Every time a major dance music event goes on in Denver, we put out multiple interview requests, hoping that a producer or two will want to chat with me before or after their performance. Going into Skylab 2015, we’ve sent out five to seven requests, knowing that chances of even an answer to one is slim because of the big names on the lineup. But the morning of night one, I get an email from Amsterdam – Laidback Luke’s people are reaching out with interest in an interview. I’m ecstatic.
With roots in the dance music scene since the 90s, Lucas Cornelis van Scheppingen, a.k.a Laidback Luke, is a veteran of the genre with plenty of experience to offer. Starting out as a protege of house music duo Chocolate Puma, Luke is now a staple in the EDM community. Luke has played every major music festival in the world, collaborated with the likes of Swedish House Mafia, Diplo, Lil Jon and Hardwell, hosts a radio show and has recently been working on an album, all while being a stand up husband and father. Known for his upbeat sets that range in genres and the way he effortlessly seems to pump up his crowds, Laidback Luke has continued to fly through the dance music scene with full force.
It’s an hour before his Skylab set when I get to sit down with Laidback Luke in a dressing room backstage at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield. As always, I have to calm my nerves a bit, but that quickly fades away as Luke and I begin to chat. The Dutch producer has much to say and is glad to tell about his experiences in the dance music scene.
Cat: I know your first name is Lucas, but where did the name Laidback Luke come from and how has your brand and persona evolved since you started out?
Laidback Luke: My parents named me Luke. My official name is Lucas. My mother’s name is Lucy and my dad’s name is Kees, that’s a dutch name. So the two combined is Luke. So when I started, the guys form Chocolate Puma told me to do something with my real name, Luke. And back then, I was very much a fan of guys like Carl Cox, Todd Terry and Carl Craig. And so I wanted a double-lettered name. I went out in search of this double-lettered name and nothing with an L-word that was cool came up until I heard Snoop Dog’s “Gin and Juice.” In the song, he raps “laiiiiidddback.” So I thought, if I join the two, that’ll be the perfect name. And later my family and friends said that it fits my personality. So obviously, when I play, I’m not that laidback, but when you actually meet me and hang with me, you’ll notice.
Cat: You’ve been in the dance music scene since the mid 90s. How would you say your sound has changed? What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry?
Laidback Luke: Compared to then, my sound is a little bit more polished and it sounds bigger than it was. But I always stood for the sound I’m doing right now, which is just like a big and chunky version of house music. And I was actually there in the fundaments of EDM trying to make it the biggest music there is. Back then we went up against trance, we went up against rock and hip hop and so EDM became the biggest. With that though, came a change in the industry as well. Before that, the industry was a lot of friends and people that knew each other and helped each other. And now it’s a gigantic, multi-million dollar business.
Cat: I interviewed Fedde le Grand just over a year ago and asked him the same thing, but I’m interested to hear your answer. There are SO many wildly successful Dutch DJs out there- what do you think it is about The Netherlands that breeds EDM producers?
Laidback Luke: Basically, the reason is… And you won’t hear people say this often, but I’ll just give it to you plain and simple – the Dutch crowds suck. The Dutch crowd is a very tough crowd to please, they’re very picky. Even if they’re fans of you and you screw up on a show or a mix, they’ll just tell it to you and they’ll be straight up with you. So, if you ever have the chance to visit The Netherlands and come and party there, you’ll see that throwing both your hands up isn’t very common. This makes us work really hard as DJs and as artists. So whenever we get to DJ outside of The Netherlands, it all of a sudden is really easy to us. We are so happy with crowds actually being happy with us playing music. So if you can move a Dutch crowd, you can move any crowd in the world.
Cat: I’m totally obsessed with your little EDM family. First of all, what is it like being married to someone who is also in the dance music scene? Then, tell what it’s like balancing a family life with touring and recording and all that.
Laidback Luke: First of all, it’s awesome, it’s incredible. Before this, I was married and she wasn’t a DJ. It was super hard for her to cope with my schedules and even with me taking photos with girls, was very tough on her. So Gina [DJ Gina Turner, Luke’s current wife] really understands how the industry works. She does the same profession as me. And I remember before this whenever I would need to go and tour in Australia or the States and I needed to be away from home for two weeks, it would be very hard on the family. But with Gina, she’s like, “Yeah, that’s great! I’m happy you get to tour. We’ll see you in two weeks and we’ll be in touch.” Same goes for me, obviously she’s busy, she takes photos with guys and it’s all part of the business.
How we juggle it is we plan all our months out. So we have one rule, we try to not be away from each other for more than seven days. Whenever Gina tours or does shows, she brings her mom and the baby, Evalina.
Cat: You’ve had a busy 2015 so far, hitting huge festivals like Ultra, EDC Las Vegas and Tomorrowland. What has been your favorite part of touring this year?
Laidback Luke: My favorite part of touring has been doing the vlogs. We just aired episode 10 and I have so much fun doing them and documenting my touring. It’s my new hobby so I film all of them and I edit all of them. This basically sprouted from my 12-year-old son. He said to me one day, “Dad I made a vlog, look I’m on YouTube!” He was presenting and hosting and editing and cutting in between scenes. And I was like “Dude, you’re 12 and you can do all this stuff?!” So I thought, if he could do it, I could do it. So I bought a camera and just started documenting everything on tour and it’s been so much fun!
I do have to say that my No. 1 show of this year, amongst all the big shows that I’ve done, was EDC New York. EDC New York took the crown for me. I don’t take naming the No. 1 party of the year very lightly, because everything needs to be correct – how I feel behind the booth, how the crowd responds, how I think my set is, how my energy level is, how the hospitality is and everything. With EDC New York, it was perfect, everything was great!
Cat: You play Skylab tonight. What can you tell me about the set?
Laidback Luke: I have no clue what I’m going to play. So, when we finish this interview, I’m going to go out and listen to Botnek and see what is dropping and usually I come up with my first record when I hear the last song of the previous DJ. So I’ll just pick one, I’ll look into the crowd and see how they respond and go from there. That’s basically how I grew up doing things. Nothing is more rewarding or the best for a night than to anticipate what the crowd wants. I can spot in like 30 seconds what a crowd wants or what a crowd needs. So if I came here with a preplanned set or anything, sometimes they can be really off and sometimes people will leave the party thinking, “he didn’t really get it,” or “we couldn’t really get into it.” But when you anticipate in the very second, you get this chemistry going with the crowd. It’s the ultimate thing you can do.
Cat: On Wednesday you announced that you’ll soon be releasing your first album in over 10 years. Tell me about what we can expect from it.
Laidback Luke: I’m super stoked about it! So basically I set a challenge for myself- to make 30 tracks in 30 days. And I completed this challenge and I had all these tracks, and we picked an album from it. The quickest response I got from doing this were a couple of guys saying, “it should always be quality over quantity.” Which is correct, but I’m very lucky, I can make tracks really quickly, I make tracks in four hours, which I’ve done since 2005. So all the hits you know from me, were sessions of four hours. The result of the album is not me selling out, it’s not me trying to develop a sound or trying to make a statement, it’s me enjoying making music. The result is an album you can dance to, but you can also listen to in the car. It’s pretty much all styles. I’m so happy with it. Sometimes you hear artists make an album and you think, “okay, there they go crossing over or going in a new direction, or going back to old habits.” But this one is just very fresh, but familiar in some ways.
Cat: You’ve collaborated with some of the biggest names in EDM, Swedish House Mafia, Diplo and Hardwell, to name a few… Is there anyone in particular that you’d love to collaborate with?
Laidback Luke: No, not really. I still have a dream though to collaborate with Justin Timberlake or guys like Daft Punk. But you know, a lot of those will never become real, which is fine. You know what? On the album I have a couple really cool collaborations with Benny Benassi, GTA and Yellow Claw. What I love about those kind of collaborations is that they came really quick and really easy. I’ve had collabs where I needed to chase the artist and then when everything was set and done, we needed to wait a year and a half for the contracts to finish up and artistically, that’s very tiring. So I love it when it comes quick and is very organic.
Cat: Your sets are known for being creative and full of a variety of genres. How do you keep your shows, as well as your radio show, Mixmash, fresh?
Laidback Luke: The key is just to try and check out as much new music as possible. I must say, it’s been tough the last month with finishing off the album and everything to dive into a lot of new music. But that’s what I do on a weekly basis, just check out as much as I can and I really do get inspired from that. Tonight, I didn’t really get to check out a lot of new music, so a bunch of new music you’ll hear will probably be from my album and we’ll see how that goes down.
Cat: You interact with your fans pretty extensively on social media and at your shows, making you loved and respected by all. Tell me about your relationship with your fans.
Laidback Luke: It goes very deep. I pride myself on knowing everyone that has a Laidback Luke tattoo personally and I meet up with them. These kind of relationships can last for years. Some fans become friends, I’ve had that in the past. Some people meet each other through me and my music and I’ve been to shows where a couple came to me and told me that they’d met each other four years ago at my show and now they have a kid. That kind of stuff, it’s intense and it’s amazing. That’s the kind of thing that really drives me to make music and keep on making music – to bring people together and celebrate memories.
Cat: Outside of producing, I know you’re super into Kung Fu. How did that come into your life?
Laidback Luke: I’ve always been into martial arts, as a kid I always wanted to grow up and be a ninja. *he laughs* I grew up doing karate and then I had about a 10 year break because of puberty. And as an adult I was like “I need to get back into shape,” and I didn’t really want to just lift weights in the gym. I’ve always wanted to do Kung Fu, so I decided to take up Kung Fu when I was 20 years old.
That was a while ago and I’m still doing Kung Fu, I actually just came back from doing championships in San Francisco last week. I won two gold medals. It’s just something I actually need with this crazy and hectic lifestyle to keep me in shape both physically and mentally as well.
Cat: What else can the World expect from you this year?
Laidback Luke: The album is the big thing that comes up. I’m really curious to see how it will go. We have a couple Super You and Me parties on the way, which I’m very stoked about. The cool thing is that I get to choose my own lineups as well, so I’ll have DJ friends playing. Thinking about that now, I need to decide what I’m going to wear! The next one is going to be Beyond Wonderland and I still don’t know what to wear!
Laidback Luke’s Skylab set was out of this world. Just as promised, he read the crowd expertly, playing a trap-heavy performance that also featured house and rap among a number of other genres. Laidback Luke’s was by far the best set of the weekend and I encourage any of you to see him live ASAP. And be sure to look out for his new album, Focus, coming out soon!
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