Lo-Key Fu: Breaks producer, performer and remixer

If you haven’t heard of Lo-key Fu, you soon will.  This week he releases his debut solo album titled ‘Itchy Techno Finger’ and if the sample tracks I’ve heard are anything to go by, we will certainly be hearing a lot more from him.

Lo-Key Fu has been paving his way in the Perth music scene for over fourteen years.  “I’ve been everything from a guitarist through to a front-man and vocalist” he said. 

Lo-Key Fu is also the man responsible for the samples, keyboard and vocals in Rollerskates, a Perth band that received national exposure on Triple J and Channel [V] during 2001.  He left the band in December 2003 to work on his own material.

“I wanted to really focus on my own music. There are certainly so many benefits and good bits about being in bands and playing with other people.  But I’ve never really spent what I consider to be enough time on my own music.”

Despite Lo-key citing lack of time as reason for not focusing on his own music, he has still managed to accomplish a number of notable achievements. 

He was runner-up in the dance category of Musicoz 2003, played as support act for Endorphin in January, produced a remix of Black Lamb for Machine Gun Fellatio, and has appeared on two WAMI (West Australian Music Industry Association) compilations.

inthemix Reporter racheld83 recently caught up with Lo-Key Fu to find out a bit more about him and what to expect from his upcoming album.

Lo-Key Fu is an interesting name, does it mean anything? 
Yeah it comes from a couple of different bits and pieces.  For a while there I was ‘Fu’, and I think that sprung up because I used to sample a lot of dodgy Kung Fu movies and use them in my earlier tracks.  I got out of that thankfully [laughs].  I think the Lo-Key thing came when I stopped working in clubs, so I was no longer in the spotlight and officially low key.

What were you doing in clubs?
Mainly promotions, although I pretty much have done everything over the years.  I worked in clubs for 5 or 6 years or so. 

So you have been in the scene a long time?
I have. And feeling it [laughs]

You started off as a guitar player.  What kind of music did you play?
Metal [laughs] but keep that to yourself.  I don’t play the guitar so much anymore but that probably gives you a bit of an angle on how some of my sounds are put together.

I think we’ve all been into metal at some point [laughs]
I still listen to it now.  I like a broad range of music.  I guess Lo-key Fu is a persona I created to do my electronic bits and pieces but I’ve done everything from metal through to more tongue-in-cheek rock, through to funk and hip hop.  I used to do a lot of hip hop vocals when I was in bands. 

You describe yourself as an electronic breaks producer, performer and remixer.  Which one of those roles do you have more of an affinity with? 
Hmmm good question.  I’ve always had that itch for live performance and once you’ve been out there and doing it, it’s just something that never gets scratched.  I still certainly love the live performance element of it.  There is no better feeling than playing your own music in front of a crowd and having everyone understand it, at least in some way or other. But in saying that, studio work, as a producer is something that has really grown on me, particularly in the last couple of years.  There’s something about being by yourself which is a total antiphrasis to the live performance. 

I guess it’s more of an introverted thing, where as performing is more extroverted?
Yes.  I feel sort of bipolar because you have that extreme of the live performance and then the almost don’t answer the phone, don’t answer emails, you are just sitting there by yourself.

Do you produce for days on end sometimes?
Yes it can be like that.  Inspiration strikes when it strikes and ideally it’s going to happen when you’re at home in front of your gear.  Sometimes it doesn’t but if you get an idea in your head, it’s not like you’re ever going to forget it. 

Do you use computer programs?
Yeah I use lots of different computer programs.  I’m very much a ‘bitser’ in the way I produce, so there are all sorts of computer programs I use.  There is a lot of live recording too.  I haven’t got expensive gear I might add.  I’ve got cheap nasty 80’s synths, which tend to get run through old guitar stomp boxes and pedals to get those nasty distorted sounds. 

I had a listen to your track Cashflow Kiss and really liked it.  I would describe it as electro breaks.  It’s quite dark and heavy with lots of sound effects.  Is that an accurate description of your sound overall?
I don’t aim for my sound to be any particular sound but I guess I’d have to agree with you.  It’s certainly breakbeat.  I don’t write any 4/4 stuff.  It’s definitely darker, definitely got an electro sort of feel to it and some overly complex beats in parts.  I’m not necessarily trying to write things which are hard or dark but I find intense emotions are where I get my inspiration from.  It could be something downbeat and almost depressing or something quite exhilarating and up tempo.  I guess if you have the extremes of stronger emotions in mind and then put that in an electro breaks context, then that’s probably accurate as to where I’m at. 

Do you think there is an emergence of live electronic music in Perth at the moment?
Absolutely.  I’ve been playing live electronic music in one way or another, excluding my work with Rollerskates, since 2000.  I’ve seen lots of things come and go but certainly, when I started in 2000 to where it is now, there has been a change.  I think you can attribute it to technology advancing, which is exciting.  Although in some ways it’s not so exciting because there is so much available now.  You can walk in off the street and buy a piece of equipment and get on stage with it.  But you’re still going to be able to tell the people who know what they’re doing from the people who don’t, but that gaps narrowing. 

Do you think people who are into dance music are wanting to listen to live music again rather than a DJ?
I think that electronic music like any genre of music is progressing.  Look how rock progressed over thirty years.  Electronic music is changing and one of the catalysts is certainly technology, but also peoples taste.  There is still something about a live performance that captures spontaneity.  When you’ve got mistakes it excites people.  At the same time DJ’s are incorporating samplers and doing a bit more with the vinyl, I’m definitely pro DJ.  People understand more of the criteria involved with live electronic music rather than comparing it to an entirely different criteria, which is DJing. 

Are you going to release any of your tracks on vinyl?
That’s the plan.  The CD is intended to be put on and listened to all the way through.  It runs into itself.  There is a complex story attached to it in my head.  It’s not integral to understanding it, but it is intended to be a musical journey and the tunes are not DJ edited – the majority of them are around 3 minutes.  There are already two or three tunes earmarked for 12 inches.  It’s just a matter of getting the album out the way and then I’ll be sending some promo’s around.

What can we expect at your album launch at Ambar on 17 July 2004?
A lot! [laughs].  There is so much going on at that event.  At this stage I’ve got three live acts confirmed – Astronaut, Hiro? and Rollerskates, who are all quite diverse to one another.  Basically it’s also an excuse for me to have a Birthday celebration. 

What are you plans after the album launch?
Some sleep!  [laughs].  No not really, but I’d be keen to hear what everyone thinks.  Certainly the plan at this stage is to take a couple of week’s break, start working on the vinyl releases and then release something more regularly as Lo-key Fu.  There are a few collaborative projects being talked about, one of them with DJ Micah.  I’m also going to be working with a vocalist, Penny K.  She’s got an amazing voice and I’m really looking forward to getting some tunes together with her as well.  

You are extremely organised.  You’ve got a great web site and promotional materials and you even have technical specifications documented.   Did you do this all yourself or does someone give you a hand?
I’m a graphic designer by trade so I’ve got that string in my bow.  The album artwork is some of the best I’ve ever done.  It has come out really fantastic and I’m excited to see the printed version. 

Not many people can say they’ve produced their album and produced their artwork too!
Yes that’s true [laughs].  It keeps me really busy, which is why I have to be so organised.  I suppose it is my mental method of staying in control.

You can’t have much of a social life then?
Not really.  Although part of writing electronic music for me is also going out and having a good dance.  I certainly write my best material when I get home at 6am and I’ve been dancing for 4-5 hours.  It’s inspiring because you can look back on the parts of the night that were great, and the other parts when you maybe say, I’ll go get a drink now!  In my opinion it gives you a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.

And finally, in a few words can you tell me what Lo-key Fu is all about? 
How many is a few?  [laughs]

Well a sentence then, that sums up your philosophy on life.
My philosophy in life is to learn from others, push the boundaries and share information.  To try and do something different but at the same time keeping the exchange of information happening.  Building a local scene!  That wasn’t a sentence was it?  [laughs]

You can check out Itchy Techno Finger:  The Lo-Key Fu album launch at 10pm on Saturday, 17th July 2004 at Ambar Nightclub, (downstairs, 104 Murray Street Perth).  Cost is $10 entry ($30 entry + CD).