It Ca me
Finnish underground survivor Pekka Airaksinen emerged from the late 1960s provocations of The Sperm to strike a cosmic balance of human and machine in music dedicated to Buddhism. By Matt Wuethrich. Photography by Heikki Kaski
Fro m entire recorded output. Recorded by Airaksinen at his home studio, with occasional instrumental and vocal contributions from various Sperm members, the music cements his position as one of the pioneers of Finnish experimental music.
“I think making art must be some form of madness,” declares Pekka Airaksinen, sitting in the kitchen of a large old municipal building he owns in the western Finnish village of Siikainen. Airaksinen bought the building during the recession that struck Finland in the 1990s with the thought of converting it into a monastery. Though that plan never came to fruition, he has erected a nearly two-storey Buddhist monument outside, gives occasional meditation workshops there, and holds a mini-festival of experimental music in a barn on the property every summer. Walk into one of the many rooms and you find stacks of Tibetan art, multiple vintage synthesizers and keyboards, and shelves full of Buddhist artefacts. “I’ve never had much doubt about what I do. Maybe that’s my strength,” he says. “You have to support yourself. Otherwise, people will just pity you.”
The Sta rs
As the musical architect behind The Sperm, Finland’s notorious late 1960s performance art group, that attitude of self-reliance surely served him well. His adventurousness is showcased on 50th Erection I, a new box set from Svart collecting the group’s
Yet The Sperm were only active from 1967–70. Since then, Airaksinen’s self-reliance has supported him in cultivating the position of quiet outsider, teaching meditation at the Buddhist centre he established in the small southern Finnish town of Ylhäinen, and producing an enormous body of idiosyncratic solo electronic music. Linking these decades of activity is a drive, in his words, “to present spiritual things in a concrete way, to give abstract ideas concrete form”.
Airaksinen’s desire to subvert expectations has been present since his youth in Helsinki. He took music lessons, even playing trombone for a while. But through an uncle who worked as an orchestra leader, he glimpsed the life of a classical musician and knew it wasn’t for him. “I didn’t want to play Brahms my
Pekka Airaksinen | The Wire | 29