Seppo Vesterinen in memoriam

Manager Seppo Vesterinen has passed away due to a long illness at the age of 71 years on April 2, 2020. He was a true pioneer of Finnish music industry, steering bands like Hanoi Rocks, HIM and The Rasmus to international success. 

”Our problem isn’t where to find the next HIM or The Rasmus. Our problem is where to find the next Seppo Vesterinen.”

I don’t remember exactly, who said or wrote these words around 2005. But, not to underestimate anyone, when it came to building international careers, Seppo Vesterinen was in a league of his own.

Finnish music export was living its golden years. HIM had already taken Europe by storm and was achieving more and more success in the US. The Rasmus was picking a gold record here and platinum record there. Both these bands were managed by Seppo Vesterinen, whose professional talent was at its peak.  

Seppo had already gained deep experience in music export with decades of hard work. But at the same time he had kept a sharp vision for the future. He had warmth and emotional intelligence but he could also turn into a hard-boiled businessman when needed. He knew all the little tricks, but he also saw the big picture. Most importantly: he showed us Finns what can be possible if everything is done right. 

Managing HIM and The Rasmus was already the second round for Seppo. He had made his pioneer work in the early eighties: In his guidance Hanoi Rocks became the first Finnish band that broke through the borders. Those days, contacts were made face to face and trust was earned by personal presence. Seppo weaved his professional network by physically meeting people. He was a true self-made cosmopolite. Later on, his contacts and his hands-on knowledge of international music industry were worth gold.

 ”Our problem isn’t where to find the next HIM or The Rasmus. Our problem is where to find the next Seppo Vesterinen.”

Seppo helped exporting numerous Finnish bands and artists without making a big fuss about it, sometimes even pro bono. L’Amourder (Sielun Veljet), Smack, The Nights of Iguana, Hearthill, Reckless Love – you name it, he did it. He didn’t just keep his wisdom to himself – even within the music industry. If a young professional was brave enough to ask for advice, Seppo was there. He answered the call, he replied to the e-mail.

I met Seppo only a few times but I remember them all. He was a socially fluent gentleman whose presence was spiced up with a hint of dry sarcasm. If you asked him straight questions, you got straight answers. He was everything but the eccentric rock manager stereotype – completely a different breed from cartoon characters like Peter Grant or Colonel Tom Parker. He preferred to stay "in the shadows" and let his bands draw all the attention.

Cosmopolite as he was, Seppo called himself a hermit. He was born in Lahti (a 120 000 resident city in southern Finland), studied in Paris in the revolutionary year 1968, lived in Helsinki, Los Angeles and Amsterdam, and toured around the globe with his bands. He enjoyed being on the move for a reason: if you don’t get stuck in one place, you can stay anonymous wherever you are. His last years he spent in the solitude of Finnish countryside.

Besides music Seppo’s true passion was flowers. He was a skilled florist who especially loved annual plants. He told that nurturing them is fun because it makes no sense: they complete their life cycle within one season, they show their beauty and then fade away. Needless to say, there is a strong analogy to pop industry somewhere in there.

No, we will never have another Seppo Vesterinen, but his legacy will live on.

Janne Flinkkilä is Finnish journalist who got in touch with Seppo Vesterinen in professional duties and in the legendary, now defunct Helsinki nightclub Lost&Found.