Mesak hails from the ground zero of modern Finnish electronic music, both mentally and geographically. The Turku-based musician has enjoyed a two decade career in some of the most fascinating nooks and crannies of the Finnish scene, from clubs to galleries and in different groups and as a solo act. Styles and names are bountiful and plenteous, from the electro bangers of Mr Velcro Fastener to the ethno rap of Ya Tosiba, and the twisted downbeat of the Harmönia label.
We're delighted to today present this exclusive stream of the opening track off his forthcoming EP on Vortex, as well as a wee chat we had with him!
Mesak's 'Kirot EP' is due out October 10th. Pre-order here - https://www.hhv.de/shop/en/item/mesak-kirot-544517.
So we are here today with electro beast Mesak. How would you describe yourself in 2 words?
You just said it? ‘Electro Beast’…
Always hard when defining oneself or one’s own music in short really, but electro beast works!
Fantastic. It is too easy to start with a standard 'please introduce yourself' question so I'm pleased that we're now agreed that I can refer to you as 'electro beast'!!!!
In a week’s time, you've got your brand new Kirot EP coming out on Vortex. Firstly, tell us about how your relationship with the label came about.
Vortex Tracks is co-run by my Finnish friend (DJ Naks), who´s located in Berlin. He was setting up the label with his pal Thomas (Vertical 76), focusing on putting out electro…and I had a track on their first sampler. Then next, they had another compilation which featured a track from my old electro band ‘Mr Velcro Fastener'... but there was always an idea to make an Mesak 12" for them eventually and so...here we have it!
There´s a small community of Finnish producers and music heads in Berlin. And I was also there for a couple of years. We had an unofficial "sauna association" every month! And there we were, making sacred rituals and various plans for the future (like freemason meetings you know)!
I have relocated back to Helsinki again now though.
So how widespread is this love for electro in Finland?
It was pretty big in late 90s – when Mr Velcro Listener was most active - considering the small population of 5million in total.
So there is definitely a certain ‘electro tradition’ still remaining from those days. Now it is somehow popular again - you can hear more and more electro everywhere, especially in Finland!
Great! You are based in Helsinki?
Yes. I’m originally from Turku though – it is a bit smaller but the city was pretty good for electronic music in the 90s. For example, there were tiny parties in crappy small bars where Panasonic (pan sonic) were playing reggae. Or great illegal parties which I was able to attend in my teens... regular clubs didn´t have good music but also they wouldn´t let in under-aged kids.
I vividly remember a a fight outside a bar where they were having a beef over which is better…house or electro!!!
Fantastic. We played some Loose Lips showcases recently in Helsinki & Lahti - both scenes seemed really diverse which was great! People going crazy to everything from punk, to electro and breakcore!
Helsinki has a lot of events going on all the time. I’m not going clubbing that much anymore, but still it seems that it would be possible every weekend if I wanted to…often interesting live acts (which I prefer to DJs)!
So back to the EP…it is diverse in its vibe and tempo, but very much an electro-lovers release. What is it about electro that has got you addicted for nearly 2 decades?
Good question. It goes way back to the mid 90s when we were making sort of "IDM" music with my pal Tatu P. (of Mr Velcro Fastener), some tracks of which were later released on our "Thales of Miletos" LP. At that time, our poetic teenager souls decided to stray away from 4/4 techno that we heard at the parties and head in the direction of IDM and artificial intelligence!
That somehow lead us to Direct Beat, Aux88…and more and more electro!
And so electro took over very strongly. Then we started releasing records and touring... we went everywhere from Los Angeles to St. Petersburg!
And I then started doing more of my solo stuff which had a darker edge…still electro-orientated!
Amazing! Do you find this darker side of electro, and its dance floor appeal, leans more towards the rhythmic addictions of drum & bass?
Not so much in the beginning of my electro era – I didn´t see it being so close to drum and bass, it was a movement against straight 4/4 techno for me.
Has there ever been a time where you've rejected the obsession with electro? Has it ever been a love-hate relationship!?
Sure. I got a bit fed up with electro I guess…or restricted maybe? Production-wise I mean. Towards the late 2000s, electro felt like the most uncool music style that didn´t get played much anymore. I was looking for something fresh and came across something interesting from Sweden (naturally) - if you want to dig deeper, you should check the (early) discography of the "Flogsta Danshall" label. This led to a period of making more broken, wonky, downtempo tracks, together with running a label (Harmönia) and a lot of touring and all kinds of crazy stuff. But that lasted ‘only’ 10 years and I then slowly slid back to the electro track again.
However, more or less for all the time since I started producing music, I’ve been into ambient and ‘experimental’ sounds, which hasn’t been that reflected in my releases. There have been some soundtracks and installations…now, in previous years this has become much more important for me…bleepy sounds are more common!
That's interesting - and so do you feel like you work in obsessive phases?
It is easy to see what you have been doing when looking backwards but I can admit to be focused on certain things at certain times.
At the same time, there is a burning desire to have lots of things going on at the same time…maybe too many…this is all a bit distracting!
I'm interested to know more about these side projects, those in the past and now. Tell us about the ethno rap of Ya Tosiba for example…
We just finally had our album out this summer and we’ve done plenty of gigs. We’ve worked on that for a few years! Many projects are like that but when I work on my solo stuff, it can be very quick sometimes. I’m not a perfectionist - I like to make very spontaneous, almost jam-like tunes.
Ya Tosiba is great project which I like not only because of working with the vocals of Zuzu Zakaria…but we had also quite a few featuring artists on board. This, and the use of acoustic instruments, is somewhat different to anything else I’d done before.
Interesting man. I think that spontaneous jam-like approach is in line with the original ethos of electronic music. I wonder how many hours have been spent around the world on perfecting kick drums though…
DIY! How many hours have you spent on kick drums in the last week?
Not enough!!! That´s the only problem these days…a lack of time to actually make music!
You definitely come across as productive though, no worries about that man!
True, but it is almost like an obsession to make music. I can´t think imagine myself to ever stop making sounds or songs, irrelevant of whether its released.
Just like like some would play guitar on a balcony for fun, I would somehow generate bleeps.
Can't guitars bleep?
I mean I would play (produce), even if it was just for fun or for myself!
For sure man, that's what we like to hear. You'd disappoint many a person if it was any other way!!!
How do you find the contrasts between working alone and in collaborations like you just mentioned? Does it bring out different aspects of your musical self? And do your collaborations always happen in person?
Unfortunately, my collaborations are not happening in person very often. I sort of enjoy working on the sending-files-via-internet-way…when it works.
But working alone, you can go in any direction (unless you get stuck and can’t go anywhere with an idea), whilst when collaborating with others, there´s usually a common wish where you want to end up with the result…or one of the collaborators is in a leading role with more decision-making power.
If you had more spare time, which producers from Finland would you love to collaborate with, who you haven't done so with already?
That´s a tough one, not sure if I have thought about that before.
Pick a name!
Let me pass that one for now.
Okay man, fair enough.
So going to back to your solo production! What tech do you currently use to be such an ‘electro beast’? And how has this changed over the years?
I still use a lot of same gear that I used when making the first electro 12" in 2002 or so.
Much effort goes into finding good tools for playing live, and that is changing constantly.
I use my computer for editing and mixing, but otherwise mostly hardware instruments for everything else.
Less is more really - good music has nothing to do with masses of equipment.
I know many people who are put off by the myth that complex expensive equipment is necessary to start. Whereas at its core, surely electronic music is really an incredibly accessible, DIY process!?
Yes, there´s a lot of focus on new gear or classic old gear...I love to check out both old and new stuff constantly. But like you said, it is now available for just about anyone. And not only the gear…but instant worldwide digital distribution of the music itself!
It is amazing. But the downside of course is the vast amount of shit you must wade through to find the good stuff. Labels put out so much stuff but now, I often find DIY Bandcamp releases can be much better.
And can you tell us a bit about your live set. I have LOVED watching that boiler room back in St Petersburg!
Cheers! I try to keep an organic feel to live performance - it should feel like a live set for the crowd, in the sense that I’m deciding the arrangements and mixing on the fly.
Technically it is pretty simple I guess. Also, I want to make tracks blend together…a bit like in a DJ set…rather than playing separate songs back to back.
Fantastic, alright thanks for chatting to me man. We can't wait for the release and it’s a pleasure to premiere one of the tracks! Anything else that you can share with us that is lined up in the foreseeable future?
Superb! It is too early for other announcements I’m afraid...