LTJ BUKEM - What's Up, Good Looking?
For over 13 years, one man has presented the smooth and cutting edge side of drum 'n' bass to the masses of the electronic community. Within that time, LTJ Bukem has managed to solidify himself as a true leader of style and achievement within the genre, whether it be with his own production and works with MC Conrad, or his multiple releases through the acclaimed Good Looking Records label. Bukem is again coming to Perth with MC Conrad, headlining Heavyweight Soundz at Capitol on Friday, March 17. FLETCHER ANDERSEN reports.
LTJ Bukem is a study of passive aggressiveness. Aggressive in the music industry and his passion for his projects, and passive on external opinions and at times derisive attitudes and rumour. Yet from his outlook, the journey to the upper echelon of an explosive genre has been nothing but fulfilling.
With a plethora of releases, and worldwide acclaim, Bukem acknowledges that he is more of a perfectionist than anything else. "I'm never happy with the sound quality of anything, I always think it could be better - but that's just how I am, always wanting things to be better," he responds. Making note that he cannot find favourites amongst his works, he is happy that each seems to capture the period of time when it was produced. "All of the Progression Sessions are equal in meaning to me because all of them have had music picked out reflects the moment they were or the atmosphere and the vibe of the night that they were."
His long running production endeavours notwithstanding, Bukem is also half of one of the longest running and successful DJ/MC partnerships in the genre, and the powerhouse of the Bukem/Conrad duo is one that continues to find fans across the globe.
"Honestly, I'll tell you why me and Conrad have such a good partnership, it's because I earn him a lot of money!" Bukem responds, with piss-taking laughter. "Why would he want to go anywhere else without Danny Bukem when I can get him 200 gigs in a year! First of all, let's get that out of the way! Secondly, and seriously, on the production side of things we do work wonderfully together. He kind of understands me totally as a DJ and enjoys my music and what I play. I totally respect him for what he does in his lyrical content, his way of expressing things - he lets the music breathe and doesn't go all out and turn it into a one-man show. That works for us. It works with him and what we do - it helps if you can lock someone down and take their music everywhere you go, obviously your show's going to get better the more you work together."
From the appreciation of Conrad's talents and their continuing partnership, matters that are even closer to home are responded to with equal humour, such as those concerning the status of his record label. From the lack of activity in the past year, the rumour mill surrounding GLR has been never-endingly saturated with news revolving around debt, the closure of the GLR studios in England as well as gossip that Good Looking was, for all intents and purposes, dead in the water.
"First of all, all the people that talk on forums about Good Looking dying - how come none of these people have contacted me or my business partner for Good Looking Records?" Bukem asks, slightly perplexed by the entire situation. "Secondly, all these people - these are the people, who talk this way, are going to be those who will never achieve anything in their life personally. These are people who couldn't even reach or begin to accomplish what I and Good Looking have done in the last 15 years." His light-hearted derision of the situation is evident in his tone, yet there is no evidence of anger at any of the ongoing rumours.
"How can someone who can't achieve what I have achieved piss me off? I'd have to be a kind of weird individual if those kinds of people pissed me off."
Bukem's scorn for the entire internet-rumour phenomenon are plain and obvious to see, as the immense pride he takes in his work - his passion and drive - are bottomless. Yet in a business which follows no conventions, other real life activities have often had to take the back seat to his professional life.
"Well, most people in life take holidays once a year. My partner and I have had one in 15 years, I think we're entitled to have a year off if we chose to have a year off!" he responds, slightly weary. "That's exactly what we've done for 12 months. Also, I mean, please - the fact that people even mention that - it doesn't piss me off, but I find it very eye-opening."
Not one to rest on his laurels, even his period of "time out" from the workings of the industry has been less than complete. "I've been writing some new music. I've done some work with Conrad. We've got a 10 years best of Progression Session album from Fabric, we'll put that out on DVD - going to do a Progression Session maybe in Australia - I've got lots of things to do. My business partner and I are also renovating the studio building - that's taken the best part of two years. It's really hard to do when you are never around."
"I did 10 years of monthlies, and I needed a break, man. It takes a lot of effort organising. You do gigs every week for 10 years, and then suddenly people are like 'what's going on, you've gone bankrupt,' or 'oh no, it's all over' and I'm like, 'well, no it's not. We're doing Fabric monthly, so shut the fuck up anyways.' There's one message that I want to leave people; go and do something publicly to add to the scene. Add to Good Looking, go write some music and start a record label - go and get 15 people into an office and get 40 artists - then run that for 10 years. Progress people's lives and make a difference - when you've done that, then come back to a forum and start talking about Danny Bukem."
Beyond the rumours, and beyond the hype, Bukem is enthusiastically looking forward to the coming tour. "We're celebrating 13 years of the label, we'll do some new stuff and try to give them some stuff they haven't heard and maybe try to educate them, but at some stage in the set we're going to go retro, maybe at the beginning maybe at the end. We're just going to celebrate some of the music that's been 'round in the scene and the reason why we are here now. We'll play a couple of tracks kind of celebrating that."
And, that said, the reason for his enthusiasm for his upcoming tour is succinct and directly to the point; "We love Perth, man. We love it."