Exclusive: Interview With Finnish Electronic Composer Vladislav Delay

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Perched above the Arctic Circle, Sasu Ripatti’s hometown never gets a full day of sunlight during winter. This phenomenon can make some people eat more; others feel disconnected from reality. But Oulu, Finland’s winter was perfect for Ripatti’s organic work as Vladislav Delay. Unlike the process behind his brighter records as Luomo, working on Tummaa

(The Leaf Label) needed solitude. “Some people get sleepy or depressed, some really become night-active and creative, some turn to all kinds of drugs,” he explains. “I find it very inspiring to see nature struggle like that.”

Though Luomo may be his best-known project, one gets the feeling that Ripatti prefers his work as Vladislav Delay. After all, it’s the name he’s used for some of his most creative and challenging albums. Ripatti, a trained jazz percussionist, says his love of jazz was his biggest influence on Tummaa, but the inspiration shows more in his process than his final product. Ripatti worked with a trio of musicians, recording his drum parts before inviting improvisations from the other players. Expert edits and cuts mean Tumma agrees with his other work, though the album plays with the unpredictability of the human touch. “Sometimes it’s not very rewarding having to program actions instead of doing them,” Ripatti says. “Coming from a drumming background, it was always obvious and natural to hit something. It’s the direct approach.”

Flavorpill: You’re taking a somewhat new direction with Vladislav Delay with this release. Why use the Vladislav Delay name?

Sasu Ripatti: I guess it still fundamentally feels very much like Vladislav Delay material to me. It’s more to do with how it’s being done and how I felt about constructing the stuff, instead of how it sounds technically or otherwise. Underneath at least it feels like a continuity, which I have been aiming at, albeit with different instrumentation. It also feels very natural to travel new paths within an existing agenda.

FP: You recently moved from Berlin back to Finland. It seems like place is a big concern in your music. How has this move affected you?

SR: Honestly, I can’t say at all. The thing is, even though we have lived here on the island for a year now, all my time has gone to building a house and a studio. The house is now finished and the studio is almost done, so soon I’ll be able to tell. My gut feeling is very good already.

I kind of finished this album on the headphones without a proper studio in a rented house over here. Place really affects how I feel, which of course affects how I produce. First and foremost, I have to have a place I feel good about and then everything follows. And anyway I work at home. My move also had a lot to do with getting back to Finland in general, and also having my daughter grow up around nature and learn the language.

FP: Many of the songs on Tummaa, especially “Mustelmia,” sound inspired by nature, animals and water particularly. Is this a reflection of moving from an urban to rural home?

SR: That is maybe a coincidence. I’m not so directly inspired about my surroundings. It would worry me if my music suddenly changed due to a location change.

FP: This album also marks a change in labels. Why Leaf, after you’ve successful run your own label for a while now?

SR: Time, I guess, first and foremost. I saw the last few years that it takes more and more time and effort to release music and at the same time everyone takes less risks and, in the business of selling music, the whole atmosphere gets creepy. I didn’t enjoy it and was asked to do more work for the label in order to keep it afloat, which meant less time to make music, so the choice was clear. Leaf seemed a very suitable label for this album and project and I’m happy Tony Morley, who runs the label, saw it the same way.

FP: Can you tell us more about the “Kaamos,” or dark time of year in Finland? It can play tricks on you, make you feel dreamy or dissociated from reality, right?

SR: It can do all kinds of stuff. It’s cold and dark, and for a few months the sun is barely visible. It just comes to say, “Hello, I’m still here, though barely visible.” Also the snow and moon make it beautiful. It’s much lighter than you would guess, actually. It’s interestingly dark.

FP: Have you been in Finland all summer too? The midnight sun sounds like it would also be great for working on a completely different type of project, like you could work all day and night.

SR: The midnight sun is totally amazing. It’s the opposite of the winter time. You tend to have longer days for sure. In the past I would just to stay up for quite a long time and eventually I wouldn’t know really if it was night or day. It was mind-altering. I missed my chance to make music this summer, but overall I think those few months should be dedicated not to making too much music but to enjoying life. However come next summer I’ll be in the studio more than I should.

FP: You seem to record and work in isolation much of the time, but you’ve been performing with others lately, and now you’re recording with a trio and your own quartet. Was giving up some of your control difficult for you?

SR: I was missed the interaction with people last year, which led to various collaborations. Coming from music and a band background, it began to irk me a bit to do everything alone, no matter how much I like it. But that made me appreciate both approaches for what they are. So I also have no problem with collaboration, with letting my ego fade to the background and reaching a consensus.

FP: A lot of your recent work shows some dissatisfaction with making things you can’t really touch or experience except through electronics. Why the new emphasis on working with your hands?

SR: Soundwise and rhythmically, of course, electronics and computers have beautiful aspects, but this one particular issue can make all the positive aspects troublesome. Sometimes I have been frustrated having to program a tone or rhythm with a mouse in my hand when I had an inspiring vision ten minutes before. I could have just played it out, but I end up writing software and forgetting what I was about in the first place. I try to bring the two approaches together somehow, looking for various ways to make it more the way I wish it was.

FP: A lot of these tracks have long passages that are hypnotic, full of complex cycles and repetitions. Every so often, though, the music will stutter or break, which. It instantly created a kind of tension where, just a moment before, there was none. Moments like that don’t really appear as much in your other stuff.

SR: This project gives me the most room for the surprises and experimentation. In a way, that’s how I think most music could be, or should be. But then there’s there are whole different worlds of all types of other music and what you do in music should always somehow serve a purpose and make sense one way or another. When I make more dancefloor or pop-oriented music, there’s less space for drop-outs and disruptions. But with Delay or other projects, I rely on instincts before anything else for what should be or not. There is a space and momentum that is available to you, and you take a shot.

FP: What are you working on now?

SR: Vladislav Delay Quartet is the priority now, getting my drumming in shape and writing stuff for the group. And playing live. Other than that, I, luckily, haven’t booked up all of my time, so I can sit down in the studio and see what I want to do next. That’s luxury.

Download:

Vladislav Delay: “Melankolia Edit” From the album Tummaa (The Leaf Label) [audio:http://www.vladislavdelay.com/site/content/mp3s/vladislav-delay_melankolia-edit.mp3%5D