It’s a potential dilemma for all club DJs – ought they conform to the wants of the audience or stand proud as the entertainment curators? Holland’s Laidback Luke (AKA Lucas van Scheppingen) always promises a good time, but he’s by no means a submissive song selector.
“I DJ 50 per cent for myself and 50 per cent for the crowd. My most important rule is that I’ll never play something that I really don’t like. If it’s the most popular track in the world and I don’t like it, I won’t play it,” he says.
This tenacious attitude might seem unusual for someone whose major duty is to keep the party in full swing. However, Luke explains his options are hardly limited. “Luckily I have a very wide taste in music. I can get super cheesy or I can get super underground. I’m very flexible in that sense.”
Indeed, Luke’s remix history is a clear depiction of his broad taste. He has remixed everyone from Daft Punk to BeyoncО, and recently he’s reworked chart-topping tunes by David Guetta and Robin Thicke. His fundamental DJing ethos prevails when it comes to remixing, too. “I have turned down remix assignments for a lot of money just because I wasn’t feeling the original track,” he says. “What I usually do is take the elements in the original that I like and then try to make it my own version. Sometimes, when there’s no elements in there that I like, I’ll just turn it down.”
In addition to remixing and releasing original music, Luke has kept up a very busy touring schedule ever since the late ’90s. It’s no surprise to hear he doesn’t get much time off. “Basically the touring is non-stop. The most of a holiday I get every year is about a week. I really need to beg my people to get me a full week.”
Spending the majority of the year living between hotels, airports, truck stops and clubs high on debauchery means that ill health threatens to strike at any time. Luke explains how he manages to avoid this trap. “I don’t drink because I live like an athlete. I do kung fu on a high level so I basically train every day and I keep as healthy as possible.”
This is no joke – Luke has been practising Chinese martial arts for 13 years. He’s no chump either. “In 2013 I competed in the world championships in Hong Kong and I won a couple of medals as well.”
Indeed, you could compare committing your life to dance music with competing in a physically gruelling sport. Luke’s fitness is certainly an asset, allowing him to stay motivated through the endless late nights. “In my younger years I was getting drunk every night and locking myself up in the studio, not eating, having a lot of stress and it really burned me out at a certain point. Nowadays, I really take care of myself and through kung fu I keep energised and I diminish the stress that’s in my head.”
Maintaining bodily fitness is one thing but DJing every night of the week will inevitably become tedious. “You can have a five-star dinner every single night of your life but at a certain point even that kind of dinner will taste the same, just bland,” Luke says. His way to avoid repetitiveness? “I will never try to do the same combination of tracks. Basically if I played track ‘A’ with track ‘B’ the night before, [then] I’ll need to pick another track in between. I’m never allowed to do the same combo.”