ILKKA RUUTU: MUSIC MAKER
Ilkka Ruutu is a man of many musical talents. Hugely experienced in the world of live sound, both as a live engineer, the audio rental house market, and as bassist in Finnish supergroup, Sunrise Avenue, he is now adding another string to his bow: record production. Whether the two disciplines go hand in hand, or are polar opposites, remains up for discussion, but Ruutu is evidence of the former: his studio is full of superb equipment, and if the mixes we heard ourselves are anything to go by, the future looks very bright indeed. Words Paul Watson Ilkka Ruutu’s studio is located just outside of Helsinki, and is part of what could be described as a musical hub. In addition to his own production suite, there is a large live room he has access to, complete with grand piano, and also a second mix room with controller console, a plethora of outboard, and plenty of quality guitars and keyboards. After getting a quick tour, we settle into Ilkka’s studio. Although he’s not been here for that long, he is no stranger to the room. It’s where Sunrise Avenue’s latest record was mixed, and used to house an SSL console with all the outboard trimmings. Ilkka plays us one of the singles from the band’s latest album, Heartbreak Century, and we take a seat. “It all happened a little by chance, really, Ilkka says, of acquiring this space. “Over the last year, I have been doing this actively.” He goes on to explain that he recently enrolled into a five-day workshop at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, hosted by renowned producer, Dave Pensado. “It involved doing a recording with a band,
“I really enjoyed listening to the Genelecs; the sound is just fantastic.”
and then listening to each other’s stuff,” Ilkka continues. “That was when I noticed I wasn’t far away from the other guys, all of whom have been doing this way longer than me. I have a solid background in sound – and certainly in live sound – but the studio work has intrigued me, and it was at Blackbird that I realised my potential, I guess.” Ilkka was even considering taking a sixmonth school at Blackbird, but opted instead to invest the time and money into his own studio, and gain the experience that way. As far as we can see, it’s certainly paid off. “I have bought all of this kit over the last seven or eight years, just because I’ve always had an interest in this kind of workflow, so all I really had to buy was all the cables and connectors, so it was kind of easy to do in that sense,” Ilkka smiles. The core setup is an Avid controller, and two sets of Genelec monitors: a pair of 8351s as nearfields, and the sizeable 1238s at the back. “Perhaps in the back of my head there has been something telling me I might get the op-
portunity someday to record and produce like this,” he says, and pulls up a mix. “I went to this part time university, you see, which was arranged by the Sibelius Academy, and was 16 days of recording at Sonic Pump Studios. We recorded this Foo Fighters song – The Pretender – it was fun, as we recorded it, and then everyone got to mix it, and like in Nashville, we compared all the mixes.” Ilkka plays his version to us – the mix took just four hours, he says - and it sounds pretty damn good to me. Of course, his main experience is in the live side of the industry, which makes this even more impressive – but perhaps he’s playing down his studio skills? “[smiles] Well, the two disciplines aren’t that far apart, really,” he says. “I’ve got better, and I’ve noticed I am doing some things perhaps a little differently than I should be, so it’s a learning curve, for sure; but I noticed when the band schedule came out that I had proper time to do this, as we weren’t going to be touring all the time, so that’s when I thought, ‘yes, I’ll have a real go at this now’.