Travelogue of the Cat Power and Nico Turner Solo Tour by Tour Manager: Annika Okssanen
Annika Oksanen is from Southern Finland and is a native Swedish speaker. She has lived in the United States for the past two years working as a tour manager and assistant for Chan Marshall a.k.a. Cat Power. Annika includes some of her photos here from the most recent Cat Power/Nico Turner solo tour after Chan’s touring with a full band for the “Sun” album and describers her career and life on the road in a new country.
YOU WERE BORN AND RAISED IN FINLAND AND FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS HAVE BEEN LIVING IN THE UNITED STATES. CAN YOU TELL ME SOME OF THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES YOU NOTICE BETWEEN AMERICAN AND FINNISH CULTURE OVER ALL?
Well, Finns are very reserved but once they let you in, they love you and treat you like family. Also,as a people we are very honest. It was a major cultural shock for me when I came to the United States and noticed that a lot of people here just fake their feelings and pretend to be lie or be nice to people even if they don’t really like them but Finns will honestly let you know if they don’t like you and not pretend that they do if they don’t.
Also nudity isn’t weird at all for us. We’re much more open about it in Finland. We basically grow up in the sauna and everyone´s naked there. In Winter people jump in the snow naked and in the Summer we go skinny dipping together in lakes on holiday. It has never been shameful or weird to see each other naked.
I remember being eleven years old and going to an international children’s Summer camp. There were some girls there from the United States and Canada and I told them that we take off our bathing suits when we go to the sauna and those girls from other countries thought it was weird and they felt uncomfortable and I just didn’t understand why they felt that way at all. Nudity, sex, and the roles between women and men aren’t taboo in Finland like they are in the States. I think that’s one of the reasons I see so much more sexual harassment here than in Finland too.
YOU TAKE GREAT PHOTOS. DID YOU STUDY PHOTOGRAPHY WHEN YOU WERE AT UNIVERSITY OR ARE YOU MOSTLY SELF-TAUGHT?
I studied photography for a year at a free institute and I loved it. Not to sound cocky but I knew I had a talent for it.
Then, I started doing photo gigs like wedding photography but got frustrated by not being able to take photos in my own style because it was all about pleasing the people and taking stereotypical photos that they wanted. It really killed my inspiration and I put away my camera for a long time. I missed how free it was being in school where I was able to do my own projects and have this amazing feedback.
But this time while I was on tour I took my camera with me we’ve been inseparable since. I finally feel like “I can see again”.
We tend to pass by a lot of things in our surroundings without appreciating them. A lot of people close their eyes to the beauty in everyday people and places. I feel like my photography can show people their normal surroundings with a new angle to it or in a new light which makes them open their eyes to seeing it differently.
TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE DIFFERENT JOBS YOU’VE HAD. IT SEEMS YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF DIFFERENT AND INTERESTING CAREERS.
I do sometimes think back and feel amazed at all the things I’ve done during my lifetime. I started to work very early in life because I wanted to have my own money to spend and save up for something. My first job was at a strawberry field picking strawberries. It lasted only for a couple of days because I was too allergic to the hay fields and the leaves of the strawberries.
The most fun job I ever had was as a children’s entertainer on a cruise boat that went from Finland to Sweden.
I played a character from the storybook Moomins, a character called Lilla. She´s a feisty little girl and I loved being in character and pretending to be someone else and seeing how the kids opened up to me and told me secrets they wouldn’t even tell their parents.
My days started with a scavenger hunt and ended with a theatrical goodnight story for the children.
During this time I also worked in the music industry, for different festivals and venues and as that became busier, I had to give up my job with the kids.
DID YOU WORK AS A TOUR MANAGER OR ASSISTANT WITH OTHER ARTISTS BEFORE YOU MET CHAN?
I had worked at festivals and for promoters and produced smaller shows in Helsinki.
So basically I had worked as a certain kind of assistant for artists, but not as intensely as with Chan.
HOW DID YOU AND CHAN MEET AND HOW DID YOU BEGIN TO WORK WITH HER?
I met Chan in Finland as I was asked to be an assistant for an artist called Cat Power for an entire weekend.
I thought I knew a lot about music but I had never heard about Cat Power before and I remember I had to Google her so that I could recognize her at the airport when she arrived. I showed her around during the weekend and was at the show as well to help out and on Sunday when she left she offered me the job as her assistant, and without hesitation I said yes.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TOURING WITH CAT POWER AND WHERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE PLACES YOU’VE BEEN ON TOUR?
It´s now been two years since we met and I have been by her side for one and half years.
I have a lot of memories and special moments here and there but I guess Europe was one of the most exciting tours as we all were on the same bus both crew and band, and summertime in Europe really is a beautiful experience. It kind of felt like being on a summer camp.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL TOUR LIKE FOR YOU? HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU TOUR AS OPPOSED TO TIME OFF?
There is no such thing as a typical tour, all of them have been like a separate excursion.
You kind of remember tours like people, all of them having different personalities.
Last year’s tour (the Sun Tour) was hectic and passed so quickly we didn’t really have a lot of time off at all.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE TOURING OR HAVEN’T TOURED BEFORE?
Well I guess when you do have the time rest, do it, as it´s really hectic and sometimes you forget about sleep.
Sometimes you forget and then you have a hard time feeling like your normal self for the next few days.
The schedule is usually hectic and there´s not a lot of time to look around, so in a lot of cities you only remember the venues and not how the cities themselves looked like.
I do like to travel though, so it´s always exciting to see how many places you can visit in a short amount of time.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT TRAVELING AROUND AMERICA AND WHAT SEEMS TO CATCH YOUR EYE IN A PHOTOGRAPHIC WAY?
I love “dirty America”: deserted towns, dive bars, worn out diners, white trash, rednecks.
I guess growing up watching a lot of American t.v. shows and movies I look for things I’ve seen in them.
Basically everything that is very American excites me. Not so much the big cities but more the country side and getting off of the beaten track.
For example, trailer parks are something I find very aesthetically beautiful. A place that’s filled with a lot of stories, a lot of character and strong people who have made nothing into something.
YOU ALSO TOOK AND TAUGHT DANCE CLASSES FOR MOST OF YOUR LIFE. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THAT? WHEN YOU STARTED, THE STYLE OF DANCE AND IF YOU STILL PERFORM OR DO IT FOR FUN?
I started dancing when I was four years old. My mum took me to a ballet class then and I was hooked for about eight years.
I later remember asking my mum why ballet was the choice and she told me that I myself had suggested it which amazed me, how can a four year old even know about ballet?
Then, after ballet got too serious and disciplined and I was in a rebellious age, I tried jazz for a while then all of a sudden turned into hip hop dancing. I remember going to the first lesson and I just felt it, it was my thing. I had the ballet past so basically I had the basics to do any kind of dance but hip hop blew me away.
After a while I was asked to start teaching and I had three different groups, all girls from seven to sixteen year old.
My life was just basically school and dance, and I loved it. I wanted to have a goal to work towards within dance so in 2007 I participated in the Finnish championships of hip hop dance in the solo category.
I got through two eliminations and became the 20th out of 100 contestants. I was so proud of myself. There’s always been a part of me which has to prove something to myself.
My crew eventually split up and I moved around and got so busy I was never able to commit fully to it and didn’t really find a new crew that I clicked with. I am still looking…
But in the mean time I go and show off sometimes at hip hop night in clubs. I have a dance partner in Miami whom I love to dance with and it´s not all about dance, it´s an interaction, having a connection with someone and kind of playing theatrically and dancing together.
I know dance will always play a big part in my life. It´s a great way to release bad energy.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO NEXT IN YOUR LIFE?
I am a very creative soul. I love vintage clothes and have been finding and selling American vintage clothes for a store in Finland. Eventually, I want have my own online store and sell amazing finds.
Styling is also a thing that I’ve always loved doing.
I recently started making rings and want to share that with people as well.
But, I guess most importantly I want to travel and see hidden places in the middle of the jungle and meet the people that live there and take pictures.
I also have a big passion for animal rights and might want to take my photography into a direction where I would somehow be able to support animals and raise awareness. I think for now, I´ll just go with the flow and see where the stream takes me. I´m not worried at all about it.
Additional photos below by Adeline Fargier Jasso