Anyone who has taken more than a passing interest in the progressive house scene in the last three of four years would be in the possession of at least a handful of compilations or 12"s that have the name Luke Chable, the Australian producer and dance music prodigy, on the sleeve.
Having produced a staggering number of tracks under a variety of pseudonyms including Lo-Step (with Phil K), The Dirty Fours (with Nubreed), Dark Alley and Quest for labels like Global Underground, Alternative Route, M-Theory, Zero Tolerance and Vapour, his tracks more often than not have been at the centrepiece of the most A-list of DJ's sets. Think Sasha, Digweed, Seaman and Tong.
Legend has it that it only took him and Nubreed's Dan Bonnici a grand total of an hour and forty-five minutes to write the monster tune “Ride". That’s right, 105 minutes - and he has a witness! On the DJ side of things Luke Chable has been a little slower to get his foot in the door but that all looks about to change having recently relocated to Holland as part of his signing to Extrema Music Management.
2005 looks like being a year of many firsts for Luke Chable, notching up his first ever US and world tour in support of his first ever compilation Renaissance presents Therapy Sessions Vol 2; the release of his first artist album on Global Underground and the first release from his own new label Trojan Records.
RA caught up with a somewhat homesick Luke for a very candid interview about his production process in the studio, his DJing and a first-hand account of some of the rarely-mentioned shady encounters with record labels in the dance music industry.
It might not be written into the Lunar Calendar but perhaps... this is the Year of the Chable!
You were once a contributor to RA. What happened?
There wasn’t much to talk about since my best mate, Keltec, was writing his column and using up all the Melbourne gossip. I could have talked about my mates overseas but once a month was too much.
How did you get approached to do the new mix?
I’m part of the agency Therapy, and that is Dave’s [Seaman] agency under which Phil [K] used to be. Now it is me, Infusion, Lexicon Avenue, and a few others. That was the in-road. Renaissance was interested in getting me to do one, and Therapy said to do it this way.
It was good at the time because I only had one month to collect tracks and another month to mix it and half a month to finalize it. I spent most of the year, six months, on this other mix CD, which was two CDs and it was mixed down to the seconds and things were done to get from there to there, and all very intricately mixed.
I took a while to do it because I am a perfectionist but in the end we ended up going with Renaissance because they offered and obviously Renaissance is the bigger option for profile, career, everything.
How did you collect and compile the tracks?
I put out feelers for the tracks. I put a mass email out and got people to upload them to an FTP. I asked all my friends for tracks. Petter sent me a bunch and Andy [Page] showed me a bunch of things that we had worked on that hadn’t quite finished, but sort of finished.
My mate, Dan Mangan and I started a track that became the second track on the CD, “Little Snitch”. We started it as a mix in to the next track by Uberzone, because we needed something to mix in from there to there, so we said, let’s start one. I started it and he finished it.
A couple of friends gave me some tracks, some old Uberzone tracks, which I just flipped out over. I'd never heard them before to be quite honest and feel stupid for not knowing them. They are just crazy tracks. They kill me. The tracks are just huge. Then there is Petter’s track. I asked him if there was anything new, and he showed me it and let me finish. The same with Habersham; I asked him if there was anything new, he said, “Yes, there is this remix.”
There are a couple others from other guys under our management stable, Extreme Management, which is Rene Amesz and Nikola Gala. Then there was a couple of tracks from my own label, which had just been signed and one of my own. It was close friends.
How big a buzz did you get the first time you heard the Essential Mix where Sasha played “Ride?”
I haven’t heard it. Someone told me that he started with it and however many people went crazy. I’ve heard him start sets with one of my tracks before, “Basstrap,” which was a couple of years ago. “Basstrap” was nowhere as big as “Ride” and the peak in “Ride” is just huge, so I can only imagine.
How do you like the new remixes of “Ride?”
I haven’t heard them. To be honest I heard one minute of that [King Unique Remix], when someone showed it to me and then went off but I never actually received the mix.
How do you differentiate your productions under your real name, Quest, Lo-Step?
Lo-Step is me and Phil K. Originally it was atmospheric breaks, with twists and all that in it. Now, with the album that we are close to completing it’s basically anything goes. The album is so diverse, you cannot pigeon-hole it in any way. It is subtitled “The Definition of Lo-Step.” You cannot define Lo-Step.
It was originally the “Lost EP.” That was where we came up with the name. Two-step came out and we worked off that, but you cannot define Lo-Step.
Luke Chable is usually epic. It could be epic ambient or just epic. Really emotional big room - something that will get you. The Quest stuff is usually more proggy. I deliberately aim that at Kasey [Taylor] because it is for Vapour and he likes his prog. Usually it is just more dance floor orientated tracks, meaning, just clubby tracks, not stories. Whereas Luke Chable is more story tracks, meaning there is an A to Z, it’s not just A-B-A.
The other ones are dead now; Dark Alley, Digital Mind Control - they’re gone. Digital Mind Control was the dark end of prog. Dark Alley was just very drum-driven sort of house, tech-house. That’s them. The whole lot.
You’ve released over 80 productions. Someone asked how you are so prolific, and I heard from Ryan Papa that you don’t sleep. [laughs] How do you come around on all of them? Does inspiration come easily? Are you fast in the studio?
One of the things is, when I know what I am doing, in other words, if I hear it in my head, I am really fast on the computer. I don’t fuck around. I know exactly how to get a song out. So, I think that is one of the contributors. Like with “Ride,” that took an hour and forty-five minutes to write from A to Z. That was just ‘cause I heard the whole thing in my head and I just went ahead and wrote it straight away.
I actually had my mom watching me. She can vouch for it. It was just because I heard it all in my head and I knew how to get the sound. I knew how to convert it from there to there. Sometimes I take longer on tracks because I know what I want, but I don’t know how to convert it. Not necessarily that I don’t know how to convert it, but I want to get it right - which is a big difference from just doing it.
I think about 90% of the industry’s producers just do it and don’t really care. They don’t really think about quality. Or maybe they do, but just don’t do it. I don’t know. I try in every single production to get a level of quality. There have been some that I really dislike, a couple of remixes that I just churned out, but I had to get paid. That sometimes happens, but a lot of people don’t get any quality control. As far as staying up all night, I don’t!
I find it hard to go buy records these days as I don’t like many of them. Do you still shop in stores?
I stopped buying records three years ago, maybe four now. I just stopped because there was one too many times that I would go through 100 records and not find a single thing. Or buy something and not even like it and just say, “What the fuck did I buy that for?” After I started meeting producers in the field, I just started asking them for the tracks.
If I was a punter or a DJ that went and bought records I would be having a hell of a time. There are so many shit records out there. That is why I [created the] Trojan label up, because I refuse to give in. I refuse to say, “Too bad, there are just too many shit records out there and there is nothing I can do about it.”
I think too many of the big labels put shit out, [tracks] I would not sign. That is not because I have an opinion that no one else likes. It is because I believe that people can do better. You know what I mean? People just don’t put the effort in. If it is really obvious stuff that people have heard a thousand times before, then do it well, you know?
You mentioned your new label, Trojan Records. How are things going with it?
Trojan 1 is Mannel from Hungary. The first release, from Mannel, is out this summer and is on this CD. The second one is Tokyo, by Chable and the Dirty Fours, which is me and Nubreed. And there is a Nubreed mix and my mix, which I have just finished. The third one is, Petter - These Days. The fourth one is, I don’t know.
I’m trying to sign “Wubble You- Petal,” an old classic. Me and a mate from Melbourne have done this massive breaks remix of it, which James Zabiela is trying to get on his Renaissance now, but it is not signed to a label, so I am trying to get it for Trojan.
Then there is “Skyline Road” by me. There are heaps by me, but I have got to try and find other artists in-between. Otherwise it looks like it’s just [for me]. The reason for the label in the first place was just for me, so that I can control all the product.
What is your take on digital downloads?
I still think that one person needs to buy it and upload it to Soulseek. There still is not a way to combat it. As soon as 3G comes in with phones, I hope there is a world-wide digital download site. The idea is that phones will have so much memory on them that they will be like iPods. They will be like a 100 gig and be that big [holds his fingers about three inches apart]. The idea is, at the touch of a button, you will get charged to your phone, two dollars or whatever, and you’ve got that track on MP3. Then you can burn it as your own music afterwards. I think that will kill pirating. Everyone will be like, “Who cares? Two bucks, bam.” Everyone doesn’t want to do that now. You have to go through PayPal or whatever to get the digital downloads. I still think it is still dodgy. I don’t think the technology has come far enough along yet. Friends of mine do digital downloads and pass them on. I never pass tracks on, but if people pass tracks on to me, I’m like “o.k.” It is killing artists’ rights. It’s making the problem worse.
There is a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court right now about sites like Kazaa and Soulseek.
I had a brainwave ages ago about Soulseek and things like that, Peer to Peer. The thing is, really, the music industry just needs to band together - go to Microsoft or bloody Apple, and make them legally write in a piece of code that just refuses Peer to Peer access. I’ve lost so much money from P2P, it is unbelievable. To start with, “Ride” was out on the net three months before it was out on the shelves. It sold more than 9000, nearly 10,000, copies. Imagine what it would have sold if that didn’t happen? “Sealers Cove” was originally going to Bedrock, but didn’t in the end because there were too many digital downloads. I lost out on 2000 pounds and at the time I was broke. All the kids [didn’t care] and it doesn’t affect them. It hits me right in my pocket. It is not cool.
You just signed up with Extrema and Matthew Dekay. How is it going?
Really good. It has been a big agent change, because in Oz not so much stuff was happening and [now] working with Peter, my manager, we work really well together. Now I’ve got a solid team around me. I’ve got Extrema, Therapy, TCA, 3Beat. It is just a really good, solid team. It gives me a really nice start. I think in the next couple of years it is going to properly happen for me. It was happening producer-wise, but I can make a killing DJing. It just took me so long to get over here.
You just moved to Holland. How is that?
It has been a bit lonely. I haven’t seen my girlfriend for four weeks. She’s in Melbourne. She’s moving over to Holland with me on May 17. I’m counting down the hours. She’s quit work and is getting ready. I will be a lot happier because I’ve just been by myself. My mate Mathew Dekay has been too busy, and I’ve been too busy, to catch up. Once this tour is done it will be a lot more relaxed. Otherwise, DJing around Europe is just a dream from Amsterdam. It is so easy. 15 minutes on the train, 5 minutes on the bus, 5 euro in tokens to get to the airport and then you are off.
Was it hard to leave Melbourne behind? I know you had a tight group there.
Yeah, it was and it is. Although, because I’ve been so busy I’ve been so focused, I haven’t thought about everything. I can’t wait to get back and that is in October-early November. When my girlfriend comes over it will be a lot better.
How has the U.S. tour going?
A lot of DJ booths have incorporated more technology into them with CDJs, DVJs, or using computers. Do you think it is enough for people mix two records together anymore? Do you need EFX units or Ableton?
It depends. If you are Phil K or James Zabiela, you need more than the decks. If you are not Phil K or James Zabiela, don’t. Because, unless you can do what they can do, there is absolutely no point. You can start trying, but there is no point in trying to steal their thunder. So, do what you do best, and mix records.
What are your summer plans?
Europe. My girlfriend is coming over, going to tour Europe. Playing Godskitchen, doing a two-hour “Introduction to Luke Chable” night, which should be interesting. Tiesto wants to meet me, or something. Finishing up touring. Coming up is the Lo-Step artist album and the four CD collection of my stuff. It is three CDs grouped into years: 99’-01’, ’02-’03, ’04-05. The fourth CD is my pick of the bunch remixed by my favorite remixers or artists. I’m gonna hit up Sasha, James Holden, Ozgur Can, Dekay, Nubreed, Andy Page, and the Melbourne massive.
With Trojan we will off-license it to different countries. We haven’t gotten to that point yet, but I am currently talking to remixers.
A note from RA Editorial:
The complete and original version of this interview as told to our interviewer was originally published on RA on May 18th, 2005. At the personal request of Luke Chable, we have revised some parts of the interview. This is the first instance that this type of revision has occurred in the 3-year history of RA.
RA prides itself on presenting a balanced, informed, objective and positive view of the global dance music scene. We endeavour to ensure that our content is not driven by the artists we cover and their related agencies. First and foremost we are a dance music journalism website and not simply a public relations vehicle.
We would like to remind our readers and all parties concerned that the opinions expressed by others about the content on RA are obviously not the opinions of the Editors at RA.