Creative Conversations: Johannes Auvinen
Johannes Auvinen aka Tin Man makes acid house music and divides his time between New York and Vienna. He organized two sold-out events in the memory of the Finnish electronic musician Mika Vainio (1963—2017) in New York in January 2018. We met Auvinen at the Film Noir Cinema in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Despite your 100% Finnish name, you are not Finnish?
My father is originally from Kurenpolvi near Iisalmi, therefore my Finnish name. He moved to the US in 1960. I was born and raised in California. I don’t speak any Finnish.
You divide your time between New York and Vienna. Why have you chosen to live partly here?
My girlfriend LDY OSC lives here. Luckily, because I am a musician, it is possible to travel to play in concerts anywhere in the world from here. New York is a culturally rich city. I also enjoy the abundance of visual art here. Some of the best electronic music parties featuring international music acts are happening in the New York clubs.
What made you organize the events around the work of Mika Vainio?
I have been a fan of Mika’s work since I was 17 years old. He was my favorite musician for a very long time, and I also had a chance to meet and get to know him personally. I first met him in Los Angeles in 1997 when Pan Sonic, an electronic duo formed by Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen (2003-2009), was playing there. It felt like I was the right person to organize these events, also because I know his work very well and have the resources and interest to make a tribute.
The events were organized here at the Film Noir Cinema in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Is there a connection between the cinema and Mika Vainio?
I actually had little hope that it would work out, because it is so hard to explain the concept to someone who is not familiar with Mika, his music, or electronic music scene in general. But I decided to make an inquiry to this cozy and intimate cinema and by lucky coincidence it turned out that the owner Will Malitek is a huge fan of Pan Sonic.
Tell us more about the events. What did you show and play?
I knew I wanted to show the film ‘Sähkö’ by Jimi Tenor because it is a nice portrait of Mika and other Finnish musicians he played with. Besides Mika it features IFÖ, Hertsi, Mono Junk, TG, and Jimi Tenor himself. We also showed Mika Taanila’s films ‘Tectonic Plate’ and ‘A Physical Ring’, because they feature soundtracks by Mika Vainio. Then we also had music selection of Mika's catalog by Patrick Russell on the first night and by myself and Gunnar Haslam the second night. During the music segments we showed footage from my brother's film, 'Emblemata', starring Mika.
How did people like the events?
For some it was like a memorial or revisiting something, while for others it meant discovering something new.
How would you describe Mika Vainio’s heritage, or importance in the music world?
Nowadays, within techno music it is part of the vocabulary to be minimalistic and heady. Mika really put those things in the front. His music is exceptional, intellectually very innovative, and very minimalist. It is extreme, never in the middle. It is sometimes very soft, sometimes very hard. For me his music represents, in spirit, a marker for the end of the 20th century. The spectrum he worked with was very broad; from science fiction soundtrack style to loud music meant to be played at a warehouse party with huge sound system. There are younger kids making techno music who might not even be aware that their musical influences might come indirectly from Mika Vainio.
How do you remember Mika Vainio as a person?
He was extreme like his music. He did not talk much, and when he talked it was never small talk but always something deep. He was super kind and generous. He told me once that he felt society had made a wrong turn at some point. This sounds cynical, but his dedication to making a grand catalog attests to his beliefs.
Where to go if you would like to hear Mika Vainio’s music in NYC?
Interview and photos by Liisa Jokinen