Out Of Context _ Interview With Lag
Lag lets off some steam as his subsekt 035 mix destroys everything in it’s path..
In an age where groove often resides comfortably under a blanket of fog, Lag’s productions and sets could be considered unconventional in comparison, being upfront, energetic and nearly always left of centre. The Serbian renegade has rightly earned his place in the interesting techno category without having to sound like everyone else.
His travels have brought him to Tresor and Exit Festival and he has released on Sect, Teskoba and more recently, Singularity. He’s a cool guy to talk to. Good fun and very passionate about music and what he does. I loved his set from Tresor, which he had shared on his soundcloud page.. and as it turned out, we were both thinking about a mix for subsekt at the same time. Random or what? Coincidences are cool.
Over the course of our conversation, we discussed the difference between music for the body and that for the mind, the endangerment of genres, Umek, Nitzer Ebb, Mills, God and rabbits.Afterwards, we talk about production, arrangement and game development, which is where Lag earns his living in the real world. To finish, Lag tells us about his ‘Applied Mechanics’ release on Singularity and the not so fine balance between work and music.
Hey Lag! You were talking before about the lack of energy in dance music.. Especially the more experimental stuff. You know, the sort that seems to be designed for the mind, headphones, or sitting monged out on a chair haha. Would you tell us what you think about that kind of sound?
Hello John! Good first question to let my ranty side shine. 🙂 You are absolutely right, I do talk about that a lot. Here we go:
Production democratization is a part of the problem. Producers nowadays download some software, do the 4/4 kick, put snare on every second one and hi-hats in the middle and there you have it – enough of an excuse to call something a song. There is no attention to detail which gives the songs that something special, with “something special” here being that which gives the EDM – the D part. Just a bit of different rhythm, velocity finesse, timing offset, or simple shuffle makes all the difference.
The other part of the problem is, well, the internet. There was a point where there was a clear distinction between club music and home listening music. Even though I love listening to Tricky, Tom Waits and Coil, I’m not going to go to the club to listen to that. Why? Because the music is still there no matter how loud you play it, and cranking up the volume doesn’t really improve the experience that much. For this reason I prefer to listen to this music at home, at work and preferably, while sitting down. On the other hand, club music is meant to be energetic and played loud. It can be unnerving when played out of it’s expected place, but in a club it sounds larger than life. Just play Mills’ I9 at normal volume, and then play it in a club. They sound like two entirely different songs, don’t they?
“Back in the day” it was easier to keep these two types of music apart (mostly through vinyl exclusivity), but now that the internet is here and everyone can consume club music, well, the wrong way; mostly by playing it at home and ending up underwhelmed or irritated. This music is changing towards home-listenability and is a compromise which makes me wish that every club had some comfy chairs and free wi-fi.
Now I know I sound like some old man whining about the times long past, but this energy transmission between the speakers and the crowd is the only reason I ever went out. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t do drugs, I don’t even drink coffee or energy drinks. What had me going on the weekends was going to a club which had a good soundsystem and feeling that urge to move. At one point that urge faded away almost completely, but I guess that enough people started feeling the same way because things are definitely changing for the better.
I understand what you mean by “home-listenability”. Are the current BPM’s too slow?
Nah, BPM has nothing to do with danceability of music, or the energy it emits. I was never against lowering of the BPM, only against lowering of the tempo for the already mentioned reason.
If I could describe genres through what people would be doing, techno would be fists in the air and head-banging with sweat pouring, while house would be hip shaking with cocktails in hands. Nowadays I’d get a link from a friend saying “awesome techno”, I press the play button and all I can hear is “people shaking hips, drinking their cocktails”. I’ve got a full Serato folder of new music, and half of it sounds like something I would play to start a set, if you know what I mean. I want more peak-time stuff!
But again, as I previously mentioned, there are more and more producers who keep the energy levels high. I’m not talking schranz, but you know – fists in the air, bodies sweating.
Is it a good thing that production techniques and software has totally changed the music we listen to, or has something been lost in the process? I’m thinking about the difference between some kind of spacy stripped back track with a swirling atmosphere and a shitload of lows, in comparison to something with a raw, primal loop.
I think every change as big as the switch from analog to digital which occurred globally has rough beginnings. There had always been bad music, and good music, and even though digitalization and democratization of EDM provided us with a ratio less favourable for the good stuff, the industry answered with online magazines and forums which are now widely used for “digital crate digging”. These channels help us find the way through the cesspool of “releasable material”, so, after a short problematic period, the situation is back to normal.
Democratization and digitalization did introduce something into modern music, and that is an increased amount of innovation. Never before has the EDM scene been in the place to have to use “post” in genre naming, and taking down barriers is always a good thing. On the other hand, having “unique” somewhere in your release reviews seems to draw much attention (the same way mysteriousness used to do just a few years ago), so next to all the Blawans, Chris Clarks and Death Grips who do it right, there are many people who make music using only field recordings of mating moose recorded by carbon microphones“ or whatever. Post-Moose Step.
Do you think that there is a risk of people not getting to hear the music that has gone before minimal / Post-Moose Step etc.. There is possibly a generation coming soon, or may be here now that will not have been exposed to house music, acid, techno, shit, even early trance, drum and bass OR Hip Hop haha. Even hearing REAL electro today can be difficult in a search engine as the name has been hijacked by a parasitic genre. Does it matter? What are the positives or negatives?
Are you saying there was electro before Justice?!?!? Hahaha, the horror!
I like how these things just happen. Electro was electro for 20 years, and then, suddenly, it is something else. It’s like Mills was techno, Basic Channel and Robert Hood was minimal, and Glenn Wilson was hard techno. Then comes the MNML hype and suddenly that is minimal, Mills is hard techno, schranz is still schranz and I never figured out what hard techno became. Semi-DnB? Post-hard techno?
Now to actually answer your question – some people will listen to the olden stuff and make olden sounding stuff, while some will only hear the new and come up with something like that, or even break new ground. The only thing I care about is club music sounding like club music, and not retirement home music. I don’t think some kid will figure out how to make it danceable through exploring the history books, but might by learning the tools which he has at his disposal. I actually enjoy quite a lot of the trap/footwork/juke stuff, as their “formula” is to use very limited resources in music making (TR-808, a few samplers, maybe one synth), so producers are really competing to get the maximum of it, which often ends in something very club-friendly.