Album era project (part 1 & 2)
Two of my four large album era books are done and I’m really pleased how they turned out and wish I could show them to you in real life. The best part is how heavy they are. Each book weighs more than 2 kg and just holding them in my hands tells how much material there is in them. I love going through the finished books. I’ve made them to describe Mika’s career and when I look at them it’s clear how hard he has worked and how many different things he has done. I always enjoy watching his work and I’m happy for every single event I’ve seen and could add in my books.
I’m doing one book for each album era. However, I’ve included Life In Cartoon Motion and The Boy Who Knew Too Much in the same book simply because I don’t have enough material from 2008 to make a separate book. Usually I print my photos at a photo store but during the quarantine that’s not possible so I bought a photo printer to use at home. I need to order more ink almost on a weekly basis but the picture quality is better than I expected and having a printer at home makes the whole project much easier.
I addition to my photos I’m using set lists, small posters and brochure pages, magazine articles, signed items and pictures of different design projects Mika and his sister have done during years. If I have group pictures from backstage or pictures with Mika I include them as well.
Mika’s music means me more than his singing or melodies. There’s much more related to it. There are bigger themes, thoughts and stories behind every song. There’s always also the visual side. Even when he’s doing the most basic shows – those are actually my favorites – there’s always also something visual connected: special outfits, cover illustrations, tour posters and other designs related to the album theme.
My mind likes to work all the time so I need material to provoke my thoughts. I love connecting things, putting details in context, searching patterns and continuing stories in my head. One interesting thought can keep me occupied for hours. I love dreamy elements and imaginary worlds. Mika’s music has all that. Themes and patterns keep repeating, there’s a special world with colors and emotions. Many songs have a connection to real life. Something might look random but it never is, there’s always an intelligent thought behind. If I can’t see it immediately, I will see it at some point later, at least I know it’s there.
Every Mika album is always a step ahead yet follows his signature style. LICM has a naive, cartoon like side mixed with adult themes, TBWKTM is about adolescence. TOOL looks and sounds more mature than the first two albums and talks openly about sexuality. NPIH reveals the darker, quite serious side. MNIMH is the most personal album. It tells about the man behind the music and is a love letter Mika wrote to his family. Each album provokes emotions and has contrasting elements. Even though the melodies are cheerful, the topics are mostly dark.
I’ve added collage photos of album illustrations in the inner covers of the books. I put CDs, CD covers and booklets on the table and simply took a picture of them together. I love it how beautiful these items look this way, it’s easy to see how carefully everything is considered. Every single detail is there for a reason. Seeing the rainbow stage 2019 felt interesting and fresh but was nothing new of course, there are rainbows already in the LICM illustrations. The planets from TBWKTM can be seen on the Revelation Tour background and the masks in the CDs and t-shirt illustration appeared later in different design projects like the Coke bottle and Swatch designs. The circus theme from PDP 2008 got a simpler form for the 2010 festival stages.
My first album era book starts with two gigs from 2008 and continues with a lot of material from 2009. I’ve added material from the Songs For Sorrow Tour, small promotional gigs and special events and the NA tour before the Imaginarium Tour 2010. I print the photos for these books in A4 size and cut them suitable. There’s mostly only one photo on each open page spread simply because the books can’t take more than that, they are already heavy enough. For that reason the other page is either empty or has a set list related to the gig (if I had one).
As an example below is a photo and set list from the album releasing gig from September 2009, a photo from the ice cream van taken the same day and a magazine album review from the same time period.
A big part of the first book is about the Imaginarium Tour. My original photo archives from that time were lost when my old hard drive broke but I’ve added photos from as many gigs as I had available. The group photo and set list below are from Marseille where I was on stage. I’ve added some extra Imaginarium Tour photos to show how creative the stage setting was. I love the second picture below. The mood in this beautiful scene was dark, the stage was made look like a cemetery.
Festival photos from 2010 and 2011 show different colors and themes on stage. The circus images, flowers and magical trees took turns in 2010 (and still in the beginning of the summer 2011) before the glamorous and romantic Marie Antoinette setting was brought on stage 2011. The stage was made impressive with simple elements but the costumes were amazingly theatrical and had a lot of thought behind.
After theatrical style and generous amount of details The Origin Of Love introduced us a new, on Mika scale almost minimalistic style. Suddenly it was all about green polkadots and gentleman style outfits. That can sound a drastic change but if you look at the white and green Marie Antoinette style festival photo from 2011 above and the TOOL album collage photo below, the transition looks surprisingly smooth.
As we know now, elements from the 2011 romantic style and the 2012/13 polkadots in smaller size were later mixed together and put in a new form as dotted ruffle shirts for the 2019 fairytale prince style. This is just one example how the signature style can be repeated in endless different ways. I love Mika’s ruffle shirts, can’t wait for my fourth book to add photos of them.
Releasing of The Origin Of Love meant a new, more open era in Mika’s music and career. I started my second book by adding the cover of the September 2012 Instinct magazine where Mika for the first time quite openly talked about his sexuality. The first event for the era was Lovebox Festival in London June 2012 and the pictures of Mika in a striped t-shirt are from there. After that the stage was filled with polkadots and gentleman style outfits. Quite often Mika was wearing black pants, white shirt and a black hat but my favorite outfit from that era was his old-fashioned grey trousers, white shirt and braces – the outfit he was wearing at 2012 summer festivals, see the picture below – I loved it how the band had vintage style outfits as well.
I’ve made these books to describe Mika’s career but these are my personal memories so I added for example the pictures below taken at backstage during the 2012 European Tour. I’ve met Mika many times and been in group pictures but have only three personal photos taken with him. The one below was my first ever photo with him. After so many years it’s such a cute, happy memory. Karin from Germany took the pic and I accidentally closed my eyes so she took another one. For some reason I still always prefer this funny happy pic with closed eyes.
Autumn 2012 Mika did a European Tour with smallish venues and simple stage setting and I saw many of those gigs and added my book photos and set lists from that time. Spring 2013 it was turn for the Intimate Evening Tour in North America. The four gigs I saw there became some of my all time favorite gig memories and the one in Solana Beach is one of the moments I wish I could live again. That relaxed funny gig was also the first time Mika did Happy Ending a cappella and I will never forget the moment. I wasn’t only speechless after the performance, I could hardly breath. A time-stopping moment.
For the Intimate Evening Tour Mika had only two musicians with him and the venues were tiny. For summer festivals in 2013 he had his whole band and the crowds were huge and again, there’s a drastic difference between these two concepts. However, if you compare the pages from my book in the picture above and the picture below, the transition looks again surprisingly smooth. I saw some of my favorite ever festivals that summer, Summer Sound in Liepaja, the memorable Faroe Island summer festival, the huge Sziget in Hungary and the “birthday” festival where Mika turned 30 in Switzerland, just to mention a few. Summer Sound in Liepaja was a beach festival and I have fond memories of listening to the gig standing barefoot in the sand. The set list in the pic looks dirty and makes me think there must have been sand on stage as well.
The Equality concert in Paris was one the unique events in 2013 and I love the colorful picture I took there and remember how proud I felt seeing Mika on stage that night. Also, I love comparing the colors in the photo to the colors in some design projects he did later that same year and seeing how well they fit together, almost like it was planned that way.
The past ten years must have changed the music business more than several previous decades together. It can’t be easy for anyone and Mika is not a mainstream artist. His music has a deep meaning and message, he’s not afraid to tell his opinions and his whole concept was and still is advanced. After The Origin Of Love he had to defend his position in different ways. Being an “atypical” artist (his own recent description) was a blessing as well, it meant he had tools for that. The visual side was already there waiting to be developed for design collaborations. With his personal charisma, talent and language skills moving on to television seemed astonishingly easy and effortless.
Commercial collaborations and television were not what anyone originally imagined but helped to finance other projects, made Mika well-known on the French and Italian television and gave experience for his own show Casa Mika. Because of the television projects my book has photos only from two concerts in 2014. There were no tours, in addition to television recordings I saw a free Nutella gig in Naples and a small showcase in Brussels.
The next book will be about No Place In Heaven era and about symphony concerts, the Heaven Tour and Casa Mika in Italy and The Voice in France. The last and fourth book is obviously about My Name Is Michael Holbrook and the Tiny Tour, Revelation Tour and New Caledonia/New Zealand/Australia Tour.
Now we are in this weird situation where everything is cancelled. I’m still heartbroken for the big NA Tour. I wanted Mika to have that opportunity and I wanted to see him performing at those beautiful venues. Maybe this resetting can result something good. When I think of Mika’s career, I’m not worried about it. If someone can adapt, he can. I’m looking forward to his document project and enjoy the thought he’s working at home, with his family and with people he knows well. All that brings coziness that’s an important part of his style.
I will post the part 2 of my project when those two more books are done, stay safe everyone xxx