Intonal Festival – En fejring af eksperimentel musik i alle former (interview)

April 11 2018, af Alexander Julin

Intonal poster

Af Alexander Julin

Intonal Festival startede i 2014 med en hjælpende hånd fra bl.a. CTM Festival og Unsound. Festivalen er med årene blevet et mere selvstændigt foretagende, hvis kuratering vidner om en særegen profil, der ikke blot er sammenfaldende med de aktører, der i sin tid bidrog til at etablere Intonal. For fjerde år er Intonal med til at sætte Malmö på landkortet og derved gøre op med enhver given antagelse om, at de mest interessante kulturelle begivenheder nødvendigvis finder sted i eller omkring hovedstadsområdet.

Intonal er dog ikke opstået ud af det blå. Musiker, labelejer og booker Ulf Eriksson har været med til at forme musiklivet i Malmö i adskillige år, bl.a. som del af den hedengangne festival Full Pull såvel som Kontra-Musik Festival, der fandt sted i 2005-2007. Kontra-Musik var en form for miniudgave af, hvad der siden er blevet til Intonal.

Nu er Intonal derimod alt andet end en minifestival. Spredt ud over fem dage i slutningen af april byder dette års festival på 39 kunstnere, der på forskellig vis viser diversiteten af den nutidige, primært elektroniske musik, som den har udviklet sig i og uden for Skandinavien i senere år. Programmet byder på enkelte hovedskikkelser, hvis karriere og inspirerende musik går længere tilbage end blot de seneste år (heriblandt Charlemagne Palestine og Fennesz), men også på koncerter fra bl.a. DJ LAG, Pan Daijing, Group A, Elysia Crampton, Don’t DJ, Equiknoxx såvel som danske Courtesy og Valby Vokalgruppe.

Det er derfor også så godt som umuligt at beskrive festivalens profil og lineup med andet end udvandede floskler såsom “eksperimentel, elektronisk musik”. Ud over at dette års lineup holder en høj kvalitet, er det især diversiteten, der udgør slagkraften ved festivalen. Programmet rummer adskillige alternative og farverige udtryk, hvilket Eriksson selv ser som essentielt for festivalen: “Color is a keyword to how we program. We like colorful music, less so the black and white techno vibe. Also it is important that Intonal is actually a party, a celebration of experimental music in all its forms.

På imponerende vis præsenterer Intonal et program, der på ingen måde har karakter af gravalvorlige og akademiserede eksperimenter, men heller ikke holder sig tilbage med at præsentere udfordrende og grænsesøgende artister fra hele verden. Det er et bemærkelsesværdigt initiativ om at vedligeholde morskaben i det udfordrende og skabe en fest, hvor musikken er det primære fokus.

I Danmark har vi kunnet opleve en tiltagende decentralisering af det musikalske kulturliv, hvor både Kolding, Odense, Aarhus og Aalborg i stigende grad sætter sig selv på landkortet. Intonal fremstår på samme vis som et essentielt foretagende, der viser, at det ikke blot er større byer som Göteborg og Stockholm, at der er plads til – og brug for – musikalsk progressivitet og diversitet. I anledning af dette års festival bringer P/A derfor et interview med Ulf Eriksson om festivalen.

P/A: How did the intention to start Intonal Festival originally come about?

Ulf: “I applied for money several years in a row for a collaboration with the CTM festival and the Unsound festival. Finally, some money came our way but it was extremely late, like in December, and we were supposed to launch our first festival late April. A few months are certainly not enough time to book and produce a festival. I remember I went down to Berlin and the CTM festival to have a quick meeting with Gosia form Unsound and Jan from CTM. They were super tired from attending the festival for a week already. Anyway, there and then we sort of planned most of the lineup. I had a lot of help from these two festivals those first two years. They are very well connected and helped to get a decent program together in a very short time. So the first years of Intonal were really a joint effort between Intonal, CTM and Unsound. And also Inter Arts Center (IAC) and Elektronmusikstudion (EMS) contributed a lot.”

P/A: Are there any other festivals or venues in or outside of Sweden that originally inspired you to launch Intonal?

Ulf: “I did a smaller version of Intonal back in 2005, 2006 and 2007. A festival called Kontra-Musik festival. After that I promised myself never to do a festival again. But here we are. A new bloody festival on my shoulders, haha. Anyway, I have always been kind of close to the ICAS network of international festivals. Both through my work with Kontra-Musik Records, my booking agency and also through another Malmö based festival called Full Pull (rest in peace). These network festivals were all inspirations in one way or another.”

P/A: Have your ambitions and intentions in regard to the festival changed since you began in 2014?

Ulf: “Well, of course. You learn along the way. And you always want to do things better. In 2014 everything was produced in three months with very small funding. This time we were able, for the first time, to start working on the festival already in October. This has given us the opportunity to curate it much better. The flow of the program will be much smoother this year, I would say. And the program, for Malmö standards, is incredibly strong. Ambitions always grow at the same pace as the project grows.”

P/A: In what sense, if any, would you say that Intonal as a festival has changed since its beginning?

Ulf: “I think the main thing is better curation, better production, bigger audiences and the inclusion of several off-venue events or “odd things” happening around the city. It feels like a real festival now. CTM and Unsound are not very much involved these days either, so we are more on our way to find our own identity.”

P/A: What are your considerations behind the planning of the festivals overall lineup? Can you specify the musical scope and qualities (such as matters of gender-representation, geographic or cultural diversity, for example), that you wish to represent at Intonal?

Ulf: “One goal is to have a 50% gender balance. But it is nothing we talk about or use to get press etc. It is just something we do. I think the first year we had a balance of 40/60 in favor of men and now it is almost the other way around. But it is not even that much of an effort to book like this anymore. There are so many great acts out there at the moment. This year, we also look more towards the Arab world and also Asia than before. We will also do a showcase together with Mutek Canada this year. So a bit less focus on Europe. Apart from all the politics of booking a festival, we try to do a diverse program where the super nerdy meets more entertaining performative acts. Color is a keyword to how we program. We like colorful music, less so the black and white techno vibe. Also it is important that Intonal is actually a party, a celebration of experimental music in all its forms. It should be fun to visit Intonal, it should be fun and not dead serious to take part inof experimental sounds.”

P/A: Are there any specific acts this year, that you’d say especially reflects the essence of the festival?

Ulf: “Damn, that is a hard question. For me the essence of the festival is the broadness of the program, and the smallness, the intimacy. If you visit the full festival, you actually get a good chance to meet people – artists as well. Artists, workers, press and audience share the same space, which makes the event very familiar and cozy. You can really make new friends. Another important aspect is, again, to show the audience that really weird experimental sounds do not have to be boring. Intonal is actually a great party, only there is no “normal” party music programmed. This has been an important mission for me to achieve. There are so many preconceptions you have to work against, especially in a small city like Malmö. Anyway, not one act can show the essence of the festival. Instead it is the wild mixture. Still maybe Group A (JP) could be a good act to summon things up. They are kind of punky, performative and extrovert, which I think is important to contrast all the serious music.”

P/A: How do you view the musical scene and cultural life in Malmö, compared to that of Stockholm or Gothenburg for instance?

Ulf: “Well, Stockholm and Copenhagen are capitals. Scenes in capitals are always more nervous, anxious and trendy. The hunt for the newest and hippest thing is always more important. Fashion becomes key. In Malmö the situation is different. If you move away from the standard tech house, and instead try to put on some music that actually is a bit different or challenging, people get suspicious and scared. The Malmö citizen, generally speaking, is a bit lazy and seldom super curious. Some say the city has its own mentality. Malmö is a good place to live or to have as a base, and the city for sure has soul and it is a unique city in Sweden. The parties are very good and the audience response is always much better than in the capitals. People actually have fun instead of worrying if something is hip. In Malmö we have a good time. On the other end this is a small city with and the population who like the weird shit is not super big.

P/A: What do you see as the greatest benefits and challenges of making a festival like Intonal in Malmö?

Ulf: “People do not like to pay for culture in this city. People expect it to be free. And it’s very hard to convince the Malmo citizens to leave their comfort zone. So that is the main challenge I would say. To make the Malmö crowd actually pay for something they do not know very much about, something new. To the regular Malmö citizen, a cold beer will always win over any kind of cultural experience.”

P/A: How does Inkonst as a venue suit or challenge your idea of the ordinary or ideal circumstances to experience the musical lineup?

Ulf: “I think Inkonst works well for the program. The closeness of the different stages is a very strong thing about the festival. You can actually see everything if you want. The main part of the program is basically in one place. At CTM for instance I always miss everything. It is so spread out, the program is so gigantic, it just makes me paralyzed. On the other hand, Inkonst is a legal venue, and we have to adapt to all the laws and rules. I mean in Sweden, nothing, literary nothing is allowed. Haha. That part is kind of frustrating.”

P/A: In Denmark, the main part of the music cultural environment is centered in and around Copenhagen. But especially in later years, there has been a cultural blossoming of more musically challenging and independent festivals, venues and bands in other smaller towns as well, such as Kolding, Aarhus, Aalborg and Odense. Why is it important for you to contribute to the musical environment in Malmö? Is there anything specific about (your relationship to) Malmö, that plays a certain role in your underlying motivation for the festival?

Ulf: “Well, I am doing this festival for Malmö. Intonal can never compete with festivals like Mutek, CTM or Unsound where people from all over the world is gathering. I have been pushing new sounds in Malmö for over 20 years. Trying to make people interested in something more and different than the normal, safe Malmö music profile. That is sort of my mission in life. I try to make people curious about new things, especially in music. This is what I do, and will continue to do until I die. This is my destiny, for better and for worse. Haha.”

Info: Intonal finder sted d. 25-30. april på bl.a. Inkonst.