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7 Oct 19

#71 ODJ Pirkka for Deeprhythms

 
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ODJ Pirkka

Location: Helsinki, Finland

ODJ Pirkka produces electronic music based on his extensive deejay experience ranging from dancehall to shoegaze. His trademark is the perpetual inability to find his musical style, while still staying relevant.

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Those who have been around remember mixoftheweek.com - a mixsite that ran at least a decade from the late 90's to 2010. MOTW (and the figure behind it) was huge influence when I decided to start Deeprhyhtms in the first place.

MOTW was a haven for all kinds of wonderful, mostly electronic, music - a fresh mix was served every week for the curious listener and they never dissapointed. Fast forward to 2019 and ODJ Pirkka is now also a respected producer, co-runs the label EABE and performs live. He's pretty much done everything there is from DJ'ing to producing to throwing parties to co-owning a record store to running a label.

We've been friends with Pirkka for over 20 years and it is with great pleasure I can finally present him a guest here on DR. True to his style, the selection is eclectic showcasing his storytelling abilities. Gorgeuous set!

I still fondly remember the days when we were colleagues and used to listen to our mailorder vinyl drops at the office. So much good music.


Hey Pirkka! Let’s start off with a quick introduction!

I’m kind of a permanent figure in the Helsinki electronic music scene, currently having heaps of fun doing all kinds of electronic music, either by myself or with my friends.

We go way back. Your influence as a friend, a colleague and as DJ behind Mixoftheweek.com was a big factor for me to start Deephythms in 2001. Our musical history goes way beyond that, but I’ve never asked how you got introduced to dance music in the first place?

I was never a genre purist, but guitars and hip hop ruled when I was growing up in Tampere. In the start of the 90s, electronic stuff like LFO’s “LFO” started to inflitrate my consciousness via friends like Rico Tubbs (who was a school mate and now a respected artist).

Reading the British music mags like SELECT, NME and Melody Maker in the city library got me on track with buying electronic music records. Moving to Helsinki from Tampere accelerated the process as I was getting exposed to more novel sounds, record shops etc.

You are a veteran DJ in the Helsinki scene hence the ODJ moniker - can you tell us a little about how you started with DJ’ing in the first place and what motivated you back then? You’ve never restricted yourself to a certain genre.

Pirkka_29_pieni.jpg

Basically I had started buying records a couple of years earlier - previously I would mostly buy cassettes and also home tape tons of stuff. I would sit at my home with a turntable and a CD player, and play records without a mixer - just making a nice selection just for myself. 

In the house parties I would man the home stereo, respecting partygoers wishes but getting immersed in selecting the evening’s music based on what was available.

At some point deejaying just seemed like a natural next step and I got the Technics turntables. I didn’t really think about this beforehand that much… I remember having about one crate full of records when I started.

These days you’re concentrating more on you producer side when performing - does the motivation to still come from the same original source or has it changed? 

Cool question, I never really thought about what motivated me when I started - deejaying was simply FUN and it was also a way to expose myself to people and get some love and recognition in return.

I always kept a pretty high bar on what music I could represent, so that instead of just serving the crowd I felt more like a servant of the music. I’ve always had an emotional connection to what I’m playing, perhaps being even too serious about it sometimes. 

Creating my own tracks, the experience is even more personal. Some of my songs are directly about some of the experiences I’ve had in my life, some just display an energy or vibe that I have.

What currently motivates me is the desire to see how far I can push the music stuff, and also using music as a tool for self-reflection and healing.

Speaking of ODJ Pirkka the producer, I feel like we're living quite exciting times musically - there’s tons of great new music around. Tell us a little about your approach to making music?


Pirkka's Floor Mind EP just came out!

Often I just go through new presets or sounds with keys and some of them seem to suggest a riff, which becomes a starting point for a track. Sometimes I get a more conceptual idea that I want to execute, like “nerdy eurodance with vocals and an mc”.

Other times I simply try to copy a certain track by another artist, and after fifteen minutes of copying the track has already begun a life of its own, but when finished it still retains some influence from the original “target”.

Lastly, I often hear music in my dreams or when in a half-awake state. Sometimes I can record them before they disappear, and some of those snippets have become parts of my productions.

You’re also performing live. How do you build your live set and how much room for improvisation do you leave?

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My liveset 1.0 used to be a sort of DJ-set with all the bells and whistles - playing my own mostly unreleased material with stutter edits, FX, samples, echo, flanger, touch of live synth and even microphone for addressing the crowd in a modified voice. I really enjoyed building a dream DJ-setup with Ableton Live, and using Traktor S2 for crossfader and other things. 

I have now rebooted the whole thing, and started a 8-track system where I use Ableton Push and Novation LaunchControl XL to build & mix the songs from their components.

This gives me much more room to improvise and mix every song live. I can also tweak knobs realtime to make every set more unique. I don’t think I will be programming beats live or playing keys, I will save that for later when I have more experience and skill. :)

Even in this new 8-track setup there is the question of whether to use pre-baked stems or actual VST plugins for the tracks. I’m currently opting for the latter, effectively playing “cover versions of my own songs” or just inventing new ones.

I’m very hyped about playing my first live set 2.0 this week at Merikerho!

Tell us a good story about a club night where you were DJ'ing and suddenly... 

Well last friday, I was playing at this unnamed big club and the night was early, the place wasn’t packed by any means…

I start my kinda dark and uncompromising industrial techno set at midnight in the small room. Few minutes in, a crapload of intoxicated party people storm in and fill the small room, screaming, hollering and dancing wildly to my artsy techno sounds.

Weird flex but okay, I proceed to continue my set and about half an hour later, most of them have deserted my dancefloor and it’s back to a way more sparse gathering of people who look more like music heads.

I was scratching my head a bit, but there was a rational explanation: the big room had a super experimental live set that coincided with my set, giving an eclectic boost to the small room where I was playing… =D

Can you tell us a little more about your current musical endeavours? We haven’t touched the fact that you are also part of the EABE label.

I’ve been spending quite a lot of time working on my label EABE (acronym for “explore and be explored”) and am currently hoping it will start taking a little bit less of my time. I enjoy label work, but it can be a bit stressful at times too.

In the studio I’m on a “no longer THAT steep” learning curve, just happy to spend hours on the DAW whenever I can, working on my tracks or remixes… and learning more and more.

What I really enjoy is working with others, and currently I have couple of notable collaborations ongoing.

Together with Santtu XL (of RAD/Pollination Records) we have a group called Gaia Uplink, focused on a sort of sunny solarpunk scifi (google it!) inspired vibe, trying to get an EP out through EABE in 2020.

Other, yet untitled project is with San.dr0 and Jori Hulkkonen, this is more on a darker “washing machine techno” tip. Hoping that project will get a release next year too, somewhere!

How do you divide your time between running a label, DJ’ing and producing music?

Hard to say, it kind of depends on the month or week. Producing is the top priority however, label second and deejaying comes third. I’ve started to enjoy deejaying more lately again though

Do you have any fond musical memories from your childhood, like what was the first record or a song that made a lasting impression on you? 

I have many music memories from childhood… the one I would like to mention is Finnish punk band Eppu Normaali around year 1980.

I was five years old and I had just moved to a new city. I remember swinging at a playground near our home and having just been swept away by some punk rock song about cops beating people up, that I had listened to on my dad’s stereo at home.

What would you consider to be the five most personal records to you and why?

OMG. All time charts - something like this can never be really accurate…

Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness. This song just moves me deeply and it feels like I can never get tired of it.

Michael Watford - Holding On. Great song for tougher times in life, especially emotional impasses. 5/5

Blaze - Lovelee Dae. Memories from the mid-90s and the pioneering Helsinki House Underground. (Timo's note: Marcellus Pittman ended his sunrise set at Dimension in 2018 with this! A very emotional moment.)

Archie Shepp - Attica Blues LP. Just an amazing, varied, LP based in jazz.

Joe Smooth - Promised Land. The first time I heard this on a floor, I had just bought a beverage. At the end of the song, I had not taken a single sip but the glass was alredy half empty. Need I say more? Sure, everybody knows this song, but the feeling of unity in this track is simply universal, even timeless.

You know a lot of people and have curated a lot of shows, who are the artists and DJ’s you think deserve more attention than they get currently? 

I would say Pascale Project, DJ Lifegoals, san.dr0, Olli Koponen, Erykah Shalii...

Can you describe a perfect ODJ Pirkka set in a club, what are the ingredients? 

The recipe is secret, but it contains things that can be dark, deep, demented, ethereal, funky, rolling, rough, skippy, testifying, trancy, unique, uplifting...

So the mix, can you tell us a little something about that? 

We were hanging out at my summer cabin with my EABE crew of DJ Lifegoals and DJ Patsy, and I had a traktor setup there with a giant portable bluetooth speaker - probably for practicing my live set.

I decided to record a set pretty spontaneously, just playing some stuff I had in my recent folders at the time. I haven’t really heard it after the summer, so I’m looking forward to checking out again when it goes live. =)

Many thanks, anything else?

Congrats on having kept the DeepRhythms platform going for, what, nearly two decades already… I can see there’s some kind of renaissance going on with your new label, very dope! So happy to see that the old guard like you and me are still coming up with new schemes and tings =)

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