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[Interview] Kalle Kallonen – Founder of Blockfest

Introduction

Kalle Kallonen is the founder of Blockfest, it is a hip-hop festival established since 2008, he devotes his passion and time into Blockfest and makes it nowadays Nordic’s biggest hip-hop festival. In 2018, Blockfest brought 75,000 visitors, 22,5 million Euros and 500 jobs to its host city Tampere, while the number is still growing every year. It is undeniable that Kalle’s hard work has grown Finland’s hip-hop culture and industry.

This is Kalle’s first time to accept an interview from a magazine. We visited Kalle at his home, and we talked about a wide range of topics from the time he firstly knew hip-hop to his unforgettable shopping experience. Before we heading to the conversation, we want share you some photos from Kalle’s nice home.

Bedroom / Medicom Toy Exhibition 2012 simple & black

Breakfast

Kitchen / Hennessy VS x KAWS x Colette edt. Limited to 213 bottles

Living Room / Bookshelf

The SS19 Louis Vuitton by Virgil Abloh Keepall is Kalle’s Latest Pick Up

Closet / Sneakers

Closet / Collected Merch

 

Interview

How did you bump into hip-hop in the early years? And what was the first album you owned?

When I was still in school, I listened to Jay-Z’s blueprint on a Sony Walkman, that was the first time I listened to hip-hop, and I just started to like the feeling came with the music. And when I was about 13 or 14 years old, I bought my first album, it was Gang Starr’s Full Clip double CD, the reason I bought it was I didn’t have much money, and paying the same money to get two CDs seemed a good deal to me. But that album turned into a classic, I was lucky.

How you were influenced by hip-hop music or rappers back then?

The rappers had really cool styles such as baggy pants, the biggest pants I had were like 42 inches, the bigger the better, haha!

Blockfest has been here for 10 years, I believe its phenomenon has changed a lot of things in Finland, you must be proud of what you doing. From you, what changes have you noticed?

Of course, hip-hop is becoming one of the most popular music styles in Finland, and there are many types of rap in Finland now, and I see it as the growth of this music.

What is your best memory from Blockfest?

This is a hard one, too many. But I want to talk about some old ones. When Ice Cube came to Blockfest, I was his driver carrying him and his son from Helsinki to Tampere, we spent two hours on the road and we talked all the way, he is a really nice dude. Another one is when Bun B was here with his wife, we went to eat chicken wings together, we had great time.

The 1st Blockfest Merch, 2008

 

What was the most frustrating experience for you, and how did you come over it?

It makes you down when someone canceled their trip. There was one rapper  [name hidden] confirmed he would come, we paid 15k as deposit but he canceled his trip later, and we never got the money back.

You may be one of the biggest contributors in Tampere city, a lot of jobs and fame for this city. Maybe not everyone knows about this fact, but please accept my respects. You were close to rappers when they were performing here, what did they say about Tampere city?

Thanks a lot, in the beginning I wasn’t aware of Blockfest would help the city in some ways, I only wanted to focus on the music and culture. I’m glad Blockfest is bringing something for the city, and it also thanks to the supports from city and everyone else. And yeah, I think every rapper likes here, it’s beautiful, it’s big enough, I never hear something negative.

But on the other hand, many rappers have to travel couple of hours more from Helsinki airport, or there might be other problems for them, what solutions you and Tampere city are going to have?

No I don’t think it’s a problem, it has become a tradition for both artists and audiences to travel to this place and enjoy the festival. People from different countries and cities meet here, it’s making the time more special.

We can really see hip-hop is growing rapidly in Finland, not just the music itself, but also the fans. But most songs are in Finnish, while Finnish another famous product – rock, a lot of the rock songs are in English, so people from everywhere could listen to them. Whats your opinions on the language of rap, do you think they should rap more in English to export Finnish hip-hop?

This music type is new, it is popular but it still needs to grow here in Finland, so it has to be in Finnish, and this is also easier for rappers to be known. ALMA is a good example, we are getting there.

Which rappers are quite different than you thought? Did any of them influence you a lot?

Not too different, but almost all the the OGs from early hip-hop scenes have peaceful minds, you always learn something when talking with them. Post Malone was great, he didn’t care whether the hotel is luxurious enough, he’s just like one of us, likes chicken wings and beer bong, hahaha!

For a lot of rappers, what they wear is representing who they are, or how they want people to understand them. You have met numerous rappers around the world, what do you think about the relation between clothing and rappers, should rappers wear the things they like, or the things represent them?

I think it’s a balance of both, they want to receive some statements about their styles, but they won’t wear the ones if they don’t like them.

You probably are one of the pioneers in Finnish streetwear, you started collecting Bearbricks, KAWS and Bape long time ago. But it isnt easy to find rare collectibles in Finland, how did you manage to get these from around the world?

I won’t see myself as a collector, I’m just buying the items that I really like. If I see something I want when I’m traveling, I will try to get them. Like when I traveled to Tokyo 8 or 9 years ago, I bought two 1000% Bearbricks, and it always feels good to shop in store.

I wonder how did you transport those big Bearbricks back to Finland?

Haha, that’s a great story. I was in Tokyo with my friend, after I bought them, we had to threw away a lot of stuffs to fit them in our luggages!

How much do you spend on shopping every year?

I don’t count, as long as the price is reasonable and within my budget. I used to buy a lot, but when my house was full of clothes and shoes, I started to realize that I should only keep the ones I really like. I gave away about 200 pairs of sneakers when I recently moved my house.

Current Sneakers Rotation

 

Can you share one unforgettable shopping experience with us?

That Bearbrick one is definitely unforgettable. Oh, also in Tokyo, I found a pair of Levi’s x KAWS jeans, and it was the last pair available, but they never fit me.

Original Fake x Levis 10105 Jeans

 

Whats your favorite items at the moment?

My favorite items right now would be the Nike x OFF-WHITE sneakers. I like most Virgil Abloh designs.

Nike x OFF-WHITE: Presto & Air Max 97

 

And you travel a lot, which cities you would definitely go back again?

Tokyo. It is so different that opens your mind a lot, I hope next time when I’m in Tokyo I have a local friend to show me something from his perspective.

Whats your favorite food?

Japanese fusion.

Whats your favorite place in Tampere?

I love my home, I like to stay at home. And I go to Café Europa a lot, I also like the restaurant Edun Herkkukeidas, very basic but good food.

When you listen to music speakers or headphones?

Speakers, that’s why I have good speakers everywhere, bedroom, living room and office.

Kalle’s Home Office

 

What are the songs you have recently played on Spotify?

I like listening to all the new musics. And I just played the band Justice to my girlfriend, because she has a T-Shirt with this band printed on but she didn’t know them, haha.

Last, so many of us already cant wait for Blockfest 2019 to come, could you tell us some exciting and unreleased information?

Shh, Virgil Abloh is coming.