27 years deep, Finnish DJ/producer/promoter Orkidea has accomplished quite a bit. From organizing raves in squat houses in the early 90s and later an event in Helsinki’s most prestigious concert hall, to releasing on renowned labels and playing all over the world, he’s been on the ultimate journey. We caught up at Thailand’s UnKonscious Festival and talked about those early parties, the role of a promoter, and the evolution of trance.
This is your first time in Thailand — do you hit Europe a lot or North America at all? I don’t think I’ve seen you do any North America dates.
■ It seems that my gigs are all over the place. I have maybe two to four gigs per month and they’re in Finland, Europe, North America, Asia, a little of Africa and south as well. After this I’m traveling to Sydney for Transmission Australia.
What was the experience like coming here for the first time? Did you notice anything totally different than other places you’ve been?
■ We’re in Phuket, so it’s quite intense. I just got here and have been mainly in the center where it’s a lot of parties and clubs, but I’m sure this place has so much more to offer than bars but I’m leaving tomorrow. The setting we are in now, the nature is amazing, the weather is perfect, and people are very friendly.
From talking to people in attendance, I feel like they follow artists all over the world. Did you see the map downstairs?
■ I haven’t seen that but I noticed yesterday at the pre-party that every single person or group of people I met was coming from a different place. I met people from Tokyo, South Korea, Belgium, UK, the Netherlands, Australia, US, and Canada. There are quite a few Finnish people here which is nice.
You recently played Fabric and made a post shouting out the promoter. From your experience with touring, what can a promoter do to make the experience better for the artist?
■ I think the promoter is the heart and soul of the event. Of course the music and people make the atmosphere at the end, but the promoter is the one who sets the vibe and the culture of the event. If the promoter is a real music lover, he or she will program the music accordingly. If he or she really cares about the people, they will invest time and money into making sure the people are safe and so on. As an artist, I go really quickly from the booking to after the event so the way the communication is set up and the way you and your manager are informed is important. What kind of assets you get to promote the event, what kind of assets you get during the event, what kind of tech people and technical production people you have. For example, here, you know everything works and it’s clear from the get-go you’re being taken care of and you can focus on the thing you’re doing which is the best possible set for the people at the event.
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Hello London! 🇬🇧 Thank you Liberation @ Fabric from the bottom of my heart🙏 The amazing crowd for good vibes, Fabric staff for top notch production, Liberation crew for hospitality, all friends who came over and promoter Sam Mitcham for being the passionate music lover he is ❤️
Do you ever call someone you know and ask what it was like working with someone before you work with someone unknown? Or a lot of the time is it just taking a chance and seeing what happens?
■ I’m in a happy situation that my manager Paula has been working in the industry for a long time and she has a great roster of other artists so she probably knows 90-something percent of promoters very well, and if she doesn’t, she’s very connected to find out if they’re reliable. Of course there needs to be room for new promoters to come into the scene as well, but then quite easily you can see if a promoter is professional or not. For example, with my booking agency, if the promoter starts missing certain deadlines with booking the flights or the deposit, it is a warning sign. If those signs start coming from the beginning you need to be careful. That happens very rarely; I think we’ve pulled out from one gig in many years with my current agent.
When you heard about UnKonscious, how was it described to you? Did they tell you it was going to be in Thailand on the beach?
■ I think three things. First, the tagline of the event — “Asia’s biggest trance festival on the beach” — is a very good description of what it is and you do get interested immediately when you’re told this is the kind of thing is happening here. Then the VII stage; I know John Askew and the guys are very careful of picking the right places to do the VII stages, so with that of course I don’t need to worry about it. If they’re okay with it, I’m okay with it. Thirdly, everything I saw from last year and the previous year — the lineup, the aftermovie — everything looks superb so I don’t need convincing.
You’ve been doing this a long time. In the 90’s you were hosting your own events? Tell me about that.
■ I started promoting events in 1992 — illegal warehouse parties in squat houses — so I was involved in this organization taking over abandoned houses in Helsinki. That’s where I started and I was running a few illegal afterparty places in ’93, ’94, and ’95 and then we started doing our legal events under Club Unity in ’96 and we’ve been carrying those for 15 years. We’ve also been doing a lot of one-offs, like a party in Europe’s biggest indoor waterpark, which was interesting from a technical and safety perspective having two or three thousand people in a waterpark. We brought to Finland, with my friends, DJs like Sasha, Eric Prydz, Pete Tong, Andy Moor, and so on. I’ve been doing afterparties, Sunday daytime parties, club tours, big events, and all sorts of stuff. The latest thing we did was Classical Trancelations where we had a symphonic orchestra playing versions of trance classics. There have been three albums released on Armada by my good friend Lowland, and there’s been quite a crossover of classical in electronic music in the past few years. I think Lowland’s versions — the musicality of them — are very spectacular. We did an event at the most prestigious Finnish concert hall with the best orchestra in Finland and a choir of 150 people on stage. In 2018 we did this in a big sports arena where we got 8,500 people listening to a classical orchestra playing trance music. That’s the last thing I promoted. Going on 27 years, from doing illegal afterparty squat houses to the most prestigious concert hall in Helsinki, that’s quite a journey.
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When I was younger, I had a gift card to a record store that was going out of business. I had to use it so I just bought a few CDs, and one of those CDs was In Search of Sunrise (ISOS) which, at the time, was a compilation mixed by Tiesto. That really got me into this music. I understand now you’re involved with ISOS.
■ To me also, ISOS has been a massive influence. The first was a fantastic compilation; for me, it started from the second one on. The Tiesto [compilations] were really significantly inspiring tome. When Tiesto did those, he was going more progressive and softer, which I really liked, and they had the summer open air trance progressive vibe. All of a sudden I got this email last year asking if I’d like to do one of the three mixes for the 15th installation of the series and I was like, “Hell yeah, of course.” Arny [Bink] of Black Hole Recordings — the label who released those — knows me as a DJ and I’ve been releasing music through that label so they thought I’d be a nice fit between Markus Schultz and Jerome Isma-Ae. When I listened to all three of our mixes, I thought the compilation was really nice. I’m extremely thankful for being involved with this.
You’ve been doing this for so long. You’ve met a lot of people, been all over the world, seen parties on almost every continent. Where do you see the genre going? There are so many pockets of the world, so many subgenres, but as a whole, how do you see it evolving?
■ My answer will be partially prediction and partially what I hope it will be. In the last five years, the genre has gone harder. Two things happened at the same time around three, four, five years ago when 138 happened. I remember when [Solarstone] did the Pure Remix of “Unity.” I remember going through Beatport trance top 100 and it was pretty much the only track over 128. The genre had gone all trouse; since then things have picked up and have been really hard, so 138 tech trance and psy have been a big thing. I have a feeling we’ve gotten to a point where you can go harder, you can go more psy, you can go more euphoric. For a few years, progressive trance had been picking up. There’s the whole melodic techno movement; techno is very trancey at the moment. I would have hoped that trance would have gotten into that inspiration two years ago but trance has been pretty banging still, so I hope personally that things will go more progressive and I think it will because I’ve been speaking with many many promoters who are saying they’d like to do progressive trance nights. I’ve been speaking with a lot of the people who host the parties saying they’d love to have an all progressive night. Also, this summer Luminosity will have a pure progressive stage. Lumi has never had a stage all day and all night long be progressive, and now it’s happening for the first time. There are these small signs it will happen. Why I hope it will happen? To me, trance has always been about being emotional and a little hypnotic in a way. There’s the atmosphere that gets you into a trance state of mind and and I think that progressive trance has more of the spirit and vibe and atmosphere of the trance from the early days, like the German trance and early ISOS vibe and all of that. That’s my personal hope and prediction that things will go more progressive.
And another thing, and this is a topic which is a tricky one but I think is very important… how do we make sure that trance as a genre has representation within that genre? At the moment it’s very male, white middle aged if you think of the creators of the genre. I have huge respect to those people and I’m clearly one of them myself as well, but I think the genre could have a huge injection of inspiration if we could involve a whole and wider variety of people as promoters, as producers, as DJs, thinking of age and gender, race, background, countries, you name it. I hope there will be all these new people embracing the genre and inspiring it to do something totally new. There’s been quite a lot of looking back on recycling old music and so on, and personally I’m guilty as charged with that. When you look at genres outside of trance like techno or house or breakbeats, it’s often the young people who come up with something totally new and recreate the genre. This is a huge topic, of course, but I think trance as genre would benefit greatly from that. At the same time, all the old school people like myself could be equally involved with trance as a genre.