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Amidst the chaos of 2020, there was some highlights … Markus Saastamoinen’s music was one of them.
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The songweaver recently dropped his debut record Puzzle Pieces, serving up a huge dose of progressive goodness with it. We caught up with him to chat about the LP and everything that inspired it.
Hysteria: Tell us about yourself and your music journey.
Markus: I’ve been doing music for a couple of decades now. I spent some time doing covers, I’ve been around the Melbourne scene, I’ve been in various bands and started my own one, Degrees of Separation, in 2006.
I play bass in Zakytuss and joined another band, Cirrus Crown, as their lead singer a couple of years ago. I never intended to release this solo album, I had a few songs in my head that I wanted to record for fun but it all spiralled while I was in lockdown.
Tell us about the recording process of Puzzle Pieces.
The first few songs were recorded a year and a half ago. I did those with Reggie Bowman at Screamlouder Productions and I had Vaughn “Venom” Lush on drums. It was amazing, he’s played with so many great artists. Gerry Pantazis played the drums on a few other tracks. That was a real highlight, he’s a legend on the scene.
These days technology is so good and affordable, it really helped me put the puzzle pieces of the album together. Everyone could just record their parts at home and we could bring the files together later. The real point of difference was being left to my own devices, for example when doing a vocal take I didn’t have someone else on the other side of the glass saying that was good or that I could do better.
It’s difficult to stand out and make your mark, sometimes it feels like the easiest thing to do is just blend in.
[ Markus Saastamoinen ]
It seems like Puzzle Pieces encompasses not just the album itself, but it’s recording process.
Exactly. Another reason why I used that title is that I had so many mates on the record, they make up a big piece of who I am.
It’s such a textured album, what inspired it?
My favourite band of all time is Queen, I particularly like their earlier albums like A Night at the Opera. It’s got tracks which, back then, would’ve been considered heavy metal or hard-rock but it’s also got Bohemian Rhapsody at the end which is all over the shop. All those eclectic things have influenced my writing style and that’s carried over sonically.
Someone asked me the other week what tone I was going for with the album and I said it depended on the song. For example, I wrote Lullaby as a 50’s ballad and was inspired by Marty Mcfly’s Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in Back to the Future. My good mate Artie Jones plays in an INXS tribute band and I felt he was a great fit for the song, I wanted him to play the saxophone on it.
That carries through to the lyrics. I often start with a working title and do some research. After googling Puzzle Pieces I read this article which said, you can seemingly have everything and still yearn for that one little bit and I relate to that because I’m always searching for something that I can’t see. I’m always searching, I’ll never give up. Clones was inspired by the state of music today. It’s difficult to stand out and make your mark, sometimes it feels like the easiest thing to do is just blend in. I’ve always been out there, both as a musician and in my personality and I think that reflects in the album.
What do you have planned next?
As far as what I write, you can expect to see everything under the sun. Things might get a bit weirder, at one point I did want to write a full-on, heavy metal album so that could come out as well. I could drop these badass riffs, it just depends on what mood I’m in (laughs).