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Who is Mama Trash? And why was a music festival in Helsinki´s Gloria Club named after her (that was practically sold out on both days)? Well, just continue reading and you will get the answer. A bit stressed but still in good mood, the legendary Rock promoter from the US found some minutes time to chat with STALKER...
What is it about Finland that you like so much and what attracts you here every time?
Ahm… I met Jyrki from the 69 Eyes three years ago, when I was in England with Trashlight Vision, and I´ve never heard of the 69 Eyes, but I liked them, so I started their fanclub and I started working for them officially. He introduced me to the bands in Finland and Sweden, and so I had to come out here, meet everybody because before I was only talking to them over the internet. So this was an easy way to get all the bands together, because obviously I couldn´t afford to bring them all over to the US, so they all agreed to do this and see how it all worked out, and then we agreed to do this annually, either here or in different countries.
So how would you say the scene here in Finland is different?
I really hate to say it, but I really don´t like a lot of the US bands! My favourite bands are like those that´s been around for a while, like Static X, Marilyn Manson, Mötley Crüe. I mean there are good bands obviously, but the stuff I hear on the radio I don´t like, so it´s really just the bands that I promote, them I like and it´s just my opinion, but people also seem to like it. The bands I don´t like it doesn´t mean that they stink, it´s just not my taste, like the same with all people.
The bands that you work with, is it more on a friendly basis, or were you selecting them specifically for commercial reasons?
The first couple I chose because I liked them and then obviously the friendships grow, and then dependent on the band, but in most cases I´ve at least one good friend in each band, like Acey Slade from Murderdolls, he´s like my best friend, and I met a lot of people through him. But then in different bands I´ve at least one significant close friendship, but I won´t take just any band, I have to like their music, they have to be respectful and I must like them as people. Soon you´ll see some changes to my website because some bands have been breaking those rules, so they are gonna be gone. People say I´m nice, which I am, but I won´t be taken advantage of.
It must be quite difficult to work with your close friends and still keep the personal relationship at the same time as being practically their boss at work…
Yes, and in the past I was taken advantage of and I had some bad experiences, but that´s why I won´t let that happen again. So basically, one bad experience and I´m done, that´s it.
Last year the Trashfestival was here also, was that the debut?
Yes, it was our first one. In October I came out here for vacation, and since I was coming out, a couple of the bands got together and put a show on, and we really didn´t promote it, it was just for fun, and then when I was here “Hey, maybe we should do something” . Then it was Jyrki who came up with the idea “You should call it Trashfest” and he actually picked this venue too. Last year it wasn´t anything big, but this year it looks much more professional and is the first Trashfest. We´re like a little family. A lot of the bands like each other´s music and they also support each other, get together and play, organise something in their own countries, so this helps too.
In this kind of PR and promotion work that you do, what would you say are the most important things?
The most important… Well, there are a couple of things: again, the respect. For me and for the people I work with. I don´t sleep with any band, I have never been a groupie, I hate when people say it to me. It´s everyone´s own business and if someone chooses that way, it´s their thing, but it has nothing to do with me or my work. I´m not like that, I´m more like a ‘mom´ figure for those guys, trying to calm them down, keep everything under control and stress-free. The most important thing in promotion is just to get their name out there, get as many people as you can!
What´s your secret?
I really don´t know! People keep on asking me that… Yesterday I also got asked for an autograph and I was like “Why?! I´m just a promoter…”
Because of MySpace and you´re associated with those artists too…
I guess… When Trashlight Vision fans gave me that nickname ‘Mama Trash´ when I was in the UK, and that´s when it first started with the autographs and all, it´s funny. I don´t mind, but I don´t understand it. This ‘mom´ thing is because I respond to everybody, if someone has a problem or asks a question, or sends me an email that “Hey, I really love the 69 Eyes, but I´ve never met them…” and I send them an autograph, picture or something, I really don´t mind. I do things like that, especially I get all those things for free from bands, they are great people. Especially the Eyes, they are awesome! They always give me tons of autographed stuff to send to people, they really take good care of their fans and band´s friends.
How do you deal with those fake friends, you know? Those camouflaged groupies who approach you as a way to the famous scene?
I´m getting better at reading them, but I missed a lot of that at the beginning. Like I said, one bad experience for me is enough and then I´m done. I´m nice to people, but I don´t want to be associated with them. I don´t even hang out backstage or anything, I don´t go into anyone´s private space, their dressing rooms or anything, unless they ask me to, I respect everyone´s privacy. That´s their own time in peace, you know? Usually when people approach me, I can already see what they´ve on their mind and if I can´t, my friend Baby Trash, she´d catch it. If she tells me that she has a bad feeling about a person, I´d be more careful, I trust her intuition. It´s not that the people around are bad, but many have very material motifs. It´s very nice to meet people, but it´s just… not friends, you know?
It can be heard often from artists and musicians that “hell, you´ve to be a real asshole to get somewhere, step over people…”, but you´re a good example that it´s not true.
Exactly! It can be stressful and you can be abused easily, it can be very upsetting, and yes, I cry a lot, people can hurt me. But let´s skip that...
Back to Finnish bands in the US... Bam Margera´s work is also helpful...
Yes! He was here (in Finland) recently and he emailed me. He was suppose to be here at the festival also, and his help would´ve been great, but he had to go a few days earlier, but maybe next year.
Did you ever study this PR or something, what´s your background?
I was in the banking industry for 21 years, you know, in a suit and all. And when I did that, I always had a lot of friends in bands, my brother is in a band, and I started the webpage some five years ago, about heavier bands, and I did interviews and stuff, stories, and after that, and I met Acey and it blew up, just started from there, I met a lot of bands and so it took off... And I quit the job at the bank and got out for a year, trying to figure out what I want do. Because I´m used to the lifestyle of having a lot of money and now I have to work, and this is different, I´m not in this for the money. Now I break even and it´s ok, but before I used to earn a lot and so I was able to throw a lot into the music business also, but this is can be the problem with band-friends because if there´s a problem, they can always put a hand in your pocket, but they can´t do that anymore, I don´t make that kind of money. But now it´s working out ok, for example all the bands at this festival are here for free, which is amazing! I think everybody needs to know that. The bands just want people to see them and it´s enough, but they will be paid something because it´s a lot of work too. But this is how we made it possible, we had a lot of bands, but we picked those eight, but many more wanted to do it.
How important do you consider commercial success?
Well, I´d love to see all those bands to be as huge as possible, but the US market is really hard, it really-really is.
Even if it is limited for the alternative artists, it´s still hard to enter?
It´s very hard, I mean: you turn on the radio and you hear Britney, there´s just no way for any other music! In my opinion, the mainstream artists have no talent at all. I can see certain bands and it´s important for bands to play live, have a show, have a concert as good as their cd. I think the whole Bam Margera thing is a lot bigger here than it is in the US. I mean, he is of course big and known, but not for the music. He´s known for his TV show. Obviously he´s responsible for a lot of HIM´s success in the US, he´s done a lot for them.
What´s your impression about Finns and their way of being, acting? They can be so shy…
This is funny! People have been warning me before, because well, I´m Italian! So I´m very huggy-kissy, VERY, which is big in the US anyway, but I´m very much like that and I talk with my hands, you can see that (laughs). So I´ve been warned a lot that Swedish and Finnish people aren´t used to that, so at first it was awkward, I was conscious all the time, but they warmed up to me pretty quickly, you can see a big difference already! I also try not to talk too fast, because we had a real big problem communicating, but God bless them, they speak such good English here, because I don´t know any Finnish! And I don´t have the brainpower to hold it (laughs) So yes, they can be quiet, but it doesn´t mean they love you any less, they are just different and express it differently. Some do say it a lot though! (laughs)
But the talking and emotionality comes out with the drinks, have you noticed?
Oh wow… at first it was shocking to me! The first time I went out with them I was like: “Holy shit!” it was crazy, but now I´m used to it.
Isn´t it strange being one of the only girls around such a huge gang of un-sober Finnish musicians?
I tend not to party with the bands too much and if I do, most of them stay in control around me. That´s again, the same matter of respect. One of the other bands´ managers told me: “You won´t see a lot of things, because certain things they won´t do in front of you,” and I´ve heard some very bad and dirty stories about bands´ behaviour, not just mine, but musicians in general, but they just don´t show me that side.
How strict can you be then, if your bands do something you don´t like, do you tell them off?
Oh yes! I tell them.
And so, just how difficult is your job?
I have everything under control, for the most part. I´m in it for over three years, a lot of things happened, but we´ve always managed to talk everything through. So unless it´s some miscommunication, I managed to handle everything. Like tonight, I´ve been yelling around and stuff, but I´m not used to that, I´m nice! But this comes with the territory, right? Some people want to push and see how far they can go, but I know how to guard my boundaries!
More information: http://www.mamatrash.com/ Author: Marina Sidyakina, transl. K. Weber, photos: Mama Trash, K. Weber Date: 2008-04-27