For the past four years, Kontra Musik honcho Ulf Eriksson and his team have been laying the foundations to a music celebration unlike anything these days. Casting a much more positive light on their home city of Malmö, too often portrayed as a cut-throat area by the Swedish right-wing media, the festival has also taken better advantage of some existing first-rate infrastructures such as Inkonst and Inter Arts Center to make Intonal Festival a truly unique experience.
Described by Eriksson as the capital of “salty stoicism“, Malmö becomes for five days the nerve centre for underground electronic music and groundbreaking audio-visual acts, fostering an all-embracing programme that spans a XL-sized palette of sound colours as confirmed by this year’s stellar line-up: Aleksi Perälä, Arpanet, Fennesz, Alessandro Cortini, Jamaican dancehall collective Equiknoxx, Avalon Emerson, Don’t DJ, Pan Daijing, Rabih Beaini, Charlemagne Palestine, and many, many others. Inclusive to the core.
Ahead of this mouthwatering fourth edition of Intonal, we caught up with festival director and founder Ulf Eriksson for an in-depth conversation about the roots of it all, his beloved city of Malmö and what he has lined up for this year’s edition.
Interview by Tom Durston
"After three years of Kontra-Musik Festival back in the days, I decided to never do a festival again. And here I am."
Hi Ulf, firstly congratulations on the fourth edition of Intonal – This in itself is a huge achievement! For those not in the know please can you introduce yourself and tell us what it is that you do for Intonal and what you do when you’re not busy organising Intonal?
My name is Ulf Eriksson and I am the initiator of the festival and the main programmer, curator and organiser. When I´m not busy with the festival, which I really am at this moment, I work as the artistic director of music at a venue called Inkonst in Malmö.
This is also the main venue of the festival. Inkonst is sort of the main hub for alternative sounds in Sweden. Aside from this, I run the Kontra-Musik label, started the Kontra-Musik booking agency and tour pretty much as a DJ. Keeping myself busy.
Before you set up Intonal, what experimental music events and gatherings were on offer in Malmö or Sweden? Which one(s) did you use to attend?
Back in 2005-2007 I did the Kontra-Musik festival. It was sort of a smaller version of Intonal. I was also involved in another Malmö festival for experimental art and music called Full Pull. It was very good but did not survive. At Inkonst, we provide the city with as much experimental music we can.
The audience is kind of small here, Malmö is a small city, but I really think we have managed to build the scene over the years. In Malmö, no one else does this kind of programming except for smaller underground initiatives. The scene in general is small in Sweden.
In Gothenburg we have a venue called Folk that do good things. It is booked by Joachim who also run iDEAL Records. In Stockholm there are lots of things happening at a place called Fylkingen. This place is kind of legendary for the development of electroacoustic music back in the days. Today they have a broader perspective but still very experimental.
Also in Stockholm there are some good festivals like the Edition Festival and Sound Of Stockholm festival. And of course we have the long running summer festival Norberg, taking place in a small long forgotten town further north in Sweden.
Norberg is a great festival and a close collaborator. There is for sure much more going on but I cannot remember it all right here and now. Still, the scene is very small in this country. Sweden is still primarily about pop and rock.
What provoked you to setup Intonal?
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. 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 for the first two years. They are very well connected and they 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 and Elektronmusikstudion (EMS) contributed a lot.
That is sort of how it started. The festival format is really good for exhibiting experiential music to a Swedish crowd. If you would present the names we booked as normal concert nights, very few would show up. But when it is presented as a festival, people get out of their closets and come.
"Colour is a key word to how we program. We like colourful music, less so the black and white techno vibe."
Location is key – How did you go about choosing Malmö and Inkonst as the home for Intonal? Did you create a shortlist of possible locations or did you know instantly that Inkonst was the place to be?
Well, Inkonst is my home. And it is the most important venue in Sweden for this sound. Inkonst is the place. We have pushed alternative sounds over the years and it is the right place for this kind of festival.
Being based in Malmö I assume you have a very strong relationship with the local community – tell us about the people and businesses that make your life easier and the festival experience even better than you had expected?
Yes, I am for sure closely connected to the local community. I mean Malmö is a special place for Sweden. It has a certain vibe. It kind of resembles Berlin (not really, but still). It is relatively cheap, it has a big foreign population and people are not as rich as for instance in Stockholm. And for a Swedish city, it is a bit more relaxed and free.
There is room for more underground initiatives etc. For instance, we have always had a strong underground party scene here. That has helped a lot to build the cultural climate of the city. It has almost been like a tourist attraction for youth from other parts of Sweden. Just like Berlin in a way. But that is all changing now. The police are getting more restrictive. And of course the areas where these kinds of parties and events took place are becoming more and more gentrified. The hipsters are taking over.
Tell us about the team behind the scenes of Intonal- who is responsible for what and what challenges have you faced together so far?
We are a really small team of three people doing most of the work. It consists of myself, Frida Alkestrand and Emanuel Sundin. And then a few more people help with communication, copy, design, tech etc.
To tell you the truth things are running kind of smooth this year. So far at least. Except that we do not have enough time. WE NEED MORE TIME!!! Haha.
Please describe how Intonal will be setup this year and what people can look forward to? Where the performances will take place, special concerts, food and drink available on site and any what people can do when the music is not playing.
What is great with Intonal is that the main part of the program is at Inkonst divided on three stages. So, you can really catch almost all the shows if you like. We have one black box for more experimental sounds, one club room for the party acts and one smaller room for the more odd things and non electronic bands etc.
We also do concerts in the glorious Jugend church of Sankt Johannes and will use an old water tower as a venue as well. We do sound and art installations and acousmonium concerts at a place called Inter Arts Center, just a few floors up from Inkonst. And there will be one hell of an after party at a secret place somewhere in the city. We will present a six-hour long sleep over concert with Kontra-Musiks main man Andreas Tilliander aka Mokira aka TM404 on the Buchlas.
Other things to do in Malmö is probably just to hang out at the neighbourhood called Möllevången. This is the area where Inkonst is located and it is the area where most of the good bars and restaurants can be found. If I was visiting from abroad I would go to Kallbadhuset. It is an amazingly beautiful sauna by the sea and a good place for an early dip. It is one of the most unique and exotic places in Malmö I would say. Not to be missed.
"We like to show the audience that really weird sounds do not have to be boring. Intonal is actually a great party, only there is no “normal” party music programmed."
From looking at the photos from 2017 – the church steals my attention – tell us about this unique location and the performances that are set for 2018?
This year we will be in a different church to last year. Last year we did Oren Ambarchi in St Paul’s Church, now we move back to the St Johannes Church. It is more suitable for what we want to do and very close to Inkonst. We are presenting two free concerts in this church. Ellen Arkbro and Charlemagne Palestine will both perform using the huge church organ. I walked inside of the organ a few weeks back. For a music nerd like me it is quite an amazing experience.
Lets talk travel – How easy is it for people to get to Malmö from the UK?
Cheap flights to Copenhagen and then a 15 minutes train to Malmö from the airport. Very easy and should be cheap.
Over your combined years of raving, producing your own music and attending festivals – Can you identify a poignant experience that made you realise that it was imperative for you to arrange your own festival?
Haha. No! Usually when I travel to other festivals I always think the opposite, thank goodness I am not the organiser of this festival. It is really hard work and when the event is up and running you just have to solve millions of problems that you cannot prepare for. After three years of Kontra-Musik Festival back in the days, I decided to never do a festival again. And here I am…
Your lineup is beyond impressive! How did you go about selecting and determining who to book? What were the defining parameters for the selection?
Oh, so many things. This year we focused on building sort of packages or passages that fit together. So for instance, three electro acts will perform together in the club room on the Friday and also on the Friday we’ll present a Canadian A/V package together with MUTEK in the black box.
We try to do a diverse program where the super nerdy meets more entertaining performative acts. Colour is a key word to how we program. We like colourful 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 and not dead serious to take part of experimental sounds.
We like to show the audience that really weird 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 us to achieve. There are so many preconceptions you have to work against, especially in a small city like Malmö.
Your lineup also features a strong split of male and female performers (which is great) – clearly this is something that you take very seriously – is there a particular artist that you’re particularly happy to bring to Intonal?
For me, the Swedish artist Ellen Arkbro is my favourite. Her album from last year “For Organ And Brass” is just out of this world. It accompanied me through some hard times this winter and became very special to me. I would not miss her show using the church organ and electronics.
"The festival format is really good for exhibiting experiential music to a Swedish crowd. If you would present the names we booked as normal concert nights, very few would show up. But when it is presented as a festival, people get out of their closets."
Tell us about the visual identity for Intonal – it’s really great! Who’s the artist behind the artwork and how did you meet?
His name is Ivar Lantz. I met him though Emanuel Sundin who also works with the festival. Together they run Fasaan Recordings. They will both also perform at the festival under the moniker Börringe Kloster together with the oud player Imad Al Tamimi.
What plans are you putting into place to make Intonal a sustainable gathering for many years ahead?
Well it all seems like the festival will survive. It has established itself very quickly, especially on the international arena. So the future looks bright. We also get a lot of interest from international press and that is key. The local press and the local audience tend to wake up when they notice the international press writing a lot about us. It is a bit of a detour, marketing wise, but that is really how it works here.
What measures have you set up to encourage younger or older members of the local community to get involved with Intonal?
We present parts of the program for free. That is something we try to do every year. This way we can get people who are not normally interested in the music we present to attend. For instance, the shows we do in the water tower and the church are for free. Also the installations and concerts at Inter Arts Center.
This way we reach a completely new and actually quite big audience and get the opportunity to present some really weird music to them. I love that part. We also have an extensive volunteer program going, where young people who cannot afford the tickets, put in some work hours in exchange for a festival pass.
We are beyond excited about attending Intonal – if you had to pick five performances to experience, what would they be?
– Mokira – Slumbering Sounds and Drowsy Drones. A six-hour concert with newly composed music will be put up as a sleep over concert in our black box. With breakfast and coffee in the morning.
– St Johannes Church – Ellen Arkbro and Charlemagne Palestine play the gigantic church organ.
– Both Group A and Pan Daijing are doing residencies here before the festival so both acts will present new, never before heard work at the festival. We also have another world premier in the program, partly developed as part of our residency program, but it is kind of a surprise to our guests.
– Alessandro Cortini will present works from his new audio-visual project Avanti. This will for sure be bliss.
– Last but not least, I might mention the Saturday after party. It will be special.
Finally, is there anything else that people need to know before heading to Intonal 2018?
Buy me a beer if you run in to me and I look very stressed. I think that is all you need to know. Intonal is a pretty uncomplicated ride for the audience.
Intonal takes place between April 25-30 at Inkonst in Malmö – Final Tier Tickets are on sale now for just £61 / 700 Krona.
Inverted Audio is an official media partner for Intonal Festival 2018, and we’ll be on hand to bring you all the info you’ll need ahead of the festival and show off the best bits afterwards. Stay tuned for further announcements and features.
INTONAL 2018 LINEUP
Aleksi Perälä / Alessandro Cortini / Alexis Langevin-Tetrault / Ann Rosén & Sten-Olof Hellström / Arpanet / Ascorbite / Avalon Emerson / Body & Guts / Börringe Kloster meets Imad Al Tamimi / Charlemagne Palestine / Charlotte Bendiks / Courtesy / Deena Abdelwahed / Deva / DJ LAG / Don’t DJ / Echo Ladies / Ellen Arkbro / Elysia Crampton / Equiknoxx ft. Shanique Marie / Erica Li Lundqvist / Fennesz / Finn of Tomland / Goat (JP) / Group A / Hell Town Acid Militia / Jens Hedman & Eva Sidén / Julia Giertz / Kanyl / Kristiina Männikkö / MAG / Maxime Corbeil-Perron / Mokira / Nada El Shazly / Nadine Byrne / Nev Lilit / Offworldcolonies/Härdstedt / Oiseau Danseur / Pan Daijing / Palomäki / Pelada / Rabih Beaini / Rip ME / Rivet / Sarah Davachi / Shinkujo Lights / Skeppet / Sol Andersson / Stine Janvin Motland / Towlie / Valby Vokalgruppe
INSTALLATIONS, TALKS AND SEMINARS
Best Practicies: Misogyny & Music Culture
Julia Giertz & Lisa Nyberg
Artist Talks + More
Discover more about Intonal on Inverted Audio.