Luke Standing has been devoted to electronic music since his university days promoting club nights in Bristol, UK, inviting the like of Scuba, Asusu, Pangaea, and Sigha to perform. Dubstep's fringes provided a portal into techno, and, with that Berlin, production, and a record collection.
Standing's first releases as Furesshu and Esoteric experimented with swung and atmospheric techno, taking him to Germany where he launched his latest project, Blue Hour, with 2013's Flow State EP, released through his label of the same name.
In the half-decade since then, the project has blossomed and is now responsible for several pivotal records with a distinctive sound driven by the spirit of the '90s. It took only a quick flurry of releases for him to attract the attention of some of the genre's leading artists and institutions, among them Ostgut Ton, who called on Standing to remix Tobias. Sprinkled through the label's discography are outings from Patrik Eriksson (a.k.a Dold) and Alpha Tracks, as well as Standing's collaborative project as Tracing Xircles, showing the UK artist's skills in curation and not just production.
Not that these were ever in any doubt. Fuelled by an obsession with the early days of dance music, when genres like trance, jungle, and IDM overlapped, Standing's DJ sets explore a narrative of timeless music. This lifelong investment in his craft has led him to perform at some of the world's most renowned institutions, a long way from his roots in Brighton, nestled on the UK's south coast.
Standing's XLR8R podcast is a taste of upcoming music from himself and the label. About one-third of the music is either out via Blue Hour or is coming up, and there are lots more exclusives, tied together with some classics. "The direction I took was fast and trancey to complement what's happening this year on the label, with a nostalgic, "outer-world" touch," Standing explains.
What have you been up to recently?
I’ve been spending a lot of time outside of Berlin this year traveling, exploring scenes and playing shows. I started the first two months in Georgia and Azerbaijan, which was an unforgettable experience that also helped me to focus my intentions for the year and plans for developing my label.
Being there reminded me of the first times I visited Berlin, because things felt fresh and exciting. It’s not the music that gets me, although there is some proper talent there, but rather the energy of the people and social change that is happening. I met a lot of interesting and genuine people, and it wasn’t so trend-driven with the fake characters that Berlin can tend to attract sometimes. The atmosphere there gave me a rare feeling that I didn’t think I would experience again, so I can’t wait to go back.
I also spent extra days in Copenhagen connecting with local producers Repro and Sugar. I visited their studios and learned a bit about their production processes, which was really inspiring. They both have fairly similar hardware setups and help find solutions together with workflow and connectivity which is of great value. In Europe, they are a well-known crew that a lot of people are talking about, but what I like about Copenhagen right now and the Fast Forward crew, in particular, is that they have built something successfully for themselves rather than trying to fit into something that already exists. They are passionate about their local scene and have grouped together at the time of the celebrity DJ and the "business techno" industry that we now have.
I notice more exchanges among different crews happening and working together, which is really cool. That, in my opinion, is the future of techno, and it's bringing things back to its roots and is a more inclusive and authentic experience, rather than feeding egos of festival headliners. I guess you can say I’ve been looking for new inspiration and to learn more about different scenes and have dedicated more to certain places when gigging. In addition to those trips, I also took some time out visiting Lisbon as well as central Portugal. I spent most of my time in nature writing new music away from city life.
Talk to me about your journey into techno: what led you into music?
My journey started through collecting records and running a party in Bristol around 2008-2009. I promoted artists who were operating on the fringes of the dubstep scene like Scuba, Asusu, Pangaea, and Sigha. This led me to discover techno, mainly through remixes. Then I began obsessively collecting more records and began frequently visiting the clubs in Berlin to fulfill my desire to experience the nightlife that was so under-represented at the time in Bristol. It felt like the modern epicenter of techno so I wanted to immerse myself in it, develop there as an artist, and connect with a strong community of like-minded people. To an extent, I feel I have achieved my original goals but I face new challenges all the time; the city is constantly evolving, and this keeps you on your toes.
How do you find Berlin compares to the UK, in terms of lifestyle and music?
Berlin has a unique hedonistic attitude that is very different from other cities. There’s a greater international feel now than when I moved eight years ago. It has attracted a lot of people, especially because of the recent popularity of the techno genre. The cost of living has shot up though, whereas before you might consider earning less to have a better quality of life, I believe that’s becoming harder to find now for those looking to be here. In regards to music, there are lots of people producing, DJing, running parties, etc.; it’s a huge community. The feeling is also still fairly raw, underground and diverse creatively, however, the UK has always had something very distinctive about its sound and been hugely influential in its own way.
How do you try to differentiate the techno you make from the rest of the scene?
It’s not necessarily my initial intention to be or sound different, but I guess that’s just sometimes how things pan out. More importantly, I try to just be honest about my experiences with music and where I’ve come. I’m heavily influenced by jungle, for example, and although that may not always be obvious, it’s where a big part of my use of pads and strings comes from, as well as the contrasting energy and balance of dark and light sounds. It’s cliché to say, but everyone’s musical journey is different, however, often people tend to imitate rather than be themselves. There's a lot of interest in electronic music making with various courses or tutorials available but I think it’s more authentic to follow your ears and trust your own judgment; even if you make mistakes along the way, you will eventually arrive at a different place that's maybe more original or unique. No one is telling you how to do it apart from yourself, and I think that’s a big part of developing a sound that's personal and sets you apart.
What do you look for in the records that you release and play? Is there a difference?
I’m much more active in looking for records to play than music to release. Mainly because I’m waiting for people to reach out with demos or would normally only consider people I already know. I try to take the time to listen to everything I get sent though and I’m always interested in receiving demos, even from strangers. I’m not hunting for tracks like I am in my DJ sets though. My selection process for sets is more focused around energizing myself and the dancefloor rather than building a product and revealing a concept or narrative from myself or another artist. It’s not as straight-forward as simply playing out a piece of music you like; it’s a whole other thought process. It’s not like I would only release a certain sound or something but at the same time it has to make sense in some form and feel right; it’s something thats more permanent, like an investment, and it should be carefully considered, especially in a saturated market. It needs to be a statement.
When and where was the mix recorded?
I recorded the mix at home in Berlin back in April. I organized the music in Rekordbox beforehand and then recorded it in a separate session over one afternoon.
How did you select the records that you included?
I wanted to focus a lot of music that's coming or already out on my label this year, and build the mix around those tracks, but also throw in some current favorites and older tracks that I’m often playing out.
How does it compare to one of your club sets?
It’s reflective of a typical club set. This was about showcasing the label and the context I see fit for it rather than a podcast you can listen to at work.
What are your wider intentions with music? Do you have an idea of where you want to be musically?
This past year has been about expanding the label and working with other artists on different projects. I’m looking to continue this more over the next year but I don’t feel like I need to release a certain number of EPs to do so. I want to focus on my own productions, finish more projects, make more collaborations, and continue playing music for people on dancefloors. I think we are in a good position with techno right now: it’s moving forward and becoming more playful, away from the darker attitudes and seriousness that have dominated our dancefloors. We don’t have to bring our complicated lives to the party, only positivity and an open mind.
Due to issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the podcast here.
01. The Source Experience "Quartz" [R&S Records]
02. Blue Hour "Common Ground" [Blue Hour Music]
03. Ekserd "Ravager" [Ravage]
04. Alpha Tracks "Golden Shot" [Blue Hour Music]
05. Vladimir Dubyshkin "Belissimo" [Trip]
06. Mike Parker "Shakuhachi" (The Lost Dubplate Mix) [Geophone]
07. 999999999 "09 09 1999" [K S R]
08. Alpha Tracks "Freedive" [Blue Hour Music]
09. Sematic4 "Dream Kreator" [Dalmata Daniel]
10. Equitek "Skywalker" (Mutation Mix) [R&S Records]
11. Sugar "Make Them Forget" [Blue Hour Music]
12. Blue Hour "Front" (D.Dan Remix) [Blue Hour Music]
13. Disintegrator "Dark Black Ominous Clouds" [Industrial Strength Records]
14. Blue Hour "Shimmer" (Vladimir Dubyshkin ‘Body’ Mix) [Blue Hour Music]
15. Cold Dust "Snakepit" [Red Seal]
16. Photonic "Obscure" [Universal Prime Breaks]
17. Vainqueur "Lyot" [Maurizio]
18. Blue Hour "Radiance/Limelight" (Sugar Remix) [Blue Hour Music]
19. AHXAT "Xema Sabini Pt.2" [Discrete Data]
20. Blue Hour "Introspective 2" (TRANCEMAN2000's Remix) [Blue Hour Music]