I first collaborated with Janne Hatula, aka Fanu, back in August, where he contibuted some questions to the interview with Out of Fuel. Since then we’ve kept in contact and put together this interview. A veritable dnb renaissance man, he discusses upcoming releases, the ins and outs of audio mastering, his involvement with a new Ableton controller and more.
To begin, you’ve got a new release, tell us all about it…
Yes, the Timetravels e.p. on Straight-Up Breakbeat… way more oldskool. Amens!
Get it on bandcamp here.
One of those tracks is titled ‘Permanent Vacation’. This leaves me wondering if Aerosmith is an influence…
Ha, no – the title is not Aerosmith-related…but there is a movie with that name by Jim Jarmusch, and it’s nice! I didn’t sample it for this one, but have sampled it before, and I promise to send a pack of Lightless + Phatventures + Amen stickers to the first person who says which tune of mine…was a few years ago!
And I believe there’s something else in the pipeline.
Yes, there’ll be a Metalheadz e.p. this year. More modern, also leaning towards the oldskool to an extent.
There’s also an interesting 4-track e.p. for Lightless lined up: I did a vocal tune with a very original vocalist (great spoken word type voice), and there’ll be three remixes of it by Finnish producers. Waiting for art for it – will be 2020 when it comes out.
So, I’m curious to understand the release process. For an artist like yourself, how much time does it take from submission of a finished track to the label until final release?
It depends. Once it’s mastered (I master it all myself), it takes some weeks to get a test pressing (if it’s a vinyl release), and once that has been approved, depending on the queue at the record plant, I’d say it’s 2-4 months.
And how much has this turnaround changed over the course of your career?
Vinyl-wise, not much. I think the operating times are roughly the same.
With digital, it can be kind of quick: I send material to my distributor, SRD, and they can get it up in a matter of two weeks or so if we want to be really quick. But if we need some promo time (which I kind of loathe and suck at), it can be much longer…as long as needs be.
Now, to gigs, have you any performances scheduled in the near future?
None! My gig life has been somewhat dead for the past 1.5 years or so – you tell me. The last gig I played abroad was in Russia in Feb 2018, and the last gig here in Finland was October 2018. Seems there’s something coming up for early 2020.
I always get Qs, “When are you DJing here?” and promoters say “Once you’re in the area, let us know”…but it does not work like that. There have been some requests, though, which I haven’t been able to fit in my schedule. Just got an offer to play in New York with another legend but I was busy with other things.
The thing with DJing is…I never quit. I travelled an absolute ton for gigs at one point, for years. But the thing is – just like with everything else – that your success and visibility in something earns you more of it, but when it gets slower, you’re not so hot in department anymore. Especially in today’s climate. My numerous gigs back then must’ve looked good to promoters and that resulted in more bookings.
I’ll say that when the Internet, with statistics and likes and all that popularity bullshit blew up, the same thing happened to so many. I was DJing an absolute ton before we saw those things: people had to judge me, my music, and my DJ sets with their ears, not by their eyes (looking at stats).
I badly miss DJing, but TBH I don’t miss the travelling at all…it takes its toll. And I’m so grateful for how well the audio engineering is going, and once I became a respected engineer, it became a full-time job. On top of that, in August, I was asked by a company called Loupedeck here in Helsinki to join their team and work on their software controller…so I can’t and don’t complain and aren’t saying I haven’t got what I deserve, because I totally have, and then some, and music-related things pay for 100% of my bills.
I also do a bit of Ableton tuition on the side as well as make and release music actively, all of which earn me my living, so my plate is pretty full most of the time, and an active DJ life wouldn’t fit there, but I’d love to do some one-offs every now and then…so hey, I’m still available to play slamming sets of intense breaks.
It’s just, offered DJ fees are often small; so when you have a long week of work behind you and you’d get to play for 200 EUR and would have to spend 24–48h of your weekend to get to play it, it’s not that enticing…I’d rather make music in my lab. Not to sound ungrateful, but that’s how it is once you’re very booked.
And are there any plans for a Fanu gig in the UK?
I always get asked this! Especially by promoters who’d like to book me but not pay for flights. Actually, relating to the previous Q, like some friends have suggested, if I lived in the UK, I’d probably get quite a bit of bookings…it’s in the top 3 countries in terms of my musical followers/supporters/listeners.
I know that you offer a subscription of sorts. Can you explain how this works, and how successful has it been?
Only with Bandcamp: http://fanu.bandcamp.com/subscribe
It’s doing OK. It’s a one-time payment, and then you immediately get all the music I’ve put up on Bandcamp, 15% off of merch, my own label releases two weeks early and I’ll do some subscriber specials. At least it’s a way more sustainable way to support an artist than playing his tunes off Spotify.
I recently put out a subscriber-only track, an early Fanu track from 1998! Won’t be available elsewhere. I’m also thinking of building a subscriber-only album of songs: oldies, songs that don’t go on other releases etc. I have a lot of unreleased music, esp. hip hop, and want to put a few tunes out for subscribers only every now and then.
I think small monthly payments might work better for some but I’ll be honest, it’d make me feel “a monthly pressure” and I can’t go for that.
I’m just going thru some hiphop beats I want to put out as subscriber-spesh next.
You’ve been recently involved in the development of a controller. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, as I mentioned above, I started working for Loupedeck, on their CT controller, which is a customizable, adaptive controller. It can already control quite a few video and photo editing apps, and they wanted me to oversee and work on Ableton Live 10 integration, and it came out nice! It’s 85% done now, and we’re looking at what music apps to control next.
For Live, I created the factory layout, sent requests to developers for requests I want (e.g., Device Mode to control devices in Live and Clip Launch mode that allows you to play Session clips with the pads), wrote the manual, and just made sure it comes out worth it for Live users.
It is customizable, though, so you can make it your own and assign any actions anywhere and have an unlimited amount of pages of your own for control.
You’re also well-known as a mastering engineer, which I’d like to find out more about. To begin, can you explain, for the benefit of less technically minded readers, the difference between a mixdown and a master?
In mastering, you only treat one audio file: a full-quality wav/aiff, usually. In mixing, you receive individual song elements/tracks such as beats (often I ask producers to separate drums especially as I really want to get under the hood with those) and you work with those towards an ideal result.
Often, mixing+mastering yields a better result than just mastering, but if the mix is tight, mastering is enough, and I give small tips for a better mix to my clients anyways.
Has becoming a mastering engineer helped you develop as a recording artist? If so, in what ways?
It worked the other way around: being a recording artist and being interested in my own sound made me an audio engineer.
What’s the most unusual, in terms of a style or genre that you were previously unfamiliar with, mastering job that you’ve taken on?
Let’s see. A lot of the material I work with is pretty standard, but there’s been stuff like trance meets bass music, and it got interesting for sure…it kind of sounded different from trance or bass music in the end, but we were both really happy.
Also, every now and then I get requests like make a metal/rock recording more towards a processed DNB sound…that’s been interesting, too.
Recently I mastered a piano + vocalist album as well. With things like that, you have to understand the parameters of the genre…you can’t make delicate piano recordings sound like loud US dubstep, ha!
Having perused a number of your previous interviews I know that you tend to make music recommendation off the top of your head. Which is great, so how about you do so now?
I listen to hip hop and old funk and stuff mostly, so…
My homie ewon12bit put out such a dope instrumental hip hop album, “One Time For Your Mind” (on the Phatventures label I sort of co-do with him).
Budamunk makes amazing, deep instrumental hip hop, too. There’s also this super low-key producer, DJ Anointed, who makes great 90s style hip hop, and I want to release some of his stuff on Phatventures. All Redefinition Records stuff, always.
For something less obvious, peep Ane Brun’s early albums at least for some really beautiful vocal stuff. I also listen to all the old vinyl records I buy in hopes of samples…listening to some Gene Krupa as I type this. 90s Everything But The Girl! The Future Sound of London, Tears For Fears, This Mortal Coil…
Bass-music-wise: Om Unit, Cosmic Bridge, Fracture, Scientific Wax…
Gotta listen to Drake when you’re drunk.
Unsurprisingly, you like to advocate for Finnish music. So, while you’re at it, who should we be looking for from Helsinki and beyond?
Already mentioned ewon12bit, so check out Aeon Four for dope jungle! And the label Straight Up Breakbeat that just put out my new Timetravels EP…the whole label is fire!
Recue: a superduper underrated guy with a sound of his own…and he’s a homie, too. Staffro (very low-key though, so harder to find) and BennyBen make dope hip hop.
Out Of Fuel is a surefire halftempo injection straight into the vein that always works. Infader (with whom I recently did and released an EP on Lightless) does some really crusty breaky DNB…love his style…check him out!
Check out The Soul Investigators for rad funk with true gritty sound. And hey you might find quite a few breaks on their records…hint hint, producers! Peep Timmion Records for dopest funk and soul.
Ah, now talking about Out of Fuel, when are you going to challenge Otto to a rematch on EA NHL?
Oh my fuck. I don’t know when I’m ready for the emotional torture again. LoL. I’d do it anytime. Drunk.
In return for the questions that you asked in the Out of Fuel interview, Otto now has a few questions for Fanu:
Otto: Of all the samplers you have owned, what is your ultimate favourite and why?
Without an essay, I’ll say Akai s3200(XL or not). Punchy, decent effects, two filters, EQ.
Otto: What’s the piece of gear you sold that you regret the most?
I can’t explain this rationally, but MPC 4000. I got it real cheap from an acquaintance, made a few decent FatGyver beats with it, and sold it, thinking Maschine (that I also had for a short while around that time) could replace it, but Maschine wasn’t for me that much.
I tried re-bying one once, and I ordered it, but it was in such a shitty condition, I had to return it. Still kind of miss it! Last MPC of the “real Akai” line…I’d re-buy it if it 1) was a bit smaller and 2) didn’t take up so much effing space!
Otto: What’s the sickest gig you have ever played or witnessed?
Sickest witnessed: Adam F b2b J Majik in Helsinki in early 2000-something…was badass!
Sickest of my own: a DJ set in San Francisco while food poisoned…all the time I was worried I’d vomit or shit my pants, but it went well and the vibes were intense! Glad I didn’t cancel…but I’ll be honest with you, I nearly did, as I was feeling like shit!
Otto: How should one prepare to eat a family pizza at the Hedgehog’s Nest?
Haha, dear god…first, Google image search for sukupizza to know what we’re talking about…easily the biggest pizza I know.
I dunno man…practice being a professional eater. I once tackled that with two homies, and I’ll say I’ll never do it again unless there’s at least 6 eaters.
Now, to finish off, anyone out there that you want to give a shout out/big up to?
• Every single person for supporting my stuff in any way: audio engineering clients, those who buy or stream my music, buy my merch or Ableton videos – I salute you and you are great.
It was just the other night that I realized I’ve been releasing music for over 15 years, and I’m just grateful I’m still able to do it and labels find my music worth releasing on vinyl and all that.
• DJ Dizzy for being an influence in the 90s and now releasing my music on his Straight Up Breakbeat label.
• Goldie and Ant for taking me on board on Metalheadz.
• My girlfriend for understanding my artistic and entrepreneurial nature!
• David Lynch for Twin Peaks.
• Ableton for a great DAW.
• Sonic Nutrition for this interview.
• The Internet for all the music forum/group nerdery!