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Ambition - and 10+ years on the indie scene

Written by Tommi on 02.11.2008 23:41:25

Blog image for entry Ambition - and 10+ years on the indie scene All the people reading this blog probably read my post from a few months ago on the implications of the long tail theorem on small-to-medium sized indie labels. Well, that was my current stance on making music from a business viewpoint, here's something on the subject from a more personal perspective.

I'm turning 30 next year. That's a somewhat major milestone in life in the sense that when you turn 30, you're kinda stuck in a halfway limbo between being forced to either fulfil your dreams real quick or grow up even quicker. Unless your dreams included growing up to be old and normal, but I'm pretty much hoping those people don't even consider reading this blog.


When I was 6 years old, I dreamt of playing bass in Dingo. Seriously, no joke. My mom luckily recorded this in a journal entry back in '85. My music-related dreams have one by one had to face reality and have gone downhill from that moment on.

I wonder if they'd need a bass player now?


I was 17 when I started playing in a really serious band for the first time. The kind of serious that meant pooling our cash and putting a few eps and a record out by ourselves, playing shows (99% self-booked, naturally) and shamelessly promoting ourselves to everyone we met. I was ambitious as all hell and it paid off nicely. We got to go on TV a few times, got actual fan mail and played some really cool shows. I simply knew we were going to achieve incredible fame and unprecedented respect. I was sure that Sonic Youth -type respectable-yet-popular was what we were destined for. We just needed the right break.


A bit later I found myself playing listener-unfriendly noise and brutal hardcore, releasing our own records, touring squats around the world on a shoestring budget, crammed into way too small vans with way too many people. And the vans always broke down. I was sure we were doing something really unique and important and that for that we'd kinda be remembered as something that would be hailed as visionary. We'd go down in history for sure.


A few years later I found myself in an up-and-coming hot new indie flavour-of-the-month (though back then indie wasn't as tragically struck by disposability as it currently is). I was sure that was to lead to something great. Pop hits! Mass appeal! We'd be loved and admired for sure. The press wrote favourably, people showed up for our shows in masses and our record sold an amazing amount. We were hot for a while, had a bunch of fun, but overstayed our welcome, didn't deliver the huge hits, were a bit too confusing and were generally forgotten in the larger scheme of things quite quickly.

Then came the disillusionment. I realised I'm not going achieve any of the above in this lifetime. That was quite a big kick in the proverbial nuts.


Now, I'm pushing 30 and even with all the tens of thousands of miles, hundreds of shows, thousands of records, I really don't have much to show for it, apart from all the cool memories. I play in three bands that have all existed about 10 years and most shows we play attract crowds that barely make it financially feasible to drive further than Turku or Tampere, if we want to cover the real costs. Our records are bought by some hundreds of people each, just barely enough that it makes sense to put them in physical form.

But the weird thing is, musically I'm the happiest I've been during all these years. In the past few years I've finally completely accepted that more than likely, I'll never achieve any of the above. Everything I do will continue to be consumed by a small niche audience, hopefully large enough to keep some sensibility in doing it and I sincerely do not have a problem with that. I have a nice day job, that gives me enough to fund my daily bread and my hobby of banging drums, fiddling with electronics and mangling a bass. I just love to play and I really do love everything all my bands do. I'm my biggest fan and that's more than enough for me. I'm currently making the best music I've ever made. Obviously I'd love for everybody to share my enthusiasm for me and my doings, but as time has shown, it ain't gonna happen.

Nothing like a bit of Torvi on a Thursday night to teach you about yourself

To put things into perspective, recently we played a show with Black Audio at the near-legendary and very positively notorious Torvi in Lahti. It was a rainy Thursday night in mid-September and our wild rock n' roll roadshow had attracted a sum total of 16 paying customers. When I was setting up my kit before the show, the place was as lively as Chernobyl in '87, but once we started playing... I really don't know what happened. All I know it was one of the most memorable shows I've ever played. Things just clicked. We happened to touch upon the holy grail of ROCK and the selected few in the audience seemed to be in complete touch with the dark powers that we were channelling through our instruments.

Some years ago, I would've been so bummed out about the crappy turnout that I wouldn't have been able to channel those dark powers even if the grail of rock was shoved up my sweet behind.

I always thought that life without some big unaccomplished goal and a burning ambition would be meaningless, but now I kinda feel that it's about time I learn to just smell the roses. Who the hell cares if I'll never accomplish immortality for my musical endeavours? I get to spend my free time with great people making great music and best of all, I get to play it in front of great people, who share my appreciation for what I do. It doesn't get any better than that.
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