Bomb Machine Lee Van Dowski look back at his career and shares what the future holds.
Luciano saw big potential in you and brought you in to his circle. The relationship took you to many and heights and places. What were some of the stand out moments during this relationship and are you guys still in touch?
Getting older now, I start to realize how lucky I was to live this journey beside him! We met around 2002 in Geneva if I remember well. He was just back from Chile with his wife and their new born daughter…
Back then I was working in a music shop which was well known from all producers for selling a lot of analog oldies. I’ve started to work there after getting my Sound Engineer degrees. That’s where we met while he was doing the same school as I did years before. He invited me to pass by his flat after my work to listen to some music, and that very day I knew he would make it big. They were living in this tiny one room flat where the studio was taking half of the place.
His career was just at the beginning, he had just released a couple of records on Mental Groove, but they all worked very well. I directly loved his energy and, somehow we ended up hanging out more and more. Few months later, after smoking more pot than it’s humanly possible in his studio, he made me listen one track he made with Quenum…
To be honest, at first I was like: Ok it’s a great one, but i couldn’t see any big potential out of it. He was trying to sign it on some labels and been refused by Perlon, Minus etc… He then decided to start his own label. Kompakt Distribution believed in the project and gave him the holy grail “P&D deal” which means that the distribution is advancing the expenses of mastering and pressing plant cost. Cadenza was born and the track was Orange Mistake… I’ve lost the count at 7000 vinyls copies sold in few months. I guess it went far beyond!
I’ve then released the Cadenza 03 with Quenum and the story started for me. I spent 10 years with Cadenza. 10 years of parties, 10 years touring, 10 years producing music, 10 years of stupid jokes, 10 years of loosing flights, 10 years of joy doing what we love the most with its obvious part of drama.
Over the years, Lucien became the superstar you all know. It was sometimes hard to be in his big shadow, but he could have run his way alone, and I could have gone my way earlier…
Thinking about it now, I believe we needed each other. Success can be a real bitch and having his friends around was maybe some kind of a protection to not become a jerk. On my side, I must admit I was feeling very comfy to let him lead the path. Eventually, in 2013 I was needing to go my way and so far I don’t regret it. We of course kept contact, we even talked last week on Skype about maybe doing a date together like in the old days…
If I should pick only one special moment over these years, this would be one of our Cadenza party at Panorama Bar in 2006 with Slam, Quenum, Craig Richards, Loco Dice, Serafin, Lucien and myself. It was 11h in the morning, Lucien was playing back to back with Loco since 4h, I was dancing close to the windows watching them…
The crowd was ecstatic and dancing like one. I only remember smiles everywhere. He then saw me in the crowd and gave me that look, the kind of look that was saying: “There it is, this is happening right now, we are at the right place at the right moment with the right people and this is for such moments that we work so hard.”
You then went on to join forces with Anja Schneider and Ralf Kollmann’s Mobilee imprint. Why does Mobilee continue to be so influential in today’s scene?
Probably because the label has not fallen into a formatted sound like too much labels did over the years. Every records on Mobilee has its own personality. The label keeps surprising me every time and that’s why people appreciate it I think.
You made your debut on Mood Records (Nicole Moudaber’s label) this year. How did you two get introduced?
In a very simple way…I’ve sent her some private promos of my next releases last year and she enjoyed them. She then asked me if I would be interested to release a EP on Mood.
As I really love the label, I’ve started to work on tracks for her…The result is the Evar EP.
Are there any major labels you haven’t worked with? But would love to?
Even if the list of the labels I’ve released on is pretty big now (to name few, Cadenza, Cocoon, Bedrock, Mobilee, Rekids, Soma, Bpitch Control, Mute, Noir, Suara, Selador, Snatch!, Ilian Tape, Elevate, Intacto, Toolroom Etc) I’ve never really looked for it, It just happened.
I’m a very versatile producer and it seems that my sound can fit to a lot of different labels. It can be confusing for many people maybe, but it’s me. I’m quite proud of this actually.
I’ve always wanted to release a EP on Crosstown Rebels and I’m delighted to announce it will happen in May.
I’m also having a remix of Eric Sneo which will be released on Chritian Smith’s Label Tronic and another remix on Sian’s label Octopus. Two very consistent labels to me. The list keeps growing.
If we go back in time for a few months, we’ve seen Lee Van Dowski’s name in very important charts like the BBC Radio 1 (with the track “WWW” #25 Tunes of the Year), according Beatport Tracker one of the most selling Techno / Techno-house artists of 2016, etc. Would you say you have reached the top of your career yet?
I never had any career plan to be honest, but yeah, the last years had been great for me. I’m feeling really mature with my music by now and I’m also spending more time in the studio than I used to in the past. Hard work always pays off.
To say I’ve reached the top of my career? Well, I really hope not! That would be too sad! I don’t want to think about such things. I’m just doing what I love and this is a privilege.
“By the Kiss” by M83 is maybe one of your best remixes to date but what would you regard as your best all time original work?
Hard question… I think 050504 is one of them. It may become a classic. Also “ELLE”, “If Only Jack Was Here”, “WWW”…
There’s also a lot of tracks I did which didn’t get the same success, like “Eternity Forever”, “On” , “Thomas Edison Invents The Lazy Dance”, “I.L.A.N.E.N.O”, “1+1”…
I’m actually very critical about my music and it’s hard to realize the impact it has on people. For example, I almost never play my tracks during my set. It drives my girlfriend nuts as she doesn’t understand why. I’m spending so much time composing these songs… I can stay on a filter automation for 2h just because I want it as perfect as possible.
Somehow it’s putting all their magic away. I’m having no more surprises, I know every milliseconds of them, I hear all the little problems and struggles I had on every part. It’s definitely more interesting for me to play the works of my colleagues.
I love to be surprised, that’s also why I’m never listening the entire promo tracks I’m receiving.
I scroll them fast and see if I can play them, but I don’t want to know every details. Most of the time, I’m discovering the full songs with the crowd. This is how I keep my DJ job fun.
“Cerca Trova” was your last LP released via Mobile Records .What are your opinions on albums with so many people just buying music by single-tracks these days? Are they worth the work?
To be honest, it makes no more sense in term of sales. But it still has value as an exercise of style.
It’s the only format that allows you to go deeper with building a narrative and show a more personal part of your work. Sadly only few people are taking the time to dive completely into full albums.
However, I’m really happy I did the last one. I’ve started to compose it while I was going through a hard time in my personal life and working on a big project like this really helped me not to sink into depression. I did this album for my kids. I wanted to leave them another part of my work they didn’t know yet. I also felt in love with my girlfriend during the process.
This was a real therapy and a statement of all the feelings I went through during 2 years… you can’t do this on a EP and that’s why artists will always do albums I believe.
Do you think it’s possible to define your sound?
Let’s say I’m trying to produce emotions with electronic devices 🙂
Can you talk to us about your setup when DJing? Are you interested in doing or trying new things?
I’m a very old school DJ using the new technology very basically. I need 2 CDJ’S Pioneer and an Allen & Heath mixer. I play with Usb sticks but I don’t even know how to make a loop on the Cdjs.
I don’t use Rekordbox either. I’ve tried it but in the end i prefer to get lost in my folder’s mess.
Like that, I avoid playing the same set twice. Nothing crazy. 2 good tracks are enough!
Please tell us about the artists that inspire you right now?
Hmm there’s really a lot. Here’s a little list of the artists I love to play lately (in no particular order) : Layton Giordani, Marino Canal, Metodi Hristov, Victor Ruiz, Woo York, Psyk, Enrico Sangiuliano, Mark Reeve, Coyu, Bastian Bux, Patrice Baumel, Drunken Kong, Timmo, Pig&Dan, Absence Of Light, Aaaron, Danny Daze, Architectural, Monoloc, Black Stone, Olivier Giacomotto, Kiko, Eagles & butterflies, Anna etc… The list could go forever.
Any plans to start a label?
Every year the question is coming on the table. Shall I start a label or not? I used to have 2 labels in the past, Num Records and 60 Secs. But I’ve stopped them around 2008 when the vinyls sells went down. It was a nice experience, but way too much work. Back then I was spending more time taking care of the labels than making music.
I have the luck to release my music on great labels which are doing an amazing job. Why shall I start another label while there’s already too many? I still don’t have the answer right now. If I should make a label, this would be to release my music only. Let’s see next year…
Can you tell us what projects you’re working on for 2017?
As I said before I’m having a new EP called “Tale Of Ordinary Madness” which will be released on Crosstown Rebels middle of May. My first vinyl release since a long time, it’s quite exciting. The Title track is based on a text from Charles Bukowski. I’m glad it touched Damian.
I’m also having a remix of Eric Sneo “Zissle” on Tronic and another Remix of Sian “Camouflage” on his label “Octopus” soon .
I’ve done a lot of collabs lately with Bastian Bux …We have 3 tracks ready so far and planning to do some more.. But no label yet. We will check in time where we wanna release this. I’ve done also a collab with Nakadia and another one with Yvan genkins. I keep myself busy…
Tell us a crazy story about something that happened to you when on tour
The tour we did with AETHER in 2009 was pretty epic. It was Lucien’s idea to make a big live show with Reboot, Mirko Loko, the Digitaline guys, the percussionist Omri Hason and myself. The idea was to make a live linked with visual artists. We had 12 dates to do in 1 months and half beside our own DJ dates. A logistic nightmare. Luckily we had Jo Little, our amazing tour manager who turned out to be more like our baby sitter. She is still now the most patient person I’ve ever met.
We played in big festivals such as Monegros, Osaka Summer Sonic, Tokyo Summer Sonic, Electrocity, Lowlands, Pukkelpop, Creamfield, Electric Picnic, Sonofilia etc… to be honest, I can’t remember it all. Just imagine 10 dudes on tour! This was a never ending party. I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet…