“My audio meters are goose bumps, people’s expressions and my own heart beats and those are feelings comparable to falling in Love, so you can’t fail at your job if you get those jitters on the surface every time.” Mika Jussila
Mastering engineer Mika Jussila, has been considered one of Finland’s most popular studio “magicians” for many years. This fact is supported by his 40-year career at Finnvox – one of the most famous and prominent music studios in Northern Europe.
Mika points out that his world of music primarily revolves around Finnvox studios, D-Studio’s mastering unit.
Mika Jussila started his career at Finnvox in 1984. Initially, Mika spent his first eight years mastering vinyls, also called carving or cutting vinyls, but in the early ’90s he became a full-time CD mastering engineer. According to music experts, working in this institution, which has a long tradition, is certainly a measure of quality and influence, as well as a degree of trust. Mika gained the trust of 2,000 different artists and bands. That fact implies work on 6 000 albums, over 2 000 LPs and countless number of singles. Mika’s career with Finnvox saw many bands and their albums in their final form, including: Nightwish, Children of Bodom, The 69 Eyes, HIM, Amorphis, Negative, Stam1na, Korpiklaani, Edenbridge, Black Sun, Stratovarius, The Local Band, Reckless Love, At Vance, and many more…
A few years, since our last interview… Meanwhile, a pandemic stopped the world for two years. What did it look like from the perspective of a mastering engineer? How did you manage to get all the work done?
Mika Jussila: Spring 2020 was a pretty scary time at first, because no one knew how serious covid really was. The disease itself and the worldwide measures caused by it initially collapsed almost all work at the studio. But after only a few months, we noticed that the work started to recover quite quickly. In the end, it happened that artists and bands used the time freed from gigging and touring to make new music and that brought even more work to the studio than usual. The year 2021 was indeed one of the busiest working eras for many years. This year we have suffered a little from the hangover brought by the huge number of releases, but the operation has nevertheless returned to normal. Hopefully this situation will continue as normal and no new diseases will mess up working anymore.
You have done 6000 album masterings, and over 2000 LP masterings back in the 80s. How much love and how much sacrifice you invested in that number?
MIka Jussila: Haha, great question. I have always said that mastering work is my favorite hobby and I am privileged to be paid for my hobby. Next year I will celebrate my 40 years professional anniversary after I have been doing mastering for 40 years at Finnvox Studios. But each of the six thousand albums I’ve mastered includes plenty of my love because I have always approached music and mastering with passion and a big heart, much more than as a technical performance. My audio meters are goose bumps, people’s expressions and my own heart beats and those are feelings comparable to falling in love, so you can’t fail at your job if you get those jitters on the surface every time.
But sacrifice… maybe I could have spent even more time at home with my family, although I have never neglected them. Yes, they have had to put up with me enough.
Finnvox has over a 58-year history in the Finnish music business. It is considered one of the best and largest commercial music studios in Finland. Finnvox had a full-service house with recording, mixing, vinyl mastering, record pressing and c-cassette duplicating. Yet, in the early 90s, Finnvox decided to focus solely on recording, mixing and mastering.
Finnvox has twelve studios, Cinepost and professional gear. What’s new? What is the extra comfort that Finnvox provides for a customer, nowadays?
Mika Jussila: Of course, innovation happens all the time, but one key thing is also to trust your own expertise and not run after the trend and forcefully innovate at the whims of fashion. We prefer to be trendsetters ourselves and create trends for others to follow. The five most descriptive and important terms to describe what we do are quality, know-how, experience, professionalism and passion. Because we have several studios and a large group of different people working, we have a strong working community where everyone helps each other and exchanges opinions. We meet regularly among the staff and update the latest news, our knowledge and invite industry experts to talk with us and train us. Our motto could be that “everything will work out if it’s up to us”.
Connected to the previous question, you adapted quickly to new working conditions. Musicians can send you their mix online. This new digital era, demands quick responses and decisions when it comes to business. What else is also important when trying to get all the business done well?
Mika Jussila: There are no magic tricks, it’s as simple as being human. If you think of your work only as a business and a way to make money, then you lose humanity and meeting and seeing people as equals. Also, as many face-to-face meetings as possible help to create the right image for the customer that we are helping him with his own music. We care. We accept each client and job as an individual. The right solutions, the right studios, the right employees and the right budget are tailored for each individual.
During his longtime carrier as a mastering engineer, Mika built a unique kind of friendly and professional connection with many bands. One of the facts that proves this statement is the special Award he received from Nightwish, a few years ago. He has been working with this band for more than 20 years.
It seems that most of the time you become friends with your clients, we were talking about that before… How do you recognize a happy customer, and what is the most important thing when it comes to good cooperation between you and the musicians you work with?
Mika Jussila: A satisfied customer always comes back again and again. A good collaboration with an artist is based on trust and appreciation. Humility is also good. You shouldn’t think you’re irreplaceable or more important than you really are. The artist can be in a sensitive state during mastering, so it’s worth choosing your words carefully, how to speak, for example in problem situations. you should present your ideas boldly and justify them carefully, but you shouldn’t stick to them by force. Friendship is born and develops over time. You shouldn’t aim for that either by force.
Finnvox offers a good service, but you said before that it is not all about the gear, it’s about the person who works there. Do you have some new assistants? Can you tell us a bit more about them?
Mika Jussila: I am a workaholic and used to working independently by doing all the work steps myself. It is also a very common way of working in Finland, even when recording and mixing. At Finnvox there is a possibility to use interns who are constantly in practical work at our studio as help in the recording sessions, but in mastering we work independently, doing everything ourselves. In fact, I really like to work in every step of the mastering, prepare the sound, edit the songs into an album and finally prepare the masters and files for release.
But right now, my personal situation is particularly tickling because my own son Niklas has started at Finnvox as a third mastering engineer. And as today’s youth has shown in many other ways, they are much more aware and ready for the field than I was when I started. Together we have discussed a lot about mastering, clients, working methods, music, sounds, devices, philosophy, etc. so that Niklas would have the best possible skills and starting points for a career as long and successful as mine. I’m not shaping him into a new Mika Jussila, but only giving him the opportunity to do personal and high-quality mastering at Finnvox.
You said that when you started your career, it was not possible to study mastering. Building your carrier was learning by doing. Nowadays, many people across Europe have become interested in your working techniques and skills. That’s why you designed a different masterclass in Europe. You were in Spain, Italy, Greece, Slovenia… What was the response, and what was it all about?
Mika Jussila: I talk about my own work, how I do mastering and what I think about mastering. Of course, I hope that the participants will get ideas and receive tips for their own ways of working. For this reason, these events are also suitable for recording engineers, mixing engineers, bands and artists, people from record companies and otherwise only those interested in the audio industry and music business overall. I will go through my own work history and the technical history of mastering. I will also present Finnvox Studios, play music samples, show plenty of photos and present my equipment. Mostly there may be talk about the philosophy of mastering, speculation about art and general discussion about the state of the music industry. The masterclass therefore includes a lot of my speech and also open discussion. I have only received good feedback about these masterclasses and I have been asked to continue holding them.
Did you miss photographing the concerts during the covid time? Did you hit some stages lately? What is new when it comes to Mika Jussila photography?
Mika Jussila: It’s always nice to go to a gig. Of course, I have more fun if I have a camera with me and I have permission to shoot. During the corona, there was a mandatory break in photographing, but it didn’t bother me, after all I had been taking photographs for more than ten years almost non-stop. But now it’s nice to go to concerts again with a camera and continue where we left off before the pandemic.
How do you get in touch with your inner-self when you find some time off? Do you still ride your bicycle when going to work? Do you do sports, or get out in nature, since you have to stay in condition to work?
Mika Jussila: I don’t have any problems finding something to do outside of working hours. I like both cycling and riding my motorcycle after work. I like to be busy with my grandchildren and I also like to just be by myself, read and enjoy for example movies. Also, trekking in nature with wifey always cheers you up. But exercise and sports… I’m not young anymore, so the risk of injury is big if I start working out properly so a bottle of red wine and a bucket of chocolate and candy is better for me.
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