Interview: Lando Kal

Lando Kal, production pseudonym of San Franciscan-turned-Berliner Antaeus Roy, is not the first person you’d expect to be behind such dancefloor burners as last year’s top tune “Further” or his most recent “Rhythm Sektion / Inquisition.” From our first impression at SXSW, he seemed rather quiet and composed – a musician who takes his craft seriously, and the hard work is paying off. In front of the crowd, however, all inhibitions melted away and his energy was contagious. We were lucky to have the opportunity to see an excellent set both on his own and at the Icee Hot x XLR8R party as half of the duo Lazer Sword with Bryant Rutledge.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better show, especially that night. It was so much fun,” says Roy, looking back. Before he took to the booth with Rutledge, the crowd was treated to sets by Grown Folk, Brenmar, Shawn Reynaldo, Blondes, and more, plus a bonus guest appearance by Jackmaster during Jacques Greene’s set in which they went back-to-back in the spur of the moment as Jacquesmaster. “It was really cool ending out the night with such a good lineup already, and everyone going wild – I think that’s probably my highlight, being able to play with a lot of close friends and people I’ve known for the longest time and have played gigs with in the past.”

Lando Kal – Further / Time Out [HFT015] by Hotflush

The festival, held in Austin, Texas, is increasing its attention to electronic music each year and has become an unmissable five-day affair, happening in mid-March so as to kick off the festival season for many attendees and musicians alike. “That’s one of the cool things about SXSW for musicians, really, because almost everyone is there and so you’re going to have all these previous acquaintances getting back together, everyone updating everyone else about what they’re doing and shows they’ve been playing. It’s obviously good for networking but it’s also just a really good feeling to like party for 3 or 4 days with all of your friends who are all on the same wavelength of music. To be able to play shows with them, and to also just hang out and shoot the shit and get crazy wild on the streets of Austin is a fun feeling.”

It was Lando Kal’s third year in attendance, and he knew better than us how “crazy wild” it could get. “I know from past experiences that you can’t really plan or schedule anything, especially being a DJ or musician, it’s kind of useless.” As a result, catching up with Lando in Austin was a wild goose chase, so we managed to schedule our chat during some downtime, when he had a brief moment back at his Berlin home base. He’s been residing in the city for the past year and a half, and we were eager to hear all about it, and curious to know if there was an element of culture shock that he’d had to overcome. He quickly assures me that it’s been “pretty easy smooth sailing lately since I’ve been here,” save for the language barrier which he’s working to eventually overcome.

With so many English-speaking producers such as himself, Machinedrum, XI, Objekt and Kuedo having relocated to the city within the recent past, we inquired whether that sense of community eased the pain of being surrounded by unfamiliarity. “It definitely makes it easier, but I really do want to actually learn German because it’s kind of like two different worlds.” Two different worlds not only in the lingual sense – the music scene of Berlin is obviously one of the most fertile and flourishing of its kind in the world. The increasingly common phenomenon of cultural appropriation has been on our minds lately, and while Berlin is known for some musical purism, the locals “are pretty much open to whatever – they’re really into different styles of music and of electronic music. They’re not close-minded by any means. They just need something to dance to, really.” Roy adds that he thinks the mélange of styles coming together also has a positive impact on the local club culture. “The Leisure System guys and Paul/Scuba with his SUB:stance night, from my experience it’s parties like that that people actually look forward to nowadays, because of their pretty open lineups. Even Leisure System themselves, their main focus is to bring a plethora of different styles of artists that wouldn’t normally be grouped together on a lineup. I think that overall aspect and approach to throwing a party generates a lot of good feedback and a lot of people throughout Berlin like that.”

“A lot of that new wavelength of new DJs and producers coming in, it’s pretty eclectic and very different than what Berlin is known for, which is obviously techno. But it feels like it’s been here for a while because people kind of reacted overnight as far as the feedback goes, playing those kind of shows that are kind of filled with more – I don’t really know what to call it, it’s hard to put genres on music these days – weird forward-thinking electronic dance music. I play places like Horst a lot through Leisure System, and I think out of everyone here they’re pushing boundaries the most lately.” He recalls a particularly memorable night where he played a show with Addison Groove and DJ Rashad almost 10 months ago, where “the majority of that music was all footwork and juke-inspired tracks, and I wouldn’t expect Berlin to have caught on to that yet, but the entire club was completely full. It was 3 or 4 hours of straight-up juke and footwork, which is kind of hard to imagine. Everyone was going crazy, sweating bullets and getting down from the time the doors opened til closing. I never would’ve expected that.”

Lando Kal – Rhythm Sektion/Inquisition (HFT021) by Hotflush

Addison Groove & Rashad are among the long list of artists that Lando Kal has played with, appearing on the same bill as artists ranging from the aforementioned to Objekt, Hudson Mohawke, Shed, Machinedrum and more. Part of his appeal is the huge difference between all of his releases, and even the difference between either side of a singular record. “It hits a wide range of different styles but I actually enjoy putting out things like a 12-inch of two songs that are worlds apart, because I feel it’s kind of cool to kind of display my range of production. I like the fact that it’s a direct result of me having a diverse palette of influence, and a broad spectrum of the kind of music that I actually enjoy listening to. I like that transferring over to the type of music I put out.”

When you’re in the studio, are you ever consciously trying to balance your wide spectrum of tastes slipping into your music, or is the songwriting flow uninhibited? “I think it’s very unrestrained, I don’t really have a set plan when I’m in the studio and I know I’m going to start a song. I basically just go with whatever the initial sound is that I design, because I’ll start with a specific sound or a feeling. I’ll roll with that initial sound whereever that takes me, whether it’s a more industrial sound, or it may flow more into a techno vibe, or it’ll be a more happy summery kind of sound where might have more of an R&B, maybe garage or house-y influence to it. I guess it depends on the initial sounds that I’m designing and working with, when I start the track.”

For someone who has been on a personal push towards using more analogue gear, it must have been difficult to move across the Atlantic and not be able to bring equipment with you. “The thing about that is that I probably have the biggest set-up studio as I’ve ever had at the moment, because I’m finally in a comfortable position where I feel like I’m finally at a point where I can settle down and not worry about bouncing around anywhere anytime soon. I’ve been taking advantage of that, gaining more equipment and building up my studio since I’ve been here. Before I moved, my set-up was always pretty minimal because I more or less had a couple drum machines here, a couple synths there. Most of the time I worked more inside the box with a lot of software. Especially coming from San Francisco, and then to New York for just a year, and then to Berlin, I was at a point where I had no choice but to keep my set-up quite minimal. Lately I’ve been trying to do more hardware-based stuff, I have more synthesizers and drum machines and things that I can have more of a hands-on experience with.”

When asked whether this tendency towards the hardware was indicative of an aversion to the proliferating ‘MacBook DJ/producer,’ Lando pointed out that he’s “pretty much one of them.” “I mean, I definitely started out with more sample-based material, but that’s just because that’s really all I had. I bought an SP-1200, and I really didn’t have anything to generate my own sounds, so I wanted to use my own ideas from music that was already out there – a lot of random rare like, psychedelic jazz and prog rock and kind of weird krautrock kinds of things. I would always love chopping them apart and giving different takes to that music through my own sound. Immediately once I got a computer, I definitely dove straight into Ableton and ProTools and Logic and things like that. At that time that’s all I really had, so I got familiar with a lot of software. I think it really depends on what people have at their disposal and how they’re using it. As long as it’s working well for you, and you’re putting out music that you enjoy and you’re making it with tools that you like to work with, then so be it.”

Lando Kal’s Direct Current mix by rushhourrecords (Download available – See Soundcloud for tracklisting)

I’ve noticed you mentioning a lot of older house, 90s techno, more classic material in previous interviews, but what are some newer musicians, or artists, or general scenes that you’ve been into lately? “I’ve been into a lot of different things, off the top of the head… Even though he’s been making music for ages now, I’ve always been loving everything that Levon Vincent puts out. Especially lately, I think everything he’s been doing is very eclectic and very interesting music. It has a good palette of sounds that he uses in his production, which I absolutely love. That whole crew, the Underground Quality label, I really like a lot of the stuff that they’ve been putting out lately. Like Jus-Ed, Fred P, Move D – their sound lately is kind of what I’ve been going towards as far as buying records. I like a lot of the stuff that Clone, puts out. They have this thing called the Basement Series, and all of that stuff has just been amazing.”

When you’re playing DJ sets, do you like to visit a span of your influential genres? Or do you hone in on one particular sound that you want to focus on for the night? “It depends on if I’m actually DJing or if I’m playing a live set. Lately I’ve been playing live a lot more, with Ableton and midi controllers and things like that. When I do that I pretty much use 100% of my own material, so obviously it’s going to change a bit. It’s pretty fluid and mixes well between each track, but still like a journey of sound. It goes from one style to the next to the next. When I’m DJing it makes a little more sense to keep it the same style of whatever I’m playing. I’m pretty open to what I play, but I try to stick with the same style at least for the first half hour or so, so it’s not totally random. I think it makes sense to kind of go crazy and mix things up if it’s your own music or if it’s your own live set, as opposed to actually DJing other people’s music.”

So what’s next for Lando Kal? “I have a lot of stuff coming up for Lazer Sword, we have the album coming out on Monkeytown really soon (April 27th) so we have a lot of pretty hardcore tours following that, to promote the album. We have a 5-week tour in Europe starting on the 20th, and then maybe 2 days after that we have another 4 or 5 weeks in in the States for the album as well. So that, and I’m doing some off-Sonar parties, playing Glade, a lot of different festivals for my solo events. Just staying busy, on the road – it’s that time of the year.”

We’ll definitely be making a point of seeing Lando again when he comes through our city during his upcoming lengthy touring schedule with Lazer Sword – it’s not every day you get to see an artist who is so comfortable with constant change and who remains true to himself along the way.

Cayley MacArthur