With over 30 years of success in the music industry, Cari Lekebusch constitutes what many call and define as Swedish Techno, alongside Adam Beyer, Benjamin Mull, Alexi Delano, Jesper Dahlback and Pär Grindvik. After his emergence as an artist in the second generation of Techno producers in the late 80s and early 90s, Lekebusch has performed in highly prestigious clubs and festivals such as Awakenings, Tresor, Fabric, Cocoon at Amnesia, Berghain, Time Warp, I Love Techno and much more whilst also running his own label imprint H-PRODUCTIONS. Cari is described as a sound architect due to his instinctive, distinctive and imaginative style. We truly feel honoured to have a chat with a legend that has shaped the techno scene over the years!
Hello Cari! Thank you for taking the time to have a chat with us! First of all, I would like to ask, what sort of projects are you working on right now, and where can we see you play next?
CARI: Hey my pleasure! Big thank you for having me!. During January and or February I usually take some weeks off to be able to work more focused in the studio. It is a perfect climate in Sweden during these months as well since it is always dark and you can’t really do too many outdoor activities. So the studio is locked down and warm and this is the time when I create most of the new tracks that will be released during the coming year. My label H-Productions handles most of my own productions besides a few upcoming remixes that are in the pipeline for Michael Kohlbecker and Kristin Velvet. Between March the 4th until the end of May I aim to release a trilogy series on H-Productions that each contains 3 tracks of DJ friendly stripped-down no-nonsense tracks. First in line is the (HPX102) Jack In The Box, out on all digital portals march 4th. In March and April 2019, I will be performing in several cities across Europe – Berlin, Essen, Paris and also Bergen in Norway and Aore in Sweden. During the summer there are a line of fine festivals in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and England on the agenda that I’m really looking forward to as well.
Going back to your beginnings, I have read that your music inclinations were partly developed by your parents’ vinyl collection. What types of vinyl did they collect?
CARI: Yes, thanks to my parents’ huge collection of vinyl I was able to start studying music at a very early age and this grew right away into something I would call a lifestyle. Plus that my father was dealing with electronic audio equipment of all sorts, so I grew up in a room with 100 pairs of speakers – that made a huge impression on me no doubt! A good thing was also that the type of music they collected was very eclectic. All kinds of genres from the time period 1950-1980 – it was like a record shop and it took me many years to listen to them all – and after the 1980s I started to collect my own collection. Most of my favourite music was electronic-based and especially bands like Kraftwerk were the highlights of my parents’ record collection, but also other dance music orientated things like some of James Brown’s music.
Which moment do you consider as your breakthrough to the music industry?
CARI: It was probably after I started to release vinyl records around 1990 where it picked up at a more rapid pace. After that, I soon got to start touring around Europe on a regular basis and that lead me to release more records on various labels I got in contact with during my travels. Performing at the Mayday in Germany 1995 was probably also one of those “stamps of approval” that gave me the confidence to spend all my time devoted to music.
How do other interests shape your music productions?
CARI: That is an interesting question, and I think they do influence many aspects of any producers music productions. I have since a young age been crazy about Praying Mantis Kung-Fu and the various philosophies connected to martial arts. Visualising the music studio as a Kung-Fu dojo (temple for practising martial arts) is something that feels natural to me. Also, dance music and dancing have made a huge impact on me personally, especially during the age of 10 to 20 were me and my friends were breakdancing on a daily basis. There is a really fascinating book about this by Bruce Lee called Jeet Kune Do, the way of the intercepting fist. There he explains that the best system to have – is actually no system at all since any system can be intercepted after examination. To dazzle the world you have to surprise and be unpredictable and erratic =D
How did your business degree help your music career?
CARI: Since there was no school that caught my interest back then I did business school to help me being able to run my own label and to deal with that type of administration so I could be as independent as possible. Can’t really say that it did something to help me in the music but at least I’m not completely lost when I have to deal with that any business creates.
How has the scene in Sweden changed over the years? Why do you think this has happened?
CARI: Here in Stockholm almost from the beginning (especially) the Techno genre has been worked against by the mainstream media and societies in general. A good example is that big Swedish corporations can sponsor mad raves all over the world but not here in Sweden. There have been a few crazy attempts to create a debate and a change but it never changed anything really, and I would guess that no drastic changes are on the horizon quite yet. Besides a few very small legal clubs here in Stockholm we have mainly illegal raves and those are usually the best ones. The reasons for this are disputable to say the least. But obviously political in nature and have been used by Swedish politicians since the beginning. Swedens alcohol and drug laws are also not in favour of the people living in Sweden. And a sad fact is that there is an old law still existing in Sweden that makes it illegal to dance in public space if the space is not having a special permit for that.
How do your pseudonyms relate to your personality and productions?
CARI: The only practical reason I see for pseudonyms is that it prevents any audience to get confused after they decided what party to go to. But it sure makes a good base for and is also a way to point more towards the music rather than towards the artist. I produce mainly DJ friendly Techno tracks under my own name but when making something more for listening (usually in the Electro and Electronica genres) using a different name or pseudonym can remove any restrictions you might have set previously. At the end of the day, it’s just all my music really, the different names are only a way to categorise and to be able to avoid restrictions.
Does inspiration or practice make productions great?
CARI: I would bet on practice and experience foremost. Although motivation, curiosity, inspiration and a relentless fascination with audio frequencies are important elements also if you ask me. Then again – a whole debate can be started over who is to decide if the music is any great in the first place hehe! My best guess is that any music that is made was the listeners or the musicians feel like something has been achieved or learned – is great music.
What type of software do you use when you produce?
CARI: For recording and editing I have been using Steinberg Cubase ever since the first one came out (before the days of VST applications) but also many other programs like Ableton Live and Propellerheads Reason. I started when there were only outboard instruments and still mainly like to use analog synths and a rack of drum machines. Actually, the market has never been filled with more amazing AND affordable music instruments than today, so I’m truly in heaven.
What advice would you have for upcoming producers given the vast competition?
CARI: Be consistent with creating and releasing your music and do it yourself if you can’t find any labels to cooperate with. Stay true to yourself and don’t follow trends, they will most likely just get you lost. It takes many years to develop a personal style as a producer and at the end of the day, this is important to get the recognition that leads to getting you booked to events.
How would you define ‘Swedish Techno’?
CARI: I guess it used to be easier to define maybe but has over time developed into so many different styles which makes it complicated to address. There is a music studio on every street corner nowadays and large new generations of DJs and producers (it’s very nice to see that Techno also will be made in Sweden in the future). But the more I think about it, the more difficulties I have seen anything that really concretely connects all the various Techno genres being made here.
What’s the secret to success?
CARI: Hehe! Good one! Maybe by starting to figure out what success really means to you and how you define success. In that sense, it can be very individual depending on who you ask about success. But if you follow your own dreams instead of someone else’s there is a great chance for personal success. Consistency is a major element in this mix as well I reckon, and you have to be a bit stubborn and continue even if things don’t work out like you would want them to.
What’s the best thing about your job and if you could change anything what would it be?
CARI: Maybe it’s not for everybody but I really enjoy the kind of freedom it gives me being able to decide every day what to do. Although the need for is very important otherwise nothing will get done LOL. I’m truly grateful for being able to survive on working with music fulltime and very thankful towards all the people who make this possible – I can’t stress that fact more! So there is actually not much I would like to change besides the problem with long distances. I mean it’s almost 2020 now so we could really need a teleportation device =)
How has your taste evolved over the years?
CARI: For me, it has not really changed but more or less it has become more solid and firm. This is something I realize now after getting to know myself a little bit better for every year. It is easier nowadays to pick out the essences in things that I like and to understand why I like them. But in general, my taste is very broad, especially when it comes to music genres. So far there has not been a genre where I haven’t found some awesome music in. Maybe one overarching thing is that I tent to like more stripped down and minimal approaches to music nowadays compared to when I was younger.
Do you think it is easier to get appreciation and recognition abroad as a techno producer than in Sweden?
CARI: Not sure, but if I can speculate, there is an old proverb “you can not become a prophet in your own home town”. So regardless of where you come from – you will always get better recognition from people in other places and countries. Either way, it’s important to be able to tour in other places besides your home town, at least if you would like to have this as your fulltime lifestyle. I haven’t heard of many artists that can survive merely by performing in their own cities.
Do you believe that the music industry changes you, or do you think that it can be the opposite?
CARI: I reckon it can work both ways since we are all the individual dots making out the whole industry. So if we change ourselves, we change a small bit of the whole. But if you don’t stay true to yourself the industry will get you lost for sure and maybe change you into something you didn’t really want at all?
What do you look for when signing an artist to your label?
CARI: It is all very basic actually. If I want to play their tracks during my DJ sets – then it is a great contender for my label right away. There are of course smaller details I tend to notice also regarding the way the sounds are layered, mixed and woven together, and also the timeline arrangement of all the elements in their music – how their songs are progressing and also if the essence of each track is clear.
Can you name 3 of your most memorable performances and why have they touched you in a particular way?
CARI: Like I mentioned earlier the huge Mayday event back in 1995 was a great memory indeed, being my first performance on a really large stage that I shared with some of my personal favourite producers and DJs at the time. Sven Vath invited me to the Omen in Frankfurt way back in the days also and we were playing wearing oxygen masks since that place was known for DJ fainting behind the decks LOL It always was so packed and raving that the air just ran out and condensed sweat water was dripping from the roof. It took a week to clean all my vinyl records after that gig (back when we still used vinyl). Another amazing eventfull show was at a huge rave in Germany (sadly forgot the festivals name) were a crazed naked dude wearing only a rainbow-coloured mushroom hat stage dived into the DJ booth – BUT he got caught in just in the nick of time, before he could crash into the DJ gear and silence the party for at least 20 minutes – it was by one of the guards that were making sure no one was going to mess with the cables and equipment. I guess the promotors had similar things happened on previous events, so this time they took precautions LOL. It’s awesome not to know what is around the next corner right? I mean if you would know everything there is to know it would be super boring – then what fun would you have?
Have you ever failed in something that you really wanted and if so, what was the impact?
CARI: Not really regarding my music but with life in general, of course =) Failures can teach us something in life, without them, we won’t be able to understand anything, to begin with. There is another great proverb that fits in here “winners are the ones that stand up again after failing and losers are the ones that don’t”. I collect proverbs for a hobby ever since my grandmother told me some when I still was a kid, I just can’t get enough of them. Strange stories and in general are totally fascinating I think. The first lessons of Kung-Fu are to learn how to fall without injuring yourself and that is something very vital for life in general I reckon!
Do you think that there is still room for creativity given the number of productions and DJs that enter the scene every day worldwide?
CARI: Absolutely! I wouldn’t mind if every single human on the planet was at least sometimes playing around with some instruments. Best thing is to look at music like a language that not always defines and describes things with logic like a written language mainly does. We would be able to communicate better with each other if we all spoke the language of music, it is not as clumsy as using only logic-based forms of communication. Music classes in school are well underrated, at least when I was in school. The emphasis was never on esthetical subjects like music, art, graphics, dancing or sports – besides maybe ice hockey, basketball and football. I like to think that it would be great if the kids get to learn closer to 50% esthetical stuff and 50% logical stuff in school. Being creative is a good way to get to know yourself and there is another cool old proverb, by the way, that simply goes “know yourself”.
What associations would you like people to make when they hear the name Lekebusch?
CARI: As simple as possible I would say. Some keywords regarding Techno music are independent, solid, personal and genuine. If you let other people always do your dirty laundry you will never learn some of the most important things in life LOL!
I saw you started your label in 1986. That was before many technological advancements took place. How did these advancements help with running a label and what do you think were/are potential drawbacks?
CARI: There are tools today of course that were not around back then. If you look closely at the whole thing it seems that the situation back then actually created the tools that we have today. But I can’t say that it has become easier – maybe its to early to tell but it feels like it takes much more effort nowadays and perhaps all these new tools are just creating more problems for us at the end of the day – but hey – then we at least have all these new tools to solve the problems with – maybe we can create some new tools to counter the problems that the previous creation of tools created? LOL!