I think it’s fair to say, despite being a complete fresh-face to us musical nomads here at Bite the Belt, without a single shadow of a doubt that we absolutely love this man with all of our hearts. He turns our musical freak on in ways that only a real artist knows how. But it’s not all down to the guys ability to nibble at our lobes with sensesoundual ease, it’s the whole damned package.
Aside from being the safest person we’ve ever spoken to, Janne ‘the musical man’ Hatula is also one of the most switched on, learned and inspiring producers you could ever have the pleasure of listening to. He politely entered our lives and as we were drip-fed delightable droplets of his sound, we all soon found ourselves immersed in his enormous back-catalogue of beats and rhythms, stemming back well over a decade, and we fast became a new ensemble of fresh faced Fanu-fans. It was not a nice Fin, called Janne, who was introducing himself to us, but us musical sucklings being introduced to a powerful producer called Fanu.
Come with us now on and extensive exploration of the musical mind that is Fanu. Feline-sub-frequencies, caffeine indulgence and vinylist bears await.
So; what’s your name, where are you from and could you briefly explain what it is that you do.
Whaddup! My name is Janne Hatula, and I’m from Helsinki, Finland. I make electronic music with broken beats…been doing that for a good while. Started making music in 1992 as a hobby, got my first decent release in 2003 and I’ve been on that path since.
Well Janne, it’s a pleasure to have you conversing with us. So what’s the scene like in Helsinki? Do you enjoy living there?
Pleasure’s all mutual.
Helsinki’s interesting, for there’s always been something for everybody. Sure, the house and techno scenes are what offer the most, but there’s broken beat action, too, and it’s been lively for all the time I’ve been here. These days you get people like Desto and Tes La Rok do a set every now and then (they both actually live quite close to me) so it’s dope.
I like Helsinki – I mean, I’ve been here for almost 15 years and haven’t felt the urge to move elsewhere, even though moving to the UK or somewhere in central Europe has crossed my mind a few times, because Finland is so far from everything, which is a bit of a hindrance in terms of connections and getting booked, for example, but hey, it’s all good in here, and I don’t see myself moving out too soon. I feel like home here. The rent can be pretty bad, though (recently moved within Helsinki because it was getting seriously out of hand at my old place). …And oh yeah, knowing that I live in a country whose people rank among the top coffee consumers in the world, I know I fit right in!
Speaking of the UK, have you played here before? How was the reception, and have you any plans to return any time soon?
I’ve played UK lots of times. I don’t think I remember them all, but Exeter, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Bristol at least. Last time in Bristol for Inflect a few months ago; I played after Om Unit. Reception’s always been great; did one of my first live gigs in London, and Mixmag actually wrote about that. No UK gigs in the pipeline at the moment, but seems I’m doing a show in Ireland on November 14 (“Get Boogie” in Galway).
I’ll return to the UK once anyone books me.
A couple of friends of mine travelled to your native land for Flow festival last month. Have you been, and on an international level, how does it compare to the other small festivals that you’ve graced?
I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good. It’s got so big. They’ve always got several big names there, such as Machinedrum and Skrillex (wub!) this year, Public Enemy last year – Chuck D‘s manager actually got me a free entrance there (I did a remix for them, that’s why, but the release never happened due to them not getting enough decent remixes), but I didn’t go as I had been putting work in all weekend and failed to go. Wasn’t the first time making beats at home beat every other option for this old fuckah…
I’ve offered my set to them a few times, but I heard I’m not popular enough. Someone pointed out to me that last year, or was it two years ago, they had three acts there that I had recently remixed but I wasn’t there. It’s hard getting popular enough! Jokes aside, I don’t think what I represent fits Flow’s semi-hipstery bill, but then again, this country barely knows most of its electronic music artists. Vicious circle, in a way. Though festivals in general are wicked; we have a nice festival called MetsäFestival in Mäntyharju, Finland, this summer, and I was playing alongside Om Unit, Thing, Desto, Pinch, etc.
We think a bit of Fanu on the Sun And Bass line-up is in order! Now, festivals aside, let’s get down to your material, something that I haven’t personally been aware of for long, but after reading through your website I was taken aback by the level of devotion you have for your craft. I get the impression that you would be making music even if nobody was listening to it. When did you realise that you could sustain a career as a producer?
True: I’ve only ever made music for myself. It’s not for success, money or any of that.
But I admit, when I was younger (I started getting DJ gigs maybe in 2002 and got my first decent break in music around 2004–2005 which really kicked it all off for a few good years), I definitely valued myself way too highly and I was the “What can you pay me?” type for a while, too. I mean I did love the music, but I also did think of money a bit too much, and getting paid was also part of the equation from the get-go. I even took all hints of promises of money from release deals too literally, and I’ve called some well-known dudes on their phone to ask where my cheque is. Christ. But that was 10 years ago, and I’ve definitely paid the dues in a way, being my own agent, negotiating things, blowing things, fucking up, succeeding every now and then, etc. I’ve definitely blown deals, too, not realising until afterwards I shouldn’t have taken it all for granted. It’s been a highly educational ride and I regret nothing. I’ve matured. I’ve paid a few years worth of rent with that money so I’ve had that, too. I’ve gained perspective. As time has passed, I’ve learned what matters. Money from music lost its importance, and music became the most important thing, as it should’ve been, and as it was for the first 10 years (I started making music in my bedroom in 1992 or so).
All that’s left is a respect and love for music that’s stronger and deeper than ever before. I’m glad I grew up, I’m glad I got rid of the “I need to be making gigs, I need that money upfront and ASAP” mentality; some people never do, and those people end up leaving music eventually. Hell, I’ve been at the crossroads a few times. “Is this worth it”? But when you finally shed off all the unnecessary bullshit (money, “fame”, etc), your appreciation for what really matters the most in the end – music – grows tenfold, and that’s when you really give it all you got. And I’m there now, finally, definitely at my strongest, and yes, to answer the question: I would make music even if no-one listened to it.
Let me quote Amon Tobin:
If you want to be successful, maybe music isn’t the right thing to do to begin with…but if you want to do something you really care about and you really do believe in, then my advice would be: don’t listen to any advice, really. Just do exactly what you want to do and keep doing it despite what everybody tells you. And it might be successful or it might not. But at least you’ll have done something you’re proud of.
So in taking Amon’s advice we should not listen to his advice? We get it… I think? You previously mentioned that the beautiful track Siren Song changed the game for you. Specifically, how did the tune offer you a “eureka moment” and what is this track’s significance to your career?
Teebee signed it in 2004 and released it in Jan 2005. I think it’s a tune that worked out well, and a tune like that hadn’t been done before, so it was fresh. I think it touched people on an emotional level, like good music should. It spread well and gained me loads of bookings and touring around Europe and USA. I guess everybody who was into DNB around that time knows it, and it’s been both a blessing and a curse. Some people will always expect that style from me. People still ask me to play it on gigs every now and then (I’m flattered that they ask but I haven’t played it for so many years), even though it was released a decade ago.
Though I am very grateful to Teebee for releasing it on Subtitles because he gave me a good boost.
You recently had a track, Rendlesham, on a Subtitles compilation. Are you working on more material for them?
No. I get asked about this, Subtitles being the label that released Siren Song, so let me just say this this once for the sake of putting an end to that.
I was working on more, and had a few tracks in the pot, but I suggested taking one tune back for another project where I personally thought it’d fit better, which lead to me getting kicked out right that moment, no questions asked, no room for discussion. I tried to talk and be reasonable, but when some people get pissed off, talking’s no good. Wasn’t meant to happen, I suppose. I’m fine with it and there’s no hard feelings, but I’m not sure if they can say the same. But let me emphasize, I’m not airing a beef here…I don’t do that. It’s my philosophy to not have any grudge with anyone in this life, and I always discuss things till they’ve settled and the air is clear. I’ve emailed them later on, trying to be friendly, but nothing. Still wishing them all the best, and I mean it. Forever grateful, no doubt.
Though, now your a credible label owner yourself. What sort of stuff, musically or otherwise, steered you towards becoming a producer and label owner? How long has Lightless been releasing for?
The whole “becoming” a producer thing…it happened naturally. I’ve always been making music; I started when I was 12 or so (I’m 34 now) because the whole idea of making music felt so amazing, and the small town I lived in didn’t offer anything else. Things progressed naturally from there: I got signed, got booked, all that jazz. I’d been making music for 10 years when I got my first tune signed, which proved, I guess, that I had the perseverance or whatever that it takes to keep going and to be(come) a producer. I never “became” a producer: I think I was already a producer when I fired up Octamed on Amiga for the first time, if you know what I mean.
Lightless label stuff started in 2006 or so when Chris and Andrew Parkinson – two true gentlemen from S.T. Holdings, an indie distributor (who just recently quit, sadly enough) – approached me, saying they had been following me and they thought I should start a label of my own instead of shopping my music around. Even by then, I had loads of music locked to different labels. They were right, and they gave me the chance to start a label of my own; they paid for everything, encouraged me to do it, handled the distribution, mastering etc…all I had to do was to make music. So I started Lightless. I switched over to SRD some years later, because I got the impression we were not on the same wavelength anymore, but that was for the better. I’ll be forever indebted to the Parkinson bros, for they started a great thing for me.
What’s the ultimate objective for Lightless as a label and who do you look up to?
The only objective ever has been to release good music – timeless music that doesn’t suck (up to trends or masses) and which will hopefully sound good and relevant in the future, too.
I look up to any label/producer/collective, big or small, that’s been sticking to their guns, doing their own thing, working in his own terms. It used to be Good Looking and Metalheadz. Now, look at Cosmic Bridge, Exit, Astrophonica, new groups such as Inflect Bristol etc…clearly it’s all about pure love for music, blind faith, day in, day out.
And who would you like to see release on Lightless or do you have producers working on projects already?
The label’s always mostly been for my own works with the exception of a few guest releases, and there’s been many albums, so it’s been slow. But I’m not here to race, for music’s not a horse race.
There is nothing from others in the pipeline, to be honest, except a remix from Coleco (check him out!) for my next EP (I actually have some collabo stuff going on with him, too, which is kind of interesting). I don’t want to sound like a grump but I’m really picky: it’s hard enough for myself to make music I consider worth releasing, and I don’t really ask for demos etc., but I am getting some. Not saying I wouldn’t be up for releasing good shit if something really hit me.
Your next 12”, Paracosm/Yin Dub, is coming out via Lightless in two weeks time (15th Sept). It showcases the dark and techy side of Fanu with two eerie, spacious, 4am, graveyard-set, sweat-pouring-off-the-ceiling stompers that wouldn’t sound out of place at a Loxy gig. Have you previously produced d&b in this style?
I’ve already been asked if it’s a “new direction” for me. It’s not a new direction in the sense that I’d be chasing it further. I don’t do that.
I’ve also heard so many times that I should have made more music like Siren Song…thanks, but no. I did make another tune in a similar vein, Tales From The Sea, but that’s it. I’ve been exposed to so much music in my life that I can’t be re-hashing things as I gotta keep moving; there’s so much music inside of me that wants to come out. Seeing producers do the same thing over and over again is sad. You gotta be breaking your own shell before it forms, for the sake of longevity and keeping it going and interesting. Sometimes I make this, sometimes that – I love letting the music come out, and what happens, happens, but I’ve never deliberately taken on a “direction”, and Paracosm won’t be showing “a new path” stylistically, either. I don’t care about what someone might expect from me…life’s too short for pleasing others. Do your own thing and keep on truckin’. I hope that 12” can shake a few DNB people, though.
Amen brother. As in contrast: the digital release you put out alongside DJ Pushups, Oh-So-Random EP #2, was at the other end of the spectrum. Are you embracing this 160 revival that we’re in the midst of?
I’ve definitely been feeling the whole 160 bpm a lot for a while. Om Unit, Fracture, Moresounds, that camp…but if I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ll be staying in that particular style (OSR EP 2 style) that long…there’s OSR EP # 3 in the works that takes it further, but I think that’s it for that, mostly, and then I’m doing something else.
It’s been in the back of my mind for a while that I should take a little breather from uptempo material and go back to the downtempo stuff that was heard on my first three albums as I haven’t explored that realm enough. I want to create an album’s worth of cinematic stuff, undefined otherness, deep soundscapes…a ”non-DJ” album. Think old Photek, DJ Krush. Been listening to Amon Tobin again.
I’ll be bringing field recording into the mix, too (I realized today mom’s cat produces an amazing 40 Hz sub!). That’s next in the pipeline.
I’ll take some distance from producing “dancefloor” music for a while and write an album that’s at the other end of the spectrum…I have “proved” all there’s ever been to prove (you probably know what I mean), and I’ll kick back, take my time, and write my fifth album (sixth, if we count Lodge). I haven’t unraveled half of what I have to give as a producer, so I gotta keep moving.
I think a fair few heads will be more than happy to hear you say that, and not just through love for chilled vibes. The UK drum and bass crowd, in particular Jungle heads, are fairly divided in their feelings towards the US/Chicago flavors that have been swamping the underground scene. Personally I fiend jungle but also welcome these American influenced beats with no distaste. In your opinion, are the die-hard Breakbeat fans taking a fair stance or could they be more open minded about this transatlantic music?
I can’t be saying what any individual should be doing with their lives…but if you’re into music, be open for it. Don’t put yourself in any mould, and don’t do that to your musical preferences either. Good music is good music – you should embrace it all. Don’t tattoo a genre name on your skin.
Especially electronic music is a cutting-edge thing, and if you choose to be a relic who only listens to Super Sharp Shooter day in, day out, and expects to get to re-live all that, all good, but there’s a whole world of fucking amazing music out there, and even the most fanatic music-digger can barely scratch the surface of it all. What I’m trying to say is if you put up any musical barriers, you might be missing out a lot and you get bored. I used to be the worst type of blind grumpy junglist for a while when I was young, and that got painful at times, so I know what I’m talking about.
Well, the first time I heard Who Dat, it blew me away and I had downloaded the EP before the teaser even ended. Though considering these 160 vs. 170 disputes, what sort of reception have you been getting from those who are used to hearing you at 170?
The opinions vary a lot as always. Comments on that particular EP and that tune have varied between “This is so dope!” and “Are you ever going to do the kind of ‘choppage’ you used to do ten years ago?” and they’re both valid comments. The music I do doesn’t belong to me at all – it belongs to others, and what they think is their business, not mine.
But your followers will always be way behind you…you won’t be on the same page for long unless you churn the same style for years. I know there are people who want to have it at 170+ or nothing, but it’s their loss once again. 160 has way more space for syncopation and proper broken beats. That’s where jungle started from. DNB’s been getting too fast in the recent years, and if there wasn’t a “counter-movement”, we’d all be doing Ram-style beats sooner or later because the tempo would dictate that.
Yeah bun that; it’s all about switching up the vibe! Big congrats, by the way, for that Solid Steel Radio mix you did for Ninja Tune recently. Dipping in and out of tempos and twisting through genres, it was a real rollercoaster. I was happy to hear you drop those Damu The Fudgemunk tracks at the beginning; I used to rinse his album, Spare Time. Now I’ve found out that you’re releasing a hip hop album on his label, Redefinition Records, under your alias FatGyver. How did that come about?
Thanks – I was honored to get to do that mix. Tried to keep it varied, just like I always like to do as a DJ.
There’s an EP + LP of hip hop material I’ve made in the past 1.5 years waiting to be released on US-East-coast-based Redef Records. That was another thing that had been in the back of my mind for such a long damn time: make hip hop. I got my MPC fetishism on in early 2013 (I bought MPC 2500, MPC 2000XL, MPC 4000, and MPC Renaissance…only got the Ren + Maschine left now) and got real busy. It all came out naturally, and I made a whole album pretty easily, and it was my plan to start a hip hop label for it and release it myself – unless my fave hip hop label, Redef, would pick it up. I’m not shitting ya, I harassed them to an embarassing extent on Soundcloud and social media because they never replied to me. I had just given up hope about it and was about to move on with my own release plans when they got back to me and said they had only just listened to it and they’d like to release the whole package as it is.
Thing is, I had mixed and edited the two audio files I sent them to be completely vinyl-album-ready – sides A and B – all tracks seamlessly edited together for a nice listening experience. Skits and shit. So it was a ready package for them to pick up. Glad the plan worked out. I’m not saying producers should always harass the fuck out of labels, but sometimes it is worth it. I know Redef, like many other labels, gets absolutely bombarded with demos, so sometimes a few (dozen!) reminders are called for.
The reason they’re still not out is the label boss suggested we’d get a well-known rapper on board to do a verse for the title track of the LP (other than that, it’s all instrumental), and it took him a while to find time to do that, but we got that recently, and I can say it was worth it. Releases will be dropping in Q4 2014 / Q1 2015.
It must feel great to be getting such a positive response in the States and from such a respected producer. Can we expect any collaborations in the future?
Other than that well-respected rapper on the album title track, there’s also this other guy, Raw Poetic, in Redef camp, whose style I like, and I’ll probably do something with him at some point…I just sent him some beats, actually.
While we’re on the subject: a favourite question of ours is to ask ‘who would you choose to team up with, dead or alive’, for a project?
Or, De La Soul.
Or, Lonnie Liston Smith.
For some producers, writing music is very natural and almost appears effortless, but for others the process seems excruciatingly painful. How do you fair? Talk us through the creative process.
I’m more in the natural and effortless camp than the other one. However, even though the amount (and hopefully quality?) of music I make is pretty decent, the amount of time I spend actually writing those tunes isn’t that big. It’s a matter of timing: I only work on tunes when I know I’m in the proper mindstate for that: ready to dig in, hungry for it. I don’t open a project to listen to a loop, so I don’t wear it out: if and when I open it, I put the work in. I know it’s funny, but sometimes I kind of savor the feeling of knowing there’s a dope track in the works. It’s like, I don’t touch it for two days at all, knowing that my hunger for it grows, and when I finally open it, boom, I make a load of progress. It’s like having some dope food with bacon in it in the oven (or fresh iced coffee in the fridge) for a while: you know it’s there, you can’t touch it, but when you do…bullseye.
It’s all about projecting your energy the right way: I’m sort of sensitive when it comes to creating things…I never work on music if I know I have to wake up really early the next morning or if there’s some work or obligations waiting. It’s like, I have to have “space” around me – mental as well as physical, on my desk – to able to do it. I wrote Yin Dub in 24 hours, for example, and when I started, I knew I’d nail it as the mindstate was perfect for that. Sometimes you just know it. If I had a 9-to-5 job, I probably couldn’t make music (I worked for one year as a teacher in a school – I have a degree for that – which totally killed my productivity for that whole year).
Trust us, as hobbyist bloggers, we know the pain of day-jobs getting in the way of alternative career callings. You’re one of the lucky ones. And not only that but you really seem to implement all of that precious creative time to great musical effect; what stands out most to me about your tracks, aside from their diversity, is your eclectic range of drum sounds. I consider a stand-out producer to be someone who has taken the time to perfect the finer details in their music. This undoubtedly applies to you. How do you find so many great kits and plug-ins? Are you a sample-pack man or are you taking field recordings?
I’ve used extremely few drum sample packs in all the time I’ve made music. I do have a few small ones, and most of them I’ve got in the past year. I sample shitloads. I have around ten gigs of breaks on my HD…that’s around 3,500 files. And separate drum sound samples on top of that. And drum instruments. That’s enough for a few songs. But I’m still after more. It’s just a lifestyle thing…you never quit digging, and you don’t have to be on the lookout actively, because it’s a subconscious thing: once you hear it, you truly hear it, and you gotta get it. Applies to drums as well as samples in general. But regarding sounds that are not drums, I sample it or use instruments…I’m not really into sample packs. I don’t eat at McDonalds, either…I cook my own meals…often simple, but gotta be my own.
Field recording is my next project, as I briefly mentioned before. It’s one of the things that’s been “on the list” for so long, so it’s up next.
And where does your everlasting love for drums originate?
So what’s next for you? I’ve heard whispers that you’ve got an EP coming out on a universally treasured label that’s been pushing the whole half-time sound… Care to elaborate?
Shit, man. My lips are sealed. Aside from the hip hop releases and all the stuff that’s cooking for Lightless, there’s very little material in the works for other outlets. But ummm yeah, that little should be good, I suppose. It’ll take a while. Next question!
Ah, Fanu, you tease. I suppose time will tell. If you’re not willing to unveil what’s in the pipeline, maybe you could do us the pleasure of having a good old rummage through the archives for a lesser known favorite of yours, any genre or age, that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
Dreams Are Like Water. It captures so well the mood I had when I made it. It was a period in my life when all I did was music, day in, day out, every day, every night…sampling everything, not caring about anything else (that’s not too far from today). I used to stay up till the sun came up in the morning and the birds started singing. Time just passed. It was summer then, and the nights were magical.
It was also a period when I matured musically and I realized I can invest a lot in music, giving it all it takes: e.g., I was using an old sampler, and even cutting samples manually was so much slower, and even just the break alone (Piscean Dance by Ralph Towner) used in that song took so much manual work. I think the song captures well the vibe when it’s just you and the music – it’s another world no-one else can reach.
The boss has hinted that, in tandem with this interview, you might be preparing a little mix for us as well? Surely not!
At some point, at least! Serato just sent me a box of effing sixteen (what the fuck?!) brand new control records, so I better put those badboys into good use soon.
And aside from at one of our own world-renowned nights (that we haven’t started yet…), where would be your ultimate performance location?
Definitely an open-air festival – in eastern Europe, maybe, or Russia. Done that many times, and you know it’s always great.
The Russians, I assume, would love the Fanu bear, providing it’s own wax to dance to. That is one out of a couple of things that have been on my mind ever since I began trawling through your works. So first up, what’s the bear all about?
The bear was created by Mark Tarnashinsky aka Lonekink (the man behind some Lightless art; as all my EPs, Lightless logo work etc); he originally created it for a short-lived podcast series I started (which I didn’t do for very long due to doing so many radio shows / mixes), but it’s been used in lots of Fanuism, for it’s a great logo, and many fans agree. It’s not me or about me…it’s about digging good music (the bear is holding a record but it’s not about vinyl-ism), taking it easy and not giving a heck in general!
And secondly. What is your fascination with coffee? There’s references to it all over the place!
Being a Finn! Ask anyone here. It’s so dark here most of the year, you gotta stay up somehow. Also, it’s mandatory when making beats. And dark roast or STFU!
Also, it’s been good that people know about my coffee addiction; it’s happened a few times that in the middle of my set, instead of someone bringing me a beer, I get coffee. And I’ve got coffee from fans from different parts of the world. That’s more than I’d ever expect for what I do!
Spoken like a true Caffiend. So what’s next, once you finish this interview?
I recently started mastering music for other producers; I’ve been doing that for a few weeks now. I’ve actually been pretty busy with that, and there’s a few tunes waiting to be treated. So that’s next.
So many producers are fetishising over the same sounds. It’s been countless times that I’ve thought “Don’t all those cookie-cutter-DnB-making dudes listen to any other music?”. Where did the Hip Hop influence go, for example?
It seems to be all too common to think that you have to do certain things, make things sound a certain way for the music to be Drum and Bass… seriously, fuck that, there are no rules. That’s what I’d like to teach to every young producer. It’s got so homogeneous in general.
Janne, Fanu, thanks for your time and of course your music. Best of luck in the next few years and we hope to hear from you soon you coffee hounding rascal you!
So there you have it, a glimpse into the mind of the Fanu. I can’t help but feel like I’m taking something away from this interview, like a secret piece of knowing about the world of musical production and how to push through it and come out smiling on the other end. Because, as Fanu describes, it can all seem to focus on the industry, the business, the money and the fans, but at the end of the day, all you really should be doing is kicking back with a nice cup of black, making sick beats until the night has come and gone and enjoying every second of it. And if you’re not, you’re not doing it right.
A sound as a pound man who I hope we have the pleasure of speaking with again. The door’s always open Janne.
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