LTJ BUKEM //// DECEMBER 2008////
Not many of us can claim true originality, never mind many of the other achievements on LTJ Bukem’s resume. Co-founder of Good Looking Records with countless releases under his belt, stacks of regular global residencies spanning from Japan to America and along with Goldie, Roni Size, Fabio & Grooverider he was one of the originals responsible for both the creation and expantion of the Drum N Bass scene. After 20 years on the scene LTJ Bukem is still full of energy and raring to go…
You haven’t seemed to have put much music out in 2006. I’ve read that you’d decided to take a holiday from the label for a while, to have a break and to re-think how you want to do things. Is this true?
Well I wouldn’t say a holiday as such. More a holiday break from doing the label. I mean, I’ve been doing it for nearly 16 years straight. We are living in a different world now, musically, compared to when I started. Nowadays things have changed, not just in the way we make music, but in the way it’s sold, how much of it you can sell, how you go about selling it, which formats you sell it on…so, the whole idea of Good Looking was to bring forth new talent on the back of what myself and my business partner Tony had kinda created. It was great for all concerned and it was a fantastic time to be able to bring through that amount of talent, such as Blame and Makota, who are still doing their thing now. But nowadays, you find that kids are writing 100 tunes a week, so it’s really hard to do the label the same way, like how do you plan his/her next five years, their album releases and stuff. The kids today want it all now. Y’know, they want to produce four tunes a day, see them out for release tomorrow and want their money yesterday. How we were doing things wasn’t suited to that, so we felt like we needed to change things a bit. I thought it would be good to let those guys go and get on with what they are doing and travel their own journeys as such, rather than being in the Good Looking bubble. I thought it would be good if they could do all the stuff that the label would do for them. A good learning curve for them. Apart from that, I needed a holiday, to get to spend some time with my woman and just do other stuff I wanted to do.
Did you manage to learn how to relax and get everything you wanted to do, done. I’d imagine the relaxation thing is a bit of a problem for you?
(laughs) Yeah, I’ve managed to do all those things. Just before you called I was actually writing some stuff.
From going to your Myspace.com/therealdannyltjbukem page and reading your blog about people pretending to be you, I wondered if this happens often?
Yeah, I don’t know why that is, but if you check out most e-mail addresses, Skype, Myspace and other similar sites, you’ll always find someone who is already called LTJ Bukem or Good Looking, for some bizarre reason. I’ve got no idea why? Basically, it all started when I first went on Myspace. I tried to use LTJ Bukem as my page name, but it said sorry, it had already been taken. Then I’d go to Skype and it’d be the same thing. So when I looked at this LTJ Bukem guy on Myspace he already had 2000 plus friends offering him work and other things to do with me. I thought right, so I became a friend of his and said lets do this together. Eventually he gave me his password, so I changed it straight away, so he couldn’t get back in. When I went into the site, there were business messages for me, which would affect what I do and the way I do things. So this guy was trying to answer them, probably having a bit of a laugh, but when he was getting like 3000 messages, he suddenly thought ‘I can’t handle this’. The whole situation got a bit out of control. People would be calling me, saying ‘Dan, I thought I’d just spoken to you about this or about that’….(laughs) so I’m thinking, ‘what’s going on here?’. I call it ‘Energy Demons’. Basically, people who waste your time. It’s time I haven’t got to waste, I need to be doing productive progressive things, but for some reason certain people wanna pull you back.
So what do you think of the whole Myspace phenomena then?
Fantastic, I mean regarding having my business I like to have control. At one point I had 14 staff and offices on the High Street, but realised nowadays you don’t need that really. So now I have three people working for me, I get them a laptop and they work from home or be mobile.
Do you get time to talent scout through the aforementioned site?
Oh yeah, I still remain a person that tries to listen to every piece of music that is sent to me and also go looking for music as well. That’s what I’m all about. At the end of the day, I’m basically a crate digger. I love that aspect of discovering a new track, be it on Aim or Mypsace or whatever.
Can I assume it’s been a good thing for you business wise?
Just ‘cause I’m wondering, but roughly how many demos do you get sent?
Put it this way, I tried to do some music this morning when I got up, turned on my computer and went back to a track I was working on a couple of days ago. Half an hour in I had a phone call from someone who wants to come around tomorrow and do some stuff. He said I’ve got a track I want to send to you, but I was like, ‘Look I don’t want to turn my Aim on because I’m trying to work. But he persuaded me, so I turn it on and about 24 people have popped up on windows asking about various tunes, in fact as we speak I have 7 tracks coming into me right now. When I leave it on all day there are usually about 50 tracks waiting for me to listen to, then there’s people sending CD’s, Mypsace links and so on. It’s a never ending task.
Wouldn’t you have wished for a scenario like that 16 years ago when you first started thinking about the label?
Oh goodness me yeah, I mean 20 years ago, I’d have to go and get to know a guy at a record shop. It was hard. Carl Cox would always get the tune that I wanted, because he was Carl Cox and people were like, ‘who are you?’. When you most need them, it was the hardest thing to do, but now it’s much easier, but still an essential part of what I do.
I read that the issue of creative control was such an issue for you that you said on the subject that you’d never sell out your company, not even for a 100 grand deal, unlike some of your peers. Is this true?
Erm, just to be clear, I don’t consider it a sell-out if you are doing something and getting 100 grand for it. If your product is being represented in the way you want, for the scene you are in, then it can only be a good thing. Selling out for me at that point meant having to change your music just to make a bit of money. When you have spent the best part of five or ten years building who you are, then why go and change who you are. That was my theory behind the whole selling out thing.
To co-own a successful record company, be an established producer and songwriter and to have been in the game for over 20 years you must be fairly motivated, where does this come from?
My motivation is pure and simple. It’s my own self belief in what I do. I think you have to have that to motivate you to do anything. The strong bond that I have with Tony (business partner) is the excitement of moving the whole thing forward. That and the wonderful music I get to be involved with is where my motivation comes from. I love music, it touches me in a way that nothing else does.
As you are getting a bit older now, are your feelings as to how you do your thing changing at all?
My feelings are of actually knowing myself more. That in itself has been an enlightening and exciting journey for me that’s brought both pleasure and pain to me. The older you get, you know what’s what, you know what’s right or what’s wrong, you know about the business side of things. If find myself not wasting time anymore. I used to waste a lot of time thinking about how people perceive what I’m doing. I’ve learnt that that’s a waste of time because people will always think what THEY think and they’ll do what THEY do, so there’s no point in pulling your hair out over stuff like that. I think I’ve become a lot more mature now as to how I go about what I do.
Well it’s the big 40 for you this year, have you got anything pencilled for the celebrations?
Actually it’s funny, quite a few of us, like Fabio and Goldie are getting there as well. I was saying to them we should all have a big 40th party or do something special, gig wise….but ya know what, I haven’t really thought about it that much. It’s not something I get excited about…but we shall see if that whole ‘life begins at 40’ thing is true….
Good Looking is currently developing a house imprint label called Deep Rooted, are you able to tell us more about this?
Actually, we are putting a lot of emphasis on http://www.goodlooking.org regarding that. I love all music full-stop. But instead of doing a house label type spin-off, I ‘m going to try and incorporate it into the Earth Series. I don’t want too many labels anymore. I want a couple of things that express all the aspects and my interests in my music. We’re going to do an Old Skool compilation, artist albums and various 12” and hopefully they’ll include everything.
Now that you’ve had some time out to reflect, what do you consider as the high points of Good Looking’s already illustrious career?
There’s too many man, really. I’ve been a very blessed and lucky guy in terms of what I’ve done. Yeah I’ve worked hard, but being blessed by loving a music form so much. Also, the promoters the distributors and everyone else I’ve met, who have enabled me to do the thing I love doing, that’s the high point for me.
Going back to erm…well back in the day, although it was well documented that yourself, Roni Size, Goldie & Fabio where the people responsible for establishing D’n’B, but I wondered if you all actually had a relationship at the time?
There always has been and I think there always will be. There’s a certain affinity with a few people within the scene ‘cause we’ve all been there since the start. We’ve all experienced the same joys and problems in a similar fashion.
Now that you’re getting back to record exec work, what does 2007 have in store for Bukem and Good Looking?
We’ve got a residency at Fabric which is in conjunction with the True Playaz nights and Sessions. I wanna do a Bukem album. The website will be a big part of how we do things and present ourselves next year as well, so we’ll be spending a lot of time working on that. I’ve got a few 12” we’ll be releasing next year too, remixes with Marky and a Makoto album. Lots of stuff coming out…
You’ve played in Norwich before, any lasting memories?
Yeah, I was playing there like 16 years ago. I’ve got some massive memories man. Drum n Bass in the early, early, early days, was really happening up there where you are. Jay and Richy and PFM from Yarmouth…all good people!!
Finally, what can we expect for your Po Na Na mshow in Norwich? Will M.C.Conrad make it?
Conrad is always there. Since 91 and he’ll probably still be with me 2041. We’ll come down and try and give you the future of Drum n’ Bass, well my version of that. Great groove’s with great music with some cosmic beats – a party time hopefully!!!