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Luke Slater: Nothing Can Be Considered Underground Anymore

Author: Skrufff
Monday, September 24, 2001
"I've always wanted to take techno out of its anal spiral, because I don't think it's meant to be like that at all." So says Luke Slater, British DJ and techno pioneer, whose name first emerged from Brighton's manic dance scene of 1989. Remaining passionately committed to techno, Slater has consistently stretched its musical boundaries and today remains one of the genre's biggest names.

Signing to Novamute under his own name in 1997 (after years recording as Planetary Assault Systems and 7th Plain), he debuted with "Freak Funk", and its unique blend of hard and funky beats, signalled his arrival as a true star of techno. His Novamute follow up album, 1999's Wireless saw him developing his sound still further, embracing electro alongside his Brighton meets Detroit signature style. 2 years on (and 12 years since he first started his career) there remains a lot more to come. His imminent, still untitled artist album is due to come out on Novamute's older and bigger sister label, Mute, these days best known as the home of Moby (and Depeche Mode). In the interim, he also releases his first ever DJ mix compilation 'Fear & Loathing', a double CD collection coming out on React shortly. Skrufff's Benedetta Ferraro tracked him down to a studio one lunchtime recently, where after much indecision he agreed to put his tuna-fish sandwich to one side for a chat.

Skrufff: Why have you waited 10 years to release your first DJ mix album-

Luke Slater: "On the one hand, I've been extremely busy and on the other, despite all the offers, I've always been deterred from the idea, because I feel that DJ mix albums should be done in the right way. To me, mix LPs should give a flavour of what the DJ is about, rather than offering a compilation of tracks that you'll never hear the DJ playing in a club. They also shouldn't be too polished or contrived, and that's why I've kept 'Fear & Loathing' very real. We've only cut a couple of tracks out, other than that it, was only three decks recorded straight on to the tape. Listening to the finished product, I feel it captures two sides of me, both of which I love."

Skrufff: As a genre pioneer, how do you regard techno these days-

Luke Slater: "The whole discussion about techno is old news- I am a club DJ. The whole dance music scene has merged so much that nothing can be considered underground anymore, not even techno, which is good. It's great that techno is played in clubs, that it has a funky side to it and doesn't only go through what I call the 'dark and dingy' routes. That's always been something I wanted to do; to get techno out of its anal spiral, because I don't think it's meant to be like that at all."

Skrufff: Personally I've always considered your sets more girl-friendly. . .

Luke Slater: "Sure, I like to see a few girls around the DJ both, not just blokes…"

Skrufff: Chris Cowie whose track "Frisky" is also featured on CD1 said recently that 'DJs who can't make records have no future'. Do you agree-

Luke Slater: "Not, really. I don't think the two should necessarily go together. There are DJs who play out, make records, and do both very well. Then there are good DJs who cannot make good records. There are good musicians, who try to be DJs too, but aren't any good at it. To me it's all about natural ability. People should realise that fact, even though being involved in both activities can be advantageous for getting your name put about."

Skrufff: When "Freak Funk" came out on Novamute, back in 1997, you appeared to have jumped from semi-obscurity to the limelight almost overnight. How much control over your life and career did you feel you had at that point-

Luke Slater: "I'd be lying if I'd say that there wasn't a lot of 'other business' going on at that time, though there always is in this game. Writing the album is one part of it, and then you're supposed to deal with all other stuff related to it, that basically gets in the way of writing m