“Stellar, experimental, trip hop” | Interview with TSÄGÄ

A slow burn. A haunting experimentation. TSÄGÄ’s Luulin tietäväni kaiken consists of synthesizers, trumpets, guitars, vocals, each part in a perfect dose. Before clicking play, imagine yourself in “an icy lake under beautiful starlight”. 

Read our discussion below.

Describe your sound in three words

Stellar, experimental, trip hop

The word ‘stellar’ defines the current concept we’re working on. Experimental referring to our approach and trip hop being a loose enough genre we can all relate to. It’s worth to mention that lots of our influences derive from the 90s Bristol sound.

TSÄGÄ. What is the story behind your name?

Our first ‘Vallila-Kärkölä’ EP dealt with the themes of luck and things that happen by chance, and that’s basically what the finnish word TSÄGÄ means. This in mind it felt like a natural choice for a name.
The word strongly links to our music, as our music is born in the moment. We record our stuff live and it’s mostly improvised, so luck is involved. Even though there is also something deterministic that drives us in the collective state of mind we are in, when we are playing together.
Our inspiration is also coincedental: – Sometimes its a random sample, synth sound, a little glitch or something we have just discussed on a break that just sticks. The sound or the voice inspires us and the magic happens. Another time, it might be a thing we pick up from our previous recordings, something someone accidentally said when the rec was on or stuff like that. Putting these pieces together; the name has many meanings to us, and influences us heavily.

Your sound has a lovely experimental touch. Should music as a form of art always challenge the listener? Tell us a few things about your upcoming EP.

Not necessarily. We create music the way we feel is natural. It’s stuff that we’d like to listen to ourselves, and it just happens our own taste is on the experimental side.
If you consider art, what it means to us: It’s important that it raises thoughts in the listeners, they might get a strong emotion out of it, and if that emotion is positive then that’s great. It has to be acknowledged that not all art is for everyone, or fits in every moment, so we try to stay true to our own vision and build from that.
Music doesn’t have to connect with everyone always. If you try to do that, you might end up having to make a lot of compromises. Instead, if there’s an option of making something that only few people connect with, but with those who do, connect with it very deeply, we’re all for that.

About the EP. On Music for Space Travel Part 2, there is an acceleration into travel through space and time, from one star system to another with synths, guitar and electronic beats. After this we experience the gentle caress of inter-stellar stardust, from which on the shape of time is changed. The EP finishes with “Luulin tietäväni kaiken” when J Vakio’s vocals and trumpet join in as an interpretation of thoughts as one views the universe from a window of a spacecraft, reminiscing. The whole thing will be released both in digital in most of the music streaming services as well as physically as a C-tape with a large poster to go along.

What would be your dream performance venue/place?

The vacuum in the outer space doesn’t carry much sound, nor there’s probably that many people there either, so we have to make a compromise on that. Maybe in 2521. Playing on an icy lake under beatiful starlight?
Seriously, any place is good if there’s people who resonate with our style of music. We prefer the setting should be as comfortable as possible for the audience and the sound should be good. On the other hand we are comfortable playing anywhere. We’ve tried to make our live setup so, that is is as flexible as possible and very easy to setup. This way we can focus on the music, regardless of the place, and the audience gets the best of it. Not all of us enjoy performing live, so we have to work around that a little with a computer on the side.

How do you relate to the Finland music scene?

We come from Helsinki region so we’ve played around Finland with our bands. Even though TSÄGÄ’s sound is quite electronic we’ve done and are doing lots of other stuff us well. Our vocalist J. Vakio performs solo and with J. Vakio & Pimeä aine power-trio. Me (Ilja Donner, synths) and Mikko Saarikoski (guitar) have our darker side with what used to be Katakombi. Niklas Lindgren who makes the beats, creates hypnotic trip-hop under the moniker Cuz. We also like to play free jazz sessions often with various musicians and that plays a big role in who we are. Mikko also has a great group called ATBOE (All the birds of europe).

If you had to choose one Synthesizer (analog or digital) which one would it be?

TSÄGÄ’s sound wouldn’t be itself without Roland synths. There are a lots of great synths out there and it’s really difficult to pick just one. Every instrument inspires in their own unique way. For us that’s what playing music is all about: getting inspired by the instruments and communicating with them.
Roland GAIA has been essential in our sound so far, but on Music for Space Travel Part 2 we use many other synths as well: Microfreak, CS1x and JP-08.
The physical interface of hardware synths feels comfortable to us, and regardess of whether it’s a modern or an older synthesizer, you can create beatiful and crazy sounds with them. They provide endless feeling amount of inspiration.

Favorite album of the past year?

There’s so many good releases. Last weekend we listened to The Bug’s album ‘Fire’. That just came out and that was very cool. There’s interesting releases from Finland as well. Horte’s ‘Maa antaa yön vaientaa’ has beatiful and interesting atmospheres. SITOI’s ‘Kuori I’ sounds beatiful, rough and eerie at the same time. ‘Rešham – All I mist’ has epic long rock songs.

What is your biggest fear?


Maybe waking up in a closed casket, six feet under after your own funeral.

Thank you!

Ilja Donner – synthesizers and guitars
Niklas Lindgren – samplers and synthesizers
Jukka Vakio – vocals and trumpet
Mikko Saarikoski – guitars

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