Laidback Luke’s take on DJs “doing the same sets over and over”

“It’s got to the stage where it’s all about what we call The Playlist,” said Jono Grant of Above & Beyond’s American adventures in a recent Mixmag feature. “There are about 12 records that these DJs are playing.” It’s an argument we’ve been hearing plenty of in recent times, with A-Trak one of the most vocal head-scratchers on the phenomenon of dance music déjí  vu. “After any big EDM festival, look up the DJ playlists,” the Fool’s Gold boss wrote in his feature for the Huffington Post, ‘Don’t Push My Buttons’. “They’re frighteningly similar. This scene is turning into a caricature. Explosions, private jets, standing on tables (I plead guilty to the latter), and now carbon copy playlists.” Just last week, fellow turntablist Z-Trip wrote a Guest Editorial for inthemix ‘DJs should bring back the danger’, which echoed several of A-Trak’s points.

One DJ who has been engaging with the topic on Twitter is Dutch high-flyer Laidback Luke, who’s returning to Australia this summer for Stereosonic. The leader of Mixmash Records has been busy on the festival circuit over the Northern summer, taking his Super You & Me arena to Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland and Creamfields in the English countryside this weekend. He’s in a good position to report what’s happening on mainstages at dance festivals around the world, and inthemix had him on the phone from the Netherlands this week.

“A lot of DJs are comfortable with what they play at various festivals and are doing the same sets over and over again,” he told inthemix. “To me, what real DJing is about is anticipating the moment, the location and the crowd. Playing the same set would be impossible for me. For me, DJing is about improvisation in the moment. Sometimes DJs bring out confetti and fireworks that needs to be synched, which I don’t really see the use of, to be honest. You could have a button that says ‘Fireworks’ and when you think the moment is right, you just press it.”

He also added that breakout producers often haven’t had enough time to finesse their DJ skills before being thrust in the limelight. “A lot of famous DJs these days are famous because of their productions,” he said. “These guys came out of the studio and don’t really have a DJ background, so you have DJs who play their tracks, but they’re essentially not very skilled.”

“It is going really fast these days,” he added. “Talent comes and goes. It’s the ‘goes’ part that makes me worried. I’m here for the longevity; it’s about the whole trip. Being accelerated very fast can do strange things for the kids who aren’t ready.”

When inthemix caught up with Laidback Luke back in 2010, he laughed about how some promoters familiar with his new releases have the idea he’s an inexperienced DJ. “I get that often,” he said. “I think it’s flattering at my age that people think I’m a newcomer! Sometimes I get the benefit of that. Promoters will hire me to play for them for the first time. They’ll be like, ‘Okay kid, this is your shot, if you mess this up, we’re probably not going to book you again, but if you do good, we’re going to make you big in this country!’ Having 13 years of DJ experience, I can manage stuff like that. It’s cool to surprise people, coming from an underdog position.”

Stay tuned for the full interview with Laidback Luke on inthemix soon.