torstai 20. lokakuuta 2011

Whoa! We have ! is now open!

Five years ago when we opened the studio, we decided that in the next month or so, we will design a website to promote our studio.

But we were a bit busy at the time.

Then we got even busier.

And even busier.







Then we realised that five years had passed and here we were still busy. And we still had no website.

Finally, we decided that it's time to do something about it and here it is!

(In case you missed it, here's the link again)

Fabulous photos by Esko Pettay
Our beautiful wallpaper is Ritva Kronlund's "Paratiisi", Pihlgren ja Ritola Oy
Web design by Antti-Veikko Salo / Kolhoosi
All fabrics at the studio are from Marimekko

Huuuuge special thanks to A-V who had the patience to read through the 150 emails we sent him during the last week. He made it happen and didn't murder us although he probably wanted to.


keskiviikko 12. lokakuuta 2011

Kekkonen Elää! # 1 Matti Johannes Koivu Live at Studio Kekkonen

As we promised, it's here!


We at Studio Kekkonen - that is Julius Mauranen (me), Mikko Raita and Janne Riionheimo - were playing around with some ideas to celebrate our five years in existence (we all have made records for much longer, but these premises have been here since 2006) and do something fun. Our friend, producer, record label guy, radio guy, everything guy Nick Triani gave me the spark by mentioning that we could ask permission to use leftover tracks and post them on this blog (thanks for the push, Nick!). We developed the idea further by making little sessions with artists performing live in the studio, film and edit them with a modest, slightly homegrown fashion and put them out here. And that's exactly what we've done.

Each artist will pick what they want to perform and how they want to perform it - as long as it's not been released elsewhere or then it's something extra special. Something they might not usually do.

We will make these as often as we can, but as we are extremely busy here, it will be roughly every two months. Future artists in the series include Suvi Isotalo, Vesterinen Yhtyeineen, Delay Trees, Murmansk, Vuk, Iconcrash and Nuria. (+ Some other very nice ones we can't even talk about yet). More will be announced as the series goes on! Follow us on social media to hear about the series! Twitter, Facebook

But to the point! We are proud to present you the first part in our live session series! Enjoy!

"Kekkonen Elää! - Live at Studio Kekkonen":


Vocals and guitar: Matti Johannes Koivu
Guitar: Antti Rajala
Bass: Topi Karvonen
Drums: Tuomo Laakso

Music & lyrics: Matti Johannes Koivu

Arrangement: Matti Johannes Koivu, Topi Karvonen, Tuomo Laakso, Antti Rajala
Recorded live in Studio Kekkonen by Julius Mauranen with Mikko Raita
Mixed by Julius Mauranen
Directed and edited by Olli-Pekka Komonen
Matti Johannes Koivu appears courtesy of M.Dulor.


Firstly, a big, huge thanks to Matti Johannes Koivu and his band for doing this! If you liked this, but haven't got his latest album, I suggest you order it right away from the M.Dulor label shop!

Secondly big thanks to O-P Komonen for his guerilla skills with the camera and editing board!

Big thanks to Kiiski for the pulla.


"Buddha" was originally recorded for Matti Johannes Koivu's fourth solo album, the brilliant, critically acclaimed Toisen Maailman Nimi (released on the M.Dulor label). The record was mixed by Julius Mauranen at (you guessed it) Studio Kekkonen. FWIW, Julius also recorded the acoustic parts of the album that featured the unique talents of pianist/harpist Iro Haarla and bassist Ulf Krokfors.)

The track, however, was left off the album at the very last minute. It was mixed and ready to go, but Matti with co-producer Tuomas Ilmavirta thought it didn't fit comfortably on the album after all. Matti also had second thoughts on the original arrangement and the decision was made to leave "Buddha" off the album.

This is the sort of thing that happens every now and then when making records, we have to proverbially kill our darlings that have been laboured over by a number of people for hours, days, even weeks. It feels bad at first - when you're making records with a passion, you fall in love with every great song you work with, but eventually, you realise it's for the greater good (i.e. it serves the artist's creative vision and the album entity) and live with it."Buddha" became one of those darlings that had to be laid down.

Luckily, we had another chance to make "Buddha" available to the world, and this time in a different form!


The session itself was a blast! The band were in top form, the atmosphere was really good and we had a great day. Besides, we had pulla. And everybody knows that you can't go wrong then.

Pulla makes sessions tick. Proven fact.
After the setup (which takes quite a while when done right) - the band nailed the song on the third take. We had to do a few more to get some more video footage, but what you hear is take number three, unedited and without any overdubs (nor added sugar or preservatives and most definitely no monosodium glutamate).

Now as this session was the test drive for the whole concept and in hindsight there are a few things concerning the technical aspects of filming and marrying the sound to picture we should have thought a bit further beforehand. On the other hand, it is a new thing for us, so there's bound to be something that goes funny. But it turned out fine and the little things will iron out over time.

ABOUT THE RECORDING (Now there's just nerdy stuff ahead!)

The setup was such that the band (drummer Tuomo Laakso (who's also a visual artist!) guitar player Antti Rajala, and bassist Topi Karvonen) were set up in our live room. Antti's and Topi's amps were set up in other rooms (storage space and office, respectively) to avoid uncontrolleable leakage (the thing that happens when a microphone picks up the sound of instruments it's not meant to pick up). We put Matti in our other control room and his amp to another space - again to avoid leakage, mainly to his vocal mic.

So all in all, the four musicians occupied five spaces, but three people were in the same room. Sounds much more confusing than it is!

Matti wanted to hear some of the drums and his guitar acoustically (as well as through headphones) to feel more comfortable with the sound he hears - which is absolutely vital when recording - so we left doors a little open. We could control the leakage and how much he heard of the drums and his guitar with the door. Simple and elegant. The guy who invented the door probably didn't realise that it was actually a piece of recording gear.

Matti plays Finlandia instruments guitars into a Rikstone amp. The setup sounds amazing as it is. All there is to do is to capture what it is. This time I had the pleasure to record it using a Sandhill ribbon microphone. (All Finnish products, strangely enough!). The mic preamp I used was also Finnsh, Knif Audio V804 into a vintage dbx 160VU. He was singing into a Neumann U48, one of the most sought-after vocal mics in the world. The signal went likewise into an V804 and compressed with a handmade LA-2A clone.

Tuomo's drums were mic'd with two AKG C414-XLS's as overheads, an AKG D112 + a DIY subkick on the kick drum, SM-57 on top and a mad old Grundig lo-fi mic in the bottom (I wanted to try it and it sounded great!), toms were mic'd with Line Audio CM3's (very neat little mic!) and the room mics were Neumann CMV-563's with MK55 capsules (our M7 capsules are being reskinned at Thiersch Elektroakustik at the moment!). There was a Sennheiser MD441 on the hi-hat, but there was no need for it so it stayed muted. Oh, and underneath the ride cymbal was a Karma Audio K-Micro mic for giggles (they're tiny tiny mics and cost practically nothing). Well, we didn't need it either. All mics went through our heavily modified MS Audiotron Multimix with a little EQ here and there.

Antti's guitar is a beautiful old Hagström that he played through a Creamsound amp. That was mic'd with a SM-57 and compressed with a dbx 160VU. As with Matti's guitar, the sound is superb to start with.

Topi played a Fender Telecaster bass - something of a curiosity, but it sounded exactly right for the track (we tried a Precision bass too). This time instead of going to his Orange amp (that has a bottom end that could start wars), we chose to use a Music Man 65 that could be driven a little more with less seismic action. The cab was an Ampeg 1x15, mic'd with a Shure SM7B (I never tried it on bass before this, but I can highly recommend it!). There was a BSS DI signal too.


The whole sound was there right away. All I had to do in the mix was to make it glue a little bit more and add a little reverb on the track and do a little general sweetening. I compressed the drums a bit with our Gyraf G10 compressor, Knif Audio Vari-Mu, and a dbx 160VU. I squeezed the ambience mics with an Alesis Micro Limiter (wonderful lofi thing). On bass I had a Rantanen 1178 clone. On guitars I only had a touch of parallel compression (Rantanen LA-4 clone) and vocals were further compressed with an LA-2A (I can't get enough of it, can I?). I used a Roland Space Echo inserted before our Stocktronic Plate for vocal reverb and for guitars I used the one-of-a-kind Knif Audio K.Verb spring reverb. On the master I had a little bit of EQ from the magic stereo channel of our desk, light compression from the G-SSL and some saturation from real tape (Otari MTR-10, 1/4" RMG 900 at 15ips). Some plugins were used, mainly for EQ and a little help for the drum ambience from a convolution reverb, the Waves IR-L.

There was no mastering on this particular track, I brought up the volume a little bit to save you the trouble of touching the volume knob.

I hope you all enjoy the track!


sunnuntai 9. lokakuuta 2011

Emma Salokoski: "Kuiva Maa" at the Syksyn Sävel song contest

Mikko checking in for blog duty, "hello, world"!

So, turns out both me and Julius have a song we worked on in the legendary TV song contest Syksyn Sävel this year, it's a situation of double Kekkonen trouble! I'll share a few words about my work with the great Emma Salokoski and her amazing Ensemble recording and mixing the beautiful track "Kuiva Maa". Click on the 2nd video with the vinyl picture to hear the song!

Juppu already blogged about his work on the great 2nd Suvi Isotalo album that has the track "Kaikki Sanat" also featured in the competition, check that out too!

Anyway, about recording and mixing "Kuiva Maa"...

To start off, it's a very nice song written by jazz trumpet great Jorma Kalevi Louhivuori, with evocative lyrics by Emma and a powerful arrangement by Emma and her Ensemble. I was tasked with recording the band and mixing the song for release in Syksyn Sävel.

(Warning, this will get technical and even audio engineering-nerdy, so if you're not in to that kind of thing and happen to know finnish just skip to the links above and listen to Emma's own words about the song and the making of it instead, or better yet, listen to the song!)

Recording the basics

The band track was recorded live in a quite hectic session at a nice larger Helsinki room called E-Studio, on their freshly installed NICE Studer A994 large format analog console utilizing both Pro Tools HD and a 16 track 2" Studer A800 for recording mediums. (We only have a modest recording space home at Kekkonen and no grand piano, one reason for picking this particular room was also the fact that they have a very nice sounding Estonia full-size grand)

Hectic, because the go ahead for the session was made in regular music business fashion (quite late) and, as normal with the caliber of musicians Emma has in her Ensemble (Tuomo Prättälä, Lauri Porra, Mikko Kosonen and Marko Timonen), there is always some work juggling shcedules. As it happens, the best compromise for this particular session was that we had only a few hours after Emma had returned straight from the airport (from London performing in Aamu Song's Reddress) To when our drummer had to leave. As we were aiming for, and succeeded in, a live take from the band, those few hours were precious indeed. Thankfully these people are superb players who nailed the song in a few takes, with Emma providing the necessary guide vocals to set the right mood for the players. This includes the live guitar solo too!

Tech talk about the recording

We tracked the band simultaneously to digital as a clean safety and to 16 track analog with boosted levels for some tape saturation, via recording the tape returns off the delayed reproduction heads. This allowed us to have the charasteristic tape-abuse sound but also the mixdown option of using the cleaner digital only-tracks if preferred (via nudging the tape tracks by the amount of the head gap delay after each take), maintaining perfect sync between the two sets of tracks without having to sacrifice our precious few tape tracks for a timecode track. This kind of "advanced routing" can be daunting especially on a high-profile live tracking date like this but having super flexible routing options on the Studer desk certainly helped!

Despite the live playing, we were aiming for a slightly drier and easily controllable, and dare I say, "70's" overall sound so we utilized 3 iso booths to acoustically separate all the players.

Mic highlights would be a pair of fantastic prototype Sandhill ribbons on the piano along with regular joe AKG 414's and SM57's. The drum tone was mainly in the U89 overheads set up Recorderman style (my favourite OH technique) as well as close SM57 for snare, Sennheiser 421's for toms and 441's for the kick and hihat. A big part of the drum sound is just the fat tuning of Marko's drums, his mellow but precise playing and the fact that we had him in a fairly small dry-ish room. Mikko's Martin acoustic guitar was picked by a pair of AKG C 451 B's, and we decided for a DI electric bass warmed up by Lauri's own GT Brick preamp/DI.

After the basics, the multitrack visited Musicworks for some Clavinet and Jupiter overdubs by Tuomo and Emma's lead vocal recordings with vocal production guru Leri Leskinen, returning to me at Kekkonen for mix preparation and some last recordings in the form of a meaty Rhodes track by Tuomo and last-minute addition vocal doubles by Emma with our trusty Neumann U48.


The track was mixed by yours truly in my room at Kekkonen, accompanied by Tuomo who also acted as the music supervisor/producer and band representative, as well as Emma herself and Warner Music's A&R/Executive Producer Lasse Kurki. The mixing process was relatively smooth except for the fact that we only had one shot at it; Mastering with Svante Forsbäck at Chartmakers was already scheduled for the next day, early morning too!

This meant that instead of leaving the mix overnight and doing recall tweaks in the morning (or later, read below) we had to nail it during that one day like in the old days. Thus, we took the evening slow, created a reference file that we listened to on various systems, before I commited the final mix and sent it to mastering.

Svante did a great job of taming the slight midrange build up of the mix and there you have it, less than a week later it's on a TV competition site ready for your enjoyment! Ah, modern times...

Tech talk about the mixing

Notable mix outboard on this track was my trusty EMT 140 Plate reverb, used mostly on piano and guitar as well as little on the vocal, and the great Jonte Knif's Vari Mu compressor on drums, and his amazing old prototype Tube spring reverb "K-Verb" on keyboards. The full mix was routed through a Vintagedesign SU1 for additional crunch by its Neve-esque summing amp to be recorded back to Pro Tools to a "master" audio track. Key plug-ins used were the stock Digirack EQ-3, MDW EQ, Echoboy, TL Space and Massey CT4.

Oh, about the tape vs digital basic tracks: We ended up using everything else from the Studer A-800 "tape" tracks, except for the quiet piano intro and outro.

As hinted above, a few words about the way I like to mix. I work in a hybrid Pro Tools HD DAW/analog outboard environment, with an Avid ICON D-Command controller for tactile control and automation, which means that along with some digital photographs of rack units and audio samples of my plate reverb I can return to any mix with 99.9% reliability in "total recall" fashion. I've grown accustomed to abusing this nice possibility. Even though my best mixes are usually built in creative "old school" mixing spurs, often only a few hours on a song after mix preparations, I can still evaluate the finer details of automation, translation et al over the course of days or even weeks on various systems and do a tweak recall later on (if needed) - and still be able to work on different songs, even different projects, in the meantime. Many clients obviously like this possibibility for easy recalls.

Anyway, I guess that's enough for now. Go listen to the music if you didn't already, and don't forget to check back here for the upcoming "Kekkonen Lives!" video!

lauantai 8. lokakuuta 2011

Live at Studio Kekkonen series begins!

To celebrate our fifth anniversary, we at Studio Kekkonen are happy and proud to officially announce a new feature in our studio and this blog:


Exclusive live-in-the-studio sessions with some of our favourite artists performing unreleased material - recorded, mixed and filmed at Studio Kekkonen!

Basically, we decided to sacrifice the final remains of our free time and do something that would be inspiring, interesting and fun! We ask our friends / artists / bands / clients to come and give us little live performances right here at Studio Kekkonen. We record and mix the performance and arrange it all to be filmed and edited, then we post the results here for your unlimited enjoyment - for free!

We ask the artists to pick a song (or more) that has not been released elsewhere, such as brand new songs, outtakes from albums, maybe unexpected cover songs, maybe avant-garde noise experiments or klezmer-versions of the first songs they ever wrote when they were 13, anything they feel is worth recording and sharing to the world in this format! It's up to the artist.

Of course cynics will point out that this idea is by no means new or original. Abbey Road does it. Nigel Godrich does it. YLE does it. Many others do it. Why should we do it?

Well, why should we not do it?
Firstly, lots of unbelieveably talented, interesting and generally cool and amazing and beautiful and wonderful people (see sidebar) visit our studio all the time, working with us on their records. A lot of the time that final record (and maybe a blurry photo) is the only remaining document of them spending time at Kekkonen - in a way fair enough, that's what we do here (excluding blurry photos)! But it'd be nice to have something more as well. Besides, those people very often become personal friends of ours, some very close. This is a great excuse to get together and do something nice!

Secondly, practically all of our clients love the atmosphere at the studio. They like spending time here, some have practically made it their living room. And hey, why shouldn't they, it's a fantastic and cosy place where there's always music in the air (accidental Twin Peaks reference), nice people and great coffee (that's Dale Cooper again)! Artists feel at ease in our studio. It's easy to get inspired here. It's nice to make music here. There's a vibe.

Thirdly, making records is not only about having fun (though most of the time it is GREAT fun!) - it's also really, really hard work. It's exhausting, stressful and consuming - especially at the final mixing stage which is where we do a lot of our work at Kekkonen. Then the aforementioned coffee often isn't a nice little treat, but an absolute necessity to keep going at unsociable hours for the umpteenth day in row. We wanted to create something that would be a sort of therapy or antidote to that stress for the artists (and maybe even for us?). A day of only the fun side of music-making! No outside pressure, no deadline, no worries. That's the way we want to approach this.

Fourthly, we like to try out new and exciting things! We've been here for five years and I think it's about time that we do stuff we've never done before. We all (as human beings do) spend lots of time on irrelevant, boring and anything-but-fun things in our spare time, so why not take the time and make the effort of doing something worthwhile musically, sonically and socially?

Finally, we love you - our dear blog readers, supporters, fans of our artists, record-buyers and other hippies - so much that we want to give you a special treat! We really hope you find our series of live sessions musically interesting, entertaining and of course great-sounding - and even visually pleasing - we decided to outsource the visual side of things to somebody who actually knows (unlike us) what he's doing with moving picture no matter how little space available (yes, yes, we ARE smaller than Abbey Road) - OP Komonen, who I got to know during the making of Anssi Kela's "Aukio" album, OP documented it all reality-style and even made a little music video of the lead single "Aamu".

The first session has been recorded and it'll see the light of day next thursday! So stay tuned to this blog and if you don't yet, follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook so you won't miss a beat!

And a little teaser of our first session, in the form of a (blurry!) photograph:

Who could these guys be? Not a very difficult mystery to solve, especially if you take a look at recent photos on our Facebook page...

We'll be announcing performers later (I DO like cliffhangers), but I promise you that they are the crême de la crême!

And just for the sake of repetition: the video will be published right here in our blog on October 13th (that's next thursday).