Responsible for one of the most classic trance tracks of all time in 'Sun' from 2000, Slusnik Luna are a Finnish production trio consisting of Niko Nyman, Nicklas Renqvist and Petri Alanko. Recently updating 'Sun' with their uplifting 'Sun 2011' mix, the Finnish trio find themselves back in the spotlight thanks to the current release on Anjunabeats - with remixes coming from 4 Strings, Joonas Hahmo, Gemix, Heikki L and DJ Orion & J Shore. We found some time to interview the Slusnik Luna guys and get a rare window into the story and plans of these trance legends.
First of all, can you tell us a little a bit about Slusnik Luna and how you guys all came together? Were you friends from way back…?
Niko: All of us three actually met around the same time, ‘93-’94. I was working in the studio of Petri’s then band-mate. Nicke visited the studio in 93, and our paths crossed again at the start of ‘94, when we ended up collaborating on the game score for Super Stardust on Amiga32. We had a lot of fun, and decided to start making music together, and after an unfortunate incident involving Russian Coca-Cola Eurochart and DAT mishaps, we started calling our collaboration Slusnik Luna… So we kind of got to know each other through music, and have been very close friends ever since.
Petri: Yeah, Niko and Nicke had been doing their lovely Slusnik stuff for quite a while - and then one day in the 2000- something I was dragged in the studio for programming and arranging, production, whatnot. We’ve known each other since nineties, but we never got to working together as a trio before Slusnik. Friends? Definitely, yes.
The original ‘Sun’ is often remembered as one of the most legendary trance tracks of all time – and even hit top 40 in the UK. When you first created it, did you have any idea that the track would go on to achieve such success?
Niko: Not at all. Only when we heard Dave Dresden (of Dresden & Gabriel) had passed the track to a very enthusiastic Pete Tong did we start thinking the track could become quite a bit bigger than we ever imagined. I still keep thinking what IF Dave did not receive the track, would anything have happened? So Dave, if you’re reading this, thanks once again!
Petri: I think I mentioned after hearing it the first time “this is going to be huge”. This was way before my Slusnik time, by the way, I was just a musical tourist. One day Niko sat into my Beetle, his finger put through a cd hole, waving it and saying “Let’s play this.” After four minutes or so, when the breakdown begun to play, it was painfully beautiful. What an incredible idea for a song. It had everything in it back then - and it was timeless. Only the tempo of the original track might give out the release date, but otherwise it’s classic stuff. Also, considering Niko’s and Nicke’s then equipment, it was a top notch production as well. I remember thinking “ok, I need to shape up my production style right now…” I think everyone got the chills when they heard it the first time.
Nicke: Like Niko pointed out, we had no clue what-so-ever that Sun was going to be what it became to be. We also need to thank DJ Orkidea for his support, and Unity records for the first batch of 12”. I might still have a couple of the original 12” Sun singles somewhere, unused. :)
Can you tell us a bit about what inspired it and how it was produced? What studio equipment was used to put the track together?
Niko: I had an audio bounce of the chords on my computer for a couple of years before I actually made the track. DJ Orkidea asked me if I wanted to make a theme for the summer Sundays club night, Sun. I replied something about not having any ideas, and he said “why don’t you make something of those chords you played me a while ago”. So I did, and took the first version to one of Orkidea’s gigs to watch the reaction. I immediately saw the track worked, but people were taken a bit too much by surprise when the chords struck. I added the tiny hihat on the break to keep peeps on the tempo, and that was pretty much it. Sometimes it’s the really small things that count.
Petri: I paid some attention to Niko’s then-level-of-details when we started working again with the track. All the delays in some samples were probably cut in time, and some chordal stuff were edited together, with minimized chord leakage from the previous chord. Also, if they had used any “illegal” samples, they were carefully mangled beyond recognition, creating a totally new atmosphere not achievable by “normal” means. Most of the stuff was sampled into an Emulator E4XT back then, with only 64 megs of memory, so most of the “Sun sound” comes from Emulator. It had one delicious dsp function: transform multiplication, which probably was a key behind the strange eerie chords in the first section of the song. Also, considering the fact it was produced with Logic 4.0 only, it was an enormous achievement back then. Hats off, literally.
What made you decide that the time was right for a modern update?
Petri: I think one of the reasons was the overall dropped bpms… seriously, I think it was just some “let’s spend some time together” related thing. We used to be quite a tight group of friends a few years ago, there was a lot of partying together going on, so we felt we need to have some quality time. And as a side product we laughed and joked a lot - and as a side product of THAT we suddenly had one new version of Sun. But with an inferior bassline. That was corrected a week later when I ditched the bassline from Muse’s “Supermassive Blackhole” closet remix I had done for fun. Note: for fun, not for release, a VERY unofficial one. Suddenly, the track started to move a bit better. Is it okay to presume it was again DJ Orkidea who eventually urged us to have it released? We tried to make a few other tracks as well, but the BBQ stuff was much more interesting, as the summer was quite hot here in Finland.
You were putting out trance over a decade ago now. How did you first all get into it? Did Finland have a strong trance scene around the late ’90s?
Petri: Back then it was all about having fun at the warehouse parties, people literally dancing in the woods at summertime - but don’t get us wrong: there were also a lot of clubs. The clubscene in Finland at that time was very, very lively. Literally it was summer of love for years and years. I was gigging heavily back then and saw the most distant locations in Finland, and although they kept on playing the usual top ten hits, there was also a strong trance undercurrent - even in Pudasjärvi or other Northern extremes. There was something magical in Finland back then, as one could often see a lovely clubber girl in her microshorts dancing with a death metal dude (fist up in the air, of course) - to a pounding trance beat. It was because of the energy, I suppose. It seemed all sorts of people were open to it, open to the energy and the different scenery trance vibes offered.
Niko: I’m not sure how Nicke got into trance, but he definitely and successfully used an Eye-Q double CD compilation to brainwash me into trance music, and that set the standard for us. The energy of early trance was something that captured our souls from the start. I can’t say how strong the trance scene was in the 90s, but it certainly had an influence on me.
What are your main musical influences?
Niko: I think the musical and production quality of the Eye-Q tracks is still largely unsurpassed. Before that I had been listening to acid house, the occasional techno track, whatever was on Party Zone… Bomb the Bass was a big influence. During the years I’ve also gone through a lot of soul, hip hop, downtempo and recently a variety of glitch genres.
Nicke: Yeah, artists such as Brainchild, Cygnus-x, Sven Väth, etc. were my sources of inspiration back in the days. Later on I have tried to stay away from being “enslaved” by a producer’s style, and just listen to what’s out there. I have to say that I am probably the worst “fan” ever. I never dig one band, producer or like. I just like certain tracks, and really don’t give much thought into it who is the guy/girl behind the musical masterpiece.
Petri: I think I fall into a mid-age goth category here! I began with classical stuff, thanks to my piano teachers, but I really loved all sorts of Human League-Soft Cell-Yazoo-Ultravox-Kraftwerk stuff, the typical ‘80’s era, with a heavy dose of Depeche Mode/Nitzer Ebb/Front 242/Cabaret Voltaire/younameit thrown in. If it was done in the ‘80’s and it had synths, I probably owned it and have listened a vinyl through a crappy home hifi system. Oh yes, Bomb The Bass’ “Winter in July” really got me. I was really into some trip-hop stuff in the ‘90’ toos, which probably can be heard all over my production style nowadays. Hell, I started doing stuff way before MIDI arrived!
Finland has a strong history of great trance music. What it is about the country that contributes to such strong musicians?
Petri: I think it’s the distances, the weather (the usual reason, I’ll elaborate a bit later), the surroundings, the history… We, us Finns that is, like to concentrate on the profound stuff, the core of everything. It is easy to dig deep into the rhythm and the foundation of rhythm and basslines - and being a Lutheran country, we’ve got a surprisingly lot in common with German roots, which is why we like robotic and rhythmic stuff… Seriously, most of the Finns have heard a lot of Sibelius during their lives and he was quite a character back in the days, I must say. His composition style has literally moulded minds of several million people, although his influence may have started to degrade, thanks to internet, MTV (well, not the nowadays-true-TV MTV, but the “real” Music TV) and other music services and TV channels. Once you get those majestic and epic chord progressions and motives sucked in, they don’t come out.
The weather and the seasons creates also one important factor: if you don’t see sun for 4 months (in the Northern Finland), you’ve got a lot of time to party. Also, when it’s -25°C outside, you probably don’t want to stand outside freezing. Just get into the club and warm yourself up. And again, as the summers are usually warm, the country transforms into a totally different entity. Suddenly all the beautiful girls are visible again and everyone’s happy, so full of life. One should be dead to be able to resist such duality - and it’s that duality that seems to be the fuel for everything.
Nicke: I think Petri summed it up pretty well. Another key element is that most of the trance producers in Finland are really good friends, also outside the studio. We sometimes hang out just for the fun of it, and if/when we bump into each other we very seldom talk about music. Maybe about upcoming releases, but mostly about everyday stuff.
Is it fair to say that you chosen to focus on quality rather than quantity with your releases?
Niko: No. We’re just a lazy bunch!
Petri: Which, unfortunately, holds truth pretty nicely. I think it was Nicke who invented the slogan “one track a year keeps the doctor away”. I was a bit afraid when I last checked my Slusnik schedule, as the album could be ready by 2018! But, to be honest, because there are three Finns in the studio, all of which are VERY critical and quality-conscious, it’s a bit kraftwerkian at times. Also, we all have heard enough shittycrappy tracks in our lives, literally thousands, that we don’t want to offend and violate our prospective fans. If you don’t give your 100%, why should they? To be honest, we’ve got literally dozens of track ideas in our Logic folders, but unfortunately the time’s not on our side. It is a tough job to have us three in the studio at the same time. Schedule-wise, that is. No friction and popstar aches here. Besides, there’s already enough people taking care of the quantity out there, so why bother?
Nicke: We most certainly are a lazy bunch of a-holes, and can’t think of a reason to change that. :) However, saying that we are all still producing what we call mini-tracks (short compositions, beats, basslines or like) and if one track is clearly a winner, we may someday make it into a full fledged song.
Nicke: Well, after we got off our previous deal with Incentive, we joked around that it might be fun to remake the track but we never thought to actually make a release. Then one day we just decided to go into the studio and see what we can come up with. It actually took us more time to get the original sounds & samples from our backups than it took to create the first version of Sun 2011. A couple of really inspiring studio sessions later we had a version we sent to DJ Orkidea for preview, and he immediately sent us the word that this new version sounds great and that it has to be released. And here we are.
How did the signing to Anjunabeats first come about?
Petri: About this I’m sure: Orkidea urged us to send the track to Anjunabeats first - and if they wouldn’t answer, or it took too long, only then we’d start sending it to other instances. It didn’t take that long to receive an answer, clearly. For me, being a no-schooler, when it comes to trance, they were a natural choice, as they clearly have a working infrastructure - plus an artist roster suitable for us: I could say they’re a trance frontier of sorts, so to speak. They’ve managed to do something special to gather that many great artists under their aegis. Plus, one of them is a Finn, so that’s a plus. If they can cope with him, they can cope with anything (heh).
Nicke: Exactly what Petri said. Anjunabeats was our first and foremost choice, and it seems that someone inside the company really liked the track! Which is nice. :)
You have showcases the cream of Finnish talent on your remix EP, with progressive master Joonas Hahmo, rising star Heikki L and a beautiful chill-out mix from DJ Orion & J. Shore. Who else do you recommend people check out from the current Finnish electronic music scene?
Petri: Oh dear… I’ve been listening to “Heijastuva” by Mika Vainio lately, it’s quite a sonic landscape. Not necessarily your first choice for a first date music, but there’s some eerie spaciousness often connected with our rural scenery. Also, Joonas Hahmo’s all material is infectious, very heartily recommended. If you haven’t already checked out Orkidea’s “Metaverse”, do it. Seriously, do it.
Nicke: I have huge respect for many Finnish producers! They have made the “Finnish sound” in trance music all over the world. In addition to the ones mentioned in the question, I really respect Super8 & Tab, DJ Orkidea, JS16 and many others (whose names I now can’t remember). These guys have kept our country on the map, and I bow to that!
What music are you all listening to right now?
Petri: Right now it’s Wendy Carlos’s “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer”. Also, Peter Gabriel’s “Scratch my back” and Muse’s every album have been in heavy rotation. Also, I listen to a lot of soundtrack stuff due to my current job, a long story to be cut short. For a while ago, I had Nine Inch Nails and other reznorian stuff in my iPhone. Hmm… I better check the playlist: it seems I’ve listened to Klaus Schulze, Stuart Price, Protoculture, Deadmau5, Magnetic Man, MSTRKRFT, Depeche Mode’s 80’s albums and a 50-odd track Beatport compilation, whatever that holds… And - believe this or not - Dead Can Dance! And yesterday it was “Theme From S-Express”. What a bunch!
Nicke: Anything goes really. To make it even more weird, I also tend to listen to Commodore 64 chip tunes! I don’t know why, but the reason might be that I grew up with the sounds from C64 and somehow the beeps and boops make me feel good. We have also used C64 sounds in some of our unreleased tracks. I think the first one is dated back to the 90’s.
Niko: All kinds of broken digital sounds have been interesting lately. Drink The Sea by Glitch Mob is superb, as well as Nothing Else by Lorn. Washed Out makes some really, really marvelous music. Lone and Populous are producing some great downtempo goodness. And while I’m not a generally a big dubstep fan, Burial’s haunting tunes are timeless.
What is planned for Slusnik Luna for the rest of 2011? Do you have any more releases in the pipeline? And will we be seeing any Slusnik Luna DJ sets ?
Petri: More releases, yes, likely. Not DJ sets as is, but perhaps something else. The idea of just playing records doesn’t appeal to us, it needs to be a combination of visuals and musicianship, although that means a lot of work and heavy flight cases and crates to be hauled all around. If we ever get to play live, it will be a real challenge to setup a dozen synths and at least three laptops. I’ve done my fair share of playing live since 1990, so I know what it can be at its worst - and the best as well. Slusnik Luna before my time was known for their energetic live performances, and I see no reason why we couldn’t develop from that. As said before, there are dozens of tracks half-made, but we need to make a get-together again, I suppose - and BBQ in the negative °C is one hell of a task: not because of the time spent to prepare the steaks, but because of the frozen beer and wine… But, in short: Slusnik Luna live sets, perhaps… guys, any comments?
Nicke: Most probably more tracks. We have a back-catalogue with perhaps hundreds of tracks just waiting to be remade/finished. It’s difficult to say what we will do. In 2004 we released our chillout album “Aamukaste 5am” which came as a total surprise to everyone, so you never know. We are always doing something, so don’t worry. I think that Slusnik Luna will never seized existing, though we have talked about it for almost 10 years already.
Buy Slusnik Luna “Sun 2011” (including Original and 4 Strings Remix) on iTunes
Buy Slusnik Luna “Sun 2011” (including Original and 4 Strings Remix) on Beatport
Buy Slusnik Luna “Sun 2011” Remixes (including Sun 2000 Original, Joonas Hahmo, Genix, Heikki L and DJ Orion & J. Shore mixes) on iTunes
Buy Slusnik Luna “Sun 2011” Remixes (including Sun 2000 Original, Joonas Hahmo, Genix, Heikki L and DJ Orion & J. Shore mixes) on Beatport