Samu Vesterinen as Latmos recorded a special live stream for our channel. Using the experience on filming techniques and combining them with a multi-track layering, the result leads to a techno-backed soundscape that is depicted through arthouse film imaging and new media arts. Its concept describes the interaction between humans and nature, providing a very organic essence to it and owing its inspiration to the beauty that we pass by due to the fast, modern life routine. For this occasion, we had a detailed discussion with Samu about his involvements, starting from his first engagement with electronic music, his interests and how they are vital to his everyday life, and also some behind the scenes information that made this live stream happen and made it look like a proper film score.
How and when did you start with electronic music? What made you drawn to this genre and eventually become a producer?
I got into electronica when I was eight years old or so. Back then, my godfather lent me a copy of Wipeout 2097 for Playstation. Wipeout is a fast-paced racing game series that is built around these hovering and futuristic aircrafts. You also have a plethora of weapons and booby traps to make your gamer friends life a living nightmare, haha! The game contained a soundtrack full of 90s electronica classics like Future Sound of London – We Have Explosive, Photek – The Third Sequence and an instrumental version of The Prodigy – Firestarter to name a few. I was, also, especially drawn into the drum & bass and IDM tracks on the soundtrack. The latter is still my favourite type of electronic music to listen to at home.
After noticing my newly found interest in electronica, my godfather lent me a copy of Music 2000, a loop based audio workstation for Playstation. I immediately fell in love with making electronic beats myself. After playing around with it, I started learning to produce with a PC and took the making of electronic music a bit more seriously. This was around 2006 to 2012. Back then I was making drum & bass and deeper forms of dubstep. I remember listening to a lot of Burial and eventually wanting to focus more on creating immersive soundscapes in my music. This idea was cemented after hearing Voices from the Lake – 01.12 N. which eventually led me to Techno and the Latmos project. Still to this day, this is my all time favourite deep techno track. Marcel Dettmann’s Berghain 02 Mixtape was also a big influencing factor in switching my productions to techno.
I was born in a very small Finnish town called Pieksämäki. When I was around 20, we used to throw these very intimate underground parties with a collective of friends. Many of them were the same people I used to go skating with as a kid. There were no electronic music parties happening in Pieksämäki, so we wanted to introduce the music we loved to the locals. A few years later I moved in a bigger city in the central part of Finland called Kuopio. This was happening around the same time I first discovered techno. I moved there after getting admitted to study drums in the Kuopio Conservatorium of Music.
Soon, I met with the local party-organising collective called K0ntro. I attended one of their parties after a friend from our collective got booked to play in that very event. Through K0ntro I soon got my own gig in Kuopio. Back then I still played drum & bass. Later on I started playing techno in their events. I think it was one of the K0ntro DJs who told me about Samuli Kemppi’s annual Domestic Techno Inspection live techno festival. I remember the K0ntro guys encouraging me to contact Samuli and send him some demos. And so I sent him a few, one of them being the title track of my then soon to be released debut 12” Pool of Intuition.
Samuli loved the demos and invited me to play in his event with open arms. I was scared shitless as I hadn’t even played live before, nor I had a live software, haha! I used to make music with Propellerhead’s Reason and FL Studio. What I eventually did live was using a midi controller and routing FL Studio’s midi signal to somewhat replicate Ableton Live. Daunting as hell but worked in the end! Afterwards, Samuli congratulated me for an amazing show and wished to sign me on his soon-to-be-born label Blacklabel Distillery.
He invited Mike Parker for remix duties on my debut EP. I was very honoured since Mike’s work was a huge inspiration when I started making techno. Soon, we met online, shared some tracks, and talked about synths and visual arts. He has always been very supportive and kind to my music and giving constructive feedback. I think this has been very important for me in the long run. You know, in finding my own voice and gaining trust in what I do.
All this led to Pool of Intuition EP which came out in 2018 and it was received pretty well. Played, too, by well-respected techno DJs like Oscar Mulero, P.E.A.R.L., Dimi Angelis, Denise Rabe, Patrik Skoog, Magna Pia and Juho Kusti. Around the same time, my music got a lot of play on Deep Space Helsinki, a weekly techno radio show and podcast hosted by Samuli Kemppi and Juho Kusti. I was an avid listener of the show, so I was very excited by that. During the following years new Latmos releases started to come out on labels like Subosc and Sinus.
I also composed ambient music for an art film called Avaruusromua – Monuments of a Concrete Era. The film was nominated in Tampere Film Festival, 2019. Avaruusromua was a radio show, aired on the Finnish national radio station YLE. The show specialised in ambient and experimental Music. It was aired for 30 years and gained a cult following. In 2021 my track Amalgam was included on the 12” V/A Vivendum, making it my second vinyl release to date. The VA was released on the Munich based label Further Sessions, including music by Polygonia, Save Your Atoll and Dycide. So far, Amalgam has received support from DJs like Stephanie Sykes, Eric Cloutier and Sciahri, a couple to mention.
Which are your favourite music elements and how would you describe your creative process? From conceiving an idea – mainly the areas you draw inspiration from – to the final output.
I’ve always been drawn to all kinds of weird and hard to verbalise noises and sounds. The abstract nature of electronic music keeps intriguing me; the sounds can be anything and even out of this world in a way. Making electronic music can almost feel like creating worlds of your own which manifest in your own imagination. You simply need to express your feelings and ideas freely to obtain that. For me, a track always starts from its title.
I have a habit of collecting interesting words usually related to nature and the human mind which are my two main sources of inspiration. I start combining the words I’ve found and try to come up with some synapse tingling combinations. Finally, I refine a combination of them into a short sentence until I start to have an idea about an imaginary place or scenario. Once happy with the visual idea I create music around it, a soundtrack for the mind’s eye if you will.
I try to follow this visual idea with sounds that compliment it. For example, if the place is underwater, I would probably use synth sounds with high resonance filters and long reverbs in order to create that wet and submerged feeling. Around the time of finishing the tracks for my debut 12” EP Pool of Intuition, I moved towards working with an all hardware setup, mainly inspired from all the amazing hardware live sets I witnessed in the Domestic Techno Inspection festival. The energetic live sets of Samuli Kemppi, Surgeon and Blawan were also very inspiring in that regard.
Around that time I was also discovering the music of the Finnish godfathers of electronic music: Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen (Pan Sonic) and the whole Sähkö (Finnish for electricity) label in general. Especially the raw and electrical sound of Vainio’s Ø -alias had a huge impact on me. Even though I make completely different electronic music in comparison, I still try to attain a similar sense of “electricity” in my sounds. Besides being hypnotic music that tingles your brain, it also has a very physical aspect to it; sounds your body can feel.
When it comes to the arrangement, I always make my music live. I have a long background playing in bands. I graduated as a professional drummer from Kuopio Conservatorium of Music in 2017. Making techno live by hand retains that similar tactile and immediate feeling that you get while playing drums. This helps me achieve a flow state even in a sterile studio environment and finishing tracks rather quickly. For low register sounds like kick drums and basses, I often prefer analog synths and drum machines to achieve that well needed weight and warmth. I use digital sound sources when I want to create cleaner or more surgical sounding, for example pads and effects.
I try to retain my tracks rather minimally, so they offer enough room for DJs to mix them with others. Additionally, I think having enough room makes deeper exploration possible; within each single sound there’s a world to discover! My most important pieces of equipment are definitely my modular synth and Analog Rytm mkII by Elektron. I use them both in almost all of my tracks.
You’re also into in visual arts. How did you start, what was on your mind and how do you think it helped you evolve and improve?
The visual side definitely came from skateboarding as a kid. My dad was kind enough to lend me his camera collection for filming skate videos and taking photos with my friends. For inspiration, we watched skate movies like Flip – Sorry and éS – Menikmati on repeat. I feel like the filming was as important as skateboarding itself. Felt really rewarding when you nailed a take with the right camera angles, tracking and everything. Still to this day, filming tricks with my friends is a big part of the whole skateboarding thing. Around that time, I also attended all the art classes available in high school to learn painting. It didn’t take long to fall in love with contemporary art and slowly find my own voice in that area. I’m 100% self-educated in visual arts. It might seem a long and daunting road if you look at it from a certain perspective.
On the other hand, I’m a very persistent and DIY-oriented person so everything has happened very naturally. So far I’ve had two art exhibitions in 2019 and 2022. Both consisted of abstract acrylic and watercolour paintings. About a decade ago I met my significant other. They were pretty deep into photography as an art form and already had clients of their own and also very kind and patient to share their knowledge on the more technical side of photography and photoshopping. They really helped me to bring my photography on a more professional level. After a couple of years I started to have clients of my own and pave my way as a photographer.
Nowadays, I do mostly portraits. Having different elements throughout the depth of field is very important in creating a nice sense of depth in a picture. Symmetric composition is also something which I try to capture a lot. I discovered the importance of it a few years back when I used to watch a lot of Wes Anderson movies. My signature in photography is framing the human model with symmetrically composed flowers or plants. A lot of my favourite film auteurs like Andrei Tarkovsky are photographers at their core. The very essence in moving pictures is actually photography. After realising this, my filming started to have a lot more depth and emotion to it. Even without dialogue, the picture should be able to tell a story. That’s what I’m really focusing on in my visual work these days; visual storytelling.
What’s so special about visual arts you see and you do and in which concepts do you focus? Are there any guidelines you’re following? It would be also great to hear about the challenges you’re facing and if there are any similar inspiration areas as the music you choose to listen and play?
For my abstract paintings I take inspiration mainly from the human mind, similar to my music. I think it’s really fitting to portray something so abstract with a similarly abstract visual or sonic language. Usually it’s the environment that inspires my photos and filming the most. Of course I might have broad ideas about certain composition, light or textures that I’d like to capture in an image. Oftentimes the surrounding landscape dictates most of the end result. I prefer a very classical approach in filming; using the natural light and landscape around as much as possible. With good planning and knowledge in how light works you can come up with some great results. I’d rather use shadow creatively than using lighting equipment so extensively that it looks unnatural. Of course that has its place, for example in commercial photography. That’s just not my forte.
I also try to avoid overcooking images in Photoshop, so they don’t look like screenshots from a video game. A huge trend right now it seems. I always use it just to balance light, shadows, colour and texture; not forcing the raw image into something else than what originally is. In my opinion, photoshopping should never overpower the creative process behind the image. Photography is about capturing moments. Graphic design is a whole other thing. I like to see photography and filming as an artistic way of capturing glimpses in time.
Most of the challenges I face in visual arts relate to light. While shooting photos or filming there are times when there’s too much or too little of it. Thanks to modern filming technology, there are different technical aids to go around that. But, sometimes, you just have to make compromises with the camera settings to compensate. The Finnish winters are long and dark; shooting photos and filming without lighting equipment during the winter can sometimes be nearly impossible. I always try to schedule the filming sessions when there’s the most light per day. Using lighting equipment is a compromise for me, but just as much inevitable with challenging filming circumstances.
For someone like me who has been struggling to depict things visually, I believe it’s a powerful tool in your hands. How does it make you feel to be able to create both visually and sonically? Is it a form of creative freedom or something else?
I agree. It’s really liberating to be able to express yourself through different mediums of art. During the course of my usual week I get so many ideas that it would be impossible to filter all of them through only one medium. Some of the ideas can also be too abstract to capture using very concrete picturing techniques like photography for example. I think electronic music is perfect for those more abstract ideas.
The sound of a synthesiser doesn’t have a clear reference point in our reality. Maybe that’s why this genre has often been referred to as ”music of the future”. Having the possibility to express yourself both sonically and visually also helps me to avoid writer’s block. If I get stuck with a musical idea that I’m working on in my studio, I can always start painting etc. My creativity is always in motion. I have to say that I rarely get bored, which I’m very thankful for!
As people of this genre’s community, we ‘ve seen many – well, honestly not enough if I may say – audiovisual performances and installations that really enhance the whole experience. What do you think that makes electronic music an ideal field for such activities?
I think creating something out of ”thin air” is in the core of electronic music. A synthesiser is what an artist makes out of it. The same instrument will sound completely different in the hands of a different artist. You can see electronic sounds like clay or something similar that moulds differently depending on how you approach it. I think that’s why electronic music is such a great platform for experimentation and mixing with different forms of art. Not many genres give you so much freedom, maybe jazz but I’m a drummer alright, haha!
Let’s talk a little bit about the live stream we are about to see. First, is there a concept or a specific idea behind it? From the music you chose to play to its whole structure, for example, the preparation in the background and the areas that challenged you.
The concept of it is combining techno with arthouse film and new media art. It revolves around the theme of the interaction between humans and nature. When COVID hit Finland, I started hiking in a forest and its surroundings near my apartment. I wanted to escape from the chaos of it all. I felt at peace when I was making food by the fire and searching new and interesting places in the woods. As I stopped to make fire or sat down for a sip of water, I started noticing movement around me. By sitting still, I could see how insects were moving on the ground, water hitting against the rocks and plants slowly dancing in the wind. It really struck me how much beauty we humans are missing because of all the modern day hurries.
I wanted to capture that, so I started bringing a camera on my hiking trips. With my hiking equipment I managed to roam many places which are easily left unexplored due to dense foliage and not located near any marked paths. Filming in nature started to become a frequent thing for me. As I was filming the nature around, I realised I was completely surrounded by it. As if I was part of it in a way. A large portion of the live stream has an aspect ratio and shutter size as close as possible to the human eye. When you combine this with the aforementioned filming approach, the viewer is right into the scenery.
On this live stream I really focused on the composition of the video material. The images ended up being very photographic, like organic paintings of nature. A big portion of the video material consists of still shots to represent my previously mentioned experiences in nature, watching it become alive in my visual field. There’s also some key tracking shots included to give the final piece a nice flow. Once I had enough video material, I started to come up with ideas for the edit. I wanted to make something different from the usual sequential edit.
Around that time, I started chatting with trsctr. We met online through the Helsinki Techno and VJ scenes. One day he showed me some of his projects, which incorporated videos that run through an analog video effect chain. I was in awe on how amazing they looked! I saw the distortion of the images happening in a beautiful rectangular manner. Suddenly, everything clicked into place! I wanted to incorporate trsctr’s analog video effects with my photographic videos. The analog video distortions are creating a dialogue with the original video material. Then, trsctr made the final edit live. He layered and looped the raw video material, creating a cascading stream of visuals. He also added a couple video clips from his own archives for certain key storytelling moments. I wanted to create something layered with the music to go with the wild and overlapping visuals of the live stream.
It was clear that I didn’t want to record a typical DJ mixtape. The intention was to create a soundtrack for the live stream with its peaks and valleys. I wanted the mix to go through different cycles or ”scenes” if you will. The music evolves through dynamic shifts and changes in mood, just like a good film score would! I challenged myself and recorded the mix using four decks. Two tracks are playing on top of each other during a large portion of the mix to compliment the layered nature of the visuals. I also layered three tracks during a few key moments in the mix, arranged in a manner where it would highlight transitional moments. For example, breaking suspension after building to a peak and finally descending. All the track layering was done in a call-and-response manner to sync with the dialogue theme of the live stream.
It’s always a challenge to channel your vision to another person when you are working together, especially with projects of this scale. People always have their own taste in art and way of communicating. If you want to create something unique in a collaborative manner and be able to finish stuff on time, it’s important to lay down your ego from time to time. Sometimes the other person can have good ideas that you couldn’t even think of! Good communication always helps as well. Besides being a very inspirational project, the live stream also gave me good lessons in communication and letting go of your ego.
Then, I wanted to ask about your feelings before, during, and after that. What is it like to play in such an environment and, most importantly, created by you? Does it give you a confidence boost or is it rather anxious?
This whole experience has been very inspirational throughout and I’ve learned a plethora of new things from nature, people, music and visuals, among others. Of course I’m a bit nervous about how people will take such an ambitious project. To be honest, I did it mostly for myself as a learning experience. I wanted to push myself to become a better artist. After completing such a major project I feel like I’ve finished a marathon or something, haha! It feels like I’ve overcome myself and it certainly gives me more confidence as an artist.
In the end, what makes you proud and happy about it and generally in what you do?
I am happy by doing something different and ambitious with this live stream. It’s also very cool that projects like these will hopefully bring people together from different mediums of art. That is something I’ve been missing a lot! When it comes to my music, I can promise you it always comes out of honesty and from my personal need for self-expression. I don’t really care for trends or anything like that. Those types of things just confuse me and take my focus away from expressing my own experiences and feelings. I mostly create music for myself and to learn new things about sound and being an artist in general. If my music resonates even with a handful of people, I’m happy!
How do you envision your future based on the activities you’re undertaking? What’s the next step or the plan in general?
Well, I have a lot of stuff in the works! I’m working on multiple vinyl releases at the moment. I’ve spent a lot of time in my studio lately and it’s been very inspiring. I’m also back on composing a live set after a few year hiatus. One version will debut on a major podcast platform during the upcoming summer. It will be a driving set with lots of hypnotic elements; something for both the body and mind, if you will! There’s also been talk about DJing and live gigs abroad. COVID pretty much rescheduled everything, but hopefully I’m able to play for you people very soon!
Thank you MNMT for this opportunity and I hope you enjoy the live stream.