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Luke Abbott: "It Can Be Dance Music if that's What You Want"
Luke Abbott recently returned to Border Community with his second LP, Wysing Forest. The second outing showcases a more experimental, yet playful, side of the UK producer’s talent. Needless to say, Abbott pays homage to Sun Ra when possible – a style that’s becoming ever present in his sound. DJBroadcast caught up Abbott to quiz him on how he styles his music – something the seasoned song writer is very opinionated about – needless to say, it’s not dance music, but, as he told DJBroadcast, “it can be dance music, if that’s what you want.”
Is there a certain creativity playing live fulfills for you that DJing doesn’t?
I’ve never done a DJ set, I’ve only ever played live. I think that at lot of the time the audience I play to in clubs wouldn’t know the difference anyway, but that doesn’t matter. DJing just doesn’t interest me in the way that live performance does. I like putting together mix tapes and DJ type podcasts for websites, but I’ve no desire to do that in front of people.
"...I think that movement is very
important to sound..."
After releasing such a pastoral album like Wysing Forest, how do you go about presenting such sounds in the context of a nightclub? Is there a bit of compromise there?
My live set is always in flux, I change things almost every gig I do, so it’s always developing. The music on Wysing Forest was all recorded as live takes, and now it’s changed into something else. One of the nice things about playing live is that you can adapt to different circumstances, so when playing in a club things tend to get a bit heavier and more drum orientated. But right now I’m into playing really slow beats, slower than 112 bpm stuff, that can work in a club with the right kind of crowd.
Do you feel comfortable calling what you produce ‘dance music?’
I don’t really like to call it anything other than ‘music’. Wysing Forest doesn’t represent a single type of music, and it isn’t aimed at any one kind of activity, it just is what it is. But I think that movement is very important to sound, and a lot of people experience sound through moving to it, so it can be dance music if that’s what you want it to be.
You’ve said before that most of Wysing Forest was improvised with minimal editing later. Why did you forego a more composition-centric approach this time around?
It wasn’t a decision I made consciously, it’s just how things developed. I did the recordings that turned into this album without knowing it was going to be an album. It started off as something I made only for myself, but then it turned out to be this record.
Can you talk about how the 12-minute “Amphis” and its 8-minute reprise came to be? I assume its central riffs were improvised, but how did you go about editing and forming its overall structure?
The 12 minute version of ‘Amphis’ on the album is a recording taken from a performance I did at Wysing arts centre; it’s a room recording mixed with a line recording. The structure is just how I played it, there’s no editing done except where the tracks cross over. It has a fairly traditional crescendo shape, what makes it different is how long it takes over the moves from quite to loud and back again, I just wanted to explore everything that was in the sound, try and make it do all the possible combinations of sounds that it’s got inside it.
"...There’s nothing cynical about Sun Ra;
it transcends all the bullshit...."
Your most recent productions have seemed more comfortable with beatless ambiance than ever. When do you feel a production demands a kick drum?
They’re there for function, they move large amounts of air, they lend power to things. But they’re also over-used by idiots who make shit dance music and are usually treated in very boring and predictable ways. I didn’t have much need for them on this record - the music didn’t need it.
What were you listening to when composing the album?
Don Cherry, Alice Coltraine, Terry Riely etc etc… music that is in tune with the universe.
You’ve mentioned Sun Ra is an influence before, when did you first encounter his work? [cont.] Today what about it still speaks to you?
I was about 16 when I first heard Sun Ra, but I didn’t really get what was so good about it until later on. It’s the freedom and the discipline, that’s where the magic comes from. It’s very brave music and it’s very real too, there’s nothing cynical about Sun Ra; it transcends all the bullshit.