Beloved musician and journalist Perttu Häkkinen has passed away at the age of 39 years on August 12, 2018. Friend and colleague, journalist Janne Flinkkilä remembers Häkkinen in this obituary.
The shocking loss caught me literally pants down. I had just sat down on a toilet seat at the railway station of Kokkola when the phone buzzed in my pocket. Perttu Häkkinen had lost his life in an accident. What? No. Can’t be true. My head went dizzy. The cubicle felt like a coffin. I needed to get out.
Normally that toilet scene would have been too vulgar an anecdote for an obituary. But knowing that Perttu had the best taste in bad taste, this anecdote feels totally appropriate. Especially when I found out that Kokkola was his birthplace and that Perttu was always drawn towards cosmic coincidences.
Perttu Häkkinen was born on the 10th of June 1979. He passed away in his hometown Helsinki on the 12th of August 2018. The night before his passing, Perttu had performed with his electro act Imatran Voima at Flow Festival. Imatran Voima, founded in 1998, was only one of Häkkinen’s many musical projects. He released solo albums under the moniker Randy Barracuda and played in numerous lineups: Anaalivaihe, Boyz of Caligula, Itäväylä, Otto Talvion Luontosuhde, Tähtiportti, just to name a few. Half-accidentally Häkkinen managed to create a whole new musical genre named skweee. Take a listen from the playlist below.
My path crossed with Perttu when I was working in the music magazine Rumba. My colleague had written a review of Imatran Voima’s album Welfare State of Mind (Mighty Robot, 2007). He gave the record two stars out of five, criticizing the album for lack of melodies. A week later we received a long letter from Rotterdam. It was from Perttu Häkkinen himself. He had written a profound essay, giving various reasons to explain that we had chosen a totally wrong person to evaluate their piece of art. The letter made such a huge impact on our editor-in-chief that he decided to hire Perttu as a columnist for Rumba. It would be lame to say that ”the rest is history” – but from his very first column Perttu became a writer that his readers loved and colleagues appreciated. Later on he made his living as journalist and author, working for Rumba, Yleisradio, Radio Helsinki, Basso, Helsingin Sanomat and Long Play.
As a journalist Perttu was analytical, warm-hearted, respectful, deeply sophisticated and educated. He gave a voice to people who were labeled freaks and doomed outsiders by our society.
Perttu had named Imatran Voima’s last show and forthcoming album in describing words: ”Fear, Self-Loathing, Hate, Industrial Alienation – 20 Years of Imatran Voima”. I am not an expert in electronic music, so I trust my gut feeling. I feel that no matter what Perttu did music-wise, he was always stumbling on the borderlines of emotion and instinct, incoherence and chaos, extra dry humor and nihilism. In other words trying to alienate more than persuade. (If Perttu was alive he would probably prove me wrong with another profound essay.)
However, as a journalist Perttu was the total opposite of this. Analytical, warm-hearted, respectful, deeply sophisticated and educated. He gave a voice to people who were labeled freaks and doomed outsiders by our society. He was Master of Arts who wrote his thesis about ”The Ontology of Substance and the Question of Individuality in Spinoza’s Metaphysics”. Still Perttu treated everyone with the same respect, no matter if the person was a self-proclaimed prophet or in a romantic relationship with her dog.
So, what did I mean when I said that Perttu had the best taste in bad taste? It’s hard to describe. As I already mentioned, Perttu was deeply educated. He had done his homework. He knew everything about everything. He could talk about Wittgenstein and Culture Beat in the same sophisticated sentence. He didn’t have use for a word like ”camp”. It was all social anthropology for Perttu.
Once I remember bumping into Perttu in front of our local joint Pub Pete on a Saturday evening. He was all alone, dressed in his smart casual clothes. I asked him about his plans for the night. ”Mr. Lothar (a notorious Finnish adult performer) will have an erotic entertainment show here at 2 AM. I need to observe and witness the act. He might even show up in his Ferrari.” (I doubted the Ferrari thing because it was December.) Next time that we met I asked him about the show. ”I was the only one in the audience. He never showed up.”
To put it more simply: Perttu was one of the funniest guys I have ever known.
Last Friday night Imatran Voima was performing at Flow Festival. At the same time Patti Smith had her show on the main stage. A friend of a friend was considering between those two options and came to his conclusion: he’d better skip Imatran Voima because Patti Smith is already 71 years old, so there might not be a second chance to see her. Little did he know.
Perttu was survived by his wife and two children. Slowly the shock will turn into sorrow. When someone is taken away, the rest of us should get closer together. Perttu, we miss you. And we all give our deepest condolences to your family.
Janne Flinkkilä is Perttu’s colleague, friend and fan.