Lo-Key Fu: One Year Later
“One year later. The entire planet is overrun. Evolve. Mutate. Power-up to create an electronic future with itchy techno fingers.”
So begins Itchy Techno Finger, an album constituted together by Perth’s Lo-Key Fu and unleashing it in July of last year. An album filled with tough-style breaks one would be accustomed to after Fu’s live sets but rounded out with tracks which border downtempo.
In order to reach deeper into what is being presented, one must be willing to step back and view the album at various levels. The interview given here is with Lo-Key Fu the person, the award-winning producer and the live electronic artist. In terms of the album, one must extricate the notion of the person and the character created. Lo-Key Fu the character is the not-so-distant future inhabitant who is out to remix everything. To “deconstruct and rebuild the electronic societal mainframe, hand over fist, amplitude over frequency.”
This critical analysis is analogous to the idea of discerning between Dante the author of The Divine Comedy and Dante the pilgrim, who goes down in order to go up. In the same way, Lo-Key Fu the character is both the science-fiction hero who has the power to single-handedly cause global change and is also the embodiment of us as a whole. The picture of things to come.
The real question is, when is this ‘one year later’? If one were to take the lyrical proclamations out of We Are Future, one gets “We are aesthetic. We are cuisine. We are enhancing and we have the machines. We are synthetic. We are extreme. We are advancing. We are future.” This could just as well be right now. Is Lo-Key Fu writing a sci-fi piece through breaks to create a future distopia or is it a current distopia?
Although a year since release, ‘Itchy Techno Finger’ has continued to consume its producer in the aftermath of its creation. ITM’s Marquee Moon stopped by the House of Fu to get the update on what’s been happening since those Techno Fingers got itchy. You’ve heard what happens to Lo-Key Fu the character. Now find out what has shaped Lo-Key Fu the producer and his upcoming releases and remixes and an Australian tour.
ITM – It’s been almost a year since you released ‘Itchy Techno Finger’. How have things panned out for you since then? You’ve won a bunch of awards for it, so you’re obviously still thriving off of it.
Fu – It really doesn’t feel like it was anywhere near that long ago, but then life has been a bit of a whirlwind since last July.
In retrospect, releasing ‘Itchy Techno Finger’ was the screaming climax of what had been a long-term creative bottleneck for me. The backlog of unrealised ideas that had been harmlessly floating somewhere between my brain and hard-drive began gathering into sinister groups. Before I knew it, they had kidnapped my more usual life and held it for ransom until I agreed to their demands. In short, if I didn’t get that album out when I did, I think I might have blown a valve and been on my merry way to the peaceful pastures of more lasting artistic dysfunction.
Valves aside, by the time the dust had settled I felt as if I had been shot out the end of a person-sized high pressure tube. Breakfest 2004, ‘Beats By The Sea’ NYE 2005, ‘FortyForty’ released on the Deuce
‘Jigsaw’ compilation, the WAMI awards – they all whistled by in a technicolour blur with my feet barely touching the ground.
ITM – You’ve mentioned in a past interview about the fact that it was self-funded. How did this approach effect or alter your artistic productions, if it did at all? What were the pros and cons to that approach as opposed to shopping it to labels?
Fu – However you choose to approach the complex process of taking any art form ‘public’ will no doubt attract a number of limitations and freedoms along the way. Every freedom has a price and every limitation a reward.
Ultimately, whether you are releasing on an international label or straight from your own bedroom, success is going to be directly dependent on three key factors: quality of work, effort involved and money spent. The superstitious amongst us could probably argue that lady luck takes a significant role too, but personally I tend not to trust her and steer as much away from her hands as humanly possible.
With quality of work being a somewhat subjective criteria (depending on the judge), and not a lot of money to be thrown into the ‘Itchy Techno Finger’ project it was a priority to dedicate as much time and effort into the release as I was able.
The reward if you will was having the freedom of artistic flexibility in every aspect of the album – from the artwork, to the launch and of course the music itself. With this freedom came a large amount of personal responsibility and potential liability for the project – let alone the additional time taken in putting all of the puzzle pieces together. On reflection I still feel that the trade-off was worthwhile, though not a process I could indulge in too often for fear of burning out my motivation gland.
It must also be mentioned that a great deal is owed to the amazing group of friends, family and local industry who helped, supported, and entirely understood why I had seemingly vanished from the face of the planet for a whole chunk of time. They amplified my initial efforts ten-fold and I don’t think the release would have made it to the shelves without their input. Power to the people!
ITM – Are you moving in a wider distribution or international market? I noticed that some of your tracks are featured on a number of sites for download. How has this impacted you or widened your acclaim? Has it been a fruitful step to take to offer tracks for free?
Fu – My electronic music has been available on the ‘Net for almost as long as I have been writing it.
Making mp3s available for free download has always been one of the first testing grounds for my new works – at times under other aliases – as well as an effective method of reaching a large and predominantly targeted market almost immediately.
Artists who are expecting to generate substantial revenue from mp3 distribution need to be patient for a while yet, but as a means of getting yourself heard, receiving feedback and reaching new audiences internationally, digital distribution is without doubt a very powerful medium.
With the many advantages of this format – including a de-centralised product base and the absence of manufacturing overheads – there are so many good reasons for those of us on limited budgets to harness the ‘Net as a promotional tool. As with anything it is a case-by-case matter of moderation and consideration, but with that in mind I firmly believe I owe a great deal of my (electronic) musical development to the mp3 format.
The main Lo-Key Fu mp3 site can be found at: http://download.com/lokeyfu and has a number of tracks available for free download. Help yourselves!
ITM – In what ways have you found more freedom in your live sets be being an electronic performer as opposed to being a DJ? Does this stem from past work in band formats?
Fu – Having never been a DJ I am not really sure on how to answer that…
Nearer the start of my time as Lo-Key Fu I considered learning the skills involved, but held back as I did not want to confuse my live audience as to what was happening on stage. Back then, there were very few live electronic acts performing regularly and the average punter had not yet grasped the concept of a live electronic artist.
This culture has of course changed over time, but to date I simply have more of an interest in production and live performance than the art of DJing.
ITM – With that in mind, could you please comment on your evolution and transition out of Rollerskates to doing the solo project? What have you hung onto from that time period and what have you embraced that you wouldn’t have been able to before?
Fu – My involvement with Rollerskates and the birth of electronic artist Lo-Key Fu happened pretty much at the same point of my musical life.
I had been focused on home studio production for some time and was itching to get back on the stage – specifically to experiment with live electronic elements in the context of a band, but also to be playing out the electronic tracks I was producing in a live environment.
Joining Rollerskates threw me head-first into a wickedly steep learning curve that pushed me to innovate, create and improvise as our sound developed. As the band’s profile improved by the day, my work as Lo-Key Fu took a seat further towards the back of the auditorium. There simply was not enough time to put the appropriate amount of energy into both projects, and for a good four years or so I was more than happy with this arrangement.
At some point late in 2003 however, it occurred to me that I was leaning more and more towards the electronic aspects of the music we were creating with Rollerskates. Having never devoted a significant amount of time to focusing on my own electronic works, and after a great deal of consideration and discussion with the other members of the band, I decided to pursue this avenue more thoroughly.
Stylistically, I have always aimed to make a point of retaining a lot of more band oriented elements in my electronic music as Lo-Key Fu. It an ongoing conscious decision though the degree varies considerably from track to track. I enjoy the natural timbres of traditional instruments as much as I appreciate the allure of electronic electrickery and tweakology and try to use them in a complimentary or contrasting way.
ITM – In what ways has being based in ‘the most isolated city in the world’ impacted your sound and what you do? What are the pros and cons of being in Perth? Does it matter?
Fu – I think the isolation has far less of an effect than the population. There are simply not enough people here to support the development of genre off-shoots or niche scenes in the same way as they might in other areas of the world. Instead, Perth tends to develop tangential takes on global sounds or styles. By retaining familiar elements yet continually interpreting new ground makes for an ever-evolving and decidedly unique scene.
Does our isolation matter? Well on the whole, I think less and less. Whilst physical proximity to the centre of your global scene certainly has its advantages, the modern Internet provides astounding option for communication, interaction and information. The edges of our world are slowly being pulled together by these digital threads and I for one embrace the technology wholeheartedly.
ITM – You’ve been described to me as one of the hardest working producers in Perth. In what ways do obsession, ambition and drive play out in your music and career?
Fu – Have you been talking to my parents again? Obsession? For the vast majority of my waking hours I tend to live, breathe, eat and think music. If it is not directly about music, then chances are it is related. When the creative urge strikes, everyday life seems to evaporate into obscurity and I often forget to eat, sleep or take any kind of break when in the throes of an artistic spasm. Whilst I find this mindset to be completely usual, most of my friends and family have other ideas. That’s not obsession is it?
Ambition & Drive? Like everybody else on this planet there are things that I want, and then there are things that I really want. Over the years I have come around to the cliché that nothing worth achieving is ever going to be very easy, with the notable exception of ordering a pizza. Despite my ‘mix it all up in a bucket and see what happens next’ approach to life I make every effort to keep focused on where I want my music to be and the ways I intend to get it there.
ITM – What is the upcoming chapter for Lo-Key Fu? Upcoming releases, shows, etc.
Fu – There is so much going on with my day to day musical life that it is difficult to know where to start.
After recently securing a welcome endorsement with internationally reputed German software company Ableton, it has been full steam ahead in the studio. A project that you will no doubt be hearing a lot more about over coming months is an ongoing collaboration with recognised local DJ Micah. The collaboration will be known as ‘Wax & Lo’ and is focused on producing dance-floor oriented breaks for vinyl release as well as a unique DJ vs. sampler live combination. The first single has already been completed and will be hitting airwaves across the country some time in the next month or two. Titled ‘Disco This!’ the track features some outstanding vocals from the versatile Diana Purse that will certainly turn some heads and coax you out of your socks.
There is a new Lo-Key Fu live approach in the works that is due for premiere at the debut single launch for local live electro-pop outfit Astronaut. ‘Invisible Man’ is scheduled for release July 16 2005 at The Rosemount Hotel (North Perth) and the CD itself will include a Wax & Lo remix of the single.
Plans for a little later this year include another Lo-Key Fu release, a whirlwind tour of Melbourne & Sydney, a new Lo-Key Fu web site and online store, numerous remixes for a variety of artists, collaborative work with Tomas Ford and his eternally unorthodox ‘Cabaret Of Death’, more online mp3 releases and maybe even a little sleep at some stage.