Hungarian Techno giant Jay Lumen is without a doubt one of the most sought after DJs in the world. His productions have been making their way onto every major DJs playlist since time immemorial. As a producer, he has had 11 Beatport #1s, and 27 Top 10s. He has released on some of the most renowned labels in the world such as Drumcode, Saved, OFF Recordings, Octopus Records, and 100% Pure. We were excited to have a few moments to chat with him when he came to Toronto to grace the decks at CODA.
Hi Jay! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us at Decoded Magazine North America. What inspired you to start producing music?
I started my career in grade school as a musician. I was singing, and playing different instruments, and that’s how I started. There was a point around 12-13 years old when I found something special in the sounds of early electronic music, and I was sure that I would want to be making something like that. That was the point where I thought that I really wanted to start being a DJ. I love the pioneer days of techno with Kevin Saunderson, Carl Cox, and really old names like that. The dinosaurs of techno, you know? I started listening to all of their sets, and they were my inspirations. Electronic music went through a real boom at the end of the 80s and early 90s, so that was like the big bang for me.
What were some of your musical inspirations and influences when growing up? Was it exclusively Dance Music you were listening to? Or were there other things you got into?
Well, in my private life I like all kinds of music. Doesn’t matter if it is electronic music or something else, I like all of them. From motion picture scores and symphony music, to pop rock. I listen to anything and everything that is quality. That is how I can keep my ears fresh.
Speaking of keeping the ears fresh, how do you manage to produce so many tracks and keep a steady tour schedule?
I just do one release around every one and a half months. I don’t think it is too much, but in the weekdays I am normally in my studio. I try to keep my balance between the studio work and the gigs. I make time to make cool new sounds and I try my best to work consistently.
You mentioned that you were classically trained. How has that helped you with Dance Music?
It was a great basis for what I am doing, and I feel it is really important for producers who want to make something really fresh. If you have the training it is much easier to show people what is in your head and what you want to do, and it is much easier to start off producing with it than it is to start without it.
Lets talk a little bit about your creative process. Where do you draw your inspiration from for your tracks, and what does the process look like for you when you are writing them?
I am travelling around the world a lot, and I always get some new insights and feedback from people, feelings from parties, places, cultures, etc. The whole point of it is that I keep asking myself how I can find a way to make a new sound. For example, I am travelling somewhere in a completely different part of the globe and I get an idea for a melody, after which I fly back home and start to work on it.
While travelling the world and coming up with ideas, what DAW do you use, and do you have any favourite VSTs/Plugins?
It is really interesting you ask me that, because the software that I use is actually Acid Pro. I love it and it is awesome, and so many DJs don’t know what it is. It is like a dinosaur, but on the other hand it is fresh and there are lots of great things in there. There are lots of plugins I use, like the Classic Waves Bundles, Moog VSTs, and a little bit of outboard gear.
I see, so then what is your secret to making your drums so fat sounding and large!?
Oh you really want to know, huh? I have no idea if there is a secret; I just try to listen and to do my best! I always like to push the special pockets of frequencies, such as the middle bass frequencies. I don’t usually just use one drum sample, I like to layer multiple samples to make something new, and I think it always comes down to your ears. If you can hear what you want to do, you will be able to control the outcome.
Great point. Let’s switch over to a conversation about DJing. How do you prepare for you DJ sets?
I do not make plans for DJ sets. I believe in live inspirations, and in the communication between the DJ and the audience. So, that is why when I play it always depends on the mood, the club, the feeling, and my personal feelings. If I am in a good mood beforehand, then I can make a good set.
If you take a look back at the last couple of years, what do you think was your most memorable performance?
It is not so easy to remember, because there were so many memorable festivals and clubs that I have played in. I cannot really say which was the most interesting, though I always like to play here in Canada. One of the best parties that I played was in Mexico at a festival for 40,000 people, which was really huge, and it was a daytime festival. Big party with lots of sunshine, and it was one of the best. I can tell you many stories like that though, so I cannot really pick a particular one.
What were some of the challenges that you faced when developing your career?
The biggest challenge was to find a way to have a private life while being a DJ. When you are travelling the world you do not really have time for it, but on the other hand what I can tell you about my goals is that I always try to show myself to people. I try to show my special ideas, my feelings, and I am giving a piece of myself to the people. That is both the biggest challenge and my biggest goal. DJing for me is really an honest thing, and if you want to be special and truly show yourself, you have to think of it far beyond just being a business.
It is clear that you are very serious about the music. How do you feel about the expansion of Electronic Music into the Mainstream?
I think it is a good thing for everybody. So many DJs say that the action is going towards the mainstream ‘shitty music,’ but I don’t believe that. The mainstream is for the younger generations, which turn to the underground later when they get older. It is a great first gate for people to learn and practice for the underground. The underground is growing up so fast around the world, and it keeps getting bigger with much better parties. So, it is a very cool thing.
How has your sound evolved over the years, and where do you see yourself taking it?
If you are a DJ like me who likes lots of different styles, it is not so easy to find your own way. My sound nowadays is a little bit of techno, a little bit of tech house, and sometimes a little bit deep, but definitely a pumping sound. Now I just try to create something that is like a new generation of techno, with a lot more melody in it, but still pumping. My track ‘Departures’ was the first step into this new direction I am going in. Luckily, people loved it so I am so happy! If you want to be a DJ and a Producer you always have to be changing your style up. I don’t want to show an old and boring sound to the people, as I like to always be fresh. I try to show how my thinking about music changes as time goes by, and I think it is very important to do that.
Is there someone you would like to collaborate with that you have not yet had the opportunity to?
I have some nice collaborations planned for this year. Last year I had collaboration with Green Velvet, and with some other guys. Now, for this year I have more plans with Green Velvet as the last tune we made was a big hit for us. So, I am hoping the next one will be a big one as well. It is not so easy to find the studio time to make tunes together with others, but I will do my best to find the time. There is more, but the rest must remain a secret for now!
Outside of DJing and Producing, what do you enjoy doing?
In my private life, I don’t know! I consider DJing to be more of a hobby than a job to be honest, but outside of it I like movies and I love sports even though I really don’t have time for them. In the last one and a half years I have had no time to be in the gym, but I love physical stuff. I like travelling as well, which works out because I am a DJ. Really though, this is my life so I cannot tell you about anything else because I really cherish the music.
So, what does an average day in the life of Jay Lumen look like?
I have no idea. I wake up at some point, drink some tea, and go to the studio to get down my ideas. That is the way that I do it. I don’t have a special secret that makes my days go by, but I just love the music so much that it is enough for me.
What is your plan for the remainder of the year, and what should we be looking forward to?
I have a new release out on a label called Relief Records. It’s called “Roots 88” and I am so happy because it is in the top 3 of the Beatport Tech House charts. Thank you to all the people for the support, I am so happy about that! After that I have a real banging Techno release on Octopus Recordings. It is a two track EP, which will be a real banger. Not too hard, but it will be in my style that I like. After that if everything will be ok, and if we have enough time, we can drop our collaboration release with Green Velvet. Other than that I have lot of festival events coming in Europe and around the world. I do have plans to play in Asia as well, and Australia again even though I just came back from a tour there. I have plans for South America as well, so I am playing all around the world and am looking forward to it.
Is there any advice you can give to emerging artists?
Nowadays it is not so easy to start a career, as so many people with so many ideas want to be a DJ. The main advice is, if you love the music just try to really show your true original self to people. Do not copy the sounds of somebody else, do your own thing and try to find your own way. That way you will be happy and if you like your music the people will like your music as well.
Lastly, is there anything else that you would like to share with your fans, and our readership, that we may have left out?
I just want to say hi to the people and to the fans, and to your readers. I am looking forward to seeing everyone at my parties! Thank you!
Interview by Anton Silaev and Maria Coliviras – We would like to thank Jay Lumen for taking the time to speak with us, and his North American Manager Afif Khan for making it possible.