Techno Tuesday: Jay Lumen on his creative process
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
While Germany is most widely heralded as Europe’s epicenter of techno, there’s a significant amount of talent pouring out of Hungary as well. One such name who is leading this charge is Jay Lumen. Perhaps best known for his exquisite level of production, the past few years have seen him win Underground DJ Of The Year at the Ballantine’s Music Awards (for three years in a row) in addition to nabbing top rankings on Beatport’s charts.
The Footwork Records founder has had his fair share of releases on established labels such as Drumcode, Saved, and 100% Pure, flitting seamlessly between hard hitting techno cuts and the oscillating nature of his tech house tunes. Lumen’s most recent release comes as a collection of tracks he’s been testing over the years, now finding a home together in the form of an album, “Lost Tales,” via his Footwork imprint.
In line with this week’s release of “Lost Tales,” we exchanged words with Jay Lumen in order to get his perspective on techno, the inspiration behind his new album, and dig deeper into his creative process as a whole.
“My ‘Lost Tales’ album is a special collection of unique tracks that I’ve never released before – tales that were never told. Most of the tracks had been dreamed up previously but never physically written. Some of them may have been started and tested but then stayed in an unfinished phase, never reaching their final form. I’ve now compiled all of these “Lost Tales” into one massive album.”
As a DJ, I play a wide spectrum of music from techno to deep and tech house. I think a real DJ—one who isn’t a producer who had to learn DJ, if you know the difference—needs to feel out the right sound for the right moment. I love colorful DJ sets, but not the grey, flatline sets that stay on one level and go nowhere. A DJ needs to lead the people but has to also be very interactive to feel the resonance of the venue, crowd and the night overall. You need to breathe together with the people.
That’s why techno isn’t defined solely as a sound to me: it’s a lifestyle, and it means you are searching for quality sounds, fresh grooves and the new pulse of music. It doesn’t matter what the actual genre is— if you also do those things, you are a techno DJ.
It’s the same for me when I’m producing. I don’t like to create the same sound every time. I write a lot of techno tunes in different sub-genres, but I’ll make tech house or something else as long as the sound inspires me in the moment. For example, when I was younger I listened to techno DJs like Jeff Mills, Steve Stoll, Dave Clarke, and other great, banging kick-oriented artists; but I also loved the real dusty house and acid house tunes from the legendary TRAX Records. That’s why you can feel that big, banging kick grooves on my techno tunes, and then hear that kind of old school spray on my tech house tracks. Though both have different sounds, they’re still me.
I never start working on anything without an idea. That’s very important. The final result could end up sounding completely different, but that first idea is important because I need to feel the motivation to write a track. After this point, I like to think of myself as a clay sculptor artist, adding some parts and chipping away at others to mold it into its final form. The sound is always changing up until I reach the final version of the track, which will be a part of me, and a copy of a piece of my mind, soul, and actual feeling.
Technically, the first step is to write down the idea. Sometimes I remember the ideas for months, but other times I forget them in an hour, so the safest thing to do is write them down as soon as possible—for example, if it’s a main melody, I play it out loud to keep it in my mind.
But sometimes I only have the feeling of a tune; in this case, I build it up from the kicks, percussion, and bassline grooves. My sound is very groove-oriented, so I always try to insert my signature shaking sprays. Once I have them, I just add some essential FX, small cuts, or other FX samples that I made to add a special and different character to the track. Finally, I add the main theme or the main melody if I had this kind of idea when I started the tune.
For my Lost Tales album, the creative process was a little different. A few of the tracks were ones I’d started within the last few years and never finished, and others were outtakes from EPs because their sound didn’t fit in with the rest of the record. Some were only ideas I had in my mind.
As I started to get and feel the concept of this album, I began gathering these incomplete tracks and ideas on my computer and thought, “Wow! I have many good ideas. Why I didn’t write or finish these before?” With this new wave of motivation, I got to work in my studio and nearly forgot to sleep and eat. I managed to recreate the original ideas in sound and feeling, while also coming up with new ideas along the way. It was a very interesting inner-journey to me and I loved all the moments of these months.
So on this album, I’m just telling my stories that I’ve never told before. That means you can finally hear my Lost Tales.
“Lost Tales” is available now on Beatport.