Turku Modern has become a prominent festival within the Finnish electronic music scene, thanks to its diverse lineup and venue selection. The festival brings a breath of fresh air into a monotonous set of festival programs by introducing new and emerging artists. Turku Modern has been a trendsetter in the Finnish electronic music scene for the last decade and it continues to surprise its guests by constantly changing and evolving its program.
The 9th edition of Turku Modern will take place 12-15 July 2018 in various venues around Turku including Donna, Titanik gallery and Turku Art Museum. This year’s festival is welcoming many talented international and local artists such as Powder (JP), Bell Towers (AUS) Charlotte Bendiks (NO), Jimi Tenor, Linda Lazarov and Morphology.
We asked Elisa Paakkonen, the executive producer and promoter of Turku Modern, about the history of the festival, the process of booking the acts and the change that the electronic music scene is going through nowadays.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Elisa Paakkonen, 31 years old. You might also known me as my DJ alias DJ Elisa Katariina. I have been organising electronic music parties for the last 10 years. I started in my hometown Lappeenranta and nowadays organise events in Helsinki and Turku as well. I’m also one of the OG’s of TYEMYY. Music is a very important part of my life and way of life. I’m also the executive producer and promoter of Turku Modern festival, and the artist coordinator in our Nordic festival network project called Up Node.
This is going to be the 9th edition of Turku Modern. It is one of the most anticipated events of the summer. Can you tell us about the history of the festival and how the idea of Turku Modern emerged?
Turku Modern is indeed a legendary festival and its roots are in the fact that Turku was where the first wave of electronic music arrived in Finland back in the 80s. So we are part of that history and want to keep the city’s electronic music scene alive. After Koneisto & UMF there was a huge gap in these kind of events in Turku, and Turku Modern’s founders- like Jori Hulkkonen and a bunch of other DJs and music lovers- want to continue this tradition.
What should we expect from this year’s Turku Modern? Who is your must-see act from the line-up?
Expect to see names that you might not be that familiar with but who will blow your mind! My top must-sees are: Powder, Lipelis, Linda Lazarov, Morphology, Bell Towers, Special-K, Jimi Tenor, JESSE, Handshaking and everything happening in Titanik gallery. After we published our lineup, Flow Festival booked many of the same artists to perform at their festival. Personally, that tells me that as a promoter I have done a good job finding new and emerging artists.
Can you walk us through the process of booking acts for the festival? What are the criteria you take into account before contacting an artist / agent?
Of course I need to have a certain budget, that affects how I start to develop and brainstorm ideas and artists. Also venues affect my bookings. Normally I develop a certain vision of the core idea for the year, and then start to think about which artists I should fit in. In January I normally do a huge list of artists that interest me so I have options. Then of course I follow what happens at the other festivals in Europe and try to discover up-and-coming artists especially. Then I start contacting those artist’s agencies, and at this point the artists might change due to unavailability, etc.
This year’s line up is diverse in many aspects. Did you pay special attention to having names from different backgrounds?
Yes I did. These days, as a promoter, you really need to take these things such as gender, sexual orientation, etc, into consideration. I’m pushing our lineup towards a equal representation of the artists. But of course, music always comes first and I don’t compromise on that. The electronic music scene also needs to remember its roots and respect them.
The global music industry and electronic music scene is going through some positive changes. After years of unequal distribution of wages and time slots, event organisers are starting to book more female DJs at festivals. There is still a long way to go but some solid steps are being taken. As a female organiser, how do you feel about these developments?
As a female promoter / DJ in the music industry I have been through loads of crap, to say the least. Luckily, things are definitely changing now and I could say that electronic music really leads the way for other music genres at the moment. I’m very happy that the change is happening but there are still lot of things to work on. At Turku Modern this year we have 45% non-male identifying people / artists on board, and I’m super thrilled about that.
Turku Modern is known to attract lots of people from outside of Turku. What is the reason behind this? What makes Turku the place to be for this event? Can you tell us a little about the locations of the festival and the role they play in this urban event?
Like I said earlier, it’s because of Turku’s history- being the first city in Finland where especially acid house arrived back in the 80s. So the city has always had people who are willing to put in the effort to organise parties. Earlier groups like Hyperdelic Housers (Esko Routamaa was part of this group), X-rust and TYEMYY have been very active Turku. Also there is a more commercial gang called MOTE.
For Turku Modern the key element is the Aura river and it’s uniqueness. For us, Donna and Titanik gallery are the best spots to experience Turku. We also want to do stages at venues that you might not even think of, such as this year at Turku Art Museum. So I could imagine that our attraction is Turku and its history, our unique festival atmosphere, friends and good times.