Interview - Desert Planet

Interview - Desert Planet

Desert Planet

Although the major part of the Finnish population lives in the Southern parts of their frosty country, you will also find a few daring people that dwell in the even colder polar regions. Desert Planet are among them. And what else can you do but play computer games and make some music to while away the never ending winter nights? Or you might just combine the two into an original and fun kind of 8-bit computer rock.
Jukka Tarkiainen and Jari Mikkola agreed to participate in this classic Q&A game.

You have a punk rock background. How did the idea come to make something completely differente?

Jukka: We both have been playing punk or alternative rock in bands. Jari has got Greenhouse A.C. and I'm in Jalla Jalla. We both are guitarists and like to play screaming and buzzing electric guitars.
I think the idea of Desert Planet came because of my computer hobby. I wanted to do something that rocks with computers. Something bizarre to shock my friends. And not anything melancholy - not anything like "serious stories about life"–like music.
Also I wanted to do something against "pro tools-production". I mean, that you don't need to go to an expensive studio with a producer to make good music. You can be creative with simple equipments.
Also I was fascinated about the world of older video games. I wanted to do something that sounded like games I used to play and tried to make some new music out of it.
Jari: From the beginning I really liked Jukka's idea for this band, it was so weird and new and different. Like punk rock originally. I joined Desert Planet after I had directed the band's first music video "Asteroid Hopper". Jukka just asked me to join and I said "yes".

Did both bands coexist for a certain time or did you found Desert Planet after the split of Greenhouse AC?

Jari: Jukka started Desert Planet. But Greenhouse AC actually did still exist for some months after I joined Desert Planet. Greenhouse AC might still exist some day. That band is hibernating.
Jukka: Jalla Jalla still exists, though the band is not active at the moment. Nowadays I'm also playing bass in an undergound punk band called Concrete Pig.

Desert Planet Was Desert Planet immediately meant to be a real band or was it planned to be just a project?

Jari: Wasn't it supposed to be a web band? To exist only on web?
Jukka: At first Desert Planet was meant to shock my friends. It was a solo project existing only on web. But after Jari joined it became more like a real band.

What's more fun? Playing in the studio or live on stage?

Jukka: Desert Planet is music that's made at our homes with our computers; you can call it a "home studio" if you like. I like to work with music at home, but it's very nice to meet people at live gigs. There you can see the peoples' reactions to the music right away, so that is nice, too.
Jari: Live is funnier. Home studio work can get quite serious sometimes. But both are necessary and satisfying.

Your image reminds me of Moog Cookbook. Were they an inspiration or do you have other image influences?

Jari: We did not have Moog Cookbook in our minds when we created our "image", not even Daft Punk (they have also a bit similar "image"). We just wanted to have D.I.Y.-home made-B-movie-space outfits. And also look a bit funny, like the characters in old video games. The Moogs' and Dafts' outfits look quite expensive, at least to me. You know, they look "professional"...

You play music sounding like 8-bit console soundtracks. Are there nostalgic feelings inside you?

Jukka: Sure there are nostalgic feelings inside us. I think there were awesome ideas in games in the 80s and in the beginning of the 90s. The productions were small and ideas could be wild. And when I look back at those days I can see that with simple technical environment, graphics and sounds you could create something that is very entertaining, creative and enjoyable. Sometimes I miss those days.
Jari: Of course. But I never had my own console when I was younger. I was into pinball games and arcade games.

Desert Planet Do you only write own songs or do you cover or use samples from video game soundtracks?

Jukka: Generally we want to create new music and write our own stuff.
We use some sound samples from 8-bit consoles, some sounds from the coin operated arcade games and stuff like that. But we want to make something new out them.
We have played some cover gametunes in our live set like "The Legend of Zelda" (8-bit Nintendo), "Ghousts'n'Ghouls" (arcade), "Delta" (C64-gametune), "Mario Paint" (Super Nintendo), "Pengo" (arcade) and some other. We also do some covers from the movies and TV-series like "Theme from the TV-series McGyver", "Star Wars", "Blade Runner" just for fun.

Is your album title "Mario built my Hot Rod" a tribute to Ministry or to Super Mario?

Jukka: Both of them. I'd like to think that we sound like Super Mario is playing with Ministry.

Are you video games fans in real life? If so, do you only play classics or do you appreciate new games, too?

Jari: I really like the new "joystick" re-mades of the old classics. You know, the small boxes that have a joystick and 5 or 10 games in them. Just plug it into your TV and game on! There are also some really nice websites with Flash or Java versions of old games.
Jukka: I'm just a musician who likes games. I don't mind if the game is new or old. If the game is playable, entertaining and original that's enough. I don't like the tendency that new games are more and more trying to have "photo-realistic graphics". That is why gaming is getting so expensive because you have to buy a more powerful game console or computer to play the newer games. Good games can also be played with simple equipment.

The CD contains a video game. Did you program it yourself?

Jari: No, a friend of ours did it (Thanks Teemu!). We just gave him our ideas and he worked from there on. But we did the sounds and the graphics.

What kind of people do you attract with your music?

Jari: Quite a mixed crowd. Usually quite open minded people.
Jukka: We attract hot young women from outer space :-)

Desert Planet Another bonus are three live clips. Do you make your CD so attractive to avoid illegal downloads?

Jari: You mean the three music videos? Sure, we wanted to make the CD attractive, but that has nothing to do with illegal downloads. All our videos have been available on our bands website FOR FREE always! But since the video quality on the web is still quite bad, we wanted to add the videos on the CD in better quality. And they are there also for the people who don't like web surfing so much. Or have really slow internet connections.

How do you collaborate with the guys from your label 9pm records?

Jari: In very friendly manner. Sixty-fifty!

Is your homepage as weird as your music and your image?

Jukka: I guess our homepage is quite nice and informative. There's lots of mp3's and videos for downloading, some pics and photos, info and stuff. Also there's lots of links to 8-bit/cheap synth/lo-fi/video game-trash and artists sites.

Eläkeläiset did some vocals on this record? Could you imagine a collaboration with them on their next record?

Jari: Sure. Humppa is inside every Finnish person. Some just won't admit it.
Jukka: We have been friends with the Eläkeläiset guys before they started Eläkeläiset. They are really nice dudes and fans of Desert Planet.
Eläkeläiset had a gig in the north of Finland so we have got a chance to make a recording session with them. The choirs were recorded in a cabin in the mountains. After the recording, the guys had a traditional northern meal: reindeer meat and mashed potatoes.
Desert Planet even have got a kind of electronic humppa side-project called Screaming Timbermen that is inspired also by Eläkeläiset. You can find some humppa influenced mp3's on the Desert Planet homepage – music section.

Anything left to say..?

Jukka: Donkey Kong Honky Tonk! Mane pistä potut kiehumaan!
Jari: Space-punk-disco rules ok! Digital powerpop saves lives! Make your computer scream! Buy more toy synthesizers! Make more videos! Get ready player one! Action!

Places to visit:

Desert Planet, official website with lots of MP3 files

9pm Records, label

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