Within every ripple and wave of emerging musical currents, there are inevitably a few stalwart figures gripping the torch of creativity; a few true bandits of aural experimentation and execution. Sending such permeable waves from across the pond, Sandy Finlayson, under the moniker Seppa, is perched squarely at the forefront of arhythmic modern sound design and aggressive, visceral arrangement.
In a decade’s long journey through the undiscovered sounds of our time, Seppa had once gone under the moniker “Duskky”, though the aspirations of his musical development remained much the same as they do now. In the pursuit of gaining a more appreciative understanding of the man behind the sound, The Rust took the opportunity to pick at the mind of this tenured low-end crusader. Peeling back the layers revealed a producer and musician who is meticulous with his choices, while maintaining an impressive level of creative malleability. Upon listening to nearly anything within the existing Seppa catalog, the very first conclusion that can be drawn is that the man has a penchant for eclectic audio research and development.
The Rust: Your sound design and production process has become more or less the benchmark for the most current iteration of high-octane, aggressive bass music in the western hemisphere. Could you possibly delve into your synthesis and overall design process for us?
Seppa: Broadly speaking, it comes from experimentation. One of the biggest eureka moments was realizing that sound design and music writing are very separate things and should be treated as such. The sound design process is an idea generator, and is completely unconstrained by the limits of genre. It’s basically a freeform game of “what’s the coolest/weirdest noise you can make?”. It’s from all that messing around that the core sounds to write tracks appear. Having said that, there is some planning that goes into the sound design phase. Ideally almost every sound that goes into a track has been processed or synthesised beforehand, so that means every element has to be covered - basses, textures, drums, incidental sounds. If you’re doing it right, more time goes in to making the sounds than building the actual track.
The designing, processing, and construction of Seppa’s music relies heavily on experimentation, but also takes cues and influences from more conventional styles of electronic music. He is one of the progenitors of a contemporary sound that fuses half-time DnB with hip-hop rhythmic motifs and neuro textures, but this intelligent combination wasn’t just born in a vacuum.
The Rust: With regards to the current soundscapes you and your contemporaries are after, can you describe some of the stylistic influences that drew you towards such an experimental and generative approach in your synthesis and direction?
Seppa: I guess in part I’m a byproduct of the UK underground, which is a kaleidoscope of dark and intense electronic music, certainly the bits i’m interested in anyway. That informs some of the sound choices, the emphasis on the drums and bass over everything else. When it comes to the experimental approach to the sounds used, i think that’s just a matter of keeping things interesting. I’ve been creating bass music of some sort for at least 10 years so the standard sounds don’t really interest me anymore. I’m always looking for sounds that catch me by surprise and give me that goosebumps feeling. Every sound gets too familiar after a while so I’ve got to keep looking for something fresh to get back there.
Along the course of one’s musical career, there are sometimes other issues to deal with beyond just the scope of musical design and composition. While it certainly isn’t an everyday occurance, there are more than a few situations where artists took up similar names. In such situations, someone eventually has to relent, sometimes for the better.
The Rust: A few years ago, you underwent a rebranding from "Duskky" to "Seppa". Can you speak on the difficulties and benefits of altering your moniker? Were there stylistic or emotional reasons behind the change, or did you feel it was simply time for a new title?
Seppa: So I was releasing music under the ‘Duskky’ moniker since maybe 2009/2010 (maybe even a bit earlier I can’t quite remember now). It worked well as a moniker until maybe 2014/2015 when a Deep House duo named ‘Dusky’ appeared and pretty much took over that whole burgeoning commercial house scene. Despite the obvious difference in the music, it started to cause some confusion, and frankly i didn’t really want to even be fleetingly connected to that snoozefest. It threw up the idea of switching to a different alias. It was an interesting challenge since it meant pretty much starting again in terms of the fan base. Initially the thought was to keep the connection a secret, which worked really well in terms of getting people interested, but eventually it made sense to draw the link since I felt like the music was very much a continuation of what I was doing with ‘Duskky’. Ultimately it was a great idea, since it allowed me to start fresh in terms of presenting my music (the ‘Duskky’ stuff went all the way back to when i literally had no idea what I was doing). I could present it all in a more professional and polished way. It did also allow me to change direction slightly and absorb some new influences without feeling like i needed to call back to older material.
Pushing the creative limits on established musical tropes is by no means a new trend. Often times, the breaking of such barriers is the result of collaborative efforts amongst musicians who just can’t stay satisfied with the current state of affairs. Alongside Seppa, Kursa stands as another heavyweight champion in the world of underground music. Combining their musical visions and veritable knowledge of audio engineering, there is an undoubtable dynamism between the two that never fails to deliver on the promise of being fresh, cutting-edge, and swelling with sub frequencies.
The Rust: In conjunction with Kursa, the two of you put out releases non-stop, and you appear to share a mutual approach to your composition and design process. Could you speak on your relationship between the two of you?
Seppa: We’ve been making music together for quite a few years now, and pretty much always had a really similar goal with it. We wanted to make something new, and we wanted to do it as quickly as possible. Spending months on a track just doesn’t make sense considering how much your ideas can progress in that period of time. Ideas can and will go out of date, at least in your own head, so best to get them into something concrete asap. That’s basically informed the compositional process a lot. We do work in an almost identical way when it comes to the mechanics of building a track. In terms of what sounds we choose and how we put them together, there’s differences, and that’s why it’s always been good to collaborate on music together and to release music alongside each other.
As creative collaborators, their work extends well beyond just producing and releasing tracks together. The year 2017 saw the emergence of their label Slug Wife, a platform from which they dispense the highest quality goods in the half-time and neuro markets. One year on, the label has become a household name for aural adrenaline junkies who can’t seem to sink their teeth into enough crunchy bass chunks and absolutely smashing compression.
The Rust: In the past year, Slug Wife has managed to ride a tremendous wave of its own making. Can you speak on the genesis of the label? How does the current landscape in our slice of the world affect the operation of Slug Wife?
Seppa: The label really came about because we wanted to push a sound that nobody else was doing. The Half-Time thing kicked off a few years back, but pretty much as a sub-genre of Drum and Bass. We’d already been making music that could be called that for years, and never really saw it that way. We saw what we were doing as a Hip-Hop thing, and more closely related to Dubstep and half-step music. Coupled with that, due to being attached to DnB, the whole presentation of Half-Time has been the really austere and serious greyscale vibe which seems really self defeating since parties are supposed to be fun, right? It’s pretty much thanks to the USA that the label has picked up as quickly as it has. People seem to take it for what it is, and have jumped on the vibe immediately, to get us to the point where the majority of our fan base is in the United States and they really keep us going!
Seppa and Kursa released a collaborative EP on April 24th entitled Eos Platform. The three tracks smack home like one sledgehammer after another, taking no mercy along a route riddled with fills, breaks, turnarounds, high-produced polish, and endless amounts of low-end modulation and saturation. Idealistically, the tracks are distinctly the children of their creators, and follow the sonic motif the Seppa and Kursa catalogs. For those unfamiliar with such adventurous sonic choices, Eos Platform will bring one you up to speed, and long-time fans will find a great fix to keep them satiated until the next release.
Understanding the human behind the face and name of a musical endeavour is a one-way bridge to getting caught up in their unique maelstrom; the violent collision of ideas, sounds, and imaginative compositions is a deeply personal aspect in the life of an audiophile. Thankfully, Sandy is generous enough to have provided both this interview, and an entire careers’ worth of neck-breakers that allow us to make the dive into his maelstrom at our own behest. Given the lightning paced turnaround time for his work ethic, it can be surmised that even more Seppa music is just waiting in the chamber to be fired off all along the rest of 2018. For those who need a bit more kick from the speakers when enjoying Seppa’s catalog, keep your eyes peeled for a long-awaited Slug Wife tour looking to smash the sound barrier this summer in the US.