Cali-born Percussive instrumentalist, Erik Luebs, has been releasing under the Magical Mistakes moniker for the best part of four years. After starting his own label ,INNIT, inspired by the culture of Japan, he relocated to Osaka and began his artistic expedition. Working with live recordings, his production integrates elements of hip hop, jazz, minimalism and melancholic electronica, which is all held in place by the constructs of contemporary bass music. After recently signing to The Playground Records we are excited to expose his unbridled talent. We spoke to him about his production process, the future of INNIT and Japanese nightlife.
Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?
Today is a great day. I got a lot of sleep.
To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
My sound has lots of texture and pretty things going on. I record a lot of real sounds and space and then mush it around together with lots of electronic tools and software. It’s pretty good if you like dreaming and thinking about things.
That sounds like a fun process. What are the 5 albums and artists that have influenced you the most?
I don’t have a top 5 list. When I was in high school I listened to so much post-rock music. From that era, I’ll select Mogwai – Young Team. Around the same time (15-17) I listened to all the staples of good electronic music: Four Tet – Rounds, Boards of Canada, and so on. Around 18 I was very influenced by minimalist composers like Steve Reich. I love the piece Music for 18 Musicians. Between 19 and 20 I was introduced to a lot of Japanese music. Music like Vision Creation New Sun by Boredoms, folk-psych duo Nagisa ni Te, Kahimi Karie, the Plastics, the Jacks, and so on. That was a good period of intense music discovery. Then around 21 I finally fell deep into hip hop beats and started to snuggle my way into this ‘beat maker’ thing. Lately I am listening to lots of well-known older jazz, soul compilations and then 20th century classical music like Messian and Stravinsky.
It’s been a roller coaster ride for you! What other artists (electronic or non-electronic) do you really like at the moment and why?
At the moment, I like Metome, Yosi Horikawa, and that’s about it. Those guys are both producers in Osaka and Tokyo respectively and are doing really interesting things with rhythm and texture. In the states, I like Kuhn and Shigeto.
You can tell you appreciate rhythm and texture in your production. What are some of the key pieces of gear you use to write your tracks?
Just microphones to record sounds then put them into my computer and work with simple midi controllers and gear that changes depending on the moment I’m in. Up until the last couple months I was doing a lot of recording with guitar. I’m taking a break from that at the moment though and using more sinewaves and simple things. Experimenting with space and understatement as opposed to maximalism. This newer material I’m working on won’t be out though for a long time.
We’re excited to see what time will bring! A large part of your production is focused on percussion. Could you tell us a little more about your musical background?
Indeed! I first started out on the drum set when I was in elementary school and around 13 started studying percussion seriously for a few years. After I caught the computer music bug, I began recording lots of percussion using random objects–mostly because I was moving around and never had access to a full range of equipment.
Although percussion has remained central to your production your style has evolved a lot from a more hip hop-tinged sound. Can you tell us more about the direction your music has come and is going in relation to INNIT records? Any future releases?
That’s true. I think hip hop has taught me a lot about how to construct a beat, how to mix, how to make things groove–but I’ve gradually upped the tempo on my productions. That’s partially due to being around DJ friends who play out a lot of 120-130 BPM tunes.
At the moment I’m focusing on cleaning up some of my productions, finding the sophisticated nuances in simplicity, and generally keeping things a bit more reserved. I am more and more interested in sound systems, and making music where the subtleties of the mix come out properly in the club. That said, I’m very cautious about treading a line where my music can be played at a dance party, but still maintain its own personality.
INNIT and its affiliated label Day Tripper Records have both been very important to the establishment of a scene in Osaka. Every year gets more and more interesting with us presenting a lot more shows around Japan and slowly building a platform where we can take on a more international collaborative role fostering real relationships between artists in the US, Europe, and Japan. My new events/label project Perfect Touch is the newest incarnation of that–putting on tours with mini-releases of music connecting artists from the West to their counterparts in Japan.
In regards to releases I have an EP/cassette coming out earlier winter-ish through small US label Crash Symbols. I got a digital single+artwork thing coming out soon through King Deluxe. I got another EP in the works that is as yet not ready to publicize. I’ve got a remix/vinyl coming out through Tokyo label Phaseworks–part of an EP by my friend Jemapur’s new duo Young Juvenile Youth. I’m putting on tours in Japan through my project http://perfect-touch.us/ And the Osaka crew and I are playing with Shigeto on November 3rd–so if you’re in Osaka check it out http://innitmusic.com
It seems that INNIT largely contributed to the uprising of an electronic scene in Japan. How does the Japanese electronic music scene differ to the British?
The Japanese music scene is on the whole smaller than the UK, but the quality of musicianship and the devotion of the community is really admirable. Osaka’s had some legal issues over the last few years with all-night clubs. This year things have begun to rebound, and many clubs are extending their hours late into the night again. We want to get younger kids out to more shows, but Japanese youth on the whole are consuming vapid pop culture and non-music related media. In the USA, where I’m from, I recall the 18-22 year period of my life as being full of psychedelics and hungry music consumption. I recall many of my peers behaving similarly and that’s affected much of my outlook on life. Unfortunately, this kind of wild, unrestricted, anti-establishment youth culture has not been adequately fostered in Japan, and that’s affected the size of the music community here. I really do love the scene that exists though. There are great little communities in Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Yokkaichi, Nagoya, and of course Tokyo.
Sounds like it could have been a nightmare getting gigs with the licensing laws. What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?
Playing Sonar in Tokyo was fun. Had a terrible terrible soundcheck. I was on the second stage. The monitors on the second stage were a joke. And the subs were at the opposite end of the room, so there was a good 15 millisecond delay on the bass drum. But I’m not a DJ. I play my drum beats on the MPD (midi MPC drum pads), so having a delay is a real issue. I was super pissed about the whole situation. But I reworked my set, monitored on headphones, and seemed to pull it off pretty well. People were diggin’ it.
What’s the worst gig you have ever done and why?
One time I tried to do an improvisational live set in a basement of a house party with a terrible PA system and severe lack of equipment. It ended with me fiddling with an mbira (thumb piano) and a contact mic, trying to keep everything from feeding back, unsure of whether I’d started or was still setting up, and then gave up after 20 minutes. That was awful.
Lastly, could you tell us what your feelings are on the following genres? Classical, blues, Soul, Hip-Hop, Folk, Dubstep and trap:
Classical music is great. I’m no scholar but I listen to a lot of Chopin piano pieces, Stravinsky, Messian, Reich, and more contemporary folks.
In regards to Blues, Again, I’m no scholar. If you mean just the music that was happening prior to the development of Jazz, I’ve not yet taken the time to really dive into it. I’ll just talk about Jazz instead. I really like this spiritual soulful stuff. Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. Man they’re great. All the classic stuff is great too. Lots of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck in my life.
Soul is the best. Seriously. Freddie Scott – Are You Lonely for me Baby. That stuff makes me tear up. Honey Cone – The Day I Found Myself. Man. It’s so emotional and poppy and well done. Most of the stuff I have is all compilations though. These 5-6 disc compilation sets, and some mixes of stuff. I dunno, with studio musicians and singles, it seems an easier way to digest it. Then again, musicians like Curtis Mayfield or the Delfonics are absolutely beautiful and should be listened to as albums.
All i can say about Hip-Hop is duh. Slum Village – The Look of Love. That is all.
I’m not sure about Folk. Does Bill Callahan count? I like Bill Callahan. And I like Daniel Johnston. And I like Johnny Cash. Listen to Daniel Johnston – Some Things Last a Long Time.
Let’s not talk about the UK Dubstep OG culture. That stuffs cool! (but also, honestly, kinda silly. Like–I’ma get my PhD in sound weaponry and then twiddle some LFOs and the scene will be 100% male except for Mary Anne Hobbs….. hahaha! and all the promo shots will be close ups of my stern looking face–because I’m an Artist.) But even more interesting is what’s been called Dubstep around the rest of world. The super heavy nu-metal aggro Dubstep. It’s terrible. Terrible beyond words. I hate this new fusion of jam band hippy culture with sub woofers and bass. O my god. These people rival ICP Juggalos as an unfortunately awful subculture. Like– Burning Man should be cool! And it would be if I didn’t like music so much. The music is awful. Terrible terrible music. I couldn’t go to something like that. I would just feel really bad the whole time. And, I hate this tie die dirt aesthetic. All visuals should look like a James Turrel installation and the music should be thought out and considered. Man… people should just let me do all the art direction for their parties.
Trap is hit and miss for me. It’s unfortunate that music has to have so many sub-genre goofy names. I guess it’s convenient for journalists, but it’s really pathetic. Trap is just beats. And then people get lazy and start using the same 808 drum samples and hi-hat patterns and then they screw it up and make it boring. So yah, same with everything else. I can like some good trap. And not like bad trap. But honestly, I really don’t like using these stupid genre words.
2014 promises to be a good year for Erik so keep your eyes out for future releases and shows. Stream his brand new track ‘Your Face Reflected’ below.