Updated: Dec 4, 2018
Perttu Häkkinen, the legendary Finnish musician perhaps best known in the Electro scene for his works as Imatran Voima with Jaakko Kestilä, was also an artist with a fairly extensive solo music career dating back to the year 2000. Having appeared on labels such as Flogsta Danshall, Harmönia, and Losonofono Records as Randy Barracuda, with classics such as the singles "Rick James Is Dead", or "The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions", Häkkinen was also the recording engineer and performer behind many releases like Cae$ar's "Suck My Soul", or post-psychedelic Rock band Itäväylä's "Itävalta" album.
If I remember correctly, it was Lauri Virtanen of the Ural 13 Diktators; another Finnish group with whom I became friends with at the end of the 90's, who suggested to me the duo Imatran Voima. At that time the internet was a very different world from the current one, Google was not so efficient and researching could take several hours. Saving the URL was practically mandatory, and finding records of micro-labels like Kostamus Records (imprint of Imatran Voima), which did not even exist on the web, was really difficult. Kevin Lewandowski had not yet launched Discogs, and many fears and phobias reigned over e-commerce for possible scams perpetrated against unsuspecting buyers.
"Super Breakout", the debut EP of Imatran Voima, was perennially out of stock on Nuloop; the French web store from which I bought records by correspondence, and which made available just 30 seconds of the audio preview to hear with Real Player. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any authors' email addresses to ask for help, so I had to give up.
In the fall of 2001, the aforementioned Virtanen sends me a package with the new Ural 13 Records promos, and inside I find "The Synthesizer Greatest Vol. 1" of the phantom V.U.L.V.A., a record that won me over thanks to the "White BMW" remix realized by another of my northern European heroes, Legowelt.
I read the attached info sheet avidly, explaining that behind V.U.L.V.A., there were the same minds of Imatran Voima. I never knew for sure if the name of that side project embraced the synth disco concept intentionally, with winks to the Italian language, but the graphic design of Milla Ahola, intended for official copies, could confirm this thesis. With patience and ardent passion I put together small and seemingly insignificant details to prepare the review.
In 2002, I became part of the DJ's that on Saturday night, would mix music on “Orgasmatron”, a program on Radio Italia Network, and that remix of "White BMW" ends one of my first sets ever aired. Then comes "Lovespeed" on the Swedish Stilleben Records by Luke Eargoggle, and the new 12“ by Imatran Voima on Tellektro, sister of “Tellé”, from which artist Röyksopp comes from. I can remember "Techno Slut” thanks to a friend who worked in record distribution. He told me to feel lucky because only very few copies came to Italy. Among the credits on the cover, there was the URL of the (then) recently published online website, www.ivoima.com, where I find the email addresses so I can finally get in touch with them!
A certain Perttu replies to me, saying that he had read my reviews of previous years (thanks to the common friends Ural 13 Diktators who acted as a "bridge"), and expressing gratitude for having inserted the music of Imatran Voima and V.U.L.V.A. into my mixed sets that aired on a radio station with national distribution. I think I was one of the first to have supported them in Italy.
In 2005, the release of the album "Commando" on Dominance Electricity; record label of my friend Matthias "Sbassship" Weise, sends me into orbit with both music and artwork. This one designed by Swen Papenbrock, which remains one of my favorites ever. It then came time for the "American Splendor" EP, recovered after various online adventures, and MySpace, the (first?) social network on which users gather to collect friendships like Panini figurines. I met Perttu there as well.
At the beginning of 2007, after an exchange of messages on MySpace, he sent me the promo of "Welfare State Of Mind"; the second album by Imatran Voima released on the Scottish Mighty Robot Recordings. The sound of "Miaminski", as it says on the attachment, back to pulse on a trip based on Electro from Ghetto Blasters, and splinters of Skweee; a genre which Perttu dedicated himself to with Harmönia. A label founded with Tatu "Mesak" Metsätähti of Mr. Velcro Fastener, and Perttu under the alias Randy Barracuda that in fact, puts the Imatran Voima business in stand-by mode.
Attracted by that new branch, I immediately worry about spreading the dictates, albeit with little following. MySpace collapses under the shoulder of Facebook, and in December of 2010 I met Perttu on Zuckerberg’s platform. Messages, comments, and likes increase, the relationship less cold than the time of the emails sent with Outlook and when the face of its interlocutor could only be imagined; unless we had exchanged some photos!
In 2011 it becomes possible to publish the "Love Album" on Sauroid Records; an LP still unpublished to this day from the V.U.L.V.A. days, with tracks recorded on cassette between 2001 and 2003. In 2015 I review with enthusiasm "Akephalos", the third album signed by Randy Barracuda (on the Flogsta Danshall imprint by Frans Carlqvist), driven by the remake of "Mongoloid" by Devo, and in 2016 I involve him, along with many other Finnish artists, in a concept dedicated to Erkki Kurenniemi, which unfortunately never went to port for a number of reasons.
Perttu for me will remain the true B-boy of Helsinki, a bit "mysterious", which for a long time was hidden ironically behind retro-styled drawings that on more than a few occasions, has revealed to me the love for certain Italian records, demonstrating that he knew it much more deeply than many Italians do. Perttu Häkkinen for me will also remain the one with whom I shared the passion for journalism, one of the Finnish scene bearers who helped me to mature musically. That "sound of Suomi" celebrated by Bunker Records in the collection of the same name in 2004, will continue to be there, despite the earthly life for someone like Perttu that is unfortunately already over.
Since his passing, many Electro artists internationally have come forward to pay their respects to Häkkinen, and to the legacy that he left behind. Tattu Metsätähti from the duo Mr. Velcro Fastener, personally comments that it was: "A huge loss, in many areas, many personal feelings…It's [still] too early to speak about it. Imatran Voima had this witty Miami Bass angle mixed to weird Finnish dark humor, that makes a unique mix in the international Electro scene, which can be from time to time a bit too serious and narrow sighted, no?". He goes on to add that: "It was quite different [from] what we ever were doing as Mr. Velcro Fastener. We did plenty of shows together in the first half of the 00's, even as a “battling double duo” same time on stage; sort of back-to-back live set. I haven´t seen shows like that before really".
Matthias Weise, who helped put Imatran Voima on the international map with his imprint Dominance Electricity, personally recounts that: "In early 2004 I heard the back then unreleased Imatran Voima song "Commando", on the radio show of Swedish DJ Wonderboy, and it blew me away. After some research, I got in contact with Perttu and we came up with the plan for a 12" inch release on Dominance. Working with him was all easy and he seemed just as crazy and passioned about the music as we are. With their productions, he and his partner Jaakko left a strong and unique mark in the Electro world. My condolences to the family and close friends."
When Giulia Scrocchi of Electric Kingdom Magazine caught up with Kim Rapatti aka Mono Junk, he explained to her in a short interview that: “I met Perttu for the first time soon after the first Imatran Voima record came out, which was the year 2000. The same autumn he came to Turku (where I lived at that time), celebrating my 10 years as a recording artist. We had a party called Jam On Revenge, and there playing were all the important people who were the first generation of Finnish Techno. I wanna mention DJ Jokke, Godfather of Finnish Techno DJ's, who has also sadly passed away".
He continued by remembering about the event that: "Perttu wasn't invited to play actually, but we got the idea that he could spin there anyway with some of my records. I felt that Perttu was one of my best friends since that, most of the times when he was visiting in Turku he came to sleep at my place, and when I was visiting in Helsinki, I was at his flat for a period of a whole decade. He was a big Italo-Disco lover like me, and we even visited a big Italo-Disco party in Mantova, Italy, together. He was just a great person and lots of great memories with him. He is one we really miss and he was a big part of Finland's second Finnish Electro generation".
Indeed the life of Perttu Häkkinen is one that will always be remembered, not just in the Finnish scene, but around the world, as his music and that of his duo Imatran Voima; not to mention his solo works, touched many who see his legacy as being a key reason why the Electro sound was able to get popular again as the new millenium set in, and why the Finnish Electro scene is one that is widely recognized as one of the most influential.
Long live the legacy of Perttu Häkkinen, may he rest in peace! The Electro community will always remember the life and works of this amazing artist.
Written by: Giosuè Impellizzeri, Giulia Scrocchi, and Santino Fernandez