Freestyle Man / Sasse
Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been a working musician?
My name is Klas Lindblad and I record under Sasse, Freestyle Man, Mr Negative and a few other names for my own label Moodmusic as well as for labels like Bedrock, Poker Flat, Nang, The Exquisite Pain and Wazi Wazi among others.
I started my musical experimenting in the early 90s with releasing my first EPs in mid 90s, although I started as a DJ at the end of the 80s.
What is your educational background? Are there any schools, courses, or books you recommend?
I studied something complete different than music (process engineering and bio chemistry) while at University so I doubt I had any help from that for my musical career. What I learnt is that I never wanted to work a normal 9-to-5 job, so maybe it was helpful at the end. I’m totally self-educated musically so I can only recommend to use your ears and things are fine. It’s good to learn basics of studio engineering and basic music theory either by reading, or by seeing other people do sessions — but you have to listen to things, it’s the most important thing. Lots of people read and watch millions of videos, but forget to concentrate on the music itself. Being a DJ since the end of 80s also helped me of course to know music and appreciate well engineered recordings.
What hardware are you using?
I’m in the lucky position to have my own fully equipped studio in Berlin (Blackhead Studios) and I use a lot of hardware — from analog synths like Elka Synthex, Roland Jupiter 4, Korg Trident and Korg Sigma, to a proper analog mixing desk with lots of analog outboard. My latest venture is into modular synthesis. I wanted to learn more about the building blocks of additive synthesis and I’m trying to collect a small Doepfer system for experimenting around the theme. I’m at the very beginning though but it’s good fun — and modular synthesis is not so expensive, you can slowly build up your own system.
From the analog hardware, my favorite right now is a small Swiss SH-101 clone called Technosaurus Microcon, smaller than a VHS tape and such a brutal sound. Really great for deep bass but also modulated synth lines. It’s very limited but good fun, you never get bored of tweaking this little box. Another fave I always come back to is the Elka Synthex. Mine has MIDI, but I tend to play it live as it’s more of an instrument than just a synth. I hardly use it for sequenced stuff, playing live it just sounds soo damn sweet. The modulation capabilities are so wonderful, I love the sound. Of course, anyone in love with those early Jarre albums knows what this synth is capable of, it’s just so versatile and powerful. I was really lucky to find one in mint condition a few years ago. I wish to be buried together with this synth whenever I die.
What software are you using?
As I also mix and master productions from other people, I’m open to any software. So I use Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton and Cubase — although my Cubase knowledge is from a few years back. But for my own sessions I usually run Logic or Ableton, then mix thru my analog desk. I have to say I was a big Pro Tools user a few years ago when I still had an HD system, but nowadays I mostly master in Pro Tools as the MIDI side is still so rudimentary. But at the end of the day software is not so important to me, all software has its good and bad sides — the most important thing is you get the job done.
I started in the 90s on some MS DOS based sequencers and those were from timing tighter than most of today’s sequencers, but of course did not have any audio or plug-ins included. It was pure MIDI and it was lovely. But I doubt I would like to work on a system like that nowadays. I have a Doepfer MAQ analog sequencer as well and it’s so good fun to do any sequences with it — you never know where you end up but it will be fun. I love the machine, even if it’s the most cryptic menu-driven 90s monster I’ve ever used. A nightmare to use, but when it works, it´s soo good.
What would be your dream setup?
I’m not really sure if I have a dream setup anymore, had so many different studio configurations with the years and they all had their advantages and disadvantages. I guess a Neve in the studio would be nice, but the cash for it is unfortunately missing! One synth I always wanted to have since I played with it at Mike Huckaby’s place is the Waldorf Wave. I’ve had a few Waldorf synths in the past, but the Wave is just so rare and expensive that it will most probably be a dream object for some time. Anyways, this synth is some serious shit, analog filters and those wavetables and you can’t go wrong. I need to get one — one day!
Can you describe your creative process? Is there a particular routine or schedule you stick to?
I tend to not repeat my way of being creative — sometimes you might have a similar setup that you used before but then the song basically makes the rules. I might start with beats or bass, sometimes it’s a sample, sometimes just some chords. I think it’s nice to have a clean desk when you start working on stuff, what I do is just decide in which direction I want to go. Plug some synths into the desk and jam a bit, get a drum groove from a drum machine, kinda vibe before even turning the computer on. I think it’s so much more creative to not have a computer on in the studio. When I have a groove ready, I use the computer as a tape recorder and can add bits and bobs to the session. Then again, sometimes I might work totally in the box with some of my fave plug-in synths and add analog flavour to this session much later. So there’s no plan, I try to keep my studio as a playground 😉
Where do you shop for and discover music?
Luckily I get sent quite a lot of new music, and through my dj-travelling I´ve met quite a few of the artists who I look up to musically. Promowise I´m a bit too sorted as I don’t have the time to check everything I get sent – I’m very sorry for that. I buy also lots of vinyl on Discogs, mostly stuff which I missed the first time around, or I’ve sold the vinyl in some short period of madness. Sometimes people post nice videos on Facebook, which I find fantastic — there’s so much music to still be discovered. And at the end I have my record collection where I always find some gems, either as an inspiration in the studio or just good tunes to jam to.
Any highlights from your latest musical discoveries?
Yes, through a recent studio session I’ve discovered a project called Cosmic Metal Mother which I totally love now. It takes me back to mid 90s ambient and experimental sounds so I went home and had to listen to my John Beltran and Placid Angels collection. Other than that, I hear a DJ play some old tunes which can inspire me to dig either at home or at Discogs for the same producer or label — it’s a great way of re-discovering stuff as well.
What’s brewing in your studio?
I just finished an album project for my Sasse moniker — it’s mostly Detroit inspired House and Techno and it was produced fully analog. I’m really pleased with the results, even if there was a lot of work getting things right. Or better said, to not get things right but to get things to gel. I think when you work outside the computer you start thinking very differently about arrangements and groove in general. The thing is, the more possibilities you have, the more wrong decisions you are about to do, so for example I eliminated all automation on this album and recorded just first takes. I.e. I only recorded jams on analog synths and there was no room for editing or 2nd thinking. And I loved it. Nowadays people think too much in the microdetails and how a fade is affecting a break. I like the raw aesthetics of early Chicago and Detroit stuff where they just cut the kick and it was enough of a break to get people to scream. So I tried to reduce the music to the essentials, not do too much trickery and crazy edtiting. Maybe you hear it in the results.
I need to explain as well that I have no problem tweaking a modern production to perfection either, sometimes it just fits the production and is all fine. With my album Third Encounter I went another path, and I’m more than pleased with the results.
Any production tips & tricks you’d like to share?
People talk about pre-amps a lot but I’m more interested in line-amps. It’s basically the same thing but it can only amplify line level signals. I have a good collection of line-amps to color or smear signals from the computer (or any signal which needs a bit of warmth / distortion / harmonics) and it’s a great way to “effect” sounds without using too much compression or EQing which can sound so bad. Sometimes a track just needs a bit of mid-range lift and it just works like a treat to run it thru a Studer line-amp channel and then record it back to the computer. Another winning combo is sampled drums run thru line-amps to get them a bit dirtier or more focused. It just works on everything and is a great and affordable way of getting some different sounds into your studio.