Turku’s relationship with electronic music has been a turbulent one. During the 1990s Turku was praised as one of the Nordic hubs of electronic music. In fact Turku’s fame became a global phenomenon, thanks to names such as Pan Sonic and festivals like Koneisto. However, in the mid-2000s, Turku’s electronic music scene went through a stage of regression.
Today, happily, we are experiencing an exciting change. The Turku scene is making a comeback, and TYEMYY (Turun Yliopiston Elektronisen Musiikin Ystävien Ystävät) are playing a huge role in this process. For the last 6 years TYEMYY have been focusing on creating a community for students where everyone can enjoy and share their passion for electronic music.
I talk with Veera Lintunen (president of TYEMYY) and Ville Vaurola (vice president) about the influence TYEMYY is having on the club scene in Turku.
Can you tell us a little about what TYEMYY is? How did the idea of TYEMYY emerge?
Ville: “TYEMYY is Turun Yliopiston Elektronisen Musiikin Ystävien Ystävät, which roughly translates as Friends of the Friends of Electronic Music of Turku University. TYEMYY is a student association that is formed around electronic music, and we organise club events and underground parties. To be honest the idea came out of a necessity. The city was desperately in need of a student organisation which could bring students who were interested in electronic music together. We got the inspiration from similar student organisations that are operating in Helsinki, such as Entropy and HYTKY. We also wanted TYEMYY to be for everyone- not just for our friends- so we called it ‘friends of friends’.”
So we can say that TYEMYY is the first student organisation in Turku which focuses on electronic music?
Ville: “Yeah, absolutely, because there was nothing similar in Turku at that time. There was X-Rust, which has been operating for twenty years, but they are not related to the university. They are more like a closed community. So we wanted to have something for the students. Every year there are new students, so we just felt that there was potential in Turku. I first noticed that this could be a good idea when I started to talk with people in parties about it. Every time I mentioned this topic, at least two more people showed their interest and support in the idea. So I felt that this association was needed in Turku. Then, when we had the first meeting to set up the club,there were a lot of people. In 2011 we had our first party for Tykkäri (the University of Turku’s student magazine).”
Do you think that the electronic music scene in Turku has evolved over the years, especially after the formation of TYEMYY?
Ville: “Definitely. A long time ago there used to be these big trance parties in Turku, and Turku has been quoted as the first place in Finland that techno ever came to, in 1989. Some big electronic musicians came out of Turku in the 90s. Turku also had the biggest electronic music festival of the Northern countries in early 2000s. It was called Koneisto, and the first two years of the festival were held in Turku. Prominent names were playing there, such as Richie Hawtin and Luke Slater. So there was a really big scene earlier, but then in the mid-2000s there was some sort of generational shift, and Koneisto was no longer in Turku. When I moved here it was a slow moment for the electronic scene, compared to the earlier years. There were some club events of course, in Klubi, and Jori Hulkkonen had his Ydintalvipuutarha events every summer for 12 years. Even though this event was not focusing solely on electronic music, it still served as a place for people to get together. Overall there was a visible lack of club events 10 years ago, but nowadays it’s common that we have 3 or 4 events on the same night and they can all be all full of people.”
What are your thoughts on the Finnish electronic scene at the moment? Do you think there is still some room for improvement compared to other European countries?
Veera: “I think the reason the Finnish electronic music scene is not as developed as other European countries is because of the alcohol legislation. In my opinion legislation limits the growth of the whole scene, because if club owners were able to serve alcohol until 8 in the morning, the club scene in Finland would be more vibrant.”
Ville: “The good news is that the legislation is going to change soon. I believe the laws about serving alcohol and opening hours have already been passed, but it hasn’t come into force yet. With this new legislation, bar and club owners will be able to serve alcohol until 5am and the clubs will be able to keep their doors open until morning. The flexible opening hours is important because Finland can get very cold, especially in Winter. Due to the old legislation, club owners were forced to push clubbers out of clubs, and they had to wait outside for an hour or more before they could enter the club again. As a result, instead of waiting outside in the freezing cold, many clubbers headed back to their houses.”
Do you think the reason behind Turku’s well-developed underground scene is because of these legislations?
Ville: “Yes, absolutely! That’s one of the good outcomes of this legislation. I believe, compared to many other European countries, the underground scene in Finland is very developed. These underground parties are creating an opportunity for up-and-coming local DJs to play their music and have a platform to share it with a new audience. Turku could be a city that introduces electronic music and clubbing culture to other people from bigger cities. We may not often have big names, but the spirit is very good. But I also feel that in the electronic scene currently we are experiencing this ‘age of techno’, in a way that techno is very popular. Some other electronic music genres are becoming marginal and losing their popularity in Finland.”
Turku could be a city that introduces electronic music and clubbing culture to other people from bigger cities. We may not often have big names, but the spirit is very good.
As TYEMYY members, where do you see Turku in 5 years? Will there be more clubs for electronic music?
Ville: “In the upcoming years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a club in Turku that focuses only on electronic music. I think there is definitely a need for this- somewhere similar to Helsinki’s Kaiku or Kuudes Linja.”
Veera: “For example, if you have this very general club with all kinds of evenings- evenings with rock bands, evenings with pop music and then evenings with techno- it doesn’t really generate this kind of community or culture. Variety is kind of good, but at the same time it can sort of disrupt the general mood of the audience. It’s kind of chaotic- you have this feeling once and then you have to wait a month for the next event. So these kinds of clubs don’t create continuity.”
Ville: “We don’t have any cafes that play electronic music either, where you can enjoy your daily free time. That kind of place would be great to have in Turku as well. Electronic music is getting more popular globally, and I think Finland is catching up and there are more DJs. The number of DJs in Turku has been rising steadily, partly because of TYEMYY, but also because of new technologies. Now we have cheap tools which allow consumers to become electronic music producers or DJs.”
How does TYEMYY influence the Turku and Finnish electronic music scene?
Veera: “In general I think TYEMYY generates the possibility for people to participate in organising events and creating culture. So people can also learn how to organise events and what the production phases of these events are. TYEMYY is also providing a stage for DJs to play at various events. Plus we also have the possibility for new members to learn to DJ and mix.”
Ville: “Considering that Turku is a small city, the fact that we have organized these parties with 300 people has had a big influence. When there are 300 people, during a Friday or Saturday, in somewhere other than a basic bar, that’s quite inspirational. At our underground parties we also decorate the space and generate this fantasy land. I hope that people will start to realise that there are other opportunities besides basic Finnish clubs and bars.
“Additionally, openness and being easily approachable have been our core values from the beginning. Our new members don’t need to be professional; they don’t need to know anything about the names of the gear or artists. They can just come and learn.
“Another one of TYEMYY’s objectives is to support the electronic music scene more generally. It’s not only about our events- we also want to support other events. We have a weekly Turku electronic music event guide in our Facebook group which helps us do this.The only exception is that our agenda is to be the voice of underground and non-commercial music, because there are already so many voices for commercial music. So if somebody comes and starts to play EDM, then we have to stop and inform her about our limits. We’re usually very tolerant but we have to have a limit, and our limit lies with EDM.”
I feel like a lot of people who go to TYEMYY parties for the first time are very surprised by what they experience. People I’ve talked with have stated that they didn’t even know that these kind of places existed in Turku. Once they enter the party, they feel this comfort of being in a safe space. They don’t need to worry about what other people think about their dance moves, or their appearance.
Ville: “Yeah, absolutely! The core values of club culture- peace, love, unity and respect- are represented in TYEMYY as well. They’re really old values but still valid ones. As you mentioned, you can be free at these parties- as you are- without the general ready-made script of the bars and clubs. In a way, at our parties, the distinction between organisers and party-goers is very thin. We are organising the party for all of us. It’s not about profiting by asking expensive ticket prices. In that sense these parties are really non-commercial.”
Lastly, what are TYEMYY working on at the moment? Any upcoming events?
Veera: “We’ll have a collaboration with Kirjakahvila during the summer. TYEMYY DJs will be playing every Wednesday, starting from the 7th of June. Since there will be no Ydintalvipuutarha this summer, we hope to fill that gap by having this Kirjakahvila residency. Next Autumn our open deck Tiistaitek events will continue. Anyone and everyone can come with their USB sticks / CDs and mix for a while. The location is not set yet but we’ll inform people through our Facebook page.”
Ville: “In addition we’ll have some underground parties next Autumn. We also have our own clubhouse now. We are trying to set up a weekly hangout evening in our club house, at least at the beginning of the Autumn. Everyone’s welcome to come and chat with us, listen to some good music and learn how to use the mixers.”