By Tej. S. Haldule
How exactly is one to introduce a veritable institution in modern music? The critically acclaimed underground legend Sasu Ripatti (aka Vladislav Delay) has been at the forefront of so many genres and sub-genres of electronic production as to defy expectation.
Over the years after his breakout release (Vocalcity, composed under the moniker Luomo when he was only 25, remains an oft referenced landmark in house music), Ripatti has only gone from strength to strength, mastering house, techno, dub, experimental, ambient, jazz (he’s originally a percussionist) and whatever else he chooses to dabble in – he’s a polyglot with the Midas touch. It’s impossible to condense Sasu Ripatti’s output into this space, so to find out more about the artist, read his biography here.
Luomo – The Present Lover (Play this video in Creation 5)
In this revealing interview, the reclusive genius (he lives in near isolation on an island near the Arctic Circle) behind the many monikers speaks out.
You’ve been putting out music under a different name for nearly every sub-genre you experiment with. Why choose to do this when output from a single pseudonym can be far more recognizable to listeners? Don’t you want a familiarity to exist?
First off, I’m really not about being recognizable or having a brand or any such thing. Overall, it just feels right to give differing names to different projects or concepts. I like to produce and be involved with lots of different kinds of music, and they don’t always go hand in hand. To me, it wouldn’t make sense to put out the material I do as Delay and as Luomo under the same alias, it would be rather confusing for people. What really matters, actually, is that it doesn’t feel right to me. I’m all for confusing people, after all.
Often people are only aware of a certain strain of my music, or like a specific project.
Not only do you perform and record as a percussionist in the Moritz von Oswald trio (headed by Moritz von Oswald, one of the fathers of 90s techno), but you also have your own experimental jazz quartet. This is, of course, besides your electronic output as Luomo, Conoco or Sistol – not to mention Vladislav Delay. That’s a mammoth oeuvre. How do you manage it all?
From my perspective it’s the other way around. Had I only been making experimental ambient music for the past ten years, for example, I’d need professional help. I can’t imagine restricting myself like that. Again and again I come back to the analogy of food. There’s no way I would eat any food for more than a week in a row, no matter how good. And the same goes for my favourite albums: there’s a limit after which (the music) just doesn’t work anymore, you need variety. Making music is exactly the same thing. There’s a whole world out there, why would I stick to one genre? It makes no sense to me.
But this also means that you can’t keep doing everything all the time. I’m not working on Luomo/ Conoco/ Sistol nowadays, and I recently stopped playing with the Moritz von Oswald trio as well – it’s time to move on and do other things. There are other collaborations and projects to look forward to. I don’t like to get stuck on a particular thing and, more often than not, things eventually tend to slow down creatively. It’s hard to bring new fire into a project sometimes.
In the end, it’s just waveforms that you try to create emotions with. This tempo or that tempo, this mood or that… I’m rather omnivorous.
Vladislav Delay – Whistleblower (Play this video in Creation 5)
In 2011, Animal Collective invited you to perform at the All Tomorrow’s Parties that they curated. How was the experience?
It was one of my better shows for sure. A dedicated audience and a massive high quality PA – what more could one ask for? I also enjoyed seeing some bands that I had no idea existed, trendy indie stuff and acts I wasn’t very familiar with.
Vocalcity is my personal favourite Sasu Ripatti album – like all your best work, none of the cinematic tracks dips below ten minutes in length. Do you believe longer, free-flowing compositions afford the artist greater scope?
It’s not that simple. I often seem to just need time to build things, and I don’t really work well with the ‘three minutes thirty seconds’ format (even when it’s something relatively pop-like, such as Luomo). I’m in no rush, I don’t need to shorten tracks for any practical reasons, and I like to take my time. Lots of the music I’m influenced by is also lengthy and developing in structure, although I do enjoy some mainstream forms of music that clock in at 3:30 each and every time – no surprises there. It’s difficult for me personally to make short tracks, let’s put it like that. There’s always too much to say, too much to put into a very short format; but I never try to extend tracks intentionally to make them long. I’ve done smaller pieces, and some of them are my favourites. I have, slowly, also perhaps become slightly better at arranging and composing and need less time to say what I want to say musically.
Where did the ideas for Luomo and Vocalcity come from? What propelled you to try to inject emotion and warmth to the niche sub-genre of micro-house at such a young age? Did it not daunt you, a task that would daunt even a far more experienced and mature artist?
I didn’t care at all, to be honest. I had no idea what house music was, never mind micro-house… it was one of the least interesting forms I could ever imagine listening to. I really hadn’t even heard any actual house music, just the cheap commercial stuff off the radio. For me it was never about house music: it was about pop music. I never wanted to start a band for my pop or vocal music. Electronic backing, however, suits me well when I choose to write pop with vocals. It’s just a vehicle.
Back then I was doing lots of ambient stuff and getting a little bored of it. I was garnering attention for said ambient stuff, and the labels attached to me bothered me to the extent that I decided to do something totally different. I had made strange electronica for years on end and I think I had a little breakdown or something.
I knew a jazz singer from the time I was heavily into the jazz scene and used to play drums. I asked her and a keyboard player to join me. I just got on with it without much planning or thought. I remember the time I sent the first tracks to the label that released Luomo. They said there weren’t enough kick-drums… I remember I tried putting them in – and that’s the house thing I guess. It was a hard period in my life, personally. I was quite a mess and it was somehow therapeutic to write those lyrics and make emotional music.
What are your favourite places in the world to perform at, and why?
I have noticed I’m changing in this respect. It’s partly due to having moved to a remote location (an island in the Baltic Sea, near the Arctic Circle) which makes travelling rather challenging, but beyond that I have realized more and more that my main interest lies in the studio rather than in playing concerts. Don’t get me wrong, I like to play some good shows (and still do every now and then) – but the fact is also that not every show is a good one, and often unrelated to what you’re producing. Those tend to kill me every time a little bit.
Anyway, Tokyo and Kyoto are probably my favourite places followed by random smatterings everywhere. If it’s more dance-oriented music it’s often better the more south you go; for experimental stuff it’s often places where conditions are harsher, or at least less sunny. Still, these are stereotypes and they often fall short. Shows in Japan usually don’t fail, though. People are very considerate and interested in what you’re doing, there’s a certain dedication in Japan that’s more of a norm there than the random, surprise adulation you get elsewhere.
You’re a Pitchfork darling, and arguably one of the most respected producers in the world today. What are your own inspirations? And what new talent have you heard that impresses you?
Am I a Pitchfork darling? I think they’ve routinely ignored everything I have done for years. I’m just not trendy enough.
My own inspirations are rather varied. Obviously there’s music, which has been a part of my life non-stop ever since I was a child. My first memories are almost all connected to music or other creative media.
Music in its many forms still inspires me: mainly older jazz, Jamaican, world music, hip-hop, classical. But I must say I’m connecting less and less with most of the music being made today, compared to some music I’ve truly been inspired by in the past. I still look for new stuff, but maybe less than I used to. It’s just that there’s so much, and not all of it is good. My time is limited. The music I listen to is therapeutic above all. I easily spend 10 to 12 hours in the studio every day, listening to stuff I’m working on. After that I really don’t want to challenge my ears, I want to do the opposite. More often than not it’s something like Bill Evans trio or Chet Baker or I-Roy or some entertaining hip-hop, maybe some solo piano music. Not the latest electronic assault, though; it’s too much. I must add that I generally just don’t like the sound of most music made in the past few years. I’m not contesting its musicality – just what it sounds like. I mean it’s fucking loud, and it’s over-processed, -produced, and pushed to its limits – often, nowadays, with cheap digital gear by people who don’t know much about the technical side of things… about the art of recording. There’s not much room for my own creativity to play around there because there’s no space. The music I love always has plenty of room to hang around and add your self to.
Books have also been quite an inspiration, since both my parents are/were authors. Movies to some extent. Food and cooking to a much greater extent. I cook almost every day. My daughter is arguably the biggest inspiration of them all. I’m inspired by interesting people, from farmers and fishermen to artists and criminals and everything in between. I’m inspired by travel, what I see and learn and notice. There’s so much inspiration around, it just flows in…
Vladislav Delay is possibly your most famous and prolific project. Is there an especial stylistic attachment you have to it over your other work?
Somewhat. It’s more of my own thing than anything else I’ve done. Delay’s music is more expressive and true to my self, to the point that I don’t have to work all that much on this project as compared to the sportsman-like feeling I sometimes get when I’m making vocal or club music. There’s no intention or trying, I just let it go where it wants to.
Vladislav Delay – Huone (Play this video in Creation 5)
Despite the incredible adulation and critical acclaim most of you projects have received, you have, somehow, remained reluctant to toy with mainstream success. Was it a conscious choice to remain an underground artist?
Sasu Ripatti chose our Sunday Sessions this week. Listen to them on YouTube!
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If you are already using Creation 5 Media app, don’t forget that you can expand your music collection, for free, by downloading any of the video clips that appear in the above article.
Open the video in Creation 5 – we have created links by the side of each song title for this very purpose, so just click on any of these and the video will open inside Creation 5.Once the video is playing inside the app, press and hold the song title and choose DOWNLOAD from the options. That’s it! You can now find the video in your ‘Favorites’ folder.Press and hold the song title and choose SHARE. Even if your friends don’t have Creation 5, with the link you send them they will be directed to the App store where they can download the app for free.