Janne Hatula AKA Fanu has long been a stalwart and firm pillar of experimental breakbeat based music. With his forthcoming "Serendipity" LP looming, we cornered Finland's finest to talk beats and writing multi-tempo albums.
Serendipity crosses a range of bpm boundaries with a mix of 170 and lower tempo tracks, a current theme within bass music where speed is not necessarily the the connecting tissue between tracks. Was this a conscious decision? Or the outcome of a more organic process?
I definitely had it decided early that I wouldn't make a drum&bass album - or any album with just one rather fixed tempo, for that matter.
Even though many fans still think of me as a "dnb producer", I've never been just that, and all my previous albums showed that as they had tracks of various genres on them as well.
I only did what came very naturally, and there was nothing forced: I didn't feel that I'd need more of this or that...I just let music come out naturally and I think the outcome is a fairly good snapshot of how I was feeling during the album-writing period and shows even better than before what I'm capable of and what I am like as a producer.
No track of mine is a deviation from any other track tempo-wise as I'd like to think I don't have a "standard working tempo" or one tempo-defined genre I'd stick obsessively to.
The album uses a lot of vocalists and at points blurs the lines between drum & bass and hip hop. What implications does the introduction of a vocal artist have regarding the production process both practically and creatively?
It depends. Some of the vocals were added at a later stage but some were the backbone of the song from the get-go. The collabo track with Greenleaf (isn't he amazing?) was one of those tracks where I built everything around the vox, and they pretty much determined the vibe I wanted to go for.
In the period following the rise of drumfunk/ choppage/ edits in the early to mid noughties, you have managed to separate yourself from the vast majority of artists that came through as part of that movement. It could be argued that you are equally at home within the broader experimental electronic scene as opposed to drum & bass. Where do you see your music in the marketplace as a commodity?
Yeah, I suppose I was in the spotlight for a while due to being a part of that collective movement. That was a lot of fun... we were trading breaks online every day, talking about who got what and who had found and used what first...and every time someone had found some super sick break, I got jealous! The cratediggage was crazy! I don't know if anyone else felt the same, but in a way I felt like we were competing a bit. Fracture & Neptune pushed me a bit with their works...those dudes were – and still are – at the top of the game when it comes to contemporary dnb with strong breaks. Same goes for Paradox.
So yeah, that was some years ago and it helped me to get my shit out there for sure as I was one of those who were trying to push it really hard. For the record, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to every label that was putting out my stuff back then. It felt great and they did a lot for me.
Later on I did get the feeling that I don't want to get too "stigmatized" with "drumfunk" as in the long run it wouldn't be helpful if you wanted to expand a bit and reach new audiences (I'd mention the Instra:mental guys as an example of a very good move musically if you know what I mean). Today I'm doing my hardest to be 1) an electronic music artist that puts out breakbeat-oriented music, 2) a live artist that can play whatever he wants and 3) a d&b DJ. All of those take a fair bit of work but I'm giving it all I've got. Never before have I been more serious about what I do.
For the album you have chosen to name several tracks in your native tongue, what significance does this have to you as an artist with regard to heritage and identity? How has your nationality, location and environment influenced you as a musician?
I used to think only English sounded cool, but it's been only very recently that I've started realizing that Finnish actually sounds so damn cool and nobody ever samples any Finnish. So I wanted to do it...and I feel proud and will intend to do it in the future. That's definitely one way to do something very original.
My forthcoming album (out on Oct. 31) has lots of some small Finnish samples. Check them out! The Finnish coldness and darkness has undoubtedly played a major part in sculpting my taste for music. Had I been born in Jamaica, my music would be way different, haha.
Serendipity is your third full length album – many artists struggle to get out one! What are the positives and negatives of creating a wide body of work as opposed to a series of singles? What opportunities does the album concept offer?
I was quite hooked on doing singles some years ago, when the drumfunk revival movement was peaking.
Ever since I felt that I can't keep it up and I don't want to. Writing an album really opens up your creative mind, allowing you to do whatever the heck you want to do. That's what albums are awesome for. With singles, the tracks have to be quite “accessible” if you know what I mean – especially these days, now that everyone's struggling to move even just a bit of wax. Doing an album does take a fair bit of commitment: you can't just leave it hanging...you gotta put in some serious work. I think I did a fairly good job with my last album...but you'll be the judge.
The last album progressed somewhat slowly, though, as during the album-writing process, I was working as a teacher in a school, which didn't take the craziest amounts of time to be honest, but it absolutely messed up my concentration on music: you see, if I want to get stuff done, I need to have loads of mental space in my mind. I can't do it if I can't give it my 101%. Well, maybe I could be making singles with a somewhat limited amount of free time (i.e., time for music during some other obligations), but you want to be able to focus really well on the album so that it'll feel like a coherent whole.
So, you could say that compared to doing singles, an album gives you way more opportunities to write all kinds of music but it also requires way more time and concentration.
Fanu - Serendipity LP - Lightless Recordings
02. Vailla Menneisyyttä
04. I Cant Sleep
05. Rise Up
06. Genius Of The Crowd
07. Trippy (feat. Damar)
08. Shatner Rap (feat. Greenleaf)
09. Rave Like It's...
11. Strange Days
12. Paras Ystävä
13. Pilvien Päällä