Just a Matter of Opinion
An Interview with Kristian Heikkilä
Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström sits down in a red underground lounge with producer Kristian Heikkilä, discussing the complex culture existing within (and without) the Techno scene - and the extreme power of opinion that surrounds it.
Kept secret underneath a three story house in a rural Stockholm area is Kristian Heikkilä’s studio space, where he has created the Techno beats heard on his latest release »Neo Romantik Reflektions«. He started out as a painter, and began producing Hip Hop while in art school in Gothenburg. Sitting in the burgundy red lounge area of the underground studio, he says that painting and making music comes from the same source of energy, and that he gradually succumbed to the latter rather than the former since he found it problematic to ensue them both at once. I silently agree with his statement about the two art forms springing out of the same well, but disagree equally as non-verbally with the notion of simultaneous activity being troublesome. To me, one action breeds the will and inspiration to do the next, continuing in a good-will spiral of self-activation. Music makes me want to paint, painting makes me want to write, writing makes me want to create more than I’ve known before.
Kristian claims there are traces left from his Hip Hop days in his current work, and says his transition from producing with others to doing it alone was an active decision. Based on a long living interest for the underground Techno scene, he moved to Stockholm and left (most of) the Hip Hop behind.
I as well have nurtured an interest like that, although it hasn’t pushed me into making any Techno music myself, like it did Kristian. I have mostly watched the scene with awe, struck by its sense of rebellion and secrecy. Isn’t it reasonable to want to be a part of something so hidden? Something sometimes described as dangerous? A scene which attracts followers who actually have a distinct taste in music instead of a passive acceptance of anything that comes out of a club speaker, that’s a scene I’d happily keep on watching.
»I think a lot of people want it to die, so it can go back to what it was«
- Kristian Heikkilä
I find it fitting that we – two underground aficionados – meet in an underground studio and discuss the underground for half an hour. Needless to say, I try to angle our conversation so it narrows in on the darkest corners of the scene, with varying results.
Kristian has a history as a club event planner, which he tells me of while pointing up at the red walls of the studio lounge. There hang trophies of times lost: posters from happenings all over Sweden, shows and gigs that spark a twinkle in Kristian’s eye when reminiscing. This lonely life of a solo producer is often balanced out by the collective rejoicing seen in the gatherings of the underground, and something tells me Kristian sometimes longs back to the dates marked on the posters upon his walls. His voice leaves nothing to prove my suspicion, but his glasses keep on reflecting the framed posters as he looks up at them for just another second.
»Neo Romantik Reflektions« according to its creator is a varied electronic record with several different influences mixed into the tracks (hence the mentioning of Hip Hop still being present). I therefore wonder, since Kristian has taken a deeper step into the underground scene than I have, if the culture surrounding Techno comes with any elitist weight that could inflict for example this specific release.
»Is there any pressure on how Techno should sound in order for it to be called Techno?« I ask.
»Yes, there is« Kristian says. »Parts of the Techno culture, be it record labels or artists, want the music to sound a certain way. I don’t feel any pressure though, the only thing is that I consider others playing my music when I make EP:s.«
In no other music subculture is there a phenomenon similar to the one Kristian points out. First of all, his mentioning of EP:s instead of albums is important, because the shorter format is the very most common one in electronic music. Second of all, the process of getting your creations out onto the dance floor (presumably the most definite Techno platform) involves an adjusted method of work. As Kristian says, you have to realise that a DJ is supposed to pick up your track, and feel the need to play it in a set, in order for your music to spread properly. Things haven’t been that way in any other musical genre since the 80’s, and this once again proves how unique electronic music is, and how self-sufficient its underground scene can be. Still, being unique and self-sufficient can come with a bit of pressure.
»Do you feel you have a need of being accepted in this community?« I ask Kristian. »I get a feeling that you personally don’t care about if a track of yours is not viewed as Techno by a puritan of the scene.«
»That doesn’t matter to me, if a puritan doesn’t think it’s Techno« he says. »Everyone is so different.«
Kristian is correct in saying so, but I have believed that such a tight-knit community would come with a moral code, one which I earlier referred to as »elitist«. In my most recently passed years, I have adored writers and musicians who have flaunted their taste in culture with enough self-belief and fuck-all attitude to make their sayings true. I have seen this as the ultimate power, and perhaps this is why I chose to ensue a career as a pop journalist. Lately, I have started leaving the thought of elitism being attractive, because opinion is now not more important to me than how I am able to express myself around it. I think I wanted to build myself on credible and crazy cool opinions on music, opinions that I was supposed to pass on to my readers. If I would continue viewing pop journalism as a medium for opinion, I’d be guilty of trying to turn the world into a reflection of myself. Isn’t that the height of narcissism, dear reader, to not settle on finding a mirror to bask in but to force non-reflective objects into taking on your form? I don’t feel the same urge to spit on the taste of others anymore, and I don’t see the point as long as I can write what I want and feel what I need.
This is why I at first am surprised by Kristian’s not caring about the Techno puritans’ approval. As he is bound by love for the underground electronic music scene, I would have imagined him being obedient to its masters of opinion. Instead, he has taken the same path as me, the one that leads away from human value being defined by which records you own.
»I have a two-part question for you« I say out loud in the red lounge. »Do you think there are more Techno puritans in the scene than their opposite? And does that way of thinking affect the scene?«
»I have to think about that for a second« Kristian says and twists in his chair. »The puritans, if we are to keep on calling them that, have done good for the scene and the culture. I don’t have anything against them. The ones who are not puritans have done their part as well, they give and take from each other. But, there’s a lot of talk about the scene being commercialized or destroyed, and that it’s getting over-exploited.«
»From an outside perspective, the scene is in a critical stage where it can either evolve or remain the same and die the same death as Punk Rock« I say. »There are still bands playing Punk, but the genre has stagnated. With that said, there are of course good new punk bands, but the initial excitement is gone. That can happen to Techno, so the question is whether the scene will change or die.«
»I guess time will tell« Kristian chuckles. »I think a lot of people want it to die, so it can go back to what it was.«
The display of revolutionary conservatism shown in Kristian’s premonition is quite remarkable, both reflected in him and in the scene itself. He can stand as far outside of it as to point out its weak spot, but close enough to throw a stone where it really hurts. The Techno puritans, on the other hand, are too involved with the underground scene to picture its spread, and its inability to die. Their urge to take it back to the roots is more cute than admirable, and more impossible than tangible. But then again, that’s just my opinion.