Interview was made by by Pete Alander for K.K. Downing Steel Mill in August 2009
Hi Jarno, nice to have you here at the Steel Mill. You run your own design company called Kaamos. What services do you provide?
My main services are CD cover and booklet design, promotional design for bands, websites and MySpace sites. I’m also available for all kind of private graphic commissions. The name? Kaamos? Must have a meaning to you? When I started my studio, it was hard to find a suitable name for it. I had many alternatives but finally ended up with KAAMOS. Kaamos is a Finnish word for “period of darkness”. Time here in Finland when sun won’t rise at all. At that point I didn’t think much about the name but now – ten years later, I love that name. It fits perfectly to my work. Atmosphere of my work is dark so I think the name fits. Second thing was that the name is short and easy to remember. Also domain kaamos.com was available so my decision was easy.
In the creative field you can sometimes manage well without education, are you self-taught or have you studied in art schools?
I have studied graphic design but mainly I´m self thaught. At younger age I used to draw and paint a lot and later when I studied graphic design, I found the possibilities of digital art and there was no turning back. Obviously education is always good, but there is a lot you have to learn by yourself. Best way to learn and find your own style is to do a lot of work. I have been doing this for a long time now but I still learn new things all the time and that’s really rewarding.
What was the first design you did for a rock band?
I did the covers for the band Afterworld but it was never used. At the end Joe Petago (he did covers for Motörhead and other heavy metal bands) made the cover. My first work that was ever published was the CD artwork for a band called Wizzard. That was also my diploma work for my school and I got a great grade from it.
You have some amazing references (Zero Nine, Dreamtale, Kiuas, Diablo just to name few). How do you feel working with artists?
Usually it is really easy to work with musicians. We both are quite similar in the end. I have close relation with many of my customers and I can nowadays call many of them friends. Obviously it is great if I really love the band I´m working with. Project with Zero Nine was one of them. I have been a huge fan of theirs since mid 80´s and when I got the chance to do their album artwork and meet them, it was like a dream come true.
Do you keep a straight contact to the artists or do you communicate with them through record labels or managers?
Most of the time I work with the artists themselves and I think that is the best way. Less middle mans, the easier to work.
You have a big list of clients. Are there any particular bands or musicians you would like to work for in the future?
Iron Maiden is my all time favorite, so it would be awesome if some day I could do something with them. But there isn't any specific band in my mind, it is always nice to work with great people and great musicians. I also really like to work with smaller bands, they are so excited of what they do and it's great to help them at the early days of their career.
What is the state of graphic design in music business nowadays in your opinion? How much will the industry change within 10 years or so?
Seems that the quality of artwork is not that high anymore. Of course there are lots of awesome artists out there, but I think the bands don’t put that much effort into CD artwork and their visual concept… and I think the internet is the main reason for that. Smaller bands publish their work only on the internet and they don’t even want to publish a CD. Other reason for the lower quality of artwork is that basically everyone has the tools to do art. A band might know someone how knows how to use Photoshop and usually those persons will work for free or for very little money just because it is “cool” to see their work on a CD cover. But they should keep in mind that even if you have the tools, it doesn’t make you a professional.
What kind of software or equipment do you use?
My main tool is Photoshop, I also use Freehand and Illustrator. But most of the work is done with Photoshop and a Wacom tablet
Browsing your website we found a few personal favourites. Could you tell us a bit more about these works and how they were made:
Weeping Daemon-Scars in my Heart
This was quite a normal demo project. The band contacted me and after short negotiations we started the project. I got the material from the band and quite soon I got the basic idea of what will be the visual theme of the album. After a couple of changes the artwork was done.
Before The Dawn -Soundscape Of Silence
This one is a really interesting work. I got mail form BTD´s mainman Tuomas at 6pm on Saturday and he asked that I should contact him immediately. He said he needed a CD cover by Monday. That was a really tight schedule but the idea for the cover was quite simple and I said that I will do the job. After I looked more deeply into the project I realized that I don’t want to do just the cover but the whole package too. At that point I hadn’t heard the songs but after I read the lyrics, I knew that I could come up with a great package for this. And that was one crazy project I tell you! 16 pages booklet, inlay card and a CD label all in 1.5 days. But the end result was great, Tuomas and I liked it a lot. Naturally if I would have had more time, I would have done something in a different way, but no matter what I`m really pleased with this project.
Masterstroke – Sleep
Masterstorke is from my hometown and I had met them many times at the bars and so they knew who I was and what I do. Drummer Janne contacted me and said that they need the cover ASAP. I had done some covers that were available and this was one of them. Band liked it and they were able to start the promotion work immediately. For the inner pages of the booklet I had more time and I did them like I usually do the inner pages. I read the lyrics, listen to the music and try to find ideas for illustrations.
Is there a work of which you are personally really proud of?
It is really hard to say any special favorites. Of course there are some works that I like more that some others but I can’t lift any work above the others.
What do you enjoy the most in being a graphic designer?
Everything. This is the work that I have wanted to do since I was a child. All my life I have wanted to create art and I think if I couldn’t do this, I would feel really miserable. I have worked hard all my life to get into this point. Naturally there is much work still ahead – I think this is a lifetime journey for me and as an artist you should always try to find ways to improve yourself.
You also create other art. Have you had any exhibitions?
No and that’s a shame. I really would love to have an exhibition someday. Work has taken most of my time for quite some time now and sadly I haven’t had time to work much with my own art.
Finding ideas might be difficult sometimes and designers have different ways to find them, what is your secret?
Usually I find my inspiration from my customer’s music and lyrics. I will listen the songs and read the lyrics of the album that I`m working with. Many times my customers have their own ideas of the artwork concept and I will listen to them. But I have noticed that I work best when I can do my work freely. It is great that many times the bands give me free hands to work.
What are your other main hobbies when you´re not designing?
My English bulldog Justiina takes quite a lot of my time when I`m not working. Photography, poker and darts are also my favorite ways to spend my free time. But most of the time I`m working in one way or another. I think I spend at least 10 hours per day in front of my computer. And if I`m not doing actual design work, I`m studying all kind of things related my work. Basically I`m working all the time.
Thanx and keep feeding the flames!
Thanks to you, it was an honor that you wanted to include me here. And do visit www.kaamos.com and check out more of my works.