Valeria croft chats Finland and her new EP

Valeria Croft, a Finnish DJ and producer based in Helsinki, has been a prominent figure in the city's music scene for over a decade. Drawing inspiration from her surroundings, Croft's style blends elements of house music with touches of jazz and minimalism, reflecting the diverse musical landscape of Helsinki. Her latest EP, "Seduced," showcases her signature sound, featuring intricate rhythms and soulful melodies. The EP also includes a remix by renowned artist Ray Okpara, adding another dimension to Croft's sonic palette.

Living in Helsinki has provided Croft with a unique environment to hone her craft, offering both tranquillity for studio work and vibrant club scenes for live performances. She finds inspiration in the city's calm atmosphere, allowing her to focus on creativity without distractions. Despite the preference for harder techno sounds in Helsinki's clubs, Croft stays true to her style, incorporating house and minimal influences into her sets, creating immersive experiences for her audience.

Looking ahead, Croft aims to continue pushing boundaries in her music career, with plans for a vinyl release and collaborations on the horizon. Her dedication to her craft and passion for music ensure that audiences can expect more captivating productions and dynamic performances from this talented Finnish artist in the near future. We caught up with her recently to learn more about what she’s been up to…

What initially drew you to the music scene in Helsinki, and how has the city influenced your style as a producer and DJ?

First of all, thank you for inviting me. I moved to Helsinki fourteen years ago and made an effort to meet people from the music scene. I always played house music. Living in Helsinki I started to listen to more jazz music and could say that it influenced my style as a producer.

The Flow Festival is well-known outside of Finland too, but if we’d 24 hours to spend in Helsinki, what music (and non-music!) activities would you recommend we get up to? 

Flow Festival is a great place to visit. Moreover, it is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the family and to listen to different kinds of music. Definitely, Museum of Modern Art:  Emma. It displays Finnish and international modernism. I love cycling a lot, so the city ride is a must. There are a lot of magnificent islands in the city, just choose one for a picnic around nature!

In what ways does Helsinki's vibrant music scene contribute to your growth and evolution as an artist?

I had the opportunity to live in four different countries and I think all the places made an impact on my experience and vision.

In essence, for me Helsinki and Finland is a calm place,  it gives me the possibility to concentrate on working in the studio, making productions and studying new things. It doesn’t drain energy. Concerning the clubs, I noticed that people love harder styles of music like techno. As I mentioned I prefer more house, minimal music with a touch of  breakbeat rhythms. 

I was a big fan of Juri Hulkkonen’s stuff over the years. What other Finnish DJs and producers would you recommend? What makes them great? 

Here in Finland let’s say there is an international community of music lovers who try to push the music we play to the audiences and it is not easy at all sometimes. So I would like to mention Mihut Naita, the owner of The Sound Collective music label, and very talented producer from Turkku who has a project called Selidos. I really love what he is doing. We just have spoken to collaborate on some music in the near future. 

Can you share some insights into your creative process while working in your studio? How did you start out making music?

I started playing music as a DJ many years ago and was always curious about music production. At  the beginning of my journey  I learned how to use Logic then  switched to Ableton. I understood that I had a lack of knowledge and finally I took a course from Point Blank Music School. This experience helped me in various aspects of the field, including technical skills and creative techniques. Honestly I rarely sick out specific inspirations while in the studio. I love the process of working with sound. I developed a habit to finalise the tracks, as it was always a challenge. I have moments when I am stuck in the creative rut, so I learned to take this uncertainty and take a break. The main insight is  doing and enjoying the process.   

We really loved your EP, Let’s Walk Together especially. Can you tell us a bit about the production process behind that one? It sounds like a record that was made in winter - is that correct?

It was made in November as far as I remember…I recorded the drums from Elektron Analog Four. I used an old bass guitar sample that we recorded with my friend many years ago, he is a guitar player. Then I recorded sub base notes and arpeggio  from Moog Subsequent 37. Furthermore I always love to  use it to generate modulated noises and crushing drones. In the sound design stage I used a lot, max for live tools, to  modify the sound. I recorded my own voice, then I used those “takes” and layered them. While producing I do basic mixing when ideas start to dwindle. But usually I separate the mixing stage to have a more fresh view. On the mixing stage I used plugins from Fabfilter and Waves.

Do you feel you make music for yourself or for others? Does it matter? 

I make music because I love to make it. I can easily spend 8 hours in the studio a few days in a row. In my case if I really like the production myself more likely other people will like it. But I am critical so at times it interferes to release it. 

How do you navigate the balance between maintaining your personal style and experimenting with new creative directions in your music?

Well, in my case planning and scheduling is a key. Being a parent scheduling life is a necessity, so I have a plan and more or less stick to that. Maybe it sounds weird but my creative level is much higher when everything is organised so you have a space for family time, creativity and work.

Could you describe the atmosphere you aim to create when performing live or DJing, and how you tailor your sets to connect with your audience?

I could say that playing a dj set and live performance is a different experience. I played live a few times but I prepared for it beforehand. It was not 100% improvisation. While playing a dj set, reading the mood of the people is a key. Some venues have more open audiences. I always have a broad selection of music, but it is always the music I like myself. After 40 minutes it is pretty understandable what kind of journey you're gonna have with the people. Personally I had amazing gigs in my life, especially when I played live, but with that came very exhausting moments when you just can’t find the right key. 

What are some of the proudest moments in your music career so far, and how have they shaped your artistic journey?

I think those live performances I played. I had an Asian tour back in the days that was absolutely great. I can’t mention a particular one. 

How do you think your mood influences the music you produce and perform, and how do you channel different emotions into your sound?

The long winters definitely have a huge impact on the mood and maybe this feeling is reflected in the music. 

How do you stay motivated and inspired to continue pushing boundaries and exploring new sonic territories in your music? Does the scene ever “drag you down”? Or is it mostly positive? 

I could say that strong and fulfilling relationships with my close people give me support and empower me. I had a few moments when I decided to stop dealing with studio work and gigs but each time I returned to what I love to do. In my case, even on bad days I use my time to go to the studio to make something, even just for reading manuals in a calm atmosphere or to listen to records. At the moment I am building my first eurorack which is very exciting, and it is very rewarding after investigation that it finally works for the music. 

Are there any specific artists or genres that have had a significant impact on your musical journey?

As a teenager I listened a lot to Leftfield. Without doubt it is also the Perlon music label. I remember I loved Cassy - Night to Remember a lot and I still love this record.  

What role does texture play in your music, and how do you incorporate it to create immersive sonic landscapes?

Well, there are several techniques I usually use to achieve textural targets, among them is playing with timber. Shifting the pitch of a sound. I often use a layering sound technique. 

How do you approach remixing or reinterpreting tracks, and what factors do you consider when putting your own spin on a piece of music?

Usually I use stems and play with samples, but if I want to put a totally different flavour to a remix I record my own pieces of music and use it for reinterpreting.

Could you share some insights into the significance of rhythm in your music and how you use it to drive energy and groove?

It depends on the production with what you're gonna work . Usually I work with drum layers and base lines. I experiment with drum machines to achieve the perfect groove. In the daw I apply a swing function, play with velocities. Sometimes I listen to records and take ideas from them. Especially the base lines is an important part of it, I use different base lines and then listen how they compliment with the drums. When working with melodies I also pay attention to how it affects the groove.

As a DJ, how do you curate your sets to build momentum and keep the audience engaged throughout the night?

I never keep the same level of energy between the tracks.There are a few records that work great in all places but never use them one by one, depending on the vibe. Usually I have an idea what music I would play. But while playing dj set I have never had a predictable audience. So it is always a versatile spectrum of records in my bag and on the stick.  

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for your music career, and what can we expect from you in the near future? 

I plan to make a vinyl release in the near future, finish a few collaborations and more studio work. I don’t make any extraordinary plans at the moment. Less stress. 

Keep up with Valeria Croft on Soundcloud, Instagram and Bandcamp

Listen to our premiere of Seduced below.