Laidback Luke is an energetic character – something you get when you listen to his productions or see him perform live. Take a listen to his tracks (“Pogo,” “Rockin With the Best,” “SAX”) and that infectious joyous energy comes through. Although he’s been producing tracks for twenty years, his work with the different members of the Swedish House Mafia in 2006/2007 really launched him into the stratosphere. His solo tracks, as well as collaborations with everyone from Steve Aoki and Hardwell to Chocolate Puma and Sander Van Doorn, appear in the crates (or on the hard drives) of every big DJ around the world. His label MixMash is a breeding ground for new talent, having helped launch the careers of Avicii and Afrojack, so you know that’s definitely a label to watch as well. His recently released album Focus was created in a month with 16 tracks chosen from the thirty that he created. Not only does it show the breadth of his creative output, it captures the vision of a truly creative soul.
RS: How are you doing today?
Laidback Luke: I am good, I am full of pizza because we did a run throughout the city to try and find the best deep dish pizza here in Chicago.
RS: Where was it?
Laidback Luke: Pranzi’s
RS: Oh that is a great place! I saw your Vlog where you did like 35 gigs in three days for New Year’s Eve. How do you maintain your sanity having a schedule like that?
Laidback Luke: This sounds a little bit spacey but it’s about inner peace which I learn from my kung fu. It’s about healthy living and a healthy lifestyle and that’s the way to do it.
RS: Do you often get to schedule kung fu meetings when you go to different places?
Laidback Luke: Yes I do, I try to make as much time for that as I can because it keeps me in better shape while I’m on the road.
RS: Speaking about being in better shape, “Stepping to the Beat” was in the Vlog and that’s the song with the video of the workout video. If you were to do a kung Fu workout video what other DJs would you have with you in the video?
Laidback Luke: That is a good question. I saw Fedde Le Grand doing a killer burpee routine on his Instagram and apparently he is a master of pencak silat, which is an old Indonesian martial art so he would be in there. Nicky Romero has a little bit of a jiu jitsu background and Henry Fong’s uncle is a famous kung fu hero, so they would be in it too.
RS: Wow. Last time that we spoke was in 2013 and I remember asking you if you had an artist album coming. At the time you said that you would rather do a song every two months rather than have 12 months in between a 12 track release. What was the change that made you do Focus?
Laidback Luke: I wanted to try to make and a full album in one month and so I did that. I made 30 tracks in 30 days and from those we picked 16 tracks which ended up being the album.
RS: I love the variety, I especially like the chill tracks like “Won’t Break This” and “Wudang,” how did you explore this side of your personality?
Laidback Luke: That side is always there, I just don’t get the chance to play that out very much. When I listen to music in my car it is very diverse and I am a very diverse person. The beauty of an album is that I am able to put out stuff like that.
RS: Of the 16 tracks how many of them do you think that you will play in a two hour set?
Laidback Luke: Well obviously the chill out tracks will be very hard but I have been playing out a decent amount, probably about 5-7.
RS: Which song gets the biggest reaction off the album?
Laidback Luke: Probably “Mic,” the collab with Yellow Claw. It grabs back to the sound that people know me for, the dirty talk type of remix style.
RS: Yeah that whole ADHD style where it changes rhythms all throughout, I love that track. This is a little bit controversial, “Let it Go” is your first single for the album and it was kind of confusing because it really doesn’t sound like what you would expect a Laidback Luke track to sound like.
Laidback Luke: That is interesting, we tried bringing this style to the radio and they said that it sounded too much like Alesso and that they already had him. What they don’t realize it that Alesso was influenced from tracks like “Leave The World Behind.” I might say that I was one of the founders of this type of progressive, vocally type of style and for me to not be able to do it and for people not to link me to it is a little bit frustrating. Either way it is definitely something that I really love doing and making and will continue to do so.
RS: What is coming next? I saw you in the studio with Vassy.
Laidback Luke: Yeah, we have made some out of the box type of stuff and I might test it tonight. There is a lot of stuff coming, this week I was in touch with a very big DJ and we made an underground collab. I am not going to say the name yet but I am going to test that one tonight as well.
RS: What is the strangest question that you have ever been asked in an interview?
Laidback Luke: Probably this one. Actually usually my interview questions are quite normal but I am not opposed to any questions.
RS: We just started the new year. Talking about resolutions, goals and dreams, is there a singer or a rapper that you would like to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
Laidback Luke: I’ve always wanted to do something with Justin Timberlake and work together with Timbaland but right now I am really focused on collabs that come easily. I don’t like going through difficult management and contracts and all that kind of stuff. The thing with Vassy this week and the big name DJ is something that came very organically.
RS: I loved the b2b set that you did with Yellow Claw, if you could a b2b with any other DJ who would it be?
Laidback Luke: I want to say A-Trak but I am too scared of him, he is too good.
Laidback Luke: I look up to him, I am a hobby type of scratcher. It’s funny because I am in Chicago and Chicago has roots of scratch DJs and actually Bad Boy Bill is coming today as well. I really look up to him and I actually used to do a back to back with Bad Boy Bill, it was one of my break through sets actually.
RS: Wow. If Gina would have won the power ball how would your life have changed?
Laidback Luke: Well actually it wouldn’t have because she called me a hater. I was just hating on her the whole night and I was like “we don’t need money, why are you buying this” and she said that if she won it she wouldn’t share it with me, which is funny.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Laidback Luke: Thank you so much for the support, thank you for coming to my shows all these years. Without you there is no me and I can’t thank you enough!
Interview conducted January 2016 at The Mid in Chicago. Photo credit: BearWho?