Since its inception in 2009, Andrew Rasse aka Butane and Sean O’Neal aka Someone Else’s Little Helpers imprint has remained a must-visit label for DJs within the house and techno world. Butane has joined forces with label favourite Riko Forinson and the pair have delivered a collection of debut collaborations for Little Helpers 337.
Hi guys, thanks for joining us today.
1) Andrew, starting with yourself… the past few years have seen string of changes and developments to your own personal music projects and also the labels that you run, yet your output has seemingly increased whilst keeping the quality extremely high. What was the reason behind this change and how do you ensure that this high standard is maintained across both your own material and also the music that you are releasing?
A: Well thanks for noticing! I can mostly attribute this change to my moving to San Francisco and all the details surrounding that. For example: getting older, becoming engaged to be married, building out my home studio, my future-wife generally taking good care of me, stable home life, not traveling quite as much, etc. This has all allowed me to mature in the studio. If I was just some broke ass hobo DJ living in Berlin like I was back in 2006-2010 I would probably still be making amateur-sounding minimal music, honestly. From the beginning, my goal in the studio has always been: never stop getting better. Work hard, and never stop learning. Whatever I’m doing, I have an insatiable urge to hone my craft. I’m a huge critic of my own work. I’m not some whiz kid who can write hit hooks on my macbook with the keypad. Complex musical movements and melodies don’t come naturally to me.. I have a more cerebral way of working, which takes time. It’s very process oriented. Write write write, reduce reduce reduce. It’s my very particular way of achieving my own sound. The trick to this whole game is coming up with fresh experimental and creative ideas, while at the same time getting the sound quality right / engineering the tracks properly to work the floor in big dance clubs. If not, good DJs won’t play the stuff. End of story. This is no easy task. I don’t come from a ton of money. Quality studio tools (software and hardware alike) are not cheap, and I refuse to steal software. Moving around the world all the time, living in different places, different studio setups, life circumstance in general, all contribute mightily to the end quality of an artist’s work.. The stability I’ve had the last four years in SF has really been good for me.
2) The ethos of Little Helpers originated from the number of typical B-side records available to DJs declining during the switch from physical to digital music sales, and since founding the label you’ve gone on to welcome a range of artists, from international names such as Ryan Crosson and Stefano Noferini through to a host of exciting and emerging talents each month. What are the key qualities that you look for when signing records to Little Helpers?
A: Authentic. Professional. Creative. Technical. Timeless. Interesting. Classy. Functional. Understated.
3) Riko – you’ve become a regular on the label since your first EP back in 2017, releasing three solo EPs to date alongside ’LH-337’ with Andrew. What drew you to Little Helpers initially and do you feel the label is a perfect fit for your sound having now become one of the labels more regular artists?
R: In 2014 I was already interested in Little Helpers, but I felt I was still a bit too immature to work for them. So it’s been my goal years in the making. In 2016 I started sending them demos. In 2017 I finally made it and they signed my first EP to the label, Little Helpers 263. This release had a great impact on my artistic growth, and was a big incentive for me to keep pushing and look beyond my horizons. In fact, a few months after, I was invited to play at the Little Helpers label showcase in one the best clubs in Berlin, the Kater Blau. At that time, I decided Little Helpers was a very strong home for me, and today I am even more convinced of it. I always choose to work with them because I like their mentality, because they are the most professional in the industry, because I love the music they release. I am also very fond of the people behind the project. This label reflects my musical style, it’s perfect for me.
4) Little Helpers also welcomed Hot Creations boss Jamie Jones to deliver the 300th release on the label in late 2017 – was that planned and how did it come about?
A: Jamie’s girlfriend and mine are old friends and business partners, and Jamie has always been a supporter of my tracks. His release came about rather naturally. We were hanging out backstage at my label showcase Alphahouse @ BPM La Santanera in Playa del Carmen, (RIP). He was telling me how much he appreciated the back-to-basics nature of the Little Helpers concept, and that he plays a lot of the stuff in his longer / afterhours sets.. so I told him he had an open invitation to do an EP with us. He liked the idea. We left it at that. Fast forward six months, Sean and I were talking about what to do for release number 300. Since very few indie labels achieve such a milestone, I figured we should try to do something special. I followed up with Jamie and asked if he was up for it. He’s kind of a busy guy as you know, so he had to consider the deadlines a bit before he could commit. In the end he decided the timing was right for him, so we made it happen.
5) Little Helpers 337 features some tracks that are distinctively more ‘musical’ and less DJ tool driven than most other releases on the label to date, with the press release noting that the package perhaps digs a little deeper than your usual Little Helpers EP. What was the thinking behind this or was it an organic result from the initial collaborations between the pair of you?
A: I try to keep Little Helpers’ conceptually as pure as possible, but at the same time realize strict purity tests are ridiculous and limiting.. So why not occasionally indulge a bit? We walk a tightrope sometimes with our concept, but ultimately try to err on the side of being a platform open to creativity. The LH337 tracks might have more vocals and music in them than our usual sound, but they’re still perfectly functional DJ tools in my eyes, so it makes sense to me. I also wanted a fitting platform to introduce the Butane & Riko project. Little Helpers seemed like a good one.
6) Being based on opposite sides of the Atlantic, with Andrew in San Francisco, USA and Riko based in Naples, Italy, how much harder is the creative process? Has it cause any unexpected issues aside from the typical factors when working remotely (e.g. sending drafts via email etc)?
R: Thanks to modern music and communication technologies, Andrew and I work very well like this. There have never been technical problems because the creative level between us is very well matched. Each musical project is respected on its own merits. It seems we work like a man with four hands and two minds! It would be great to work together in a studio sometime, get your hands on an analogue machine together and create musical movements in tandem, maybe providing more emotional growth in the music, but perhaps our magic is also the distance. The fact that I work alone, and he works alone, allows much more intense concentration. This allows the flow of singular and authentic ideas. It is apparent that we both hunt for these characteristics in our music. Loneliness in the studio, it seems to me, creates a strong atmosphere in both of our work. Perhaps and hopefully one day we will find ourselves experimenting in a recording studio together, to amplify our ideas.
7) What are the key creative influences from your own cities that you are able to utilize and channel within your work? And are there any influences from each others home countries that you are envious of?
R: The place where I live (Southern Italy) has conditioned me a lot, both in terms of acoustic music and electronic music. There are so many things in common with the Eastern and Western cultures, in fact I am very eclectic in my musical taste. I hope I cannot be recognized by a single genre of music. It is easier to think of myself by the way I try to speak to the listener and to interpret the feelings I have musically. As for electronic music, here there is a strong scene here for Techno and Tech House, both styles that I do. But frankly, I feel excluded from some of this, because my music aims at different characters and nuances from the usual commercial ones. I love the more mystical side of music. I have a strong interest in California, the way of life, the climate, the landscapes and the nightlife. I think these things are the basis for physiological well-being. California has always been a dream of mine, more than any other place, since I was a kid I’ve always had an attraction, San Francisco seems so spectacular. Living in a place like this means breathing life ..Maybe I’m wrong, but I think not. I hope to do a test of these ideas one day.
A: I’ve traveled through a fair amount of Italy doing gigs while I lived in Europe ten years ago. To me, Italy, and southern Europe in general, seem to share a kinship with California in terms of way of life. Quality of life, culture, nature, aesthetic, food, wine, climate. There’s a certain sunny openness to life in these places and I think it reflects in our work.
8) You’ve both also released a new EP on Deeperfect which is quickly rising Beatport charts at present – did this one come about in similar fashion and were the tracks made at a similar time to the Little Helpers EP?
A: LH337 is a collection of most of our very first works together. The tracks which comprise the Don’t Tell Me EP on Deeperfect were, I think, written right after those. The next two tracks we did will be a Tenampa Records EP in early February. Then there’s a Sci+Tec EP coming in late February that is the three tracks written directly after those. We number our ongoing projects.. I think we’re up to number 29. I’m trying as best as I can to release them in a somewhat chronological order, so the progression makes sense for any especially careful listener who wants that bit of context. Are there any of those people left? Ha. I’m sure nobody else would notice, but this is mildly important to me. Plans like this will never be perfect, as labels have their own release schedules, but it just feels better to me not to have older work hitting the shops after newer work. Feels like going backwards.
9) We also read in a recent interview that there’s a host of collaborative projects still yet to be released too, with up to 30 tracks ready to go. Are any of these arriving over the coming months, and if so, where should we be looking?
A: Oops, sorry I answered a lot of your question before you asked it. Yeah so in addition to those mentioned, we also have two more singles on Deeperfect later this year. One called “One Hundred Percent” and one called “Every Little Thing”. Plus I’m holding back about 10 of our new tracks right now that are very strong in my opinion, which could become an album if we can find the right home for it. If not, I’ll break it up into 3-4 EPs over the last half of 2019. Labels to be determined.
10) Lastly, aside from the abundance of collaborative material from the pair of you that will be dropping throughout 2019, what else can we expect and do you have any goals for the year ahead?
R: For now my expectations are not to disappoint Andrew, to grow as a man and as a musician, I want to improve on this collaboration! 2019 will be full of surprises, and we’ll go into 2020 stronger than ever.
A: Hahaha yeah I would also like for Riko not to disappoint me! I’m totally the big brother here aren’t I? Ok no seriously though.. just to echo a bit what we’ve already said.. The goal is always to get better as a musician/producer/artist/person. I guess deep down like most artists, I’m a little insecure about my music, and that’s what drives me most I think. As a DJ, I know what’s hot, and I want my own tracks to stack up against the best in the business. I think we’re getting there. Professionally speaking: put your head down, work hard, and sleep well at night knowing you’re doing things the right way. Hopefully people will appreciate the output. That’s all.