Luke Solomon: Throwing Caution To The Wind
The chances are you’re familiar with Luke Solomon but for the unacquainted he boasts a catalogue of releases on Leftroom, Southern Fried and Crosstown Rebels amongst many others. Oh, and he runs his own label with none other than Derrick Carter. An unsung hero within electronic music Luke holds the distinction of being revered and respected by his peers. The DJs DJ. The producers producer. With an illustrious career that’s seen him do everything from set up seminal label Classic Recordings with Mr. Carter to taking quirky house to the UK Top 10 and international charts with his band Freaks, Luke has been there for many of the more interesting 4/4 related moments of the last decade.
One of our favourite imprints, for 9 years, Classic introduced the world to the likes of DJ Sneak, Tiefschwarz, Isolee and Freeform 5 and garnered a cult following until distribution difficulties led to the last single issuing forth in 2006. With the label now resuming operations 2014 looks like it could be the best year yet for Luke with new album Timelines out now, new compilation Unfinished Business Vol.1 set to land next month and an imminent performance at Random Magic with Neville Watson alongside Green Velvet and Boddika scheduled for next Saturday at London’s Fire we thought it was about time caught up with Luke to talk his past, present and future.
The first thing I wanted to ask you is with the ease of which people can set up their own record label in comparison to the past do you feel the attitudes of those undertaking starting an imprint has changed from that of when guys like you were starting Classic Recordings?
Yeah, because anyone can do it now. I remember when at Classic when we first got our iTune accounts and starting uploading music and thinking “wow this is mad I can just sit at home and do everything!” What we didn’t realise at the time was the consequences of such availability because whilst it’s in many ways great that anybody can do it you do sacrifice quality control. That’s how we ended up with this mad mass of information with absolutely nothing to filter it out. It is what it is.
It’s the same as people not going to record shop. The only things you have now are charts on beatport or juno or statistics so all of the filtration has become quite binary.
I’ve always felt slightly ill at ease with online DJ charts as it does seem contribute to the scene becoming more generic as you’ll walk into a bar and hear the residents there essentially copying what certain DJs have posted the week before. Great exposure for producers but it could stifle creativity at the grass roots level.
That happened on a smaller scale at record shops too as you came to be defined by the shop that you favoured. What was the interaction of them judging your taste by seeing what you bought, which I guess in effect was replicated and replaced by Apple but the success of that is definitely questionable. The whole genius thing used to be really interesting and now even that’s changed as it’s just become a mass of information which I don’t think they can control in any way. So previously I think you were defined by your record shop but it was different as they were making suggestions as to things that they’d think you’d like rather than just copying what they were playing. It was more akin to a golfer and his caddy than what we have now.
Now we’re defined by the things we follow and the things that are presented to us in a digital format. It’s a strange situation.
Do you think it’s harder to champion underground music in the current climate with a mixture of major labels pushing the whole EDM scene and many of the smaller labels in recent years pretty much existing as vanity outlets for a particular artists who show no interest in signing anyone else?
Record labels have become a machine to fuel gigs and DJs. Especially within dance music, its easy for a label to simply exist as a vehicle for music that DJs play. They play what they put out on the label, they generally don’t find things that they wouldn’t normally play and then release their own music so it’s really kind of a micro industry to make sure that many artists have gigs, money coming in and their bills being paid. It’s often about building their own profile and making themselves the pinnacle of success and not necessarily the furtherment of the scene they represent. The scene has become very selfish and I don’t think it was meant to be that way but just what the industry has turned into and that’s defined by the economy, the way the music industry changed and the lack of money. All of those things have shattered the sense of community, which has gone straight out of the window. I had this conversation with Neville Watson recently and I think we’re starting to get it back a little bit where people are looking out for each other again and that’s the whole point of my radio show…
Do you think local radio is the remedy for a fractured music community?
I just don’t know. There are a million different radio stations now. I both love and hate the internet so passionately at the same time. You have no control over this beast and trying to contain it within your own mind and then trying to contain it for others who don’t know how to contain things, it’s utterly uncontrollable. It’s a strange phenomenon which I have battles with constantly!
With the Business as Usual radio show I’m trying to find stuff outside of the usual spheres and wade through it to share new music that perhaps might not get heard otherwise. With Beatport serving as more or less a monopoly I think it’s important to push new music that hasn’t got huge backers. That’s the idea behind the Unfinished Business compilation off the back of the radio show. We’re so fed by hype and massive marketing machines at the moment that it’s nice to be able to showcase something just because you truly believe it’s good and people need to hear it.