Hello Levinsky and welcome to Brutal Resonance! Let’s start off with a basic but fun question. What are three of your favorite albums of all time and why?
Levinsky: Hello Brutal Resonance and thank you for this opportunity! This is a great question to begin with, there are definitely so many great albums out there, but picking the number one here is an easy-peasy piece of cake!
Kate Bush. "Hounds of Love". I just absolutely love Kate’s style and her approach to music, her originality as a pioneer of art pop and the way she so pristinely interprets the feelings that go into her songs, everything about her style and production is very moving and her music speaks directly to my soul. Literally, music made by a goddess in heaven! Of course, this album has the major hits such as “Running up that Hill” and “Cloudbusting”, but never ignore the side B (dubbed as “The Ninth Wave”) of the album, which is a conceptual, epic and cinematic trip everyone should discover and enjoy.
Goblin. "Tenebre OST". Being a big fan of Italian horror and thriller films, the soundtrack to Dario Argento’s classic Tenebre is a great and inspiring thing to listen to and definitely an inspiration if you ask me. The film also has a kind of strange, timeless magic, the plot is great and the aesthetics really pick your senses. A great 80’s classic.
Pink Floyd. "A Momentary Lapse of Reason". Who does not like Pink Floyd? This gem of an album has so much great stuff to explore, listen to it carefully and it will give you a handsome reward. On top of the songs themselves, I love the production on the album.
When did you begin Levinsky and why? Where does the name stem from?
Levinsky: I have been playing in bands representing a variety of genres from pop to heavy rock ever since my teens - I had a hiatus of several years from making music before starting the Levinsky project in 2017. My friend tipped me off to check out Carpenter Brut’s “Trilogy” and everything took up from there - having grown up in the 80’s, a fan of the movies and video games of that era, this album spoke volumes to me and sooner than later I found myself putting together my first tracks and finding an analog synthesizer to buy. The moniker is courtesy of my brother and on the contrary to what some folks think it being a play on ‘Kavinsky’ it is actually a play on my family name. After giving it a thought, it was easy to see that I could create and perform pretty much any kind of music under such a name, not being bound by genres really in any way. In addition, the name is a common surname in eg. countries such as Poland and Russia, which I also find interesting.
The international synth scene is quite interesting to me considering I interview artists from around the world quite often. Tell me of the Finnish synth scene. Who are the major players and what makes it so unique?
Levinsky: The Finnish synth scene has had two prime movers, the one being the essential Finnish label Blood Music who have brought us key releases by artists such as Perturbator, Dynatron and Dan Terminus (who I’ve personally booked as the headliner for the Helsinki Synth City event on November 12th!), the other being the legendary Flashback Future club tour, who brought artists such as Carpenter Brut, Perturbator, Danger, GosT and many others to Helsinki. Finland currently has a slew of artists creating music that could be labelled as “synthwave” or “retrowave”. In my eyes, artists taking the step to play live and actually perform means they are serious about their craft, making them “major players” to me. Of course, playing live is necessarily not for everyone. I’d like to refrain from dropping any “major Finnish synthwave names” as it is kind of biased from the start, but instead just maybe recommend a few interesting Finnish synth/electronic acts to check out: Rain Diary, K-X-P and Aavikko.
I understand that you are a part of the Helsinki Synth City club tour. Tell me what that is and what you do within it.
Levinsky: We’re “carrying the torch” lit up by Flashback Future. When we started Helsinki Synth City, we got in touch with Mape who ran Flashback Future and him being the nice guy he is, he shared us his insight. We’re truly honoured to carry on the tradition and we already have a string of events planned for 2022, keen to feature foreign artists at each event. The Helsinki Synth City tour is a product of the company Neo Helsinki Limited which I run with a musical colleague of mine, Millennium Falck, who is a close friend - he also helped me produce and master my debut album “Electra Complex”.
You also have your own record label, Neo Helsinki Records. When did you start this label and what are your current and future plans for it?
Levinsky: The label was established during the pandemic and we’re about to launch the label officially soon. The label aims to be a genuinely healthy alternative for artists looking for a label and one of the main ideas is to facilitate quality physical releases for artists who are ambitious about their music. That said, the style of the label is definitely not bound to synthwave only, the label can release music from other genres too, as long as the music is genuine and great. For the label, it has been a kind of a lifelong dream of me to run a label of my own and I’m happy to see that take place now.
You put on quite a live show from what I understand. While you play the music, you have professional dancer Susanna Leinivaara perform during your show. How did you meet Leinivaara and why did you decide to include her as a part of Levinsky’s act?
Levinsky: I do really try to be worth my salt what comes to live performances. Susanna is a professional dance artist and ballet teacher, having a long experience in different styles ranging from ballet to butoh to burlesque. Susanna was introduced to me by the wife of a synth music colleague here in Helsinki and it was pretty clear right from the start that her style would fit my music nicely. Her performance adds a lot to the audience interaction at shows as I am naturally quite occupied with my synths and playing whereas she acts as a kind of a storytelling interpreter for the stories behind my songs. I think the audience really loves her as she always puts 100% into her act. Her performance is an important visual element of my live shows.
Your debut album, “Electra Complex” released in 2019. What was your initial goal with Levinsky? Did you ever think to achieve such success with the project?
Levinsky: My initial goal was to have my music “make flesh” so to speak: get the music out of my mind and released out there for people to listen to. The album tells the listener many stories ranging from concepts such as psychological phenomena to love, sexuality, animal rights to hate as an issue in society, so it’s not necessarily all about the lowest common denominators in synthwave, palm trees and neon lights in the year 1985… feel free to dub me “thinking man’s synthwave” if you like, ha ha! As a big fan of vinyl and tapes, I of course also had to have the physical editions out and discovering the super talented graphic artist Ninni Kairisalo (https://kaligraphics.fi/) gifted me with a chance to have really unique and breathtaking artwork for my releases for which I’m eternally grateful for. Regarding success, I think the success is found when you are happy and content with what you do, write and release with people noticing your work, everything else is a bonus, really. I’ve also had a couple of people tell me that my music has carried them through difficult times and personal issues, which I think is one of the biggest compliments an artist can ever receive. I think too many people start out making music with the obsessive goal of “making it quick” in the music business, get frustrated and give up way too early. In my opinion, being genuinely good at what you do does take effort and time - many people buy into the idea of “overnight success” of becoming popular or famous. This can often lead to striving for popularity by other means than music itself, music ending up being just a byproduct of a striking social media presence or some other such endeavour.
Your follow up album, “Nocturnes”, came out in 2020. What did you learn about music production between your first album and this one and how did you apply it?
Levinsky: A lot. Maybe the most important thing for me was taking up piano lessons which came into great use for fleshing out “Nocturnes” in terms of songwriting approach, having the interplay of chords and melody lines as the starting point for most of the songs. My brother is a great sparring partner when it comes to writing and producing, he has a long history in bands and music production and we did the final mixing and mastering at his studio. With his help, we could resolve some challenges for example in terms of sound design and arrangement details and he provided me the ever so needed second opinion I could trust. Of course, I learnt a lot from him in the process, needless to say. Per musical evolution and influences, if you listen to for example the opening track of “Nocturnes” - “La Notte Oscura” and the second track “Un Cœur Dérangé” (which features the stunning French vocalist Enlia), it should be pretty clear to see that I really did push the envelope of the first album - “Notte” is flirting with 70’s occult rock and psychedelia whereas “Cœur” is a display of melodramatic synth pop with a modern touch with a ravishing, delicate vocal performance by Enlia.
And what are your plans with the project right now? Have you any singles, remixes, or collaborations in the work? Any EPs, albums, or live shows upcoming?
Levinsky: For Halloween, I put out a more aggressive and driving single called “Nymphomaniac Redux” which is a deliberate take on a more in-your-face style and aesthetics - a little something I had to write out of my system. I’ve played an earlier version of this track live and people gave it such a warm welcome, so I thought it’s worth creating a remake or “redux” version of it. I have a good handful of new material for my next album already in the works and I will also do vocals on at least one of the tracks myself. In addition, I intend to release a collection of more orchestral and cinematic themes as this is something I’d feel very good about too. The next live show for me is the Helsinki Synth City - Follow the White Rabbit event on November 12th in Helsinki, with Dan Terminus headlining and myself, Millennium Falck and Ace Buchannon as support acts.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for your time. I wish you the best and leave the space below open for you to mention anything I may have missed!
Levinsky: Thank you Brutal Resonance, all the very best and thank you for the work you do to advance the underground! Make sure to check out my work on Bandcamp and streaming platforms, check out Helsinki Synth City and Neo Helsinki Records socials and above all things, stay true to yourself, never give up and take care! Hope to see you all on the road!
This interview was commissioned through our Ko-fi page.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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