Mika Jussila is responsible for mastering at legendary FINNVOX Studios, Helsinki, Finland. His name is mentioned in hundreds CDs and has really become a trademark. We didn't miss a chance to talk to this mastering guru, who is pretty nice in conversation as well.
Ind: It is really nice to meet you, thanx a lot for your wish toanswer our questions. Tell us a bit about your sound background. We know thatyou're engaged into mastering since 1983. It is a pretty long time!
Mika: Actually autumn '84. Yes, it's a long time, almost 20 years. I wasquite a young kid asking for job from every music studio in Helsinkijust because I was interested and keen on studio work. Finnvox gaveme an opportunity to try and put me into mastering suite to cut vinyland do disc mastering, remember this was before cd came. and in thatsame road I'm still traveling...
Ind: How did it happen that you got focused on mastering, not mixing, etc?
Mika: Quite soon I realized that mastering is just for me, not mixing norrecording. Working normally one day per one project was enough for mynerves... hah hah.
Ind: Some people don't think that mastering is so important. Theyeven do not know what mastering is and what for it is made. Couldyou tell in two words - what is mastering? - Some people say thatmastering is a separate religion!
Mika: Yes, you can easily say so. To be a good recording or mixing engineerdon't mean that you understand mastering at all. At mastering I'mworking thru thinking the whole album all the time, not just onesong. It's sometimes difficult to make an album mastering as good asa thrilling book for example, which sweeps a listener/reader along.The whole album must be listenable thru without any disturbance. Andhow to achieve it. With equalizing, compressing, editing, listening,counting your ears, etc. Mastering is a last day in studio. It is asimportant day than a day in mixing studio.
Ind: How much time does it normally take to make a full length album?
Mika: It takes about 5 to 7 hours. It depends total track amount and atotal length of an album. If there are edits to in songs it also willtake longer. Sometimes I do a basic mastering in first day, burn acdr reference to producer and band, and then another day I makecorrections and necessary changes before the final master. That isabsolutely best way to work in mastering.
Ind: You are famous for your outstanding work with many prominentmetal bands. Do you like metal music? How much? Do you distinguishmastering metal music from mastering other stuff?
Mika: I like all kind of music which is good enough in it's own category. Iwill master all kind of music. Of course I do mostly metal, hard rockand guitar based rock because I'm quite good with that... hah hah....And you know, the more I master metal, the more bands want me to dothe mastering and more you will get metal to master. That's ok for meand I don't complain about the situation, but I do master a lot ofother stuff too.
Ind: We also know that you have worked with just a few bands fromRussia. Do you work equally with every band, no matter if it comesfrom Finland or Thailand, if it is signed to a big label or unsignedat all?
Mika: Absolutely Yes! Every band is equal working with me. Only thing thatcould make me find short cuts is a low budget of a small band orlabel, but I really hate to do something with half lights on. Iprefer always the best quality mastering and it will cost what ever,but if you can't afford finnvox, don't mind turn on us. Working withnewbecomers and non-experienced bands is just fun for me, cause I cangive then so much advice and share my experience with them.
Ind: Finnish metal scene has experienced a fantastic blow outrecently! We suppose Finnvox has played an important role in raisingFinish metal scene!
Mika: Yes of course. But we have to give the recognition to those engineersworking in our studio, Mikko Karmila, Hiili Hiilesmaa, Timo Tolkki,T.T. Oksala for example.
Ind: You meet a lot of music everyday. Have you got used to musicin general or nevertheless it remains one of your core lifeinterests?
Mika: Music is in my everyday routine. I'm mastering all the time, allsounds I'm hearing, traffic, nature, radio, movies... you know like,too much low end, a nasty peak in 2,3 KHz... and so on. I listennowadays music almost only in studio. I let my ears rest at home. Itease my hearing aid about 8 hours in every day and after that it'squite nice to have silence around you... if it is only possiblebecause of noisy and loud family... hah hah.
Ind: Have you got your favorite bands and musicians then? Andyes, sound producers of course?
Mika: There comes times now and then when I crab my favorite records fromnaphthalene. AC/DC, Neil Young, ZZ TOP, THE WHO, THE ROLLING STONES,THE BEATLES, DEEP PURPLE, LED ZEPPELIN... etc. and as you can noticeall those favorites are from 60's, 70's and maybe 80's.About engineers and producers, anything goes. I'm reallyhonored to have possibility to work with those engineers I mentionedabove.
Ind: Mastering sometimes makes wonders. To what extend then? Arethere cases when mastering doesn't help?
Mika: I don't think so. We can always improve something.
Ind: Do you think that mastering leaves space for sound & artisticproduction as well?
Mika: Yes, for sure.
Ind: How often do you meet phonograms which you don't like fromthe point of view of mixing?
Mika:Not so often and I'm glad with it.
Ind: I suppose you are also responsible for editing, what else do you do?
Mika: Yep. Editing is just part of mastering, but in Finnvox...hmm.. I tryto do some sales promotion and consulting.
Ind: You are not the only one responsible for mastering in Finnvox Studios.
Mika: No, I'm not. We are three really different sounding masteringengineers working full time here. I came '84, Pauli '89 and Minerva(she) '95
Ind: Tell us a few words about Arenate. It looks like industrialsuburbs! Would you prefer a peaceful landscape?
Mika: Yes, I would. The area Finnvox is locating in a big industrial area inHelsinki. Of course it would be nice to work for exsample in countryside, but today Finnvox is a enormous complex of music studios whichare not moveable anywhere.
Ind: Finnvox is getting more and more popular worldwide. Are youproud of yourself? Can you say that Finnvox is a friendly team orfamily?
Mika: Finnvox is absolutely all of that, a team, a family, a hobby, a job,whatever you name. What comes to popularity we can improve a lot inthat scene. We are not so famous in worldwide yet.
Ind: Do you have any comments about world mastering standards?What is exact difference between world class mastering and amateurmastering?
Mika: Experience, human skills, equipment and studio environment. And weare proud to be in world class.
Ind: Can you remember any funny cases connected with your work?
Mika: A lots of, for sure, but they are mostly inside funny only to me.
Ind: Have you ever been to ex-USSR states? Yes, metal activity isfar from brilliant in our land. Most bands are unlabeled and canafford a decent recording. Of course it is also because ofeconomical situation. But do you think there's any ray of hope?
Mika: I have not been in Russia. But what comes to Russian metal scene,there is always hope and you just have to work hard.
Ind: How much do you work? And how do you like to spend your free time?
Mika: I normally do 8 hours per day. But in rush times even 10 to 12 hours.I don't work on week ends nor holidays. In one year I will masterover 200 albums ans several dozens of singles and separate tracks. Inmy free time i can really take easy, do nothing. I Just have fun withmy family.
Ind: Thanx a lot for this interview. We really admire your workand I guess you know yourself that your name has become a trademarkof excellent sound!!!
Mika: Thank you for your kind words. You can always contact me andFinnvox, if you have something in your mind... and remember visit inour web site www.finnvox.fi'