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DJ Lutique [Interview]

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DJ Lutique is the Ukrainian brand now - fresh and trendy, with its very own style. Undoubtedly, he is a brilliant musician, composer, and house music producer, doing everything to perfect his favorite business! As a producer, Lutique has long ago stepped beyond Ukraine’s borders, as a part of releases of famous "No Definition", "99 Waves", "Nurvous Records", "3Bridge Records", “Houseworks”, “Egoiste”, “Milk & Sugar” labels.

As a DJ, he’s a part of the Kiev’s noisiest parties, as well as in the other cities of Ukraine and more places abroad. He’s a producer and a host of a popular Kiss FM Ukraine radio mix show PREVIEW.

This week finds DJ Lutique launching his new 'Muse Department' imprint with fellow countryman Stas Underhill. Together the duo have produced the label's inaugral single 'Activation', which also includes a remix from Taly Shum.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with DJ Lutique to learn more about the release of 'Activation', his background, working as a duo with Stas, nightlife in the Ukraine, studio process, DJing, and more. Enjoy.

Hi Lutique, thanks for talking to us today. How has your start to the year been so far and please tell us something interesting about your day today?

Hi Mitch, hi everybody! Thanx for hosting me here..

Well, our today’s reality goes with one thought – to stop Russian aggression on Ukraine, make them get away from Ukrainian territory. As every person living in Ukraine now, whatever they do – they do it to make it happen really. At the same time, besides surviving we all try to do what we did best before the war – in my case it’s music! I produce different kind of music, my studio serve for recordings, sound productions, mixing and mastering as well. And of course I’ve been an active DJ for over 20 years now. That’s what makes me breath!

What’s a piece of music (not your own) from 2023 that had the biggest impact on you, and what makes it outstanding for you?

As a musician, playing piano, guitar and drums, I see the music from a different angle, I feel it in a different way, I guess.. I have excessive demands for the vocals in tracks.. That’s why, as a DJ it’s hard to surprise me with a “new” track with the vocals from 2000-th for example. Nevertheless, there are some ways of performing now that inspire me so much. I mean those live performances, when djs use instruments or some additional gear to make their sets really live, really outstanding. That’s why the biggest impact on me in 2023 had Fred Again, Whomadewho, Monolink, Rufus du Sol, Satori, Lane 8…

What was the music genre you discovered first before you turned to electronic music, and what made you continue with the latter?

I guess electronic music was the main genre I loved, considering school discoteques, dancing to the records of Robert Miles, The Prodigy, Chemical brothers, Depeche Mode.. But I also loved Rock, Pop, Funk, Disco.. They all have a huge impact on what I’m doing in music. But my choice at first way to produce House music, Disco house to be precise as in early 2000 it was muck easier to sample some old tuned than to use VST Instruments..

What are some of your best memories from first going to clubs? Were there specific nights or sets that really made you feel you wanted to pursue electronic music?

I guess first I wanted to become a DJ watching our local stars here in Ukraine playing. And a few years later when I got my first computer I started experimenting with samples and loops in Acid Pro. To say the truth it wasn’t any DJ who inspired me to start producing, it was the music itself!

How did growing up in Ukraine influence your music taste and direction? Or did it all? And who were some Ukrainian artists and DJs you looked up or were inspired by when you first discovered electronic music?

At the times I wasn’t even thinking of being a DJ there were plenty of Ukrainian djs to be really inspired with – Rolsky, Ice, Dynamite, Chief MC, Anna Lee, Light etc. In addition, me and my friends used to listen a lot to some Kontor Mixes, music from Defected.. And of course I have to mention Kiss FM dance radio station that for sure has a very strong impact on every Ukrainian DJ, sound-producer and listener until now. Believe me Ukrainian listener is of a high-fed kind that makes every DJ here get deeper into tracks, styles and the way they perform.

Your productions tend to be quite borderless, ranging from House, to Tech House and more recently indie dance, melodic and progressive house, this is not really the norm for the majority of today’s artists so why do you think this approach works for you?

My audience changes with me and its tastes change as well. My intention always was to show people how musically polyhedral I am. That’s why I think it’s ok to switch sometimes to different styles and moods. Anyway whatever I produce the roots and the heart of it all is House and the basis is the groove, melody and emotion.

You’ve been producing for the better part of two decades with releases on Mocalacho, Milk & Sugar and more recently Freegrant Music, looking back on your career, which tracks hold the fondest memories and why?

Each track produced, released or unreleased belongs to some period of my life showing some production skills, internal moods, what I’m playing as a DJ, some meanings I want to share. I used to shoot videos as well to some of my songs. So, each of the tracks released means something to me.

Given that you produce so many different genres how would you say your sound has evolved over the last decade or so? Or is it in a constant state of flux depending on your mood and inspiration?

Oh, my sound evolves with my mixing engineering skills of course, with the synths & samples I use and my production skills. But yes, it’s always an inspiration thing and a will to make some idea or emotion delivered to listener. It’s always a God’s blessing to receive some feedbacks from people that your track had some influence on people’s life or mood. That’s actually what it’s all been done for.

You have a new single ‘Activation’ written in conjunction with Stas UnderHill out now via your new Muse Department imprint. Tell us a bit about the track and how it showcases your current sound.

Lately, as you’ve noticed, I decided to switch from House more to Indie Dance style. It doesn’t mean I won’t produce House anymore..  But Activation is now a 100% of what I’d like to play and what really works on the dancefloor when I play.

I believe, it sounds huge, dancy and those major chords make people happy for a while. At the same time Taly Shum’s Remix for Activation sounds like a separate track not connected to the original version. This allows a dj to choose the one he likes and shows the variety of what we want the label to sound like! We’ve prepared more tunes for Muse Department but the first one we decided to call symbolically – Activation.

As previously mentioned you’ve been releasing music for close to two decades now, so why was now the right time to start your own label and why was Stas Underhill the perfect person to collaborate with on it?

I think, together with Stas we have so much to say musically and life is so fast now… we’ve found out we can’t wait for another half of the year for some manager of a “good label” to listen to our promo exclusively))) Of course, dome of our productions will still be sent to other labels, but Muse Department is now the priority. Besides, as now we can polish the tracks to sound in a proper way, we can help other producers with a good production sound better and get released. So, yeah, the time has come for us to start something new together!

Now that you are a label owner, how do you decide which of your tracks you want to release there as opposed to shopping them to other labels?

Together with Stas we have huge a DJ experience that make us believe we have a good taste in club music and a knowledge of how it should sound like. That’s why the formula is clear – if it makes us dance, it’s worth being released.

Tell us a bit more about this process of how you and Stas worked on ‘Activation’, did you have different roles in the evolution of the track and was it something you worked on together in the same studio?

No, we have different studios but in one location, so Stas can hear what I’m producing and I can hear what he’s on. Once I’ve heard Stas working on a new demo with that hooky “chiki-chiki” synth that made me want to finish the rest of the production for the track. That’s how we collaborated on it. We were dancing in the studio on each step of the production.

Let our readers inside your studio for a moment, what is your current setup and what studio tools are featured heavily in your recent productions and more specifically on ‘Activation’?

 I’m using Cubase for a long time. Stas is an Ableton lover. Both of us using UAD, Diva, Serum, Spire, Loopcloud. In case of Activation 50% is a Midi VST tracks and 50% of Loopcloud stuff as it allows to find quickly what you need. I have two pairs of monitors: the classic Yamaha NS-10m Studio and a pair of EVE-Audio SC-307 + Adam Sub 8. https://www.instagram.com/p/Cwcte5nN-op/

Finding the right track to launch a label is always a daunting task, what was it about ‘Activation’ that made it the right one to launch Muse Department?

We believe that along with a remix from Taly Shum the whole release reflects the mood and the sound we would like to release later on Muse Department, showing everyone what kind of demos they should send to the label. It will be the variety of Indie Dance, Progressive house & Melodic Techno. I think we’ll also get back to the practice of releasing chill or acoustic versions of the track if they will contain an outstanding vocal parts worth it.

Where does inspiration come from for you and was there anything specific that inspired ‘Activation’?

As far as I remember Stas was experimenting with some presets of Arturia Pigments VST. So that the main theme was born. It inspired Stas for the first touch production and me to continue it after.

You also host a popular radioshow ‘PREVIEW’ on Kiss FM in the Ukraine, tell us about that, when fans can listen to it and how might your radio sets differ from what you would play in a club?

PREVIEW had about 140 episodes on Kiss FM Ukraine and contained a selection of what I’d play in the club. Then the show was reborn as a video podcast on my YouTube chanel where I played tracks, I’ve never played before, commenting them and finding good ones among them to play later in the clubs. But unfortunately I had to stop shooting it due to the war. Of course every selection, live set on my YouTube is partly what I can play in the club but it will always depend on the place, I play and the people out there. I always play for people!

Let’s continue talking about DJing a bit more, tell us about your approach to DJing. What can people expect when they go to see you perform at a club?

For now I’m trying to Play DJ sets with a slight Piano and vocal performances. For that I produce more tracks with piano and my vocal. You will hear it released soon. But it can also be a clean DJ set. Sometimes it can be a vinyl set, I have a cool collection of house music of 2000 incl. Electro, Vocal-house. It’s a bit different atmosphere that I also love.

How much prep do you put into the tracks you choose to play? Or are your sets totally spontaneous?

The order of the tracks is always spontaneous depending on what people are ready to dance to at the moment. I have around 10 playlists prepared where I can find proper tracks to play.

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and perhaps also, your work as a producer?

Yes, it’s a very useful experience. For me 5 seconds is enough to understand if this is the groove I’d like to play, 20 more seconds I will need to make sure the track is worth a place on my SSD. That’s how it works with every DJ, I believe. But what’s more important is to play a track once – there you will understand whether it will live in your playlist.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

Oh, let’s suppose it’s the first music fest in Kyiv after Ukraine’s victory and we host world’s pearls. I’d start with Ben Bohmer, continuing with Black Coffee. Then Monolink – we all miss him here. After them I think everybody would love to hear Satori and then Eric Prydz to finish!

But I have a few other variants of line-ups as for now unfortunately it’s just a dream.

If you are not DJing, producing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Hah! Well anyway, music is my life and it’s 80% of what I’m in everyday. But of course I love spending time with my friends or my kids. This can be BBQ, sports, walking in the city and everything a usual person can do with their loved ones.

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life?

I know for sure, I could be anything or anybody, from driver to a top manager or CEO, but I was lucky to do what I love the most and that always brings me joy, feeling that I’m on my place, money and opportunity to see the world and cool people, communicating via music with my audience.

Current top five tracks?

Deniz Kabu - White Rabbit (Original Mix)

Panama, Nils Hoffmann - Far Behind (Jeremy Olander Extended Mix)

DJ Lutique, Leroy – A Thousand Reasons

WhoMadeWho, Adriatique - Miracle (Original Mix)

Zafrir - TARE (Original Mix)

What are some of your favourite TV series? Both past and present.

Full me once” on Netflix was good lately

I used to be a fan of GOT as well.

I’m trying hard not to watch series, as they steal too much of my time, but of course I watch them))

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

I’m of those who know that happiness is not a state, it’s a choice. But I’m the happiest man in the world when I know that those, whom I love are safe & healthy.

What does 2024 hold for you in terms of releases and gigs? Anything you can share with us?

I think, I’ll be able to talk more about my world gigs when the war is over. As for now my gigs are only in Ukraine.

'Activation' is available now via Muse Department: http://tinyurl.com/3n2t6sd8

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