There is little need for an introduction. I had the privilege of interviewing a pioneer in the world of electronic dance music. Lucas Cornelis van Scheppingen, aka Laidback Luke, is no stranger to festivals, clubs, or traveling. He has been DJing for the last 20 years and paved the way for the storm of electronic music that took over the world. He is not a simple “press play” DJ. Luke is often behind four decks, blending multiple tracks into one fluid sound on end for hours. We met in his designated cabin on board the yacht that housed the artists during Ultra Music Festival. Upon walking in, unopened bottles of vodka and champagne sat in a bowl of melting ice. Laidback Luke was speaking in Dutch to his team members. He wore all black aside from a military green jacket. He had a tranquil aura to him. You would never catch him sweating the small things that life can throw at him.
We hear you’re working on a new sound. Do you plan on showcasing it tonight when you close the Worldwide Stage?
No, not tonight, unfortunately. I just recently had a full week to dabble into it and I kind of found my ways but didn’t have the time to finish it off. But it’s sounding really good! I could easily say “From now on, Luke is only going to be future house or bass house,” but that’s not the case. The new style and sound has more to do with, funny enough, sound designing: trying to choose beats no one has ever used. I discovered this new synth that no one is using. I’m going to have to keep its name a secret. It’s a very hard synth to handle, but with it, I can get my new signature sound. The synth allows me to go uptempo and downtempo and people will instantly be able to say “Oh, hey. That’s Luke.”
You often DJ with more than just two players. Why do you choose to go the extra mile?
Just not to get bored, really. I’ve been DJing for 20 years now. To keep myself really into the set and really be able to do anything on the second. I feed off the crowd’s energy and sometimes I’ll cue up the track and sometimes the track won’t work so in a split second I’ll mix live mashups. It keeps me very flexible and active and funny enough, deadmau5 once compared me to a ‘rally driver.’ I’ll take turns in the dirt and just go with it.
You talk a lot about seeing music as a visual art. Would you mind touching on that a little more?
Yeah, that comes really naturally actually. I have a photographic memory with music: when I hear a track, I almost see it as a picture and that’s how I see the track — easily and clearly. I know what a clap looks like or a drum looks like. It goes deep, I can’t really draw it, but its there.
How are you feeling about your new track “It’s Time” with Steve Aoki?
Great! It’s finished and done. We just shot the video for it. It’s going to be released on April 6th. It’s been nine years since we made “Turbulence” and that made such an impact back in the day, it was a certified classic. It was really time for us to do something new. Steve reached out to me and I was so happy that he did! He told me that he didn’t want to go poppy on this one. So, I sent him a sketch and didn’t hear back from him. I sent him emails and didn’t hear back from him. I just gave up. Finally, out of the blue, like five months later, he popped up on my FaceTime and said “Dude, I’ve been working on the track. It’s pretty much done. Do you want to have a listen?” I listened to it and it was great. You know, we were FaceTiming and we decided that we needed a catchphrase to this song. Steve mentioned something along the lines of a countdown. So me and my girlfriend were brainstorming after a workout and we realized we needed that UFC guy, you know, Bruce Buffer! He needs to be on the vocal. We used his phrase: ‘It’s time!” I started to reach out to Steve and turns out Bruce had already reached out to him wanting to collaborate. Within two days it was done. The track really has a UFC ring to it.
You’ve been in the scene for so long and traveled the world multiple times, how do you keep going?
I love DJing but the travel can be very hard. I love being home and just being locked in the studio, but that changes so much. What keeps me motivated is the way I DJ and to be able to inspire younger DJs and being able to give the crowd what they deserve. People work hard and they spend their hard-earned money to have a good night out. Being able to be the guy that can give people a great night is really what keeps me motivated.
You have been successful in scouting out some of the biggest DJs in the world, what do you look for in an emerging DJ?
There needs to be a general talent for making music. There needs to be something unique in the sound, but also very catchy. Then when you start communicating with said student, they need to be able to be good at communication. They need to be humble and hardworking. Often, going back and forth, you’ll find out if that person has that gene to be successful and not become cocky and be in it just for the money.
You’re a kung-fu master, you run a weekly vlog, you produce and DJ and you were recently on the cover of Men’s Fitness. How do you manage to stay fit with so much traveling?
There is not much time involved to actually remain fit and to be fit. My regime is whenever I come into a new city, the first thing I do is workout for 45 minutes and then I’m ready for the show. In between that, you have to take care of your diet. That’s really it.
Do you believe in luck?
I don’t know if there is such a thing. I do believe there is destiny and opportunities. Combine that with determination and a lot of help from God, you’ll be able to do anything.