This Radio 1 producer is now focusing on his own career - and launching his own In Tune label
With releases on esteemed labels such as Dopewax, Undr The Radr and Simma Black, Lex Luca has probably cropped up most househeads' radar by now. Or maybe you came across his recent Ibiza Underground mix compilation for Cr2, or stumbled across his show on House FM.
However you first came across the man, if you're a house music lover you probably have at least a rough idea of who Lex Luca is by now. What you might not know is that, until recently, making and playing house music was more of a hobby thing for him. His 'day job' is as a producer at Radio 1, working the other side of the desk from the likes of B.Traits, Gilles Peterson and Pete Tong.
Now, though, this versatile musician - he plays piano, drums, guitar and violin - is stepping out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight in his own right. And on his own terms, too, with his most recent releases coming on his own new label, In Tune.
We figured it was time to find out a bit more....
You've released two EPs so far on your own label, In Tune. What made you decide to go it alone now?
"I've been working towards starting my label for a while now, and it just felt like the right time. Pete Tong had played an unsigned track of mine that had just been turned down by a label, and that same week I spoke with Jesse Rose, who was really encouraging. So it just felt like the universe had aligned to take the next step.
"I'm inspired by all of the other top level labels and DJs out there, and I’m still well up for working with others. Having my own imprint just adds to that: it creates a platform which I can grow, and where I can champion some of the amazing new music coming through."
What sort of release schedule are you looking at for In Tune, and how much music have you got in the bag already?
"Currently I'm looking at releasing every six weeks, depending on what else is happening. This year has been really creative one for me as I've got into a great studio flow, so I've actually got loads of music in the bag!"
You recently mixed the Cr2 Ibiza Underground album, which sold pretty well. What were you aiming to achieve with that mix?
"First up, it was a great honour to compile and mix Cr2’s flagship Ibiza Underground album for 2017, and I'd like to thank Mark, Hiroki, James, Hanna Ellie, Dave and all the crew at Cr2 for all their hard work in making it happen.
"The A&R side of it was really fun. I wanted to tell a story with the music that I was playing in my DJ sets over the summer. My vision was to put together an album that narrates a night out on the glorious White Isle! So there's a flow to the tracks: from warm-up, to sunset, to peak-time, to late-night vibes... and sunrise, too."
I've read that as well as being a producer you're a pretty versatile instrumentalist - tell us a bit about that…
"I've been doing music since pretty much before I could walk. I played the violin to a high standard as a youngster, and performed in orchestras at the Royal Festival Hall and The Barbican. I also played the drums and played in a few different indie groups, which was a lot of fun. That gave me a great knowledge of different styles of rhythms and keeping beats in time, thought for some reason i found it difficult to get on with my neighbours. And I dabbled with guitar and piano, and writing songs too. I never had a great singing voice, though - again, just ask my neighbours!
"Then, aged 15, I fell for dance music, inspired by my mate Steph. I bought my first pair of turntables from him, belt drives with a Limit 200 mixer, and I never looked back! Got into doing pirate radio and squat raves playing techno music... I then put on a party at the now defunct Bagley's, which was my club debut, mustered up enough cash for some 1210s and the rest, as they say, is history!"
Like a lot of DJs you have your own radio show... unlike a lot of DJs you produce other people's as well! How did you get started working "behind the scenes" in radio?
"Yes these days I have a weekly show on HouseFM.net where I showcase the best in upfront house & techno.
"I started working in radio production basically through a friend of mine, Tom. I just started working for free at a production company, doing a variety of stuff from making cups tea for Mary Anne Hobbs to being a runner on the commercial chart show. I learned from some of the best producers in the industry and have been blessed to work with some of the best DJs and on my favourite shows.
"I’d actually done some radio before that point, starting with creating a radio show aged eight with my mate Sam! We borrowed my sister's double tape deck, and I had my single tape deck, and somehow we made some brilliant radio shows. We called in Crucial FM, playing music, telling jokes and reading the news. We even gave out the cassettes at my primary school! I'd also played on some pirate radio as a teenagers, and I also got some great experience with hospital radio and studio radio."
How important is radio to promotion these days, do you think - both traditional radio and online stations?
"Great question. I think radio still has a massive part to play in the music industry. Traditional radio formats still exist and Radio 1 still has a power to break new artists, while key names are trusted as guides to deliver new music and represent various scenes.
"These days I produce B.Traits' show on Radio 1. We supported Alan Fitzpatrick in the early days: he came through the ranks of the show in the Future 12 series. Now he's crossed over to be supported on the other dance shows like Pete Tong and Danny Howard, and he's making tunes with Sasha.
"Obviously the formats have changed and progressed with time, as well as listening habits. And these days there's loads more choice, and key taste-makers. While pirate radio still exists, the internet has created enormous access for essentially ‘local’ radio stations to reach a global audience, which is incredible.
"YouTube is still one of the key spaces for music discovery. Other new forms of discovery, platforms like Boiler Room and Spotify, have also been great for the scene in their own way. The concept of ‘new music’ has altered. I saw some research where some youngsters had ‘discovered’ Nina Simone on Spotify and took it that she was a new artist, which is an amazing concept in many ways. For there to be such an extensive music library literally at the touch of a few buttons is actually nuts if you think about it. And I still believe that great music shines through - just sometimes you need to dig a bit deeper to find it and uncover those hidden gems."
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"Ideas are rolling, it's great to be creating every single day and I'm really loving making music at the moment. I've just released the second EP on my In Tune imprint, Can’t Take It/Jumpin', and I've got some great music that I'm excited about lined up for the next few releases in the first part of 2018.
"I've just done a remix for Mant which is coming on Cr2, plus I have a track on Madtech and also a track signed to the legendary Nervous Records. I'm also making some plans to push In Tune with some label events internationally, plus getting some big remixes and putting together a V/A album full of exclusive tracks."
Words: Russell Deeks
Mant's Piper [Lex Luca Remix] is out now on Cr2. Order it here.