Vivisektio: Hardcore Punk Above The Arctic Circle

Originally formed in late 1983 in Lapland, Vivisektio reformed to bring back the original Finnish hardcore punk sound to a new generation.

📸 Sami Kuosmanen

Formed in late 1983 as Vendetta and later called it a day in May 1986, Vivisektio from the village of Äkäslompolo in the Lapland region in Finland were among the world’s northernmost bands at the time; they were also one of the first Finnish punk bands with female members (Kirsi and Satu).

Original bassist Pena (Pentti Kaulanen, interviewed below) and guitarist Pekka reformed Vivisektio in the city of Oulu in early 2008, adding two new members to the band, with the intention of breathing new life into the old songs, as well as touring and writing some brand new tunes of fast Finnish hardcore punk.

vivisektio-2021

Hello, it’s great speaking to you! Let’s begin with the story of when you first get interested in punk. Can you walk us through the history of the band and what does being a punk mean to you? Is it somewhat different compared to back then when you started the band?

Thank you! I didn’t listen to music at all before punk rock. It hit me when I was a teenager in 1979. It was an impressive moment and I can say that it changed my life. Punk was new, different and exciting. Nothing like I had experienced before. 

In 1980, I was into rough punk bands like UK Subs, Dead Kennedys, Cockney Rejects, Widows, and Lama. I didn’t like the idea that punk turned to new wave in 1980. In 1981, I found British Oi! bands, I also found Discharge, Exploited, Terveet Kädet, Kaaos and all those early American hardcore bands. I didn’t have money to buy records, but I usually c-taped hundreds of punk records. 

I tried to form a punk band in 1980 with my cousin, but it failed because there weren’t young people in our village who would have liked to play with us. I think it was 1982 when me [Pena] and Pekka started to plan to form a hardcore punk band, but it didn’t happen before 1983 due to finding it difficult to find drummer and singer.

We were really bad musicians back then and the instruments were expensive, so it took time to get the band together. None of us had played in any band before. We started as Vendetta in 1983 but we changed the band’s name to Vivisektio in 1984 when Kirsi and Satu joined the band. Kirsi is Pekka’s sister, they are twins.

vivisektio-1985
Vivisektio at Pietarsaari 29.6.1985. 📸 Heli Kaulanen.

You broke up the band in 1986, I guess without releasing anything at the time. Why did you get together as Vivisektio more than 20 years later? I’ve heard your drummer was also in Totuus, a band I think I’ve heard as a name decades ago.

Yes, we disbanded in 1986. We did not release anything in the ‘80s and this was the main reason why me and Pekka put the band together in 2008. I think we did some good songs and we want to release them.

Yes, Miikka was in Totuus from mid-‘90s to early 2000s. By the way, I played bass for one gig in Totuus in 2013.

If I’m not mistaken, you come from Äkäslompolo, which is a village in Lapland. Is this the northernmost place in the world where hardcore punk music could exist? How’s life up there and what’s the most fascinating thing about your birthplace?

Äkäslompolo is a small village in northwestern Lapland. It is located 140 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Only 200 people lived in Äkäslompolo all year round in the early ‘80s but there were thousands of tourists in springtime skiing there. There were only about 15 teenagers in our village in the early ‘80s, but for some reason about 10 of them were punks!

There weren’t any other punk bands in Äkäslompolo, not even normal rock bands. There was a couple new wave bands in bigger neighbor villages of Äkäslompolo in 1979 – 81, but Vivisektio was first hardcore punk band in our region for sure. There weren’t any rock concerts in Äkäslompolo back then, but there was a venue in Kolari (about 40 kilometers from Äkäslompolo). There some new wave bands like Eppu Normaali, Ratsia, Vaavi, Pelle Miljoona etc. visited. It was the time when new wave was very popular among teenagers and teen magazines wrote about it. But when it ended in 1981 there wasn’t anything. There were hardcore punk gigs in Rovaniemi and Oulu couple times in early and mid-’80s. Punk gigs were very rare then in Finland. There was only a couple of hardcore punk gigs per year.

vivisektio-1986-collage
Vivisektio 1985-1986. 📸 Heli Kaulanen

When we started the band in 1983 we were 15-17 years old. We were the first strange looking hardcore punks in our area, so people were amazed and even terrified. They haven’t seen a girl with an iroquois haircut before. I’m sure that our singer Kirsi was the first woman with an iroquois haircut above the Arctic Circle! Lapland’s punk scene was isolated due to long distances and poor public transportation. Äkäslompolo is 1000 km away from the capital Helsinki!

There were a couple of dozen punks in other small Northern Lapland villages back then. We had contacts mostly with Lapland punks, but sure we had contacts with other punks in Southern Finland too. I wrote many letters a week. We went to festivals in southern Finland and met our friends. Many punks moved from Northern Lapland to Rovaniemi or Oulu for school or job. In 1987 there wasn’t a punk scene in Lapland anymore.

lapland-punx-picnic-1986
”Lapland Punx Picnic” at Lieto Punk Festival, 26.7.1986. 📸 Tarja Yliniemi

Let’s dive into your discography and the message you’re trying to convey with the band. What are the main themes that we can find within your songs? Did you try to emulate the style of the old bands like Kaaos, Rattus, Kohu-63, Destrucktions, etc. in the beginning? Do you have lyrics that are specific to the life and political climate in Finland?

Kaaos was perhaps the most important band for us you mentioned. Our music was pretty slow in the ‘80s, compared to what we play today. In our lyrics we deal with everything we think is wrong. For example, we condemn right-wing patriotism and fascism, racism, the destruction of nature. 

The first LP1984 was released in 2011, followed by a couple of short EPs and cassette comps of early demos.

vivisektio-akc-medika
Vivisektio at AKC Medika in Zagreb

What do you think made the Finnish hardcore punk so unique and interesting? Are there any particular bands and people you really admire after so many years? Also, what about the general stereotypes about punk in Finland being filled with drugs, alcoholism, nihilism, and depression? Did Finnish punks also make connections with the punk scene in the former USSR, and especially Baltic republics like Estonia that were so close to the border?

Maybe the Finnish language sounded exotic and hardcore punk was more aggressive here than in England, for example. I appreciate bands like Lama, Rattus, Terveet Kädet. Vote Vasko of the P. Tuotanto label was also an important person for the Finnish punk.

The drinking culture of Finns was reflected in punk in the ‘80s. Punks were often really drunk at gigs. Many of the ‘80s punks became alcoholics and drug addicts. Today, alcohol use is much more restrained at gigs. Bands don’t perform as heavily drunk as was in the ‘80s.

Finnish punk bands are still touring in Russia, Estonia and Latvia. Well, maybe not in Russia in the near future. We have played in Petrozavodsk and St. Petersburg though.

vivisektio-2016

Your band name clearly comes from the animal rights movement, and especially the longstanding opposition to vivisection. This was a popular theme in Britain with the rise of the anarcho punk and hardcore scenes in the ‘80s. Was it popular to be an animal rights activist in the heyday of the punk scene in Finland, or was it something that came later?

Yes, the band’s name and our ‘80s music took inspiration from British anarcho punk. Vegetarianism and talking about animal rights was not common in the punk scene of the early ‘80s. It came in later in the mid-’80s.

Do you listen to a lot of modern crust, hardcore and punk bands now? In what direction is Vivisektio going to move further, sound-wise, if you’re going to write new songs?

We actively follow the modern hardcore punk scene. Although, we will probably stay in the current music style. Fast ‘80s influenced Finnish hardcore punk is what we do. We also have some anarcho / post-punk type slower songs.

kuumat-kyyneleet
Cover of the last issue of Pena’s fanzine (Four issues in total between 1985-1988)

Are there any modern Finnish bands, zines, collectives you want to give a shout out to?

There are not many zines nowadays. Toinen Vaihtoehto is probably one of the oldest still active punk magazines in the world. In my hometown Oulu, there is a DIY punk hardcore festival every Summer called Hässäkkä-Päivät. And the organizers of the festival also organize gigs at other times as well. Kohti Tuhoa are my favorite band when it comes to “new bands.”

Thank you so much, anything else to add?

Our second album will come out in February 2023. Our 1985  LP is out now. It includes our old demos from the ‘80s.

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