Remote Induction interview


Re:mote Induction Feature
Esa Ruoho/Lackluster

Esa Ruoho has been recording under the name Lackluster for several years. With a number of releases on deFocus and a collection of mp3s on Monotonik he has built a name for himself. Most recent releases include a 7" as part of Zeal's Zealectronic series and an Esa Ruoho album called Spaces on the U-cover label.

ptr: Esa the first thing that made you interested in making music was computer games - what was it about the sounds that were used that interested you? Are there particular games that you think of that were particularly influential? Having been inspired by this type of sound how did you take you first steps to emulate that for yourself?

Esa Ruoho: Ever since I was 2 I've had a special fondness for computers and the sounds they can emit. Because I really didn't listen to tapes or the radio or anythin, I hooked into game music pretty early on and used to tape the likes of Mutants/ Menace/ Obliterator/ Starglider II and play them over and over and over again. Later on taped tracks from early c64/amiga demos, just cos they gave that shivers down your spine effect which I still use to gauge if the music really is brilliant/moves me or if it's just .. a track ..
Tried to do stuff on the amiga/protracker but just couldn't concentrate back in '89. Around '93ish got into doin stuff on the pc, but couldn't concentrate mainly because of the interface and lack of patience.. Used to do 'hit the keyboard randomly for a melody' at high speeds and most of it degenerated into un-gabber-like gabber... Then again, by then I was listenin to c-tank and the likes..
First real step would've been '95, on Screamtracker.. Finally found something I could latch into and started working on actually gettin better at that.. of course, havin an extensive module-collection helped a little, because there really is some good stuff out there (think old amiga 4channel trackers)

j0hn : : I'm aware of a certain snobbery from some parts of the "traditional" electronic music community toward musicians coming from a tracker background. Is that something you've ever encountered or been aware of?

Esa Ruoho: Haven't come across scorn from fellow musicians for doing modules..
More people have complained about some of the defocus tracks lying around on certain demo scene ftp-sites and the fact that they are being recycled from the original format into a CD-compilation (Container)..
Frankly it seems like the people affiliated with the module-scene are more eager to bite your head off for 'sounding like a module' (whatever that means).. most 'regular' ppl are more liable to doubt/ disbelieve that the stuff is (mostly) done with impulsetracker, instead of say, logic..

ptr: Having found something you could work with what stages did you go through to get to the point where you were ready to record as Lackluster and what were the most important things you learned in that process?

Esa Ruoho: Lackluster happened around '97 summer or so, as I started usin this project name in my mod-releases. There was never a time when I decided 'right, now I'm ready to record'.. was just releasin tracks thru the mod-scene and later on mp3s.. cdr#1 got created when Greg Davis@Warpcomm started goin off about 'hey!, let's do a comp based on warp-comm-goers..!' so, put together a few tracks, sent them to him, and 'Laziness' ended up on his CDr-comp 'Close Parenthesis'.. I don't remember why CDr#2 got compiled, but there was some sort of need to burn tracks on a CDr so I could listen to them.. gave a copy to h0l/Monotonik and he wanted to put it out. After all those mod-scene releases, got contacted by focus cos Cim had heard some of the modules..
Truth to tell if it had been up to me, i would've sent a demo out to labels around '03.. and definitely none of those tracks that were released on the mod-scene..but it was taken out of my hands rather forcibly
Learning process.. I believe the only real learnt thing was to do whatever without thinking about it.

Eddie/BOVAFLUX : : So I see you were involved in that idm rmx project over at ... What did you make of that then? What was it like to work with cunts like that Bovaflux guy??
Oh, and what's your favourite method of coming up with track names?

Esa Ruoho: I never had the time to download any of the other tracks.. don't think I made much of anything out of it, except a crappy rushed mix to get rid of the, err, 'fun'.. was disappointed at the first track I was supposed to rmx (triphop-py) and flunked that.. the second track was a bit more drum'n'bassey but I still did nothin really. Slapped 3 different tries together into one huge mess and wondered if it was worth the hassle for everyone..
That Bovaflux! He kept on keeping on until I couldn't take it anymore!
Favourite method for comin up with track names is to either name it by dates, and then go thru my 'random names and good words' directories to rename them (goin thru old chats/messages to find specific strings of words) or just call it by it's savefilename.. (tall5/0kottih/0today8/0tilde5/kosmos7)... favourite would probably still be dates.. but nobody else can remember them, which is unfortunate.

ptr: Can you tell us about the various places where people can find some of your online material? How much have you benefited from the support of mp3 labels and the like? What sort of feedback have you been getting from this avenue?

Esa Ruoho: Well, h0l/Monotonik kindly donated some space @ , so the Lackluster mp3 archive resides there at the moment, apart from the One-Offs EP & happyarpeg (Kahvi mp3 release) which I haven't mirrored there yet. ( )
Releases .. various places. Monotonik, which has been in existence since roughly summer 1996.. run by h0l (a.k.a. Simon Carless) originally named 'mono', it split to mono211 (dnb/triphop/downtempo) & monotonic (straight techno/eclectic) and switched from modules to mp3s around 1999. 2 single mp3 releases in 99-00 and the One-Offs EP (6 track EP) around June'01.
Kahvi, run by Väinö Ala-Härkönen (a.k.a. vae), 2 releases (07/10/99 (retitled as strateface/kcl0 for a forthcoming 12" release) & happyarpeg (friend and me playin on a juno60 live back around christmas'99)..
links to check out for quality music. - kahvi community - mono211 & monotonik - milk - level-d music - tokyo dawn records - theralite
there are others, like rNO, tokaimura state, and whatnot.
Benefit? Exposure..
Used to get a bit of feedback back in 97-99, but it all kind of died around '00.. in fact, there haven't been a lot of mails/comments on the one-offs ep release at all..

ptr: Can you give us a summary of your "physical" releases as Lackluster to date?

Esa Ruoho: 2000:
foc349 12" ep
a1. suntrap (tomas szepe remix)
a2. ix pen
b1. cull streak
b2. meanwhile

foc350 container CD/LP
foc354 r u oho? 12"
a1. 20333 (13/10/99 lackluster sample mix)
a2. cull streak (bauri mix)
a3. meanwhile (xhale night edit)
b1. suntrapez (brothomStates timing techniques)
b2. cull streak (sense mix)
b3. meanwhile (rm xb y brothomstates)

rikos005 7"
a1. 01/10/00
a2. 07/05/00
b1. 18/10/99
b2. 26/05/00 (dear laurent)

esa ruoho: spaces CD (u-cover005)

lackluster: 7" (zealectronic purple)
a. 27/11/99
b. 19/10/00

esa ruoho: spaces EP (inc.us05)
a. pond assemblage
b1. med test
b2. space

Forthcoming releases.. deFocus 12" ep, deFocus cd/lp, merck 12" ep.. And literally a ton of remixes (none of which are done yet--stress)

ptr: You list foc349, foc350, foc354 - are these all on the same label? Can you tell us something about this particular material - the label involved and whether there are any particular ideas behind them?

Esa Ruoho: Yes, they are on the same label, Focus, which later on became defocus, due to problems with a larger label of similar name. Got contacted by Cim @ defocus, him & Clair listened to a bunch of my modules, and sent me a listing of tracks to provide on a CDr, which became 2 cdrs, and which later on became foc349 & container.
About 10 tracks got skipped altogether, and they'll be available only as modules. Can't remember which tracks ended up as leftover-tracks..
The idea was to get a shoe between the door. Could've said 'no, let's wait 5 years for good material instead', but didn't.

ptr: With R U Oho? 12" there are remixes of your material - how involved were you with who mixed your material and how did you feel about the end results?
Also you have done a number of remixes - how do you normally get involved with those and how do your feelings about mixing someone else's material compare to someone else mixing yours?

Esa Ruoho: With foc354 I handpicked people whom I wanted to remix, not all could deliver, but in the end there were about 11 remixes, 5 of which were selected (and the additional 13/10/99 track that Clair loved so much)
The end result was 4 Sense mixes (1 used), 3 brothomStates mixes (2 used), and remixes by Vim & Thug & others that were never used anywhere..
At first wanted Bola & Boards Of Canada to remix, but turns out they would've probably a) been too busy b) not been interested c) demanded a fee over a thousand pounds..
so went with a bunch of friends..
Received all the remixes, burned them on a CDr and sent them via UPS express in one day to Clair, and she picked the track listing.
About the end results. Well, there were some good remixes that could've been put onto an additional foc354.2 release, but all in all am really happy that 2 of the 3 brothomStates remixes are on there, that Sense & Bauri got remixes on it and that xhale got his first remix on a physical 12".
About remixing someone else.. well, people either mail a CDr without any prior communication, or they contact via email/irc.
tend to not to volunteer.
atmo am supposed to remix Sense, Thug, Viinikala, Proem, Multiplex..
I like remixing. Kind of. It's fun cos ya get someone else's samples (negates the problem of finding your own, see), someone else's ideas that can be chosen or culled.. The results aren't always exactly what the remixed wants, or what the remixer was lookin for, and the fact that there's mostly deadlines and stuff kind of deters from the fun.. But sometimes it's very enjoyable.
Apart from whole of foc354 and the 1st track on foc349 (Tomas Szepe (Viinikala) rmx) there haven't really been that many remixes.. but mostly when it comes to melodies I tend to have my own opinions on what other people do to my melodies or, if anything at all..

ptr: You have contributed to the Zealectronic series with Zealectronic Purple - how did you come to be involved with the Belgian label Zeal Records and how was this series presented to you?

Esa Ruoho: While I was in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, I got a mail from Geert at Zeal Records, and it was basically a 'do you have time, are you interested in releasing thru us and this Zealectronic [colour] project?'-message. Compiled about 15 tracks for him to listen, and he mailed back quickly with 2 tracks he specifically wanted. After much hassle (wave files for the A-side track were in Finland, and wave files for the B-side track were on my hard drive, which I couldn't plug in anywhere), the release was ready.
The series was presented to me as a series with a bunch of tracks by L'Usine ICL and Lilienthal in it. Those were the only names I knew of. To convince me, they sent me a copy of the Sybarite 7"..
Oh yeah, and the design toys on cover and the specific colour theme for every release. yeah.

ptr: Spaces was your first release under your own name - why did you decide to do this rather than making it a Lackluster release? With Spaces you seem to have a different sound to the Lackluster I've heard (obviously part reason why name change) - but how conscious was this change of sound? How did you come to be releasing on another Belgian label - U-Cover - and why the EP on another label?

Esa Ruoho: The name change was suggested to me, because of the drastic sonical difference. The next Lackluster album on defocus will be much more in the vein of 'lackluster', if that makes sense. Except beatier.
Esa Ruoho turned out to be a freeform 'I'll do anything under this' thing. Might end up doing deephouse with this name.. once I actually finish up the small loops that I've come up with.
Well, the thing with the older (97-99) material and the U-Cover CD is, that even the newest of the defocus material (apart from the remix, which is from oct'99) was from may'99..
After that started branching onto different software to 'better the sound'.. Around Nov'99 I entered a limbo of bein able to patch specific programs thru my effects box and the mixer, and record them back (compensator, f.ex.)..
Also different programs lead to different sounds. All tracks on the Spaces CD are made with audiomulch, a neat bit of software by Ross Bencina. It's got a bit of a more 'fluid' approach to sound-design and is kind of meant (imho) for more of a textural approach.. not necessarily tracks with form, more like sonic manipulations.
There are a bunch of tracks on compilations and whatnot made with audiomulch (31/10/99 on Autumnature, 11/11/99 on Initial Release, 2 tracks on the Rikos 7" for instance).. and more to come.
While I was in Canada I recorded the 'meat' of Spaces, 'Med Test', 'Pond Assemblage' and 'Departure'.. The rest of the tracks are mostly from 1999 tries in sound.. Space is still the first 'real' ambient track I ever made.. For the 3 tracks made in Regina, I was muckin around with no sample bank so for instance 'Med Test' is made out of whatever was lying around.. Casio ck-10, and as much AM-generated things as ever possible. It's got a bit of a rough drilling sound to it because of this.
Well, U-Cover connection was because Koen at U-Cover lives near or in the same house as Geert at Zeal.. So Geert passed me along to Koen, and things worked out from there.. At first I was going to say no, cos I thought he wanted to put out a Lackluster release.. Then I listened to the tracks, and found out that there was much more of a freeform ambient thing (at least that was deduced from the 2 minute clips, the CDs turned out to be a bit more focused) goin.. so I tested the waters by compiling only ambient..
This was also the period that i had some brief dealings with Traum Records, they wanted to put out an ambient CD & 12", even sent me a contract via e-mail, but dropped me before we could sort anything out (in Canada I had no tracks, so they recorded all the tracks they wanted onto a tape and sent it to me.. Canadian post being what it is around in the wilderness, it took 5 weeks to arrive, and by then they had changed their minds.. another 5 weeks, and the CDr's I'd sent to Traum Records were back in my control, and I quickly compiled additional tracks for the Spaces release)
Actually, the reason Spaces is kind of dark and foreboding is because there were some brief dealings to do an additional release, with a lighter, almost childchime-ish touch (tracks like onuj (Merck Aurora compilation), happyarpeg (kahvi mp3 release), kcl2 (monotonik "one-offs ep" mp3 release) and whatnot)
But turned out that in the end it wasn't feasible.. only had about 25 minutes of music, and thus the project ended up a dud..
Nowadays I've got a bit of more melodic ambient tries floating around, but sadly all of them end up being formless 1-2 minute tries. Don't know if in the end there's interest for such short interludes. Perhaps as filler for real records, but..
Koen at U-Cover sorted out the 3 tracks for the 12" EP, as he runs afaik. Actually there was a project to get 3 more of the CD tracks on a Hymen 12" release (check U-Cover L'Usine ICL CD and the Hymen 12"s, to get an idea of what kind of 'recycling to vinyl format' is goin on.. not a bad idea for dj's for instance)
zeal records
autumn records
rikos records
surgery records
audio mulch

ptr: From our conversations to date there seems to be a certain negativity to your approach to your music - you want to distance yourself from pre-Lackluster projects like Distance/Orange, and also express a certain distaste for your work to date. Why so negative? How do you maintain a drive to keep doing music when this is the way you seem to feel about what you have done to date?

Esa Ruoho: Why not? The stuff ain't that good. I don't maintain a drive to keep doin music. In fact most of the time I'm so low on self-esteem that I can't even knock up a track together.
Had to drop the container methods, kind of, cos realized that I could be doin stuff like that forever, if it didn't stop right now..
It's a problem of bein blind to your own sound.. I'm so well versed on how I work and what isn't worked out properly that the only things that stand up on tracks I've made are the inherent laziness, the lack of fine tuning arrangement-wise and just how rough the overall sound is.
Personally I believe that 1999 was the best year, after that I was assaulted by the defocus hubbub and suddenly comin up with tracks got riddled with second guessin yourself until ya couldn't even do up a track without wondering where it'd be put out, or if it was any good..
Currently am tryin to come up with a track once per month.. Or at least try to have programs open and doodle something. But it seems that the more loops I do, the grasp for arrangin the tracks into something meaningful just deteriorates..

ptr: -Again this answer seems to underline the contradictions in the way you express yourself, on the one hand negative, but on the other you express a discipline/positiveness to keep producing material. There is also the way in which you describe the material under your own name as "free form" - this again sees some positive expression in a desire to experiment, to further push what you have done.
How much is your desire to improve upon what you have done and to experiment the driving force that keeps you producing music? What are you hoping to achieve with the material that you are currently working on/towards?

Esa Ruoho: I describe 'Esa Ruoho' as freeform because I might be puttin out anythin thru that. i.e. it's not 'bound' to a specific style. That's the basic reason why Spaces is under my own name, and not Lackluster. There's a specific sound to Lackluster.. and I guess it's one of those things that need to be sorted out.
The fact is that I want to do music. I want to make it good, and I want to be able to listen to a track from 96 and then put on a track from 01 and see that there's growth, not necessarily only sound-wise, but arrangement/soul-wise also. The only reason I keep doin tracks is that if I stopped (which I feel like constantly), nobody else would keep on doin 'my' tracks for me.
What I hope to achieve? Something that'll reduce me to tears every-time I hear it. Something that'll make people nod their heads for the whole track and not just the first 20 seconds.

ptr: So can you hear the change between 96 and 01? Wanting a track to evoke tears from you every listen sounds like an extreme standard to hold yourself to - do you agree?

Esa Ruoho: Yeah, the more music you do the better your music should get, content-wise. I want there to be an audible difference in skills and musicality from tracks made in 1996 to tracks made in, say, 2001 or whenever. Some sort of progression must be evident. Seems I've been back trackin since 1999, as nothing I do nowadays seems to surpass that year.
Extreme standards.. I can already knock up a track I vaguely like, or zone out on.. why would that be enough? I want to be able to do tracks that bowl me over when I hear them somewhere else. Tracks that are brilliant and shine out like a beacon I can hear a change from 96 to 97 to 98 to 99, but after that it just gets less musical and more obscure.. nice sound wise, sure, but the original ideas are lacking miserably.

ptr: We have talked about the emphasis on gear in this scene in our conversations so far - why do you think there is so much gear emphasis in electronic music? What effect do you think it has on the results? And how do you think that music should be approached (something I think you've touched on already to some degree...)?

Esa Ruoho: I guess the gear becomes important when you want to start from having a wicked sound, instead of having a wicked idea.. I know I'm the worst person to say this but sometimes startin with a good idea is better than just muckin around until you've got a wow sound, and then putting on another odd sound, and another, until you've got an eclectic bunch of sounds and glitches that have no real point apart from goin pop kzrrr hiss crackle snap plop in the night... sometimes that can be really interesting, especially if you don't just leave it there, and work on snapping it together into a whole that gives something to the listener.. and by that time we're pretty deep into the fight about what is 'giving something to the listener' and why something isn't.. and what gives me the right to say that something doesn't 'have enough'. Generally I just like to listen to music with an idea that's refined so that it's either really subtle and obscure, or accessible.. dunno.

ptr: You mentioned forthcoming releases on defocus and Merck - what can you tell us about what will be on these releases, whether they have names and when you reckon that they will be available?

Esa Ruoho: merckLL 12"
'a lackluster remixer'
Out before november
Currently in the process of being mastered, 2 out of the 6 tracks aren't ready.. After that we'll wait till the merckBA (machine drum tracks+remixes) 12" is mastered, and it'll all be released.
3 remixes (including Marumari + Machinedrum) 1 previously unreleased track 1 track that appeared on the autumnature compilation and 1 track that is freely available as an unmastered mp3. (kahvi)
deFocus 12" ep
deFocus cd/lp "wrapping"
container I have no clue. There's a bunch of tracks, about 16-17. Am eagerly waiting for the track listing, so I can deliver the tracks to the guy who will master them..
rikos005 7" re-release thru merck
500 copies, out before end of September
Just a U.S. re-release of the Rikos 7" that's already sold out. Vinyls in the printing factory, things are gonna be sorted.
That's it.. a bunch of remixes, compilations, and possibly a split with Vim.

ptr: if you have any final comments you would like to make about music or on your work in particular now is the time to do it.....

Esa Ruoho: just go and give a listen to the forthcoming brothomStates Qtio ep and the forthcoming brothomStates Claro CD.

July 2001