The original street-style photo of Antti Salonen that inspired the "techno interests me" meme.
If you like electronic music and spend time on the internet (I already know both of these to be true), then you've probably come across the beloved "Techno Interests Me" meme. A riff on the popular "Feels Guy" sub-meme "I Wish I Was At Home Playing Video Games," the meme is based on a character standing in the corner of a party with a cloud of thoughts surrounding them, including judgements of others, misogynistic remarks, and snobby opinions about music.
The reason why "Techno Interests Me" remains so popular even today, several years after it first appeared on the web, is because it manages to make fun of musical pretentiousness while also being extremely on-point. How many times have you been at a lame house party and wished you were being pummeled by Berghain's Funktion One? Or picked apart the new Andy Stott? Or hated on Gessafelstein?
OK, maybe these references speak to a very meticulous, ostentatious type of techno head that you don't meet every day. But if nothing else, the meme gets straight to the point, and calls out the best and worst in all of us heads. And it's damn funny.
The story of "Techno Interests Me" began nearly five years ago, when street-style photographer Liisa Jokinen spotted a man dressed in black in the city center of Helsinki, Finland. Liisa remembers the day she took the picture, reminiscing over email to THUMP: "I think it was a Saturday. One of those gray and cold days in the autumn. I was afraid he would say no when I asked for a photo. Many people wearing all-black outfits do, I've noticed. Afterwards we became Facebook friends. I love how he has kept his the same throughout the years."
As a part of her blog, then called Hel-Looks (Liisa now runs the same street-style blog out of San Francisco, called SF-Looks), Liisa asks her subjects about their interests, or the inspiration behind their outfits. When she met Antti Salonen that October day, what she got in return was the simple line "techno interests me."
In this internet-centric era, any piece of content, as harmless as a street-style photograph, can transform an unwitting human into an internet pseudo-celebrity. In some cases, like the Techno Viking, or Scumbag Steve, these have pursued legal action on the grounds of defamation and "personality rights." I was beyond curious to learn how Antti reacted to the meme when he discovered it first, and how it changed his life, for better or for worse. Did he never want to be seen in public again? Or did he embrace his new identity to make his life better?
Speaking with Antti over Skype last week, I realized how level-headed, unpretentious, and "normal" Antti seemed to me. He's 29, works a regular office job during the day, and is aDJ on the weekends. He runs his own party (now called "Techno Interests Me" in wake of the popularity of the meme) and hangs out at Kaiku, Helsinki's top nightclub. We even got Antti to record a vinyl-only mix for us showcasing his taste for dark, industrial and acid techno. Listen to the mix below, and read on through our conversation to discover what it's like to be made into a meme, and about the Finnish capital's burgeoning electronic music scene.
THUMP: So my first question is the obvious one: does techno interest you?
Antti Salonen: More than anything else I guess.
I know a little bit of the history behind the picture and the history of the meme. Where did this all begin for you?
I was just walking in the very center of Helsinki, and I was on the phone talking to my friend. And Liisa [Jokinen], the photographer for Hel-Looks, stopped me and asked to take a photo. I said "OK, let's do it." I already knew about the blog of course, because it's very famous in Finland, in Helsinki, and also abroad. So I very much knew about what was going to happen, because I already had dozens of friends that have been stopped by her.
So she takes the picture, and then asks you for a quote.
After the photo she asked me a pattern of questions that she asks everybody, for example: "What are you wearing? What inspires you?" and so on. Normal questions. I think I wasn't really in a mood to answer those questions. So in the end she was like "we don't have to put anything in here, it can be only your name and age and that's it." Then I got this idea — let's put: "Techno interests me." It was kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing to say, and I knew that my friends would laugh about it. Liisa said "OK yeah, that's perfect" so we left it there.
So what happened next?
I think most of my friends were surprised [when they saw it], and laughing [about] the quote. Well, it was still only just a photo with all of the other photos on there, so it wasn't that big of a thing back then. Only when the meme happened, it became a much bigger thing.
How long was it before you saw the meme?
I saw the meme maybe one and a half years ago, around New Years in 2015.
Do you remember the context when you saw the picture for the first time?
I think my friend posted it on Facebook, and I saw it there. Then suddenly everyone was sharing it.
Did you know that it was you right away?
Yes it was very obvious that it was me, because I could see it from the silhouette from the guy in the meme photo, and it's cut from the original one. Also the first quote in the left upper corner is "Techno interests me" so I thought "yeah, it is obvious that it's me."
How did you react?
I was laughing, definitely. I couldn't believe it. I thought it was very funny with all of the other quotes and phrases. I already had this kind of reputation as a techno guy here in Helsinki. Most of the people who go out, and also the older DJs, had been calling me "techno Antti" already for some years. So it only added to the image which I already had. I didn't feel anything bad about it at the time. And I still don't, there's nothing bad about it.
I want to go through some of the statements made in the meme with you. The first one says, ">tfw spent all my life saving$ on a Basic Channel dubplate / Pretty sure I can re-sell it on Discogs later on." What's your favorite Basic Channel track or record?
For Basic Channel of course, I definitely like them very much, and have loads of records from them, from all of their aliases. The track which I probably play the most is their remix of Vainqueur's "Lyot." It was on the Maurizio imprint. It's the second release on that label. That's one of the records I've played most from them.
And how do you feel about Discogs and record re-selling for exorbitant prices, and the current fad of super-limited records? Are you a Discogs user?
Yeah I definitely am. I use it daily, and it's like my bible. Of course I think about this reselling thing on Discogs. It's a shame in a way, but I also think it's human nature that people try to get profit wherever it's possible. I don't sell my records on Discogs, I just sell them to friends, and try to do it without a profit. About the problem with new releases that come out nowadays, I think it's also that some labels should repress their records all the time. That's actually what Basic Channel have been doing always. All their records are always in stock, and that's how it should be. If the music is good enough, it will sell all of the time. I find it very nice to do the really limited pressings, because there is always a possibility to press more. Sometimes it's not possible with some very underground indie labels, and the people behind the label don't have money to repress it or whatever. But these new labels who say even before they release the record that it will be this limited edition, no repress, I don't think it's very wise.
Next I was wondering about Gessafelstein? How do you feel about him and his music?
I count it as commercial music. In that sense, someone probably thinks it's very good. But it's not my thing. I really don't listen to his music and I don't really care about it too much. Maybe in its own context, maybe it's ok, but it's not my thing. I don't really have an opinion.
Next, I was wondering about Andy Stott, he has a new record coming out. Do you have an opinion on his music?
I did listen to clips of his new tracks—it's not too much my thing either. There were a few nice tracks on the new one. It's more home-listening, and I think by quick listen, I didn't like it as much as a few of his other ones which he has put out in previous years. Still I prefer his music before he went slow. He used to do more faster records before. In 2009 he put some nice music out. I just don't listen to him too much anymore.
What do you think of Plastikman—Richie Hawtin?
I really liked his music in the early 90s. Especially the music he released back then on different aliases. I think FUSE and Circuit Breaker are very good, and there are too many to pick from. if I had to pick one, it would be Circuit Breaker — "Trac-K" from 1992 on Probe. That's very good. It's pretty fast, but I like it. Well with the new album that he just put out, From My Mind to Yours, there's one track which I like, it's almost like the old Richie Hawtin. I think it was also as Circuit Breaker. It's called "Systematic." That was almost like something he used to do back in the day. His old tracks are better.
My next question is about the line "I wish I was at Berghain." Have you ever been?
I've been there many times. The first time was in January, 2010. It was the Substance party, Scuba used to have these Substance parties four times a year. It was a Friday and Panorama Bar was closed for renovations, so I didn't go there at all. I was there on Friday, for Substance and then I went there again on Sunday, and it was more important for me to see Marcel Dettmann and Delta Funktionen that same weekend. I go to Berlin two or three times per year. And since 2010 there hasn't been a weekend for me that I haven't gone to Berghain at least once, so I've been there countless times. Even though it's a cliché, in a way it's my favorite club in the world. Every now and then, there's a night that I don't enjoy too much, but I think it's pretty guaranteed to have a good time there almost every weekend.
You mentioned that you're a DJ, and your friends even call you "techno Antti." Have you embraced your identity in relation to the meme, and has it helped your DJ career at all?
I haven't thought about it a lot. I think most of my friends, if they want to refer to me when having a conversation with someone else, could say "techno Antti" so they know [it's me] straight away. But I'm not sure if it's very common to say I'm the "techno interests me" guy in Helsinki, because everyone here in the scene already knows me.
I don't know how it is abroad. I haven't thought about the identity too much. But the thing I have done, is I started my own nights at [the nightclub] Kuudes Linja last spring. Every second month this year we've done it.I was thinking with the promoter that it could be this tongue-in-cheek thing like, "Hey there's this meme, why wouldn't we use that?" So we used the meme photo as the cover photo for the event. That's the only way that I've used the meme. And it's going pretty well. We attract good crowds and I have total control of the music there, so it's been great in that way.
Are there any other parties, crews or labels in Helsinki that are doing cool things we should know about?
Music-wise, [Helsinki] is very interesting at the moment. There is a collective of some young guys called VAIN. They are making some really good music, but they haven't released anything yet on vinyl. They have some nights happening in the smaller room of Kaiku and some other places, mostly live sets and some DJ sets. For producers I also really like Xinloi. He's a good friend of mine, and I produce with him a little bit, just having fun at the moment. Let's see if we can get something out someday.
Deep Space Helsinki are two guys, Samuli Kemppi and Juho Kusti, and they have been very influential for me when I started to buy techno [records]. They are close friends of mine. And they also have parties [called] Deep Space Helsinki at Kuudes Linja club. They also have their own label.
There are also some other smaller labels which have been started in the last few years, but they are just trying to find their feet. But there are loads of things happening, and loads of underground parties, some of them better, some not good. But the scene is very lively. Compared to the size of our city, which is only 600,000 people, the scene is very good. People have a good knowledge of electronic music, they're interested to go see different kinds of things, and they are open when some DJs play more difficult stuff. People are expecting to see something like that. I think most of the foreign DJs and live acts when they come to Helsinki, they are surprised in a good way. They like the atmosphere here, and the sound-systems in the clubs are pretty good. So it's a very good place to be music-wise at the moment.
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