Kasino A4 interview

by Steve Watson in June 2009
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Kasino clowns

“We can make fashion out of this”.
Kasino A4’s director of photography Jussi Puikkonen on injuring models, embracing the absurd and turning shoe throwing into cult fashion.

When I saw you at Colophon you talked about Kasino A4 as being this most melancholy magazine because it’s so dark and cold in Finland, but do things get better?
Yeah, this last week was really nice. It was midsummer in Finland and that’s when you get this small moment when the weather’s actually nice, so it’s really important because you get this small peek of nice weather.

So if you were to make an issue of Kasino now would it have a different mood or would it still be the most melancholy magazine?
It would still be because there are ups and downs, so even though it’s this small period when there’s nice weather in Finland you still know autumn is coming.

Ha! The melancholy is always around the corner.
Yeah – you always know it’s coming, but what can you do?

So are you pretty well known in Finland now?
Yeah, I think nowadays it is pretty well known – we’ve got quite a lot of publicity in the last year. We’ve been on the main TV channel and doing talk shows and those kind of things, but somehow it always seems to go that if something gets recognition outside of Finland then people also get interested within Finland, and we got some awards and we also got invited to Colophon and those kind of things, so they’re all things that people in Finland then get interested about.

And do you get approached by people in Finland to do other work now?
Yeah we do. We were always quite well known on the art and the design scene, but now it’s also outside that.

A lot of people talk about their magazines as sort of a shop window for the other stuff they do to make money, and it sounds like that’s the way you find it too?
Exactly, because before the magazine we already had the Kasino name, and Kasino A4 is just one product of what we do. In the past few years we haven’t been so busy with that, but now we’re able to do much more by focusing on other things. Because the magazine in itself, no matter how nice it is to do, we don’t make our living out of it, so we have to find nice ways to do the financial stuff.

Everybody else seems to be in exactly that position. I wanted to ask you, though, about the comedy issue – what was it that made you want to focus on comedy?
The comedy comes from the fact that we always want to reflect the times, and it’s quite a depressing time with the recession and the crisis. So we thought ‘shall we make the recession issue’? and then we decided ‘no, let’s do the complete opposite’, and of course comedy is a nicer way of reflecting the times than all that depressing stuff. And comedy can be viewed in so many different ways, so it was an interesting topic for us. Everybody always brings their own ideas and we discuss the point of views, and comedy was the subject that had the most interesting points of views from different sides.

And what about the ABC? What made you want to arrange the magazine via the alphabet?
Well we wanted to get more slots into the magazine and divide it in sections, and we decided the ABC was kind of a funny way of doing that.

One of the funniest things I thought in the magazine was the letter you printed right at the beginning, where you write to some company asking them about the Pantone for the blue of the cover. You blanked out the company name in the magazine, but can you say what it is?
It’s KLM. I figured it’s quite a recognisable colour.

And they got back to you and replied just as you printed it?
Yeah they replied, but they asked not to mention the name of the company. It was nice – they replied really quickly giving the information, ‘but please, do not mention us!’

But we can mention it here?
Yeah, I’m sure.

Am I right in thinking that’s your mouth in the toothpaste taste test?
No, that’s our art director, Pekka.

Ah right, but more importantly, why a toothpaste test? What made you want to do that?
We thought because it’s a comedy issue we wanted to do absurd stuff, and so we thought what would we not do normally, so we thought, ‘toothpaste test – why not?’ We wanted to combine really absurd stuff in this magazine and we think why are we doing this magazine? What can you find in a normal magazine? And we always try to cross those borders.

That’s one of the things I talked about in the video I did of the magazine – I really like the anarchy of all these things, and yet they’re somehow of a piece.
Yeah – there are traditional ways of making a women’s magazine or a men’s magazine, but we are always going to do something different. We’re not making our living out of this so we can do whatever.

So it gives you more freedom?
Yeah, and we feel obliged to use the freedom because otherwise there wouldn’t be any point in doing it. And if some people are beginning to read it and like it then that’s great.

I always ask people to name their favourite feature from the issue – can you do that?
You mean the latest issue? It’s always difficult because I was involved in some stories and not so much others, but I’d say that my favourite has to be Back2Masku, the colour photo story, because it was just a great experience the whole thing and I’m really pleased with how it turned out, but it took a lot of sweat and tears as well.

You mean organising models and things?
Yeah, and like one of the models broke her leg and she had to be on crutches for six weeks, so it’s this thing that’s really awful, and it happened quite early in the evening but she didn’t complain and she put in so much effort, so I have to really appreciate what came out. People sacrifice so many things. Like one knee.

So when you do that are you away for the whole weekend?
It wasn’t a whole weekend, but one night and two days. The idea is Back2Masku because we did the same shoot in our second issue and it was just a smaller crew with two models, but this time we wanted to make it a bit different. And it’s become like an iconic shoot for our magazine – the images have been used in a lot of different kind of medias representing our magazine.

So are you generally represented as kind of a style magazine?
No not really. I think a lot of people in the fashion business follow it, and we have to kind of work with the fashion industry too because that’s the easiest way of working commercially within a magazine. But we don’t consider ourselves as a fashion magazine – we try to break the rules of making fashion as well.

Like in the shoe throwing story, which is my favourite in the whole magazine?
Yeah – I really like that one. It’s a great Finnish photographer Mikko Ryhanen who made it. We were watching the YouTube video over and over again in the office and saying, ‘we really have to make something out of this’, and we decided ‘okay, we can make fashion out of this’.

Are those shoes hanging from a wire or are they literally being thrown?
They are literally being thrown.

That’s so good. The expressions on the people’s faces is brilliant.
I haven’t seen all the frames, because Mikko had to shoot a lot of frames to get it at the right moment, but I haven’t seen all the other frames yet and I think I don’t want to.

Maybe in like 10 years when you do the Kasino A4 book you can put them in that instead?
Yeah – maybe.

So do you know what your next issue is going to be yet?
It’s going to be the deadline issue. I don’t live permanently in Finland any more because I spend most of my time in Amsterdam now, but so we have these meetings and then I go away and I’m working on the photography and Jonathan is working on the writing, and we’re in that stage now. But this is going to be our tenth anniversary issue, and it’s going to be a celebratory issue because when we started out we didn’t know we were going to get this far, so it’s our chance to kind of change the magazine a bit – it’ll be a turning point.

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