Over the past few years, Saine has released music on a who’s who list of notable underground labels, from cult imprints like Sleazybeats Black Ops to important scene constants like Delusions of Grandeur, Voyage, and Fina. The native Finn has received widespread praise for his distinctively rich, deep keys and synthwork. Lauri (Saine) is currently releasing his second full-length album through Omena Records, another killer label, so we figured it was about time we spoke with him. In today’s Times & Tunes, the artist is presented along with the sources of his inspiration and the direction he plans to take his music. If you haven’t heard Saines’ music before, his new album “Ceramics” is the ideal introduction to his warm and low slung grooves.
Hey Lauri, great to have you on the site, we have been a fan for a long time. How are you doing?
I’m doing great, thank you. Just put some tunes on, got a fresh cup of coffee and it’s a free afternoon – looks to be a good day.
When picking 10 influential tracks from your life, how did you go about it? Did you notice any patterns emerging or was it quite varied?
I wanted to start and end the playlist with an all-time-fave kind of jazz thing. Then it seems I went for quite many ‘certified classics’ – still on a jazz tip though, it’s just that kind of a vibe I guess… Some other day it could’ve been a completely different list. Anyway, I mostly picked out tracks that made an impact on me when I first heard them and which have somehow followed my production style ever since, like Janet’s Got ‘Til It’s Gone from 1997 was the first time I heard a Dilla beat – I remember stumbling upon it on the night time radio when it was just released. Big moment. Moodymann’s Runaway was an eye opening thing on how a 4/4 thing can really -move- and how it’s always about slowly ‘unraveling’ a groove as much as it is about creating a single moment. Then, some tracks are just there because their atmosphere was always such an inspiration, something to strive to.
Tell us a little bit about your background, how did you come into making records?
I’m a small town guy originally and as a kid, somehow started getting excited about things and cultures which were practically non-existent where I lived, like skateboarding and hip-hop. It was a town of 7000 people in the middle of Finland… I guess this stuff represented something completely new and different. Then, late 90’s the internet emerged and I was so much into all that. I always hated telephones, I still do to this day – it was mindblowing to be able to communicate via IRC to anywhere in the world. I was doing tracks on FastTracker II on our living room PC and was very much into the demoscene – and in the early 2000’s I started doing stuff with the netlabel Tokyo Dawn Records which had just started putting out their music in mp3s and it was amazing – to be able to release music out in to the world in this completely new way. My first release on TDR was in 2001 I think, pretty soon I went to a polytechnic university to study music production and audio, met some likeminded folk during those years and things went from there.
Was there an artist or release that inspired your sound at the very beginning?
There were so many. Once again I’ll have to mention A Tribe Called Quest like I and many others often do, simply because the influence was so big. The combination of dark, dusty jazz vibes and skillfully produced hip-hop was a big deal – back then, to my ears, the west coast things mostly sounded quantized and plasticky in comparison to Tribe, De La, Wu-Tang and the like. I picked ‘Excursions’ for my playlist.
How do you produce your music, can you tell us a little bit about your studio and way of working?
My main DAW is Renoise, which is like a regular DAW but with a tracker workflow. When I started out I was more surgical and analytic. Now, I prefer to record longer takes and allow for some more breathing room for happy accidents. When doing beat stuff I really like to -listen- first and foremost, to how everything flows and if it really needs that compressor in the first place or that new gimmick around every corner. Sometimes these things can take the life out of tracks and it’s easy to stop ‘seeing the forest from the trees’ like we say in Finland. In the future I’d like to go more and more towards that direction – recently I’ve been working with this old upright piano which I regulated myself and doing stuff with no tempo, just going by ear and letting it flow. Then again, I still do love working with samples and strictly timed beats as well so it also depends on the current mood or what projects I happen to be involved with at that moment.
What are your main bits of kit, the pieces of equipment that are vital for Saine sound? and why? (maybe share some insight into how you specifically use a chosen piece of kit)
On one hand, there’s gear and plugins that constantly change. Something comes in, other stuff fades out. Then there are the keepers. For several years already, I’ve used my Korg Polysix a lot – my friends are probably thinking I sound like a broken record by now, as there are so many cool synths to choose from – and awesome plugins now as well – but I seem to keep coming back to to that one synth and almost approach it like I would an acoustic instrument (you wouldn’t need to ‘trade up’ from your trumpet or cello every other year right?) but yeah, it has this sweet spot that just keeps on giving. For me it’s most definitely not the effects which a always get raved about. I prefer without. I think of its filter/cutoff knob like I would treat the strings on a violin or something, it’s a responsive, living thing… Still, it’s a limited synth in comparison to many others, but I prefer a less is more approach anyways, I never got into the idea of having all the possibilities in the world to choose from at all times, I wouldn’t know where to start. As I said, I like to record long takes these days, partly to avoid sounding too chopped up or planned but also because it’s often more fun. The new album has a couple of tracks which are almost entirely Polysix + Strymon BlueSky reverb, recorded and tweaked live, such as Étude and the opener/title track.
Do you always work alone? or are there people you would love to collaborate with?
I work alone yeah, with the odd ‘unofficial’ collabo here and there – and remixes of course. But pretty much alone, it suits my workflow and also my current life situation – we have a little daughter now and I need a pre-planned system to create time for music, it’s like a NASA space program now and I keep tweaking it to perfection haha. The past months I’ve been getting up at 4 to get those extra coupla hours for music. One day when things settle down a bit, it would be awesome to collaborate some more, there are so many cool musicians doing amazing things.
If there was one bit of advice you could share with people what would it be?
For younger people it would be to focus less on hoarding gear (there’ll be plenty of time for that) and pay more attention to what makes you tick style/genrewise. It probably sounds obvious but trust me, it -is- very easy to get side tracked. Trying to force something or please someone usually doesn’t work out in the long run – it’s completely okay to work in the style -you- like, no matter what it is, just follow on that and nice things may start to happen.
For veterans my advice would be to try and maintain a childlike attitude. Like kids playing. I know all too well it’s easy to get cynical – but it ain’t good for staying inspired and motivated.
On a personal note. I quite easily lose focus and don’t like multitasking, too busy schedules or a lot of colliding signals; they can be such a buzzkill. So these days I pay more and more attention to time of year, time of day, lighting. Avoiding the news if you still have to work on something that day etc. Like, if it’s a grey November Tuesday, you’re hungry, have crappy lighting and one of those modern chairs where they make you sit like E.T. – AND you just watched the news… It’s not going to be the best starting point to focus on creating something magical. Maybe then use that time to go through emails – or do the dishes – and the next day, skip those news. Just skip ’em. On the other hand of course, if it -does- happen to be a good vibe and energy for working – then maybe don’t log onto Facebook at all and just get to working on that new thing right away, use it. The moment might be gone soon. :) Everyone’s very different in this regard of course and I know some people aren’t as sensitive to this stuff as I am, but for me it’s all about getting that good energy going before starting a day to work on stuff. I also pay a lot of attention how my studio is set up, I like everything to be ready when you need it.
Where are you based? Has it had a big impact on your sound?
Finland – after those music/audio studies, we lived in the capital, Helsinki for a little over 15 years and just recently moved to a smaller town last year. So far I’m loving it here, Helsinki is cool and all, but the bigger the city the more people are focused with working and consuming and staying stressed out, so I much prefer a slow, almost minimalistic lifestyle now – and nature inspires me a lot. I’m obsessed with film photography, too. Strangely though, I don’t really think my surroundings have had a huge impact on the sound or styles I work with specifically – again, I think it’s more of an energy thing, keeping focused etc.
How has your sound evolved over the years, is this something you are always trying to drive?
It is, sure, but nowadays I approach the whole thing a bit differently than when I was younger. I like to follow my instincts more and care about the surrounding trends less – if something gives me the chills, that reaction perhaps tells me something important that I’m not consciously aware of, so, for an artist that’s some pretty valuable information, right? So I just try and follow that as much as possible and see what unravels. This way, it can be harder to find labels to work with though – it’s a jungle out there, everyone’s trying to survive and they (the labels) mostly like to keep to a specific style which works for them. And that is understandable, of course. It has been awesome working with Omena over the years though, Tooli is always very open minded to new things and we’re just always coming up with cool stuff.
What was the last record you bought and where from?
The last one was an order from Recordsale with some second hand ambient-acoustic-ish records, these ones: David Darling – Cycles, Miroslav Vitous – Emergence and Stephan Micus – East of The Night. With that last one, I found an old signed-by-artist photograph inside the sleeve btw… Got to love vinyl <3 But yeah, wonderful autumn/winter music. I’m more and more liking records with just one or two instruments and no jumpscare-tracks in between.
Thanks for spending the time with us today! Do you have any final words for us?
Thank you for a wonderful blog, I’ve been following since 2014 – and here’s hoping for a chilled 2023 – cheers!