by Charles Michael Fulton
For Lucien Foort, funky techy house is but one of the rooms in his mansion of music. We sat down for a few minutes before his genre-smashing Atlanta debut at Seks on Saturday night. Fresh from an international flight and a disinfecting at customs, Lucien was in full control of both his track and word selection, despite the whirlwind of activity that trails an international DJ like sandstorms trail Bedouins.
The first thing I did when he sat down with myself and my good friend Tim behind the black velvet curtain at the Chamber was check my trusty Memorex microcassette recorder. I had to adjust the batteries, but the red light eventually came on and everything was fine. Or so I thought. Ok, so it's time for a little bit of what those in the know call "full disclosure": So, she's not really such a "trusty" microcassette recorder. After the interview, I played the whole thing back while pacing at full throttle in the Chamber's illustrious men's bathroom. During this flurry of water-closet activity, I discovered that Memmy only got about half of the interview on her sensuous mylar strands. While I'm coming clean, she's not actually "my" microcassette recorder. She technically belongs to an ex-girlfriend of mine, but I have it on extended loan. She doesn't really "know" I have it, and I don't think she'll ever miss it, unless, of course, she reads this.... But after Saturday night, if she wants Memmy back, she can have her.
So, what I'm going to do for the next couple of paragraphs is start with a base of things that Lucien Foort revealed to me, add a dash of background information, and make a narrative stew that should satisfy one and all. But fear not, ardent interview-format fans, we shall have some of that when Memmy kicks in, toward the end of the interview.
Anyway, trials and tribulations aside, the first thing that Lucien Foort and I talked about was his background in music. Did you know he is a classically trained musician? His mother came to Holland from Aruba, an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean, in search of a better musical education. By the time she arrived, it was just in time for the next generation. Lucien's parents put all of their energy into his musical education. And that energy sent him through more than ten years of musical education. In those years, he picked up a dozen different instruments on his way to settling on the jazz and orchestra saxophone.
You'd expect someone with all that formal education to be stuck up about what "is" and "isn't" music, right? Wrong. Lucien told me that he considers the turntables an instrument just like a sax. Well, that is, if you're actually doing something with them. You can't just put on a record and walk away, that's a jukebox. No, a DJ must make an effort to manipulate the records in such a way that the mix becomes more than the sum of its beats. For Lucien, a musical instrument is something that allows you to manipulate music, and the decks are just that.
Unfortunately for club nights, Lucien Foort seems to be more comfortable in the studio than behind the decks. Don't get me wrong, his extrasensory connection with the crowd on Saturday make him one hell of a DJ, but he was pretty much born and bred to be in the studios. His parents love what he is doing, and when he's done making a name for himself in dance music, he'll set out to make his mark in whatever other genres are out there.
There really is only so much you can do with house music, and Lucien finds this structure of four/four bass on the floor can get a little old. Which is why we, and many of the top DJs in the world, also know him as Funk Function. With this production moniker, Lucien can explore new musical ground, without personally getting stuck as just a "tech-house" producer. Funk Function, and the various other pseudonyms employed by DJs, allow them to avoid getting tattooed with a label like "trance" or "grunge." And once you have a tattoo, record labels are much less likely to let you explore new territory.
Without further ado, here's what you came here for; or at least the bit that Memmy was able to capture!
Lunar: Would you consider working with a more established artist? Producing for, say Janet Jackson or someone?
Lucien: No. I would like to make something...I'm Lucien Foort, not Janet Jackson. I'm Lucien Foort and I want people to acknowledge the fact that I am a creative mind in my own. And if the time is not right, then I'll just, like, structure it and work on it until the time becomes right; it might never be right, but then you have a goal and you go for that, you know, you have fun doing it. No, I do what I like, so...
Lunar: Do you have a favorite record label at the moment?
Lucien: I think Choo Choo is good, they're doing something really, really good at the moment. Uh, Fluid, obviously. And um, it depends, you know, there are a couple of them. Dorigen has been hammering some good tunes.
Lunar: They have. I like their more breaky stuff, like that remix of God Within... Phoenix, ah, brilliant.
Lucien: Ah, but then there's the same that's with producers, you know, I don't really pigeonhole myself, "that's my label, and that's it," you know?
Lucien: Sometimes you go for these big labels and you like it. But then for me as a DJ and producer, I like to go for these guys who have been stuck in their attic for four years and never released anything, and they start a label, and it's just like "whoa, where the hell did that come from?" Because nobody's heard of that, and that's what I'm looking for, really.
Lunar: Right, because they're not linked into this bigger "same sound" network.
Lucien: No, they're just doing their own stuff. They make a couple of records, and then they get influenced, and everything gets a little more pigeonholed. So, the new stuff is always the freshest to listen to.
Lunar: So what do you talk about with superstar DJ's, when you're hanging out with, say Digweed? Do you guys talk shop, do you talk about record labels, do you talk about, like...?
Lucien: No, you just talk about life itself. Everybody knows the job, and everybody sees the glamour side of it, but it's quite tough, actually. You know, you're always flying, and you're always late, and you're always tired, you know. So when you talk, it's like, "How was your gig last night? How do you manage to do what you do, stay on top where you are, and do it without compromising too much?"....
With John Digweed, I talk about music. John's been giving me a lot of pointers, since the start of my career. Like, "Lucien, don't worry about stuff," because I was a bit preoccupied with the way I thought things would have to be, rather than just looking at it the way it is. And Sasha and John, and also Dave Seaman and Nick Warren, gave me some good pointers. So you talk about music, that's what we like, that's what we love, so everybody likes talking about their profession, you know?
Lunar: Right. So how long do think you can keep up this kind of life?
Lucien: DJing...I don't know. I'm 31, you know. Look at Carl Cox, Pete Tong, and Danny Tenaglia. I know that these guys have been doing it for a long time.... Being in the music industry keeps you young. Listening to records keeps you young, you know, because the crowd on the dance floor is never going to exceed twenty-five to twenty-eight. It's never getting older, it will always stay the same. So, if you play for them, you will keep their mind frame, so you will be able to do it for a long time.
Lunar: Do you see yourself living up in Rotterdam, just with one residency in the future and kind of ending the touring?
Lucien: Well, the thing is, the touring is very important, because you get to do your own promotion, if you're a producer. And the label makes tracks which are mine I have to promote that around the world, you know. I was in Mexico last night, for instance...I gave a twelve-inch to somebody and they were like, "Whoa, what is this all about?" You can send it, but in certain countries the postage is not that good, so it's always better to travel around and do it yourself.
Lunar: Yeah, face-to-face.
Lucien: I have to say, my DJing is quite full on at the moment, so I have to compromise by delivering some time off, and just getting into the studio some more, so I can get an even balance. I'm starting out, so I have to play as much as I can for a couple of years, and then, hopefully, if I reach that status that I can say "no" to a couple of gigs, I would balance it out. But I love spinning, and I love being away from the studio.
Lunar: How about when you do a mix CD, like your Singularity series? How do you choose the tracks for that, is it just things you like or...?
Lucien: Simple. [tapping his chest] Something just has to click in here.
Lunar: Really? There's not pressure from record execs to put certain records on it? No?
Lucien: No, because I'm quite stubborn. If they try to push or pressure me into anything, I'll say "sorry." For me to shine as a creative person, that would mean that I have to give my full most, and that means that I will choose the tracks and not them. And okay, obviously, if they have some good tracks that are in my style, I would like to put them on.... But it's what I like and that's what I'm doing, if they don't want to do that, it's not worth me making the CD, really.
Lunar: That's very cool, because I expected that people would hammer tracks down your throat. Do you think that happens?
Lucien: It happens with everybody. The bigger you get, the more you get it. But the bigger you get, the better you can deal with it.
Lunar: Ahh, right, because you have more clout.
Lucien: Well, you just know what you're doing. To not get crazy in this music industry, you have to do what you do and believe in it. You have to make a plan and stick with that plan, otherwise whose plan are you going to follow? If you don't take yourself seriously, how the hell is somebody else going to take you seriously? Nobody's going to believe if you just stand there, and you're like, "Oh! This is a record that John likes! Perhaps I should play it! Or this is a Sasha record...." This is not what it's about. It's about what you feel inside, and how you can deliver that to the public. That's the whole perspective of giving music to other people, you deliver your own view onto the people. If they like it, they go for it, if they don't, no offense.
Lunar: So when you travel to different places, do you change your sound for certain venues?
Lucien: Sometimes you have to look at what venue you're playing at. Obviously, when I play in Holland, I play big, big venues. Like Dancevalley in a couple of week's time, I will be on the main stage, which holds 40,000 people in front of me.
Lucien: Two weeks ago I played at the Hague on this pop festival called Bevrijdings, also 30,000 people standing there. Obviously, you can't play the really deep and dark stuff, you have to play big anthems. Then again, I would never play anything that is not me. I would not do it. I would not compromise myself to play anything that is not me, because I don't think that's honest. That's the way I'm looking at the music.
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