Although work of such caliber shouldn’t need a formal introduction, we think it’s appropriate that everyone get a closer glimpse into the life and tunes of house-techno phenomenon Luca Lozano. The British-born Berlin-based record-label owner, producer, and DJ set the bar for his career first by releasing “Berlinetta” on Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird Records. Since then, Lozano has gone on to produce a large amount of original EPs and remixes on his own Klasse Recordings, as well as Trapez and OFF.
Describing his own sound as somewhere in between house and techno with jazz and old hip-hop influences, Lozano’s style never ceases to surprise and wow crowds all over the world. We had the opportunity to chat with him about his background, his Klasse Recordings, and his hopes for the future.
Can you tell us a little about your background? Where did you grow up, and where are you based now?
I was born and raised in South London, grew up in the post-industrial town of Sheffield (home of Warp Records and acts like The Black Dog), moved back to London in my early 20s, and then moved to Berlin, where I have been living with my wife for four years now.
How did you get started DJing and making music?
The first time I ever DJed was at Art College in Cornwall. A friend and me threw some parties at a small pub near the docks. We would raid the local charity shops for ridiculous Eddie Murphy singles and old rap and electro albums on vinyl. The parties went well and I was hooked… I felt I had a knack for reading the room and knowing when and when not to play certain tracks.
I have been involved in making music for as long as I can remember, learning guitar, playing the drums (most of which I have forgotten). I made a lot of beats in college, listening to and being inspired by DJ Shadow, the Mo’Wax stuff, RJD2… people like that. I remember making music on the first PlayStation; there was a program called Music2000 where you could sample from audio CDs. You had around five seconds of sample time to play with—that was awesome at the time.
How would you describe the music that you make?
Ummmmm… somewhere in between house and techno, taking influences from stuff like old golden-era hip-hop and odd jazz and soul records. I’m always trying to capture that “dustiness” you can hear on old hip-hop albums, not worrying too much about it being sonically the biggest or the loudest, but concentrating more on the texture of the music. Most of my tracks have extremities and contrast in them, usually a melancholic pad or synth line that interacts with a harsh and angry bassline. It’s not intentional, and usually comes out subconsciously… I am constantly drawn to that weird middle ground where quiet meets loud, hot meets cold, black meets white.
Who are your biggest influences?
Musically I still look towards the music I listened to in my teens. I’m still enjoying A Tribe Called Quest, Pharcyde, Camp Lo, Wu, Jeru, etc. I still listen to a lot of hardcore and post-punk: Fugazi, Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits, and Wipers. I’m also listening to a lot of Memphis rap these days, old mixtapes from Tommy Wright III, Project Pat, and DJ Paul—that shit is really crazy.
I don’t listen to a lot of electronic music in my downtime, as I spend all my days and nights in the studio and the clubs fighting with kick drums and frequencies, but I really enjoy the work of guys like John Roberts, Kris Wadsworth, Kink, and Kassem Mosse—people that take the usual format and flip it into their own style and sensibilities.
How would you describe your sets?
A bit like my music—house and techno mainly, with some contrasting emotions thrown in to keep things interesting. I like to go from one end of the spectrum to the other whilst still trying to keep it all in some sort of cohesive order. I’m trying to take more risks these days, playing some stuff that might illicit strange reactions. These days it’s super-important to try and do something unique. In my opinion, a good DJ is judged on his selection as much as anything else and I think you have to dig deep to provide a personal take on music.
What’s the music scene in Berlin like, and how did you get established there?
It’s very healthy at the moment—there’s a lot of competition, a lot of new clubs, and it’s amazing to watch the growing economic communities sparked off by companies like SoundCloud and Native Instruments. Berlin nightlife is long and patient and like nowhere else in the world, it allows DJs to take their time, and I appreciate that. I started coming here around eight years ago and things have really changed since then, some things for the better and some for the worse. There’s a lot of things I miss about the “old” Berlin, but I am still constantly amazed and inspired by this beautiful and broken city.
I have a good network of close friends here in the city and am surrounded by hardworking people. If you want it badly enough, it’s yours for the taking—you just have to be aware and not fall into the 24 Hour Party People trap. What is so good about Berlin is also what makes it so dangerous. You can go party for three days straight any day and time of the week. A lot of people fall foul to the party lifestyle and lose track of time. I’m blessed (and cursed) with a restless creativity that results in me not ever really being able to relax. This keeps me moving and constantly gives me impetus to think ahead and strive to do more.
You are the co-founder of Klasse Recordings, as well as one of its primary artists. What made you decide to create your own label, and how do you choose what artists would make a great fit?
When we started the label in 2010, I saw a lot of things around me that I didn’t particularly like, musically and artistically. Klasse Recordings was my way of counteracting all that, a way of giving a voice to the ideas in my head, if you like. I always have these ideas—new projects, t-shirt designs, compilations—and Klasse is a way of realizing these things in reality. The core group of Klasse artists is really based around my friends and who I hang out with: Johanna, Michael, and Sacha were people I was making music with and I saw potential in them and even more potential in working together. It’s very important to me that I have a good relationship with people if I am going to work with them, and it’s been a pleasure to have met a lot of the artists that have worked with Klasse.
Would you say wearing different hats (A&R and artist) for the label can be challenging at times?
It can mean I spend too much time concentrating on one thing and then neglecting the other, but I try and balance things out. They can also provide a nice respite from each other—if I’m not feeling the music-making one day I can go ahead and make a flyer or design the artwork for an upcoming release. I sometimes feel overworked but then I look at people with “normal” jobs and realize I am really lucky to be doing what I want to. Working with music is a blessing and we should all feel a little humbled by that.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next year with your label?
More good music… more fun and more doing what we want! I want to take the label out for more showcases. I feel like we, as a group, play very well together and it’s a little different than just heading out to see one DJ play. There’s a nice dynamic within our group and I would like to be able to show that off more in 2013. We have some more projects revolving around our store, new t-shirts designs, and tape cassette releases.
Overall, there’s no master plan to take over the world. I’m happy taking things as they come and building what we have naturally and organically—that we stay happy and creative is most important to me.
One of your first major releases was “Berlinetta” on Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird Records. Can you tell us a little bit about the success of that record and how it helped further your career?
I had known Barclay [Claude VonStroke] for a while, and sent him the track back in 2009. It was one of the first tracks I had done under the Lozano moniker, and I didn’t think twice about sending it. I was really lucky Dirtybird saw potential in it and put it out. I think having a debut release on an established label put me in good stead; it served as an endorsement from a well-respected and much-loved artist. I have big love for the Dirtybird guys—they did something unique and do it very well.
Tell us about your upcoming gigs and releases.
We have a bunch of label parties coming up. The first is here in Berlin at a club called Salon Zur Wilden Renate, and some next year elsewhere in Germany and abroad. New Year’s Eve, I head to Barcelona to play with friends and family, which is going to provide a nice warm break from the minus temperatures at home!
Release-wise, I have the second single from my album dropping next year in February. “Sail On” features Amirali on vocals and comes with Session Victim and Paolo Rocco remixes. The album Life in Black and White should drop in April, and once it does I’m taking a few weeks off from making music. The album took a lot out of me, and I want to concentrate on other things like vandalizing warehouses and riding bikes.