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Interview: DESTO

From the arctic circle, Desto returns to Shanghai. Bass musicks Friday night in Shanghai at The Shelter with Desto and Sub-Culture crew.
By Oct 12, 2011 Nightlife

Finish producer, Desto returns to Shanghai this Friday night at The Shelter for a night of depth-charge bass music.

Here's some newer ones from him here and here. Taste the goods. Evilllll. Real interesting stuff.

Desto was last in Shanghai with a whole slew of Finnish underground music, including Jimi Tenor, Clouds, Villa Nah, Jori Hulkkonen, Top Billing, and Renaissance Man, as part of a very well done music program for the Shanghai Expo. He and the aforementioned musicians and composers took over Xingfu Lu for "Hel Yes" -- three bars on Xingfu Lu putting on all these guys on at once. 'Twas a scene man. A very good one.

This Friday night, Desto is looking for a repeat back at The Shelter, hosted in town by the Sub-Culture crew. SmartShanghai talked to Desto about bass music, what up with Finland, his track with ChaCha, Clouds, and the man, Jimi Tenor, as well as some other stuff.

He's also coming in with a new hardware-based live set-up, so there's a bit of gearhead jibber jabber in there as well.


SmSh: So you were last in town for the Shanghai Expo. How did you get hooked up with that and what do you remember from your trip to Shanghai? What was the Expo like? Good, shit, or what?

Desto: I think there was a Finland day for the Expo and my friend, DJ Anonymous put together a line-up of Finnish electronic music. I was lucky enough to be asked to join in. It turned out to be one of the most memorable trips in my life. I played records at LOgO, alongside Jimi Tenor and Clouds, who were both going live. The place was packed and it was good fun. I didn't perform at the Expo area, which was probably for the best as it was not equipped for bass music. I had another show at Shelter with Clouds doing a live set and Dead-O playing records, as well, and this turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

I felt the venue was just right for my music, the room and the people were resonating on the right frequency. It was one of the best nights I’ve played.

SmSh: We heard you also managed to record with Jimi Tenor, Cloud and ChaCha during your time here. Can you describe how that was and what “Time Bird” sounds like? What elements did you bring to the table in that collaboration?

Desto: I met Jimi Tenor for the first time in Shanghai and we kind of clicked. Towards the end of our stay Jimi thought of the idea to have a studio session while we were all there. Even on such short notice we were able to get a few hours. It was Clouds, Jimi, Cha Cha, Tomi from Villa Nah, and myself.

We started from scratch, I had a short drum pattern going and Jimi played a synth bassline in on the first take, just perfect. Clouds were making some glitchy violin loops and I was creating some chords in the other room with one ear on the headphones and listening to the track from the next room with the other. Cha Cha was sketching down some ideas and Tomi was testing out some sampler percussion.

After Jimi dropped that bassline and synth solo on the first take everybody had a good energy and a vibe so I knew it was going to work. What came out of it was “Time Bird”.
We made three versions afterwards and mine ended up on the record. As a curiosity you can also hear Tomi's precussion on the track! I think the fact that the session was not premeditated but rather spontaneous gave the track a certain vibe and an energy that couldn't have been caught had we been sitting in front of a computer clicking away on the mouse.

Ed’s Note: Click right here to hear “Time Bird”. And click here for a write-up on the session over at

SmSh: How is that being released?

Desto: The test pressings just came in. It will be released on south London's own DJ Oneman's 502 Recordings in the very near future with a later collaboration of mine with Jimi on the flip called “Eightfold Path”.

SmSh: So what’s been going in then since you were last in Shanghai? What’s new in Finland these days and how are you enjoying it there?

Desto: Since the visit, I've redesigned my studio setup and started working on a live set. I didn't think I'd want to do a live thing because laptop lives rarely do it for me. I know I wouldn't personally want to stand in front of an audience and click away on the mousepad.

I guess it's down to the fact that I grew up with ‘90s electronic music, which had to be performed live with outboard gear and I never got into the laptop thing. I did some live gigs in the late ‘90s using a four track where I had different sounds on different channels, some effects, and a synth but it was nothing special.

After seeing Jimi perform with drum machines and keyboards and self-made instruments, I realized that's how I could go about it again. With samplers having amazing memory capabilities now, it's actually easy to make things sound great on a live thing. That said, I make sure I control the song structure, play parts in and make sequences on the go to keep it interesting for myself and to have an actual performance feel to it.

I wouldn't go check out an indie band that straps on their Guitar Hero gear so I don't expect people to come see me do playback either.

As for Finland, I always enjoy it here. Right now there is an abundance of talented music people and a wonderful exchange between them going on. Bass music is keeping healthy and diverse out here. I'm enjoying it getting colder and darker again -- there is a particular vibe to Finnish autumn and my neighborhood.

SmSh: Can you give us a little crash course in Finish bass music? Who are some producers people should be listening to and how would you say the output from Finland differs from the rest of the world?

Do you feel your locality in Finland inspires your music?

Desto: Like I mentioned, Finnish bass music is diverse. For the most part, it seems to be less centered around the housiest variants and the wobbliest ones, but rather finding its own paths, which I'm delighted to say.

Garage was never big here but grime was strong and a lot of people moved from that to dubstep around 2006. There's a lot of depth to the stuff being produced out here, which, I guess, has to do with a certain bond between melancholy and Finnish music.
The again the D'n'B boys are enjoying their wobble. With the Slam It night I do with Tes La Rok and Dead-O, we've always promoted diversity as that was what originally drew each of us into the sound.

Finnish producers that I'm feeling at the moment are LAS, Trusta, Late, Teeth, V.C., Clouds and so on. There are so many talented people it's unfair not to mention them all, but then again it would be a long, long list.

As for myself being located in Helsinki's Vallila is certainly an influence. Geographically being slightly remote from the UK bass capital and the mid-European scene is a big positive for me. I feel you gain a certain perspective over what goes on in the musical world and won't be influenced by the 'scene' as much which can lead to original sounds.

SmSh: The genre your music is tagged with frequently is “dubstep”. Is that a label you embrace? I guess that’s a real annoying way to open into this even more annoying question: can you describe what sorts of music you’re making these days to people who have maybe never heard it?

Desto: I don't categorize my music when I make it and I feel that's the most important thing. I must say I was happy to find my “Disappearing Reappearing Ink” 12" from the 'new beats' section at Sounds of the Universe in London. To me if people can't quite categorize my music I'm probably doing something right.

Original sound is what interests me rather than repeating a pattern. Then again, a friend of mine was just telling me he was listening to my radio show and even though I didn't say it, he could tell a certain track was mine from the first time he heard it. I just call it bass music for the time being if somebody needs to have a name.

SmSh: What’s your view on the increasing mainstream influence of bass music? There’s much discussion, of course, pertaining to dubstep sounds in mainstream pop and RnB -- Britney Spears, Rhianna et al. Not to mention the more … controversial… strains of “dubstep” coming from people like Skrillex… Do you see that as co-opting the music or diluting its impact? Or do you see the mainstream rise of the genre in a positive light?

Desto: I feel this side of things has as much impact on my music as most modern D'n'B or mainstream pop music in general. I don't listen to it or follow it as it does nothing to me. I don't care about the politics of 'dubstep' at this stage. As long as people don't book me expecting to hear 1 to 4 bar switching lfo chainsaws blasts it's all good.

In that sense of the word I don't play 'dubstep'.

SmSh: In general, what’s sort of stuff are you listening to these days, new or old, that inspires you to make your own music?

Desto: I keep up with certain bass music strains via Rinse still and I go back to a lot of the stuff I've listened throughout my music listener life. Lately, I've been buying a lot of old school electro again.

SmSh: We hear your traveling to Shanghai with a new live set-up. Can you describe your set-up these days and what promoted the switch towards this gear?

Are you satisfied with your set-up or is it a work-in-progress to a larger goal?

Desto: The core of the setup is a MPC 500, Korg R3, and a tr-606. I have some analogue bits and bops and effect boxes, and I include for instance a theremin in the setup every now and again.

I want the music to be created live like I mentioned earlier, so I include that element of risk that is a part of any live performance. And I'm not talking about the risk of Ableton crashing hahahaa...

The setup enables me to catch a vibe and go with it from doing vocoder vocals to dubbing elements from the mix spontaneously. It's a freedom that is important to me. I did my first Desto lives with 15 units which was fun to have all that control but it's not doable outside Finland for now, so I had to optimize it a bit to make the set travel ready.

I feel the way I managed to do it doesn't compromise my aesthetic or the live performance but it took a lot of work and effort. That is something I'm not afraid of putting into my work though so it's all good.

SmSh: What sorts of projects are you working on these days? What releases should people be watching out for from Desto?

Desto: Well, the next one will be the 502 release. There's some remixes in the pipeline too. The next big project is the label me and Teeth are starting, Signal Life. During the last year or so we realized that we need an output for our music where we can build the releases from scratch and make it look like us. We've got other interesting artists lined up too. We're sending out a signal from Helsinki and we'll see how far it goes.

The signal will be up in 2012.


Desto returns to Shanghai on Friday night with the Sub-Culture crew. Robjam comes correct with an old school garage set. Cover: 60rmb. Starts 10pm. More over at


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  • Nicholas Zamz

    "Risk, and I'm not talking about the risk of Ableton crashing." POW. Great interview.

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