Dutch underground talent Locklead has been on a roll lately, a constant crescendo that culminated with the release of his debut LP “Square One” on Chris Stussy‘s newborn Up The Stuss label. Hailing from Utrecht, the SlapFunk regular has been one of the most interesting DJs, producers, and live performers as Phreaks Of Visions (alongside Anil Aras) out there over the last couple of years, exploding in popularity last year where his beast “B-Leave” reached the USBs of all the biggest DJs and the ears of many ravers all around the world. We had a pleasant chat with him to know more about his influences, roots, and workflow. Enjoy the read!
- Hey Locklead, we hope you’re well?
Better than ever, thanks for the invitation 🙂
- The Netherlands has been in lockdown again lately, what was the impact of that on your production? How do you see the situation going this year?
Thanks to multiple lockdowns, I’ve been able to rethink my career as a producer and DJ and started to let go of all my boundaries. Without the pressure and constant motion, I’ve been able to make music from the gut feeling again… and boy, that felt good 🙂 Personally, I hope that this situation isn’t going to affect (besides the financial and job losses) the feeling and the need for the dance scene here in Holland. Holland has shown that when the government actually allows clubbing again, we will do so responsibly and abundantly. It just goes to show that the roots of dance music go very deep into our social structure and community.
- We’ve seen a lot of movement and hype around your name lately, do you think now is the time to step up and into the spotlight? Any long terms plans that you’re working towards?
I definitely think this was the time for me to step up. I’ve been searching for my spot as an artist in the scene. However, I realised that it wasn’t the spot (e.g. aiming towards specific labels) I was looking for. The peace and love when producing records as my heart desires meant that the rest came naturally, actually. In the future, I’d like to set up my own label, which will be a new experience across every release, both musically and visually. However, at the moment I’d like to keep the details as a surprise, of course 😉
- Where does your sound take inspiration from? It seems to be harder to be very distinctive nowadays…
I get inspiration from many things, but mostly clubbing in my early 20’s. I primarily partied here in Utrecht of Amsterdam. I remember going to my first SlapFunk party ten years ago, and the intensity of it shook me. The sets from Samuel Deep heavily influenced me significantly, and later on, parties with names like Francesco del Garda, Reiss, Boris Werner.
- What came first, DJing or production?
Production. As a teenager, I started making hip-hop beats in FL-studio, just exploring sounds and plugins. During my time enjoying and exploring techno and house parties, I shifted my production towards electronic music.
- Enzo playing B-Leave in fabric must have been a blast, what’s the story behind that tune?
Ooff yes, that really felt good. There was a time when I wasn’t feeling the production flow anymore, so I bought a synth on the second-hand market; the Korg Karma. It had a preset with the famous organ synth, and I started experimenting with new musical scales – this was the first pattern I made with that setup. I roughly sang the vocals into my Macbook Pro microphone, and with some editing, the track stood pretty quickly. After that, I started sending it around, and it got played a lot by my good friends such as Brawther, Tristan Da Cunha, Samuel Deep. The fact is was released on Dungeon Meat was another bucket list thing checked 🙂
- Tell us (muuuuch) more about your latest album “Square One” on Chris Stussy’s label: track titles, gear used, inspirations… everything!
Where to start 😛 Let me start by saying that Niels (Chris Stussy) always believed in my more house’y side and always asked about my tracks. When the pandemic began, I nearly gave up on music. I actually re-schooled myself again to be a designer. But somewhere along the way there was this void, and apparently I felt the urge again to start making music. I started experimenting with all kinds of different instruments, scales, tempos, sound treatment… and suddenly felt massively inspired. I sold all my gear as I felt it slowed me down too much, and it was the best decision I made in years. The studio I’m in has a Nord Stage Piano in it, I’ve made a lot of progressions with that synth, but that’s the only piece of hardware you’ll hear on the record. There are two tracks I’d like to point out. First, “A Gloomy Morning In The Red Box” begin a reference to club Bret in Amsterdam. I made that track with those after-parties in mind, being the perfect track to play at that time. The second track is “Lac de Marcenay”, which is a reference to a campsite I’d used to go to with my family when I was a kid. That track resembles good energy and some nostalgic vibes for me, and that purely reminded me of long vacations in France 🙂
- What sound do you think will be prominent in the next years? It looks like the ‘minimal deep tech’ movement is slightly losing momentum?
Hmm, I think house is making a comeback. Maybe not with the obvious pianos and saxophones, but I think we’ll definitely hear a lot more spacey tracks with distinctive melodies and leads.
- We’ve never seen a Locklead track “feat. XYZ” (apart from your Phreak of Visions project with Anil Aras) – what are your thoughts on collaborating with other artists?
Good question. I never really thought about that. I believe chemistry is the most important thing for me, as music is super personal. The first real and natural studio chemistry I’ve encountered the last few months is with Stussy. We actually rented a house in the woods and made some music there above all talk a lot about music and other stuff. That stuff might see the light of day someday 🙂
- Who’s your main reference and inspiration in the dance music scene now? And a rising talent we should keep our eyes on?
I primarily listen to DJ sets on Soundcloud or Youtube and take inspiration from the best ones. The element of a DJ surprising you with new sounds is more significant when it’s an artist you keep following. I like Nolga (Elliot Colgan) a lot lately; every time I’ve played a track of his, the crowd loves it.
- How does your studio look like? What is the most important piece of gear you own?
Nowadays pretty basic. I try to have as little cluttering of cables and routings. Those things distract me most times from making a track fast enough to finish it. Right now, it’s two 8 inch M-audio’s, Model Cycles (for some random sounds), Behringer Crave (nasty little monosynth), and a nice big screen. Some years back, I made the switch from Ableton to Bitwig, which was easily one of the best decisions ever. Best DAW out there, hands down.
- If you had to throw away your laptop tomorrow, would you be happy to be producing entirely in analog?
I’d buy a new laptop 😛 Gear has the effect of jamming for way too long and thus losing the idea of the track. I love analog gear, don’t get me wrong. In the future, I would love to have storage space and to be able to bring out a different synth every month to keep myself limited and inspired.
- You’ve released very few tracks as Locklead, especially between 2014-2020, and I think you’ve finally found your own sound. How important is the quality over quantity motto for you?
Very important. When I just started releasing music, I did it with no plans, which is good and bad. The good part is I felt no boundaries, and the bad part is that I’ve released some poorly produced music or tracks that weren’t well-considered. After that, music was a little frustrating to me. I think I was in a position where I overthought about people or labels having to like it and making music lost its fun. Quality over quantity is important, but you need a balance. I could drive myself insane cherry-picking every track and working on the details, but music gets lost this way. So I try to think less and feel the most when producing and releasing 🙂
- And what do you think is the point where an artist should be able to release their stuff without falling into a kind of fear that his material is not up to the task and therefore ending up not releasing anything?
Well, I kind of answered that in the question above 😛 But I want to say this to every producer out there; be the best of YOU. Failing is a part of the process, and people will reward you when you try something different and it succeeds.
- What’s your biggest musical goal, dream, or secret wish?
If you ask me this question every month, I’ll probably answer this different every time. I try to be careful with goals, as the journey itself is the reward. My biggest musical goal is to be recognised and respected for my craft and make as many musical friends as possible. I have this dream of doing a live set with all kinds of gear in the middle of the crowd, with all sorts of visual eye candy.
- As an Italian, I admire the Dutch movement because of the tight bond that many crews have together. What do you think is the reason behind?
Hmm, I’m not really sure. Dance music has always been a big, big part of the Netherlands. Being such a small country with a lot of people made it easy to connect with peers and people.
- Do you have any other passion apart from music? If Locklead wasn’t a musician, he would have been a…
Somewhat of an illustrator, I think. I have always been a fan of art and the way it makes you feel 🙂
- Any final shoutout / special greetings?
A big, big shout out to Stussy for giving me a spot on his label, which has been a gateway to a lot more people. Another big, big shout out to Dungeon Meat for doing their thing and giving ‘B-Leave’ the best home I could imagine. And special greetings to everyone all over the world, keeping the love for dance music despite the pandemic we’re in; after this, we’ll unite more than ever! <3
Words by Francesco Quieti