Nesting dolls, Barry Bonds, DJ Premier, Dreamy back rub music, Bestival, and Anjunadeep – what do these seemingly random group of words have in common? They were all some of the talking points that came up in my recent phone conversation with Lane 8. For 20 minutes I had the pleasure of picking his brain about his musical origins, Anjunadeep, Bestival, and most importantly of all his upcoming debut album Rise which will be released on Anjunadeep July 17th coming right off the release of his latest single ‘Hot As You Want‘. Be sure to check out the full interview below!
So you’ve mentioned hip-hop before as your origins for how this all started, specifically Pete Rock and DJ Premier. Do you draw any inspiration from them at all and how is that reflected in your work?
When I was 13 I wanted to make that kind of hip hop music so I bought a keyboard and a drum machine and so that was my first introduction to making music in some kind of an electronic sense. The thing that I really liked then and still do about Premo and Pete Rock is they have an attention to melody, melody is everything and their melodic and harmonic skills are absolutely something that I try to emulate to this day. When I’m starting a new song I always try to look for that one thing – it’s usually a harmony, or a melody, or a cord change that just really grabs you or makes you feel something. To me that’s what it’s all about and that’s what inspires you and that’s something that I definitely learned from them and some other people.
So you started out as a producer, when did you get into DJing and how has the transition been going from production to DJing live sets?
When I was a kid I was making beats in the garage and playing in bands but I was never really serious about it until I was about 17/18. That was also around the same time as when I started to DJ so for me they were basically simultaneous. In the beginning I paid more attention to production because that’s just the kind of way that you make a name for yourself. Generally speaking once your music starts reach a few more people and you start to get booked in a few different places, you want to go and give a good representation of your art to people and DJing is the best way to do that for a lot of people. I think it’s kind of natural for that [DJing] to happen as a secondary thing for most people but for me it was kind of a simultaneous thing.
I actually came across this quote where your music was described as “dreamy back rub music”, from a musical perspective what does that mean to you?
Dreamy back rub house is just a funny name come up by these promoters/DJs in Detroit called Gold Clap. As DJs do they have a lot of different playlists and they told me that the playlist my music fell into was called “dreamy back rub house” and that’s where the name came from. Honestly I hate it when people call it deep house because it’s not deep house, there’s very few people still making deep house. There are lots of people calling their music deep house but that’s just not what it is. I’m not really too fussed about categorizing music but if you’re going to call it something it should be accurate. Basically I’m against the tagging of my music, and similar music, as deep house because it’s really not.
You’ve mentioned previously that vocals are a big part of your work and that you wanted to work with Patrick Baker and Solomon Grey, now that you have can you tell me more about what it was like to finally work with them?
Patrick was the first person that I worked with as a feature vocalist, he had sent me some tunes that he made and I really like the way his voice sounded and we just stayed in touch over the months. We never got into the studio and I actually only got to meet him a few months ago after we had done two tracks together back and forth really over the internet. With him it’s quite easy to work with because he’s quite fast when it comes to making adjustments. With Solomon Grey we actually were in the studio together and we actually wrote tracks together which was just so much more efficient because you can get your point across in less time. There’s also a certain pressure in the studio to make something out of it which I really enjoy.
Talk to me about dream collaborators. You’ve crossed off Patrick Baker and Solomon Grey so who else are you looking forward to working with in the future?
I’ll be honest, when I was asked that question my answer was more so that I want to keep working with the people that I already am. Matthew Dear is on the album and he was one where my management asked me, “hey if you could have someone that could feature on the album that’s maybe a little out of the realm of your normal thinking, who would it be?” He was the first person I said so they went out and got him for me. We got together in the studio in London and it was amazing! Working with him was great and I would totally do that again but at the same time I really enjoy working with Joe and Tom from Solomon Grey and Patrick and Lucy Stone. I don’t want to make my career just about a random series of collaborations, I feel like I have some great collaborators already and I want to just continue working with them trying to make the best music we possibly can together. The more you work with people, the better the music gets and it’s only natural because you get used to everybody’s strengths and weaknesses and so starting over every time with a new singer is not really the way I want to go about it. I want to just keep doing my thing with all the people I’ve already worked with.
Now that we’ve covered some background on you and your music let’s get to the album. What was the vision behind Rise? Could you just walk me through the creative process behind it all?
For me it was a combination of two things, it was working with Joe and Tom and Patrick and all those people again to create those vocal tracks that’s become kind of my standard, the kind of music that I’ve made in the past and were released as singles and EPs. Mostly just about wanting to push that relationship one step further, and also getting Matthew in and doing a track with him. The other side of it was that in my DJ sets I was playing a lot of instrumental music and I noticed that almost all of my music up to that point, had always had vocals in them and so I wanted to challenge myself to make instrumental music that was strong enough on its own without vocals and so that became the other side of the album. I mean the whole reason the album is called Rise is because of the song, which is fully instrumental, is my favourite track on the album and the one that I’m most proud of because I feel like I made something that was both interesting and memorable without using vocals. It’s entirely just something that I did myself in the studio myself without anyone else’s help from the either vocalists or mixing engineers. That to me is what Rise is all about, showing that other side in sort of unison with the vocal tracks that I’ve become known for.
The two tracks you have with them [Solomon Grey & Patrick Baker], ‘Hot As You Want’ and ‘Ghost’ are already released, can you tell me about the thought process behind releasing material before the actual album comes out?
The reality is that albums today are tricky in the sense that not many people might give an album a chance where they might have 10, 15 years ago. People will really listen to and buy single songs now but albums seem to be less appreciated and paid attention to because they take quite a long time to consume. The idea behind releasing a track before the album is that it’s a chance to give the tracks an opportunity to be heard by the people, and appreciated by the people because the reality is that plenty of album tracks that we don’t do as singles aren’t going to get the attention that they would had we shined a single spotlight on them. That’s just a compromise you have to make if you make an album. The process behind picking which songs get featured before the album is basically just our favourite songs or the songs that we feel make the most sense in a certain order for people hearing them. It’s just something that we discuss and plan with management.
The album is released on Anjunadeep, Above & Beyond’s label, did you ever get to consult with them though the creative process?
So Anjunadeep is actually more of James Grant’s, Jono Grant’s (of Above & Beyond) brother and manager, project and so Deep artists don’t typically get a ton of facetime with the big guys upstairs. I was fortunate to get a lot of that when I went on tour with them in Toronto and sometimes when I’m in London I’ll use their studio. They are involved of course, but as to day to day A&R for Anjunadeep that’s more James and that’s always been his project. It’s not to say that Above & Beyond aren’t interested in it but the stuff that they play more of the Anjunabeats work on their sets.
What about the other Anjunadeep members, do you draw from them and do you work with them at all?
To be honest I haven’t done that many collaborations with that many other producers. I’ve done a remix with Jody (Wisternoff) and James (Grant), it was really fun and I really enjoyed doing that but it can be quite a slow process because every idea has to be run by the other two people and it really slows you down creatively. Unless you’re actually in the studio together every day and you can focus on things in real-time; making a final product that everybody is happy with can just take too long so there hasn’t been that much collaboration in that sense. The collaboration that does exist is just us sending our music around when it gets to the final stages, for example I’ll hear the new 16 Bit stuff and just give my thoughts on it and vice versa. You can tell a lot by how people react to music whether it’s good enough or ready or not. If no DJs want to play your music I think that tells you something about your work and that’s one of the ways we support each other – through honest feedback.
You’ve played at Coachella, you opened here [Toronto] back in February for Above & Beyond, are you looking forward to Bestival and your return to Toronto at all?
Yeah! This Friday! I am very, very much looking forward to it I love playing in Toronto. I don’t know but it’s just one those cities where I always have amazing shows. There’s just something about this city I guess and I don’t want to question it for the fear that it might disappear! It’s always so good when I play here so I’m looking forward to Bestival, I know that their events in the UK have been really well done and a great experience for a fans so I’m hoping that they can bring some of that magic over to Toronto. It should be a really good event.
Last but not least talk to me about these Barry Bonds Dolls I’ve been hearing about!
Hahaha! Basically they’re these nesting dolls of Barry Bonds, and if you know his history he went from being a skinny guy in college and then took a lot of steroids and then became a really big guy. So I have these nesting dolls, he has one in his college uniform where he’s a little guy, and then in the Pirates where he’s a medium sized guy and then the last one where he’s on the Giants and he’s a big guy. I actually use them in my production because I filled them with rice and salt and sesame and those are the shakers you hear in my songs!
If you’re at Bestival tomorrow be sure to stop by and check out Lane 8’s set, he’ll be playing at the Big Top Tent from 4:30 to 5:30 on the Friday!