Moodmusic boss Sasse discusses how he learned to make music and how he’s passing on his knowledge to the next generation.
Klas Lindblad is a true all-rounder. As well as DJing and making his own music, he’s been running his respected Moodmusic label since 1996, handling A&R duties which have seen him release early tracks from artists such as Henrik Schwarz and Frankey & Sandrino.
Having grown up in Finland, he’s lived in Berlin since the late 90s, working out of his own BlackHead Studios (which he showed us around earlier this year). The studio is a base for all his work, which includes his own output under his two main aliases, Sasse and Freestyle Man, but also encompasses a range of engineering, mixing and mastering jobs for a long list of artists including the likes of Todd Terje, Michael Mayer and Marco Resmann.
Lindblad has recently started offering his services via Audiu, an online platform which allows producers to submit their tracks for feedback from professionals. The list of producers, engineers and tutors offering advice includes names as diverse as Klas, Dom Kane and Bass Kleph among dozens of others.
We sat down with Klas to discuss his own development as an artist and why he thinks it’s important to pass knowledge on to the next generation of producers.
Attack: I want to talk about the learning process. It’s a very big question but how did you learn to make music?
Sasse: I started to play around with synths and gear in the early 90s. Before that I had been DJing a few years already so I was used to solving technical problems when it came to hi-fi and turntables. I learned to produce by doing, acquiring skills from mistakes and trying things out. Luckily we had a nice scene of like-minded people in my home city, so we exchanged ideas and everyone helped each other. Tommi Grönlund, the owner of Sähkö and Puu Recordings, was especially helpful. He signed me to Sähkö and helped me to connect with seasoned musicians like Jimi Tenor and Severi Pyysalo for my first releases.
Was there a specific point where you thought to yourself, OK, I’m pretty good at making music now?
Not really, no. I mean, after a few releases I knew the basics of writing and production, but one of the most interesting things in music production is you can never stop learning. Like I said, I’m more the tech-inclined guy, so musical knowledge was for me more a gut feeling. But there’s always something to learn about production techniques and tricks of the trade, and I still learn every day – be it back then in the analogue world or [today] inside the computer.
one of the most interesting things in music production is you can never stop learning
As a label head, what’s your approach to guiding less experienced producers?
We have a good team at Moodmusic, I’m really grateful for that. With running the label I try to give artists advice on how to finish songwriting and production with the best results for all parties involved, be it production values, recording, mastering or any label issues.
Sometimes it works great, which is a really excellent feeling seeing artists succeed and reach the next level, like Henrik Schwarz or Frankey & Sandrino, who I first signed to Moodmusic before heading for bigger labels and building up excellent careers.
Do you have any specific memories of the kind of guidance you offered them when they were starting out?
Well, both are exceptionally great and talented artists and have a very strong view on their musical path, so as a friend you just try to comment and give advice on songs in general. Maybe in the beginning it was more giving guidelines and using my knowledge.
Do you feel that more established producers have a duty to pass on their knowledge to the next generation?
Indeed, I think it’s one of the most important matters in the current music scene. Everyone can watch hours of YouTube tutorials on countless things, but the real knowledge comes from everyday sessions and productions, real life scenarios. That’s also why I like attended sessions and educational courses, as you can immediately connect with people, ask questions and connect on a different level.
You’re now involved with Audiu, which is an online platform where people can ask pros for production advice. Tell us what that involves.
I was really pleasantly surprised how easy it was to give artists advice online. You basically have a few options, starting with quick feedback – this makes it easy to start trying things out, talking to the pros and getting to the basics of things. If you prefer to go for a deeper evaluation of the material, that’s also possible.
The best thing is, you have the commentary all written down. So as an example if you ever wonder, ‘What did the pro say about side-chaining?’, you can always go back to the feedback and look it up. It’s basically an extension of what I do as an A&R, engineer and mentor. I really love it.
There’s a fine line between offering advice and telling someone how to make music. How do you make sure you don’t end up just telling people what to do?
This is something I try to be really open about, I won’t comment on the songwriting itself unless I’m asked. Being a DJ and producer for more than 20 years, I have some knowledge of musical styles and the way things should sound, but I try to comment on the positive things I hear, instead of trying to find faults. Sometimes it is necessary to say that this or that part does not work for me, so [I’d suggest that] maybe another approach would be more optimal.
There’s a wide range of advice you can offer in terms of everything from sound design to mixing, to drum programming, to arrangement. How do you decide what the priorities are?
From the sound design point of view it is relatively easy to comment as the parameters are quite fixed on what sounds good and what doesn’t. Drum programming and arrangement is trickier as there are so many tastes and grooves, and we might come to the point where my taste might not fit the song. Most importantly, I try to give an honest opinion based on my experience and feel – and I think the clients who find me through Audiu know and appreciate this.
Do you find it easier to offer advice on music that’s closer to your own taste?
Not really. I think from a technical point of view it does not really matter if you like the music or not. But surely it helps if you enjoy the music as well.
Do you also enjoy the challenge of offering tips on music you don’t necessarily like?
Haha! Yeah. Let’s say I don’t mind it.
In terms of your own progression, are there any particular things that you’ve learned over the last couple of years? How does that continual learning process come out on your releases?
Being an artist and progressing more into mixing and mastering in the last couple of years has been a massive change. Being occupied with your own music for so long, it’s very refreshing to be able to make recordings better sounding and get so much positive feedback on your work. It’s not some superpower, but hard work. I’m just very thankful for being able to do what I love the most, and some things I learn from mixing sessions translate to my music production.
When it comes to critical tasks like mastering, how much of that do you think is to do with technical skills, and how much is to do with training your hearing and listening skills?
I’d say it’s 50/50. The technical skills are pretty easy to learn, but the hearing and listening part can be tricky.
Can you give us any examples of tracks that you think demonstrate your own development as an artist?
Due to mixing commitments I only released a few EPs this year, but I am very pleased with both. ‘Gino’, which came out in October on Moodmusic, is an Italo-influenced groover, while ‘Ani’ which was out in June on My Favorite Robot from Canada is just ten minutes of modular modulation madness. I think both show my development as an artist to some extent: something for the head, but always with an eye on the dancefloor.
Finally, the tricky question. I think most of us have areas where we’re not entirely happy with our skills. What do you think you need to learn? How would you like to improve?
I’m planning on moving studio early next year and the new space is a properly treated recording studio setup with a great mixing and mastering room and a separate recording room – so the next step is to learn to utilise this space and make the best out of it.