Pure and free

Interview with Luke Hess

Pure and free

13-10-2014 | 10.17

Luke Hess might not be one of the most iconic artists to come out of the city of Detroit, but he's definitely one of the most honest and pure. As a DJ/producer, he started coming up in the mid-2000's and has released two full-length albums up until today, including the critically acclaimed Keep On in 2012. When you scratch the surface, you'll come to know some interesting things about Luke that's unlike most of the DJ's you'll read about. Luke played at Les Enfants Terribles earlier this year and will do so again during ADE at Imprint X LET on October 17. In anticipation of the night, we spoke to Luke Hess a couple of days ago about the legacy of Detroit, his faith and his work as an electrical engineer for the army.

As an artist born and raised in Detroit, a city with an amazing legacy of techno, I can imagine it might put some pressure on you as an beginning artist. Did you ever feel you had to fit a certain image of techno being from Detroit or was this quite the contrary? 
"I’m very blessed to be born into such an amazing musical community and to have a glimpse into the tail end of the glory years for Detroit techno & house first hand. The quality of music, artists, people, and the experiences here have definitely inspired and helped shaped my sound. I do not feel there is any image or pressure here. Actually, from my experience, Detroit is different than the rest of the world in this way; the people that I surround myself with are very anti-image and anti-hype. We create music from the heart, to escape the mainstream, to escape the world around us, and enter into something pure and free. The last thing I want to do as an artist is to follow a trend or an image. The further away I remove myself from what’s happening in dance music, the closer I become to realizing myself as an artist. Of course I’m influenced by early Detroit and Chicago music, it’s how I fell in love with it in the first place, but I draw inspiration from all kinds of sources, and these experiences make my productions and my DJ sets very personal. There is no end to developing oneself and similarly no end to developing one’s sound."

Not so long ago, we talked to Ryan Elliott about his move from Detroit to Berlin. Seeing you have a lot of gigs in Europe, have you ever considered moving to our continent or is Detroit still the place for you? 
"I consider the move to Europe, sure. However, Detroit is still the place for me. I have a solid engineering job here and I can’t imagine leaving my family and friends to pursue a career in dance music at the moment. There is something beautiful in keeping dance music as a hobby and not a job. I’m free to write music and play music when I’m inspired - not to keep food on the table. I dream about making music my full-time path, however, I feel like the right opportunity would have to come along – maybe a residency or a hit record or writing a score for a sci-fi film or something… But I’m thankful and happy either way. I realize I’d have many more opportunities to play shows and produce music if it was a full-time thing, but I was never interested in making music to become some traveling super-star DJ or producer. I just do it because I love it."

As I've read in the 2009 piece Believe & Receive on RA, you are a devoted Christian. How do you feel that your music/career relates to your religion and are there any similarities between the music that you make and your religion? 
"First, I don’t consider my faith in God a religion. I consider it a relationship with my creator. The God of the bible frowned upon religion, hypocrisy, pride, and judging other people, however, since no man is perfect, humanity in general has done a very poor job of representing what Jesus taught. I’m not sure if my music or career relates to my faith. But I relate my belief in God to everything I do including my music and my job and my life – my faith is just part of who I am. I love science, engineering, math, and music, and I think God created it all and He gave man the ability to discover it and use it for good. If any person reads the Bible or authors like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, or Norman L. Geisler one can see that faith relates to every facet of our humanity – mental, physical, and spiritual."

Besides your career as a DJ/live act, I've also read that you also work full-time as an electrical engineer for the army. Quite an odd mix of jobs for an outsiders, but what's it like combining those two professions? 
"The study of engineering has given me a deep appreciation for the tools that allow me to create the music that I make. Electrical engineering relates to signal processing in many ways. Much of what I learned I can apply in some way to sonic creation – such as modifying a synthesizer, or understanding how certain modules process and transform sound signals to achieve a certain aesthetic. However, though the knowledge is helpful, most of the time I’m not thinking about any of that, I’m just twisting knobs until something sounds cool.
In May of this year, you released the Motown Methods EP together with Omar-S. What's it like working with him and when did you guys team up for the first time? 
It’s a pleasure working with Alex. He’s been a great musical mentor and a close friend. Alex feels the music, he doesn’t think about it. This is what I respect about him the most, he can capture a feeling better than anyone I know. 

In the past, you've made tracks together with Brian Kage as Reference and have now started working with your brother Jeff as Select. What was it like producing tracks with your own brother? 
I love working with my brother on music. We’re actually planning a release together for next year on my label DeepLabs. I’m excited to work on more projects with him. Brian and I still work on projects from time to time too, but our work schedules have gotten in the way of our consistency lately."

What can we expect release-wise in the upcoming months from Luke Hess? 
"In the next few months I’ll have a remix coming out on Dolly and a Various Artists EP coming out on Finale Sessions with Kai Alce, Patrice Scott, Keith Worthy, and myself."

You've played at Les Enfants Terribles here in Trouw earlier this year. What is your recollection of that night? 
"I had an amazing time playing at Trouw earlier this year! The team at Trouw is one of the best of any club I’ve played. The vibe was thick that night! I’m very much looking forward to ADE!"