Helsinki based Janne Hatula aka Fanu started out on his musical journey in 1992 having developed a passionate love for Drum and Bass, Jungle and Hip Hop early on after being drawn in by the rich sample heavy vibes of the 1990s scene.
An artist who has been flying the flag for Finnish Drum and Bass for some time now, Fanu’s first release “Sweet July Jam” on Brainshakaz was back in 2002 and the Finnish production powerhouse has gone from strength to strength ever since with his hard work and efforts culminating in his first Metalheadz release this month.
Not one to sit back and rest on his laurels, Fanu is a self proclaimed musical entrepreneur. He also works as a mixing/mastering engineer and runs two record labels: Lightless (his Drum and Bass outlet) and Phatventures, where he releases Hip Hop beats under the guise “Fatgyver”. In 2016 he became an official Ableton Live Tutor after previously earning himself a teaching degree from the University of Helsinki. Fanu is proud that his hard work and efforts have enabled him to become a self supporting musical entity and advocates a persistent mindset in everything he does.
Guestlist spoke to Fanu about his biggest release to date the poignant “Black Label EP” which is out on Metalheadz this week and what life is like for a Drum and Bass producer during the long, cold, Nordic winer.
What was the first thing you thought this morning? COFFEE. I guess when I wake up I quickly have a think of what’s ahead that day. Today just like usual it was audio engineering. The first project was mixing and mastering a heavy break-switching DNB tune from Singapore.
If you had to only eat/drink three things for the rest of your life, what would they be? Coffee (dark roast!), dark chocolate, and pizza. It might be useful to have water there too.
If I could give you a plane ticket to anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? Somewhere warm. Also I’d definitely need somewhere to skateboard! Somewhere in Spain might be good. It’s getting cold and dark here in Finland which sucks if you enjoy the outdoor life. However it’s great for making dark tunes and staying in that mindset, so it’s a double-edged sword for sure. I know my Drum and Bass wouldn’t sound the way it does if it wasn’t for that certain darkness and melancholy of the wintertime of Finland.
What was the first record you bought? Honestly from memory the first thing I bought was Run DMC’s “Down With The King” 12”. Goldie’s Timeless LP came soon after that though.
What was the last record you bought? I actually bought The Commodores’ “Hot On The Tracks” LP today. I ended up visiting my local record store and I wanted to buy something to support them. I still appreciate the fact that there actually is a record store close to me. My principle is that I’ll never leave without buying something, even something cheap. Today I picked up that LP for 4 EUR hoping there could be some good samples on it. Now that I’ve had the time to listen to it I’ve definitely noticed a few for sure! Even one that De La Soul used on their “Stakes Is High” LP (which is one of the best hip hop albums ever made). So hey, I learned a bit more about the culture I like too.
Which three artists have been the biggest influence on your sound? I need to think about this on the level of how some people have influenced me in different ways with their music and/or actions over the years. Goldie and LTJ Bukem. Also Finnish DJ Dizzy whose radio shows I used to listen to around mid-90s. He played jungle/DNB. Those shows were massively influential to me when I was still a teenager living in the countryside.
What would you be doing if you couldn't make music? Man, I don’t even want to know! I do have a teaching degree so I’d probably be teaching English and/or doing translations. Not a bad job really, but being a teacher wouldn’t leave me with enough energy or time for my music (I did try, for a year!). Translating is pretty cool though.
What is your favourite song of all time any genre? “Lifeforms Path 4” by Future Sound Of London.
What's got you motivated right now? Getting on Metalheadz, huge life goal for me.
Is there a meaning behind the name Fanu? Nah. I used to have a silly friend as a kid who gave people stupid names based on something, anything random. I had a sticker that said “Happyfant” and he dubbed me Fanu out of that, cool huh? Now you know! Shout out to Jari “Erno” for giving me a name that stuck!
What was your first DJ booking? I ended up having to Google this. I thought it was in Budapest in 2005 (I remember Equinox being in the crowd even though he wasn’t DJing at the time and I was like whaaat!) but there’s some Google info that mentions me playing in Amsterdam in 2004. So probably that? I really can’t remember exactly.
What's been your most memorable booking to date? This is hard to say. Maybe struggling it through a gig in San Fransisco during one of my US tours. I had food poisoning the night before and man was I weak! I kind of wanted to cancel it but in the end I did pull through. It was well worth it. There were so many people who had shown up there just for me. One couple who had just got married and had driven there a long way just for my set. Strangely enough they ended up doing an event some time later and booked me to play for them! Anyway that gig was a excellent even though all I could think was “Please do not throw up or shit your pants”. There were people offering me whisky in the front row. Normally I would have had some but at that time it was most certainly best not to! Memories from the road life!
What has been your proudest moment? Having made music this long and having stuck firmly to my to own style the whole time is probably what I’m most proud of. I started making music around 1992. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had my moments of “Is this shit even worth it?” over the years. I’ve definitely been at a few musical crossroads in my time, frustrated and thinking “do I just wanna pack this up and do something else?” But once you peel back all the external bullshit and come to the realisation that making music is more of a calling for you, you’ll understand that it’s the greatest thing ever and probably just go back to making it all for yourself again. Anything that may come of it after that point is just a bonus really. That’s how I feel about it.
Being based in Finland, did you find it hard getting involved in the Drum and Bass scene? What is the Finnish Drum and Bass scene like? I’m going to be honest here. I’ve never really been a “part” of the Finnish scene. I’m definitely not saying that I don’t want to be involved in it! I almost feel like a lone wolf here if I’m being frank. Unfortunately the support for what I have been doing musically has been very minimal here over the years in terms of gigs or media. I can probably count the gigs I’ve played here in the past 15 years with the fingers I have. People hit me up asking “Why don’t you ever play in Finland?” and I just don’t know what to say? I mean what is there to say to that? I’d love to play! Even if it was just some early night sets so I could pull out my old vinyl out and have some beers or whatever. Someone once said “you’ll never be a prophet in your homeland” or something like that. I don’t want to sound proud or bitter and I don’t take it personally at all. Maybe what I represent doesn’t fit with what’s being celebrated out here?
How did the Metalheadz release come about? Is there a story behind the EP? I was sending tunes to Ant (the Headz A&R) for a while. I always got the vibe that he is a true professional he really knows what he wants to present to Goldie and drives things forward a lot. It’s funny though because the first tune that actually went forward to Goldie was something I almost didn’t even send. It’s a slower number called “Baretta”. At the time I thought it was probably best not to send it to him but I took a chance and did it anyway. It went forward and I heard back that Goldie really liked it! That was a huge boost for me. It put me into a mindset where it was easy for me to write songs with a similar vibe. Then the EP just kind of wrote itself. Once I got going It all happened pretty quickly. The EP is definitely something that came out of me once I put my Metalheadz hat on. This style of Drum and Bass is one that’s very true to me and this work is all about what Metalheadz means to me. First of all breaks, gnarly bass and loud mixes/masters that Heads vibe. I engineered it all myself. Pushing things to the very limit. This work is definitely my testament to Metalheadz.
On a side note the break I used in “Baretta” was emailed to me by a stranger some years ago. I’ve never heard back from them since. It was just someone who wanted to send me that one break. As far as I recall they didn’t even say anything else in their email. I’ve tried going back through my emails to try and find that one but it’s not in my inbox anymore. It’s a bit like something from The Twilight Zone!!!
Metalheadz is one of the biggest labels in electronic music and is listed as one of your influences on your homepage. How does it feel to have a release on a label you have been following all this time? I can’t even act like a cool guy here! I’ve always been a person who says it like it is. This is huge! I’ve been fantasising about having a Metalheadz release for so long that I can’t remember. I was listening to Goldie’s “Timeless” way back in 1995 and Platinum Breaks 1 when it first came out in 1996! If you’d have looked in a crystal ball back then and told me I’d have a release on the label one day I’d have laughed!
I’ve always been persistent in what I do. I’ve set up my own business and I pay entirely for my living from my music-related enterprises now. I make a goal and I work towards it. Nothing stops me until I reach it. Over ten years ago now I said to myself that it is on my bucket list to try and get my some of my best musical efforts out on Metalheadz and now we’re here. It’s probably every DNB producer’s fantasy if we’re being frank. Goldie has said some very nice words about me and my music. Honestly I’m still trying to digest it. It’s like a dream come true.
What's it been like working with the Heads crew so far? Top. Professional vibe and that’s what I appreciate. That can really drive you on. It definitely pushes me forward as an artist. I’m so grateful to them I can’t even describe it. I’m hoping this is just the beginning. I am already working on a ton more material with a similar vibe.
Looking at your website, you're not just someone who produces. You also work as a mixing/mastering engineer and are a qualified Ableton teacher. What motivated you into getting involved in teaching? I’ve always been a teacher by nature. I love the feeling I get from passing my knowledge of a subject on to someone who wants to learn about it. I graduated from The University of Helsinki in 2009 and I have an official teacher’s degree. I’m also an avid Ableton nerd. I got officially certified by Ableton in 2016. Plus I’m a total audio geek and when you put all that together you kind of get my dream job. I’m much more of a musical entrepreneur than just a producer. I give Ableton tuition to students from the Helsinki area. I mix and master music for international clients every day and I produce my own music. It’s like living the dream for me and I really really appreciate the way things have worked out for me. I’ve worked so hard towards this all my life in a way or another. It’s definitely not come easy or happened overnight, that’s for sure. It’s taken many a sacrifice to reach this point, but now I’m finally here it’s 100% worth it.
Which up and comers are worth keeping an ear out for in 2019? Aeon Four, Quartz, Out Of Fuel, Recue, Infader, Mahakala, Detboi, Subjective Music, Om Unit, Jahganaut, Greenleaf, Mister Shifter, SUBB1996, DJ Anointed… Just off the top of my head! 2019 is going to be one hell of a good year for music.
I’m trying to do a series of podcasts called “Breaks and Beats” which can be accessed via my website fanumusic.com I will do them a few times a year to showcase the music I’m feeling at the time so make sure you check that out.
What's next for Fanu? My next release will be on a label called Slug Wife in early Dec. Grimey, crusty beats and bass but at a slower tempo of around 130 BPM or so. I’ve also been working on more stuff for Metalheadz’ aural receptacles. I need to wrap up my next hip-hop beats album (as FatGyver) for Phatventures pretty soon as well, I’m close though. Plus obviously making more dark tunage to cope with the long dark Finnish winter. I’ll also be getting involved with some serious wintertime indoor skateboarding and drinking tons of coffee (pro tip: if you consume too much coffee, eating some banana helps).
Once I’m done with this interview there’s a tune waiting in my DAW. I’ve finally been collaborating a bit with a Finnish producer called Infader. He’s got some wicked dirty breaks already so we’re definitely on a similar wavelength. That heavy-ass breaksy stuff, Droppin Science kind of vibes.
If I had more time, I’d love to release more other people’s music and also get Phatventures (as well as Lightless) more active and have someone to help me out a bit but I’ve got my hands pretty full with all I do as it is! It would be great if I could find someone likeminded to work with.
To wrap it up, I’ll say 2018 was a very productive year and once it’s over I will have put out 3 EPs and two albums. So even though I’ve got a lot of new ammo, I’m not in a rush to put out any more new music right away but it is imminent trust me!
Fanu's "Black Label EP" is available from the Metalheadz online shop here
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