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Luke Santos [Interview]

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As a DJ for well over two decades, Argentina born, Netherlands based artist Luke Santos has delighted crowds across the world with his far-reaching sound. Long-standing events such as ADE, WMC, The Love Parade and more have been recurring locations for Luke's exquisite taste and impeccable programming skills; while GU Music, Sudbeat and The Soundgarden have been global music brands to request his talents. A near decade-long career as a producer indicates his selective nature, with Cid Inc's Replug Records, Guy Mantzur's Plattenbank and Global Underground being the primary landing spots for his stunning creations. Now, emerging from a near five-year hiatus with a fresh assortment of music, Luke Santos unveils his much-anticipated album 'I Am Everything' via Musique du Lune's freshly coined Noire division. We had a chance to catch up with Luke for an interview leading up to the release. Enjoy!

Hi Luke, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Thank you so much for inviting me!…I am extremely happy, since the process to create my album has started until now, I have been ridiculously busy and in the longest creative state of mind that I have ever been. Then, the last piece of music I listened to was “The great gig in the sky” by Pink Floyd.

Hows your year been so far? And what are your plans for the coming week?

My year started composing and preparing the music that I played at the Sudbeat Showcase with Hernán Cattáneo during Easter weekend in my beloved city of Amsterdam. Shortly after, I got in the studio to work on the production stage of my upcoming album. The first couple of weeks of October, I always try to have a relaxed time, not going out and having just homemade dinners with friends, because in the following week is the infamous Amsterdam Dance Event or ADE and then it is a time to meet with all my friends & colleagues from Argentina and all over the world, do a lot of networking and listen the latest sound that is being showcased on those five endless days and nights.

Do you consider yourself a DJ or producer first? And which do you enjoy more and why?

I consider myself both a DJ and a producer. Mostly because when I started playing professionally in 1988, 34 years ago, there was almost no electronic music, only the pioneers from Detroit, Chicago and New York in the US and the little bit I knew from the UK, France, the Netherlands, and Germany... there were almost no other producers then. I enjoy both DJing and producing equally, but they are completely different tasks that require a completely different set of skills.

Can you name five tracks that were important in your musical development and why they are so significant for you?

Frankie Knuckles - “The Whistle Song”
Moby - “Porcelain”
Laurent Garnier - “Crispy Bacon”
Pachanga Boys - “Time”
Guy Mantzur, Roy Rosenfeld - “Epika”
All because they are beautiful, emotional and timeless!

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and more, please.

I wake up at noon (because my most creative time is after midnight), I have physiotherapy in the afternoon and then I listen to promos. After dinner is when I work on my music, mostly writing ideas or a concept that I want to pursue in the studio.

Talk to us about growing up and living in Argentina, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make? 

As the youngest of four siblings who grew up in a dysfunctional family in the 80’s, this kept me away from home, hanging out with friends in galleries and record stores. Instead of listening to music for kids, I was already listening to industrial music or EBM (Electronic Body Music), and began to follow groups like Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and Nine inch Nails among many others. So, since a very young age, I was already really into the first sounds created only with synthesizers, samplers and drum machines.

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?

When I was fourteen years young, I was on vacation with my father in the US, in Fort Lauderdale. When we arrived at our hotel at night, I realized that across the street there was a huge club with a sign of one of my favorite EBM groups, Front Line Assembly. I had so much adrenaline but I couldn’t say anything to my conservative father, so I waited patiently until he fell asleep and I sneaked out of the hotel, crossed the street and got in line to get in. I paid my ticket and thank God nobody asked me for ID, maybe because I was already very tall for my age, nobody cared. What I didn’t know yet, was that when I was inside, my life was going to change drastically. When I was on that dance floor, I saw the stage and there was a DJ playing the loudest music that I’ve ever heard, having been so young. I knew right there that I wanted to be that guy, in that DJ booth. Later on the band was good, but I was already sold with the warm-up DJ.

You did relocate to the Netherlands at some point along the way, tell us what prompted you to do that and how did it affect your musical endeavors? 

In 2007, when I was in Buenos Aires for a time, I met a Dutch girl that was temporarily there studying. After she became my girlfriend, she wanted to go back to her native Amsterdam. We were very much in love and decided to get married in 2008. When I started to meet some DJs and promoters from the local scene, I had my first gig at the Shoeless Festival in 2010.

What have been some of your favourite venues to perform or attend events at in both Argentina and The Netherlands, and why?

The truth is that “I was never a prophet in my own land” and because I was still a teenager when I went to live in the US where I had this steady DJ gig every Saturday and for five long years. This gig, as I call it, was the best school that I could ever have to learn the foundations of the DJ craft. Some of my favourite venues in Amsterdam are Paradiso, Recycle Lounge Gallery Club, and Shelter. And of course I have beautiful memories in the iconic club of Pacha in Buenos Aires before it permanently shut down.

Your debut album I Am Everythingis coming out shortly on Musique de Lunes Noire imprint, please tell us about the release and how these tracks showcase your sound.

The release will take place on Beatport, on 11 October. On 10 October it will be launched on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and every other streaming platform. These tracks all represent a retrospective of the sounds I played in the past thirty years and my current vision of my own identity, as a DJ and a Producer listening to music that has somehow influenced me into taking the path to what this album is today.

Tell us how it began to take shape? Im assuming with such a strong album concept that you did have an initial goal of writing an album from the beginning or did this happen organically in a way?

Its inception began with the inspiration by a universal mantra I once received and I liked it so much, for the words and context it included, that I just knew somehow that one day I was going to be able to portray my own vision inspired by this concept. Then in the beginning of the pandemic, not happy with what was happening in the world and the unknown course of humanity, I started to write a text, a novel that for me had more reality than fiction. The story was about this woman from a very distant future and from a much higher dimension, that in her previous life was a human living in this dystopian present on a planet called Earth. She sends an awakening message through space and time, to save humanity explaining that the key was encoded in the music. Then I converted that text into eight chapters, of which I already knew the names and that I had to convert them into music... And that was a whole other job.

The album is quite varied in terms of style and design wise very warm and organic. Tell us about the inspiration behind the album and why it was important for you to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings in a this style of a long play.

The album is quite varied in terms of style and genres yes, all through  my life and career as a DJ I’ve enjoyed and played all these styles and many more, yet for this album I created, I was confined to just a few styles, but the most important and difficult task was that each track (from the beginning until the end, including the Artwork), all had to be linked with a connecting thread.

How did you end up with the final track selection and how did you go about cutting stuff out? There must be a point where it becomes quite difficult letting go of certain pieces?

The final track selection is a direct correlation from the book, 8 Chapters = 8 Tracks. In some tracks I did end up cutting a few minutes here and there but overall, not much was really left out from the planning of this album, I had my vision quite clear since the beginning.

How difficult was it deciding on the flow from a listeners perspective?

It actually wasn’t difficult at all, very humbly I can say that as a Dj I have always been a great storyteller, and as a listener I have learned so much while listening to my favourite artist’s albums as well. What I also had very clear from the beginning, is that I always wanted the album to be both for everyone to listen to it in full, from their cars or their phones, as much as for DJs to play the tracks in their sets.

What does your studio set-up look like? Do you favor physical gear over digital? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of I Am Everything?

My studio set up is simple yet current, I run on an iMac M1 2022, my main tool for this album has been my DAW Ableton Live 11.2, with a Soundcard and Studio Monitors, plus a few Midi Controllers brought along by my great friend, musician and co-producer for this album, Murli Daswani. I do not have any preference over physical or digital gear, I believe that as a music artist we should do the best we can with the tools we have available, and as David Gilmour once said: “It is all an extension of what’s inside your head, the machines we use cannot think for themselves”.

Lets talk about production for a moment, where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play? And was there anything that inspired the album?

Production-wise the impulse for this album comes from me feeling the need, the calling, to make a full album. As much as I could, I wanted to create my best possible musical legacy. Inspired by some of my dreams, my meditations and as I said before, a universal mantra that I once heard which gave me the basis for the album’s vision. I don’t feel nor find that politics have anything related to this album except for that fact that we are all living beings in this present moment and that we all have to transcend and evolve from nothing to everything, and so we are it all.

Walk us through the production process on one of the album tracks, whichever you feel might be the most interesting.

I cannot choose one track, because of the same reason that a father cannot choose one of his children. Instead I will walk you through the production process of every track in this album. I first start with the idea/concept (the name), then thought of its personal story and how it would connect with the album’s thread, then I think of the sound design (how will this track relate to the prior and post tracks), what sounds should I re-use or innovate, what kind of intensity would it have, the bpm, the time length, would it have vocals or not, how much melody or would it be more rhythmic , also how could each track be better than the other without breaking the album’s thread. Last but not least, usually had a reference track aside, of some of my favourite tracks that could also provide some inspiration and influence.

I would guess the writing of the album was a long process, now that its done what are your thoughts reflecting back on the process?

The composition of the album was not quite as long as one would usually expect, I mean it’s always relative to the amount of time one has as a producer. For this album, Murli and I had a fixed dead-line considering he came all the way from Panama City for just 3 months. Even so, we did the album demos in basically 6 weeks! With a strict discipline of working 14 hours a day. The rest of the time was for adjustments, pre-mixing, and sound testings. Then, for the following months I finished the Final Mixing with Arturo Hevia another soul-friend and Master Mixing Engineering. The Message was recorded in Six Senses Studio in Ibiza, Spain by The Inspiratrice, ZOHAR (forever grateful to Unders). While the Angelic yet sexy vocals from I Am Everything were recorded in Lynx Music Studio in Toronto, Canada by AMBER LONG. Overall from beginning to end this album has taken about 6 months to be made. Now that it’s been done and finalized, we can all sit back and relax listening to it… feeling emotionally overwhelmed to witness such a rewarding result, music-wise this album has really over exceeded our own expectations.

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed? And are there plans for this?

(Giggles) I cannot share much about this subject, but I have received offerings from big names and good friends, that together with my dear friend and CEO of Musique de Lune, Jordan Robinson, we are evaluating.

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did or should? Is this something that perhaps depends on who (record label) is releasing it as well?

The digital era has changed a lot the way we perceive an artist’s album but mainly because of the change from physical records (LP, CD, Cassette, etc.) and also the change from Audio File Formats to MP3, etc. It is no longer about the CD booklet or the LP cover which you could touch/play. Also, before it was harder for artists to produce albums because of the need for a whole band, big studios, executive production, and record deals; and now anyone could make an album alone in their room with just a computer, this in turn has multiplied the amount of music out there, and sometimes it is easy for people to ditch you, if you do not push hard on the digital promotion of an album.

Whats the task you enjoy the most when producing and what is something youd rather have taken care of by somebody else?

The task I enjoy the most when producing is having the vision, doing the sound design and composition, sequencing and drawing, and lots of editing; and what I prefer for co-producers to do is most of the recordings, the mixing and mastering.

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?

(Laughs) Oh, this is going to be tough on a lot of friends that I will have to face on ADE ;) … A dream-event where I could choose any 5 artists of my choice for the line up would be: Unders 23-2, Patrice Baümel B2B Hernan Cattaneo 2-5, Guy Mantzur B2B Sasha 5-8.

Whats a book youve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

The book would be Science of being and art of living (T.M), Because I was initiated in Transcendental Meditation when I was 15 years young and it changed my life.
The film would be Enter the Void, because I have read many times the book “The Tibetan book from life and death”, which the movie is based on.

Whats a superpower you wish you had and how would you use it?

Time Traveler, to be able to go back in time and make right everything that was wrong in the past.

If you could travel anywhere for one day, all laws and limitations void, where would it be?

Japan.

In your opinion, whats the biggest risk youve taken and what made you do it?

I cannot think of the biggest risk because I have been taking risks since I can remember and doing that keeps me alive!

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Having so many friends that I love and I know that they love me back!

What does the remainder of 2022 and onwards into 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

CELEBRATE LIFE!

Thank you to all the readers from PA, for joining me on this journey that was this interview, love & light!;)

'I Am Everything' is out now via Musique de Lune Noire: https://bit.ly/3ClOcAb

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