Imagine yourself living in a small industrial town of 25'000 people, close to the arctic circle in the 70's and the 80's. Now, what are your options?
You can either go with the flow and become a part of the system, or you can start working on an escape plan.
Not quite that dramatic, but the latter proved to be the case for Jori Hulkkonen. Born in the early 70's in a small Finnish town called Kemi, he's truly one of the last pre-perestroika generation kids.
Having the cold war, the Inari missile-incident and the Tschernobyl disaster -just to highlight a few -just right next door, Jori found his aesthetics for escapism from the ever-so-imminent nuclear war in the early and mid 80's music; new wave, synthpop and new romantics mixed with some traditional Finnish pop and rock. All things synthetic, distant, dark, cold, gloomy, but yet beautiful seemed appealing, everything from Visage to the Cure, and Pet Shop Boys to John Foxx.
"I can still recall the first time I heard West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys on radio, and the sensation it gave me. Those chordchanges in the intro and when that baseline comes in… magic. It was basically then I started seriously thinking about making electronicmusic."
When the first wave of techno, electro and house hit the shores of the neighbouring Sweden later in the 80's, Jori had his radio tuned in and realized that this was his calling. Finding information about who these people making this music actually were, where they came from, and how they did it, proved to be quite a difficult task -after all, this was a time before the internet or the massive amount of dedicated electronic music press. In 1988 Jori finally managed to hook up with a sampler and a cheap drummachine and started to experiment with production. The early material was mostly inspired by old faves such as the Pet Shop Boys and some Italo Disco records, combined with current house and techno, such as Derrick May's productions and Chicago house records.
"The fact that I didn't have any musical education whatsoever was an advantage I guess. It made making music more fun cos you would learn new things all the time. That's one of the reasons why I keep changing my equipment in the studio on regular basis, just to make it more challenging technically and therefore keeping it rewarding on all levels."
As the majority of the people around him seemed ignorant on what was happening in the world of underground electronic music, there were exceptions. Tuomas Salmela, schoolmate whom Jori had known since 1978, was impressed by Jori's passion for the new electronic sounds, and became an important part in creating a small circle of people who would be taking the Finnish club music to a new level. Tuomas got also into production in the early 90's and together they started a musical symbiosis where ideas and information that was still hard to find were exchanged.
Another keyplayer, a local DJ, Kapa, introduced Jori not only to DJ culture, but also to another northern producer, Ari Ruokamo. They decided instantly that they should put out a record together, and LUMI records was born. In 1993 -featuring also a few tracks from Jukka Hautamäki -Jori and Ari released a compilation 12", Under Northern Ground, a mix of Detroit techno, experimental electronics and German influenced trancey sounds.
Two more compilations followed, Phosphore Phlake ep (1994), and The Jack Is Out There (1995), all featuring tracks from the above mentioned, plus another schoolmate of Jori's, Sami Husa.
"Pretty exciting times, those early Lumi days. Getting your first vinyl on your hands… and also the fact that we came basically from nowhere, as far as the rest of Finland, not to mention the world was concerned. That felt pretty good, showing people that techno and house was not all that urban big city music…"
Now based in Oulu (we're still very much up north), where Jori started his English Philology studies in 1994 after the 11 months spent in the army, he found himself in the impossible situation of trying to run a label, make music plus create an academic career.
The first thing to drop was the label. It made more sense to focus on making good music and finding someone willing and able to do justice for the material.
Sweden's techno pioneer Cari Lekebusch, known for his Hybrid label, was the first victim of the demo attack after some good feedback he had given on the Lumi releases. Cari was so impressed by the demos sent in not only by Jori, but also Tuomas and Ari, that he decided to create a new label just for the "Oulu sound". Later he added some Chicago artists on the same label. Only 11 releases ever came out from the Trainspotter's Nightmare imprint but they were enough to make their mark.
Realizing that releasing club oriented 12" can only get you so far, it was time to look for a label that would be interested in working on a more long term basis, with the focus on albums rather that DJ tool singles.
French label F communications picked up on the demo Jori sent in in late 1995, and from around 30 tracks, the best were picked to create Jori's debut album Selkäsaari Tracks on F communications in September 1996.
Two more F communications albums later, the underrated The Spirits Inside Me (1998), and the monstrously titled and arguably his most celebrated one so far When No One Is Watching We Are Invisible (2000), it's a very different situation now.
As work aimed outside his native Finland, such as remixes (Goldfrapp, Nigel Hayes, Telepopmusik…), productions (22 Pistepirkko, Step Time Orchestra…), collaborations (Tiga & Zyntherius (aka Jori), Alexi Delano…), DJ Mix CD (Turbo: Helsinki Mix Sessions…) and pseudo projects (Hösh!…), added with DJ gigs around the world from Singapore to Sao Paolo, Hong Kong to San Francisco and Moscow to Montreal every weekend might be enough for some, this hasn't been the case for Jori.
He is also running two different shows on national Radio Mafia in Finland, and a residency in Finlands number one club Kerma in Helsinki. Also, he is actively spinning in small clubs and parties around Finland.
And if that's not enough, he has also just finished his new album, Different, out on F communications. Featuring three different vocalists, Tiga, Jerry Valuri and Nick Triani, plus a collaboration with Tuomas Salmela, the record boasts a wealth of musical ideas that continue the tradition of Jori combining house and techno influenced production with more bedroom oriented soundscapes.
2002 also sees Jori leaving Helsinki, his residence for the last two and a half years, to get out from what he calls "big city madness". "I'm a small town boy, and I need my peace and quiet around me. Basically it means that in the future I'll be more focused and more productive."
Winkel van Sinkel, Utrecht
Sugar Factory, Amsterdam
Club Kinzo, Berlin
Tivoli de Helling, Utrecht
Paard van Troje, Den Haag
Off Corso, Rotterdam
Raketenbasis PYDNA, Hunsrück