Nuslux, an interview with Roope Eronen
“Putting wires in water”
I like Roope Eronen and his music especially, because he says things like: “I put wires in water, resulting in exciting short circuit sounds” and “I jam with my kids”…
For almost ten years now he’s also making baroque synth music as Nuslux. A talk.
What does ‘Nuslux’ mean?
In 2006 I was invited to join a fun promising tour as a solo performer, so I had to find a concept and name for it. So I was thinking about it daily. One night I had been drinking and the next morning I found a note “Nuslux” in my cell phone. I couldn’t remember what that was about and decided to use it as my artist name. It’s a self made word, and it doesn’t really mean anything. But there’s some decoding that can be done – in Finnish the letters NUS are like FU in English, and LUX is of course obvious. Anyway, I’m still happy with the name.
On Discogs, by ‘genre’, Nuslux is called ‘baroque’.
With my multitrack recordings I try to create a rich and psychedelic atmosphere. Also the way of recording increases the fullness, I usually keep on adding some light tracks to make the sounds more rich and full. This can give my music its baroque quality. Also I usually play every sound myself and not use loops for the recordings (and if I use loops I use a couple of unsynchronized loops to keep the music breathing). This gives my music the inaccuracy that also qualifies baroque.
When you make music, do you have a goal to create full, dramatic sound?
Dramatic, why not? I haven’t thought about it before. Maybe melodramatic could fit because of some of my melodies.
My favourite Nuslux album is ‘XL Suns’. What’s yours?
I think there is a good reason for most of the releases to exist, but in general I like the stuff I’ve put out on vinyl the most. With these multitrack recordings I’m always a bit surprised myself how musical they are. For these releases I’ve put a lot of effort in trying to make some music I’d like to listen to myself. ‘XL Suns’ might be my favorite as well. I recorded most of it during an intense month of recording (I hope to spend a similar month this spring). When I was recording ‘XL Suns’ I was reading a lot about climate change, and was worried about the possible future of the world. I was filled with these vibes when recording. Playing music helped me a lot and I’m sure the atmosphere gave me a lot of creative energy for the compositions.
But I’m especially happy about some other releases as well. ‘Triple’ is a fun collection of the early short circuit experiments. ‘Lasernus’ and ‘Repeat Master II’ have nice recordings of the tape decks. ‘Satakieli’ is a documentation of a very primitive and hard work sound installation with 44 tape decks and synthy bird sound imitations. ‘Saison’ is also nice multi-track stuff.
Why did you start the Nuslux Archives series in 2013?
The cover came first here. I had these tapes I had found at a flea market, they were from a relaxation/therapy series called “Alfaopiskelu” (=Alpha learning). They both had the same image of an owl sitting on an alpha, and the tapes of the series had the exact same lay out but different colours and the letters A and B for different parts. I wanted to make a tribute to these beautiful tapes and though about what would be a good concept for the music. I noticed I had some old unreleased stuff that wouldn’t maybe work as a part of an album, but would still be interesting. So I started with the archives series. There’s always some kind of theme that glues the songs of each tape or tape side together. I think there are still a couple of volumes in the pipeline.
One instrument that always comes back in the Nuslux discography is the synth. Where does your love for the synth come from?
I’ve always been into interesting sounds. When I played bass as a teenager, one of the first things I wanted to do was to get a multi effect and design my own effects. After some years in an industrial band (MWM), I got interested in more experimental sounds (I got into bands like Faust and the Residents), and started Pylon with Tero Niskanen. We were mostly playing instruments we could find in our rehearsal space, and brought with us everything that could be used for sounds (like a C64 computer). We used primitive multi tracking techniques for our recordings and had a very creative and productive year in 2000. Then I also got a bit into instrument building – as I actually didn’t really know where to go in search of the next interesting sounds I thought I should make the instruments myself. The instruments I built were quite clumsy, like a giant pan pipe you had to play by hitting the pipes with your shoes.
In 2001 we started Avarus, and with that band we continued to play whatever was around, and kept changing instruments a lot. I played a lot of bass in early days of Avarus. But when we started playing more and more shows, and touring with a limited set of instruments, I started to specialize in synths. First I played the same Casio I got as a kid from my grandmother for many years, always adding some good old Zoom multi effect to the sound. Actually that effect was very crucial for both Pylon and Avarus around 2000-2008.
In 2006 my friend Tomas got into instrument building, and wanted to build me a D.I.Y. synth. He solder together a Bontempi and a W.S.G. oscillator. I could mix their sound a bit, and it had a little touching device which I liked. I still used the Zoom effect to give the sound more colour. That pair was great, and I used that for the next couple of years. I also started Nuslux in 2006, and started to use that synthesizer for my solo performances as well. I added some wires in the touching device of the synth, and another W.S.G oscillator I had. Then I put the wires in glasses of water resulting in exciting short circuit sounds, and I tried to play with these sounds by changing the combinations and distances of wires. This leads us back to the synth question, as you can only wonder why the short circuit system did not destroy my synth earlier than in 2010… Then I suddenly was without any instrument, and I had to get one fast as I had some shows approaching. I bought my first real synth – a Korg Poly 800. I used that for a while but it got burned on a hot day in the back of a car. Then I was without any synth for a while, and was playing some special (Repeat Master) tape decks. Then I got back to synths. So synths are just a part of my way of playing whatever makes interesting sounds. When compared to the effort I put in finding the sounds before, playing synths actually seems a bit of a lazy way to approach the sound…
Are you a synth collector?
I can’t call myself a synth collector, I don’t have too much money and I always keep only the instruments I really need. At the moment I own three synths – a Roland’s SH 2000, a Vermona’s Mono Lancet and a Korg’s Symphony Orchestra. I have Roland as I love the warm sound of it. The Vermona I have because it’s light to travel with, and also because I like the sound and the hands-on approach for modifying the sound. Then I’ve been looking for a poly synth for a long time, and just got the Korg Symphony yesterday. I did some experiments with it already and I’m happy with it. Its chorus sound is sick, also the other patches are fine and cool to put in chain with the Vermona. I’ve had a couple of other synths (a Roland JP 8000, a Dave Smith Tetr4), but I’ve sold them when I needed some money and noticed they haven’t been so useful for me. When I look for some new synth for some purpose, I usually tend to be pretty random. I keep checking what I can get second hand, wait for a couple of weeks and hit when something interesting gets on my way. With all my instruments I’ve always liked to have some limited capacity in my instruments to be creative (which is a big reason why I sold the two before mentioned synths). I’m happy to just play something that’s useful enough and find my way to use it.
One could say there are two approaches to the synth: either you come from a classic trained background and see synth as a kind of electrified piano… then you know what kind of sound you want to get out of it even before you touch the instrument, you know what a chord sounds like. Or you come from a noise or experimental background, than you see a synth as a box where you can get sounds or noises out. You search without really knowing what you are looking for. What is your approach?
I usually start making my music by finding an interesting sound. But often sound comes with some melody, and then it’s easy to start building some musical ideas around that. I often “compose” by just jamming until I find an interesting sound or piece of melody, and then make the first track out of that. Then I add many levels of sound to it. I don’t have much musical training. My brother taught me how to play bass when I was a teen and my first band (a heavy metal band called Demise) took some band lessons that included a few personal lessons too, but that’s about it. So it’s very difficult for me to compose songs. It’s really fun to make a melody, but then building a song structure around that, that’s very difficult for me. It’s possible that I’ll take some piano lessons sometime in the future though.
Which role plays music in your daily life?
I listen to music as much as I can, but at the moment I’ve been too busy for playing and recording. As I said earlier I hope to record a lot this spring though! My studio is not far but still I haven’t found much time to go there after last summer when I recorded some hours of jams. I also spend a lot of time making comics, working at a cinema and hanging out with my family. I hope to move the instruments back home if we find a bigger place to live at some point, as it would definitely make me play and record more. It would also be fun to investigate the sounds and jam with my two kids. At one point in my life this was possible, which resulted in some fun recordings (which were released as ‘Koslux’ on one of the archival tapes).
Does ‘playing’ equals ‘recording’ for you?
Last years I’ve been recording about half of the time I’ve been playing. If I go to the studio I usually go for doing something specific, like recording songs or rehearsing live sets. But once I can give my instruments a place at home I can also play more just for fun.
Interview made by Joeri Bruyninckx/2016
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