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Lunice Interview: On Producing with Diplo, TNGHT comeback, and his artistic virtuosity

Having produced music with the likes of Kanye West, Angel Haze, Azealia Banks, Denzel Curry, Rick Ross, Le1f, Diplo as well as releasing his own album and working with Hudson Mohawke on TNGHT, Lunice is one busy artist. His music cuts through the contemporary dance music landscape with incredible clarity and haste with colourful, intricately textured sounds. His production process is collaborative, experimental, iterative and rigorous. Having baggage of experience Lunice continues to shine with his influx of ideas and new layers to his shows.

You’ve travelled the world and been to pretty much every single country, however your hometown remains to be Montreal, tell me to what extent does the city’s background help you shape your music?

The way it has influenced me and built me over time; first by the people that I grew up with, the friends I’ve always kept close. I was never the extraverted kind of guy with many friends, I liked having friends I could just trust; if I genuinely trusted you, I’m good, I don’t need more people to know because I know you would help me as much as I would help you. You can sort of build that kind of mentality in Montreal because of it not being a major city, we get the opportunity to space out and process things in a slower manner, it helps us analyse things. With being able to have time, it helps us become more humble, you get to have a lot more time when winter comes around, in winter time that’s when a lot of creativity happens, a lot of self building happens, getting ready for when the season comes back. It subconsciously build us over time even if we weren’t aware of it as kids. Now I’m 31, and I really feel deep down that’s how this city helped me as a person, and then as an artist, it directly influenced my music, when I work on my music it’s very much in time, in the moment, it’s very intense, passionate, it can be short lived where I’d work for 3 hours on a track or couple tracks and then I won’t work on music for a week and this continues to be my framework. It really helped me to be  focused at, what is to be at ease with things and more contempt rather than trying to finish everything and that plays a much more important role than trying to accomplish everything. 

It’s an artistic city, with that you have the most interesting, genuine approach to art, I’m not saying the best or most recognised, it’s all subjective however one thing for sure, it’s genuine. A lot of people are happy for what they’re trying to accomplish, make and create, because they are trying to do it for a certain group of people, for the most part. You will always find people who are trying to make it for other people in an external kind of way but actually being in the city, you just get influenced and you become yourself– start to create art that is genuine. 

Shot by Pat Stevenson

On the whole spontaneity of being invited on tour with Madonna and still keeping a positive DJ/producer balance between concerts and working on CCCLX album…

It was the most spontaneous thing ever, well that the beauty of this career as a whole, and to me it’s quite funny as it’s not just the music but also the spontaneity of the path you’re taking it;’s just very very unpredictable, this unpredictability creates that good type of fear, the fear that creates something genuine. I can make something, it’s spontaneous, put on the spot, you’re ready for the best. That situation was exactly one of them where normally I would go away for no more than two weeks and come back to Montreal, I still was surprisingly capable to keep a good balance because I would go out for two weeks, maybe two weeks and two days, and I would be back home for at least a week before I’d have to go back out on the next route with her. I am grateful to her and the team for being so collaborative. I would’ve been fine to do the whole series with her if there was no other choice but they wanted to make sure, we could stay in a good state of mind, not that it’s interruptive of my general flow of this project in mind. They were very considerate about the scheduling and with that we were able to find a good flow, I’d go back home and continue working, like nothing’s changed almost. 

On how certain personalities influenced the production process of the album…

At the point when I was working with Kanye I was very much intrigued by the influence of just the environment alone and how much it has an impact on you. I’ve always been, and my mother is Filipino so she was always the Asian mum being like, clean your room, and I started doing it just because of how much she nagged me about it, so I just wanted her to stop telling me all the time so I started to finally do it. Went to realise, after coming back from the chaos from the school coming back to my room, completely clean and done up, I was like man, wow, I actually like that feeling, so I kept that throughout my years, and I don’t remember where I read that part of being very influential on your mood and inspiration and that sort of reminded me of the time when I’d clean my room, so I was like, okay, let me see and start to organise studio space, everything, I started going in deeper and deeper, to the point where I started my album project.


 

On the specific environment while working on CCCLX…

I started it in LA, at Diplo’s studio because we’re all part of the same management, same team, so he was really a great guy all these years, he lent me his studio to start it off, so that environment alone was already a good way for me to advantage of, nobody is in the room so it’s just me working but it’s more the history of the studio space, it used to belong back in the day to Beastie Boys, so there’s a lot of things taken to account that influences me to how the album was to come out eventually so it builds up all the way to that, even when I got back home, I got a studio space separate from my apartment at the time and that’s when I had it set in mind, this is where I’m really going to start whole detail work of the album itself and not only that but also figuring my own self within the whole industry and where I’m trying to go. I was very fortunate to have that opportunity to have that 5 year work on self type of thing without any repercussions, I was just very fortunate to take that time and to be able to do that, so that’s what it was, i got a new studio there, in a historical part of Montreal because I love history so much, actually even now I live the historical part of Montreal, part which is called Old Montreal. 

On ‘Kanye’ effect…

Coming from that, that’s when I got in to the studio sessions with Kanye West, I had the whole build up of how environment influences me, the exchange of ideas of his suggestions for some of the songs, I showed him ‘The Doorz’ and ‘Mazerati’ and ‘Mazerati’ was completely different sound structure up until he mentioned this one little part of the song where he’s like ‘I like that loop, try to create the song out of that loop’ and I was like ‘holy shit! Never realised that,’ that’s when it helped me put in perspective how to take in to account many other people’s opinions on how they perceive sound and design. That’s very useful stuff almost as a tool, and add another layer to your work. 

That was a big moment where I focused on, not the fact that I was working with Kanye but the process of creating and the way he would get to a certain outcome, that’s what I found the most fascinating. 

CCCLX album is an artistic representation of maturity and musical experience. Above all in these productions I can hear the special focus on sound, close attention to smallest detail. Would you agree with this statement?

 Huge reason why I came up with the name of the title, 360 being that it’s a cycle, I don’t want to get deep into everything being cyclical but more as a simple idea and concept, that applies to everything and what I mean by that is every-time I’ll go tour and tour out for a long time and come back, I would always feel like I just started something new again, when I’m back home after a long run and I liked that feeling, because you can keep that feeling it’s almost like a timeless type of feeling where you’ll never get tired, you’re always excited for the next because you’re thinking “oh you’ve gone round full circle but you came back with all new set of knowledge and skill sets” then you feel like it’s a new start again, not as a restart but starting new upgrade of yourself so you will re-approach this in a new way therefore come up with even better outcomes and more opportunities and you come back full circle again, and it just keeps going and going. 

I’ve realised that anything he wants to get in to on a creative level is always going to have ‘his’ unique outcome. Okay great, it’s amazing because now I see he comes out with his unique outcome which is him himself, and it always comes back to you, you starting from within to the public rather than trying to get an idea of the public and then trying to create around it. You stack up on yourself, and your self worth your ideas and everything, that’s why I started the concept like that, and I’m really grateful to be in the industry for over 11 years, I love this, it doesn’t put me in any type of specific situations that would normally stress out most people and myself I’m sure.

On patience…

It’s because I’m just patient, that’s the big part, you don’t have to tell people you’re patient, the expression of patience alone is of someone who is already well clicked, they’re able to be patient for whatever is in front of them. When you’re patient, you don’t stress as much, you get to appreciate more, the littlest thing. The other thing I want to do is to make sure I can improve over time, and I always know we should try to be more humble, and realising that it’s a never ending journey for all of us trying to incrementally improve, so this is pretty much what I’ve been doing and I’ll always be doing. 

On showcasing various emotions through his music…

People told me it’s fascinating how you can bring out positive and negative sound textures from some of the tracks that I put out and I started paying more attention to that, a lot of what I create is definitely emotional meaning that when I would go through drum samples I’m not thinking about an era, I’m not thinking about a style of sound, I’m not thinking about a type of instrument, I’m purely think of first clip I hit make me feel, and that’s it. Then I put it right into the track and iI’ll start working, I may play melodies, but it’s never anything in specific it’s not like I’m making a sad song or I’m making a happy song, it just goes, and it puts out the feeling and the feeling could be joy or it could be sadness, but I just don’t know it’s going to be that, many times I try to plan for it but then my natural self just goes off and goes “no no no, just work on this and you’ll be fine.” I’ll just listen to my instinct.

I would be able to portray it, but there’s a big difference between a living sadness and when you portray you can totally come from an amazing place, totally centered place, like David Lynch, he’s a very happy guy, but he cannot create until he’s got a clear mind, that’s what really made me lock in, just happy, grateful, I’ve already been like that since I was a kid, accepting of my situation and I was going to make the best out of it and then amazing miracle happened of this music industry and being in it and then I’ve always kept that in line. Being able to express any emotion, and it sometimes works out more efficiently. So let’s say you were to do multiple shows and you were to be just always sad, and express your sadness, and offstage you’re still sad, it sort of compounds over time but if you’re generally coming from a good place, and then you come out to express sadness when the situation needs to be presented, but you go off stage and you’re still happy, you see what I mean? It’s always good to have different emotions as long as it’s balanced and not overly one sided. 

Still to this day it’s good to readapt and change over your lifetime and that’s definitely that I always keep to heart but there’s always thing that I’ve always been keeping close, is the element of scent, it’s generally underused in a way of trying to remember a moment you can definitely remember a moment in many different ways and emotional performances physical performances you can remember that something about scent that just locks everything, like it’s the period of the scene almost. If I were a part of a big lineup everybody would generally just hear sound but that just becomes a white noise over time, they’ll only remember the headliners, essentially which makes sense because it’s whom they are intending to see first. So having someone come up with scent in the middle, it’s like “dude who was this guy in the middle with the church incense” it’s the easiest  thing to remember. 

On his personal energy at the gigs…

It’s all balance, that’s what I mean about coming back to Montreal for two weeks. It’s all balanced with calmness and momentum as well as exercise, in many different ways. It went from general bodyweight movements to a lot of different weights. I do it similar to an athlete trying to make sure things are intact once I perform on stage because I treat it similarly in that way. It’s definitely nowhere near as intense as an athlete of course. I just sort of love the idea of continuous movement and figuring out a way to enjoy it and not just having to do it to stay in shape.  That completely translates on stage now, I’m at the point where a lot of yoga almost every day, and I’m really going in deep and working on different parts of my body, then I go on tour and have so much stamina and feel like I’m floating on stage.

On his fiancé…

I’ve explored that side of things too and it’s really that having an amazing person, amazing partner, my fiancé, she’s always inspiring to me and we never sit down and talk shit about people we always talk about cool world stuff that inspired both of us she’d tell me something I’ve never even heard of and I’d come up with a new concept of some sorts and we’d build on it, that’s why she’s my fiancé, that’s why I want to marry her. She’d tell me, “hey, you’re a great artist too, you’ve got same process” it’s like collaborating with someone you love, for example me and Hudson Mohawke it just works like that, it’s a natural, so I’m around all that kind of stuff and when I’m back home, that’s my balance, when I’m out there I’m ready to handle the organised chaos, it’s a gig, you’ve got tickets, promoters, so it’s an organised chaos. 

Red Bull

On gratitude…

The day I’ve felt that genuine gratitude when I was 11 or something, about to go to high school, near elementary school and so I remember being at my mum’s place, single mum, my dad was already out when I was 6, so she was a single mum taking care of her grandparents all from Filipines, and it was my older sisters we were a bunch in the house and she was doing all the work but she really made it seem like all good, all fine, she’s really good at that l. She’s always able to organise chaos. So I remember just being at home one night, it was late, and I was just walking around the house and I know I was about to go to high school which is all about being the coolest, and you know all the angst and hormonal changes that make you into the whole hierarchy of high school. As I was thinking of all that, I wasn’t living in the best type of place, half of my living room was completely slanted, a lot of things were just broken down, but we were always just chill about the whole thing and I remember looking at the ceiling of the kitchen one day, and the bedroom ceiling of my mum’s room fell in, but thankfully she worked night shifts when it fell in. So we had that huge hole in my mum’s room and huge hole in the kitchen with all the wires sticking out and I was just looking at that and I was like “oh man, I’m one of those guys in the unfortunate situations huh?” and I was looking around and was like “huh” I remember just being like, okay, that’s cool, it was either I trip out or I just accept it and be happy, make the best out of it. And you know what I just want that, and from then on I went on to do just that. By the second year of high school I was done trying to play their game, I stopped trying to be the most popular kid, I just decided to be just my own thing and decided to wear safari hats and skateboarding, and listening to all kinds of underground stuff, and that’s when  I met my best friend there, Kevin Lee, and I was like, that’s it, that’s all I need, he understands me, I understand him, that’s all, it’s all good. This is what blows my fucking mind, that I’m in this situation, I was already grateful then, I’m even more grateful now. 

Your production generally reaches crystalline quality, how do you achieve it and what helps you with the creative process?

You can say the same for Jacques Greene, the label Lucky Me as a whole, I think a lot of it comes from our general creative design background. Jacques still does a of design work, but he was already deep in the profession of being a graphic designer and way, way back, the founder of LuckyMe, Dominic Flanagan, he’s the director and also has been making music because way back LuckyMe before it was a label, it was a club-night back in Scotland and so it was all friends trying to put on different creative outlets to put together a project of some sorts, when we come together and produce music it ends up sounding intentional, you can tell we’re just not cranking sound until something hits, even if it doesn’t hit you can feel like it was intentional, genuine, your own happiness or sadness, you can feel the genuine healing, and you know happiness doesn’t have to be just you happy smiling, it can be something that heals you. We can say that this has been our artistic flow, as a whole label and that’s how it ends up sounding like and how people hear it, minimalistic, with a lot of intent. We’re all very passionate with what we create. 

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You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, Diplo, Azealia Banks, Angel Haze to name a few. How do you generally approach a collab? Also, are you working on TNGHT again?

Even more so to this day I go deeper about it, I’m sort of exploring ways to collaborate differently reason being for how TNGHT came to be, the first time and second time, and more so the second time of how we started the project is what blew our minds even more it was like a good seven years or so since the last time we’ve worked on music together. What’s really the most important is we were able to, because for 7 years we haven’t worked on music, we didn’t stop the project unintentionally, everything we do has really good intentions but at the end of line it’s always intentional and that was my idea to stop the project so that we could both do our own albums and then come back naturally like how we did the first time and that idea was with hope that it would work the second time and if it doesn’t that’s okay and when we came back to work the second time, it felt exactly like it did our first track of the first EP, in terms of the happiness, the feeling, feeling good with what we’ve done type of thing, and that’s when it really hit me, I feel like I need to bring that kind of collaborative in different sessions that I may end up in the future so that’s what I’ve been exploring a lot lately. I was recently in studio with Diplo when I was in LA on my last trip and we just started working on our long time project idea that we had that we were sort of starting because we did a remix for Julianna Barwick and Deerhunter and they are very like spaced out, cloudy beats, and we really like that whole collaboration project that we did at the time and he approached me to try out “hey I remember we used to make this type of music let’s get back into it and make something completely coming off of that energy” it’s like coming back full circle again, so this is what I’ve been really exploring, it’s these collaborative moments which are almost natural, you don’t force it in a way, and it’s all organised and everything sort of falls into place, and then when the opportunity is there, then we organise it. 

On the cultural shift in electronic music…

Before we finished the project we felt how the culture was shifting with trap music sort of being redefined as a different subculture trap sound like trap is from the south and then it being redefined in a different manner for a different subculture mixed into our scene. We’re a generation of artists like me, Hudmo, Rustie, even TOKiMONSTA were part of a transitional part of era of artists, transitional in a way that the era we sort of grew up in as artists wasn’t very specific thing that to this day that we’re all known for that, we just re-adapted as if we were transitioning to something greater. I find it fascinating because it was right before a lot of, you know how things are called type beats, we all started creating before that kind of era, so a lot of people who then grew up afterwards, perhaps 2013 and on, started growing up with that kind of influence with everything being a certain type and so you create for a type and hope people pick something up that wasn’t even part of our scene, it was more like “what do I feel?,” let’s make that, and if it feels weird to me, hopefully it feels weird to them. I find it very unique to this day because it’s like a  process of creativity which is almost untouched in a way and that’s why it’s a big reason why it’s great to be able to create from that perspective. 

You can totally tell how things sort of lean towards almost like they are a bunch of different kits, and it’s hard to tell, it’s fine because you never know, some people are in it to compete and that’s what it is naturally, when you compete you want to compare yourself to people who are similar to you, you’re comparing comparable things, but when you’re just yourself you don’t want to compete. Competition is counter productive for me, I tried it, counter productive, even like I said back in high school, first year of high school, tried it, be the coolest, and it’s a hassle! It’s like trying to be a celebrity, what’s the point, I don’t want to be that, so I stopped competing.  

On the interpretation of “timelessness

I’ve had a lot of talks with fashion designer Justin Saunders about timelessness, how is it come to be, and what influences things to them to become timeless and so far what I’m thinking is, things sort of become timeless, it doesn’t have to be something super culturally impactful, it just has to age well, and keeps coming back around, like a full cycle, not a cycle that ends, but instead a continuous cycle. Fashion is the easiest example, everyone keeps coming back to a certain style and if it keeps coming back, wouldn’t it be considered timeless? It’s not like I think about making anything timeless, you can’t set yourself up to make anything timeless that’s subjective, it’s up to the public, they decide what’s timeless by re-listening to it and I don’t know if any of my stuff is timeless until maybe 20-30 years later. 

What are you working on right now from your personal projects? 

Beyond TNGHT project I’ve just been consistently working on my own music, and keeping that general spontaneous work flow because what I’ve been doing often is, I would just watch different panel podcasts, documentaries, series, whatever it is. So I’d be watching a stream of some sorts and while they’re talking I just got my studio open and I don’t really think about it, all of a sudden I’m making a song, “what the hell, how did I get here?” I like that and I want to keep that forever. I like that feeling, I feel restless, and my instinct says “oh yeah let’s make something here” and that way it just never feels like a job even if I have to do it for a project. 

There’s a side project I just finished, and it’s something I’ve been working over time, throughout the course of my career, just been doing many of these passion projects that could then develop to something I could present to the public and then. I’ve been working on my own scent, that eventually I’m going to use at shows and put out as merch, and it’s with the Perfumist, her name is Dana and she runs her own perfume line called Jasmine, she’s very influenced in music, she plays instruments, she is in tune with how she designs her scent and thought me a lot how scent has high, mids, and lows, very much like music so you can build a scent to have a full build up and ending. So we started designing my own scent off of that type of concept. After we’ve put that together she approached me with a long life dream of hers that she wanted to do which is having different performers and these performers would have long cloths on them, and she would put different types of scents for different scenes and each scene would have different emotions, so you’d have joy, anger, sadness, enlightenment, all that stuff, so for each scene for example joy you’d have lemon scent, for anger you’d have pepper, so as the dancers go through the crowd in the arts space, in the art gallery, people will smell these scents and all scents will mix in the end. This is where I come in and design the sound around these scents, so she came to my place and she showed me all the different samples of scents, she left them to me so that I could just smell them as I work on the music and I just go off with that. It’s very emotional, I just smell the scent, and work on the track. 

These part of passion projects is the reason why I still love what I do because it’s a way for me to explore new ways to approach stuff I’ve already been looking into or doing. I always had a good result for rediscovering new things, and new creative approached to my sound and on top of it I already have a whole project that I can present to people in the future and if not, I’ve already gained a whole new set of skills that I can take advantage of and create something completely new again. That is a huge key of how I create and keep going and readapting and being inspired because if it weren’t for that it would feel like a job, easily. Everything would be the same and even if I were with a different singer, it would still be 

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