The first time we listened to Tom Tikka’s music, we thought it was incredible. It is not only a matter of sound, melody, and arrangements. Tikka’s music is extraordinarily fresh and contemporary, with that unique spark that makes him stand out from the crowd. Today, at Planet Singer, we have the great pleasure of discovering more about his music, talking about his fantastic career and future projects in an exclusive interview!
Hi Tom, it is such a pleasure having you with us today at Planet Singer. Your solo career, the three releases under Sony/BMG with Carmen Grey, and your new most recent projects: your artistic path is intense and exciting. Let’s start from the beginning; how did you discover your love for music?
I was very young, a six-year-old kid. My dad had bought Paul Anka’s21 Golden Hits, a music cassette, which he played in the car quite a bit, and when I heard it for the first time, something just fell in place for me. It’s ridiculous to say this since I was just six, but it was one of those life-altering moments where you all of a sudden know what you are supposed to do with your life.
I can still remember it all very vividly. It was a beautiful summer’s day. My dad and I went to get some gas and wash the car. He went inside to pay, but I stayed in the car because I wanted to listen to Paul Anka some more. A song called ”Lonely Boy” came on, and that was it for me; I was sold. As soon as we got home, I took my parents’ old Grundig tape player upstairs to my room along with my dad’s tape. Come to think of it; I never gave it back to him! Pretty soon after discovering Paul Anka, I learned the basics of guitar and started writing songs. That’s where it all began.
What are your main influences?
I suppose they are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, R.E.M., The River Detectives and The Go-Betweens. There are countless others but those are the bands that most likely come through in my music.
Your latest EP, “That’s What Winston Churchill Said,” is extremely intriguing and engaging! Can you tell us more about this brilliant project?
Well, thanks. It’s very kind of you to say that.
It was a project that turned out differently than I had intended. I originally wanted to release an album by the same name but just didn’t have enough time to finish ten songs for the release, so that’s how it became an EP of six songs instead. The EP features a few tunes that I wrote ages ago. For instance, “All She Wants Is You” was written when I was in high school, and “Mary” some twelve or thirteen years ago for Carmen Gray.
The title track and the title of the EP came to me when watching a documentary of Winston Churchill giving one of his most famous speeches about never giving up. The phrase “If you are in hell, keep going” struck a chord with me as I was going through a rough patch, and that’s more or less how the song was born. I actually like the titular track quite a bit. I think it’s one of my better ones if you will. The guitars worked out really well on that one, and I’m very pleased with the rave the song ends with. However, I will never, ever sing that high again. I lost my voice for five days after recording those “Tarzan” vocals for the rave. My kids realized this and pretended they couldn’t hear me when I was trying to lay down the law for them by whispering – those scallywags!
You have been in the industry for many years now; What do you think about the music industry’s contemporary twists, the playlist jungle, the digital algorithm? Do you think it helps artists, or it makes music every day a little bit more sterile?
I think it’s all gone to hell in a handbasket. To be honest with you, what we have going on these days is some sort of low point for the industry, especially the indie sector. I don’t think the playlist jungle is the problem or the algorithms. I think the problem is that the indie world especially has reached a point where there is really very little quality control. Anyone can release a record through an aggregator. They don’t check the quality; they just upload it to Spotify and other streaming platforms.
The sterile sound you mentioned is more a problem with the mainstream releases. The actual Spotify playlists that play the trends of the day are very connected with all the major labels, and obviously, if they are fed only a certain type of new music, then that’s the music that legit playlists and algorithms offer us. It’s very hard for the listener to find anything else in Spotify, isn’t it? But to be fair, how can you find something new and different if you don’t know it exists?
Your songwriting is brilliant, and your guitar playing is extraordinary! Can you reveal your artistic process when it comes to creating your music?
First off, thanks very much. That’s high praise indeed. I’m touched that you dig what I’m doing. It warms the heart.
As far as songwriting is concerned, my process is very simple: I write one song a day. I tape quick acoustic versions of them on the spot and return to these recordings about a month later. That’s usually enough time to gain some objectivity, to hear if a song idea is good enough. I trust the power of perspective, and that’s what time gives you. The ones that set your feet a-tapping are the ones that I then work on some more. I get about three or four of those every month, sometimes a few more. Some of those I release. That’s my process as a songwriter. I don’t wait for inspiration; I look for it every day.
In terms of guitar playing, I play the way I feel, and the fills and the solos I always play off the cuff. That’s the type of playing I like to listen to, so it’s also what I go for. Some of my favorite guitar solos are on those early Kinks albums, by the way. Dave Davies is not a technical genius, but if you listen to the solo in “Till The End Of The Day,” for instance, you’ll see what I mean. It’s a fantastic solo that features a great melody, and the phrasing on it is absolutely brilliant. It has that live feel but is still rehearsed enough to sound great. I love it. This is what I try to bring into my own playing.
What inspires you?
I suppose life and things that happen to me or around me.
Sometimes a song is very autobiographical, like “Turn Back The Time,” which is about my divorce nearly a decade ago, or sometimes a song can be about a person I have met over the years, which is the case with “Mary.” I like to write about real life, and I sort of like “me music” mostly. There are a lot of writers who write make-believe stories, but I always found that to be a bit difficult and pretentious. How could I know what somebody else is thinking or how they are feeling? It’s impossible. Another type of song I’m always very weary of is the love song. There are just way too many of them in the world, and they are mostly sappy and shallow. That’s just my opinion, of course. I know quite a few people who would disagree with me entirely.
Among the song of your discography, is there a special one?
I’ve gone on record to say that the two that I’m most happy with are “Gates of Loneliness” by Carmen Gray and “Broken Snow” by The Impersonators, but truth be told; they’re all my children, so to speak, I love them all.
“Broken Snow” will always be special to me because I started writing it when I was vacationing in Paris with my wife, Elina. We were newly in love, and it was such a fabulous time in all possible ways. When we were lining up to the Eiffel Tower one day, this creepy street vendor went from person to person trying to sell necklaces that were shaped like broken snowflakes. He kept asking everybody weird questions like, “Is your broken heart kind?” That’s where those lines in the chorus come from. Most of them were actually spoken by this guy. And obviously, the name of the song was inspired by the shape of those necklaces. This is a good example of how I write.
If you could collaborate with one or more of your idols, who would you like to share the stage with?
Paul McCartney. It would be so incredibly cool to play with him. In fact, Paul comes across as such a great guy that I’d love to just meet him, to have a few drinks, and talk about life. He has more or less written the soundtrack to my life. Yeah, it’s an easy choice.
What are your plans for the future?
To record as many songs as possible. I don’t see myself slowing down any time soon. I love music too much to do that. I’ve often said that music is my very first love and it’s a love affair that has continued for decades. Writing, playing and recording is who I am. I will keep making music until I croak.
Tom, it was such a pleasure chatting with you and having the chance to discover more about your music. Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Yeah, stay safe in these very dangerous COVID19 times and remember to enjoy life every day. It all goes by so quickly. I just realized this a few days ago when I was talking to my seventeen-year-old son about his upcoming military service. I can’t believe it’s time for that already. I remember when he was born, I held him in my arms, and he was so tiny, and now, he is taller than me. I feel it’s all gone too fast. I want a retake. I want to watch him grow up all over again. I’d enjoy it even more now that I understand how fleeting time is.
Thanks for the interview. The pleasure was entirely mine.
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