Name: Tatu Rönkkö
Occupation: Drummer, Percussionist
Current Festival Appearance: The Lake Festival
Bands/Projects: Liima, Elifantree
Musical Recommendations: Jaakko Eino Kalevi's new self-titled album is perfect summer music. Jaakko is very Finnish in his way of whispering elegantly sexy yet minimalistic phrases into your ear.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
My earliest musical influence was a street musician in front of Centre Pompidou in Paris when I was four. He was playing pots and pans as drums but his cymbals were bananas that exploded when he hit them.
In my high-school years I started to experiment with concrete sounds and making music by recording the rhythms that happened when a scratched CD skipped beats in a CD player.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I first started to express myself (in an abstract way) by drawing at the age of 2. I would process and go through the things I experienced around me in my drawings. Drawing didn't have any rules. This somehow became the very first means of expressing my inner visions without words. In music the same happened to me much later through a more conventional process: I went through 16 years of conservatory studies mimicking my jazz drum heroes and learning all the rules before I could start using drums and percussion freely to express myself, in my own way.
In my artistic development the visual and the sonic have been equally important.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The first challenge was to learn how to translate the sonic picture I had in my mind into music. The challenge is exactly the same today!
Tell us about your studio, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
I have a lo-fi living room studio. My setup: An ironing board as a table with some electronic gear on it (MPC, mixer and a bunch of delays and reverbs), a tape machine on the floor and a laptop plus preamps and speakers on another table in front of a window that's giving me some daylight.
I also have a cellar studio in a different location where I bang my beautiful 60's Rogers Blue Sparkle drum kit and have tons of percussion gear. This is where I make loud noise and record the drums.
What are currently some of the most important tools and instruments you're using?
MPC 1000, portable field recorder, delay pedal, contact microphones, everyday objects and my vintage drum kit.
Many contemporary production tools already take over significant parts of what would formerly have constituted compositional work. In which way do certain production tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity? Are there any promising solutions or set-ups capable of triggering new ideas inside of you as a composer?
Personally I'm a hardware guy. Recording with a tape machine or field recording device, editing and cutting sounds on Pro Tools, loading sounds to MPC and adding effects with separate outboard delays etc. might be oldschool and slow opposed to modern software based music making where you can do almost everything in one software (Ableton for instance). But I see the limitations in hardware based making as inspiring: you don't have all those tricks available at once so you have to use your creativity in a different way to get to your goal. In this way limitations expand your creativity.
To me hardware also means physicality. As a drummer I like to touch what I'm playing and occasionally feel my fingertips bleeding when I finger drum on MPC.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where do ideas come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas?
The creative work of Liima is very location related and improvisation based. First we start with sampling sounds from and getting familiar with the environment we're in. (Last May we spent a week in small beach town in Madeira and a year before we were in a summer cottage in the Finnish woods.) After having inhaled the spirit of the location, so to say, we start jamming. We jam for an hour and record the jam. Then we listen to it and start picking ideas and parts that we liked. Then we combine and refine these ideas to make a song. This is how all our songs are made and we love this method!
With more and more musicians creating than ever and more and more of these creations being released, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality? What are some of the areas where you currently see the greatest potential for originality and who are some of the artists and communities that you find inspiring in this regard?
I don't find that often music today that totally blows me away with its originality. Recycling and re-inventing already existing sounds is very relevant and essential since basically all sound material has already been discovered. Oneohtrix Point Never is inspiring in that field, he always surprises me in some way.
Another great potential is in performance and crossing over art forms. This is the future.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I don't separate them.