We interview alumni collective MURTUMA about the launch of their new dark techno event brand.
Collaboration drives the Catalyst community. Not only do our students frequently work together on assignments. But the creative minds of all of our music, film and acting courses are constantly cross pollinating to realise extraordinary projects – both inside and outside of school. This sense of collective momentum is perfectly encapsulated by a Henry Ford quote: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
The MURTUMA collective is a testament to this, having forged their connection while studying our Electronic Music Production & Performance Bachelor degree. Olli-Pekka Hietto (Surma) and Lauri Hendunen (Rïan) are alumni, while Filip Högberg (Antwon Blanc) is in his final year.
Running an independent label, producing music and DJing at Berlin’s most popular venues, they’ve already achieved great things as individuals. And in our city’s thriving underground music scene, such a powerful combination of talents rarely goes unrecognised. MURTUMA (meaning ‘fracture’ in Olli’s native Finnish) are striving to break through and leave their mark with a unique brand of dark techno events.
What have the alumni been up to since graduating from Catalyst? And what is their vision for the collective? Ahead of their 5th of March launch party at Diskothek Melancholie, we caught up with the triple threat trio for an interview.
“We have countless connections to Catalyst and other artists in the making who are hungry and talented, but don’t necessarily possess the network or confidence to get out there on their own”
First of all, tell us more about MURTUMA. What brought the collective together and what is your vision?
Olli & Lauri: One of the main things that brought us together was the desire to create something of our own and take matters into our own hands. It’s also a chance for us to provide a platform for any future talent who might be in the same position as we were before we decided to create MURTUMA. For example, we have countless connections to Catalyst and other artists in the making who are hungry and talented, but don’t necessarily possess the network or confidence to get out there on their own.
Those of you who are alumni, what have you been working on since leaving Catalyst?
Olli: I’m working full time and putting my paychecks into my music projects and equipment! In my free time, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes regarding MURTUMA and my independent label D.A.D. The groundwork for MURTUMA has taken its time during the past few months. While we’ve worked in that area as a group, I’ve been focusing on the next movements with the label. There are some bigger steps in the works that will come about during spring!
Lauri: I’ve been working full time, which has allowed me to start building my own studio piece by piece. I’ve also been working on honing my music production and, specifically, my mixing skills as much as possible, whilst releasing a couple of EPs since graduating.
For the past six months or so, on and off, we’ve been discussing the idea of the collective in different forms. Then in the past three or four months, we’ve really put in the effort and shaped it into what it is today, solidifying our core team and line-up in preparation for our first event.
Olli, when we interviewed you at the end of 2018, you'd just launched your label D.A.D. Recordings. Why was it important for you to diversify your output into events and culture?
D.A.D. is just me publishing artists and their work that I really like. It’s a reflection of my own aesthetics in sound and visual image. I feel that after establishing D.A.D., MURTUMA was an inevitable next step. The two are separate endeavours but conveniently compliment each other and can run parallel.
Lauri and I had actually already entertained the idea of an event brand/collective for a long time, but we didn’t really know where to start. The core group came together about three months ago and that was when we decided to put thoughts into action.
We’re very inspired by SYNOID and ISMUS. Having their scale of status and operation is SUCH a goal. Obviously we are not playing on the same court as these two, but we have to start somewhere!
“As a group, we can accomplish more and have a broader perspective. Each of us has their own ideas and experiences, but we work well together”
What gives collectives, as opposed to stand-alone artists, the edge in cities like Berlin?
Olli: Berlin is without a doubt one of the best places for what we do. There’s such an abundance of music, with the nightlife and culture to go along with it. An environment like this makes it much more exciting. It also makes it easier to find your community. As a group, we can accomplish more and have a broader perspective. Each of us has their own ideas and experiences, but we work well together. Given a topic, often one of us has insight or thoughts the rest of us didn’t consider. You can still definitely have the same opportunities going solo. There’s just a different feel for being part of something that’s not only reflecting you.
Lauri: When you’re in a city like Berlin, you have so many people doing the same thing as you. While this can be a great thing for creativity and collaborations, it can overwhelm you very quickly and make getting yourself heard an almost impossible task. Some people manage to overcome this with superb social and networking skills. But for someone more introverted, teaming up with a group of like-minded people that you know and trust can really help you come out of your shell. Also, undoubtedly one of the greatest things about a collective is that everyone brings their own set of skills and networks of people, which when combined, can become an incredibly powerful thing.
Lauri, as fellow Catalyst alum Sophie Harkins mentioned in Telekom Electronic Beats' Best Tracks of 2019 video, you released an incredible EP,Desolate Frontiers, last year. Tell us about the creative process behind it.
I still feel very strange about that whole thing, since I’m not used to that kind of exposure at all. But I obviously feel extremely grateful for it and find it very humbling. If I had to put my creative process into words, it’s the culmination of two things. First, it’s intentionally surrounding myself with all the things I enjoy the most at any given time – whether that’s art, people or different environments. Then, it’s releasing it all into music through the lens of my mood and thoughts at that time – and Desolate Frontiers was no different.
The project gained a sense of coherence and consistency relatively quickly – no more than a couple of weeks. Though, I did spend quite some time afterwards fine-tuning everything. Also, my love for anything grand, eerie, melancholic and otherworldly runs through all of my productions in one way or another – especially on this EP. I truly feel that this was the first time I was able to translate most of what I wanted into music.
“Geeking out with synthesizers and being thrown into the strange niche of electronic music and sound in general… a lot of it stuck with me and influenced me as an artist”
Filip, how has your experience as a regular DJ at clubs like About Blank, combined with nearly three years of Catalyst study, prepared you for your role as MURTUMA’s bookings go-to?
My experience playing in some of Berlin’s best clubs and working at venues like the Funkhaus has helped to expand my network of DJs. I’m a pretty sociable guy so I tend to talk to a lot of people when I’m out.
Over the years, I have developed a pretty good ear for DJs and producers that actually bring something to the table – rather than just jumping on the latest trend. I’m also sure that attending Catalyst, with it’s community of inspiring and talented individuals, has helped me to grow and understand more about the scene in general.
The role as a booker for MURTUMA is completely new to me, which is very exciting. I’m sure I’ll learn a shit-tonne of new things about the industry that I don’t know at the moment.
Looking back on your time as a Catalyst student, was there any particular moment, event, class, tutor or collaboration that really catalysed your journey in music?
Olli: For me, it was the moment after the first couple weeks of Catalyst.
We had just gotten to know one another and the tutors. I remember thinking that I was in the right place. Time flew by and now here we are! My favourite classes were with Robin Koek and Eliad Wagner. Both geeking out with synthesizers and being thrown into the strange niche of electronic music and sound in general. A lot of it stuck with me and influenced me as an artist.
Lauri: Out of all the tutors, two really stuck with me. Eliad Wagner showed me new ways of looking at creativity and pushed me, especially when I was hesitant. This is something I unfortunately only really began to appreciate after graduating. Cem Oral was simply an incredibly skilled teacher and helped me to understand the importance of the flow and tone of an EP or an album. Also, our collaboration module in the first year really showed me for the first time how great it can be to combine ideas from two or more different minds.
Filip: I think that collaboration in general has inspired me to get better at what I’m doing and to learn new things. I’ve had many opportunities to create together with amazing people at Catalyst. This collective is evidence of that.
“Surround yourself with people who are as motivated as you are, support each other, and things will fall into place”
What’s your advice to anyone considering starting their own collective or event brand?
Olli: With all the moving parts of collectives and events, it’s not always the easiest. But if you love music, and the culture, and you’re up for a lot of work and always planning ahead, then do it! It’s an exciting feeling to come together with like-minded peers and start something out of nothing.
Lauri: Simply, just do it. Come up with a concept, plan accordingly, take it step by step, and keep your expectations optimistic but realistic. Surround yourself with people who are as motivated as you are, support each other, and things will fall into place.
What’s coming up for MURTUMA in 2020?
Olli & Lauri: We’re planning on making our events consistent. But whether it’s going to be a monthly thing, or every two to three months, is still up in the air. We also want to grow and diversify our residency roster over time. With that, we intend to create our own weekly mix series or podcast with a mixture of music and interviews.