A talk with Finnebassen: musician, producer, dj with his origins well rooted into jazz and blues

We were quite lucky to sit down with Finnebassen just before his performance at Pleinvrees in Amsterdamon the 3rd of September (big thanks to the Pleinvrees crew, you guys are the best!). A musician, above all, with his origins well rooted into jazz and blues and the guitar that he learned to play as a kid. Thanks to some friends and a special trip to London, he was became absorbed by electronic music.

An insightful and interesting DJ, we discussed a bunch in a short time: From his first attempts at djing on an ironing board, to the time he still spends practicing, from Fabric and modern clubbing, to the analog vs digital debate. The path he had in the scene was very fast, from his bedroom and few friends parties to big clubs and international touring in the space of a couple of weeks.

Hello Finn, thanks for the interview. Shall we start by asking what are your plans for the next few weeks?

Finnebassen: Well September is usually a quiet month, I had a very busy summer. Still, I am going to play a few times in my city club, Jaeger in Oslo, then I will be in Lithuania. After that, there’s also a big party coming in Stockholm where I will play alongside Henry Saiz and Jeremie Olander at the Vibrant party, which I think it is quite a big event.

Let me ask now that you have mentioned it. You said you will play in Oslo, then Lithuania. How is it different playing in those countries compared to other places? Do you think there is any difference?

Finnebassen: It is definitely different. We are in the Netherlands now, which is to me the benchmark that everyone else is trying to follow, most of the times unsuccessfully I would say (laughs). The thing is that in the Netherlands you have such a strong culture of electronic music, that brings people together differently from anywhere in the world. People behave, they know how to party and respect each other, everything is perfectly organised. In all these years that I’ve been playing in the Netherlands I’ve never seen one single fight. The professionalism and the atmosphere is out of reach for almost anyone else. Of course, you cannot compare this to other places, with different cultures and maybe smaller budgets too. But the important thing to me, is to approach any dance floor with the respect it deserves. A small club, or a big venue, it is all about showing up and being respectful towards the people who paid to listen to you.

Let’s go back a little bit. You are a musician, you play guitar. Can you tell us how did you get into electronic music?

Finnebassen: You know, in this world you get exposed to many things, and sometimes it is quite random what you get exposed to in terms of music. And you never know what will trigger your brain, let’s say. But I must say, the very first time that my mind triggered, when I turned my head towards the dj and I felt like something was hitting me very very hard, was when I heard the Knife by Silent Shout during a party. That was a track that really made me turn the page, it was a revelation. Then there was a second moment, when I first visited London. I grew up in this small clubbing community where TecHouse and Techno was predominant. And then I went to London and saw Maceo Plex, Art Department, Wildcats, some of the early Hot Creations guys. That was a great trip, I still remember the excitement of these days. It was mind blowing, it was an eye opener. I found out that there was a huge new world of a different kind of electronic music for me to explore

Talking about London, I am sure that you have seen what is going on with fabric. This is happening today with fabric, but I would say that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Nightlife, clubbing and electronic music is too often targeted and blamed for social issues that most of the time are way beyond their reach and responsibility. What do you think about this situation?

Finnebassen: It is true, it is not just fabric. The same is happening in Oslo as well, we have the exact same problem. Authorities are trying to shut down one of the historical concert venues in the city. It is completely wrong to blame fabric for the problems related to drug use in the venue. I have been there to party and later on to play, and I always witnessed some of the most serious security measures to make sure that everyone could party safe. Consider also their attitude towards the authorities: they have been doing their best to cooperate with them. fabric has tried its best to stop drug use in their premises, if someone is still able to sneak in illegal substances, then it is not fabric’s fault, at all. London was very important to me, particularly at the beginning of my career. It was in London where I went to a proper record store for the first time. I remember that I was so surprised to have a guy with me in the store, helping me out to find the music I was looking for. That is why I am very disappointed about what is happening in London with fabric, I sincerely hope that they will find a solution for the future.

You have been touring during the summer, you said. Have you been playing more in clubs or open air festivals? And how do you think is different to play in those two scenarios?

Finnebassen: Look, this summer has been very good. I have been playing in Greece, London, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and other places. I would say that I have played fifty/fifty, open airs and clubs. And yes, it is totally different. In a festival, most of the time, you have one hour, maximum two hours if you are very lucky. For me, the way I see the role of a dj and the way I express myself better, I believe you need more than that to build up a story for the public. The length of the set is crucial for me, and you get more chances in clubs for that.

We ask this to all the artists we meet. Have you been a clubber before being a dj/producer, and do you think that this helps?

Finnebassen: It is essential. It is essential to be a clubber, if you want to be a dj. This is because you have to be able to relate with the people on the dance floor. You need to know what is going through their heads while you play. I have been to countless clubs partying, listening to countless djs and these experiences have given me so much and helped me to connect better with the crowds. Now I am in this privileged position where I am the one that delivers this experience to people on the dance floor, but I try to remember what it means to be a clubber.

In other words, being a clubber helps in reading the crowd.

Finnebassen: Of course! You have to be able to adapt to the crowd. However, sometimes the opposite also works. Sometimes, it is about having the balls to drop a track that you know it might not fit that well in that particular situation, but you do that on purpose. You need to have the balls to do that. The contrast between two tracks can pull the trigger and set the crowd on fire. To me, djing, and music in general, is very much about contrast.

You are a dj and a producer, what it is that you enjoy the most?

Finnebassen: First and foremost, I am a musician. Second I am a producer. Third I am a dj. Honestly, I must say that I make my money djing, no shame on this. And I take djing very seriously. But if I don’t produce any music, I will hardly get any gig. So the one has to be there for the other to exist. The musician part is more important than the producer one, because the theoretical aspect of music is vital for the idea that I have of my profession.

At your level, there is still space to learn new things? Do you invest some of your time just practicing?

Finnebassen: Always. If I do not possess a sufficient level of music theory, and if I do not push myself to be better and better every day at creating and understanding musical theory, I will not produce good music. So yes, I spend much time studying and practicing. The moment you think that you are fully taught is the moment you need to quit, because you misunderstood the all concept. This applies for music, but also with everything in life, I guess.

Where do you stand in this debate around digital vs analog? Do you think digital is an opportunity or maybe a danger for electronic music?

Finnebassen: The great thing about digital instruments is that allows people who cannot afford these extremely expensive synthesizers to do what their idols do. Me, it took me two years of professional djing and producing to be able to buy my first synthesizer. It is really expensive, it is a money consuming hole and it can be an addiction as well. I bet we can name 5-10 artists playing this festival today who started with digital tools. So, digital opens up opportunities to more people, and it is a good thing. On the other hand, doing everything on a computer can be very risky. Computers can be very static instruments, with a very static sound. When you add an analogue circuit, however, or an analogue synthesizer, after a while, that same circuit will become alive, and the sound will become warmer. When you record something with analogue you actually feel the instrument coming to life, it is not just a filter cut-off on a VSD. But let me say that, if you are good enough, if you work enough to be good, you can make anything sound good!

How do you approach a dj set? Do you think about it before, do you plan it in some ways?

Finnebassen: It really depends on the situation. You know, adaptation is probably the most important thing about djing. Djing is basically the mastery of adaptation. So this is why it is so important to be flexible, to read what is going on around you. While I play, maybe I think a bit ahead, let’s say two or three tracks, but that can always change. If you lock yourself too much into planning what you are going to play, you are doing this all wrong. Of course, it is important to prepare the set, maybe selecting some tracks that you think you might play, but you should never have a precise running order. It takes out the best part of djing, the adrenaline and the stress factor of selecting the next track. I love that stress, I fucking love it.

Do you remember how you started? The first music and first tracks you were playing when you were younger, the first equipment that you used?

Finnebassen: A friend of mine had a few CDjs 800, the silver ones, and we had the most ridiculous mixer, I don’t even remember the name. We were using his mother ironing board as console in the living room and we were playing some music, but I didn’t even had that much of it. Probably some early Uner and Coyu productions, Spanish groovy Techouse. It was actually very good music to learn how to beat match, and it was fun.

You said that you are producer, before being a dj. Do you have something coming up soon?

Finnebassen: Yes, I have a remix for Eagles and Butterflies and one for Jeremie Olander. I will also have an original track out on Polymath soon.

One track by you that you have been playing lately and one from someone else?

Finnebassen: Winemaker by Sebastian Mullaert and my most recent track called Soul, on Polymath.
Finnebassen will be playing at the next Amsterdam Dance Event on the 20th of October for Pleinvrees ADE and for Straf_Werk on the 21st of October. Make sure you check his Facebook page for updates.