In Conversation: Sansibar

Chatting 90s sci-fi and Helsinki club culture with the pivotal producer...

Sunny by name, sunny by nature. Helsinki based producer Sansibar answers the phone laughing and joking about the Finnish capital's “slushy and grey” weather, but today the burning ball of fire in the sky has shown its face again. It’s a stark comparison to the artist’s own personality, which is incredibly welcoming and bright, but does draw comparisons with his electronic aesthetic, which floats somewhere between darkness and euphoria.

Since launching his Sansibar project six years ago, he has become something of an underground star for his vintage-leaning sets and productions that span electro, techno, minimal, trance and breaks through releases on Berlin’s Radiant Love and Leipzig’s WARNING, with critical acclaim plaudits arriving most notably on 'Game Over'; a release for Finnish label Avoidance that has already become something of a contemporary dance music classic.

We caught up with the break-through electronic music star to chat all about the blurring of genre and his brand new album out now on Kalahari Oyster Cult – 'Sans Musique'.

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What was your introduction to dance music?

I started the Sansibar project about six years ago, before that I was doing music but mostly playing in indie and post-punk bands in Helsinki. I play drums, guitar and bass. I was really into club music and going dancing when I was, like, twenty, but it never occurred to me that I might be DJing or producing club music in the future.

At the start it was hard to get people to play with me (laughs). That helped me in producing my own music with a sampler and a guitar that I had. From there it evolved into some synths and stuff.

You mentioned there that people didn’t want to play with you, is that reflective of the scene in Helsinki? Is there much of a scene for your club-focused style of electronic music there?

I guess there was yeah, but the same thing happened as it does everywhere. People had to go to work, they had to go to study all the time. I thought it was easier to just make music by myself because of that.

How does the Helsinki look pre-COVID, compared to post-COVID?

Everything is open for the last few months. Other places in Europe opened around July/August, but we were still stuck until around November. Who knows what’s going to happen next.

To be honest, I haven’t been out that much in Helsinki recently. I think it’s kind of the same as it always was, but it’s hard to say as I’ve only been clubbing in Helsinki once or twice. The only thing is, I think people go out way earlier than they did before. It’s like people are super hungry.

You just released an album on the incredible Kalhari Oyster Cult, did you approach making it differently to the way you would when creating an EP? Was there a story you wanted to tell, or was this very much just a collection of dance-ready tracks?

I was chatting to Colin, the head of Kalahari, online and after some time he asked if I wanted to do an EP. During the first month of covid I had made a lot of tracks. We were discussing that perhaps we should just make an album instead. There was an idea that: I was feeling kind of bleak through having a lack of different influences during lockdown; not going out, not talking about music with my friends. I was playing with the idea of putting different musical influences and different styles of club music that have inspired me. I just put all that into the melting point.

There are a lot of references in the album press release regarding otherworldliness and the cosmos. Was that intentional in the writing, is the idea of outer space something that inspires you?

I didn’t write the press release, but Star Trek: The Next Generation is a big inspiration for me, and Stargate! I was watching a lot of 90s sci-fi quite heavily while I was making the album.

Yeah, there’s so much genre-blurring on there, that’s what I love about it. There seems to be a growing pool of electronic producers – like Rudolf C and a lot of the sounds that are coming out of Radiant Love in Berlin – where the idea of being secular is non-existent. How excited are you about this digital movement?

I’m really fed up with the idea of genre. At the end of the day, music is music to me. I listen to all kinds of stuff. Locking myself to a particular style is really uninspiring. It’s all about the sound, the idea and how they stick together. Everyone is making music that blurs the lines now and it’s very exciting.

How buzzing are you to be back DJing? Does it feel any different, or are you connecting with the crowd and the music in the same way that you always have?

It was a long period of time where I couldn’t play. I feel like I see it in a different light now, and that’s been influencing the type of music I’ve been making over the last few months. I’m just happy to be back doing it, perhaps I’ll know if it’s changed me properly in the next six months.

What’s next for you now that the album is out?

I’m doing an EP on Avoidance Records, a Finnish label that I’ve released with previously. I’m just trying to finish a few tracks for that. I’m also doing some guitar music, but let’s see how that goes. I have a one month vacation so I’ll try and squeeze in as much production time as I can.

Are you still making music in bands or have you left that behind?

I’m still finding my path on that side of things. I had three years where I didn’t touch a guitar or drums, but I just bought a kit again and I’ve been playing a lot of it, so let’s see what I can come up with.

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'Sans Musique' is out now.

Words: Andrew Moore
Photo Credit: Adele Hyry

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