Interview: Lukas Lyrestam
Lukas Lyrestam is a man who’s led an interesting life. A Swedish native, he’s spent much of his life in London and thus possesses an intriguing opinion on both musical scenes.
A man who’s reputation as a shrewd label owner is slowly but steadily earning him a solid reputation in the house music environs, his is a DJ, production and label owner talent that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. Anyone who’s already encountered his label, Clouded House, will know exactly what we’re talking about. Already earning props from some of the scene’s biggest names, its latest release – a VA featuring a bunch of producers that Lyrestam holds dear – is an excellent case in point. With the release, ‘Dear House, With Love’ set to drop soon, we decided to put some questions to Lukas…
“House Music is kind of a like a good friend you haven’t seen in a long time”
We’re keen to start by chatting about Sweden. What was your first musical memories of growing up over there?
I’m not gonna beat around the bush here, hanging over all popular Swedish music is the everlasting presence of ABBA. Love them or hate them they are our biggest musical export and responsible for so much danceable, innovative pop music of the period – so I would say that subconsciously they are very much part of my musical DNA.
I grew up in a proto social commune where my dad and his best friend merged two families in a single house. Music was a regular part of every day life and after school activities often involved freestyling on the piano (all the black keys always sounded good) and creativity was heavily encouraged.
Going back a little further than that one of my very first concrete musical memories is getting a mixtape of Police, Simply Red and TOTO around the age of six – Africa was the very first track!! Nice one, mum.
It seems Sweden is really enjoying a house music renaissance of sorts thanks to guys like Axel Boman, Samo DJ, Baba Stiltz etc. Is there a general shift away from techno, Adam Beyer and the Dahlbacks etc. in Sweden at the moment do you think?
I definitely think so and we have the Studio Barnhus crew to thank for that – They’ve been pushing a very open minded, musical style of house for almost a decade now that has done a lot to distance Sweden from the legacy of monotonous techno.
Personally they are an inspiration to me and I’m hoping other people in my generation and younger take this ‘laissez faire’ approach to house music and try to fuse it with their own pet peeves and projects. The days of genre snobbery and insular music in Sweden I think are over – now we just need a more cohesive scene to nurture left-of center electronic music and culture.
You lived in London for some time. What inspired the move? Was it solely a music-based decision?
In the interest of full disclosure my parents actually moved my family to greater London from the age of 11 but I personally made the decision to come back to London at age 19 after a year abroad.
The UK has such a rich musical history and London especially is very, very diverse – it’s a large part of how I approach djing and music production today. I spent the last couple of years there for university but the nightlife itself for a young person interested in dance music was second to none.
Contrary to Sweden, London embraces eclecticism and the fusing of genres, styles and moods – something that I think comes across in my music and the vibe of crews like Studio Barnhus. A lot of my formative musical years were spent at venues around the city absorbing post-punk, grindcore, rave and pop music.
What did you find challenging about living to a city like London? Did it take you a while to acclimatize to it?
It’s no walk in the park but after a while you learn the tricks of the trade such as where to meet like-minded people, where you can get food for cheap and where the killer local artists and DJ tend to play. Shout out to the classic unsung (now closed) venues like Rhythm Factory, 93 Feet East and Matter! At the peak of my time in London was the dubstep-era so part of navigating the city was whether or not to dabble in that, which was also an exciting time in and of itself.
Was getting involved in the electronic music scene part of what’s made the city so enjoyable for you?
Absolutely, it’s shaped the way my life is turning out immensely. I threw club nights to no-one, collaborated on a student party at Ministry of Sound, worked the door at a fetish venue and did listings for a made-up PR company all fuelled by booze and illicit substances. I also had countless musical experiences at Fabric, Cable, XOYO and other super-clubs whose magical programming exposed me to all night sets by the likes of Villalobos, Erol Alkan and Nicolas Jaar. As a center for electronic music it’s almost second to none and I was really lucky to catch the beginning of some really, really special artists.
Lets get on now to chatting about the label, Clouded House. You’ve enjoyed some really great early success, with the last EP, a VA comp getting a lot of support from great DJs. The latest is a VA too and you tend to work with up-and-coming producers as opposed to established names. Is this something you’re very conscious of and do you find this tactic more rewarding, for example?
The label is a passion project first and foremost, and for me its really rewarding to be able to give people who otherwise don’t get credit a chance to get their music out there – I’m trying to give back to the music scene and the people that gave me a chance once upon a time. There’s a lot of excellent music floating around out there!
Equally I’d like to highlight producers and DJs that have a similar musical ethos as me – Clouded House is a little ship for me and musicians in my orbit, to present a musical snapshot of the music we grew up on and loved. It’s been really exciting for people that I look up to and are my heroes to give props to the music.
Now, lets chat about the concept behind the latest release. How did you dream up that idea?
There’s been tons of discourse about the founders of house music and their legacy, but I think the people who become influenced and infatuated by that, have an artistic slant that is just as valid. ‘Dear House, With Love!’ is all about discourse between the music itself and the people who have grown up on the fringes of that culture. This is a place that’s musically interesting to me as an artist, how a music scene that you’re not a part changed your life for better or for worse.
And going back a bit with your relationship with house music, what is it about the music that you hold so dear?
For me house music is kind of a like a good friend you haven’t seen in a long time, you change and you grow but at the end of the day the same magic is still there. It’s adventure, it’s romance and danger all mixed up into something that’s both primal and physical – it’s been a guiding force in my life and for these other artists too.
Is it important you have a personal relationship with the people you work with too?
I like to look for the thing that makes a record a little bit special, a little extra. When you work with people you know and respect this becomes easier – its a culmination of your shared experiences as much as music that you heard on the internet. On a more practical note its always nice to put out records by your friends as you see the results instantly, this business is always hindered by budget after all.
What do you see as the future of Clouded House? Do you feel you’re constantly learning as you go? And what labels do you look up to for inspiration?
More records, more parties and more friends! I’d love to see the label grow and reach more people while still giving the little guys a chance to get a record out. If I was going to be really optimistic I’d want Clouded House to be more of a community and a feel than just a record label – sort of like a non-pretentious Giegling. There’s a lot of iconic record labels I look up to but off the top of my head Running Back, Stripped & Chewed and Music From Memory.
By the end of this year, what do you hope you will be reflecting on with some success?
Some killer DJs dropping these records at the perfect moment, more releases and maybe a little live show from me! It’s all about the passion and joy this stuff gives me and I’d like to reach more and more house lovers year after year. Maybe a Clouded House showcase at a festival near you!
‘Dear House, With Love’ is out 23rd March on Lukas Lyrestam’s Clouded House label