Esa Ruoho has recorded for Merck, Rikos, as well as Clair’s DeFocus imprint with releases such as Container LP, R U Oho? 12″ and a new full-length upcoming. With the amount of quality music Esa has been producing this past year, it’s hard to keep track of where he’ll head next –both in the “type” of sounds he’s after, or the label he wants it released on.
Esa has made quite the splash in the electronic music scene. Ironically, through the opening the music archive of this Finland native, he has become one of the freshest faces in IDM. In some recent email correspondence, Igloo was given the opportunity to delve further into the artist that is Lackluster.
IGLOO: What inspired you to create Lackluster?
ESA: I needed a suitable name to sign as my group on the demoscene, since signing the current group I was in (Orange) was rather silly because I was clearly the worst of the five musicians in that group. No, seriously. I had to create a one-man group in order to not feel cranky about what I was doing back in 96-97.
IGLOO: Why the name Lackluster?
ESA: I found it on a Discworld novel. I didn’t know what it meant. So, I checked, found that the whole word reflected quite nicely on my music, and thus I created the project. Though. some people seem to misunderstand the meaning of it or neglect to pay attention to it. Of course it couldn’t have been Lacklustre, because of the obvious Autechre reference there and then. The way I understand Lackluster as a name is that it’s the total description of me and my work, that’s why I chose it. Apparently I’ve also pieced in my own meanings for the word, because the ones in the dictionary seem to be rather obscure (dim, lacking in brilliance). The way I view the word is basically how I do my tracks. They’re unpolished, having an idea or a feeling that might work somewhat, but never absolutely properly. Uncut diamonds.
IGLOO: Can you give a short background about yourself?
ESA: For the past 10 years I’ve been living in Kontula, which is at the eastern part of Helsinki. I quit my studies at the Helsinki Business Polytechnic back in 95 because of becoming totally addicted to the fast line and easy access to the ‘net at the building. After that I’ve been mostly doing the usual odd jobs and doing tracks whenever and however possible.
IGLOO: How would you describe your music?
ESA: Easy listening.
IGLOO: How long have you been making music?
ESA: Off and on for about 5 years..
IGLOO: How do you keep your tracks so simple?
ESA: They just end up like that. As in, I work on them and I close them up so they’re tight. I don’t like working on a track I lose control over, I always hate it when that happens. Too complex or too difficult. I guess it just proves how bad I am at using programs for actually doing tracks.
IGLOO: How old are you?
ESA: 22 on the 26th of October ’00.
IGLOO: How did you get involved with Monotonik?
ESA: I gave Simon Carless (H0l/Monotonik) about 40 tracks and he wanted to put out three of them in September 97. Later on, years from that, I gave him a copy of CDR #2 while he was visiting.
IGLOO: Has the apparent flood of your material being released on Focus/deFocus affected you positively (or negatively) and how?
ESA: Positive and negative. First of all, the idea of having the tracks out on vinyl and cd is nice, very nifty. But then it always comes down to how good the tracks should be so that I could be happy with them existing somewhere. I’m currently of the opinion that if something is to be released, I should be able to stand behind it and be content with it, and I haven’t yet done a track that I would be content with.. So I mean, now it seems that people want to put out my tracks, and ask me to send “any old stuff” . . . no way. Isn’t it enough that most of the ‘only somewhat bearable’ tracks have been put out of my weak catalogue?
The most negative part of all is that if I’m working on a track, I get this thought going thru my mind saying “hang on, if I could finish this, I could send this to x, y or z” and that always cuts the track short and I don’t do anything to it anymore.
IGLOO: Does it bother you that people (such as myself) really love the material that you consider mediocre? Obviously you have heard your tracks enough to drive yourself crazy, but it’s all new to the rest of us.
ESA: It’s kind of disturbing in a way . . . I don’t know what to think. Obviously I’ve gotten my kicks out of doing the tracks, and I’ve liked them at one point. But really, when I do a track, I might spend the next week just listening to it over and over and over again just to realize if it’s any good and by the time I listen to it when someone else is around, I know it’s weak for sure. But, like a year after doing a track that I loved doing, it’ll give more to me. All the mistakes are easy to pinpoint though, but the general mood of the track, the flow, is easier to appreciate, even if it would be basic.
IGLOO: To an extent, I suppose it’s a good thing for an artist to never be too pleased with his/her own work. It’s probably harder to become complacent that way.
ESA: I’m too pleased wth things. I listen to anything I do so much that it either starts making sense or I just accept it as it is and don’t tweak it further. I don’t take things far enough..
IGLOO: Is there a “scene” in which you are involved?
ESA: There are a few scenes.
IGLOO: Such as?
ESA: Well, the net mp3/music scene (not talking of mp3.com here) with groups like Monotonik and Noise. I follow things but not really. I’d like to contribute but nowadays it’s difficult because I don’t want to give out anything mediocre, as this is mp3 we’re talking of. With modules I can go for something. small size and nice sound for instance. But, it doesn’t mean anything if I dump a 20k track into a 8mb mp3. Nobody understands . . . better that way, I guess. But, mp3 is difficult to put out, because it’ll stay there, with things like Napster and Gnutella. I think mp3 is, in a way, more real than for instance modules.
Then there’s the PC demoscene, into which I contribute at times, but really it’s a fun fun thing, meeting up with friends and having a bit of fun.
IGLOO: I’ve heard that you aren’t particularly fond of the current trend in IDM in the States. Could you elaborate a little?
ESA: I don’t really enjoy the dsp equals music/content equation which seems to be the basis of the U.S. IDM scene. Or, should I just ignore most of the scene and think of it as a collection of Autechre tribute projects?
IGLOO: So, you’re more interested in the content than the process?
ESA: Yes. There’s only so many “new” processes you can have before it all starts repeating. Like, when Chiastic Slide came out, I was like, “Man, WTF are they doing, that sounds GOOD!” 3-4 years afterwards, we’ve got people doing the exact same thing, but not as innovative. “Imitate not innovate” seems to be the trend.
I mean, process is just a gimmick. The content is what’s important. I’m probably full of shit saying it.
IGLOO: What should we look out for in terms of upcoming projects?
ESA: Some compilation appearances on Merck, Surgery Records, Neferiu and hopefully deFocus . . . perhaps a follow-up album for Container (on DeFocus). I have the name figured out, but the tracks have to totally justify the name. So far I haven’t got anything I could even think of putting into the project.
IGLOO: Are you coming to the States anytime in the near future?
ESA: I don’t see what would be the use of me visiting the States. I’d never go into another country to perform, because I don’t have the knowledge how to.
IGLOO: Ever though of starting a boy band?
ESA: No, but there was talk about doing a commercial house record in order to score enough money for a studio. Don’t know if I’m capable of that, though.
Esa will be moving to Canada in late November, he continues to produce a wide assortment of consumed electronics. More updates as they arrive, otherwise check the links below for the most current information.
Esa’s Rikos005 7″ is out on Rikos Records.
Lackluster :: Top 10
Boards of Canada :: Music has the Right to Children (Warp)
Photek :: Modus Operandi ( )
Aphex Twin :: On (Warp)
Squarepusher :: Budakhan Mindphone (Warp)
Global Communication :: 76:14 ( )
Adam F :: Colours ( )
Autechre :: Amber (Warp)
Herbie Hancock :: Mr. Hands ( )
Aphex Twin :: Selected Ambient Works Vol.2 (Warp)
Plastikman :: Consumed (Plus 8)