I interviewed musician and film maker David Giese about his work as Joxaren and his involvement with the documentary We Call It Skweee. He was waiting on his car being fixed in a garage in Stockholm.
In We Call It Skweee you're in a car on your way to Fran’s (aka Pavan’s) studio with some of your recordings? Is this the same car?
That’s the one I’m fixing right now. I’m trying to get it sold. I bought a new one, I’m fixing the brakes now before I sell it off. Which is a shame because I love that car, but it’s impossible to have two of them and it’s a drag in winter having a car that starts one time out of three.
Why did you decide to make the documentary We Call It Skweee? What was the impetus behind that?
Actually it wasn’t my idea initially, it was the other guy Iacopo. We were working at the same production house in Stockholm. He was working on Videocracy which is a documentary about Berlusconi and corruption, I was working on this type of sci-fi animated movie called Metropia, both were made by the same production house. We meet there and after a while it turned out that we had some shared interests, one of them being dubstep.
I thought he might be interested, so i took him to a skweee show. He was soo into it, he said it was more interesting than anything he had ever worked with back in Italy. Then Nordic MTV were interested in covering our show at Sonar in Barcelona, so they wanted a cameraman to come with us, so we made them pay for his trip to Barcelona.
Before that, he started working with the camera a little bit, working on some rehearsal bits. Then the rumour spread that he was working on a skweee documentary and after a while the rumour outgrew his original plan - so he just had to pull it through.
One of the things I took from the documentary and Harmonia calling their latest record a family album instead of a compilation, is the sense of community the artists and labels making so called Skweee music have?
Definitely. I think it’s the most important part of the whole scene. That's the perfect ideal in this particular state, when we eventually decided to call the music style something, whats happens is we become members of the same community instead of competitors. You know like, here's this guy making 8-bit hip-hop dancehall music and there this other guy doing it, who's the best? Instead its like we are all the same, saying do you like skweee, or don’t you?
It has turned out to be quite a perfect move after this word came up, we tried to work with that instead of ignoring the fact that people were calling it that. Its really a big community and that’s a nice thing. It’s growing over the world. It’s a lot of friendship, I gotto say.
I’ve been in the music business a long time and there’s always competition and bad vibes, beef ya know, but in skweee there is no such thing. It’s really just everyone really happy about people making skweee, every time a new artists shows up everyone is really happy about it, there are no bad feelings.
It does feel like a big family. There is only one problem with it, the family is just men ya know. There are too few girls, I mean really there should be much more girls making skweee music.
Are there none?
Yeah, there a few DJs and there’s this American girl Belle E Belle who is making Skweee music, but she hasn’t released anything so far. One half of the Canadian band Miramichi is a girl. Not many really.
Then there’s Mrs Qeada who turned out to be a guy, and Stilitsina could have been a girl, but its a Finnish guy - so what ya gonna do? I'm always hoping for some female skweee producer, I think it would be really interesting. I don't know why its only men, it’s the only thing boring about this nerdy culture
The track on the Harmonia Family album that your involved with goes under the name Ransta Congregation. It’s a collaboration. Who is it with and why did you decide to collaborate for this one? Is this a new project you’re working on?
That project wasn’t supposed to be associated with skweee at all. Its a thing I do with an old time friend of mine, who is originally from Gambia, but we've been playing music together since 1995 or something. Gibril Jobe is his name.
We’ve been in different projects, a few years back we had a big West African electro project, with some guys playing Kora and percussion and me with an MPC. It was really nice but hard to contain, hard to keep up rehearsals and gigs because these guys were spread all over the planet. We narrowed it down to just the two of us.
I’ve always been fascinated with rhythmic structures and I get a lot of inspiration from non-western music. I don’t listen to that much club music at all. I like a lot of African music, a lot of Eastern European, a lot of Gypsy music and Indian music. It’s all there, its the same basically. It’s more inspiring listening to the music that is further away from the stuff you do than what is right next to you.
I DJ’d this track in Berlin along with Tatu, he recorded this session. Then Pertuu heard it too, these are the guys that run Harmonia...so they were like...�ok yeah! lets take this track and build a compilation around it...lets make a compilation with a bit more ethnic sounding skweee music�. So my track was actually the first one to be assigned to this album.
It was kinda funny, I really tried to make a project that wasn’t supposed to be skweee and then it ended up on a skweee compilation.
...more of this interview will be available from Saturday 24th.
Like many artists, Barracuda isn’t simply a producer, IRL he is Perttu Häkkinen, broadcaster on Finland’s national “youth� station YleX, and a columnist for HS.fi. Currently on vacation in Batumi on the coast of Black Sea, I sent Randy Barracuda some questions about the differences between Perttu and Randy, his new record B-Side Music and Stalin.
5 years of Harmönia... Wow! Why did you start the label?
Me and Tatu (Mesak) just thought that Flogsta Danshall needed a serious rival!
What has been some of the best moments you’ve had playing with the Harmönia crew?
Sitting in a basement in Stockholm and watching a gay prostitute desperately trying to pick up Joxaren. And Sonar 2008 of course. And Russia, Sweden, Germany, United States...Too many to mention.
What does family mean to you?
Hard to say.
Who are your brothers and sisters?
When it comes to bloodline my big sister Sanna and my big brother Sami. If we talk in a spiritual context I have to name all these Skweee guys as well as lot of my old friends. Sometimes I also feel brotherhood to animals. Especially to cats and squids.
What is/what happens at a family occasion?
When I spend time with my biological relatives we normally have a drink and eat good and then we start fighting about something that happened ten years ago. Inside the Harmönia family we don't fight that much. Maybe me and Tatu once in a while.
Why did you decide to call the latest Harmönia record a Family Album instead of giving it the tag: “compilation�?
Because we wanted to thank all our artists and show their faces to public.
Do you think Harmönia and some of the other so called Skweee labels cultivate a sense of community or family, if so why do you think this is?
I think so, because it still is a revolutionary movement destroying the conventions of boring and safe electronic music. Skweee artists and fans usually are very weird, but intelligent individuals with a macabre sense of humour. I guess that's one of the reasons. The other reason is that one artist's success or misfortune is everybody's success or misfortune, we don't compete against each other but together.
You are working on a new record, what can we expect?
Space age cripple funk. Songs about the garden of Eden, diggin' in the digital and masturbation.
How does it fit into the Randy Barracuda cannon of compact funk?
It's the next step, the challenging second album that will sell 93 copies and make me a total outsider.
You worked with Michael Black Electro, Mama Africa and the Afro B on the last record and there are a few songs on the new record that feature a singer. Is this you? If it is (and I very much hope it is)...what made you decide to sing on this record? If it's not who is the singer and why did you decide to work with them?
I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it's definitely not me. It is still "angel of Helsinki" Michael Black Electro. I swear if you would hear me singing you wouldn't sleep for few nights. The two analogue talkboxes on the record are played by Olli, a breakdance legend from the world famous Flow Mo Crew.
Will there be a lyric sheet on this album?
I guess not. I treat human voice like it was just one instrument among others.
The new record is called B-Side Music, is this a reference to your statement that Skweee is like the b-side of music?
Whats the differences between Randy Barracuda and the broadcaster, journalist and columnist Perttu Häkkinen?
The genes are same, but the tasks are different. In the end it's all about human communication and enlightenment. I have to say that journalism is far more risky business than playing music. So far I've been locked in a prison meeting room with an angry scissor murderer, who's trying to kill a guy, I've been in the middle of a gang-police shootout and interviewed people from druglords to copshooters.
Do you have any other aliases you wish you reveal?
You have your own radio show in Finland, how did you get involved with this and what is you try to do with this show?
The head honcho of Finnish national radio's youth channel asked me to do something. In the show I'm interviewing people and playing a large variety of music that would never otherwise reach the ears of Finnish public: Skweee, world music, funk, punk, noise, electro, ghetto house, minimal wave, italo disco, country and western, euro techno, afro, ambient, crunk, reggae, dubstep, schlager etc.
I use google translate to translate your column, unfortunately the results haven’t been completely satisfactory. What kind of things do you cover in you column?
Sex, politics, drugs, history, philosophy, theology, science, graffiti, opera, freedom of speech...You name it. I normally get a lot of feedback of my writings which is nice. Once I wrote about the pope protecting child rapists and received a hateful letter from the head of Finnish Catholic Center. He demanded a public apology and also forwarded his threat to the main editor of the newspaper. I wrote him back saying I won't apologize to an organization whose protecting itself instead of the innocent. I also told him that Jesus don't accept behaviour like that either, haha!
But, don't get me wrong, I'm equally ruthless to all double standard religions and cultures. I love people, but sometimes I think they need a kick in the ass.
You have just returned from a trip to Joseph Stalin's birth place. Is this something you've wanted to do for a long time? What is it that you find fascinating about Joseph Stalin? Is there anything you admire about Joseph Stalin?
And at the moment I'm hangin' out in Batumi on the coast of Black Sea where Stalin used to relax after slaughtering 10 000 000 peasants. Since I was a child I found dictators fascinating, especially Hitler and Stalin. I was always fascinated by history. I can't say I admire anything in Stalin, but the fact he got 60 000 000 people killed in the name of communism is absurd.
Have you ever drunk the perfect beer?
I like beer but I'm more of a vodka drinker. Aura is the best!
….About your previous question "what family means to me?" I forgot to mention my sexy wife!
“Skweee is modern electronic dance music in all the ways the overtly-polished contemporary club music fails to be� states Randy Barracuda, one of the key figures that took the word skweee from being an in-joke between a handful of artists into a very real music subculture, and onto international renown.
Alongside Mesak, Barracuda has made Harmönia home to an ever expanding number of artists. The label compilations (in a similar vein to Flogsta Danshall’s Museum of Future Sound) have always been at the centre of the label’s identity. A compendium of artists and collaborations from around the world all represented by the multifaceted tag Skweee.
Their latest release is a gate-fold album entitled the Harmönia Family Album, this is no ordinary compilation as Barracuda explains “most of the time compilation albums are just piles of second rate leftover tracks, but that’s not the case with Harmönia. The process of compiling these sixteen tracks took more than six months, since each track was carefully handpicked from a selection of more than hundred songs from around the world.�
This is an international family featuring 12 artists from 7 countries, the youngest in the family is Nero Hetare one the emerging Japanese producers. The elders are some of the most prodigious of the Scandinavian stable, like Joxaren who features on the album with Gibril Jobe as Ransta Congregation. Their track was one of the first to be selected for the album, because as Barracuda explains “we thought of taking the whole thing to the next level and asked our artists to make their own versions of �ethnic� music...the idea took off like a lazer beam in an Ethiopian desert.�20:00 - 22:00