Drum & bass producer, DJ, label boss, radio show host, skateboarder and bacon enthusiast – Helsinki's Fanu (or Janne Hatula to his friends) is a busy man. So we were lucky to be able to grab a few words about his label, Lightless Recordings, his upcoming slate, his thoughts on the scene and the exclusive mix he's recorded for us.
Hi Fanu. First of all, would you like to introduce yourself?
I'm a total breakbeat fanatic from Helsinki, Finland. I run Lightless Recordings, play d'n'b as a DJ and all kinds of breakbeat music of my own as a live artist.
Tell us about your drum & bass history. How did you get started?
It was around 1995. I was in my teens, living in the middle of nowhere, and somehow my friends got hold of some d'n'b CDs, and I liked them and ended up listening to them and, consequently, a radio show that played the hottest contemporary jungle and d'n'b. I always recorded it all on cassette tape and played it all over again. Fell in love with jungle, and I've been on the same path ever since. Still digging d'n'b of similar style even though that was almost 20 years ago - that's love! I moved to Helsinki in 2000 and started going to events.
What sort of sound are you trying to push with Lightless?
Modern jungle. Very "breakbeat-rich" material, so to say, the kind of sound that reflects what I grew up listening to. I was super stoked on the rhythms of the mid-nineties d'n'b and I wanted to learn how to create similar beats myself. It's all a continuation of that. I was never too fond of the drum-machine-type of sound that took over. Also, atmospheres usually play a great part, too; I grew up enjoying the early Good Looking Records tunes, so I became a total sucker for lush pad sounds as well as vocals and proper sub-bass.
What upcoming releases are you excited about?
Greenleaf's Cold Soul EP is coming out on Feb 17. Stoked on that one. Greenleaf's a boss with the breaks – especially the Amen – and he has the same kind of drive and devotion to the craft as I do, and I like that. He deserves to get his stuff out there. He eats, sleeps, and talks jungle 24/7, and then some. And loves doughnuts.
Any new artists that you've recently discovered?
Fistfunk. He's from Finland as well. I heard his stuff maybe a little over a year ago and was blown away – and that doesn't happen to me very often with d'n'b. It's something new. He's doing this tight drumfunky style but his bass department is a bit more on the neuro side. Noisy bass and all these tech-kind-of squeals and all. A bit like Ed Rush with a drumfunk twist. He really came out of nowhere, and not many people know of him. His EP is coming out on Lightless in March... I can't wait till people get to hear it.
You've released three artist albums on Lightless, what's your approach to making an album?
It all starts with having a huge creative urge, which is when you realise you don't want to do 12"s, EPs or such, but you want to make a bigger package that'll reflect your current way of musical thinking, or something. It definitely takes some devotion. I like making albums as they really let you explore all styles without limiting you to one certain style or anything. All artists should do albums at some point. Also, the feeling of finishing it is a huge relief and you feel super fresh!
What's your studio set-up?
Ableton Suite 8 on a 2011 Macbook Pro 17", a Soundcraft EFX12 desk, MOTU Ultralite, APC40, an old cassette tape deck, and an old Kawai EQ unit for some dirt, Adam A7 studio monitors. Oh yeah, coffee used to be a massive driving force but I gave it up recently, and I've only been enjoying green tea for a full two weeks now. I feel way more focused, and my concentration is way better, which is definitely important.
You've recently remixed Amon Tobin's Journeyman. How did that come about?
Some years ago he was emailing me, asking for tunes every now and then and supporting my stuff. I initiated the idea of doing a remix for him and back then he said it might happen. After my last album came out, I sent it to him and asked him again, so I got to pick a song from his last album, ISAM, and that was it. It's coming out on his box set on April 15 on Ninja Tune. I'm very honoured as I look up to his productions because he's so original, and his beats have always been great.
Any more high-profile remixes or collaborations in the pipeline?
Well, I did two official remixes for Public Enemy last year – a d'n'b remix of Give It Up and a downbeat remix of Lost At Birth – and was very excited about that. However, the person in charge of the project hasn't been keeping in touch so I don't know what the situation is. I wish it came out as some other interesting remixes were made as well. Also, a remix I did for a Swedish singer, Ane Brun – who I'm a massive fan of – should be coming out soon. Watch out for Fanu's d'n'b remix of Do You Remember.
You also host a radio show on Bassoradio. How's that going?
That one came out of the blue, which makes it even cooler. It was in last December that I met up with DJ Physics from Midnight Sun Recordings to chat d'n'b and whatever. He's been doing a show there for a few years, and he told me they had put forward the idea of getting me there as well for they could take one more d'n'b head there as the radio expanded. They didn't even ask me first: they merely let me know about it when it was all almost agreed on at the radio. I'm feeling pretty honoured as it's quite a famous radio station specialising on everything dope. They've got Tes La Rok there, L.A.O.S., Muffler and many others. They reach 3.1 million listeners through FM radio, which is awesome. They also have an online stream.I do my show every third Friday of the month at 8-10 GMT. You can check more info here.
Can you tell us about the mix you've done for us?
It's something that was in the plans for a while. I've been doing All-Fanu-Mixes for years, and I finally wanted to do an all-label mix, hence it's an All-Lightless Mix. There's some stuff that's been released and something fresh from the aforementioned Greenleaf and Fistfunk as well so there's past and future material. I'm really trying to get the label going good now. I'm working on a new Fanu release at the moment, which should be pretty interesting, but I'm keeping a lid on that for a little while; there's something for those who like Photek-style beats again. And oh yeah, heck, I even had a nice bunch of Lightless T-shirts made and there's hoodies coming, too, so you know I'm being serious about it.
What's your approach to DJing?
Play everything! Don't just play the latest stuff. Everyone can do that. Play the oldest stuff, play the latest bangers, and everything in between. I'd say one feature of a good DJ is that he has material from different eras in his crate. The job is to educate people.
Which other producers and labels are you enjoying at the moment?
Fracture, whoever he happens to work with. Dude's almost infallible. Just got a new tune from TeeBee that has an older TeeBee vibe to it. Very good. Dak, a Finnish producer. A little elusive, yet talented. Double-O. Drum Cypha. Naibu. Some Hustle Audio shit. Resound, Paradox, Seba, old Dillinja.
What do you do to unwind from a hard day of amen breaks and sub-bass?
Skateboarding (when it's summer, I'm out on my board every day). Hanging out with my girlfriend. Eat bacon and do push-ups. Drink jasmine tea. Some movies always do, anything with John Candy, Steve Martin (The Jerk!) or Bill Murray in it. Watched a lot of Kaurismäki films recently. The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, all that.
Any last words?
Be original. Do what you want to do, and do it for yourself. Don't care about what others think. Oh and hey, I'll be doing a live gig in London on April 5: it's a Technicality event with Equinox and Jungle Drummer, so it should be mad. That's followed by a gig in Bristol on April 7 (Therapy / Jungle Syndicate).
Words: Stefan Mohamed
Download Fanu's Kmag guest mix here
Fanu has five medium Lightless T-shirts to give away for free. To enter the draw simply go to Fanu's Facebook fan page and 'like' it. Fanu will then pick five winners and send out the T-shirts.
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