Kung fu-fighting crowd-pleaser Laidback Luke (born Lucas Cornelis van Scheppingen) makes no apologies for waving the flag of old-school attitude in the face of modern dance music. Initiated by homeland legends Chocolate Puma and consistently hailed as one of Dutch house music’s longest-standing heavyweights to date, the Philippines-born Luke’s scattered discography of studio landmarks has made him a consistently relevant player in the scene, one who has surpassed new trends despite his mainstream credentials.
Leaping from his own diverse peak-timers to upfront house gems alongside underground favorite-turned-wife Gina Turner as Nouveau Yorican, the consistent development of his own Mixmash imprint has seen Luke pay his own success forward considerably over the years. With his latest single “Pogo” to set 2013 in motion, Beatport News caught up with the Dutch star to talk about taking his Super You&Me club night to London and the lessons learned from his dynamic global overhaul.
Between marriage, a phenomenal tour schedule, and a pretty strong slew of releases, 2012 was another relentless year for you. How are you feeling as we enter 2013, and is it getting any harder to balance these many industrious swords?
I’ve always been juggling my time. In the last couple of years, I’ve been stepping up my kung fu and tai chi, and that helped me a lot. I really take the time out to stay healthy, both physically as mentally, and that eases me through all of it. The schedule is ridiculous and almost everyone I speak to thinks I’m nuts. But in my mind it’s all very peaceful.
March is set to bring your Super You&Me club concept back to London. What was the appeal behind the fair capital city, and how did it feel to sell out Electric Brixton so quickly?
London was one of the first cities in the world where I started my international career. It’s still a prestigious city in my eyes, and Electric in Brixton seemed the right place to launch my Super You&Me night into the UK club circuit. We wanted to start off with a bang! We pretty much sold out the first night instantly, so being able to add a second night was really cool, as the UK has always treated me really well.
Talk us through your initial concept for Mixmash and how the label has developed and grown over the years.
I have been guiding and helping new talents develop since around 2000, and I felt Mixmash needed to not only be a platform for my music, but also a platform for the new kids I discover. In this way, it has been the first stepping stone for guys like Avicii and even Afrojack to come up, as well as a new army of talented kids ready to take over. Running a label isn’t easy though. It is a huge team effort between myself and two others, but I am proud of what we have done with the label to date.
You were one of the earlier artists to start engaging the festival circuits as a DJ. Did you ever foresee the hunger for electronic music festivals getting as big as it has, both in Europe and America?
Definitely! Electronic music festivals have always been very big and popular in the Netherlands. My first big festival to play there was Dance Valley, which reached up to 90,000 visitors at one point. In a country as small as the Netherlands, that was incredible. I definitely saw the potential of this music and having it penetrate into the world of festivals, I’m just happy it flowed over internationally and spread to such hungry new markets.
From an A&R perspective, do you believe that the quality of electronic music has suffered from of the ease of production and distribution methods now available with advanced technology?
I’m more of a “glass half full” type of guy. Yes, you could easily point a finger at the new generation, but the truth is that the production quality has massively improved overall. When I got my first record deal in the ’90s, the productions would vary a lot in quality. Mastering and pressing could be very off, for instance, and producing tracks whilst traveling as DJ was a pain in the ass. Technology overtook us all, but in a positive way. There’s more of everything now and it’s easier to access. You see kids from all the corners of the world suddenly being the next rising star because of technology. It is rough to filter out the right talents and tracks because of the overload that’s coming in nowadays, but I often get pleasantly surprised!
What do you believe to be the biggest misconception young artists enter the industry with, and how would you counter this given your own extensive knowledge and experience?
One of my biggest pet peeves is the term “remix” being used behind a mash-up or edit. One of my biggest achievements in my career was doing an official remix for Daft Punk. Nowadays, a 15-year-old kid will take a Daft Punk track, put some of his own sounds in, and send it to me as a remix. That’s not right. You can only call it a remix when the original record label or artist has approved it.
Given the disposable nature of digital music, and the ease of illegal piracy and file hosting, what do you consider to be the most integral and productive way for young artists to carve a future within this industry? Has it become harder over the years?
It’s easier to catch the eye nowadays, especially if you really have the talent and your productions really sound amazing. The world has become a smaller place through social media. In my time, you would build up something locally and branch out from there. We now live in the era that you can become an international superstar DJ in a year, while it used to be all about doing the groundwork. I myself have gone through playing shitty clubs and slots for years before anything really happened. The most integral way is to just get yourself heard everywhere.
There is an awful lot of talk of “mainstream” and “underground” across the industry. Having hit the charts and club floor alike over the years, where do you stand on the argument that commercial influences are detrimental to the values of dance music?
That has always been the case. In my time it was Daft Punk versus 2 Unlimited and Venga Boys. That kind of commercial dance music has faded away and through hard work and dedication, the type of dance music I make has made it to a commercial level now. I still have my roots, which is pretty much Daft Punk and techno, but I realize I’m known in the more commercial realm now. I just still love it all. When I got into house music myself, around 1992, it was all just called house music. It could be hard, it could be funky, it could be ravey, it could be loopy—everything was just called house music. I still have that same mentality. I don’t care what it’s called: If I love it, I’ll play it. Thanks to my wife, Gina Turner, who is more underground-savvy than me, I’m very connected to what’s happening there, so I get a great overview of the scene as a whole.
Have the more recent developments in electronic music (both cultural and musical) been all positive as far as you are concerned, and are there any that you have been particularly disappointed with?
There a lot of big egos in the DJ world, and kids that jump into this music to become a star, not because they love the music or being in the studio. I’m sometimes afraid that passion is lost. Passion for the art and for the craft is essential. We need that to have this music remain quality and to have it continue properly. Living the superstar life will come as a result of that—not the other way around. Just this week I’ve had many discussions with people that love deep house coming at me for being “EDM.” Most of them are new kids that don’t even know where I came from and what I stand for. I think it’s kind of cool the deep scene thinks they’re very edgy, although in my eyes and ears they are not. This kind of friction is awesome and good for new scenes and vibes.
As a long-serving asset to the ranks of house music, how do you hope to see the genre adapt and evolve over the next three to five years, given the direction it has taken of late?
I see a great future ahead of us where the music will go deeper and develop more with the help of new technology. People will go and finally do their homework on the music and the mainstream will finally understand finally. I predict a full circle in terms of taste and trend.
Talk us through what you have been getting up to in the studio recently, and what further releases and landmarks we can expect from you for the year to come?
Right now my studio work ranges from pop demos for big labels to making cool and edgy underground music with Gina, all while focusing on where to go to as Laidback Luke. My new single, “Pogo,” featuring Majestic, is an old-school hard-house banger. In the first half of the year, I’ll have a track with Hardwell coming out called “Dynamo” and a track with Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, all of which is very ravey stuff. The pipeline for 2013 is filling up fast and it will be a bit deeper and more melodic than the earlier stuff for this year.
photo via Klub Scene NI