A radical shift with Hugo LX

In recent years the name Hugo LX has been spoken in some reverational terms. Although the French producer and DJ – real name, Hugo Lascoux – had been making music for a long time under various aliases, he had found his niche in the world when he adopted the LX suffix and and channelled his musical experience into a House music project.

Although built on the foundation of House, it’s House with flavours of Jazz, Hip Hop and ambient music coalescing around the producer’s extensive musical experiences from Paris to Kyoto. Following a career that started when he was seventeen, collaborating with established figures like Large Professor or Diamond D, crafting jazz and funk infused grooves with a classic trademark SP1200 sound, Hugo took a sabbatical from music to work as an architect and moved to Japan by 2011 with a lifetime experience behind him.

It was there where he was inspired by the local music scene with Ambient, Jazz and eastern Hip Hop inspiring him to approach music again, this time as a solo artist, as Hugo LX. 2016 followed and it was a very productive year for the artist as he released four EPs and an album. He followed it up in  2017 with “Akegata”, an LP that installed him as a sincere and enduring artist with a special penchant for the long player format. Dense melodic vignettes float like oil on water, reflecting textures like rainbows that bounce over skipping beats.

There’s a serenity to his music as Hugo LX, smoothing over the polyrhythmic beats that bulge under the billowing surface of the synthesised and sampled textures. In 2018 Hugo LX found his way on Motor City Drum Ensemble MCDE records, introducing the French artist to entirely new audience. “Power”  from that release as it combines a strict four to the floor beat arrangement with brass horns and skittish extemporised melodies.

 

I sense a predilection for the dance floor on that track and release which Hugo dismisses as he reflects on it through an email exchange, before his upcoming appearance in our booth with Fredfades and Mutual Intentions. Through our Q&A session we find an amiable figure and a sincere music enthusiast with a beguiling personality. We talk radical musical shifts, eclectic musical influences and future works with Hugo LX. 

For most people your career is still in its infancy, but it actually goes back a while. Can you tell us a bit about your early music and how you moved over to Hugo LX?

It started with tapes! I used to tape everything I could; Saturday night radio shows, samples here and there, anything, really!

I still have boxes full of tapes in my storage room, I treasure them as it’s how I started. Then, I had the chance to be mentored a bit, by both DJ’s and Producers I would meet when going to the big city… I mean Paris. At the time I lived in a very remote town and access to music wasn’t so easy. Remember, it’s 2001, internet wasn’t that friendly yet!

It was not that easy to get records neither. So every time I could find a Pete Rock album, a Theo Parrish single, a MAW remix – Any piece of wax, CD, Cassette – It was a real joy. I was twelve or thirteen, filled with excitement for all that great music. That era, this excitement, that’s what I’m currently trying to retrieve and reflect through my upcoming album.And when I look back at it, it’s a dream came true, and a real blessing thaI i’m now meeting, sharing decks or even collaborating with some of the greats that I was listening to back then.

It was Jazz and Hip Hop in which you made your mark as a producer (even though you’d been listening to House music from a young age). When and how did House music make its way back  into your music?

I actually started producing house and hip hop at the same time, it would make no difference to me. It still doesn’t, I approach them with the same energy. I just focused on the hiphop side of it, as the early to mid 2000s were really inspiring, the indy labels, all these producers, our favorite MC’s touring heavily in Europe at that time.

Here, House music was turning into something I didn’t really feel, either too minimal or cheesy. Fortunately American producers held down the fort and never ceased producing gems. But in Europe, the art started fading a bit, then a lot. Then, around 2012 or 2013, while I was still mostly in Japan, I started hanging out again in those house parties.

I remembered one especially; DJ Spinna was playing at Air in Tokyo, and the music he was playing that night was exactly where I wanted to go, soundwise. A blend of electronic, dance, hiphop. That energy was something else! We spent a week there, searching for records and talking like music nerds, that definitely sparked something that would materialise a year or two after.And it’s funny, we finally ended up crafting some music together this year, it’s out soon.

I also have to credit local hero and house master Nick V for constantly pushing me to return to my house and broken beat roots. Salute to you uncle Nick!

You obviously channel a lot of Jazz and Hip Hop in your production. How does that usually happen?

It’s definitely a production thing. I grew up with this hip hop and jazz polyrhythmic patterns. It just stuck. And huge part of my collection is actually jazz and brazilian music. I always wanted to replicate those soundscapes a bit, paste them into some dance music.

Genres are just about separating groups of people, and records on shop shelves! Also, I could say that many of my favorite producers such as Spinna, Ge-Ology, Waajeed, Karizma, King Britt. They would incorporate this hiphop feeling, that swing, into their dance productions. As I definitely studied them, I sure felt inspired!

 

You’re not the first French producer that we’ve heard doing similar things. Is there something to the scene in France that particularly inspires this in your opinion?

I can’t really answer that as i hardly belong to that scene, my timing was different. When house started being trendy again here, I just wasn’t here. And when I was, my energy was focused on producing ambient stuff. Also, I’d like to mention I grew up being surrounded by elders. I would definitely identify with someone like Dj Deep, who’s 20 years my elder. I would see him and many other stars at the fantastic and now defunct 12inch shop circa 2002/2003. I would just stay there all afternoon and observe.

Cats today grew up in a different time span. We are the same age, but they might have a different process, different tools, different energy, and probably different visions of music. It just took me a long time to adapt, but I ended up meeting brilliant guys like Theo from La Mamie’s crew, Seiji Ono, Midori who owns the great Menace label. We connected through the energy of music, and similar sensibilities.

You’ve also lived in Japan where I’ve learnt that you were influenced by the Jazz and ambient music there. What was it about the Jazz there that you liked?

I spent quite some time there. Still do when I get time. I was privileged to land in the Kansai area, in Kyoto precisely. There was a tremendous ambient/electronica scene there, Rei Harakami (RIP), Chihei Hatakeyama, Susumu Yokota, many others every weekend performing at Urbanguild. I also digged crates, basements and thrift shops heavily there. Found a lot of gems, nobody was interested in at the time, and now it’s a big trendy market.

Japanese Jazz had a bunch of great innovators, Hino, Otsuka, Kikuchi. The whole urban soul/city pop too. That influenced my production and sense of texture. My deejaying too. Dj’s were playing jazz like we do house or techno. That was mind blowing. Production was on another level, many of my friends were crafting wonders, and also, J-Hiphop was prominent!

So I would go to clubs to listen Muro, DJ Jin, DJ Nori or the Okino Brothers grace the decks. That changed my life, really.

It’s said that you made a “radical shift” in your production style at that time. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

I found more freedom to be myself through music. The first year of your career, you are most often a copycat. Japan offered me a different take on music and on life too!

2016 was a big year for you. You released an album and 4 EPs in that same year. What happened during that year to encourage this flurry of releases?

I nearly stopped music in 2013 because my then project was shelved. I encountered a lot of huge disappointments and downfalls. With labels, fellow musicians, with myself maybe too! Music can isolate, truly, especially when demos get rejected and phone doesn’t ring anymore! I felt behind the wave of what was happening.

So I re-started it all. Opened a new folder and called it “LX Tracks”. Produced at least one track per day since. All that material finally started fleeing out of its container, naturally, hence the bunch of release in 2016.

I have to appreciate many great people came to give encouragement, support, and sometimes even offered deals. That’s how I connected Chez Damier, Patrice Scott, Kai Alce, and so many of those Djs I was, and still am a fan of. So maybe, I might still be behind the wave but at least  I now enjoy what I do, tenfold!

You followed it up in 2017 with Akegata, another LP and I’ve read reviews and pieces that really admire your skill when it comes to longer format. Between LPs and EPs how do you approach those differently and do you feel more adept at one over the other?

I approach singles or EPs the same way. It’s all storytelling, in various lengths and formats. But I might still write a narrative and craft interludes for a three track EP! As for Akegata, it was a five year process, I’m usually quick to produce but this one took forever to complete.

 

Your  MCDE records release, Desiderata is one of the most talked about releases of this year. How did that one came together and how is it that it found itself on that label?

Don’t know how it resonated through people yet, but I’m happy Ii made it. I was a bit frustrated not releasing any new works in 2017. We had some material ready since the previous year, but the label was idle and we finally scrapped the original EP, entirely! I still have these tracks though, might get them out one day. It was great to do it anyway, was happy to work with Danilo and Pablo, they are fine music connoisseurs!

Listening to the track Power, with that steady kick, it sounds like perhaps that this record is a bit more focussed on the dance floor than your previous EPs. Did you change your approach a little for Desiderata and how much influence did the label have on the way it sounded in the end?

Funny you say this, I thought that EP was more of listening piece, but I’m happy people play it here and there! I produced some that music using parts from very old sessions and trying to get them working together. Phone Games was a slow hip hop beat at first for instance. Power was a jam I did in a vocal room in London, messing with percussions and kalimbas. I have clear visions, but I don’t like to overthink music, though

There’s also some very esoteric Jazz samples on that track. How much does records and sampling play a role in your music?

It’s actually some live horn playing by Kansas City very own, Hermon Mehari.
But yes samples… It is a huge part of my world. Tape machines, and then samplers, are the first instruments I’ve learned. It is my stomping ground, and it renders a texture you just can’t duplicate in any other ways!

What do you usually look for in a record when you’re digging for a sample?

Warms vibes, strong or soothing energy, tight productions… sometimes all at once!

 

Is it the same when you’re looking for music to play in a DJ set, especially a club set like the one coming up at Jæger?

Totally, I try to get every sound colours altogether. There’s so much to play. As a DJ, I only adjust nuances!

I’ve been listening to your Worldwide FM mix, which is a radio mix, and most likely very different from the type of thing you’ll be doing in our booth. How would you describe your DJ sets in three words to bring this Q&A session to an end?

Open, Colourful, Spiritual (hopefully!)

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