But this is all just Sasu Ripatti the producer. He is also a classically trained percussionist, skills that he's flexed as member of the Moritz Von Oswald Trio and—briefly—as director of the Vladislav Delay Quartet. Finally there's the avant-garde pop music he's sporadically crafted as AGF/Delay with his now wife, Antye Greie-Ripatti—a poet, singer and electronic producer—and The Dolls together with Glaswegian composer Craig Armstrong. At this stage there looks to be precious few stones the Fin has left unturned, which begs the question: what next?
Can we begin by talking about your recent Raster-Noton work? I feel like it signifies a new direction for you. Is this a fair assumption?
I wanted to get away from the ambient, static stuff I had been doing for a long time and I wanted to play more with rhythms and maybe be a bit more aggressive. But I am also not at all into dance music. I stopped the Luomo project, as I am just not finding inspiration in four-to-the-floor anymore—or other kinds of club or dance music. I like certain aspects of techno and electronic club music, so I take what I like from that world and try to build something I can relate to.
Despite this aversion to club and dance music, how do you feel about having to primarily perform in clubs?
I don't only perform in clubs, I perform in other venues but my preferred surrounding to play is a club like Berghain, for example. There is something about it that fits my music more than any kind of official cultural institution with a stiff mood and feeling. Often the mood in clubs is what I like.
How do you approach the performance of your new material?
There's no plan. I don't like to plan. I used to study music as a drummer, so nowadays I don't like to rehearse at all. I am prepared, but also I don't like to be too prepared. The stuff on my laptop, for example—I have at least eight channels running all the time—maybe about 30 per cent of it is unlabelled. I don't know what is coming there. I don't remember. I don't care. I have to open the fader and see what comes out and try to live with it, and start building from that. Even when it sounds horrible I try to do something that makes sense eventually.
Would you say that your latest LPs for Raster-Noton are more conceptual than your other Vladislav Delay albums, because of the nature of the label?
No, it is just a progression, what I want to do and how I do things. I don't do conceptual music. It is very alienating.
So both Vantaa and Kuopio aren't works inspired by or depicting the Finnish landscape—despite both being names of towns in Finland?
They have nothing to do with the Finnish landscape. Those two albums and an EP, they are all names of Finnish cities, but I have never been to any of them. I don't care about them, I don't know about them.
So…why have you named your records after them?
I don't know. I like Finnish things, in a way. I like Finnish words a lot. I am maybe more English-speaking than Finnish-speaking these days—my wife is German and we speak English—so I like the aesthetics of the letters. But I also had this "why not take city names?" I like to create but I almost don't think too much about stuff.
Were there any stark differences in the way you produced the Raster-Noton material?
Well, I have a new studio, which I built when I moved to Finland four years ago. We made a big project: I bought a big piece of land and from nothing built a house and studio.
I read that you cut down the trees yourself?
Yes. So, it took a long time, and I decided I wanted to build a studio that was my own, to have something that I could rely on, have something as a reference to the music I am making.
I try to progress and get better at the stuff I do. I also refuse to do the things that I have done, so I frequently recycle gear—or just use gear differently. I would never start doing a track in a similar way, twice. I try to start differently every time, try to find something I haven't done yet.
Is the creative process in a sense more important than the results?
No, the end result is the only thing that matters. You do whatever you can to get there and often I don't show the process. I push myself quite hard, and get quite maniac about it.
Do you synthesise a lot of the sounds yourself?
I record sounds, and build my own things. I don't use very typical sound sources—anything to make sounds and use them instead of an oscillator, or whatever. Because I play percussion and drums I also have a lot of custom-made and self-made things. But I also use my mouth and lots of my daughter's things. I was recording snow actually, the other day.
On the subject of percussion, let's talk about the Moritz Von Oswald Trio. You have obviously been friends with Moritz for a very long time.
Like 16 years or so. They picked me up from Finland when I first started recording. I sent them stuff very early on and I have been working with them ever since—Mark and Moritz.
How does the dynamic of the Trio work?
It is very much about Moritz. What I enjoy about it is that I bring my own part there, but don't take responsibility; he just gives me an open table to do what I like. He has something in mind, but more and more nowadays I play whatever.
Is the Vladislav Delay Quartet a similar concept, only with you at the helm?
Moritz and the Quartet are quite different things. The Quartet is more "out there," purely improvised, quite weird stuff, which I like a lot. I play drums there and I take responsibility for the group, but we are not doing it anymore unfortunately. The band thing I think got a little bit wild at the shows. Some people couldn't handle it. I think we pushed it a little bit too far. Musically everybody was super happy, but personally it just didn't work.
Is this something you would perhaps like to continue with—either with other people or in more of a structured manner?
No, I am happy with Moritz. That is enough for me. I was thinking about it, but basically it comes down to a lack of time, and priorities. There are so many things I want to do and the band thing is not one of them right now.
Well, I am working with my wife right now. We did something called AGF/Delay, and now we are working on a new project together.
You have collaborated a lot over the years. Can you tell us about the working relationship you two share?
We have been together for a long time—12 years—but we haven't done much, if you think about how long we have been together: Just two or three AGF/Delay records and then The Dolls. But we work a lot on things we don't work on together. We live together, and she works in my studio. We help each other and talk about things, so in a way it is kind of a continuous sharing of work.
Otherwise we are very picky. It is very difficult to work together. You take it so seriously and we are both quite hotheaded, both with strong opinions, so to agree on something that we both like...it's very, very difficult. I guess I am also a very difficult person. In musical ways I am unforgiving, but when we get something done I think it is very good. We also agreed that we don't do something together that we do solo—it has to be something different.
How does your new collaboration differ to the AGF/Delay and The Dolls projects?
I guess AGF/Delay and The Dolls—we both like pop music a lot—was us trying to do our own kind of pop music. Now we have decided not to use her voice at all. The new duo is instrumental, and also music we haven't done before. We both like UK music since a long time. 2-step. So that is in there somewhere, like bastard 2-step.
What attracts you to 2-step, how did you come across it? It seems worlds apart from any of the music you've made so far.
I don't know, I am never at the forefront or really open to new things, but I fell in love with 2-step. I liked drum & bass for a while. That was the only music I could ever dance to. House and techno I could never dance to at all, it would just kill me on the dance floor. But 2-step or drum & bass is great for dancing. And I like a lot the general feeling, even though I don't normally like happy or positive music much, but 2-step works great.
I am extremely influenced by pop music, and I mainly listen to hip-hop. I don't particularly like electronic music. There are not many releases or tracks from electronic music that I would really consider influential, and those I do—like Mike Ink, Richie Hawtin's Concept series, or early Chain Reaction—I don't have any more.
Having covered so much ground already do you feel confident that there are still new paths left to explore in the future?
I have a good feeling that now is a very fruitful time. I feel very positive about the coming stuff. I think with the move to Finland and the more suitable surroundings, the studio, and the collaborations with my wife, that there is some interesting stuff ahead.