We got the opportunity to chat with the multi-talented producer/DJ/label owner/kung-fu champion Laidback Luke who will be taking over The Senator Theatre in Chico, CA on Sunday October 6th. Performing and producing relentlessly and innovating musically as an artist like nobody else has propelled Laidback Luke and his superhuman fusion of hyperdrivehousestep & ghettojacktrancebass to stratospheric new heights over the last couple of years!
EPIC: Prior to becoming Laidback Luke the producer, you were a graffiti artist. What inspired you to drop the paint cans and pursue music? Do you still paint?
I was a teenager only just getting into it. My first talent in life is drawing. I've always drawn my whole life. When I hit puberty it switched into graffiti. My graffiti 'career' wasn't long though. One of our crew got caught putting up one of our first major pieces and he snitched the rest of us. After that I decided to stay in the legal zone and focus mainly on my music.
EPIC: How often do you get to see your wife? Since she's a DJ also and you probably both have busy schedules. How do you balance a steady marriage with such an insane itinerary?
Every month we sit down and try to sync our schedules with help of our Google Calendars. We only have one rule and that's to not be separated for more than 7 days at a time. We really plan and line out our schedules thoroughly on a monthly bases.
EPIC: A year ago you did a remix of Ricochet by Marty James who is a local Chico artist, how did you come across Marty James? What about that song made you want to do your own edit? Do you play it in your live sets?
Ah wow, I love Marty! He also wrote 'Turn The Night Up' by Enrique Iglesias which I just remixed. I didn't know he was behind it. I love the Martel stuff. I mostly prefer listening to 80s inspired music whenever I don't listen to dance music. I heard Ricochet in his studio and really wanted to rework it for the clubs.
EPIC: Your live performances are always so high energy and not very laidback, what made you stick with your name after all these years? Sidenote: Do you win every limbo contest?
Ha ha thanks to my Kung Fu I should be quite good at limbo! Yeah, I'm actually a very easy going guy in real life. Well not, easy going because I like being busy, but a calm type of person. I need a little kick up the ass to get myself going and let that crazy energy out. That's why I prefer high energy music at my show. If I'm gonna dance, I might as well jump.
EPIC: I know you are very big into martial arts, more specifically Choy Li Fut Kung Fu, how does this passion integrate into your busy tour lifestyle?
That, and my Tai Chi keep me very balanced and energized. It's my armor to survive this insane schedule that's part of the touring life. We go to the max. There's no DJ union that says: 'Hold up, the amount of sleep you have and the time you spend traveling is inhuman!'. Because it usually is. I'm not complaining, I love what I do and realize I'm very blessed. But sleeping 4 hours on an average on tour, drinking, eating unhealthy and not having a steady daily structure can really break a person.
EPIC: Furthermore, how do both your passions in life translate with one another, does music affect your martial arts? Does martial arts affect your music? Do you listen to your own music while you practice Kung Fu? or kick people while on stage?
I practice my Kung Fu in silence. In that sense they are very separated. I see my martial arts career as a separate career as well. But it does keep me very balanced and tapped into life and my body. The zen thing helps me deal with stress and keeps me very calm just before I go on at my shows.
EPIC: You're known for including a lot of hip hop into your live sets, who is your favorite rapper?
To be honest, being from Europe and from the Netherlands, we actually don't really spend that much time listening to lyrics. English is still a foreign language and us Europeans are always amazed Americans can rap whole verses along. We usually are just able to rap a chorus along, in a European accent ha ha. So I would listen more to beats instead. I adore Dilla's beats, Neptunes and I used to adore DJ Muggs' beats.
EPIC: Electronic dance music is evolving every day, where do you see the industry going? Do you think things are heading for better, or worse?
Any progress is a good progress. I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. I'm amazed Electronic Dance Music got this big in the States. I've been DJing in the States since 1998 and I've seen it evolve in a very, very slow pace. Back in 1999 EDM went mainstream in Europe. I always wondered why it never happened in the US. But surely it did and I feel we are still just at the very beginning of it! To give you an example, tracks like 'Epic' or 'Animals' topped our national charts. Without a vocal. I'd still love to see the day that happens in the States. EDM is still mainstream in Europe and never died out. It's a musical genre that has earned it's rights in between genres like Rock and Hip Hop.
EPIC: You've been in the game for over a decade, what motivates you to continue producing music?
I just love what I do and I'm very passionate about it. It's my calling. It's my gift to be able to give people amazing memories and motivate them with my music. That's very special to me. I just met a couple that met eachother at show of mine a couple of years ago. They started dating after, and they have a kid now! Those kind of things are golden, and far more superior to me than money and fame.
EPIC: There are many producers today with lack of talent on the DJ decks. You are one of the best of both worlds, being a producer with the actual artistic value of DJ'ing a set. How important is it to show these skills and keep coming out with unique tricks and techniques?
So whenever people say that on Twitter for instance, I reply: 'I'm alright, but thanks for the compliment!'. And I feel it's true! I grew up listening to guys like Jeff Mills, Dave Clarke and Bad Boy Bill. THOSE guys were bad ass. Donald Glaude! Who used to scratch with his nose and backspin working the crossfader behind his back. Amongst those guys, I'm just a kid trying. And trying is what lacks nowadays. People want it the easy and quick way. A lot of DJs play pre-fabricated mashups. Which is boring to me, because every set you'll hear from these guys will sound very similar. With my abilities I'm always able to switch it up as the evening evolves. DJing should be about adapting to the crowd, the venue and the moment as well. That's the fun of it! That challenge! To anticipate on that makes a set and the experience of a set way more powerful. Skills and techniques will make you a stronger, more powerful DJ that can handle anything. Also, think about this: How are you able to call yourself a 'professional DJ' making a shit ton of money, while you only know the basics of mixing?
EPIC: What are your plans for the future? What do you see your life like in 10 years?
I'm 36 now and I'm very much keeping a close eye on what guys like Tiesto and David Guetta are doing. They are about 10 years older than I am. Though I'm planning to slow it down at a certain point, and maybe open a Kung Fu school in ten years, they are still keeping strong. It's a huge inspiration for me to keep going hard!