VW-When Drum & Bass is considered a dying breed of Electronic Music (or at least overshadowed by Trance), what is your stand??
LL-I don't think that D&B is a dying breed. I just think it's in a weak state right now.
VW-Why choose drums as your primary instrument?
LL-I Love playing the drums. I fell in Love with Drums when I was five years old. It's my first instrument and I get a really good feeling from playing drums.
VW-Who are your major Infulences on making music?
LL-I have so many that I couldn't possibly name them all. A few are Earth , Wind & Fire, Parliament, Bootsy Collins, Weather Report, Charles Mingus, Devo, David Bowie, Thomas Dolby, James Brown,The Police, Art of Noise......enough people to fill up a lot of pages.
VW-What is your definition of "good music"?
LL-I don't think that there is really such a thing as good or bad music. A lot of music that I don't like sells millions of copies. Because a million people buy it...does that make it good music? No. It just means a million people have the same horrid taste. Music is like food. A chicken sandwich isn't better than a hamburger. It's just a matter of taste and what you like.
VW-Is there any non-musical influence you would like to convey through your music??
LL-I just want to convey good vibes and produce a soundtrack to good memories for people. You know...like maybe one of my tracks was playing when you met the person that you are going to marry or you listen to a track or more while going on vacation or something.
VW-How did the transition from metal to drum and bass came about?
LL-The energy flow of Metal is just really negative and I wasn't getting anything out of it anymore. I wanted to do something that felt more like art, but yet had the same high energy on a positive, non-violent level.
VW-What is your "moment of epiphany" that turned you onto Drum and Bass music? A particularly memorable drum and bass album that turned your interest onto Drum and Bass music?
LL-That moment would be when I got turned on to Goldie's Timeless record. Right away, I wanted to do this music with live drums. I could feel what was going on musically. A lot of people think that you need drugs to get into electronic music, but that just isn't true. I was sober when I got turned on to D&B and was getting high from the music itself. The energy was amazing.
VW-While I listen to the "Breakbeat Mechanic" album, I cannot help but notice that there is a rich interplay between different layers of sounds, and they sound like a bunch of DJs and musicians jamming in the studio, whereas a lot of drum and bass tracks sounded too clinical, as if they are laboratory results. How did you achieve this "organic sound"?
LL-I am glad that you labeled it as an " organic sound " because those are the exact words I used when I told Scotty Hard what I was wanting to do with the record. To get more of an organic sound, I didn't quantize any of the tracks and played them all manually to the best of my ability to give it more of a human feel. I even put errors in some places to avoid becoming too sterile on some things. A lot of D&B tracks sound too clinical because they are too perfect and boring. Humans make mistakes and sometimes mistakes and slop add character. Then I had a strict "no phrase sampler" rule. Instead of looping breakbeats like other producers, I played the live drums from start to finish on each song. I would add little parts here and there and Scotty and I would just sit in a room and vibe. Scotty would feel the music and add effects manually as if he were in a live situation.
VW-"Breakbeat Mechanic" is very song-oriented. Every tracks has a song-structure. In this instance, is there any material on the album improvised?
LL-Some of the smaller parts and strange sounds are improvised, but the song structures are mapped out. I heard most of the pieces in my head in completion.
VW-Continuing with the song-writing question, a lot of drum and bass tracks are, in essence, "tracks" where there is a nice groove or a killer hi-hat sequence and a booming bassline, but with nothing melodically going on. The songs on "Breakbeat Mechanic" has a lot of musical "twists and turns". Is this a conscious effort to make song-oriented drum and bass?
LL-Yes. It was a conscious effort because I would hear D&B and say to myself, " It would be cool if someone did this or that." Then I thought," I could just do it myself." All of the songs are little stories in my mind told in sounds. If D&B dies down it will be because not enough producers drag it down more risky avenues.
VW-"Breakbeat Mechanic" was also co-produced by Scott Harding (Scotty Hard), whose sound is characterised by lots of "dirt-and-grime" (for lack of a better description), which is more typical of a down-tempo "illbient" or trip-hop sound (as in New Kingdom or his solo album). "Breakbeat Mechanic" while cripsy in sound to deliver the hyperspeed of the drums, also carries a definite weight to the overall sound. How much did Harding input into the overall sound of the album?
LL-Scotty put a lot into it. We were like the two-headed producer. I wanted Scotty's particular sound on the record. Scotty is a friend of mine and I wanted some love and honesty on the record. Sometimes I can't tell one D&B producer from the other because everyone is doing the same thing in the same way. Scotty is a good hip-hop producer and I wanted the hip-hop elements to be raw. He definately helped me stand out as an individual.
VW-While listening to the Breakbeat Mechanic album, there is a similarity I noticed between you and Squarepusher (aka Tom Jenkinson) where both of you play live instruments, often at superhuman speed and dexerity over programmed music, only Jenkinson plays bass. Does this live instrumentation/programmed music overshadows one another? Like you would run the risk of being labelled as "the Live instrument guy" where your skills as a drummer overshadows Leon Lamont the song writer?
LL-First, I would like to say that I am flattered to be compared to Squarepusher because he does some great work. He's definately on some next level type s***. I don't know if me playing drums live overshadows the programming. I think that I program the sequencer so that the live drums compliment the electronic drum elements and that the drum parts overall are simple enough that they don't distract from the programming.
VW-Your web site has a track-by-track breakdown of the inspiration of the songs in your album. The album is informed by (amongst many things) hip-hop culture and racial politics. What do you think of the current state of hip-hop culture and African-American culture at large? Considering the fact that current mainstream's version of hip-hop are either Eminem, Limp Bizkit or accessible/disposable R 'n' B/hip-hop crossovers, do you think there what Chuck D says as a "Elvis Presley" syndrome of an aspect of African-American culture being hijacked and watered-down for mass consumption?>
LL-To answere your first question, I think that hip-hop culture in America is just a well dressed hooker. There is no feeling. It's just something that looks good that you want to get into. African-American culture at large is something else entirely to me.. African-American culture and hip-hop culture are not the same thing. I think that the problem with a lot of types of music is that people associate it with race Hip-hop has become more of a youth culture than a black culture in my opinion and I think that that's the way it should be. I would have to agree with Chuck D ( hey that ryhmes). Hip-hop isn't so much culture as commerce now. For every REAL Hip-hop artist there are 10 wack ass artists getting heavy rotation in the media.
VW-Some people refer to Electronic music as weightless music as it doesn't convey reality and the lack thereof, would you ever consider add-value by adding a political stand or theme music as a viable option?
LL-To me....Electronic music isn't about that. That's what rock music and all of that other stuff is about. Politics is a downer and I feel like Electronic music is an upper. If people think that it's weightless...so what. It's suppose to lift the weight of your crappy job or the knuckleheads you have to deal with at school or your bills or being dumped by someone you love. It's release music. Who the hell wants to think about politics while they are dancing?! I don't! For me it's " Lets forget about all of the things that make you feel bad and take time to feel good."
VW-A DJ set or a live set: which one do you prefer? Given the DJ Culture that permeates the club scene, do you think people are more willing to accept that a live crew can also rock a party?
LL-I have no preference over DJ or live set. I respect and enjoy them both. I think that if people are feeling the music that they are not too hung up on how it's being made or where it's coming from.
VW-What is the club scene in New York? And America?
LL-I think the club community in NYC is a little too divided. It's too many small camps instead of everyone joining to become one big collective. I don't know enough about the whole American scene to comment on it.
VW-You have also played with a number of players from the so-called "New York Downtown Scene". Is there any difference from playing to a straight up party/club crowd?
LL-There's a big difference. When you play to the downtown scene it's just people staring at you and waiting to clap with the odd dancer. When you play to the party crowd people are dancing and not paying much attention to you. I much prefer the party crowd because they are truly there for the music and to enjoy it and celebrate it by dancing. The downtown scene bores in comparison.