October 27th, 1996. I have been picked up from the Helsinki International Airport by two youngsters who are planning a new finnish music label, Sävel recordings. My head is spinning; I have never been to Finland before, the language sounds strange and the breakfast at the plane was unedible.
It is dawning as we cruise past the sleeping suburbs of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. I wonder where have all the people gone? This sure does not look like a capital city.
Suddenly I am astonished by the impressive view that opens before us. "Ah, this part of the town is called Merihaka", speaks the driver as if he could read my mind. "This is where we live", continues the other. I gasp for breath. Feelings of disgust and fear blend with fascination and respect. It takes some time to be able to mumble: "co.. Could we stop for a .. moment?"
I grab my camera with me and stumble out of the car. The guys seem to be pleased with my reaction. I hear them snicker: "HE is the one to take care of our visual design".
"Take a look at this building. It's called 'The Coconut Factory', because it housed a fruit import company many decades ago. In the 80's it was abandoned by the company and a group of artists, musicians and students took it over", explains the driver. "It was The Place to have underground house and techno parties... in the 'Summer of Love' we used to have a day party in the Hakaniemi Beach every saturday. At night the music would continue in The Coconut Factory.. <sigh> Those were the times, my man!".
"Everything was stopped as the State Cops organized an assault to the factory. The local citizens had been complaining about 'the young criminals hanging around the factory, drinking licquors and playing loud music at night'. The building is now protected by security guards and electric alarm systems."
"No parties have been held there since 1992, but my mind's eye can still see faint lights behind the broken windows, dancing to the warm Rhythims of ragtime..."
"Just look at this beach", they continue, "some years ago one could swim here, take sand baths and have a drink at the beach bar. Now, the heavy industry has polluted the water, ruined the scenery and that way driven away all the people..."
"What a glorious history this place has", I think to myself, "but look at it now". So sad.
The biggest culprit for the decline of Merihaka is obvious: a massive charcoal power plant that produces toxic fumes directly into the heart of the city.
This place makes me realize how strong effect the environment has on the works of artists and musicians. It can be heard in the techno and electro sound of Detroit, in the hip hop of french ghetto, as well as on the pirate radio waves of London suburbs.
Merihaka seems to be the perfect place to start a new musical movement.