’t far off in terms of songs, it’s only a bit difficult right now to match the schedules so we can finish the songs together.  If necessary, I semi-easily compose the bases of two songs a day (If I pass the meals, neglect personal hygiene and drink 3 litres of wine) and if the blank paper syndrome strikes I have an estimated 250-300 almost ready bases to choose from. This said, I hope we can make the songs together from scratch and not have to use the songs I compose alone.

Juska: For me it feels that Markku doesn’t sleep at all. So I think we’ll have 2 albums made before you publish this story, heh. But referring to the last answer, I can’t wait to create. I’ve only written one song in my life so far. And it’s not even a complete song, it’s an outro in To/Die/For’d album IV. I already have ideas, and I’ll show them to Markku and Sanja later on.

Pix666: Social media and music streaming are a blessing and a curse for bands. From your point of view, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this development for your band. How much do Reine use social media and are you already reprensented in one of the popular platforms?

Sanja: Some plans are in motion, but I don’t want to reveal too much too soon!

Markku: In a nutshell, new release platforms and social media are a great way to get your content out, without the big record companies or other intermediaries.  However, even really good music or production in general can easily drown in an endless media flood. And even if people find you, it takes millions of listens to be able to support yourself with music alone, for example. There were good sides to selling concrete music records, now albums are mostly bought by collectors and that’s a bit sad.

Juska: As Markku mentions the word concrete, I have to talk a bit about Concrete Media. It’s our new audio-visual services providing company. We deliberately added the band’s video in our webpage. Not only on Youtube for example. Reine is the heart for our creativity. As a business, Concrete Media for me and Markku is to work in the media field. But because of Reine, we can always create without boundaries. One of our values in Concrete Media is creativity. So far we’ve done every single part of Reine’s production in song Panacea; from music itself to recording and mixing/mastering. And in video,  filming, editing and after effects. Band is not Concrete Media or vice versa. But the twist is that our goal is to rock in both!

Do we need social media? You can find that “secret pathway” to the music video Panacea from our website. And talking of secret pathways, I love riddles and games. So here is one game for all you readers: Search for two items in our promo picture which are believed to be symbols/amulets for protection against evil/bad luck. As well, look for a letter and number combination from our music video. Send your answer to path@concretemedia.net. First 50 correct answers will receive numbered and signed cards (promo pic). No hidden agenda, you’ll just get a rare and limited card. And an invitation to our path. And hey, maybe some new clues…

Pix666: Are there plans and/or dreams for the future? In which locations or at which festivals would you like to perform and with which band would you like to go on tour?

Sanja: Wave Gotik Treffen. Go big or go home!

In all seriousness, the band and being able to express myself musically is its own reward. If and when we start performing live, we’ll see where that road takes us.

Markku: Firstly I hope people find our music and embrace it so we can continue writing new songs.  Hopefully we’ll also get a live band together soon.

Personally, I fell in love with the M’era Luna Festival when I was there as a guest of my dear friend Bruno Kramm (Das Ich) in 2018 and very special thanks also to Mr. Sean Brennan and London After Midnight for lending a couple of extra beers, heh. I really liked how the event was organized, both behind the stage and in front. Next year, if the world allows, I will also see my friend Konstantin Michaely’s band (Wisborg) at the Amphi Festival, and it’s great to see the festival itself in terms of arrangements.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been to WGT yet, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.  These three festivals are at the top of the list where I would like to perform.

Juska: We just took our promo pics. That was awesome. I mean it’s been 10 years since I wore makeup last time. It was a bit uncomfortable at first, but in the end I managed to get into the mood of being in a rock band. I guess that is enough already for me… To be in a band. I’ve played in many festivals during my career. M’era Luna Festival was great!

Pix666: Do you have any favourite bands whose music you listen to regularly?

Sanja: Solar Fake. Their music feels like home I keep coming back to. I am also a sucker for certain computer game soundtracks. Other than that, what I listen to varies a lot.

Markku: I don’t currently have any particular band on the record plate, but I follow a lot of what’s new and I’m a regular guest on New Retro Wave’s channel on YouTube.

Juska: It’s been ages since I bought a CD, and now I just ordered one. The name of the artist is Kebu. It’s instrumental synthesizer music with heavy influence from the 80’s. I love those sounds. It came with an autograph and a number being 823:rd out of 1000. It was so great to get that CD and it feels much more special with those little details. I still get asked to sign autographs now and then. People send me their albums, I sign them and send them back. It’s a little thing for me to do, but I know how it feels for a person to get them signed. To be honest, I feel honored to sign them. I mean after over 20 years after my departure from HIM.

Pix666: Markku, do you have some hobbies typical for Finns, like ice fishing, going to the sauna or drinking alcohol – or what do you do when you’re not focused on music?

Markku: When I need to relax and reset my speeding thoughts, I’ve found that archery helps clear the mind.  My old couch has fallen victim to this hobby, and I am very sorry for that.  Ice swimming and a sauna are also a great way to relax, although at the moment I mostly just settle for a sauna.

Drinking alcohol? As a hobby..? What a fine idea!! Of course, as a Finn, I don’t spit in the glass, only right now this hobby has suffered, because for me it’s a social hobby, but I am patiently waiting for better times and I try not to succumb to Finnish cultural activity called “kalsarikännit”.

Pix666: Sanja, what made you come to Finland? Do you live there permanently and how are your Finnish language skills?

Sanja: I moved to Finland over ten years ago through family connections. It feels like I finally found my place under the Sun here (or in complete darkness for half a year heh). I’m fluent in Finnish and several other languages I speak regularly. When I’m very tired, occasionally words get mixed up and it’s really funny, if a bit frustrating.

Pix666: Do you have any other news, that you would like to share with the readers?

Sanja: Stay tuned. We’re only getting started.

Markku: Only that new news will be coming! And listen to your doctors so we can end this madness together and return to enjoy our lives fully.

Juska: I’m just so excited with Reine that I hope people will find our music. We are not in a rush at all, but I think we are able to create something really special here.

Pix666: Thank you very much for the interesting answers – Good luck and stay healthy!!!


photos © by Carita Koivumäki and Markku Nykänen