This does not look like Rock’N’Roll. I meet Disco Ensemble just before their gig in Leipzig,very close to the end of their European tour. The scene I encounter is eight men sitting on sofas, typing into their notebooks. No guitars, no girls, not even a beer in sight. It does not get any more glamourous once I moved with singer Miikka Koivisto and guitar player Jussi Ylikoski into a room nearby which looks rather shambolic as well. Miikka does not seem too healthy, coughing throughout the interview. But who needs a nice setting if you have got two people willing to talk about death and diarrhea, arguments and shoplifting? Because that is just what I get in this interview with Disco Ensemble. Let’s go for it.
Hi Miikka, hi Jussi! You have almost made it to the end of your European dates. How are you doing?
Jussi Ylikoski: The tour’s been very, very good. We are a bit tired now. But we promise: You can’t see that when we are on stage.
Miikka Koivisto: It gets to the point where you don’t do anything all day, because you don’t have the energy. You save it all for the show.
So I hope I can cheer you up a little with this. What I would like to do is pick one line out of each song of your new album Warriors and turn it into a question. I hope this makes it a bit more interesting for you than being asked how you chose the name of your band.
Both: Oh, thank you.
Okay, let’s begin and see if it works. The Intro includes the line „What can you do when they finally find out the truth“. My question is: Are there any truths about Disco Ensemble that you would not like to be found out? That you would rather keep a secret?
Miikka: Good question. You know, with the internet nothing stays a mystery. So it is really hard to keep a secret. But I am not sure if I would like fans to see what our life on the road looks like. You have just seen it: It’s not very glamourous, there’s nothing exciting, most of the time it’s just some guys and their laptops. After a couple of days the humor gets so stupid. So it might be better that people don’t really know what bands do most of their day.
Jussi: That’s right. You have that cliché that fans follow bands. If they did that for two days, especially now that we are so close to the end of the tour, that would be a shock for fans to see.
Have there been any embarrassing secrets revealed about you already? YouTube-footage that you would like to delete or Twitpics showing you drunk?
Miikka: No. I think – even in Finland, where we are more popular than here – we are pretty down to earth.
Are you at ease with how Disco Ensemble is received, all in all? Have fans got the right impression of who you are?
Jussi: Yes, I think so. We are pretty normal people. We play in a rock band for a living, but apart from that we are pretty average. And the ones who know us a little better know that.
Miikka: But I think there is something glamourous about that as well: We are normal guys, but when we go on stage, we put on a great show and we go nuts for one hour per day. I think that is something that you can admire and look up to as well.
Jussi: Yeah. The idea, that it is possible for people like us to transform into what we are on stage is unusual for people to see. And they like it.
Song number two, Second Soul. I picked a line from the chorus, „you will find a second soul“. The old idea of meeting the one person that is made for you and that you want to spend the rest of your life with. Have you found your soulmates already? And if so: What is it like to be so far apart for so long when you are on tour?
Miikka: It’s hard to say. We’ve got wifes or girlfriends, but we’ve been doing this for so long that we kind of got used to it. I guess all of us have their own method of coping with it.
Jussi: I used to get more homesick in the early days of the band. Sometimes I still do now, but it’s different. See, we all have kids, so that makes it hard as well. But it’s surprisingly easy for me this time.
Miikka: You know, we’ve been on tour so many times and then you come home and home is always there. You kind of trust that it will always be like that.
Did you ever think about taking girlfriends, wifes or children with you on tour?
Miikka: Not on this scale, that would be torture.
Jussi: Yeah, I don’t think they would like it. After two days they would probably all be complaining. Which I would understand. This is no lifestyle for people who have no passion for playing in a rock band. But sometimes at festivals in the summertime we invite our families and they watch the show from the side of the stage. They enjoy that.
„You have too much feelings in your heart“ is a line from the third song of your album called, as you may have guessed, Too Much Feelings. My thesis is that there are people in this world who have got too much feelings and might turn into romantics on the one hand and people who have got too few feelings and might turn into brainiacs on the other hand. Would you agree? And can you name some brainiac that you wish had a little more feeling and compassion?
Miikka: That’s a good one. But it’s tough. (lengthy pause)
Jussi: It’s a good question. Maybe too good.
Miikka: But I see what you mean. There are those people. You’re looking at them and you ask yourself: Why are they like that? How can they be so cold? Maybe Kimi Raikkönen is one of those. It’s a cheesy answer. But he really looks like he hates what he is doing. Totally disinterested.
Jussi: My theory is that he loves to drive. Maybe he puts all his passion into racing.
Thank you. Next song, Eartha Kitt. This time I chose a question that you pose yourself in the lyrics, „Do you remember?“ What I would like to know is: What will you one day remember about your days in Disco Ensemble? What is your greatest memory looking back on the 15 years that you have been in the band so far?
Miikka: That’s a good question as well. (Thinks for a bit) One thing that I will always remember is our first European tour. That was a major thing. It was in the days before GPS and we had huge maps in the van and lots of post-its which said weird things like „Turn left after the second tree“ or something. Our manager just asked his friends in some venues in Europe and put a tour together like that. That was a real adventure. Mental.
Jussi: The most exciting part was probably in January, when we were in the Baltic countries on our way back to Finland. The roads were slippery and the whole back of the van was filled with extra winter tires and spikes and so on. We almost didn’t believe we would make it back anymore.
What would you like your fans to remember about Disco Ensemble? What should their memories look like if you split up or retire one day?
Jussi: I don’t know. Of course everybody has their own memories. But I think we always saw ourselves as a live band. If someone had a great experience seeing us live, that would be fine.
Miikka: Yeah. If they say: Disco Ensemble – those guys played great gigs that I will never forget, that would be good.
Next up is I’ve Seen The Future, and I lazily decided to just talk about the song title. Where do you see yourselves in 10 years time?
Miikka: That’s hard to say. This is not a business for making plans.
Jussi: We tend to do one album at a time and after that we see what happens. We sit down and talk about if it still makes sense. That’s what we will do this time, as well.
So this could mean this is your last tour and Warriors is your last album?
Jussi: You never know. Nobody’s saying that we are going to split up. But it needs to make sense to continue. You need the passion to do it. And I hope we will all have it.
Another line from the song is „How can you trust me when you don’t even know me“, it’s about the difficult task of finding out who is honest and who is not. Have you had any bad experiences in that regard as a band? Has there ever been a major let-down in your career?
Miikka: No, thanks to our manager. We’ve known him for a long, long time and he’s been with the band right from the start.
Jussi: He is like the filter between disappointment and us. He protects us from a lot of problems.
Miikka: But we know that we are very fortunate with a manager like that. It’s a weird business which attracts all kinds of strange people. We hear horror stories from other bands that we know. There’s one about a manager who seems like the textbook villain. A really unpleasant guy, who one day took all the bands merchandise money and disappeared. Later they found out that he had an address in Greece.
Next song, With Every Step, another very obvious choice: „It hurts with every step“. What was the worst pain you ever felt in your life, either physically or emotionally?
Miikka: There was one show in Holland, some time around 2006, when I felt really bad. I had diarrhea and a huge fever before we had to play in Amsterdam. I have no idea why we played the show. I was just standing there and thought I was going to shit myself right in the middle of our gig. That was the worst.
Jussi: I never knew about that. Sorry I am laughing.
So how about you, Jussi?
Jussi: The worst pain I ever felt was probably after the death of my father, twelve years ago. I was old enough to deal with it and I had already left home. But of course that was a major loss.
Okay, thank you. Let’s move on to Hologram, which includes the line „You better be sure when you turn that card“. It is about making decisions without really being aware of the consequences. About the courage it takes to do it nevertheless. Were there situations like that during the making of Warriors? What was the bravest decision you had to make?
Miikka: When you’re making an album, especially in the last stages, it feels like the smallest adjustments can ruin everything. Everything feels super important then, even stuff that the listener probably won’t even notice.
Jussi: Making records you are constantly in a position where you have to make decisions and there is no turning back. The closer you get to the deadline, the worse it gets. In a situation like that you can only trust the process itself and the people around you.
Do you argue about those decisions?
Jussi: It gets tense sometimes, especially when the deadline approaches. You have four pairs of ears and everyone has got their own opinion and their own ideas, that is really difficult to deal with. It can wear you down. But we argued surprisingly little making this album. That is probably down to the fact that everybody put down their parts on their own. So most of the time there was no one around to argue with, apart from the producer – and that was enough. (laughs)
Miikka: I’s a delicate democracy. But that’s part of the beauty of it, as well.
Next up, Spade Is The Anti-Heart which is not only a great line but also a great song title in my opinion. How did that come up? I guess it’s got nothing to do with online poker?
Miikka (laughs): No. I don’t really remember where it came from. We played something in the rehearsals, quite traditionally, and I just blabbered something on top of that. The words just came out.
There is quite a lot of heart stuff going on in the lyrics. Was that on purpose? Because it is quite a dodgy topic for a rock band.
Miikka: Well, it is an obvious thing to sing about what goes on in your heart. It’s an easy thing to put into lyrics. And I have really grown to like clichés. On our first records I tried to be as complicated as I could with the lyrics. Nowadays I’ve come to embrace the easier solutions. Sometimes they’re the best. If it feels good, why change it? Even if it might sound cheesy sometimes. I like the contrast of saying something in a really complicated way and then getting the same message across in a very straightforward way.
Next up is Chinese Sword. At the beginning of the last verse you sing „Only crime and then was another“. That leads to my question if you ever committed any crimes?
Jussi: As a kid I stole lots of candy from the store with my friends. But I never got caught. They did, and I stood next to them with candy bars in my pockets and was just a little more lucky than them. I wonder what would happen today, if a grown man would steal candy bars.
Miikka, how about you? You got a clean record?
Miikka: Yes, almost. Nothing too serious.
Alright. We’ve arrived at 1000 Years and once again I picked a line from the chorus: „If you wait for a 1000 years, you can wait for a 1000 more.“ That’s why I would like to ask you about patience. Who is the most impatient member of Disco Ensemble?
Jussi: I am a really impatient person myself. I think patience is something that you might regret when you are old. I think it’s just hard to be patient with something that you feel passionate about.
Do you think patience is helpful for a band or even necessary?
Miikka: No. I think that patience only becomes important if things start to get boring. As long as you enjoy what you are doing there’s no need for patience.
Jussi: Of course there’s still things that we want to achieve. But whether we achieve it or not is probably not up to the fact if we are patient or not.
Last song, Your Shadow. It starts with the line „It’s a phone call from a dead man“. If you could ask a dead man to call you: Who would you like to have a little chat with?
Miikka (after a lengthy pause): That’s a good one.
Jussi: Yeah, it’s a good question. But it’s hard to come up with a straight answer. You don’t want to go for someone obvious like Elvis.
Why not? Maybe he could give you some advice?
Miikka: I don’t think that I need any advice from the dead. But It would be great if you could solve something by talking to that dead man. Maybe someone whose death is a mystery.
Jussi: Maybe that guy from Manic Street Preachers. But I’m not sure if he’s officially dead.
Miikka: Olof Palme!
Jussi: Yeah! That’s a good one.
So you would like to ask who killed him?
Miikka: Yes, exactly. He got shot in the dark, so maybe he couldn’t see his own killer. But it would be great to find out.
Jussi: I’ll go for Lee Harvey Oswald. I’d ask him if he really shot John F. Kennedy.
That’s two great ideas and it was a very nice chat. Thank you very much.