After dropping an A-bomb on the dancefloor at Monument in Oslo last August, we thought we would catch up with the Finish techno head as the news of him releasing his own label spreads. Samuli Kemppi is an artist with a long and successful career as a DJ and producer, with releases on some of the most influential record labels in the techno music scene. We were lucky to book an interview with him the following week after what seemed to be a pretty busy weekend. We spoke about how Deep Space Helsinki started, the scene in Helsinki and of course his latest plans for releasing his own label. Enjoy the read, and listen to the recording:
You had a pretty busy weekend with two major gigs…
How long did you prepare producing your latest live set?
How was the gig at Concrete, was it a good audience?[BIG THUMBS UP] It’s pretty crazy in Paris and Concrete is such a great place, it was fully packed! Starting from the pick-up at the airport everything works really professional with them it was really a pleasure to play there and they loved the set, so no complaints. Also, Steve Bicknell played after me and I have been playing his records for so many years. I have never seen him play live before so that was pretty cool.
Are you in any way inspired by Steve Bicknell?
Um.. yeah, probably I am. But I wouldn’t mention him as a big influence. Of course I love his records, but everything you hear and everything you see somehow has an effect on you. It’s like a sum of your experiences. In that sense I suppose Steve Bicknell also has some kind of influence on what I do. Not to mention all the other artists as well.
How did the concept Deep Space Helsinki startup?
Basically it’s a parallel show with radio and internet broadcasting?
Well yes now it is, Basso Radio is over ten years old now. It has grown to cover about half the nation on FM plus the web listeners worldwide
So, were the any techno shows on FM radio previously to Deep Space Helsinki?
It’s like FM radio going back to it’s roots, where the DJs have the power to play new stuff
I guess that’s just the way FM radio operates…
So, for you to upkeep the radio show on Bossa Radio there must be a substantial underground scene in Finland?
Yeah there is, especially in Helsinki of course. This is the capital and the biggest city so this is where the scene is probably most alive. But there are also other cities where there are some nice things going on. I would say that culturally there are good scenes in Helsinki both underground and commercial. I would say that our Deep Space Helsinki nights are underground, then there is the “underground underground”. They are pretty small, but very active. So, I would say that there are three scenes in Helsinki.
I guess it’s comparable to Oslo where culture on the whole is somewhat subsidised but not necessarily techno
It is kind of similar here, but it’s kind of interesting because techno isn’t anymore a new thing here. For example in the media in the early nineties, when someone spoke about techno it was always connected to drugs or illegal activities.
Techno is more accepted as an artform rather than some rebellious group of kids taking drugs
Now it has become different, now they are doing documentaries about techno! There are now people working for the government or for the city in higher positions who attended rave parties in the late eighties, so now there are people with power that knows what the culture is about. And same goes for some of the reporters in the media, so it’s not anymore a new thing.
You could say that techno in Helsinki isn’t connected with the taboo of drug use any more?
Yes, now techno is more accepted as an art form rather than some rebellious group of kids taking drugs. I mean, Pan Sonic won the Jussi award (our Oscar award) for best soundtrack in a movie last week. That’s pretty cool.
You mentioned the early nineties, did you start DJing around then?
I started DJing in the late eighties. My first paid gig was in 1989. It’s a long time ago and it was a different kind of thing back then. It wasn’t so genre specific back then in the places I played. It was eclectic before the term eclectic was invented. Now I play techno and that’s pretty much it.
You started off as a DJ and later moved on the becoming a producer?
You seem to be a very productive producer, is this a strategy or is this just how you work?
Well… looking at the names of these labels, it’s pretty substantial stuff!
What about Deep Space Helsinki, do you have any plans to release an album on this label?
Well… Probably not an album on DSH. We’re probably going to do another EP later this year. Deep Space Helsinki is a project between me and Juho you know; and we have different way on working with tracks. But I started my own label. I started Power of Voltages, the first release is coming out in may. This is purely my own label, there is nobody else so I have full freedom.
This is something that I have been planning to do for a long time. Since what happened to Max and M_Rec, I kind of lost my home so now I have to build the next one on my own. I am only planning to do a couple of releases per year, but yes probably I will put out my next album on POV as well.
You have previously spoken about your fascination with space, have you allways been interested in science fiction?
Yes, science fiction, but not just fiction, also hard science. I’m fascinated about how the universe works. But of course all the possibilities presented to you in well written science fiction book is always a thrill.
Musically, does science influence you?
Well, this is one of the biggest myths in techno. The Mythbusters should do an episode about the connection between techno and space [laughing].
Sometimes I think of techno as a language that aliens use to communicate with…
That could be true. I suppose the aspect that in techno anything is possible soundwise, is somewhat related to all the possibilities in science fiction, and in infinite space anything is possible… Always when you speak about space, it’s futuristic on some level and techno is kind of the soundtrack of the future. Techno is also linked with technology, having in mind how the music came about. Well, now many producers are going back to analog gear (including me) but that’s another story.
How many hours per week or day do you spend in your studio?
Well, you mentioned earlier that you started Power of Voltages because you want to create your new home. It seems to me that you need that kind creative freedom to evolve as an artist?
Yes definitely! Also, doing the album on M_REC was kind of a discovery for me. You think about the concept of an album on a totally different level than just putting out a four track EP for the floor. It was like discovering myself. Learned a lot during the process. This is something that I just have to do, there are no other options. If I don’t get the chance to go to the studio, listen to music or write music, it drives me mad.
What kind of music do you listen to when you’re just relaxing?
Finally, have you acquired any new gear in your studio lately?
The latest gear that I bought was a Juno 106. It’s a synth that I’ve always wanted, so I used the opportunity to buy one. I should be getting my Korg DS-8 back soon. I haven’t used it for years because it was broken and I was about to throw it on the junkyard. But I have a friend of a friend that is real good with fixing stuff. Now it’s fixed and I should be getting it back next week, so that’s the latest acquirement. There is always the “want to have list”, but at the moment I don’t think I need anything new.
Monument would like to thank you Samuli for taking the time to do this interview with us!
Thanks for having me! 🙂