It was tricky getting in touch with the hottest producer these days. But despite the fact that he’s collaborated with big namers like Diplo and Azealia Banks, was featured on Pitchfork, SPIN and The New York Times’ Best Of lists and made crowds go bonkers at massive music fests, Lunice was still more than happy to chat with Fingers on Blast.
Last Friday, the 24-year-old Montreal-based DJ played his first solo set in Toronto, sans his fellow TNGHT compadre Hudson Mohawke, and took over the often too-cool-for-school Hoxton crowd with his infectious energy. It was a grimey, guttural trap-heavy set — the kind where the bass really gets deep down in there to rattle your intestines.
After a series of texts and miscommunication pre- and post-show (“Hey! I’m on in 20 mins, I totally let the wrong person in haha thought it was you”), I finally got the chance to speak to Lunice the following day via phone in his Ottawa hotel room. He sounded like a young Kanye, ahead of the game and ready to take on the world, but more articulate, more inspiring and not a hint of douchebag in his veins. Clear the way for this new guy in town.
How was the Ottawa show?
Oh, it was crazy, pretty crazy.
The Toronto show was insane.
[laughs] Yeah, I went overtime on that one.
I saw your show at the Opera House this past November for TNGHT. What was that like for you guys?
I mean, shit, it was crazy. The venue was packed. It was great to see when we come together, we bring two different crowds. It brings more people in because it’s a bigger project.
This year has been huge for you, especially the past six months since you released the TNGHT EP. Did you ever think in your wildest dreams your music would explode the way it has?
No, never. For years and years, you see in the media people always be successful in music or whatever. They make it look like that all the time, they make it look like it’s easy to do this and that... And when I was young it’s not that I saw through it, it was just, I guess I would thank my mom. She was the one who kept me focused to continue school and focus on work. In the meantime I was just break-dancing and doing graffiti and scratching. Eventually I started beat-making but it was still like anything else, like fishing, it was a straight hobby. For it to blow up the way it did made me understand how good it feels to just do it… It’s easy to express ideas and just be excited about coming up with things. It built from there and just continued. It’s interesting to see.
I remember hearing in one interview you did, you said you were 15 or 16-years-old and you wanted to “try to make music just to see.”
Yeah, exactly. Like breakdancing or anything else. I saw b-boys dancing and I was like, ‘Hey, let me try that out, that looks really fun.’ It always comes purely from something I never really tried but might be able to do.
Let’s talk about the trap genre: we’re seeing this resurgence in Southern rap but this new genre infuses electronic music elements into it. What’s it like being one of the catalysts for this genre? Do you feel any pressure to one-up other artists or continually come up with something original?
There’s not any feel in trying to one-up anybody. I always try to set the record straight — we never really changed anything. We’re basically open-minded hip hop heads. You know, you have your traditional enthusiasts and then you have people like us who are just as much of a hip hop nerd as them but just wanting to know more, curious about more sounds. It’s always been like that. I mean when the hip hop culture started it was weird stuff, people were wearing studs, chains, spikes, they looked almost punk rock-like. And it was all because they were thinking forward, they wanted something different, they wanted to go against the grain. Everybody’s dressing all conservative, let me dress loud and start rapping. That’s what I love about hip hop and rap, it’s because all those artists were always thinking forward... So when the whole trap thing came through I never associated myself to [that genre], I never saw it as a thing where I was like ‘Okay this is my shit, this is gonna be big.’ Never ever thought that. I saw it as fans having fun. Fans just wanting to label things as I would as a fan... To answer the question I could speak for all the dudes in my scene — we’re all hip hop heads and we literally just have the same mindset of wanting to move rap forward chronically.
I think that’s what I love about music or new genres, that transformative property...
Yeah! Sometimes people come up to my face being like, ‘Yo! Trap rave is the next shit! Trap rave is the next shit and it’s gonna be so huge!’... At first when the whole thing was starting you naturally step back because it gets a little out of hand but I always take the time to really look at everything, analyze everything, understand why people are reacting this way, why it came to be and now how I see it is literally just because people want to enjoy their music. I’m just gonna keep pushing how I’ve always seen it. I believe in what and how I see music, how I want to present it, how I want to produce it. I leave it to them to just talk about it however they want. I’m not here to be like, ‘You should think about it this way’...
How did you and Hudson Mohawke meet? Did you see eye to eye when it came to creating the TNGHT EP together?
We’ve known each other for years. He’s from Scotland originally. We played one show in Montreal at one of our parties called Turbo Crunk. That was the first time we met and afterwards we just kept playing at global shows together. One day he just did a remix, a very straightforward rap beat, it was pretty simple. I hit him up straight away and he was down. I was like, ‘Yeah actually let’s make some really straightforward rap music.’ It was a time where we were all making instrumentals but it was just so busy, it wasn’t enough for a vocalist to be a part of it. Not to rap on top of it just to ‘be part of it’ ’cus it really needs to feel like the artist should be a part of the song. So we came to a point where we were just like let’s strip down everything and make it out there.
Take us into the mind of Lunice during the process of making music. Do the beats just come to you? Is it a grueling creative process? Is it heavily mapped out or is it done at the spot?
It literally is pretty much what you said. It is all of that — that’s the process basically. Here’s the thing, anybody who comes up being like, ‘This is the whole process I do, I do this and that and this and that’ is bullshit to me. It’s like saying to somebody that this wine tastes like that because of that is bullshit because everybody has different tastebuds, you know? So that’s what I mean, it’s exactly what you said, it’s really spontaneous, it’s really on the spot, it’s really by whatever you see, feel, hear, taste. It might remind you of something and then it’ll get you excited about something which turns into inspiration and then you bring into whatever you feel, you’d be able to express it better. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by something but I might not put it through music, I might put it through something else completely. It’s an experience just to know how to channel it all.
Has being from Montreal shaped your tastes or your philosophy behind making music?
Montreal definitely shaped my philosophy in terms of being open-minded, that’s for sure. There’s no doubt about that because we don’t have a sound, we don’t have a crowd that’s necessarily dedicated to traditional hip hop. In Toronto, you have a crowd that’s very specific to that and it’s a huge crowd that can definitely come through and sell a concert. Whereas in Montreal you still have that crowd but they’re still naturally open-minded just because of where they live, it’s their surroundings, it’s just friends constantly showing different types of music. So that’s definitely the vibe I got from being there, it’s just being open-minded, always wanting to mix music. ’Cus we know we’re from Montreal, we know we’re French-Canadian in this world, so we’re not gonna come up with no sound no matter what [laughs]. So we might as well be this global sound. And that’s what’s great about being from Montreal.
So right now you’re the hottest producer in the scene...
I doesn’t feel like it [laughs]. I just feel like I need to work more, I always feel like that [laughs].
That’s always a good thing. So years from now when you look back, how do you want to be known for, what’s sort of your ultimate goal in this project?
I want it to be a little more different, I want it to be more media-centric. It’s 2013 right now, you know, we’ve got so much information so I want to be part of that Golden Age of information. I want to do something with it, I want to present it that way. I don’t know what it is yet, I mean in five years time I can only imagine the technology we’re gonna have — what we have now is already crazy. I just want to present myself as that guy that not only does music, but I’ve always been interested in other things that involve creativity. That’s why when people ask me what I do, I never ever say I’m a producer or I make music. I always say I’m a creative. Not in no pretentious shit, it’s literally because it’s the freaking future man, we can do a lot of stuff at the same time. Back then you couldn’t really, it was one thing and one thing only because the equipment would cost way too much. Nowadays you can get so many free programs that you could literally take advantage of the resources and do a lot of things together so it’s really that age where people multi-task. I just want to represent myself in that way, the right light, to make people aware that they can take advantage of their resources and come up with great things. What I do and what I push is not only for me but hopefully to inspire people around me to do the same because that’s how I saw it. I saw people from the past doing the same and that inspired me to push it more.
So what are your future projects this year?
At the moment I’m just working on stuff with Mad Decent, like doing shows, and eventually come out with something on Mad Decent.
When can we expect your full-length album?
I’m trying to do it as soon as possible. It’s just hard sometimes when you work on new stuff and you get an email from a rapper who wants a fresh beat from that bunch and it’s like, ‘Aw great’ [laughs]. But it’s sort of good, it’s great, it’s amazing actually but it’s like ‘Oh, gotta work on new music.’
Super huge thanks to Lunice and @desgamotin for this!