Interview – Tom Tikka & The Missing Hubcaps

I recently featured the song By 2022 in a round up review and playlist based around Nordic artists. I loved the sound that Tom Tikka & The Missing Hubcaps have, so decided to have a chat with Tom Tikka himself! Read on below to find out how I got on…

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a track titled By 2022, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about the track and where can it be purchased? What does the title refer to?

I think the track is available not only on pretty much each streaming platform but also in most online music stores. I’m changing labels, so it’ll be re-released as part of the new album. For this reason, we also gave the song a fresh mix and edited the cuss word out: ‘shitshow became ‘freakshow’. The new album will come out on the Minds Behind The Music label. I’m really looking forward to this new collaboration.

By 2022 was born out of desperation. Sadly, there are a few people in my life who can be rather mean and cruel at times. These are the sort of people you cannot really have grown-up conversations with. When there’s trouble, they explode or become unresponsive. And then there’s me, who was brought up to behave politely or stoically, if you will, even in the face of intolerable insults. I’m not really big on lashing out even when I feel like doing it. The result of these conflicts is usually me being the bigger neighbour and apologising just to bring peace about.

By 2022 was written after one of these rows. I was staring out the window, my chest was feeling heavy and in all honesty, I was full of hatred at that particular moment. I could have added to the conflict with a few well-deserved uncalled-for remarks, which would have most likely only escalated things. Instead, I decided to vent by writing a song. That’s it, really.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

Not really. I don’t tour these days anymore, so it has had very little effect on my work. Since everybody has been working from home, I’ve been able to use the time I would normally put toward commuting into recording and producing. So, you could say that the pandemic has given me more time to work on my music.

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

Same as always: laborious. I dislike starting to record a new song. There’s so much uncertainty involved. You don’t really know if it’ll work. On top of that, I’m a perfectionist. If I deem something as just good, it won’t make the album. I want every song that I finish to have their own identity. My stuff’s pretty produced I suppose. It’s decorated with brass, strings and exotic instruments, so producing one of my tunes into a record is a bit more complex than showing up at the rehearsal pad with a bunch of new songs. For me, the true work starts only after the basic tracks have been laid down. That’s when I put on the producer’s hat and work with Janne Saksa to come up with creative ideas to make each track interesting.

By 2022 was made like this. Those harmonies in the chorus, the bass line in the middle-eight, the Auld Lang Syne chant under the last chorus, the little bits of electronic sounds here and there … all of that took a long time to come up with. The song cannot be too basic but it cannot have too much stuff either. This is the challenge.

Do you plan to release any more singles in the near future?

Most likely. However, right now the label and I are envisioning an album rather than singles. The album’s very close to being done. We need to fix a few little things here and there but for the most part, we have ten tracks ready to go. As to when it’ll come out, I’m not sure yet. I’m guessing in June or August. I’m very proud of it and working with Minds Behind The Music has been invigorating.

Then there will be a new Impersonators (my band) album out as well. Most likely in early 2023. That album is halfway done. We’re going to pick it up as soon as the new Tom Tikka release has been carried across the finish line.

I’ve also written lyrics for Eric Aakula’s new album. Eric’s a roots artist whose work I admire a lot and it was an honour to be asked to write with him. His new album is going to be great and I can’t wait to hear the final mixes. I worked with rough demos. There are some pretty intriguing songs on that record and I was given complete artistic freedom when it came to the lyrics. It was a fun project to dive into. Those of you who like Americana or roots music should check out his previous record Friday Night.

Do you have plans to release an EP or album anytime soon?

I suppose I sort of answered that question above (laughter).

What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

Recently, I’ve been listening to Thunder, which is one of my favorite groups in the world. Luke Morley is a fantastic guitarist and songwriter and don’t even get me started on Danny Bowes’ vocals. He has got a magic set of pipes!

My biggest influences are The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, R.E.M, Tom Petty and The Byrds. Having said that, I have a few thousand CDs in my library, so it’d be impossible to list all my influences here. I love music, all of it, not just one genre. My day can start with Rachmaninov and end with Nirvana, 2Pac, Terror Reid or ABBA. I’m pretty eclectic in my tastes.

Where are you based? What is the music scene like in your part of the world? Are you influenced by your surroundings?

I’m based out of Helsinki, Finland. The music scene in Finland mostly consists of music sung in Finnish, so I’m not really influenced by that at all. In addition, the mainstream production values are very poppy here. Guitars and real instruments are out, so once again, not my bag at all.

Why did you decide to form the project under this name, instead of working as a solo artist?

Well, the name is paying homage to my late father. He was always trying to teach me manly things like changing car tires or building stuff but of course, I was always writing songs. Even when we were working on a project together, I’d be bouncing melodies around in my head. This one day, we were putting winter tires on our car and as usual, I wasn’t paying attention. My dad had these custom-made hubcaps that he was very proud of. I accidentally dropped one of them, it rolled down our driveway and onto the street, where it got totaled by a passing vehicle. My dad was fuming. We had the biggest argument of our lives right there and then.

The fondest memory of that incident is my dad walking up to my room before I turned in that night. He wanted to apologize for yelling at me, so I’d know that we were good and everything was fine. Upon leaving my room, he jokingly suggested that I should call my band “Tommy & The Missing Hubcaps.” I thought it was the lamest name ever at the time but lo and behold after two and a half decades, it sounded pretty damn original and good.

Also, with that band name, I killed two birds with one stone: I avoided the dreaded namesake issue on Spotify (I’m not the only Tom Tikka in the world) and got to honour my father. Obviously, it’s the latter that makes the name special to me.

Do you have any tour dates lined up? What can people expect from one of your shows and why should people come and see you perform live?

As I already mentioned, I don’t tour anymore. Janne Saksa and I play all the instruments on these records. I play lead guitar and handle the lead vocals. Everything else is played either by Janne or me. The Missing Hubcaps is not a real five-piece band that could play live. I’d have to assemble a group of musicians to do that. I won’t say never. If somebody shows me the money and there’s a real need for us to go play live, I’ll do it but until that point, I’m just going to churn out records. Studio’s my favourite environment anyway.

Any last words for the fans?

Don’t waste a moment of your life. Change things that don’t work for you. Also, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Following this principle usually means that you treat people with respect and love.

Finally, help save the planet. The Mills Brothers were right on their No Turnin’ Back album. There really is no life on the moon. My worry at the moment is that the masses don’t really understand what is happening with the melting of the glaciers and how fast it’s all unravelling. If you haven’t already, watch Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. And after that, get to work.