Crack Magazine Interview
Words by: Anna Tehabsim
A softly shimmering melody brushes over a gentle rush of pads. Drums thud, and between tender bursts of melancholy, the voice of an unknown producer smoulders through the mist. “The sun, the sun is shining through…”
It was the instantly compelling sound of Galcher Lustwerk. Commissioned by Matthew Kent’s Blowing Up The Workshop series in 2013, the Brooklyn-based producer’s 100% Galcher mixtape was an unexpected triumph. An hour-long blend of originals described coolly as ‘some tracks and stems from 2012 compiled into a promomix,’ its soul warming washes of deep house were subtly exquisite and starkly individual.
It felt like something to cherish. On the morning commute, on a long walk, at home with the sun peaking through the blinds. As you let it sink in, it was also something you felt inclined to pass on, and as praise for the mix spread like wildfire through online networks, word of mouth success intensified. In six months it had reached near-cult status, topping numerous end-of- year lists and rearing its head in round ups solely dedicated to albums, too.
What was it about the mix that felt so endlessly alluring? Its gorgeous meld of tumbling deep house, ambient sketches and carefully selected vocals were defined, yet unplaceable. The mix felt like a blank slate of sorts, just as Lustwerk’s hushed free association word play set the stage and let your imagination fill in the rest. It was open to interpretation, an element fuelled in part by the lack of solid information on its author.
The Galcher Lustwerk persona had initially conjured an impenetrable air of mystique, I pose to the man himself. “I’m curious to know what was mysterious, or where people perceived the mysteriousness to come from,” he asks from his flat in Brooklyn. The enduring curiosity surrounding the mix, the lack of information, the audacious pseudonym, and, later, the joint release through his close associates’ White Material label where the artists remained uncredited, may have portrayed him as an enigma of sorts.
But Lustwerk is quick to debunk the myths. “It seemed to me that people were playing the mystery card because I didn’t have any social media,” he explains. “I don’t see it as wanting to be anonymous, but especially now with the internet, I want to step back and I guess using that air of mystery helps me do that, helps me live my life. I just want to live a really private life, and I don’t feel the need to display it online. Beside the music.
“Now I’m starting to learn the ropes of the industry more, I know that you need proper photos and promotion and stuff,” he admits. “For a while I was fighting it really hard.”
Lustwerk’s ears were tuned to electronic music from a young age. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he religiously visited a now-defunct bookstore chain to check out the imported music magazines. “It was the late 90s, around the electronica era, and they would have all these UK music magazines. I would read the reviews, Chemical Brothers, liquid drum’n’bass, LTJ Bukem stuff, and buy a CD there. Around that time was when I started messing around with Fruity Loops, but as I got older I got more into rap, experimental stuff, jazz, RnB, hardcore punk.”
Meeting the duo who would go on to start White Material – now DJ Richard and Young Male – at college in Providence, they were taught to DJ by Lustwerk’s friend and “favourite DJ” Morgan Louis, who, he happily tells me, has the next release on the label. They cut their teeth at bars and warehouse parties, yet as the transient nature of the college town meant that nothing quite stuck, it wasn’t until their move to Brooklyn that things fell into place.
White Material became one of 2012’s most talked about labels, emerging with a string of attention-grabbing 12”s and the tagline “Working Man’s Techno” unintentionally summarising their no frills approach. After the release of Galcher Lustwerk’s Tape 22, the resale prices slowly crept up. By the fourth, anonymously credited EP, they were on sale for upwards of $70 on Discogs. “I had no idea it would be that crazy, and people would be so irate about it,” he says.
Shortly after, Galcher released a vinyl-only EP on Tsuba, followed by a self- released EP under the Road Hog alias. Intended for car listening, it was the perfect accompaniment to long stints on the road. Indeed, when listening to Lustwerk’s productions you’re very much in the director’s chair, as they harbour an allusion to a tangible, visual setting, or a strategic retreat from the realities of life. His scenery. “I see life in a cinematic way,” he agrees. “I look out the window and imagine a shot of a movie, even if it’s the most mundane scene.”
After 100% Galcher, Lustwerk’s emotionally loaded approach became highly sought after, as were his distinctive vocals. “People have asked me to do features, and I don’t do it. People have said ‘I need a black sounding voice for my record.’ I’m like, ‘what…? No way’, I’m not going to give you my voice if that’s your intention. I feel like I own it. Other people can replicate an 808 drum, but not my voice.”
This headstrong nature is mirrored in the recent unveiling of his Lustwerk Music label. It’s an outlet for the Galcher material people have been bugging to hear on wax, and driven by motivations very much in line with his DIY mentality. “If anything I want to show young producers, especially young black producers in America, that you can put your own thing out regardless of the genre. Because a lot of young black producers around here, they just stick with the strategy of leasing out beats to rappers, and seeing whatever sticks. But the rap industry is so inflated and people get taken advantage of. You can do it your own way, you don’t have to waste your energy on a complicated system like the rap industry.”
Both this idiosyncratic approach and clear influence from hip-hop culture bleeds into his DJing, too. “I like to spice things up a bit. When I played Panorama Bar I wanted to play stuff you wouldn’t normally hear there. I was playing a rap track and a girl came up to me and started yelling at me, but everyone else was dancing,” he remembers, fondly. “I get the chance to play at one of the greatest clubs in the world and I’m definitely going to play some rap on that system.” Though Lustwerk may have succumbed to ‘proper photos and promotion and stuff’, he remains deeply invested in doing things his own way.