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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

SubVersion Stop 19: Fanu interview

I spoke to Janne Hatula (Fanu) across a period of two weeks online, seeing where he's putting pedal to the metal, and finding out more on his role as Lightless label owner.


We are influenced by many: groups which we affiliate ourselves to, then others. Whether the landscape is academic, spiritual, financial, or familial, powerful rewards and punishments are proposed, from personal thoughts to lovers, and our graft. This may demean or discourage effort that is not preferred. Did you take all of this into account when guaranteeing Lightless Recordings a Subvert Central affiliation?

Wow, what a monster of a question as a starter here, heh!

I'll say I'm definitely a subvert junglist for life and that's how it's going to be. Me and Lightless are definitely 100% down with the subversive movement. It totally helped me in terms of exposure as well as inspiration when it started.

Personally I was enamoured by events like "Is It Just Me, or...". There were passionate individuals with varying ideals coming together to discuss the nitty gritty, the serious and silly, all in the same cache. Do you feel empowered as being part of the Subvert Central community?

Well, I think I had all the drive, creativity, grumpiness (heh) etc needed even before I joined SC, but SC definitely connected me with so many like-minded producers and DJs. It also exposed a lot of people to my stuff as well as others', and it continues to do so.

I can recall you posting your tracks in the Beat Ranch. Back then, in 2002-2004, Paradox had coined phraseology for what he produced - 'drumfunk'. If the categorisation of your music as 'drumfunk' is antiperspirant, how and where would you like it sprayed?

I'd have it sprayed at all the big drum and bass events at primetime.

Homing is the instinct to return, to go to the place we remember. It is the ability to find, whether in dark or in daylight, one's home place. Did your relationship with your parents spread fruitful seeds with this in mind?

Yes, definitely. And I still go see my mom a few times a year. She lives where I grew up.

I love that little town, as life has a different pace there. They hardly have 8,000 (eight thousand) people there. It's a good place to go to if you want to distance yourself from your everyday life in the city.

Where are you from, and where are you currently?

The town I just mentioned is called Haapavesi. It's 500-600km north of Helsinki, roughly. I've been living in Helsinki since January 2000.

I always got the impression that you're a friendly guy, very approachable and warm-hearted. Photographs in your gallery and selected party out-takes (ICHiOne, The Cavern, Exeter and the US) confirm this. Has your temperament calmed with age?

I'm hardly temperamental. I've always been a nice, mellow dude.

In the interim of your travels around Helsinki, have you found the drum and bass mainstream to be lacking the breakbeat-heavy styles you engender?

I would have to say so, yes.

I remember you saying that some of the well-known DJs in that scene, liked your beats, but wouldn't drop them in clubs. Can you understand why?

Well, yeah, I can. That style of drum and bass doesn't really get played here.

However, my flatmate, who goes by the artist name of Trisector, is doing a monthly event in a bar called Loop, and they're exploring the deeper, breakbeat-oriented sounds there every month, and that shit kicks ass.

What is the scene like over in Helsinki, and how has it developed in recent years?

The scene is small, yet pretty lively. There's events all the time, and international DJs are being brought here on the regular. I started going to events here in 2000, and I think it's got livelier since. I have a lot of respect for the guys who do all the events here.

Lately you're planning to tour the US.

I've done three US tours already! The first one was short, the second one had around twelve gigs, and the last one – which I finished on June 19 – had ten. They were all organized and put together by mister Chad Simer aka Olcyrus from Mukilteo, to whom I'm immeasurably indebted for making it all happen. A good person with a huge heart and lots of musical passion. Gotta love him.

On that note, the drum and bass scene becomes a puddle of mud. What do we do to clean it up?

Wow. I don't know. Drum and bass as a whole is quite disintegrated in a way, so if it became a puddle of mud where everything mixed together pretty seamlessly, it might be a good thing. Heh.

A soulless world means some people are ruthless in getting what they want, without compromise. However in a lot of cases, things take time - time that they won't put up with. Do you subscribe to the ideal of the ruthless human, or are you more sensitive in the relationships you partake in?

Can't say I promote any ruthlessness in my actions. Even if you do something in your own terms, you shouldn't be selfish in your actions. This world would be so much better if we all were just a little less selfish. A little good goes a long way.

Then, if you could command the attention of millions of people for five minutes, what would you say?

Be a little less selfish. Care about the people around you. Try to do something nice to them, as it goes a long way. Love others like you love yourself (I'm not religious or anything, even though some of that may sound religious...).

In folklore, the drummer becomes integral to reverberation of life. In drum and bass' golden era (subjectively 1995-1997) this would explain the overflowing talent that married the breakbeat to atmosphere, depth to detrimentality, and operations that condensed material as such. Do you miss those years?

I do miss those years in a way. Material similar to that of those years still is being made, no doubt – it's just that that material isn't in the spotlight anymore. That music was the dnb mainstream back then, but now it's in the very marginal, and the mainstream dnb of today is motherfucking awful. It's simply crap music.

I miss the adventurousness of the 95-97 dnb and how open people were about it; breaky or not, it was simply good music.

When Ed Rush And Optical begun the overwhelming techstep assailancy, with "Wormhole" pivotal exposure, breakbeats subsequently maintained regimented ideals instead of syncopation, perplexing rhythmic passages shunned over inherent power that comes with flattening the dynamics, and cranking up the mids and highs. I recall you started a petition to get Danny Breaks back into d&b. He, for me was someone who straddled the range of these contrasting styles very well. Do you wish more heads today were exposed to such productions, and were you influenced by the intersection?

I do wish more people got exposed to such productions for sure. The styles I push are in the marginal, and I don't think the main reason is that it's drastically less accessible to the junglists of today: it's mainly because people simply don't get exposed to those styles unless they go digging quite deep – which a lot of people fail to do, and I can't blame them.

In the last few years, I've heard a few people who dropped out of dnb and then tried coming back say "I haven't been following jungle for some years but I wanted to check out some and I did, and dear god, what has happened? I checked out some clips and it's all awful shit”.

It's those people who can't find their way back to the kind of stuff that they loved: it may have been way more mainstream many years ago, but these days, it's very underground, and they can't find it very easily by going to the "major” dnb sites or events.

I remember reading how DJ Fracture tried to strike up a conversation with a bored Photek at Technicality. How was your meeting with Bill Laswell in comparison?

Those meetings can't be compared.

I first did some beats for me and Laswell's collabo album, ”Lodge”, after which I made some beats for him that he used in his "Vessel” remixes for Nine Inch Nails that came out on the "Year Zero Remixed” LP (I'm not credited on the album so I'll just mention it here, so you know, hehe!).

I went to NYC for a few days after a US tour I did and he paid for my hotel in Manhattan, paid for my drinks, showed me some nice food joints in NYC etc and we just hung out and talked about music. A real good guy, super down-to-earth, funny as hell, and all.

Also, for the record, Photek's beats today are lame as heck, while Bill Laswell is into the wild breaks, man.

If by looking in a mirror you turn into a superhero, what is his name and what does he do?

William Breakspeare.

Haha!

He finds, samples and mangles all the wickedest breaks in the world, making them speak his language.

Did you ever get into producing to earn money, or was it just a motivation for you to prolong your studies?

Money was never in my mind...making music has always been – and still is! – a hobby I do for fun.

I've ALWAYS done it for myself, and myself only, and I'm being dead honest here. I've never done one single compromise in my music with the market/fans in mind. If all my recordings stopped selling completely today, I'd still do it for myself and enjoy it as much as I always did.

From adolescence, what tools have you used to carve a life for yourself?

Doing the things I love – to nourish the soul and maintain the zest.

Where did the Fanu name originate? Some names are fridge magnet-esque; I'm intrigued to know where this stemmed.

An old friend of mine used to give people the silliest nicknames when he was young, and when we were kids, he noticed I had a sticker of an elephant with the word "HappyFant” on it. In his twisted nickname-making mind, he made "Fanu” out of that. So there you have it! :D

Cool. Now, a lot of people will know you for "Siren Song", which sold over 500 copies on Subtitles. However, it was one of Subtitles lowest selling releases, and took plenty of gumption to be repressed. Do you feel proud of that accomplishment, do you look back and wish you'd released it yourself, and what was the emotional input like in comparison to your Lightless highlights?

Geez, this stuff is old! :D

I doubt it's the lowest-selling one: it was pressed twice and it sold out both times. I do feel proud of getting a release on Subtitles and I'm grateful to Teebee for putting it out for sure.

I wouldn't go back and change anything: getting a release on Subtitles, one of the biggest dnb labels out there, makes people check it out, and if I had released it, I don't think that many people would've heard it.

Emotional input? You mean rewarding, or...?

I was thinking more along the lines of how much you put into a track, but sure, why not.

I'd say it's more rewarding now: things are more in my own hands, and I've matured in terms of being an artist (and see, I'm still not making clownstep!!), whatever that means.

Despite this achievement, I recall you having a fracas with Teebee, who once said "You ain't doing anything new. Man I see like 50 of you come and go in every year." Has such critique hardened you to hatred or malignation, or do you take it with tongue firmly in cheek?

Believe it or not, I don't care about any criticism, be it from anybody. It's easy, because I've never done one thing to impress others or to appeal to anybody...I only do it for myself.

If I can manage to impress myself in my own studio space, I've reached my aim for a short while, and what comes after that, it's OK, whether it be positive or negative or from fans or the big heads who think their opinions count more than those of others'.

That's the STS soft synth on "End Of An Era", am I right?

Highly likely it is...I've sampled the synth back when I had a PC.

I remember sending it to you and you consequently selling your Virus. How has the transition from hardware to software been for you, are you in the middle of major changes, and how settled are you with your setup?

I'm still using my Akai s5000 every now and then, as well as my Soundcraft desk...they will never go away.

Logic 8 is the sequencer I use.

Just trying to mix them all...it works nicely. Sometimes I make all-software tracks, but they are more or less mixed on my Soundcraft.

You once told me you don't get inspired to write music in the summer. Do you think there's a direct correlation to wistfulness inside you, and the surroundings you produce in?

Yes, it's true I can't really make music in the summer. First, it doesn't inspire me at all for some reason. I grew up in the dark, cold parts, and that did shape my musical unconsciousness.

Second, I started skateboarding again two years ago, and that's kept me out for most of the summer so far: I haven't stayed much inside. Come autumn, the beats will start rolling in!

What do you do to revive the senses - sleep, caffeine, sport, sauna?

I skate – and I work out daily now. The latter is part of me dramatically changing the way I live, which I started last December. I've lost a lot of weight and I feel so much better now and my health has improved so much.

I O.D. on coffee every day, though, heh.

In the grey mists of morning, are you usually busy honing music production, or tucked up in bed?

These days, I try to get up at decent times – between 8 and 10 – and just drink mad loads of coffee and work out while doing it, or just go skate right after the first cup of coffee.

Some people's daily practice is prayer. Do you have your own recurrent cycles?

Exercising a bit in the morning and/or in the evening. Having my coffee as soon as I open my eyes, haha.

As a one-man operation with Lightless, I imagine you must be a very busy man. What do you do to help yourself unwind?

I'm not nearly as busy with music as many people think. I've been lucky to have it all pretty easy: doing gigs and getting paid for other music stuff, too.

However, skateboarding is what makes me forget the everyday mundanity.

Well, skateboarding: Ollie or kickflip?

Damn! My ollies go definitely higher than any of my flips, but kickflip has been in my repertoire for almost as long as the ollie.

If I have to let one go, I'd keep the ollie for sure as it's the foundation of so many other tricks.

If I was a budding producer looking for a Lightless signing, what would your criteria be?

Original music. Period.

Please, no tracks with 1) pretentious ├╝ber-chopped breaks executed with no real sense of rhythm, 2) bleeps and minimal sounds run through delay, or 3) forced movie samples before the drop...I'm getting sick of those demos.

What were your primary inspirations for starting the Lightless label - was it a case of being let down too much by external delays, or do you think of it as a natural extension of your name and agenda?

Mainly the former. I just wanted to have it all in my hands...it's worked like a charm, and I'm super thankful to S.T. Holdings for letting me do it.

It feels good having a personal outlet for my productions so I don't have to shop around anymore.

So you've launched a rawrip page with over half of your catalogue available as Mp3s. What are your thoughts on the digital revolution?

Simply, I think music should be available to people who are willing to pay for it. Not everyone wants to buy vinyl, so it's good that they can get their music in digital form. I still want to support vinyl, but you want to be realistic, too: let everyone willing to buy your stuff do it. I'm not into the "vinyl-only” way of thinking of releasing music at all.

It's good to acknowledge you've kept your eyes open. A baby gets newly born into the world, alive with a background of classical music his mother plays him. What track from the Lightless catalogue would you present as a gift?

"Poltergeist", of course, to fuck the baby up.

Haha, well, maybe something from the "Daylightless" CD2...something mellow and beautiful, I think.

Can you take us through how you produced a chosen track on "Homefree" - how you start, whether you lead with your emotions, how you got things to a level you're happy with?

It starts with picking a sound that suits how I'm feeling. Everything gets built around that. It can be a bass sound, for example, but most often it's a pad sound or a simple melodic thing. It's never a break, however, that I build a track around. That's how it goes, in a nutshell.

What musical ventures would you still like to embark on - singular, or in collaboration?

Well, Polar has been saying we should do a collabo, so I think that has to be made reality sooner or later...

If you were granted a day with any producer, who would it be and why?

Amon Tobin. It's his samples and atmospheres and the rich sound textures I'd like to see get made.

If you could keep just one record in the world, what would it be?

Questions like this are evil...if I *really* took that question seriously, all the pondering might take five pages, so I'll just be a partypooper and say I couldn't choose just one.

You've sent me this picture of you with the book "The Golden Ass". What does it touch on - philosophy, science, or a hybridisation?

I don't have a clue what it is about! It's a total joke...I was just hanging out in New York (with awesome Mr. Cordani from Subvert Central forum), and I spotted that book and wanted to make a photo of myself with it.

Great! Re-investigating your past, you were born with a twin brother. Has there been any sibling rivalry between you, are you worlds apart in interests, and do you foresee any collaborations on projects in the future?

There's never been any rivalry between us. We're both pretty creative (he's an extremely talented tattoo artist) but I can't say our works could be combined – unless we're going to use a tattoo as a record cover...now that's an idea!

What are you afraid of?

My biggest fear would be realizing I've lost my creativity, dreams, and passion. My soul is made of those things.

Do you have dreams which have affected your reality, and do you think there is more to life than our climate change driven, self-fulfilled prophecy? (the world's ending)

If dreams here mean dreams you have when you're asleep, no, but as in a dream that keeps you going, yes.

The whole music thing – being a somewhat successful producer and a DJ in my own terms – was a dream, but it slowly started becoming reality, and I've already achieved so much more I ever dreamed of.

Dreams are what keep your soul alive. As long as you have dreams, you'll be able to take the daily grind and see further.

Ambient pioneer Brian Eno has developed a new interactive application for Apple Iphone. 'Bloom' allows users to create their own ambient compositions via the Iphone's touch screen. What are your views on technology - is it more of a hindrance than a help to us?

Can't be a bad thing, really. Whatever helps people to get creative, make more good, original music, and enjoy music in general, is a good thing in my book.

Heh, I'm just getting the new iPhone – for the music apps...

Could you name three recordings that have had pivotal influence on your life so far?

I have to mention ”Logical Progression 1” at least. It was spectacular in terms of being good MUSIC, let alone being good jungle or having good breaks.

FSOL's ”Lifeforms” taught me all I ever needed to know about electronic ambient music, and I still think that record was light-years ahead of its time.

It's hard to name the third!

If there was a possibility for paradise, what would make paradise for you, and would you take it?

I think part of every man's paradise is getting to do what he likes to do. I guess I can say doing the music thing, which has made it possible for me to live a life of not having to take a 9-5 job, has let me taste some of that paradise. I'm planning to start ”a real job” of being a teacher maybe next year, so I can't feast on my paradise forever, heh.

You graduated to teach English in 2007, completing an MA thesis. Are you passionate about English, or have the nuances of Finnish eclipsed your interest in literature?

I wrote my MA thesis on the use of African American Vernacular English (sometimes referred to as "Ebonics”) in the rap lyrics of some Finnish rappers. I am passionate about English for sure. It was the only thing that interested me in school, and I was always pretty good at it. And, for the record, I am the least literature-minded person ever...I hate literature, I guess. Heh.

I still haven't graduated fully, to be honest, but I'm literally one essay away from finishing my studies for good...I need to write 10+ pages about the history of Finnish schooling system, how it's changed and how the way it's been perceived by students has changed over time...see why it's the last thing I gotta do?

I remember reading your interview with Knowledge Magazine, where you said the culture of samurais had influenced your conscious decisions. Can you elaborate on that?

It's about never feeling you're good enough at what you do...about practising constantly, trying to get better at your craft.

I think that's testament to your high quality control.

As for being a samurai...I'm more of a "ronin”, as I don't work for anyone, really.

Your track on "Daylightless", "Hagakure" contains the vocal "when the samurai's head is cut off, he will still be able to perform one action with certainty". If you were the samurai, what would that action be?

Do a nollie frontside 360 shove-it on my skateboard. If the day ever comes that I can't do that trick, I'll be dead.

Something you served in 2000 was six compulsory months in the Finnish army. Have you taken any influence from the discriminatory factors of this work?

Hell no. That shit was useless as heck. The most useless six months of my life for sure. Army blows.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Some sweets every now and then. No matter how healthy you wanna live, you gotta have some chocolate every now and then!

I concur. So, are you a regular contributor to the SC 'Snax Creux'?

Haha, no, but I guess I should be! Banana + peanut butter milkshake with added protein...killer!

Contrasting, if you were out and caught a fish, would you leave the hook in, or let it go?

Well, I do eat meat and I like fish, so depends on the purpose.
If I was out fishing for nourishment, I'd keep it, but if it was for the sport of it (never done either, actually), I suppose it could go.

Do you have any childhood crushes you've held onto?

No, but I've turned one childhood aversion into love: mustard. Used to hate it, now I love it.

All this talk of food is making me hungry. Let's change the subject. If you had to disappear without a trace, where would you go and why?

Helsinki, Finland, is a remote enough place, I guess. But, I'd go to where I grew up: the Finnish countryside.

Twin Peaks: favourite episode?

Too hard a question! From my childhood I can remember Bob crawling over the sofa and Mike (the guy with one arm) getting interrogated...that's some unforgettable shit right there!

Finally, what are your aspirations for the year to come?

Improve my skating. I've been so hooked on it all year. Calling it an addiction is very true. I simply have to do it every day. I'm not even good, honestly, but it's the most fun I've done. I'm so glad I started doing it again in 2007 after a six-year break.

I also plan to start making loads of new music when the summer turns into fall...as that's when the inspiration kicks in. Expect some darkness and deepness.

Big thanks for talking to SubVersion Janne. All the best with your 2009.

Fanu: website

Lightless Recordings: MySpace

Lightless Recordings is Subvert Central affiliated.







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