Electronic Ireland Interview
Esa Ruoho AKA Lackluster is no stranger to the Emerald Isle. For quite some time he was native of Dublin and worked alongside the fair city's techno producers releasing music with Psychonavigation and now Nice & Nasty; however, beyond his Irish adventures Esa Juhani Ruoho is one among the up and coming electronic artists in Finland today.
His first major label release, Container (deFocus, UK) was well received by critics and enthusiasts alike. He has after that had releases thru labels like Merck (Miami,US), Rikos Records (Finland), Surgery Records (Australia), Neferiu Records (Canada), Autumn Records (US), U-cover (Belgium) and Zeal Records (Belgium).
Born October 26, 1978 in Helsinki, Esa first became interested in electronic music when he was 6. Some of his early favourite music were the songs created for c64 games, later on modules on the Amiga. By 1994, Esa had shifted his musical interests to ambient/idm and has later on flourished as a member of the Helsinki scene, providing music for various netlabels like monotonik and kahvi.
Currently, Esa continues to release thru several international labels and explores new tracks & techniques at his flat in eastern Helsinki. With a series of exclusive remixes and new music coming out on Ireland's Nice & Nasty, Electronic Ireland deemed it prudent to send Desy Balmer to ask Esa some pertinent questions about the future of electronic music and Ruoho's distinguished career.
You have released music with many labels – do you ever intend on doing your own project/imprint?
Up until now I haven't been able to do it, due to logistical issues. The main requirements are: 1. Money for pressing the records, artwork, mastering.
2. Money and time, used into sorting out a distributor, building up a profile, generating interest, touring, DJing the records, i.e. keeping the imprint in people's faces..
I've seen a lot of my mates start labels, or work in them, and have not yet thought that writing press-releases and sorting out distribution and trying to generate hype, whilst composing music, working out releases, getting the songs mastered, cutting vinyl or pressing cds, whilst sorting out artwork, and wondering about the direction of the label -- its a bit much.
Tip of the hat to the people who can both compose AND run a label - well done. Sure it would be more immediate, I mean, I could sell my own record, and recoup any costs and eventually pay myself royalties out of sales, it'd be me directly, not a percentage divided between an external label + me, but the time involved to create the machine and keep it well-oiled just seems a bit utopian right now. I did the 100 copy CDr route 7 years ago and can always go back to that - but would rather have someone else do that work, and instead focus on bettering my craft.
Reckon it'd be vinyl+cd, with free mp3s of djsets etc available -- not digital-only. One thing I'd do is sort out a deal with Carbonneutral so that a percentage out of the sales would go into planting + maintaining trees (Massive Attack did this, for instance, for 100th window) -- the manufacturing processes have to be offset with increasing bio-diversity..
How important is your website to your art? And our websites a work of art in their own right?
My website isn't a flash-based eye-candy -type thing with lots of music and animation and all that, it could be like that, but I always focused on content. I try to have as much information as possible on there, even though it means that as a site it might not look that appealing, when compared to more high-tech but less-content-focused websites. Websites can be a work of art, and I have been thinking lately that it would make sense to have a different way of looking at, say, the discography information, i.e. instead of them all pigeonholed to different database-entries, that one could comprehensively see all the artwork of all of the released records, in chronological order, and immediately play any of the tracks at will - however it will probably not be me who sets time to learn to create such a site out of nothing.. Again, well done to the people who have extremely graphically appealing, informative and musically gratifying websites for their label or their solo projects.
For people who haven't heard your music what kind of vibe do you create? And, what genres of music would you never make?
A vibe of various layers of differently textured melodic and rhythmical sounds offsetting each other - a synergetic combination of two things working together to subtly suggest a third, which is greater than the sum of the original parts. A mate made a very nice music video, where near the end, when specific sequencies stop playing, he has a picture of nature with focus on a nearby object, and whilst the sounds that have vanished from the mix, are fading away, the camera defocuses from that object and re-focuses onto another object, which was in there at all times, just out of focus - that, to me, was a good depiction of what happens with my music when parts enter in, or take out. I.e. you can shift focus from a layer to another layer, forget some layer is in there, because you have focused on another layer, and then slowly realize that it is still there, supporting the whole concoction. It is a mixture of melodic harmonies, all communicating a specific mood or a vibe. Most stuff that I'm working on right now tends to make me think of the colour purple - could be because I compose it in my (dark) purple room, but could just be that when I'm doing multilayered melodies, they just end up suggesting a deep purple (not dissimilar to Wrapping (foc369) artwork). Lately I've heard from various close friends, that when they hear a new track of mine, hardly anything makes sense in it, as if everything is off-kilter, but that there is a process that happens during the song, that suddenly it starts making sense, suddenly it isn't a disparate collection of things going in different directions, instead a cohesive whole, supported by different, melodic and non-melodic sounds.
I might not be seen making military-march-music anytime soon. Or music to have chemotherapy to. I'm not too interested in oversaturated music that doesn't coalesce into a sensible whole, or even a groove – I'm constantly searching for a way to install the red thread into music, so it is proceeding and progressing towards something, that might not be completely obvious and clear, but that there is a movement to it, so that it isn't a snapshot of a lot of self-altering parameters, but instead a living organic process.
So, right now war-like grime and upsetting frequencies are out of the picture and I can't see them coming in, ever.
As a producer and artist what have been the most helpful innovations in production technology and equipment in recent years?
AC - electricity helps us, but wireless electricity transfer is what will be the most helpful re-discovery, there is no reason why it should not be demonstrated, and put to use this year. Once wireless electricity transfer is in effect, the same methodology will be used to transmit sound, speech and imagery all over this planet and that will enable anyone to collaborate with anyone, without any latency or lag. This will cause a serious explosion of collaboration, and freedom of discussion, and advance discoveries of new methods of living in an artistic way.
We haven't even yet envisioned the types of software we will have once that is in use. Sure, programs like Ableton Live are helping but once all technology gets reversed, the processing power of computers will keep multiplying infinitely. We are at the start of something quite wonderful - and it will make everything we have right now, pale and slink away to the corner and willingly put on a dunce-hat.
You've always been seen as an innovator when it comes to your productions, where do you think techno as a genre is headed, what is the sound of tomorrow?
It will comprise of Solfeggio-frequencies, completely new instruments for creating self-organizing oscillators, new ways of visually and physically controlling parameters (things that will make us laugh at the grandiose ridiculousness of Jarre's Laser Harp), and creating self-altering loops. Everything will be put together, altered, and the sound itself will keep on getting re-defined by everyone, with better instrumentation and control over their sound.
The processes and technology itself will be finely crafted into the pinnacle of human intelligent problem-solving, in such a way that anyone can create a sound and keep redefining it up until it is hitting exactly the frequencies the sound originally only hinted at.
It will not be a purely intellectual mechanistic process, but a organic, emotional/mental process (Cognitive Funk therapy – DES ), where people will, instead of currently almost singularly bluntly hammering at an idea, hit the exact frequencies where they get to exactly what they are going for. Music itself will advance in such a way that so many cold shivers will be felt in the studio, so much so that I simply cannot wait to get there.
As far as I know, we all strive for that exact thing we have in our minds, the exact tonal frequencies that hit you right there, that on a physical level move you and almost make you lose your cool, where you might get so emotionally moved by things falling into place that you almost lose control over it - this will be hit more and more, live and in the studio.
People will be able to start making music, and immediately re-focus their sounds so that they attain what they were going for, and then the only limitation will be the visualizational/imagination -based faculties, which as we know can be developed to infinity. But it is both a mental and a technological process, and thus the only way is up. The sound of tomorrow will be more with less, and less of half-hinting, instead, more of fully encompassing what you set out to create in the first place. Visualizing self-set goals, and attaining them. It is almost already, and will be, in the future, completely unbelievably good. We have only inkling.
What do you say to the argument that techno is a genre that lacks soul? Why do you think some people have this impression of it? How do you put the 'ghost in the machine'?
That argument is moot. The person who creates the music, is a soul, and if that person knows and acknowledges it, and is able to communicate his soul, himself, into the music, then the music itself will be a reflection of him. However, it is a mental process, again, of putting yourself into the music. You can choose not to do it, either by choice, or by being unaware that you are a soul. Once you have done everything you can to a piece of music, and put as much of yourself and your soul, into the game, then it is up to the listener to observe in a specific way. If the listener is unable to match frequencies with the original composer's intent/soul, then the observer himself might not groove with the composition - if the observer then is enough-so disconnected with his or her soul, they will be unable to establish a protocol of communication with the musical representation of the composers soul, and the observer's own soul. Pre-conceived notions will affect your enjoyment of music, you yourself as an observing soul will, by assuming, jumping into conclusions, and having preconceived notions about how you like to enjoy your music, or what music is, all this will automatically limit the way you yourself can absorb the artistic experiences around you, and the artistic experience that is life on this planet. It is the job of the composer to put as much as he can into his work, and it is the job of the observer to observe as clearly and without limitations, as possible, to un-learn any compartmentalized limitations, and to experience every experience as loudly and clearly as possible. It is not the job of the observer to go to a club, with a specific vibe, and decide and judge that this is this, those people are like that, that guy has stupid hair, and this music isnt any good. That is how negatively charged critics are created - and whilst that can feed you with specific types of energies, there is more to be gained by a wholesomely positive and open, un-presumptions attitude, on every level of experience, instead of being busy pigeon-holing everything, everyone and every moment into something, or maintaining a personal diary inside your mind of calling something, something and then preparing to tell everyone else of what you thought of something. These processes can be learnt, taught, but also un-learnt, and thus the most crystal-clear way of perceiving things will win over any preconceived notional defensive attitudes towards anything.
If people think techno lacks soul, it is either 1) because the composer wasn't in touch with his, to put it into the music 2) the venue playing it comprises of disengaged souls 3) the observer is unable to vibe to it, with his.
As an artist is commercial success important to you or are you happy once you're feeling the music yourself ?
Once I feel the music itself, it will, once released, be heard by the people who get something out of it - whether that is a hundred people or a hundred thousand depends on the people hearing it, rather than my work/music. I do realize, however, that if a hundred thousand people hear something, there might be a few more gigs/remixes incoming. As long as I can play gigs, and realize that the people at the gigs did think it was worthwhile to go in there; as long as I can receive feedback that people are successfully connecting with what I'm doing, then that is great feedback from the outside; however, all I can do as a human being is to tune it all up so that i am feeling it myself. then trust that since we are all one species, that someone will feel it.
Commercial success only matters if you live in a world where you have to make a living. your living is made for you, automatically, if you do exactly what you are here to do, which is be yourself, not anyone else. find what you feel needs to be done, and do it - not because you think everyone else wants you to do it, but because you see it as the one thing that no-one else is doing, and which you can to the best of your skills, because you have accumulated the life-experiences to do it your way.
What is your favourite piece of music that you have created?
A lot of loosely-sequenced/jammed tracks that end up unfinished, i could name a lot, but right now i do not have a favourite - because i have not finished what i started, be it 5 years ago or a month ago. I know which ones are favourite to a lot of other people, based on feedback and requests at gigs, but that wasn't the question. I cannot say a single thing. I trust that the next time I get asked this I'll know exactly what to say.
What are your top 5 tunes of all time?
I simply cannot answer this. There are certain tracks that have really worked themselves into my system, but to try and put them into a top 5 list would mean that say, 200 other tracks wouldn't get mentioned.
Marvin Gaye: What's Going On / God is Love
Björk: All is Full of Love
Aphex Twin: On / Nannou
Saul Williams Feat. DJ Krust: Coded Language
Boards of Canada: Energy Warning / From one source all things depend
Beach Boys: God only Knows
Metamatics: Giant Sunflowers
The issue with making a list is that a lot of songs I have heard, have given me shivers and really moved me, even to tears, but once I have heard them, say, 50 times to a hundred, I have managed to become accustomed to them, and noticed the ever-present imperfections. But the record that has had the most influence on me is Selected Ambient Works Volume 2.
Which producers do you admire most (then and now)? What are your inspirations?
I have, and still admire Richard D. James. The moods he instils onto his music are close to my heart, and also completely out there. There is a intensity of emotional mood, and crystal-clear focus on the frequency-based design. He means exactly what he is making, and tunes every sound into complete perfection. And he doesn't forget to have a great deal of fun. I believe some other people have gotten there too, at times, but his stuff just works for me on a deep level. There are many, many others whose material I really prefer over silence - Metamatics, Marvin Gaye, Gas, Boards of Canada, Seefeel.. The issue is that I could list most artists on Warp, a select few on Skam, and some scattered Rephlex artists, various acidjazz, but then going back to listening to them, I would re-discover some tracks and realize some albums or tracks weren't that good.. It is very hard to stop in time, to laminate, what made me the way I am, because it is a collection of moments from my whole life, moments that, re-evaluated with current knowledge / tastes, might either live up to the original reactions, or be completely different.
My inspirations right now are comprehensive, synergetic thought, and non-pigeonholed thinking, collecting and connecting everything, every thought and idea, into a whole, I get inspired by two thoughts suddenly connecting strongly and thus creating a completely new thought that has the basis in its parents, but is more than the sum of its parts.
Who do you recommend we keep an eye on for the future?
Brothomstates (Lassi Nikko), Sense (Adam Raisbeck), Krystian Lubiszewski, Vim (Keith Baylis), and others. On another tip, Nikola Tesla, Buckminster Fuller, Viktor Schauberger.
Geographically where have you found to be the best audience for your music? And, where have you liked making music most?
Ireland for the audience response - what can I say? When I like making music, I'm not in a place, physically yes I might be in a place, but mentally I am in a specific space, and thus the physical place does not matter - as long as the mental space is attained. I would of course love to take a bit of a vacation, hole up in a quiet hotel-room/cottage for a week or two, and have a PA system in there whilst keeping myself properlly hydrated, fed, and at ease/peace.
Does computers and new technology prevent or help people collaborate in the pursuit of their art?
I think they help people collaborate easier, but might also prevent people from composing or being productive / constructive (email + forums + chatrooms + p2p).. It can connect people, but can also leave specific personality-types in a kind of limbo (did i get an email in the last 20 seconds? what could people do for me, oh, I wont finish that thing i could do because i'm waiting for someone else to get back in touch, or do something they promised to do... have i been mentioned in the forums? where are people linking to my website from? etc etc time wastage). I.e. if computers and technology is only used for constructive creation instead of self-inflating ego-feeding or time wastage, then i'm all for it. But they can be allowed to become familiar looping hindrances - it is a matter of self-discipline -- and thinking about it doesn't really necessary solve the issues, doing about it does, however.
For more info on Esa AKA Lackluster check out the flowing links, some of which will afford you the opportunity to hear and buy his music.
Last.FM radio: http://last.fm/label/lackluster
Beatport Download: http://www.beatport.com /lackluster
Bleep Download: http://www.bleep.com/search .php?search=Lackluster
Video: http://www.dailymotion.com /search/lackluster/1
Kompaktkiste: http://www.kompaktkiste.de /lackluster.htm
Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/artist /Lackluster
Interviewed by Desy Balmer