Wednesday, 3 November 2010
INTERVIEW: Desto [Ramp/Noppa]
Finish producer Desto’s music came as something of a revelation to us. Succintly pushed through Dusk & Blackdown’s radio show, his own fusion of sonics at the dubstep tempo stood out, with his debut release for Ramp Recordings, ‘Disappearing Reappearing Ink,’ pushing that same kind of amped up glitch and offbeat percussion patterning that fellow Ramp artists like Zomby and Shortstuff also did. But it was the central motif of that single's B-side, ‘Broken Memory,' with that juttering synth that dances atop the sub low reverberations, that pushed Desto as far into the elctronic hip hop arena as much as dubstep – something that a lot of artists have positively strived to do since.
With a Noppa release, preceeding his Ramp single, at the turn of this year showcasing a sound that was more conventionally dubstep, Desto was hinting at the diversity of his productions; playing more for the atmospheric side of the club with tracks like ‘Dark Matter’ aiming squarely at the big rigs and beats like ‘Cold VIP’ commanding audience participation with its thick garage influenced skip. Having proved himself adept at both styles and cementing his intentions with a mix for Blackdown’s blog back in September of 2009, he got in touch to inform us of a few projects - including upcoming releases on Ramp again and the blossoming Channel Zero imprint – so we took the opportunity to snag a moment in his company, irking out our 58th Sonic Router mix and learning a little something about his processes as we went.
SR: Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?
Desto: I’m a producer and DJ from Helsinki, Finland. Been making music for ages but started releasing stuff when dubstep came along. This year I’ve released 12”s on Ramp Recordings and Noppa. I co-run two dubstep and related bass music club nights, Slam It and Theory out here with Dead-O of Clouds and Tes La Rok and host a bi-weekly radio show on Basso Radio (FM) with Tes.
Outside of music who are you guys? What do you do on the daily?
Music takes up the majority of my time really. I do freelance work in other fields in order to sustain my independence as an artist, I feel very strongly about keeping financial issues from influencing free creativity in the studio and in music in general.
How did you first get into making music? What was it that infected you to do so?
I got hold of Scream Tracker 3 in ’93. I was just a kid and had nobody to teach me how to use it but in late ’93 I managed to make a track on it. The software was nothing like the DAWs you have nowadays, it was 8-bit sample based, 16 channels, no mouse control, no effects. But it was what a kid could get for free in those days to make music on a PC. And working with those limitations was so much fun discovering techniques to work around them. As for what drove me towards making electronic music is difficult to say really but it always came very naturally. I was classically trained as a pianist for 10 years but I was always drawn to electronic music since I was a child listening to Kraftwerk casettes. I always wanted a synth as a kid but never got one so Freudians might have a thing or two to say about that.
What’s your production set up like? What’s your favourite bit of kit in the studio?
I use Cubase SX3, Tannoy Reveals and a 10” Reveal sub which I seldom use though, I do most of my monitoring on my Beyerdynamic DT-880 headphones. And my neighbours love me for it. I’m not too fond of VSTi’s, I make most of my sounds on my synths and Commodore 64 plus some effect boxes as well as mics. I like recording audio and treating sound as samples. It’s a lot of fun. VSTi sounds can be a big turnoff although used right they can obviously be useful too but the majority of stuff out there is done with them so I don’t feel I need to contribute into making more of that sound. These are just personal preferences, in the end it’s not about what you make music with but what you get out of your setup.
How would you describe your sound? I mean it’s as much fluorescent like skweee as it is rooted in big drum kind of Joker/Starkey style productions...
I go about doing my music by for example taking a proto-dubstep approach to rhythm and fuse it with my influences and techniques to come up with something that could be an alternative future for what went on in ’02 or ’04. Or take a now-cliché element like wobble bass and come up with something that has a similar effect but in a completely different way. I’m very interested in the psychology of rhythm perception and the element that changes how we hear a rhythm for one way to the other. Not talking about drum patterns alone but entire tracks. The switches that we have built into us that make us experience rhythm in a certain way and how that switch happens by the change of a single element such as the length of a bass note in a track.
I haven’t listened to much skweee although some of the guys are my friends. I guess with skweee as well as Joker and Starkey things, the similarity in sound is down to similar influences, hiphop, soul and all the afro-American musics, computer games and so on. And the bpm is similar.
Would you say the above are an inspiration when making music? What else is an inspiration for you?
They all make great music and when I first heard Joker coming out with the purple sound it was instantly appealing to me. It definitely made me feel there should be more stuff like that out there. I draw from all my musical influences from Kraftwerk to Vangelis to early hardcore to 90s hiphop beats like RZAs work on Tical to DJ Premier and Jay Dilla to jungle to 90s Warp Records to Commodore 64 game music.
Hearing dubstep rhythms in ’06 was a big influence, Digital Mystikz, Loefah, Benga and Skream tunes in Youngsta’s sets got me back into electronic music and production after having been a bit tired of it for a number of years. Also witnessing the family vibes at DMZ and FWD>> and the genuine interest in music was inspiring. I have to mention the electronic hiphop movement too, the likes of the LuckyMe family as well as Dizz1, DéBruit, Rustie and others have made inspiring music. With the risk of sounding clichéd my part of town, Vallila and its residents inspire me. There’s an energy about the place. Last year I had to stay elsewhere for two months and getting back made me realize how much this environment is a part of my music too.
Where do you see your sound developing?
This is a difficult question as it presumes that an artist has a clear view of what he or she is about to create next. I just want to keep on exploring music through my production and continue to be able to not predict what the next tune will sound like. I find I get writers block if I know exactly what I’d have to do.
I think the first time a lot of people got up on you was with the mix you did for Blackdown around the time of your RAMP release... How did those come about? Did you yourself see the spike in interest when it went live?
I sent ‘Disappearing Reappearing Ink’ to Tom@Ramp and it just went from there really… We’d hooked up with Blackdown earlier, he had spotted me on myspace and asked for beats for his and Dusk’s Rinse show. So month after month they kept playing the beats and eventually asked for a mix & interview which I was happy to do as Blackdown’s writings had inspired me and given context to dubstep before I had the chance to visit DMZ and FWD>>. The mix definitely reached a lot of people, so much thanks to Blackdown for letting me do it.
What’s the scene like in Helsinki? I mean we’ve spoken to Non Person before to talk about it and he name checked you as a player in it; but would be great to get your angle...
The Helsinki dubstep scene is vibrant and audiences and producers here are very open to different sounds and flavours without the need to do ‘mandatory’ wobbles, strict halfstep rhythms and overdone compression on tracks - although all of this has a place and a time too. With our own nights we like to keep the sound diverse. Production-wise Finland has risen to new levels this year with new up-n-comers like Teeth, Jkrl, Kfka, Mikael, Koala, Vesicle and others pushing new sounds while the regulars like Clouds and Tes La Rok have been steadily delivering great sounds. I feel lucky to be a part of our Helsinki scene.
Are there any producers you rate that the world should know about? Any peeps not getting the props you think they deserve?
There’s a lot of undiscovered talent about like always, but I think it’s also up to them to get their music out there if that’s what they want. I don’t see anything wrong in doing music without any intention to take it further than your hard drive having done so for 15 years myself. But nobody is going to do nothing for you, come to your doorstep to request for your music unless you’re very very lucky, so you shouldn’t be scared of putting in a little work yourself to earn your stripes.
Desto - Can't Take It/Aquanaut [forthcoming Channel Zero]
In your pitch to us you say your working on projects with “Jimi Tenor as well as solo, got releases coming out on Noppa (Ice Cold) and Ramp (Glass Clouds/Stay Strong) and Channel Zero (Can't Take It/Aquanaut).” In your own words can you tell us what other projects have you got in the pipeline?
Well, that sums a lot of it up nicely. I have a feeling Desto will go live next year, I haven’t done electronic live performances since the few ones I had with an electronic project I was doing around ’98 but it intrigues me now. I’d have to scrape up the money for a few more pieces of equipment and I’d be all set. What I’d like to do is leave the computer at home and go all out hardware just because it’s fun, unpredictable and an electronic live without a laptop would be something that I’d definitely go out to see myself.
Tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve put together for us…
When I play out I play about 50/50 of my own exclusive stuff and music that I’m feeling from other producers. I like to drop in a few old bits and try and connect them into new stuff in a fresh way. There should be a number of my tunes on there that people haven’t heard yet and the recently released bits from the likes of Ramadanman, Hypno, Bok Bok and Mensah were just too good not to be put into the mix.
Any words of wisdom, for our readers?
Having an open mind never hurts.
DOWNLOAD: Desto – Sonic Router Mix #58
Rustie - Hyperthrust [Warp]
VC - Moon Braggin' (Desto remix) [forthcoming Lo-Fi Funk]
Desto - Glass Clouds [forthcoming Ramp]
Ramadanman - Glut [Hemlock]
Desto - Stay Strong [forthcoming Ramp]
Tes La Rok - Turn It Up [unreleased]
Superrisk - Find Your Way (Mensah remix) [Punch Drunk]
Desto - React [unreleased]
Girl Unit - IRL [Night Slugs]
Desto - Ice Cold [Noppa]
Stutta ft. Jammer - Konk [white]
Fex Fellini - Kolo (Desto remix) [forthcoming Top Billing]
Hypno - Go Shorty [Ramp]
Desto - Disappearing Reappearing Ink VIP [unreleased]
Youngstar - Formula VIP [DDJs Productions]
Desto - Aquanaut [forthcoming Channel Zero]
Desto - Neptune [unreleased]
Bok Bok - Say Stupid Things [Monkey Town Records]
Zomby - Orchid [Ninja Tune]
Desto - 4 a.m. [unreleased]
Desto - Stay Strong (Late remix) [forthcoming Ramp]