Interview with Utu Lautturi

The magnificent Ambient music of the Finnish artist Utu Lautturi is so experimental, cinematic and full of various sounds created by acoustic instruments, I am often on the verge of total annihilation of concepts when thinking of ways to label the music (which is of course a positive thing). True art is meant to function at various psychological levels, making it naturally Magical, and the art of Utu Lautturi is certainly an odyssey to planes deep and high, having truly enlightening qualities.

Greetings Utu Lautturi! How has the year begun for you?

Greetings, and thank you for asking! I’m feeling very inspired and in the best of health.

In your music you combine Electronic (mostly) Ambient music and Noise, with a vast amount of acoustic instruments. How long have you been experimenting with sounds in this way? What can you tell me about your musical past, regarding the learning of various instruments?

My parents are semi-pro musicians so life has always revolved around music in some way. I started playing with my brother when we were around 10 years old and after that my musical life has almost exclusively been spent in playing drums in (experimental) grunge and metal bands. I’ve always been interested in any kind of sound source, though, and have always embraced the possibility of trying out and learning about whatever instrument I can get my hands on.

However, it was only about five years ago I began experimenting with sound by myself. I felt the ways of creating music and composing I was used to simply weren’t enough to express my inner visions. It might be hard to believe but that’s when I first stumbled on the genres of ambient, experimental and cinematic music. Since I didn’t know how to use any software I started creating stuff with elements I was familiar with. That is, common instruments. I just approached making sound with them in an unorthodox way, plucking and rubbing on them, bashing and twisting them up. Soon I felt the need to record and process the sounds so I grabbed the closest DAW which was Garage Band! Through trial and error I then started using Garage Band to record and manipulate field recordings and instruments. That’s when the world of plug-ins, synthesizers and all kinds of electronic hardware – loopers, samplers and drum machines – opened up to me. I had some friends who’d been in the electronic music scene for a long time so I asked them to teach me about this (to me) new world of making sounds. So I learned some basics but never really got into the electronic music making thing because I felt natural, organic sounds just resonated deeper within me. But I put to use what I had learned and started to find my own way of making sound collages through the use of pure and/or manipulated field recordings supported by instrumental stuff. My first release, Korpinkorva ep (Etched Traumas, 2013), was completely produced with Garage Band. After that I decide to learn a more sophisticated DAW and now I use Ableton Live (only know how to use the session-mode though). I very rarely use synths, and don’t use drum machines or samplers at all. 99 % of the sounds I create are recorded from “live sources” and then processed.

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What other musical styles interest you the most besides the more Ambient and Experimental styles? Have you been or are you currently involved in projects of other forms of music?

As I said, the whole ambient and experimental music scene is fairly new to me. Nowadays I very much enjoy artists from those genres and their sub-genres but my heart will always resonate most strongly to extreme metal, be it doom, sludge, black or whatever. Then again, I have a very warm relationship with various types of ethnic music as well.

Apart from grunge and metal bands I’ve been involved with various projects ranging from complete noise cacophony through techno to hip hop and reggae. I want to stay open to any style of music (or sound art). I honestly try to understand and feel the driving forces behind everything I hear.

On your newest release, you seem to move in the spiritual landscapes of our home country, with elements of the East reminiscent of your previous release “Arcane Pyres” present in the music as well. Was this intentional from the beginning of the work on the album?

Arcane Pyres was a deliberate attempt to summon Ancient Eastern Gods, especially on side A produced with 45:KO. On Nielu I held only the purest form of self-expression as a guiding star. As a sort of Nature worshipper I feel it’s natural for my music to depict elements I feel closest to in Finnish nature. There’s a lot of field recordings from wandering the vast forests of our home country. But there’s also recordings from Southern France so it’s not all about Finland but the magnificence of Nature in general.

I’ve lived in Taiwan when I was a kid so maybe that’s where my fascination towards the East comes from. All the more reason for me to be very happy Rasplyn wanted to do a collaborative exchange and co-created Teetä maatuneista lehdistä – Pu-Erh Tea. She’s an amazing musician with a strong Oriental vibe in her compositions, and I feel her vocals and playing suit the track spot on.

Talking about the fascination with the East, what can you tell me about your personal relationship with for example the topics of your aforementioned release?

I’m not a religious person (although I have been, very much so). For the past decade I’ve been mostly interested in a communion with archaic memes (such as sacrifice, enlightenment, spiritual endeavors and consciousness raising) pervading the history of mankind and how, combined with inner and outer rituals performed in/with Nature, it seems possible to use those memes as tools in a hermetic re-creative and empowering process. Far East has the longest history in the use of systematic thought/body-manipulation practices (yoga). That really interests me. At the same time I feel strength and creativity can be derived from modern memetic entities as well. It all depends on the force of intent behind the practice. I feel Arcane Pyres was an example of that – ancient powers brought to form by modern technology.

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Are you fascinated by the melancholic atmospheres of our native sceneries, finding something positive about the silent Finnish mentality and for example scenes of autumnal fields with their abandoned wooden cabins, or would you see working with these topics more as a cleansing and therapeutic process?

What inspires me most in Finland is its four distinct seasons and their extremes. Sadly a warming climate is screwing that all up but for now I find it endlessly awe-inspiring how people have managed to survive here – and still do (albeit the demands today are more mental than physical). Perhaps it is because of my history of living in the tropics and/or traveling quite a bit, but I don’t feel kinship to what you so well called “the silent Finnish mentality”. I believe behind that silence there’s a lot of hidden shame, un-dealt with emotions as well as being restricted by thinking about what others might think of you. I think Finns are lucky to be a part of a colourful planet with various exciting influences seeping into our society through immigration. I work as a teacher in a multicultural primary school class and I really see what a positive influence mingling with more social and open cultures has on native kids. Of course there are also challenges but mostly I see it as a positive trend. Then again, I do feel there are aspects of the solemn Finnish mentality worth cherishing as well. But for me personally the path to “healthy” silence is by first opening up and having the courage to make some noise. To me it seems our planet is run by 4 year-olds in suits and all of us with half a brain should take a stand in order to preserve Earth for future generations. That demands courage to speak up instead of keeping your silence (as we are so many times taught in Finland).

Considering the nature of your music, I assume you are a very Spiritual person? Is Spirituality something you engage in with your musical work, or do you have other practices in your daily life that might be labeled Spiritual?

Heh, I really couldn’t say anything about that, sorry. All I know is that on more than one occasion I’ve had to choose between literally taking my life and taking my life into my own hands. Obviously I’ve chosen the latter. That has meant confronting a lot of inner conflict and a daily dose of hard mental work in order to sort things out and learn to gather strength instead of spending it. “Spirituality” is a good word to narrow down certain ideas but I feel in using such terms there’s a danger in oversimplifying reality. At the heart of it all, I really can’t differentiate between spiritual and mundane – it’s all part of the same natural processes. However, I do feel sound can have a sacred, spiritual quality, and I’m certainly drawn towards sounds that “pluck that string” in me.

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Considering the high quality of you releases, how has the response been to your music in general? Do you for example get invitations to play live often?

I’m only a newcomer in the field so it’s still all very low profile. I consider myself a total noobie in the field I’m releasing solo music at. I find myself constantly struggling, and mostly failing, to get the results I’m looking for. But I’m willing and able to learn so who knows. The overall response from my peers has been very positive and encouraging, though. I’ve played some live shows but the scene in Finland is so small there really aren’t that many chances. Also, my live performances differ somewhat from the stuff I release. But there are some cool things cooking for 2015, I can tell you that!

How do you see the Electronic (and especially Ambient) music scenes today? Are they mostly build of various small labels, with perhaps artists releasing multiple releases all from different labels? How do you see the digital format compared to the physical releases in this kind of music?

It’s pretty hard for me to say anything about any “scene” since I don’t feel like an active part of any, except SoundCloud perhaps (which has pretty much dispersed due to the new interface). I know next to nothing about my type of musicians in Finland, only could name a handful. I’d love to get to know more likeminded people, though. But as I’m not such a big fan of hanging around the net or keeping virtual contact, the opportunities are seldom. Still, I feel like everything takes its own time and all is flowing wonderfully. I’m positively in a very different place now than I would’ve though five years ago.

I’m quite excited about the new era of DIY labels releasing a lot of high quality music. There’s really almost no limit for the opportunities of an artist to get their work across these days. Of course it also creates a lot of static in the field but I’m certain those who have ears will hear. To me, the form in which music is released isn’t such a big issue. If I’d have to choose, I love how ambient/experimental music sounds on tape so that’s where my money goes at. The only thing I feel digital releases are lacking is decent, tangible artwork. Since audio and visual are two sides of the same coin to me that is something I sometimes really miss.

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Thank you for this opportunity to discuss with you! What does the future hold for Utu Lautturi?

Thank you to you for your kind words and such in-depth questions! I’m very excited about Nielu’s release and revealing to the world what I’ve worked on for the past three years. The music video and full streaming of the album will be premiered at A Closer Listen before the release so that’s the next cool thing I’m waiting for. Then there are some plans on releasing two collaborative albums as well as an ep with Dronny Darko. And I’ll definitely be starting a completely new musical Utu Lautturi journey later this spring. I’ve got a huge databank of recorded sounds I’m anxious to get working with. Other than that it’s all day in day out hard mental work to keep it all sort of together. But one day at a time, focusing on the ever-changing present. And that’s that.

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