Yotto talks life as a label boss, fatherhood, and future release plans [Interview]
Yotto began the year as one of the brightest acts on one of the electronic ether’s most revered label destinations, Anjunadeep. But by mid-2019, Yotto stepped out from his longtime label housing, taking the precarious plunge of setting up his own imprint, Odd One Out (OOO), which also serves as the title of one of his most popular Hyperfall singles from last year.
He got the OOO release train chugging this past August, with the pumping progressive delivery, “Nova,” which received a prompt remix treatment from Anjunadeep-adjacent Cassian. The 32-year-old Finnish producer’s reputation as a multitalented performer has grown so steadily over the years, with his colorful catalog of original tracks swelling all the time.
It’s an audacious play to bid adieu to such a well-aligned organization, but one that’s also redolent of self-courage and earnest resolve. Since then, he’s released a steady stream of singles through OOO alongside the very first installment in the label’s new mix series, which he plans to use as an outlet for artists to test drive sounds outside their expected sonic spaces. Dancing Astronaut caught up with Yotto on the tail end of his Odd One Out world tour to talk about climbing the fierce learning curve he’s been managing in the last year, his life outside of music, and his plans to keep the label in front of convention.
You’ve spent most of the second half of 2019 on world tour, how has it been? Have there been any highlights or lowlights? What’s it been like?
I think it’s been a great tour. Obviously it’s a little tiring, but being able to play bigger and bigger venues, you know, moving from only club shows into doing a bunch of more theater-like venues as well has been a cool little change. Overall it’s been a really good tour so far. And then I’m just [finding myself] continuing to say, “Thank you, fans.”
Are there any types of specific venues you enjoy playing more than others?
I think I’m still, at the core, I’m a club DJ, there’s something about that dark sweaty room with a lot of people in it, well not that many people in it. It’s pleasing.
During that time, you’ve also been running Odd One Out. Are you enjoying being in charge?
Yeah, I’m enjoying it a lot, it’s a new experience, running a label, and being responsible for everything. I find it refreshing. And, you know, I have worked with Anjuna for a while and they’re such a great company to learn from and to see how they run things is a very good learning experience. Of course I’m not operating on the same scale as they do, as a label. But there’s always some takeaway from seeing them succeed and do a great job with everything.
Is there anything in particular you learned from Anjuna that’s been helpful for you?
I think schedules matter. I’m not very good at keeping up with deadlines and stuff usually, or I prefer very free-flowing, like “Oh I have a track let’s just put it out tomorrow and that will be fine.” kind of approach. But that doesn’t necessarily always work, so it’s good to have some sort of a plan so you know what’s gonna happen and when.
What else have you learned over the last few months running a label while touring the world?
It’s hard work, but it’s great to see that people have actually been engaging with the label and coming to the shows knowing that it’s part of the Odd One Out tour, which is basically a launch tour for the label, in a way. I learned that there’s so much you can probably say when it comes to data. We can see who our listeners are, where they are listening to music from, but it’s just kind of mind blowing that you pretty much know who’s listening to your music instead of just seeing numbers on paper.
You recently released your first Odd One Out mixtape, what do you have planned for the series?
I wanted to start the series with a mix that represents what I’m playing at my shows right now and the music that I’m relating to in a club environment. But also, as the name of the label kind of suggests, I want to do something a bit different every now and then so I’m gonna get guest mixes from some people, where they would play something else than what they normally play. So having like a house DJ play a set of whatever he’s into, whether it be instrumental hip-hop or anything… Give people a different look into their own personal taste.
Are there any artists in particular you’re dying to work with on Odd One Out?
I will always work with Sasha, but that’s also a bit of a reach, but I don’t know. I did a remix for him on his label, so maybe one day I can gather some cash or bribe him or whatever to make a remix for me. That would be a good one, because I’ve always just felt love for what he does, and he always has a really cool catalog. He never does useless records.
I heard that you ran a couple marathons this year, is that true?
Yeah I did, I did five of them. I used to run a lot more, I’ve done a few marathons before, they’ve always been very easy marathons, on concrete and in cities. But this time I did one on the Faroe Islands, which is between Iceland and UK in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, It’s part of Denmark. It’s just a small mountain, a small island, and there was a mountain trail marathon that I did that I really enjoyed. It was awful, it hurt. I’m not gonna do that one again, or maybe I will as long as my toenails grow back some from losing them during that one.
That sounds so hard, I could never.
Yea, it was really interesting, it ended up being so steep at most places that it was more like a very long, extreme hike instead of a running marathon. Most of the terrain was so difficult that you just could not run, just climb. But yeah it was cool, as part of that you kind of have a goal, or if I sign up for a race like that then I have to consistently train and force myself to hitting the treadmill when I’m on tour, so it kinda plays into that puzzle. When I started touring it was all about enjoying the free alcohol that was everywhere and partying, but it gets a bit tired. So I find that when I sign up for a race, I’m not doing anything stupid on tour, I’m just laying real low and training every day. It’s a good balance I think.
Switching topics quick, DJ Carnage just tweeted out that “openers should always bang it out” and you responded, “impressively bad advice.” What advice do you have for openers?
Yeah, well I think it’s just a very bad generalization from someone that big to say something like that. You know, if it’s a party where it’s a bunch of people who are into very aggressive heavy bass music, that’s all they want to hear then sure I think you should play that. But I think the opener’s role is, you know, to open the night, set the mood for what’s to come. So I don’t think it necessarily always works to mash it out. I think the opener should always do their best, and that’s the way you can impress people. You play to the room, you play to the night, you play to the DJ who’s playing next. It doesn’t matter that much at a festival where people might move between stages, so the musical arc of the night isn’t as important as in a club, but when you’re just in one room all night it becomes quite important to have a flow to the night.
Do you approach your club sets differently than your festival sets when you’re preparing?
…Yeah (at a festival) you might only have 90 minutes to do the best you can, usually that means mixing a bit more frequently or faster or just trying to get more up-tempo from the beginning, where at a club show if you have four hours you can take your time, get into it.
[Voice in background] Sorry, that’s my son
How old is he?
One-and-a-half years. Tiny little monster.
How do you have time to go on a world tour and start a label and raise a son?
That’s a good question, I think my wife would be better at answering it [laughs]. Yeah, I fly home pretty much every week, even if I’m touring on the other side of the world just to get a few days of family time in. It’s not as fun to be away on the weekends anymore as it was before he was born. But you know, people have to travel for their jobs, so it’s not an unlikely scenario to fly sometimes, but sometimes I leave him for a while, so there’s that. But he has come with me, my wife and the baby we all went to LA for a couple months just now. When I was touring in the US it made it a lot easier because it didn’t take me twenty hours to get home, just more like two hours.
Can you tell at all if he has a knack for music like you?
He does dance a lot whenever I play something, so maybe. And he loves smashing the keys on the piano, but he also loves smashing whatever makes a sound, so, you know, maybe.
2020 is around the corner, are you making any resolutions?
Release more music than 2019. And get another marathon in.
Where do you see yourself and Odd One Out in five to 10 years? Do you have any long term goals right now?
Yeah, definitely the goals that I have are more long term… In five years hopefully Odd One Out will be a label that actually has a published roster of artists under it and have put out a few… I’d like to start a compilation series where it’s not a million tracks just put together, just a few really cool tracks that fit each other. And then I would like find new artists that I could publish as part of the team. And then, some kinds of events so I could bring the guys from the labels do shows.
Featured photo credit: Alec Donnell Luna