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Feature: Yotto [Interview]

22 min read

Yotto likes walks in the park, nights by the fire, and deadpan stares across dinner tables. He also likes to produce electronic music. He's had the distinction of programming BBC’s iconic Essential Mix, to add to his 5 ‘Essential New Tune’ nods from Pete Tong, and 2 ‘Hottest Record In the World’ selections on Annie Mac’s show. DJ support has proved devastatingly eclectic, ranging from Sasha, Laurent Garnier, Jamie Jones, Kölsch, Patrice Baumel and Adriatique. His Odd One Out imprint was launched in July with the well received 'Shifter', while the chart topping 'Nova' landed shortly thereafter. Now in the midst of the US portion of his Odd One Out Tour and the release of his 'Is This Trance' single, we catch up with Yotto in this exclusive interview. Enjoy!

Hi Yotto, thanks for sitting with us today! Tell us, what does a studio day look like for you?

I get up, make a proper breakfast, take a shower, make some coffee and open the door to my basement. I usually do very short studio days, max 6 hours. I get in, work on whatever I have going on at that moment or then just mess around for a while.

The summer season wrapped up not long ago, how did the season go for you? Any special gigs or experiences that stand out?

This was a fun summer for sure, some highlights were my debut in Rosario, Argentina, Pryda Arena at Tomorrowland and Anjunadeep's amazing Explorations festival in Albania.

Tell us about growing up in Finland, how has it shaped the music you make?

Finland has a knack for all things dark and moody, in literature, music and culture in general. I think that has somehow shaped my personal tastes and it likely shows in the music that I make. It's not all gloomy and dark though!

Do the long dark (or light depending on the season) days have any effect on creativity at all? And which do you prefer?

I used to work very late at night after I had come home from work and those sessions would often stretch into the morning. That however was before I was doing this professionally and it was more about just messing around. That approach is still very much alive but I tend to do a more traditional 8-15 studio day and leave time for something else too.

At which club or event did you experience electronic music for the first time and what memories have stuck with you from that moment?

Hmm, first one must have been a festival called Koneisto in Helsinki that I snuck into when I was 16. It was very left field with everything from jungle to men playing household items. First proper DJ set I ever saw was Desyn Masiello in Helsinki in 2005 I think, that was life changing. I don't know what it was, but the music and the atmosphere of a club just resonated with me.

Can you name three tracks that were influential in your musical development?

Sasha - Xpander
Aphex Twin - Xtal
Funk D'Void vs Chicco Secci - Emotional Content

Are you musically trained? And do you think it’s necessary for success in writing
electronic music?

It helps for sure, but I don't think it's necessary. It does train your ears to hear things in a natural way but can also be limiting if you can't escape that headspace of theory. I only studied piano for a short period, so I know what I'm doing, but I'm in no way very well trained.

You have a strong relationship with Anjunadeep, tell us how that partnership started and why the label proved to be a great home for your music?

It started quite some time ago - in 2015. I had done a remix for my friend Pierce Fulton and the label approached me for a mixtape. I filled it with some of my original music and they ended up signing the music and we never released the mix I think. Anjunadeep has been a great home for me - they're an incredibly professional crew with great taste in music and it feels like a family.

You launched your own imprint earlier this year ‘Odd One Out’, is this where we’ll see the majority of your new material?

I will still work on a lot of music on different labels, but Odd One Out is my own little baby where I can do what I want, when I want.

Why did this year feel like the right time to start the label?

Not sure really. It just felt right. I had just finished a big album campaign and a tour so it felt like a good time to do something different for a change.

Thus far you’ve only released projects from yourself on the label, will you be signing other artists as well? If so, what advice would you have for someone hoping to release their music with you?

There will be some really good music and some very special remixes coming soon, definitely not just from me. For now, I will mostly release music that I enjoy playing in my sets, but that's not an absolute limit. If I find something I really love, I will find a way to release it so that it makes sense.

You’re on-record as saying you’ll be ‘the worst label owner in history’ but it seems to be going well so far, what vision do you have for Odd One Out in the future?

Haha, we'll see about that. It has been a great start for sure. I want Odd One Out to keep being an extension of me and my musical tastes, but I also want to bring in some great producers and have them become a part of the whole thing.

Your most recent single ‘Is This Trance?’ has once again gotten a massive response, having many people think you’re actually asking the question ‘Is this trance?’, so what’s the verdict, is it?

I think it is. In some way. It was just a big joke, I feel like people are coming up with
new genres all the time just because in their perception a genre has a bad name or is considered "uncool". We have seen this with progressive house especially, in 2010-2015 a lot of music was labeled as progressive house that did not represent what progressive house originally was. But genres evolve, now we are back at a more traditional approach that once again makes sense to be called progressive house. I think a huge chunk of "Melodic House & Techno" is just rebranded progressive house or slowed down trance but these terms work as functional boxes to put certain types of music in.

Could you walk us through the production process on that one? And is that a typical flow for the majority of your work or is every track a different journey in a sense?

Every track is different for me! For that one I was just messing around with some new synths and a simple riff and came up with these 2 ways of going through the same chord progression that sounded interesting when combined. Sometimes I finish a track in 5 hours, sometimes it takes 5 months of demos and new versions.

What’s a piece of gear that gets used on every track? And what are some of your favourite studio tools?

My DSI Prophet REV2 - I don’t use it on every record but it is very versatile, so I use it all the time to sketch things. I honestly love a lot of very simple plugins - Diva, Zebra2, old NI Pro53, Arturia stuff. They are intuitive and musical. I have a nice selection of hardware because I just love being able to turn knobs and see what happens.

I think for a lot of artists music allows you to write a sketch of your own personal
universe in a way; your travels, life experiences etc. Is this something which is true for
yourself? Where does inspiration come from?

I think it comes from everyday life. I make the best music when my mind is clear. So generally, that means I make the best music when I'm home. On the road I spend most of the time making edits and just going through a ton of music.

The industry and how fans discover new music has changed dramatically in the last 10 years or so. How do you discover new music nowadays?

I started recently going through Discogs and trying to find rare records there, and also it just gives me a different relationship to old music that I can then also seek online and instantly play out. Sometimes I just go on Beatport and see what happens on random searches and go through back catalogues for artists and labels I like.

Is there a movie you would have loved to have produced the soundtrack for? And if so why?

Hmm... Drive? Not really, that one has a perfect soundtrack so I would have messed it up. I think I would have loved to make a good soundtrack to some movie that has like a really horrible soundtrack. Maybe some stupid teenager movie that could be then given some class and make it super confusing…MEAN GIRLS!

What is the one piece of advice you give now that you wished you could have gotten five or ten years ago?

Trust your own ears and taste. Also, don't spend money on stupid shit.

Looking back over your discography, what would you say was a pivotal point in your career? Is there a release that stands out which really helped establish you?

I think my Anjunadeep EP Personal Space/Mulholland 99 really helped me reach a bit further, it got a ton of great DJ support and it's still one of my favourites. It was also my first Essential New Tune, something I had dreamt of for a long time.

What can fans expect from you to close out 2019 and on into 2020? Anything you can share with us?

There will be some cool remixes of a couple of my tracks coming out very soon and possibly an original if I can squeeze it in! 2020 will have a couple of nice remixes coming out quite early that I'm excited about!

'Is This Trance?' is out now on Odd One Out, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/2Rrncd1

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