Few internationally renowned DJs remain as grounded as Laidback Luke. With over fifteen years of experience, Luke has established himself as both a dance music pioneer and innovator—all the while staying in touch with his fans, his roots, and his musical integrity.
Through the modern day murk of pre-recorded sets, ghost producers, and flare over substance DJs, LBL continues to remains a beacon of production prowess and live excellence. As a Blueprint favorite we simply could not miss the opportunity to chat with Luke ahead of his sure to sell out show on Friday, June 27th at Celebrities.
Blueprint: Your response to Seth Troxler’s outwardly negative article on THUMP was unwaveringly positive. How do you remain so upbeat and optimistic after so many years in the industry?
Laidback Luke: It’s very easy and tempting to complain, positivity is the only way forward though! We can acknowledge when there’s something wrong but hating on it won’t help. Coming up with solutions or looking at it from other perspectives will always be much more constructive. Right now it’s very easy to hate on EDM as it is at its most popular. But that doesn’t mean the techno or deep scene is perfect either. Of course someone outside of the scene will easily hate on something that’s far away from him.
Blueprint: Social media can be an abyss of negativity: in your opinion what is it about dance music culture that is so polarizing that artists seemingly go out of their way to trash talk other acts from the scene? Has it always been this way?
Laidback Luke: It has always been that way, but because of social media it’s much more in your face. I remember the biggest trance DJs shit talking about each other back when trance was the bigger, money making industry. Where there’s money, there’s dirt.
Blueprint: What is it like balancing a global touring schedule with a wife and a new baby girl?
Laidback Luke: It’s a tough one! And the only way I’m able to do this is through a lot of scheduling. My wife and I always make schedules for the whole month and really log in, and block, our family time. Although there are not many gaps, my schedule is insane, we always manage to fit in a decent amount of time just enough to enjoy a bit of family life too.
Blueprint: Do you find that the superstar DJ lifestyle lends itself to single promiscuity while simultaneously putting artists on a pedestal inflating their egos beyond imagination?
Laidback Luke: To me it does. I’ve never been about the rockstar life and fucking groupies. It’s a trap and it’s not real life. As far as I see it those are distractions to what life really is about. In the end we all want a family life and to not die alone. It’s good to keep the ego as small as you can too, as that will give you a far more productive and healthier life.
Blueprint: For the past few years’ long-time fans of dance music have bemoaned the dying art of live mixing and the growing presence of pre-recorded sets: what is your take on the current state of mixing represented by mainstream EDM?
Laidback Luke: I agree and I think it’s a shame! It’s such a beautiful art, the real art of DJing. Not even mentioning the turntablism, but for instance setting a mood, adapting on the spot and being a taste-maker of tracks, being someone very knowledgeable about obscure and new music, is being lost too. I’ve had discussions with up and coming producers about this and they don’t get it. They just think presenting their music is the best way to capture a crowd. To mix in key and to have music synced with visuals. It’s really not. But it’s ok, that will just make the real DJs stand out even more. The experience on the floor to a more organic set, based on energy, vibe and creativity on the spot is much stronger.
Blueprint: In the same vein, what is your opinion regarding management companies who force new producers to learn to DJ so that they can travel the world playing the Beatport Top 10 and promoting their brand?
Laidback Luke: Well that’s just what it is then right? Promoting your brand? It’s not what real DJing is about. That to me fits in the same category as inflating the ego and wheeling in as much money as you can. But what’s the purpose again? Wasn’t it to give people the time of their lives with the help of your amazing music? Not to be the most popular, or to be named ‘The number 1 DJ of the world’. No offence to Armin or Hardwell, I love those guys, but seriously, being named or voted that, doest that REALLY make you the number 1 DJ of the world? So, Q-bert can kick my ass in DJing with one hand strapped on his back. Yet my ‘DJ Ranking’ is higher than him. I’m sure as hell NOT a better DJ than him.
Blueprint: Is ghost producing and mass purchasing your own tracks to bump yourself up the Beatport charts an epidemic in the industry and in your opinion how can people combat these issues in an effort to unearth more transparency?
Laidback Luke: This has been done for ages and it’s really nothing new! I could name you a couple of the biggest and most legendary names that have been ghost produced and are still being ghost produced. And to be honest, I don’t care. What’s important for me is that I know I can do it all. And I’m proud of myself to being able to. Nothing is greater than creating something with your own two hands. I love love love the art of producing, and it’s so easy for me right now! The years of struggling to learn it have really paid off. I feel the truth will always be out there and will always rise to the surface. And if not, then not! It’s all cool by me, just as long as I can look in the mirror and stay true to myself.
Blueprint: Kung Fu has always been a big part of your life. This past year you participated in the World Championships in China as a member of Team Holland: the team won 23 gold medals while you personally won four gold’s and one silver medal. Can you tell Blueprint readers a bit about the role Kung Fu has played in your life over the years and your experience at the World Championships?
Laidback Luke: Martial arts have always been a part of my life. As a kid I did a lot of years of Karate. I ended up second in the national championships with sparring two years in a row. Without a coach! Just before my black belt exam at the age of 14 I flaked out and puberty hit. About ten years later I got back into it and started doing Kung Fu. Obviously having always been second place had always been a frustration to me. That got blown away by actually ending first at the World Championships, winning gold. A life time dream come true!
Usually my fellow Kung Fu brothers get very nervous when they have to perform their form on the mat in front of a jury. To me, that’s where my stage experience comes in. I don’t mind performing! I do it on a daily bases and have done so as a DJ for years. So I was quite calm and fully prepared going into it. With its 10,000 competitors, most of them are Chinese, it’s a bizarre experience to see so many Kung Fu specialists! What Kung Fu adds in my life is health, a clear mind and energy. I think I wouldn’t be able to keep my DJ career up in the way I do without the Kung Fu. A pure DJ life can be very destructive, especially on this level.
Blueprint: In a world where fans have such short attention spans your track with Steve Aoki, Turbulence, remains a massive crowd pleasure over three years after its release. What is it about the track that has given it such longevity?
Laidback Luke: I’m very happy with that too! I sometimes try and leave it out of my sets, but then fans will complain and ask why I didn’t play it. I think the sound was ahead of its time. When the track came out, nothing sounded like it. It was one of the loudest, most energetic tracks around. I do feel it inspired a lot of kids to do that crazy rave sound which we know so well right now.
Blueprint: Can you take Blueprint readers through a day in the life of Laidback Luke?
Laidback Luke: I always wake up with Twitter: I often take at least 15 minutes out to answer questions or respond to mentions. I’ll do some emails too, mind you, I’m still in bed. Usually, on tour, I’ll have about 15 minutes left before we go to the airport, so packing up is always in a rush. At the airport I’ll have my breakfast. Waiting for the gate to open, I’ll work on some music or listen to promo/demos. I’ll do a nap in the plane which is great on a full stomach. Arriving at the next location, I’m always planning a workout straight away. This usually takes up about 1.5 hour but it fully energizes me again and will get my body in a better structure after sitting in airplanes and cars.
When I get back to my room I usually order room service, shower and then work on some music while eating. I always do an extra nap before my show. Before I nap, in bed, I’ll do some tweets again. Then it’s show time! I get a half an hour notice to wake up and get ready before we leave. After the show I never stick around for the afterparty anymore. There’s no gaps! Usually I need to wake up about 4 or 5 hours later to go to the next destination again and the routine will repeat from the start.
Blueprint: Vancouver is home to quite a few diehard Laidback Luke fans: how do you approach sets differently when you know the crowd will accept whatever you throw down with open arms?
Laidback Luke: It really depends on the vibe and the energy. How I feel in the booth, what new tracks I have, if the crowd is up for it. Even the lights in the club and the temperature matters! There’s a lot of factors that influence my sets, and because it’s always purely improvised, I never know what to expect either! It keeps things exciting : )
Laidback Luke touches down in Vancouver on Fri, June 27th for another legendary night at Stereotype Fridays. With unwavering optimism, the gumption to speak his mind, and a pure family oriented vision, Laidback Luke is a rarity in today’s festival driven dance music scene. Make sure you grab tickets for this one as quickly as possible—LBL never fails to sell out Celebrities and anyone who has seen the man can attest to the fact that it will be a night you won’t soon forget.
– Ryan Hayes