Filed under: Interview
7 years after he moved to Berlin, Finnish producer/ DJ/ label chief Sasse is one of Germany and the world’s highest rated electro-disco names, both for his label Moodmusic and for his scores of productions (including severa lwith his now defunct group Mr Negative) and his biggest ‘Sasse’ record so far, Loosing Touch.
Loosing Touch, which first swept clubland last year as a wonderfully engaging anthemic instrumental, became a club hit again earlier this year, courtesy of a fresh remake featuring vocals from fellow Finn-in Berlin Kiki, and it’s the standout track on his debut album ‘Made Within The Upper Stairs Of Heaven’. The album itself provides an impressive selection of melodic, electro flavoured dance tracks that he admits is quite different from his straight-ahead club tracks.
“The idea behind the album comes from this concept of italo (disco), meaning it doesn’t have to be dance music but it still is dance music,” he explains, “So you can listen to it at home from a musical point of view.”
Interview by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff) : You’ve done scores of 12 inches and remixes over the years, how different was it doing an album?
Sasse : It was like learning everything from scratch because when you’re doing a 12 inch your making a record for clubs which is totally different. Obviously you can do a 12 inch that isn’t for clubs but I’ve personally been making mainly club records so doing an album was interesting because I could concentrate on the music side more. I’ve been putting my styles and influences together and putting them on one package, so the whole experience has been very different
Skrufff : Did you block off a certain period of time for it?
Sasse : I did actually, yes, I had a plan. I started it in 2005, wrote some material then other stuff came in, label-work, and because I’m essentially a one-man company, I had to allocate some time to the label. But I took those initial ideas and returned to them in August 2005 and had it finished by the end of the year.
Skrufff : Notably with Loosing Touch you’ve had lots of recent media coverage and it seems like your profile is seriously higher now, how much has your life changed in the last 12 months?
Sasse : It’s been the same. I’ve been DJing for the last four or five years quite a lot generally and gradually it’s been growing and there have to be weekends these days when I have to say no to gigs, so I can have the weekend off for the family. Of course when people know my name because of the productions that’s good for DJing but it’s also hard because I always wanted to be an ‘underground soldier’ so to say. That’s also why the music comes out on my own label Mood Music. There are two poles in my life, on the one hand being an artist and on another running the label, and it’s quite hard to manage those two things simultaneously. As an artist I don’t want to take any calls, I just want to sit in the studio but as a label, you need to be available. Then there’s the DJing on top of that at the weekends to consider. It’s not easy.
Skrufff : The album is called “Made Within The Upper Stairs Of Heaven” which makes me think of ‘Stairway To Heaven’, is there a Led Zeppelin reference there?
Sasse : Maybe, yes. The title is wrong in English language terms, and of course by using the word ‘Heaven’ there’s a rock reference there. I was more thinking of this more mystical concept of a place somewhere between Heaven and Earth.
Skrufff : Do you believe in Heaven?
Sasse : Well I have to believe in something. I don’t know what it will be like but you have to believe in something nowadays.
Skrufff : How about the afterlife, do you believe in that?
Sasse : Eventually you reach a certain age and things start to happen and you start to believe in something, I think it comes to everybody. I’m not so religious I just like this mystique idea behind titles. When I thought of this title in my head I immediately thought ‘that’s it’. It’s the longest name I ever invented but I had to use it.
Skrufff : You moved to Berlin 7 years ago, I guess it was a very different place then, were you already connected to the music scene at that point?
Sasse : When I moved from Finland I already had some experience of working with Finnish labels, such as Sahko, the label which released Panasonic and Jimi Tenor. I did a few releases for them then I started my own label. For 1999 was the year I started the label for real. We had the first releases in 1996 and 19997 but 1999 was when it became really serious. I needed to get out of Finland because I felt musically I was closed there, I couldn’t interact and work with people there so it was a good choice to come to Germany.
Skrufff : Was it a quick decision to choose Germany over say London or Paris?
Sasse : I was thinking about it for a long time wondering ‘where would be the perfect place to live’ and I had no idea what was right or wrong but looking back moving to Germany was perfect. Not only because Berlin has become so hyped as the electronic capital but also because it’s very chilled here, it’s a lovely city to live in. You can have your peace but it you need to be active you can also be active. You can also have your space here and that’s what I love.
Skrufff : We interviewed your sometime collaborator and fellow Finn Kiki recently and told us he was just starting to think about leaving Berlin in a few years, Miss Kittin also left a few months ago, is the city changing now?
Sasse : It’s changed so much in recent years already yes. Of course, the hype will eventually die out, which is good, I’m not thinking so much about Berlin as the hype itself. I like it here, basically, though that’s not to say I haven’t thought about living somewhere else where the weather is better. I probably wouldn’t go back to Finland, it’s still a very isolated country and for DJ gigs it’s quite hard to fly, you need to take two or three flights every weekend. Berlin’s not that central either but it’s definitely more central than Finland.
Skrufff : When you visit Finland are you seen as a returning hero?
Sasse : I think I’m totally the returning non-hero (laughing). It’s such a small scene there and I don’t think there are that many people following what’s happening. Lots of people know my releases but it’s not like there are hundreds of people coming to see me. Every couple of months I play in a club in Helsinki which is really nice but it’s a small underground club.
Skrufff : Lot’s of Swedish producers such as Steve Angello and his crew are thriving at the moment along with lots of other Scandinavians, why are countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden so productive when each has small club scenes?
Sasse : I think it’s connected with the way we were brought up and what kind of music we were exposed to. Finland is firstly a rock country but in the 80s there were some specialist radio stations and that’s where I got my knowledge. And also, you couldn’t just order records and download from the internet, so I think the isolation was a good thing because it meant you weren’t exposed to so much good music. And the good music you could listen to was crossover pop electronic stuff such as Kraftwerk or the Pet Shop Boys and because it was rare you really committed to it. They were the records you loved while maybe all your friends listened to crap music. I can hear on lots of Scandinavian productions that people are holding to their roots and not jumping on every bandwagon but sticking to their own styles. I definitely feel there’s a certain emotion in lots of Scandinavian producers.
Skrufff : Is the goal with your album, ideally, that you reach Pet Shop Boys level success, are you aspiring to be a pop star?
Sasse : No I wouldn’t say so. For me, it’s about making music, which I wanted to have in an album format. I’m really coming from the club scene, I’m still anonymous and faceless and I like that. I just wanted to do an album that I would be proud of listening to myself in five or ten years time.
Skrufff : Are you Mr Negative?
Sasse : I’m part of Mr Negative, I used to be. Mr Negative is more of less dead these days.
Skrufff : Why have you killed Mr Negative?
Sasse : It was me and two friends of mine from New York and we had a great vibe going on when we did the first two records but it kind of diminished and I thought it was better to do something else and let that name rest. We did four records that were fun but it reached the point where, for me anyway, we couldn’t get a flow with the production. I think Olivier is continuing it more or less. Mr Negative was the first experience for me of being in a band and working together and with me having the label, own productions, DJing and a family, made it impossible.
Skrufff : Do you have children?
Sasse : I have a two year old son.
Skrufff : Will you be encouraging him to be a DJ?
Sasse : He’s already now DJing at home, he’s two years old and he’s playing around with my records and destroying them. I probably can’t stop him. That’s’ a hard question, it’s up to him, though I’d probably rather see him doing something else.
End of the interview
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