Laidback Luke Interview in Ibiza

Laidback Luke talks exclusively to Something About from the Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza prior to his set at Eden.

Being a top international DJ and Kung Fu champion sounds like every young man’s dream. It does however take a certain kind of person to achieve success in such a contrast of disciplines.

Talking to Laidback Luke – real name Lucas Cornelis van Scheppingen – you can see why  the Filipino/Dutch DJ chose such a moniker: his temperament and martial art training have placed him at an advantage when it comes to a grueling music schedule. Laidback Luke has been at the top of the electronic dance music game for over a decade now – he’s one of the  most sought after artists working on the scene today. This hasn’t stopped him for exploring new ventures: he owns his own label Mixmash and is something of a Youtube star thanks to his highly addictive vlog. We caught up with the Master of Cool at Ibiza in June.

Laidback Luke Interview at the Hard Rock Hotel

Hi LL! Can you describe the excitement of having thousands of fans dancing to your music?

The best thing about what I do is obviously making people happy. Because I’ve been DJing for two decades now it still is a thrill to think that what started for me as making a piece of music on my computer at home and then touching so many people and so many lives… well, to hear people say, “Oh your music has helped me through tough periods in my life’ or ‘Thanks to your music I met my wife’, that’s such powerful stuff! Something that I would have never have thought I’d be able to manifest.

Would you say that’s the most exciting thing that you do?  

Well, that’s the most powerful. What I think is really exciting is to create memories for others; to create these packages of happy energy for people/ That keeps me going. Like you said, seeing those smiling faces on the night is wonderful and that you can really give people a great time. For a minute you just forget about your everyday hassles. I think creating something like that from nothing, it’s an incredible feeling, so whenever you start a new track there is literally nothing but your decisions and your vision that you can actually manifest.

How did you get into the music scene?

I come from a musical family. Both sides of my family has musicians. My dad is a musician, my brother can play the drums really well. H e used to play in a punk band and he could drum like 180m flawlessly. And I was the one family member that was always a little bit quirky. I couldn’t get it right. If I would try the drum, I would go off beat and the family started laughing so there was a little bit of a grudge, until 1992 when I found out you could make music with the help of a computer. All of a sudden, I could make this music that was stuck in my head.  I could finally programme it.

Laidback Luke Interview Ibiza
Laidback Luke at the Hard Rock Hotel

So you were never like a total expert at one instrument, other than the computer?

Well I tried, I tried playing the piano, I tried playing the guitar and I can do both a little bit but I was never an expert there.

How would you describe your music exactly? And how has it developed over those two decades? I guess the technology’s changed a lot as well?

Yeah, well this kind of reveals my age because I am still under the impression that all electronic music is house music. Back in the day when I got into it, it didn’t matter if it was acid house or trance or rave, it was all house music really. And that’s my mindset, that’s why I still love a variety of genres all across the board. Anything that triggers me, I’ll play and I don’t care where it comes from, what vocals are or if it is popular or if it’s underground. If I like it, then I’ll play it.

Laidback Luke Interview on his musical influences

Was it the Chicago house scene that you first got into?

Yeah so you have a bunch of people who are influenced by Detroit, people that are influenced by New York and with me it’s sort of like the New York house sound meets the Chicago house sound which are my roots basically.

So do you feel like you’re a bit out there compared to all the other guys at the moment?

Absolutely, this is the thing, I was one of the forefathers of the EDM sound. Back when I said goodbye to techno and my underground techno career- which was a heartfelt goodbye from me [which nonetheless] – it gave me the freedom to produce anything I liked. I wanted big, chunky beats, but I wanted melodies that could appeal to mass audience because I wanted my music to become the most popular. So when I switched it was 2000, the big money maker was trance music but I hated trance music, I didn’t want to make trance music so I didn’t go for the easy money and actually the commercial house scene didn’t exist yet, yet I fought to make it the biggest sound there is and right now, EDM became that. So yes, it’s a little bit of an off an odd thing, because I’m the odd one out with my techno, and I’m still very friendly with people like Adam Beyer and Green Velvet but I had to choose my own.

Laidback Luke On Adlibbing

And when you play a set, do you always pre-plan it or do you adlib?

The minute before I go on, I don’t even know what the first track will be. It depends on the vibe, the crowd and the Dj who plays before me. I’m super old-school like that, so when we used to carry ’70s vinyls for a set, you’d never pre-plan anything. It was just like you had your trigger records; your crowd pleasers and then you freestyle from there. And still up to this day, any crowd I’m in front of is always a surprise. The thing that keeps me going. Within my DJ sets, is how to catch a crowd, so if it’s a crowd that’s not there for you how are you gonna capture the vibe? Luckily nowadays I can carry about 3500 tracks on my USB and I can go any direction.

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I think that’s amazing, because I don’t think there’s many people like you anymore. 

Well I hate that about the current EDM scene for instance, that it’s so far off the art and I’m just all about the arts! Hell I love the art of DJ. I love taste-making; I love the trendsetting, the actual technique and yes it’s just such a shame that there’s no more attention for that.

I mean I see that a lot of the gigs that you go to, a lot of them are like concerts as opposed to big ‘shows’ geared up for social media..

I think for one as a DJ, it’s very uninspiring. I can’t imagine playing the same set for a different crowd every night. For me, one of the most frequently asked questions is ‘What do you have for us in store tonight?’ and I’ll answer: ‘I have no clue! I’ll see when I get there!’ and for me that’s very exciting as well. Sometimes it goes really well, sometimes it tends to go wrong and fair enough! And it’s fun like that, it keeps me going.

Ibiza and the EDM Scene

But with somewhere like Ibiza, is the crowd similar each time? 

Never! A crowd is never the same  It’s always different people that fill up the room, and I do have some pointers for myself for some certain countries and areas of what to kind of play. So for instance, in America, you can go much more hip hop and trap than over in Europe. But  in Brazil, they don’t like tribal drums. If you play anything tribal in Brazil you are screwed, because that’s folk music and so if anything sounds like their folk music, they won’t like it.

How did you find that out?

I found out the hard way!

You’re quite tuned in then?

Yeah, but I think that’s an essential thing you need to have as a DJ. You have to sense what a crowd needs and what vibe needs.

But do you also try and throw things in that you think might challenge them?

Absolutely, so sometimes I get really spoilt and I’ll have a crowd that really likes my stuff and has known for ages what I do and then I’ll just play, I had a crowd like that and I just played ‘Chop Suey’ by system of a down, and that’s just straight up, up tempo ‘punky’ stuff just to fall around. I like throwing curveballs as well.

Laidback Luke Interview Ibiza
Laidback Luke at the Hard Rock Hotel

The Dutch EDM Scene

Why is the Dutch EDM scene so big? Can you put your finger on why Dutch Djs are having a moment?

I was there from the start, technically it started with David Guetta being very interested in the Dutch sound. The Dutch sound was just like encapsulated in the Netherlands but no one knew about it outside of the Netherlands. We always had a cross over with Hip Hop so Dj’s like Chucky, Chucky used to be a Hip Hop Dj, and so David Guetta was very interested in having the Hip Hop people blend with the electronic dance music and he basically put the two together and back then I was producing with David Guetta and I was actually there when the people of Interscope called him up and Dr. Dre wanted to produce with him and Black eyed peas and so this Dutch sound crossed over and so that’s one part. Then the other part is that the Dutch crowd is one of the pickiest crowds in the world so if you want to please a Dutch crowd, you really need to work hard and I remember because I used to do my rounds in the Netherlands and I remember coming to the UK and playing and I always thought it was incredible how the crowd gave the energy back, where I was used to getting nothing back. So all of the sudden I felt like superman behind the decks, as the crowds acted like they’d never seen a Dj and so that’s the other part of it.

When are you playing in the UK next?

I think next will be Cream Fields.

Is there anyone that you particularly want to work with that you haven’t worked with before or? 

Not really, nowadays I’m just interested in collaborations that are really smooth and just a really nice creative process. So I’m not aiming for any big names anymore, and usually when you come across those big names it’s very hard to get the contracts and to get the managers to line up.  To get a good time frame going! It’s always been such a pain to do that. It’s very frustrating as an artist. So no one in particular really. I’m actually going to be working on a new album soon and I want it to be about people discovering new talent. So I’ve been doing that for ages, pushing new talents out into the industry and this time there’s going to be an album that revolves around that.

When are you doing to release the album?

We’re probably aiming for about Spring 2018.