Name: Lauren Lo Sung
Occupation: DJ, Producer
Current Release: JSTFY’ EP on LOLiFE. Lauren Lo Sung is also still on a European tour. Check out the dates here.
Recommendations: Some music: Herbert - I Hadn't Known and Ricardo Villalobos - 808 Bass Queen. Two pieces of timeless house which I can listen to at any time of the day!
If you enjoyed this interview with Lauren Lo Sung, keep up with her activities and releases via her facebook page and soundcloud profile.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I asked for some beginner decks for my 11th birthday from my parents and was fortunate enough to get them. I would just practise mixing in my room for hours every day. My elder brother and sister were at their peak of clubbing years at that time and I had been brought up listening to their Cream compilations, subliminal, Hed Kandi, Carl Cox, too. My love for house music came from an early age and the Liverpool clubbing scene influenced me as well. Funky house was huge when I started going out.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I would say Ibiza had a huge influence on my music style, I did the season in 2011 and my taste matured into the more underground sound. It really opened my eyes to different styles of house music and I loved how the clubs were about the music and nothing else. As a novice DJ it's great to watch your favourite selectors mix and see how their style of transitioning and selecting music reflects on the crowd. When you are starting off it's only natural to pick up on the things you like about other peoples styles and do it yourself in a way which makes it your own. The more confident I became DJing, the more I felt comfortable experimenting and creating my own mixing style, the same goes for producing. Everyday is a school day, I'm always learning. I am really happy with my productions and workflow at the moment but I know I can always improve, too. There are always new challenges and it's good to be out of your comfort zone.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
The main challenges and goals have always been to create a vibe in the room, to keep people dancing and make people happy. They still are - nothing's changed. I was a DJ first so DJing will always be my first love, I love to interact with the crowd and see their faces when I play music they enjoy. Producing is rewarding in a different way, it can be lonely making music on your own everyday but when you make good music it's super rewarding and exciting to be able to play it in your DJ sets. It also fascinates me that people from all over the world play my music. That's the best bit about producing.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ?
The job is a DJ is amazing, if you can do it for a living you are very lucky, I feel lucky to have this 'job' every day. For me the influence of a good DJ can light up a room and make people lose themselves. Dancing and clubbing is a release for people to escape from their everyday problems and stresses, go hang with their friends and switch off. So as a DJ I feel responsible in making sure as many people as possible enjoy my music and have a good time.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first proper set up was a pair of pioneer 800 mk1 CDJs, one had a dodgy cue button and a dodgy jog-wheel - probably made it harder, which in the end was a good thing as I had to work around it! I also had a 2 channel Urei mixer, super basic but all you needed for starting off. I now only have Technics mk2 turntables x 2 and a Pioneer 800 DJm mixer at home. I don't have CDJs as I don't really need to practise on those, but with vinyl records I like to listen to the tracks and see how they mix in and out of others so that I know them well before playing live.
How do you make use of technology?
I use rekordbox, which is great for organising your music for sets. I couldn't live without my MacBook which I make my music on, originally I started on Logic Pro but early last year I transitioned to Ableton Live and and loving it for work-flow purposes. I seem to finish tracks a lot faster on it. I have bits of hardware in my studio - Korg minologue synthesiser, Roland TR-8, Aturia Drumbrute, MF Tanzbar and a couple of other synths. To be honest with you they are all very exciting when you first get them and can be fantastic for creative purposes but personally they can distract me from my workflow too much. I seem to have some issues with syncing at times to the DAW and I just don't have the patience haha! I just want to make the music quickly when I'm feeling motivated and not be wasting time messing around with hardware sometimes - it can kill your vibe. The Korg minologue has been my best buy- that's great for adding atmospheric touches and synth hits when I need a bit of magic in my tracks. If I were to give advice to somebody getting into producing I would say keep it simple and just learn the ropes at first, you can make some amazing sounds without all the fancy gear.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I usually have a break from making music on Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays too, just to do things like admin/ label work and generally getting out of the house to spend time with my baby niece or go on a walk to clear my head. When travelling most weekends I can have a bit of a fuzzy head at the start of the week from flying, so I try to have a little break from music and just look after myself. My daily routine would be - get up, washed, dressed, have some brekky and a green tea, then go up to my studio room and open Ableton.
I find it's always best not to force the creative side though. As artists we obviously need to be making a lot of music but when you're not in the frame of mind, it's best to take a break, listen to some other music styles and maybe go for a walk and do some exercise. I joined the gym before Xmas and try to go at least 3 times a week, swimming, too - this really helps keep the mind healthy and leaves me feeling fresh and motivated for the studio so I can get the best possible results.
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
I get sent a lot of promos so I usually have a collection of new stuff that I need to listen to, I also collect music on Beatport and bandcamp in my cart so I would have a listen to all of that and filter out what I want to put in my playlists. I don't believe in ordering a set completely, you can't possibly feed off the crowd if you're too organised. I like to have my general warm-up or set starter tracks at the top of my playlist and the tempo and energy in the tracks will build as you get down the list but I don't just work my way down track to track when DJing. I try to feed off the crowd when playing, every crowd is different and some sound systems mean you can't play the more minimal tracks if they aren't very bass-heavy.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I'm always pretty chilled before a DJ set, not nervous or anything. If anything I get excited to play. It's great when clubs have good monitor speakers so that we can feel like we are on the dance floor. It's so important that the DJ really feels the music as well as the crowd - at the end of the day we are the ones playing it so we need to feel the vibe too. I don't like the DJ booth being too busy, by busy I mean when people are knocking your elbows because they are so close - by all means dance behind or in a short distance, but once they start touching you it can really distract you, especially if you're playing vinyl. I don't really have a strategy for entering a state of mind, I am a pretty chilled person so I just get on the decks play my music and enjoy it as best I can.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
Will this track work well on this sound system is probably No.1 thing to consider, will this track be too deep, do the crowd need something Housier or with a bit of vocal to pick them up a little? I tend to just read the crowd when I'm there and have some favourites that I will definitely play, but the rest is just off-the-cuff.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
It's probably a bit of both, but for me more improvisation.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate?
It's good to try new things at home so you can hear what they may sound like before playing in a club. But I tend to test music to the crowd sometimes, too - that's the only way you will really know if it works on the floor.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience?
I listen to music I love, play what I love and stay true to myself. If people don't like it, then there's plenty of other DJs out there for them to listen to. If they do like it then that's great!
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
Usually when the next DJ is about to come on is when it's time to think about stopping haha! I like to take the crowd on a journey and leave them on a high. Especially if I'm closing the night, you could go on forever but it's good to stop when the energy is high and end on a classic too.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I think it's important to always remember why you first started doing your art, to enjoy your work and feel proud of it. Don't fall into the trap of just making music for a trend, as trends go out as quick as they come in. Be yourself, be different if that's what you are. And don't take yourself too seriously because life is for enjoying and we don't need the added pressure.