Hailing from Waterford, (IE) Scenedrone has developed quite a reputation in the Irish techno scene over the past 4 years. All his productions, DJ sets and label's outputs have a distinctly dark, industrial and experimental sound, sustaining constant head-banging.
It was a pleasure to collaborate with his label Variance on an event in Dublin earlier this year.
We chatted to Luke to herald in the 152nd edition of our Loose Lips Mix Series, which includes music released on his amazing label, Variance.
We warn you...Luke doesn't hold back. It was great to let a self-diagnosed 'ranter' let loose...
Luke, when did techno first enter your life?
Techno first entered my life at the age of 14, when I went to my first 'house party'. I remember it well, it was more of a rave then a house party - there were two music rooms, one techno, and one hard dance. To be totally honest at that time I did not know one DJ from another but it was when I started to get into Techno...I spent very little time in the hard dance room. It didn’t feel like something I was into.
So from age 14 to now, why has it stuck with you?
It has been with me since then because that was my first real music experience, I had been to teen rock gigs before but nothing compared to that party, it was just nuts, the music was Incredible, the people were kinder, and also I became quite intrigued to find out who I was listening to in that room that night so I kept hanging with the group of people and started to learn more about who was who, and what was what. Things were different back then we are talking 15 years ago! Hard to believe really!
Things were different back then, techno was different, it wasn't as flooded as today, and almost everyone played Vinyl, you might see one CDJ there too, but no laptops at all! I then proceeded to purchase my first set of turntables at the age of 17 when I got my first job. Not long after that point everything went digital, so i kind of regretted buying the decks. Also, I had been producing music since the age of 15, just it wasn't that good...it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't anything you would play out. I knew i loved doing it, and wanted to learn more about producing and sound engineering. Initially, I wanted to be a sound engineer, as I felt being a famous DJ would be ridiculous - maybe I was right, because I struggle to get regular gigs these days, but when I was younger, 18-23, I was playing all the time, and as much abroad as in Ireland.
Also when I learned to beatmatch on my decks i sold them soon-after, because i wanted to play my own tracks and I could not justify paying 10 euros for a record with just 1 track that I wanted to play. I don't consider myself a DJ really, I'm an engineer/producer and I felt that I wanted to pursue that, and like I mentioned I had been messing with DAWs from the age of 15.
Somewhere along this journey, you found industrial techno. From your own productions and the label's output, it's clear this is where your current leaning is. At what point did this inclination emerge and why?
That's a complicated question really. It wasn't until I started Variance and Scenedrone coming up on 4 years ago that my music would have been considered 'industrial'. I always preferred to be on the 'experimental' spectrum of Techno, even though at a younger age I was Influenced more by other artists and my friends. So I tried to do what was 'in' at the time and I never really enjoyed that as much as just doing what I want - I don't think trying to replicate something is a great idea. I think when it's no holds barred it's better, and no matter what bpm you produce at, you can pitch up and down to suit your needs, and when I switched to 100% digital I could rework things to suit my set time etc...Now, I plan for a 3 hour set if I’m playing for 90 mins, so I can have a read of the crowd and play the music that I feel they will react best to. If I'm warming up for someone I will take that into account, and not smash it obviously, but warming up is harder than headlining to me, due to the fact it’s considered more respectful not to go too far with your set and leave the following DJ with nowhere to go, but at the same time you learn a lot about how to work the crowd in different ways while warming up
Back to the point, I never really said "I'm going to make Industrial techno" but a lot of what I put out is now labeled as such. I don't always agree with that label though. Industrial techno was one thing once, now it's totally different - genres evolve and so do artists. I believe it was just an organic progression - I love the heavy stuff but not too fast, and even at the end of me working for Gobsmacked and under the Luke Creed releases, you could hear it happening. I was sick of my older stuff to the point that I couldn't listen to it anymore. I am not that way anymore, as I felt I learned from it, but I needed a change, and Variance was that change. I consider that an Industrial Techno label, BUT at the same time we will release an EP like the Æmris one earlier this year which was not so. I am not afraid to do other things - I don't want me nor the label to be pigeonholed, you will find vast variety in our back catalogue.
Okay, interesting. Even if not exclusively industrial though, there is definitely a rebellious streak. You call yourself a 'dissenter'. Do you think dissenting and techno are one and the same?
No, I do not. I think certain artists adhere to what is popular all the time - they switch their styles so they keep touring, its why i think the scene is clogged, and all the festivals have the same headliners and have had for years. Yes we have people that break through, but it's like every 5 or 6 years there will be a shift in the scene, but it's usually taken on board by the DJs that have been at the top all along, like Awakenings in Amsterdam is a good festival, but they ALWAYS have the same headliners, for as long as I can remember. Well, this year and last year I payed no attention to it, but was glad to see Blawan on the bill but they still have Clarke headlining one room, they STILL have a bloody HardTechno/Schranz room, I think that is the most horrendous music that claims to be techno. Its utter crap - when it first happened fair enough, but now it's just the same as Hard Dance, and does not belong at any Techno festival - you can play 150 bpm techno if you want, but when it goes to that cheesy crap, I'm out of there, it's the opposite of dissent, it's adhering to what it is. Same goes for Minimal and Tech-House in my opinion, though I guess there is variety there, I just don't hear it because I don't like it, but I used to like Schranz at first (I was younger haha) but minimal and tech-house just always make me cringe. I remember being at I Love Techno before it was absolutely awful like it is now...it was on the way to being awful, but it still had more than one Techno room. I was there with a group of friends and they all loved Minimal, so we HAD to go into the Minus room - i couldn't stand it! I was asking my good friend of the group "can we leave please?" then Hawtin came out to start his segment, and the whole place erupted cheering, all the guy did was walk onto stage, I was like that's strange. He took control of the decks and it was awful i dunno what he was playing, it was about 122 bpm, and I just couldn't hack it. Everyone was fawning over everything he did, and he wasn't doing much, I actually ran out of the room even knocking someone over, I thought it was so bad, sorry to that person, but not sorry too, because you were in the minus room! At the time, to me, Minimal was the commercial woe of electronic music. Then EDM happened! But I still think that tech-house and minimal reduce the number of Techno events across the world. I don't understand it at all, it's like chill-out boring and adheres to too many rules, music by the numbers. It's just like pop music or EDM in my mind!
So 'these areas that claim to be techno' aren't dissenting in your view then. But do you see techno, in and of itself, in its roots or true form, as something political and rebellious?
It has become very political of late, and was in the early days, because the cops hated it...illegal raves and such. I think that those particular genres I talked about above are just formulaic and so can't be dissenting really, but I guess they would say the same about 'Industrial Techno or just good old 'Techno'.
Other genres were a counter culture - old skool rave music, acid house and EBM. It has become VERY political again of late and to be fair, it always was because the powers that be don't like people coming together and enjoying themselves and realising everyone isn't a cunt.
Recently we had the attempted closure of Fabric in London of course. And you were just in Ireland Freddie and you saw first hand that we had to shut off the music at 3am Even to the countries that can go to 6am it's still controlled, and even when I played in Bavaria, the promoter said he has to stop at 6, and there were cops outside when we left. Whereas when I played in Berlin one time, for the closing set, 2 hours in, halfway through my 3rd hour, the staff kindly asked me if I would stop - they did not insist, they requested. That's only the variety in one country.
Up north (Northern Ireland) the licensing is stricter then down south as far as I know. So yes electronic music is political in nature. Sunil Sharpe used to run a site called "Give Us The Night", and why shouldn't we have it if we want it? Its our time. The daytime just isn't always ideal for techno and some other forms of electronic music.
Cool, so moving on to your own productions, you have 2 main aliases - Scenedrone & Luke Creed. Please give us a brief introduction to both, and explain IF and HOW they differ...
Luke Creed is my real name as you know, and has a lot more history than Scenedrone, though I feel the Scenedrone alias has achieved as much, if not more, in less time. My illness has stopped me touring and often even producing or running the labels, so the lack of gigs is not an indication of anything I believe. I literally have a disability, debilitating arthritis and I shattered my heel 2 years ago, and was unable to walk for 18 months - it is only in the last 6 months that I can walk and even in the last 6 months it has had its ups and downs. I used to take it for granted but then when it's gone, what was once taken for granted becomes all you want again. Also it led to depression (and that has not just flown away, I still get down and was considering packing it in not even a month ago), so in all honestly that has been hard to shake. Then when I could get to work, it led to a lot of my tracks from either pseudonym sounding very angry, so there was crossover due to issues I had. It all ended around mid April this year - now if I get low, I don't produce at all - I'll master or whatever but that's besides the point.
My last track on Variant as Luke could've been a Scenedrone remix, that is because it was made during that period I describe above. The latest stuff by me as Luke Creed (always weird talking in third person) would be the track on Advanced (Black) called Hyperion, or the one off on the last VA on Variant called Apollo. It is a funny coincidence that both those tracks have names to do with greek mythology...well Hyperion was picked by the label owner because the EP track names were all Greek mythical figures....and then the other Apollo track release was named months ago. Now though, I don't do EPs as Luke anymore, and I don't plan on it, but wouldn't write it off either.
I release less often as Scenedrone - 1 EP a year, some tracks for free, one or two on a VA, and some remixes. The sound of Scenedrone is definitely more abrasive, and at a gig or in a podcast, I'll do things a lot differently. With a Luke Creed DJ set you get more four on the floor, and usually a slightly lower tempo, and usually I will play the set at a fixed bpm or over the range of 2 (e.g.130-132) and I would play more melodic stuff - however, I have not done a podcast in over a year as Luke Creed but I have one coming up sometime in the coming months.
I think more of the readers will know the Scenedrone vibe, maybe not? I do whatever I want as Scenedrone - I can start a set with some track nobody will ever know, and can bring my mixes up in tempo from 120 to 140 and back down again. I just like to do more experimentation, and to be totally honest it usually goes down well. I have played few gigs with that pseudonym because of my illness, but the response each time has been superb. I think people prefer my Scenedrone sound, but a lot of people don't know I'm the same person - they think Luke owns Variance, and Scenedrone is an artist on Variance, which isn't a lie, and I don't mind people not knowing or knowing. I don’t try to hide it, but i don't try to make a big deal of it either. The main thing is Variance, and of course Variant Electronic.
Okay interesting. You've performed alongside some amazing acts before. Who has impressed you the most and why?
Neil Landstrumm or Paul Birken, because they are both absolute perfectionists. Musically, they are both geniuses. Landstrumm played everything. Birken has just been brilliant each time I have seen him - the best techno live act in the world in my opinion. Got to also give Sunil Sharpe a shout out there too - the man is an immense DJ. Also, my good mate Handsome Paddy - he plays great music, check him out, not techno.
Okay cool. If you had a tip for an up & coming producer who would love to play alongside these guys in the future, what would it be?
Keep working, and don't let your ego get out of whack, be honest with yourself and others. It definitely takes longer that way but it's more honourable. I could make a cynical remark here too but I won't.
Great advice. You were close to quitting music recently though. How come? And what made you take your own advice and keep going?
Well it wasn't my own advice, if left to my own devices I think I would have stopped. Things got crazy. I have had countless experiences with people that are just not nice, some get resolved, others couldn't ever. I was dealing with assholes who didn't know what I was going through. I found that everything I was doing was about or for, other people. Really, I should have been focusing on myself. I still do believe that I should be focusing on my own health more than I was. There are other aspects, like financially, because I can't really gig much. I can play the odd gig, but the travel kills me and being unable to work is not easy when you're running a label or trying to do music. You need a part time job to supplement the low money when things aren’t going so well!
But then what made you keep going? Do you think that music or the industry is an addiction of sorts?
It is in my blood yes, I think even if getting out of the industry happened I would still continue on as a hobby, but it wasn't that.
It was my family, my good friends, artists that are on the label and know me, and even ones that just know of me, when i went awol for awhile I came back to messages sent via promo feedback from some people I thought never would know who I was, people I really respect, but most of all my Girlfriend encouraged me, she half runs Variance now. Also, the break away, and coming back to you guys at our party was a great pleasure, I was really in a strange place and I got a dose of reality, visiting my father for the first time in 3 years, and when we had our party, that it's not all bad vibes and people taking advantage, or wanting all the money possible. My mind and gut was telling me it's best if you don't pack it in. Otherwise the fools win.
Fantastic, so you've pre-empted my next question with the mention of Variance and the wonderful work your girlfriend has started to do. Please can you briefly summarise the ethos of your label Variance?
Our ethos is hard to define, its ever changing in my mind, but our intention and point is to bring the best music & ideas to the table whilst turning those tables upside down, regardless of artist stature, it's not about money, as you can tell by then over 35 free tracks you can grab on our Bandcamp! There is no single sound or vibe, it’s unhinged, you will not get bored of the label. If you do I failed!
Okay, and how did it all begin?
"Born out of necessity", that was our original tagline! To expand on that, I was sick of what i was doing, and needed a change, me and another of my friends decided a label was the change I needed, also he had some wicked tracks and then I made some new sounds, the pseudonym was actually organically thought of, if that makes sense, I didn't sit and think for hours, we were partying and before drones were toys you spy on your neighbours on I said "I'd prefer to just be a Scenedrone and drop bombs on every scene" we were a bit fucked and we laughed for ages and then I said, "one day that will be my alias". Then when we thought of the name for the label contacted Mael and Myler who are local to me and did our first EP, the rest is history!
Amazing, walk us through some of the other artists you've worked with and highlights of your journey.
Well in the decade there has been a lot, I know i could never credit everyone my brain would overload, I have really enjoyed my time at Gobsmacked Records with Diarmaid O Meara, the first guy to give me a release, we did a lot of work together, I did a lot of collaborations with Millhouse & they all seemed to turn out very well, admittedly at the end I was more than eager to start my own label, but we had some really great times, D-LE of Heaven to Hell records was a great guy, and gave me great opportunities, not so well known, but anyone who does know him knows him very well, kind of guy. I loved working with 1.125.X1, but he went his own way even though i think we were just getting started, and I have really appreciated and loved the work that Interferon has done with Variance and myself, he is a really nice guy and I believe if he stops making artwork for us, we have to stop the label. It's been an honour to work with absolutely everyone on both labels, even the few that i don't have an active relationship with anymore, i believe that everything happens for a reason, and I'm usually easy to make amends with.
Sweet. And what plans do you have for the future?
Ah well the next release on Variance is from Detention, with remixes from scenedrone and Drvg Cvltvre, Then on Variant we got an EP from a new artist named STUPR all originals, and i implore you
And Variance isn't your only label. Variant Electronic. How are they connected and what are the contrasts?
As you know, Variance does not take demos, Initially Variant did, and was more for younger artists I really like that are forced to be on really bad labels that just use and abuse them and it was a platform for me to release some Luke Creed material, since then we had a great album from the experienced C-System, tracks from RVDE & other older and more established artists, but now Variant doesn't take demos either and we are closing to make it exclusive to a number of artists, just to help raise the profiles of some really nice artists.
Variance Music is both labels and soon to be other things, the connection is that some artists that have started on VE have gone on to Variance, and will be featuring heavily, It's good to have young people contacting etc. but I think we have enough now!
Thanks man. I feel like we've really well covered techno, your own productions/DJing and your labels. The one last topic I wanna discuss is Ireland. We were lucky enough to visit there last weekend for our collaborative event with you, celebrating Rico Casazza releasing on Variance. We had a great time ! Can you give us an insight into the techno scene in Ireland and maybe more specifically in Dublin, where we played?
That was our last gig in The Sound House, glad we got the vids. They are no longer doing electronic music sadly, The scene in Dublin healthy, but it's very competitive, there is always competition, and festivals ALL THE TIME, but that's a good thing, shows that it i healthy, but as a promoter it's always a risk putting on a gig, it could be rammed or empty. If you have a bill of locals, or the best international artists and it depends, always. That being said, it's definitely healthy.
Does the passion spread around the nation do you think?
100%, I'm from Waterford, the south east of Ireland and Alan who is my partner in crime with Operator is from Kilkenny which is up the road from me, so that would tell you, the scene is healthy throughout the country it can sometimes be a bit same-y though, but in my opinion Waterford my hometown is awful.
Please can you share 2 hidden gems of Ireland's music scene with us?
Artists, I guess Skin (and his trio live electronic act NRHEISk), and Mael. The lads are seriously underrated, but I don't think Mael really wants to do it, where-as Skin is eager to get music made and released.
Do you like chicken nuggets?
Well, this sucks haha, I can't eat them, I have to be on a special diet due to my condition. I do like chicken though!.
P.S. - Luke will be playing in London in February 2018!