Name: Jake Lubell
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Lubelski's Lost My Senses is out now on Dirtybird Records
Recommendations: The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. Camus describes an existentialist view on the absurdity that exists in the relationship between human beings and the world they inhabit; how to find passion in an utterly indifferent universe.
Mildlife’s album Phase. One of the most exciting bands in music today. The Melbourne-hailing psychedelic jam rock band are true innovators.
If you enjoyed this interview with Lubelski, find out more about him and his music on his website. For recent updates and tour dates, visit his facebook profile. For more music and mixes, visit his soundcloud account.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/ or sound that drew you to it?
I started producing music when I was about 13 years old. I had just gotten introduced to Reason, Pro Tools, and Logic and would try to record myself playing guitar and making beats.
Some of my earliest inspiration came from rock music, but I also really loved artists like Gorillaz, Fatboy Slim and Moby. I had always played instruments growing up, but I think the appeal of being able to explore the full spectrum of sound was what drew me to dance music.
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 relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
As a musician, I’ve always tried to sharpen my own skills by learning the songs and riffs of my idols. I really looked up to guitarists like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Eddie Van Halen.
When it came to learning how to produce, I would make edits of my favorite songs or try to recreate them just to learn how they did it. I feel like I took the same approach to learning production the same way I did with learning instruments.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I feel for most producers, the main challenge comes with having something in your head and not knowing how to get it down. As I became more familiar with my DAWs, it became less about translating what was in my head to sound and moreso about letting things naturally pour out of me. Now, I rarely ever go into a session with a pre-imagined idea.
What was your first studio 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 studio had the most basic setup ever: a computer, interface, and speakers. I already had a guitar, a bass guitar, and an amp so I was mostly just recording audio.
When I turned 20, I bought my first synth—a Moog Sub37—and started heavily diving into outboard gear. My favorite synths at the moment are my Prophet 6 and my modular rig. The Prophet is just a really incredible synth and my modular rig is great because it allows me to have a conversation with an instrument as opposed to just telling it what to do. Some of my favorite modules include Make Noise’s Morphagene and Mutable Instruments’ Plaits.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I’ve watched a lot of Richard Devine’s videos and he’s got so much depth with the amount of technology he uses. I’ve recently been trying to incorporate my iPad to control things with apps that have unique ways of synthesizing music, whether it be with granular synthesizers, chaos machines, etc.
I find humans excel at music composition whereas machines excel at the exploration of sound design. I also find that the analog machines are exceptionally good at creating those ‘happy accidents’ that I’m fond of, whereas digital machines like computers can sound a bit too perfect at times and thus can dehumanize the music.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
It really depends on the song I am working on, but I usually find something that intrigues me whether it be from a sound coming from one of my synths or a sample I’ve found. I’d say my modular synth is able to create the sounds I never knew I wanted to hear, but I sort of have to fit it into the puzzle piece of the music. Overall, I really just look at my synths as a palette for what I’m feeling like creating that day.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I try not to collaborate with people I don’t know, and even then I try to jam with someone before deciding to create an actual piece of music to release with them. There are so many talented people out there creating amazing music though. I love trading samples and exchanging feedback.
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 music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I treat my studio time like a day job, where I go to my studio from about 10 am - 6 pm everyday. I guess my morning routine includes eating some food, maybe getting a workout in, and making sure that I feel my best to be productive.
I will say that I try to make my music as personal as I can. If I’m upset about something or even happy about something, I’ll channel that energy into the conceptualization of my music.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
My creative process is really all over the place. With my album, which was released in March earlier this year, it was all created with the concept of an album in mind — multiple collaborations, vocal heavy tracks, and an eclectic, yet cohesive range of sound and genre. The ideas for the album took about two years to really come together.
With my most recent Dirtybird EP, the tracks were centered around samples I had recorded from my synths and my surroundings. The title track Lost My Senses was based on a recording of a clock shop with tons of cuckoo clocks going off simultaneously. I wanted to imitate the feeling of losing sanity, where the arrangement is almost manic. Jumping from collected and cheerful, to almost nonsensical and deranged.
The B-side, Broken Motor, centered around the fact I couldn’t get this vintage synth, a Sequential Circuits Pro-One, to work the way I wanted it to. So I used the sounds to create the massive squelches that are sporadically placed in the track. It’s sort of my ode to being nonchalant in the face of anxiety.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For me, any state of mind is ideal to be creative. Statistically speaking, some of the best works of music and art were created in states of mania, sadness, despair, and so on.
I really consider myself a musician at heart, and music will always be my outlet for whatever I’m feeling. However, there are always distractions in life that can keep me from making time to get in the studio or create music in my studio—like other responsibilities or a noisy drummer next door. Having my own studio and setting my hours has given me the discipline to continually work on my craft.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I love playing music live. I love jazz music as well, which was sort of the start of improvisational music, where composition and playing were done simultaneously. I do live modular jams which allows me to dive deeper into the world of synthesis, but forgetting to hit that record button can always be frustrating when I’ve stumbled upon something great. It’s always nice to step away from a computer and just let the music flow though.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Sound design, at least today, I think is the second most important part of a song in dance music today, next to musicality. For obvious reasons, music needs to be in key or it won’t please the ears, and sometimes that can be intentional but I’d say learn the rules before breaking them.
Sound design encompasses not only the timbre of your instrumentation or synths, but also the mix down and mastering processes of each work. My favorite songs are usually the ones that have the most interesting textures, but also sound good on any sound system.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
From a purely auditory sense, sound in isolation and repetition is incredibly powerful. A single word or sound repeated over and over again almost tricks the brain into hearing something that isn’t really there.
I don’t have synesthesia, so I don’t see color in sound or anything like that, but the memory of a song can remind me of a smell or make me feel color associated with the music. I think the most intriguing connection is our emotional connection to music.
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 try not to make political statements from my music because most people listen to dance music as an escape from that. I do however feel that it is my obligation to use my platform to voice what I believe in. I have songs that do grapple with social situations like ideas of trust and heartbreak. However, other types of music and art, in my opinion, are more rightly suited to take on politics and challenge social norms.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
We live in such a hyper saturated and instantaneously connected world. The only thing left to do is to take the pieces of what’s already made to create something new which has been done for millennia.
We can look at Van Gogh and say what he did was unique, but he was not the first person to pick up a paint brush. We can even look at artists like Kevin Saunderson and Frankie Knuckles and say what they did was unique, but in reality they took pre-existing ideas and repurposed them with new technology. That’s what made these people innovators.
The only thing left to do is try to continue to innovate on those that inspire us, as did these figures with their inspirations.
We live in absurd and unprecedented times, but music, regardless of when we exist, should and always will be an outlet for many to express themselves and inspire others.