Published on January 23rd, 2020 | by Al Geiner


Let’s Chat With The Impersonators!

With a new song out soon We decided to have a chat with Alt Pop Rockers The Impersonators. Having previously been signed to Sony/BMG with Carmen Gray, one of Finland’s finest rock bands, Tom Tikka has formed The Impersonators, a two-man project born out their ashes designed to cut-out the politics and strife which come from the rock ‘n’ roll carnival of band life. Resolutely studio-based, The Impersonators attempt to channel the bejeweled power-pop of The Go-Betweens and the immediacy/worldliness of early R.E.M. to deliver timeless alt-pop melodies.

Comprising Tom Tikka and lyricist Antti Autio, The Impersonators are just that: a duo which masquerades as a full band and does everything it can to defy convention – whether that being their insistence on avoiding touring or their songs, which home in on the warts-and-all gnarliness of love and real life. In fact, if one were to find a common theme that runs through the group’s entire catal it would probably be how life very seldom resembles or turns out like Disney fantasies. 

Despite their poignant lyrics, The Impersonators are still a joyous and sweet proposition, with their vocal harmonies and chiming chords harking back to such 60s pop majesties as The Beatles, The Byrds and The Beach Boys. Together with their secret weapon, producer Janne Saksa, The Impersonators craft their lyrics and melodies into retro-flavoured “alternative pop/rock”. While adding a modern twist to the final soundscape, their most important goal is to nurture and cultivate the creativity, spirit, and warmth that graced the pop records of yester years.

Check them out on twitter @1mpersonators and Instagram

Take a listen to their current Hit Song 

Check out the music video too  

Here is our sit down:

Why did you start to do music?

I fell in love with music when I was six or seven. My dad had music on constantly and by then I had already developed a passion for listening to music. However, what gave me a push to become a songwriter was the first time I heard Paul Anka’s “Lonely Boy” in my dad’s Chevy. The song just floored me. I remember thinking, “What a powerful and passionate pop tune.”

Hearing “Lonely Boy” for the first time is actually a rather quaint memory for me. We were at a gas station and as my dad went inside to pay for the gas, I opted to stay in the car to listen to some more music. My dad had a brand new tape with him, Paul Anka’s 21 Golden Hits, on which “Lonely Boy” was the third track. As the tune came on and progressed into its chorus, I felt for the very first time that I also wanted to write. I knew the basics of guitar, so as soon as we got home I wrote my first ever tune. Being rather young, the tune was called “Coca Cola Song.” It’s a ghastly ditty and the worst part is that I still remember it. 

Why do you continue to do music?

Because I love music and I love writing, recording and performing it. It’s such a big part of who I am that I don’t think I’ll ever stop. In addition, music has been very good to me. I’ve been blessed with radio hits and gotten to collaborate with major labels like Sony and Warner. That kind of luck serves as a rather good motivator. It’ll make you think, “Well, it happened once, it could happen again.” And before you even notice, you’re back hammering away, crafting a new tune.

Naturally, the time will come when I am too old to make music. In my humble opinion, there are way too many old dudes out there that are really pushing the envelope in terms of age. Their voices are way past the sell-by date and yet they keep doing it, sounding like karaoke versions of their old selves. It’s a bit sad. I know my voice will go as well and my fingers will lose their agility, nothing lasts forever. I hope I have enough sense to step down when that time comes. The plan is to write and record as long as I can and when being an artist becomes impossible due to age, I will revert back to being a music addict.

Going back to the actual question for just a bit still, writing is also therapy to me. It’s a way to vent, to put into words and music how I really feel, an opportunity for me to deal with what’s going on in my life. Some people write happy songs, I usually pick up the guitar when I’m down in the dumps. LOL.

Who is your musical idol?

There are so many but the two people I admire the most are Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney. They are geniuses in what they are doing and although I know in my heart of hearts that I’ll never be able to match their brilliance, I’m always subconsciously competing with them, attempting to write something as good as they have produced during their long and prolific careers.

As a matter of fact, I listened to the Beach Boys today, the 20/20 album. It’s a great record. The group recorded some brilliant pop between 1965 and 1973. Their golden period begins with Today and ends with Holland. Some absolutely brilliant cuts. Give Dennis Wilson’s “Be With Me” a listen. It’ll send shivers down your spine.

My other heroes include Gene Clark, John Lennon, Ken Hensley, Grant McLennan, Richard Hawley, Ray Davies…really, the list is endless.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

Again, Paul McCartney. I admire the way he has been able to keep the business side of his career in check. Judging from his interviews, he seems to be very levelheaded. I read one of the many books written about him a while back, in which McCartney is explaining how he got into music publishing. Since it was impossible for him to own the rights to his own songs after The Beatles split, he began buying publishing rights to the songs of artists he admires and respects. Obviously it’s going for the business end of things a bit but when you think about it, is there really a better way for an established artist to make financial investments? I like that idea very much.

What influences your music?

I’m inspired by life, whatever happens to me or around me. “Burning Blue” is a about a friend who had lost his wife to cancer and “Sad Café” was inspired by a fight I witnessed in a coffee shop in London, England. Then there are the personal ones like “You Are The One,” which I wrote for my wife when we were newly in love and “Effigy,” a song about me destroying my ego. This is how I try to keep it real.

I’m afraid it’s mostly the shortcomings and negativity that make me sit down and write. Take “Circus” for instance. It’s a song about leaving behind a life that does not work anymore, a life that has become toxic in all possible ways, a life that has metaphorically speaking turned into a “circus.” In that sense “You Are The One” is an exception. There’s a few others like that I suppose. “Baby,” one of my favorite Impersonators tracks, comes to mind.

An interviewer once asked if I have an infatuation for negativity. However, I don’t think it’s that. I think my stuff is a bit dark simply because that’s what life is like once you hit your late thirties and have a thousand children. LOL. My father used to say that if you are thirty plus and married with children, feel great and have time for your career and hobbies, the other person in the relationship is the one carrying the darkness for you. I suppose this is one of the reasons why people end up having affairs and getting divorced. It’s so sad when you think about it, really.

Who are your musical influences?

The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Stones, The Byrds, REM, The Go-Betweens, Rialto, The River Detectives…there are way too many of them to produce a comprehensive list. I have about two thousand CDs

Have you ever met or played with your musical idol(s)?

Met yes but never had the pleasure to play with any of them. I’ll tell you a story of one such meeting.

Quite a few readers won’t know who Gordon Haskell is, so I’ll fill you guys in briefly. He played bass in the legendary King Crimson and has produced quite a few brilliant solo albums during the course of the past thirty years. He enjoyed great success in the UK with his album Harry’s Bar in 2002. 

Anyway, in the late eighties and early nineties he was in a commercial slump (a fact I learned later on) and was oddly enough, playing acoustic shows on the cruise ships that still sail between Finland and Sweden. Well, it just so happened that I was on one of those ships with my mom and dad at exactly the right time. I’ll never forget seeing him live. He gave a fantastic performance that night, during which a member of the audience ran to his cabin to fetch his trumpet and came back just in time to play a solo on Gordon’s rendition of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.” It was unplanned and unannounced and bloody brilliant!

After the show, I wandered over with my dad and we bought his then new album Hambledon Hill. Unlike my dad, I knew who he was and asked him a few questions about his days with King Crimson and about the times he shared a flat in London with Jimi Hendrix. I’m still amazed that he actually took the time to talk to me for a good twenty minutes, at the end of which he put a hand on my shoulder, gave me a wink and said he had somebody waiting for him by the pool. He impressed me to high heavens: a real, breathing rock star. What a great chap, a great storyteller! I treasure that memory.

By the way, I still listen to Hambledon Hill a lot. It’s a fine album, my favorite Haskell disc for obvious reasons. “Almost Certainly” still kicks ass, as does “The Right Time,” but they’re all great tracks, no fillers.

What is your favourite quote?

It’s the famous one by Abraham Lincoln: “And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.”

What quote/sentence would you say best describes you and your music?

That would be by John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.”

What kind of music do you listen to?

All kinds of music I guess, anything from classical music to heavy metal, even rap. Remember, I have a shitload of CDs. I have a few favorites that I keep returning to, in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned above. They are bands like Thunder, Smithereens, Bathers, Aerosmith, David Bowie etc. Really, if I gave you the full list, it would take up the space reserved for this interview.

In addition to being a great lyricist, my bandmate Antti is a great resource when it comes to discovering fantastic music you’ve never heard before. A Girl Called Eddy is one of the most amazing artists with whom he has acquainted me. Her self-titled debut completely took my breath away. Wow!

When did you start playing music?

I started playing and performing earnestly in my early teens after I had watched quite a few Elvis and Beatles movies. I was so thoroughly impressed by all the female attention these guys were getting that my career choice became clear to me pretty early on. LOL. 

Of course, I evolved as a person and as a musician and songwriter. At first, music was just a way to impress girls but it soon grew into a passionate love affair between me and my songs. This sounds insane but it is very true indeed. In any case, this was the defining moment when I developed an obsession that was urging me to become as good a writer, singer, player and producer as humanly possible. And once I embarked on that trip, most other things in life took the backseat.

When did you start playing music professionally?

My first paying gig was when I was 17. My band at the time was playing in a bar in downtown Helsinki. We were not old enough to consume any of the products served in the establishment but for some strange reason, we were old enough to play there. Looking back, that doesn’t make any sense. We must have lied about our age. I know at least one of us had a fake ID. I won’t tell you who! Be that as it may, we rocked that place that night. It was a good gig as far as I recall. To be honest with you, there were quite a few bad ones in those days but that particular one stands out for me. My memory might be playing tricks on me though. Whatever, I choose to remember it as a triumph.

When did you know you wanted music to be your career?

After those Elvis and Beatles movies, honest!

When did you know that it was actually going to be your career?

This was way before The Impersonators. I suppose it must have been after Carmen Gray’s (the band I was previously involved with) “Lost In My Mind Again” became a big radio hit in 2006. It all seems like a very long time ago. Anyway, it was round about that time I realized that as writers my brother Lappe and I were onto something. We were slowly but surely learning the trade and had managed to establish a well-oiled songwriting machine between the two of us. We wrote together each and every Carmen Gray tune that came out. They are all our songs and I am very proud of them. As with everything, I have my personal favorites but truth be told, I love them all, especially now that so much time has elapsed.

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