Photo credit: Kaiku club, Sergei Pavlov
We are Europe: Who is behind Kaiku and what is the history of your club?
Mikko Anisimoff: Kaiku’s owners Toni Rantanen and Tim Uskali have been involved in Helsinki club culture since the early 90’s and ran a bunch of venues over the years. Kaiku opened in 2013 and I’ve been working on its communications and marketing for the last 6–7 years. Marju Rotinen and Max Jaarte are more recent additions to our team, and all of us are also involved with the next-door venues Kuudes Linja and Siltanen as well as Ääniwalli, a warehouse club located in the Vallila district. As for Kaiku’s history, we also need to mention our former programmer Lauri Soini, who naturally had a huge part in what the club became.
Where is your club located? Do you know its district’s history?
Kaiku is located in a block that used to house the headquarters and factories of a big Finnish retailing cooperative organization Elanto way back in the last century. In 2005, Kuudes Linja opened in the space right next to (what was to become) Kaiku and Siltanen followed a couple of years later. This was the beginning of a big shift – the nightlife began to move from the center and Punavuori districts to Kallio and Sörnäinen, where it used to be more scarce, at least when it came to proper clubs and music-oriented bars. Nowadays there’s also Post Bar, Tanner, and a couple of other spaces in the same block, so there’s indeed a lot going on.
Musically & aesthetically speaking, how would you describe the scene in which your club evolves? Do you have resident(s) or artists who play regularly at your venue?
Musically and aesthetically versatility has always been key to Kaiku. Genre-wise house, disco, electro and techno might have been the most prominent, but we’re always curious about new styles and approaches that could work in a nightclub context.
We’re not so official about “residents”, but local DJs who have played often at the club include Kristiina Männikkö, Lil Tony, Lauri Soini, Sansibar, Katerina, Trevor Deep Jr, Marju, Linda Lazarov, Newhouse, Olli Koponen, Emma Valtonen, Antti Salonen and me (Fummer). Some of the most beloved, recurring foreign artists at Kaiku are Hunee, Young Marco, I-F, Avalon Emerson, Fred P, Helena Hauff, Kerri Chandler, Tama Sumo and Kim Ann Foxman – among many others!
Is there a specific mix that represents well your club?
Recently we kicked off our new mix series with a mix by Kristiina Männikkö. Stay tuned – there’s more to come every couple of months.
What’s special when partying in your nightclub?
In general, Helsinki has a very lively electronic music scene for the size of the city. It feels like the audience really appreciates what’s happening. There are lots of great local DJs. Kaiku’s main room itself is pretty special with its wooden floor, not to mention the oft-praised soundsystem. We also have a smaller room called Kammari that hosts various different and fun parties featuring experimental music, up-and-coming DJ’s and so on.
Please describe one special moment during your club’s life that illustrates its DNA?
Choosing just one moment is not easy, but we have done a couple of pretty memorable parties that lasted for 23 hours. Until just quite recently, all the clubs had to close at 4 AM in Finland, so we started the party already at 5 AM in the morning. As the day turns into the night again, the club is full of people and the party just goes on – that was a unique feeling since everyone was so used to the usual duration of six hours or so in this country. Musically, there have been hundreds and hundreds of special moments, so it would be unfair to choose just one.
How does your club interact within its political local context? Are relations pacific or conflictual?
In addition to the recent liberation of opening hours in Finland, the City of Helsinki is taking steps to interact with the local club culture, so I’d say the relations are definitely more cooperative than conflictual. Due to the “underground” nature and image of the culture, it might be sometimes challenging to communicate the needs and concerns, but things seem to move forward. Commercial companies and non-profit organizations obviously come from different angles here.
Would you say running your nightclub also means political involvement?
Running a club or any kind of business can never be totally separated from politics, but the presence of politics may vary from night to night, depending on who the performers are etc. For us at Kaiku, it’s always been important to have a diverse booking policy, which is one way of trying to have a positive effect on society. Another way of looking at it is that maybe the dancefloor could be a place where you can give yourself a break from thinking about politics for a couple of hours, let loose and focus on the multisensory experience and the company of people instead.
Your question actually reminded me of a very concrete incident featuring a local politician giving me a promo sticker of his on the dancefloor. No matter how much you’d like to escape the reality and just get lost in music, the cold, harsh world of daily politics may interfere in the form of a vote-thirsty candidate. Especially if the election is just around the corner! (I didn’t vote for him, of course).
In terms of what is actually coming out of the speakers, politics tend to be woven into club music in a more subtle way. The amazing DJ Sprinkles comes to mind. It’s not very likely that someone is going to drop a Rage Against The Machine or Public Enemy jam at Kaiku. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it has been already done in the smaller room.
Would you say that the current “nightlife” shutdown is a democratic issue (as the dancefloor can be seen as a space for sharing ideas, debating, etc…)?
The pandemic has caused various issues in various different ways, even though us in Finland have not really experienced the shutdown in the scale that some Central European countries have, for example. Anyway, the latest restrictions are prohibiting dancing until the end of June and it has been practically impossible to have a club open for months already. The whole cultural sector and freelancers are suffering. Bar staff is out of work. I guess the main concern is economical, but for sure it does have an effect when you are isolated and don’t get to meet people as much as you usually do. But again, personally, I don’t see the dancefloor or the club necessarily as the best environment for debating or sharing ideas in the first place. Unless you’re talking about sharing ideas and debating on a more abstract level as a part of an artistic performance. The best or most fruitful conversations rarely happen in clubs. The nightclub is designed to serve a different function. In the whole process of going out, it’s the afterparty at someone’s home where you can talk and also hear what the other person is saying. But to be honest, if we start debating politics with my friends at an afterparty, it’s usually a sign to call it a day and get some sleep. There are probably better times and situations for that.
How do you see the future?
Still as a quite distant but bright spot somewhere on the horizon. Hopefully we’ll get (enough of the) population vaxxed by the Summer, at least, and be able to open the place again. I’m eager to hear all the DJs playing sets they have had months to prepare and gather new music for.