In Soundation’s Story series, we catch up with admirable creators to learn their secrets and get inspired. For STORY#001 we had the honor of chatting with one of our leading tech house and techno producers – Jesper Dahlbäck. His productions include collaborations with Alexi Delano, Jori Hulkkonen, Tiga, Adam Beyer as well as remixes for the likes of Rex the Dog, Zoo Brazil, among others.
Hey Jesper! Let’s rewind! How did your music production career start?
I discovered electronic dance music at the end of the ‘80s. A few years later I met some people who had a similar interest, and we went to the Love Parade Festival in Berlin, where all the techno people went at the time. We got really inspired, and on the train back we decided to start a studio together and try creating our own music for real. That’s the same studio I’m in now, 25 years later.
What’s the biggest myth about music production you’ve seen during your career?
That it’s complicated and difficult. Actually, it’s not. It’s about trying, trying again, making mistakes and not following any rules. Just be stubborn, believe you can do it and don’t listen too much to others’ opinions.
What are the attributes of a good producer?
The ability to stay with your original idea. It’s very easy to lose inspiration halfway through a track, so the best thing is to finish a track with your original ideas. If you feel you need to add something new, perhaps it’s better to start a new track. Another important thing is to keep things simple. If it gets complicated, that probably means you should start over.
Tell us about a turning point in your career.
One is when I started the studio with my friends and for the first time got a physical location for music creation. It was a mental turning point since we felt that we started for real. Another one was sending the first demo. It was in 1993, to a Dutch label. The response was a letter saying “thanks but no thanks” and some stickers. But it was important to learn the process.
What are three tips you have for aspiring producers out there?
1. Try imitating your favorite track, sound or way of arranging music. Copy as much as you can, because ultimately it will become something else.
2. Invest in high-quality sound. If you use speakers, you need good ones, as well as a room with good acoustics. If you use headphones, you need great ones. You won’t make good music if you can’t hear what you’re doing.
3. Create a social network. Today it’s important to stay in touch with other people who do the same things and broaden your network for distributing music, as well as finding people with similar interests.
And three things not to do?
There is a good saying that “every rule is meant to be broken.” Don’t follow any rules or “don’ts”. There are no good rules, at least not for me.
Can we get a few technical tips too?
I have a good one for mixing, especially for electronic music where the four to four kick drum is the heaviest component: Always start with the kick drum and mix it up all the way, almost to the red, and then add the rest of the sounds until you have the full mix. If the kick sounds too weak, it’s probably other sounds that are too loud so then you can reduce the volume on those. If something sounds too weak in comparison to the kick drum, you can use compressors or other means. I found that this works best.
Who are your primary inspirations?
Some great techno producers I started with in the early ‘80s and through the ‘90s. For example Juan Atkins from Detroit, Cari Lekebusch from Stockholm, Moritz von Oswald who made a lot of great techno in Germany in the ‘90s and still does, Luke Slater from the UK, Jeff Mills. There are too many names to mention.
Thank you, Jesper!!
/ Soundation team
Listen to Jesper Dahlbäck here: