LNS and DJ Sotofett tag team for a chat about their debut LP “Sputters”, redrawing the boundary between Electro, Dub and Techno
If they have yet to capture your attention, as far as studio collaborations go, Vancouver based LNS and Norwegian-Berlin exile Dj Sottofett have been shaping waves and exchanging musical ideas between one another for the best part of 5 years, to most satisfying ends.
Having released a series of joint 12”s back in 2017 on WANIA, summoning a dreamy, driving fusion of sounds inspired by a joint love of late 80s and early 90s electronic music. At the time, they perfectly captured a mood somewhere between the blissed out edges of trance, tribal house and techno. You can’t help but admire their creative vision, sketching out fresh fatty basslines, chugged up rhythms and wavy synthesis to perfect effect as the rest of the diggers and dj world were focused on the rediscovery of old dreamy Italian house records.
Four years in the making and on, the pair are pleased to be reaping the rewards of their continuing sonic innovations and hard work. Opening a whole new chapter in their creative trajectory, they’ve teamed up with the original home of true spirit “Tresor” to release a double-vinyl album that spans 15 cuts. Best summed up as a frappe of warped electro and psychedelic techno, interspersed with intergalactic riffs and carrying an all important twist of rave, the one thing you can be assured of is that “Sputters” is shot through unmistakable dubbed out sensibilities – due in no small part to Sotofett’s predilection when it comes to music production. However, this album is no mean feat all the same and considering the history of both club and the label, it should also come as no surprise that both artists would be pulling out all the stops and turning up the dials to +11 for a project of this nature.
Recorded between 2017 and 2020, the record flows via a series of intros and interludes as the pair tread a path that deconstructs and then recompounds a purist mix of techno inspired sonics. Using a full hybrid of hardware and some of their favourite software tools to concoct the entire affair, you can feel the depth and breadth of tweaked out machine tones rattle all night long as drums, synths and effects burble and pulse into life: coloured by those all important ‘sputters’ that constantly find the right amount of space in the mix. In fact, what really makes this album gel is not one singular track, but rather the total sum of its reverberations that depict an otherworld of alien funk that crosses starswept soundscapes over the two slabs of vinyl (which you can preview as you read on).
Having delivered such a heady brew of intoxicating mutations of techno, IDM and low-slung electronica, mixed with towers of dub effects and swagger. As you can imagine, we were absolutely delighted when both LNS and DJ Sotofett agreed to converse at length over email, to answer questions about their work, approaches to making music and how it has informed the making of such a genuinely impressive trip.
Here’s what they had to say…
Rewind the clock: How did you two link up originally and what made you decide to have a go at making some music together?
LNS: “For some years in Vancouver I lived with a bunch of DJ roommates. At the time record stores with new dance 12 inches were scarce, so we were ordering a lot of records online. A frequent buy was anything Sex Tags Mania. The sound was more rough, ready and underground than a lot of other stuff at the time, and my roommate Hashman Deejay got to know Sotofett a bit, buying from Shitfuckyou.com, Sotofett’s old webshop. He came over to play in 2014 and also came and hung out. After meeting, he did some edits and masters of my tracks, some of which ended up on my first two releases. Then we started collaborating when I would visit Europe. Sotofett collaborates with most of his friends in some way, so it is natural for him to invite people into the studio. For me it was a bit more unique and educational.”
SOTOFETT: “Alone I can sit for months and try a few things over and over again until I have created a direction I enjoy being part of my DNA. That’s such a big part of my life that I’ll grab most opportunities to collaborate with anyone that I would (or could) enjoy spending time with. With people, it becomes less ‘practice’ and more execution for me. If I work with someone, things have to move forward and like chess the framework becomes more obvious, each move changes the game’s direction – and it narrows it down too! No matter how good you are, the game is coloured by your ‘opponent’, and if there’s talent or vision involved it can drastically affect the experienced as well as the inexperienced.
Once I was in an expensive studio with very good musicians, and before the session started one guy said ‘can you give me an A’ as he wanted to tune his Bass Guitar – after a solid silence the other guy said ‘it’s not that type of music…’ It was very free and improvised music you see, and for some types of musicians it can be quite crazy to just throw some sonics out in the air without (excessive) preparation. That said, I was thinking ‘fucking hell, I daily speak three languages and can stumble out some other ones in a phoney way but I never bothered learning an incredibly short combination of notes on a keyboard…’. What’s noteworthy here is how we all came to the same place and what is possible to create from that point – everybody needs to hustle their way to their current status quo as we never finish learning.
What I noticed with LNS apart from having a strong urge for great Electro and classic Detroit style Techno, is her incredible ear, and it’s not (only) from her classical music training as a kid. We’ve discovered she might have what is called ‘perfect pitch’, a partly unscientific description that apparently 1 out of 20000 people have, and with precision she can very easily say what pitch or tone most sounds are in. A shared passion for music, especially Techno, Electro, Hip-Hop and House combined with LNS’ strong desire for harmonies and me bending every rule in the book to even make the light in my living room stay on for more than 20 seconds is a great combination.
For me the Western perspective of music has primarily come from Hip-Hop, Jazz, Jungle, R’n’B, Blues, Afro, Techno, House, Disco, Funk, Reggae and Dub – these are all styles of music where traditions and perceptions have been heavily bent – and an important detail is that all of these styles have at some point in history been called ‘non-musical’ by the establishment. Besides radio exposure, I didn’t really listen to Rock of any kind when I grew up – except the odd Jimi Hendrix record and a Pink Floyd LP. The point here is that for me Funk wasn’t music ‘with no chord progression’, it was simply the best music in the world with heavy percussions scattering over bold bass grooves, slick guitar licks and additional hard hitting horns! Same goes for Techno, it was for me a style of music you could create from so many things, also ‘non musical sounds’ – a thump and a hiss is simply enough to take over the world.
LNS brought a different approach – she listened to the actual music in Techno – and was able to execute a system of tones and harmonies I usually only found by chance. Suddenly we could puzzle together harmonies by plan, and even add multiple ones, much more than what before was considered ‘nice enough’. In a collaboration like this my mistakes are at clear exposure, which for me is a great way of learning and progressing. On the other side it can be a total disaster, especially since I’m really open to Arabic and African music, and also Experimental music (not just some ‘’nice noise’) – and that can sometimes be almost audio-terror for a (Western) person with ‘perfect pitch’ and musical training. Some melodic things I simply executed with ‘mistakes’, but other things didn’t make sense when LNS crumbled her ears. After a while I started reading up on overtones and dissonance, realising that she can hear when an overtone has changed to a ‘wrong note’ while it’s slinging off into eternity. In many ways, individual work methods are great for perfecting a craft: collaborations are great for challenges, learning and expansions.”
And what made you decide to carry on?
LNS: “It was a good fit. We seem to have the qualities each other lacks in many ways. I have a formally trained ear and manage pretty well with harmonies, Sotofett has the technical skills and a lot of production experience. And most importantly we were getting good tracks out of it! The output has been really fast and satisfying, and only a fraction of the music we have made is released.”
SOTOFETT: “With a regular and repeating practice we all become less sentimental with what we do, and it’s easier to vary the output. If you already made two Electro tracks with soft pads maybe try to make a Techno track with hard stabs, the element of contrasting is easily multiplied by continuing a practice. My good friend Skatebård has a very on-off productivity and I’d like to see much more of his music come to life – at some point I asked him if he could make his first album ‘Midnight Magic’ over again, but with his new passions and elevated knowledge, it had to be the same tracklist and songs, but preferably created from memory only – not just cover versions. He wasn’t as excited as me and it didn’t happen. Ideas like that are a really great way of doing the same – and still keeping it fresh. When thinking about it now there are some really different sounding tracks by LNS and me that would have turned upside-down on the whole album – maybe not so much for Tresor, but then again who knows. Those extra special tracks only happen from carrying on and on, as much as ever possible – I mean how many hours do you need to dig for records before you find that track you wanna listen to 100 times a day?”
How does your creative approach differ from each other and where would you say you strike similar chords?
LNS: “Sotofett is very motivated and driven, making music on most days and more of it than maybe anyone I know. On the opposite end, my creativity is heavily mood-based. Growing up my musical education was very formal, disciplined, and rigid. This eventually became stifling and I heavily rebelled, refusing to touch a violin again after 10 years of playing. This was really sad, but in the end I did come back to music, 10 years after that. So my creative approach must have absolutely nothing mandatory, I keep no regular studio hours, and make music when I feel energized and moved. Where we come together he is a really good motivator. And we have fun which is most important for my participation!”
SOTOFETT: “Dub blew my mind the first time I heard it and that explosion is still ringing in my ears. So my techniques of Dubbing, and the fact that I incorporate Dub in everything I make, is probably one of the most distinctive differences between LNS and myself, especially since she’s writing music in a more traditional way. For me to Dub an Electro track is the most natural thing in the world – while she (now a bit famously) pointed out that it’s very rare Electro and Dub get combined. Also, while LNS can actually play some instruments, I seem to be more the performer – quicker and more intuitive, and with that comes improvisation and risk taking. While I can make 10 tracks in a day, LNS can sit and find a solution to melodies that for me are long lost. Sometimes I’ve been making music that has a psychedelic breakdown, where everything is pitched a bit out of proportions, to the level where quite a few actually get angry – and to ‘sort it out’ I put LNS on the task to make bridges that harmonize properly. Then it’s a bit wild, and a bit beautiful, which opens the possibility to play it for much more people – not just fucking up people to fuck them up – but implementing something screwed, little by little, while they think it’s still nice and digestible.
On the album there’s a track called ‘The 606’ and it really illustrates the different approach we have to all the elements of music making and beyond. Firstly, LNS wanted to sell her TR-606, which I find really stupid since it’s worth so much more as an instrument than the money you’ll get for it. The idea was for us to make a track where she would really understand the spectrum of the drum machine – and never get rid of it. We laid down some rhythm patterns on the 606 and I played them live through a Spring Reverb, but also playing on the actual spring from the effect unit by hand, since it was just loosely hanging on the table with nothing covering it – very noisy and classically spring-reverberating grey sounds – like a small avant garde concert. The TR-606 being recorded and dubbed live with a compressor and some other parts of my stack made it sound much more bass heavy and punchy than how LNS usually used it.
Quickly the recording molded into an Electro track with a very classic Oberheim Matrix-1000 patch, followed by an abstract middle part and dubbed out percussions for part two. At that point it was time for stage two – and as I already had the track laid out in my head it was only for me to convince LNS that she had to play a free piano solo, and also a live keyboard bass to accompany the full second part of the track. These types of long live takes are far outside LNS’ comfort zone, but I simply cannot do it like that so my job is to get it done – while her job is to actually do it. When the approach of each is mixed up like that it usually turns out very good, and I think as an extension of this, the 10 minute full version of “The 606” really adds a lot to Tresor Records’ catalogue and their approach on Techno. So with every difference in the world you only need to like the same music to strike a similar chord.”
Who makes the better cup of coffee?
LNS: “Sotofett will take Club Mate or tea over coffee generally, so I will say me!”
SOTOFETT: “It’s who you drink it with for me. Served with a big smile, I’ll drink a cup of brown garbage and also come back for more.”
In what way does keeping the technical side of things pretty simple and letting the moment speak for itself work for you?
LNS: “We have a shared appreciation for an un-dogmatic production style. Live, Midi, Digital, Analog, Soft-Synth, however you achieve your goals it is about the result not being a purist. But variety is very good for keeping things fresh and inspired.”
SOTOFETT: “First of all, you’ve gotta have a working set up. It doesn’t really matter what it is, though it will always heavily dictate how you work. These days we can all have ‘complicated’ studio set-ups, at least too many possibilities at hand, but it’s better to make simple music that is good, than never finish complex ideas. After a while complexity comes anyway, if you’re curious and dedicated that is. Also what is simple really depends on who you ask and it differs from person to person, also where they are in life. Personally I like to make loads of different music, and to be able to do that in my life I had to be extremely pragmatic with what I have.
One of my biggest tracks has been recorded with TR-909, MC-303, Mikro-Korg and an Electribe EA-1 (only as sequencer) through a Behringer UB1204 8-channel mixer. It was recorded as one live take on a portable MiniDisc. I panned HiHats and Bass-synth to the left, and the rest to the right. Done like that I could at least make a few ‘multitrack’ edits later, say reverse only the HiHats and Bassline on the left, and leave the rest straight forward. Later it’s just made more or less mono. You actually don’t need the Electribe, it’s better to use the TR-909 external sequencer so the chain could be cut shorter. There’s also a record coming on Laton with only sounds from the Oberheim Matrix-1000, which is a mono synth, and it’s sequenced with MIDI from the computer – and also multitrack edited on the computer. Those are the very basic set-ups, really simple and direct.
But there can be a difference between music making and music production, neither has to be pretentious, but complexity grows if you think it’s fun to build up a studio and multiply your knowledge and production skills, or simply try to reach your more advanced visions. Being able to record live instruments was always a goal for me – when I was a kid I didn’t understand that some house tracks had samples so I thought it was a bunch of latin guys or a full afro band in a big studio. That type of ‘imaginary’ studio I always tried to approach – and then you need multiple ways of processing sounds, recording and mixing – but with help of the computer we can go really far.
There’s an album by Jimi Tenor & Kabukabu that I produced and mixed, I received all the recordings from the studio except those I recorded myself, and could do really advanced stuff with my own studio, which isn’t comparable to a big professional studio, but it’s a bit of a maze and there’s plenty of stuff in the chain. The idea here is that I could do something that in the 70’s would be very expensive, and also I truly believe that some big modern and more professional studio’s couldn’t do what I did with that record – with a simple set-up the complexity is in the maker. People can judge this themselves when the record is out on Sex Tags Amfibia this coming winter. After I finished the album with Jimi, I went straight into mixing and finalizing “Sputters”, and then I had so much Afro and Jazz in my head that I probably brought that along somehow. This is a very simple approach – expose yourself to tons of other types of music before mixing a Electro/Techno record – then we’re talking about complexities that are in your head no matter how simple your set-up is, you’ll take in “electronic sounds” differently and don’t mix the project like every other techno standard out there.
When someone asks me for mixing advice I tell them if they wanna make a House track, they should really listen to Blues, few things rock harder than Blues but it’s also very far away from House – and you’ll approach your music with other great knowledge. Most people I know don’t share that vision, and think it’s funny or maybe annoying to not get a short cut to the solution, then again most people I know just have a ton of synths and drum machines, barely an EQ, compressors or sound processors, so my studio is a bit different from others in my circle as it’s made for mixing, dubbing and processing – in that sense I have learned a lot from Dub and still try to crack more of those codes. Dub is really pragmatic. Scientist and the proprietors of Dub started using 4-track tape machines and changed the world with it – and don’t forget, the music was already there, it’s the studio work that changed music and our perception of recorded media forever! So I don’t care how the music is made, I can sit in the kitchen and program music on a tracker software or Ableton, have someone play flute and guitar in my own living room, record drums in a shed with more rat shit than sitting space, or get professionally recorded studio sessions like on the album with Jimi – but I can properly mix it with vision and intergrity in my studio. Even though I’m decades away from where I want to go I’m able to use everything with integrity – and that’s somehow a very important core.”
How do you know when a piece of music is finished?
LNS: “There are times where you just know and nearly everyone who hears it agrees. This is less common than the opposite. But generally you wait for the excitement to die-down and you re-examine the music. This can take days, weeks, months, or years and was a crucial part of the ‘Sputters’ album which has had at least 4 different versions of tracks. Most of the tracks which remain had another version which we previously thought was perfect. It is all incredibly subjective but it is satisfying to return to music and reform it into something you appreciate more in current time.”
SOTOFETT: “This is actually a really good question. To some degree it’s about taste and also ego, the vast majority of people I met have no tolerance for criticism when they are challenged to maybe take their music a bit further before it’s considered finished. That aside, and maybe much more important is when you make it. We always listen to music from the past and consume whatever fits us at exactly that time, in a few years we might not listen to exactly that music anymore, but something that is from a similar time, but has a different approach.
In 2005 there was a growing trend of Tech-House and Minimal, it grew out of proportions and became a horrible generic music culture – it was about perfection of its own sonic ideology to a degree that if Tech-House would be politics; it would be classified as fascism. In those years it was really important to push a more versatile and ruff style of House and Techno music, to compensate and show that we were out there, we that had different opinions, we who meant that in a club we don’t need hyper-polished and very generic dance music. At that time we had to really push hard for real underground House and dance music to have a sonic comeback. With House Music comes real Techno, Electro, Salsa, Funk, Disco, Dub, Hip-Hop etc. And our weapon was a large amount of really ruff dance music – sometimes just recorded on the fly in a session, not even edited – just mastered and spat out on a 12inch.
During times like that the energy is much more important than the perfection of single tracks, techniques and individual talents – because the ultimate talent is all of us combined; producers, record shops, labels, dancers, open minded club owners and so on. I have to admit I’m really proud of being part of that really active force during this time. At the same time, we tried to push vinyl culture as it was ‘common knowledge’ it didn’t exist anymore, and most people in the club scene doomed the rest of it’s frizzled life dead and beyond (and this is currently happening again now, also from DJ’s who earn 3 monthly salaries in two days, saying records are too heavy or ‘difficult’ etc.). But with a string of more than very persistent releases, from many small corners of the world, we managed to puncture the terrible domination of Tech-House and Minimal in clubs. Don’t get me wrong, there are good tracks and tricks in every style of music, but if you cannot play Dub or Funk, not even Masters At Work in a club without the organizer saying it’s the wrong music then the ruling ideal has nothing to do with Music Culture – streamlined opinions like this are for the Music Industry. Culture and Industry are two very different things, and it’s crucial to distinguish them – with only the Music Industry in charge we would have no Hip-Hop, Reggae, Jungle, Jazz, Techno or so in radio, TV, or within any proper distribution network – and everybody understands where this thread comes from. You can become a millionaire doing culture, no worries, but the industry is solely there for money – and is not concerned about the content.
Anyway, further down the line and many records later this ruffer style of dance music developed and dance floors and clubs opened up for more different types of music, this also meant trends were created and that means stagnation and new rules were thread over our heads – this time from “our scene”. In this case music has to develop and it’s not enough slamming out some simple tracks that “sound like they should” all the time – which again means it’s harder to finish things as they need that special extra thing to stay fresh. Whatever that extra thing is depends, it can be advanced arrangements, or complexities in melody, more vocal music, complete change of rhythm structure, change of influence, more live recorded instruments, anything really.
But no matter what you make you’ll be attached to history, and that’s good because we can use it. If you wanna make Disco you shouldn’t only let really high quality Disco inspire you, but also Blues, Rock, Afro, Dub, House, all of Disco’s extended roots – then you’ll figure out sooner or later if your music can and should stand next to what is already here, strictly musically or in terms of the communities it creates. Of course these things are not crystal clear as trends shift like fog in the morning – but take a step back and ask if what you’ve done has the right energy – and compare it to history, good music from our shared history. Did you make it for your own comfort or does it have an extended vision – beyond your ego?”
Tell us more about “Sputters”: what was your initial idea for the album and how did things progress/change as the music took form?
LNS: “Sputters” is our electro album that has been promised for a few too many years (since “Crypto Stock” on Wania). There was never a decision to write an LP, just enough tracks we were excited about to fill it!
“Sputters” began as Sotofett’s idea of making a compilation album of our loose tracks with E-GZR and me. But at the time we had a heavy workflow together and we quickly made tracks that we liked more, and had more excitement for. I had just started using Sotofett’s TR-808 in my own production, so we took some of those beats and melodies and those started morphing into a few of the older tracks like ‘El-Dubbing’ and ‘Cellular Coolant’. We were pretty happy with the initial album and it was going to be released on Wania, but Sotofett makes a lot of music and some of it will start sitting around. In the meantime we were making more electro tracks and things that fit, so we decided to change up the album. This happened several times!”
SOTOFETT: “As mentioned the initial idea was to release a double 12inch pack on my label Wania with tracks by LNS and E-GZR, I always thought they were a good combination. At the same time I released the 12inch with LNS & E-GZR called ‘Crypto Stock/Beatdown’, and announced the ‘Sputters’ album on the cover sticker. This is very typically me, whenever I announce a record it either never happens or has a delay of maybe 2-3 years.
LNS and I decided to ‘take over’ what was initially the double 12inch and it became a very different ‘Sputter’ than first planned. We did keep one E-GZR track as a tribute, it’s the metallic album opener. Maybe this is a bit messy for people but it hopefully takes a bit of mystery away from the making of an album’. Not that I mind mystery but we have to realise that artists should have a solid and constant output and not be so big on releasing albums as ‘masterpieces’ – if it’s really good it has to be up to the listener, and time will tell. With this in mind, we used the time to develop “Sputters”, it was a finalized album tracklist many times, for some years actually – but I really like to leave things resting and give it another go when it feels right. Like LNS said, it can be beneficial to let the excitement die a bit to have a sober view on things. So in the course of 3 years we went into tracks over and over again, remixing them, editing, and exchanging several too. It’s a very comfortable and easy going way of working as long as nobody thinks this project is the one and only thing that their life leans on.
For me it was really great to use completely different techniques on several similar tracks, quite a few are made with TR-808, Oberheim Matrix-1000, MPC2000XL and so on, while others are strictly computer programmed using soft synths only (a few tracks almost strictly use the free crossplatform Helm softsynth). Guess that’s a funny read for the journalists that have criticized this album for being a hardware fetish project only. Also, while this process was ongoing I released several other records and albums, jazz projects, more experimental music, some 10” on Honest Jon’s that I’m really happy with and so on – it’s really great to get that itch out and it makes the entirety more open, not so stuck in its own zone – which benefits the listener I believe.
In 2019, the Sex Tags Mania label that I founded with my brother turned 15 years, it’s been mostly under my wings for almost a decade and I thought it was better to ‘celebrate’ it by actually presenting music to a label I really respected, in a more subtle way reach out instead of just narrowing down within the labels centerpoint (which is a hole anyway isn’t it…) – and this is where Tresor comes into the picture. Tresor were open to this and at that point the album was really well put together though it did change a lot before it was mastered, pressed and released. The newest and final versions have ‘Sputtering’, ‘Tidbit’ and ‘Ziggurat’ added, and those tracks are burners if you ask me.
I cannot stress enough how much a daily practice of whatever you do is important for progression and development, it’s crucial that the connection from an idea to your fingers is as quick as possible – think about a guitar player – no chance in heaven that you gonna go up on stage and play as shitty as a beginner, you gotta practice those important 10.000 hours at least. In the ‘dance music scene’ it’s sadly different, most people just release things with no practice and the most gruesome productions are swallowed by the media and fellow DJ’s just because it ‘sounds good’ – but do not forget that it’s the engineers of Ableton, Logic and so on that made the sound design, not the producers. There are albums by successful underground techno producers on some of the most established dance music labels in Europe that have the same Snare Drum programming on 6 out of 8 tracks, and 7 out of 8 tracks have the same Snare sound! How does this happen without anyone mentioning it? Needless to say, people can be afraid of variation and change, but in the end maybe more the artist themselves than the audience.
As with everything these ways of doing things can also be used beneficially. Take Germany as an example, it’s the country that really cultivated Techno to its big form, but they are incredibly attached to the concept of BPM, or that it should be a certain BPM for certain types of music. This is comical beyond anything but also very hard to deal with in some situations. My brother and I had some parties in Berlin and before starting to play we asked a guy we played with what he brought, his reply was “between 125 – 128 BPM, because it’s Saturday night.
If you take 3-4 tracks, put them after each other and make sure they have different tempo, rhythm structure, arrangement and so on – but they are all in the same key – then you can suddenly make some square heads feel a streamlined satisfaction while you nudge them into variation with something that’s almost a psychoacoustic trick of comfort. After that you can just apply a key change and they’re at least a bit more liberated from the thought of things having to be ‘like this or like that’. There’s some of these ideas implemented in ‘Sputters’ and I’m very curious if and who will notice, and when.
Where does the notion of psychoacoustic expression fit within the boundaries of this journey you’ve taken?
SOTOFETT: “Surely many of us remember the first time being exposed to a blasting sound system. For me the very first big slap in the face was in a friend’s car. We bought turntables and mixers at the same time and kind of followed each other in the beginning of DJing. When he was 18 he got a car and in my hometown it’s very common to build a really big system in your car. I met him in the city center and he was VERY keen on driving me home only to blast my head off with some gnarly Euro-Trance, but man was it massive! I couldn’t hear anything, my ears, my head, it shocked me and was incredible at the same time.
We all have important experiences with sound, some come from our own experiences and others are basically instinct. We can play certain field recordings and experience a feeling of absolute silence – that’s psychoacoustic – I tried executing this on radio once with a Vera Dvale record called ‘Garden Of Feelings’ and the recording is online, but I’m not sure how people actually experienced this. Also effect units creating an idea of space, say a reverb or delay are more or less the same concept, playing on our instincts and perceptual qualities.
But this can be taken much further and I’m very lucky to have worked with Franz Pomassl and Laton for more than 15 years. Pomassl was the first to really expose the concept of psychoacoustics to me, he also taught me to turn down the volume so low that you could barely hear anything – to check what was really in the mix. Also he told me we can make our ears protect themselves if it’s really loud and constant sounds in a techno club, can work well (maybe unless you have too dynamic claps or snares), with a single gunshot it’s not possible as it’s a shock and not a stream of sound.
Panasonic (Ilpo Väisänen and Mika Vainio) worked heavily with psychoacoustics, on record and live performances – check out early Sähkö Recordings releases and really listen to them. And obviously Dub music has this heavily in its DNA. It might sound a bit theoretical and there’s loads of ‘smart music’ that deals with it but what I have really enjoyed is applying this to my DJ sets in clubs.
The second I had the chance to play as an invited DJ abroad, to organised legal parties and in professional clubs, I immediately grabbed the opportunity to USE the sound system. Obviously I played a much more varied style of dance music than most DJ’s that were playing in these clubs – and the fact that on my first 50 ‘professional’ gigs at least, promoters and especially club owners were really afraid and angry because of the music, there was a lot of arguing while I was playing – but remember I did leave a good mark because I made people dance. Now it’s much better and we can play a broader variety without being problem #1 in the club, it even became trendy to play ambient in night clubs – so we’re back to re-evaluating what should be done further. Anyway, besides playing a wide spectrum of music, I brought sound and music that had psychoacoustic effects on people, it was something that developed through the years as I first thought it was great to hear these sounds on a big system, but it had some interesting side effects as well. We’re talking sounds not always music, drones, sub bass frequencies or high pitch sinus tones, also classic sound effects and field recordings. As an example, during the course of 15 to 45 minutes I could gently apply a sub bass drone that little by little ate up the sonic space, especially in the bottom – and while the kick and basslines of the music became less defined it also generated a sense of disharmony in the music – and also dissatisfaction, for some a very unpleasant feeling. But it’s subtle and done while I try to play really great music.
Now this alone is not so interesting, but now imagine what actually happens to people when you suddenly remove this disturbing and massive element, then some really great music starts shining like stars you’ve never seen, and you have a full floor that had no idea what was actually going on, but now they move, are happy and smile like suns and stars. And just like that you have sinister techno heads dancing to the sweetest Lovers Rock. Some records do this by themselves because of the pressing quality, you bounce from something that sounds like a replica of music we know to records that sound so good it sounds like what you hear – is actually being made then and there. Also adding talking and laughing sounds, or beer cheering, to a slow party has funnily enough brought up the vibe as laughter is very contagious. For me it’s been a true pleasure to do this in dance clubs, really controlling the waves of sound and perception, as most psychoacoustic experiments are done in sound art context or at least not with incredible sound systems with tons of people.”
Were there any particular spirits you were trying to summon as you pushed the envelope in your own ways?
LNS: The idea that I am ‘pushing the envelope’ is a difficult one for me to swallow because I feel dance music in general right now is stuck in a bit of a time loop. And since I don’t see any exciting new direction I also favor music from the past. But maybe that is also the way out, if we can actually emulate the quality and skill of this music.”
SOTOFETT: “I’m not sure I understand the question, but everytime I do something I really try to maximise the integrity of the project. And as we all know integrity is rarely very good for ourselves, but it’s very important for others coming after us. Many things can come in the way of doing that, life, money, peoples negligence – but out of respect for all those who have done something worthy before us we should really try to push our own integrity to the fullest.”
How do you feel about the TR-606 now …
LNS: “It is a great machine especially for hats. The DIN sync can be a pain and the kick and toms are not the best if you are looking for a harder beat. But Sotofett showed me a lot with processing to help with that!”
SOTOFETT: “For me TR-606 has always been great. There’s so much fantastic music that’s been made with the TR-606 and I’m not sure if new drum machines can even last as long as this one has so it’s obviously an almost perfect machine. It has to be said that this counts for most of the Roland TR family. And even though I don’t have the TR-606 myself, I’ve used it with many friends on many occasions and records, also if it’s not around I’m happy to use samples of it. I compare these machines to Kraftwerk – why on earth did they remaster Kraftwerk’s music for the reissues – it’s music that changed the sonic landscape, music and extended the dancefloor permanently and forever – it showed us what to do without conforming.”
At what point did you realise extending the dance floor was more than just an ideal?
SOTOFETT: The ‘extended dance floor’ is maybe an idea of an ideal, or just a credible phrase, that quickly becomes a term people apply to anything less narrow than the norm, but maybe used by people who want to like a wide spectrum, though they actually would prefer things to be very safe and straight. Just like ‘Leftfield’ music, which is not a style, it’s always what is on the fringes of a style or direction – so for those who know” Leftfield as a genre, the actual concept of it passed you by while you were getting too comfortable.
Personally I consider ‘the extended dancefloor’ an ideology, something you have to live, not just trend. The real extension of the dance floor is how you operate with everything and anything connected to music. That means who you make records with, why you do it, how you sell your records, but also how you deal with clubs, sound systems, bouncers, flyers and all other things within the ecosystem of the dance floor.
Here’s a simple example. For the ‘Sputters’ album I invited my friend Kim Dahlstedt, a tattoo artist and graff writer from my hometown, to make the cover illustration. Now there’s a guy in Moss, Norway that has a direct connection to Tresor, he’s proud of being part of the project – and Tresor has also grown an inch or two with their reach. OK, so that’s easy, and plenty of people have brought a friend along for some projects. But, I have applied this to everything I have ever done with music – with almost no exception – and the result is that the small post-industrial town of Moss Norway, with the countries most looked-down-upon dialect, has turned into one of the cities in Europe that has bred some of the most productive underground artists in the past 20 years. No matter how you twist and turn it, Moss is on the map of international underground dance music in a way very few cities are. We have extended the community of international underground dance music to include Moss as a main player.
You can also invert it. If you have regular bouncers on your club nights, and you’re cool enough to pay a bit extra, or make their evening fun by allowing some of their friends to come in for free – then the bouncer will most likely be cool in return, not snatch money from the door, and you widen the circle of people going to the club as bouncers often have a different social circle than “regualr clubbers”. In the UK it would be a big step forward, as many clubs have primarily white audiences and black bouncers.
Let’s go to Club X because my friend is working at the door and has 5x guestlist.
Let’s go to Club X because my friend made the poster and has 5x guestlist.
Let’s go to Club X because my friend works in the bar and has 5x guestlist.
Let’s go to Club X because my friend is the warm up DJ and has 5x guestlist.
Let’s go to Club X because my friend is washing the toilets after the party but still gets 5x guestlist.
Let’s go to the club.
If you follow this recipe you create culture, not industry. And it is crucial to distinguish these two as I mentioned before. Know or learn the difference, then live it – or remove yourself from alternative and underground culture and leave that space for us to extend.”
Is this album a new beginning or more of a case of closure?
LNS: It’s an evolution.