"Indie label with heart and soul" says If Society's website. Founder Tommi Forsström speaks about his label, the Eurovision Song Contest and the future of music business.
The whole thing started in '96 and'97 from two different towns. In '96 Mikko Heikkonen (the other side of If Society) made an ep with his band Fikure (the Fugazi of Lappeenranta 1996) and decided to put it out himself. For this, he cooked up the label Lo-Finn.
Next year in Helsinki, me and Ilai Rämä (Siniaalto / Echo Is Your Love / Kirlian Crossing) did the same with our old band Sissy Spacek and thus Rooftops Are My Heaven Recordings.
Over the next few years one thing led to another and Echo Is Your Love came to be. We put out a bunch of stuff from EIYL as a collaboration between Rooftops and Lo-Finn and also started to deal with a bunch of other stuff like putting out records by friends' bands and booking shows. We decided we needed to pool our assets permanently and thus, If Society came to be.
It came to be as a collective of a few bands revolving around our social circle (Fikure, Echo Is Your Love, Hero Dishonest, Sissy Spacek, Surf Sonics), so the word "society" kinda felt right. I know it's not the best name for a label in the history of mankind, but then again, Väinämöisen Vittu was another option so I think we made the right choice in the end.
Force of habit. Your hobbies define you as a person so stopping doing something altogether is a major statement about yourselves. Our decision to cut back a bit was out of necessity and common sense, but there's no way we could bury this thing completely.
Money, money, money... It's like squeezing water from a stone. Also, the competition is nothing short of fierce now that everything is 110% global. There's a very low sense of scene anymore. It might also be that we just grew old, our scene disappeared and the youngsters don't want granddads like us into theirs.
The amount of work it took had skyrocketed over the years, but the amount of return - physical, mental, economic or otherwise - had at best stayed the same. It was beginning to hurt our sanity and social lives, not to mention hoaging what little time we have in our lives to do sensible stuff, so we did a quick return-on-investment calculation and decided we'd better invest our time into more fruitful ventures, like turning our amps to 11 and letting them feedback for a while.
The death of records and music business is upon us and the ones that are the first to go are the small ones. BUT that doesn't mean it's the death of music and creativity. By choosing to kiss goodbye the venture of trying to make music a sensible business, we chose to screw the lot of it and just be creative individuals first and foremost. By making zero budget music and distributing it in zero budget ways we can liberate ourselves from the pain that most others trying to make music semi-professionally are dealing with.
We happen to love the ESC, so as the opportunity presented itself to submit a track, we just kinda went for it without thinking too much where it could lead. It lead to a lot of work and stress but also to one of the most interesting experiences in the past few years. It was a lot of fun and represented a lot of why I love doing music - you never know where it'll take you!
God damn, this must be the most difficult question anyone's ever asked me. There's literally a thousand dimensions to this question. I guess when it comes down to the bottom line I think the answer is that I'd like to work with the best band in the whole fucking world, that's still unknown to everybody, including myself. Apart from Radiopuhelimet (and maybe a few similar acts) I have very little interest in looking back to find interesting people to work with. A lot of the most amazing artists in the world have already said what they have to say. I'd love to find the dudes that haven't said theirs yet.
Oh wow. Please don't send us demos. Even if we're the smallest of the small and haven't really been that active in the past few years, we get a crapload of demos every week and we have literally no time to listen to them. It breaks my heart every time I dump another arseload of cds to our office into the pile where I know they'll never get picked out of.
Nothing - that's the sweetest part! No-fuckin-thing. I mean yeah, we have a few things lined up, like the new Radiopuhelimet album and the way-too-long in the works Echo Is Your Love album, but from there on out we'll finally go back into full-on iudependent working, meaning we won't release anything at all, unless the greatest thing in the world bites us in the ass. If there's nothing that gets us hard, we'll just let the label be, but if we bump into the coolest thing in the world, we can go at it with guns blazing if we want to. No pressure.
Indie had a good commercial run in the '00s. Now it's time to get back to the basics. Just make music and ENJOY the marvel of being able to put sounds together to create something unique. Don't worry about this fuckin' A&R dude, that fuckin' promo break or whatever. If you're in it for money, you should've paid more attention in math class in school. This ain't the business to be in. Be yourselves, not what somebody tells your focus group is expecting you to be.
-- Jani Hellén (10 March, 2010)