Known for his flawlessly mixed sets chock-full of exclusive dubs, LTJ Bukem’s atmospheric evolution of breakbeat hardcore and jungle continues to resonate throughout drum & bass. A tireless DJ, a horizon-expanding producer, and a genre-defining label boss, arguably no one has done more to define and refine the sound of smooth, soulful DnB.
Is it true you started DJing very early?
’84, I started – I was 17. But my musical journey started earlier, playing piano, trumpet, and drums. A natural progression from learning music was collecting music. I would take all this music to parties and play it – and the DJing me was born.
As a musician and DJ, how did the 80s influence you?
Wow… music, 80s, and the UK, the perfect cocktail! I was out seven nights a week. So many genres from that time went on to shape my musical future. Reggae, hip hop, jazz, a big influx of 70s US soul, plus homegrown soul talent. The house, acid house explosion in the mid-to-late 80s. If you were into music, you were influenced to get involved
What does DJing mean to you? Can you describe your style?
DJing, for me, is a spiritual thing. I’m totally focused when I play — I take the art form of the mix very seriously, I love mixing. My style I would say, is a touch of rough with the smooth.
Do you play for the crowd? Or for yourself?
First and foremost I play what I love. It’s true that I like challenging a crowd to engage in what I play, but I’m of the belief if I don’t love it, how can you expect a crowd to also. If I’m not musically expressing to a crowd what I love, I’ve failed the crowd, and I’m not playing a track I think a crowd wants to hear if I don’t believe in it myself.
How do you see your musical future?
It’s an exciting time for me at the moment as I’m finding time to get back in the studio – I’ve missed it. My last release was sometime ago so I’m looking forward to getting something out there sometime soon.
Does it get tiring DJing night after night?
Certain aspects of DJing inevitably make you physically tired; traveling, no sleep after a few gigs. After the last event of a tour, for example, my body shuts down like pushing the stop button on a turntable. Ultimately, I feel lucky doing what I love – this never gets tiring!
How does your DJ setup look at this very moment?
TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO, timecode vinyl, a TRAKTOR KONTROL X1, two turntables, some needles, a couple of slipmats… that’s me. It’s a very simple setup, I come from a turntable background and I just enjoy touching vinyl.
In-house turntables can have technical problems. How do you deal with that?
Needle connection can be a problem when DJ-ing digitally. Also isolation, a couple of paving slabs and squash balls normally sort this out.
Any other gear you need the promoter to deliver on?
Quality and make of monitors, and where they are positioned is a massive thing for me, as I rely on these to get my mix on. Serviced turntables. Mixer of choice also I guess.
You don’t use sync. How does this affect your approach?
No doubt, it is harder. Things can and do go wrong, but I’ve always loved that “tight mix” challenge, always having your hands on that pitch button. People are often like, “you not enjoying yourself?” because I’m looking so serious. Believe me, I love every second, I’m just focused.
How important is your setup in achieving your sound?
It’s paramount. Without it I can’t do what I do. I also soundcheck at every event possible, giving myself the best chance to perform well.
Are there some features in TRAKTOR you use a lot?
In every single mix, you’ll see my hands on the X1, looping something, extending an intro. Then maybe looping a section in the middle, if I choose not to run a track to its breakdown.
The main reason is that still love a long transition between tracks, occasionally. Over the last decade, in drum and bass for example, tracks have gotten shorter. An intro might be one minute, or less, then music for two minutes, then a breakdown, then music again. Looping gives me that option of a continuous groove, deciding my mix length, and choosing my breakdown moments.
Any other TRAKTOR features that help you deal with shorter track lengths?
Having less time to mix a track over the years has changed the way I DJ, so having cue points is a lifesaver. Not having to take the needle off the record at points in the set, setting cue points for where I want to start a mix from, or to just get the level of a track set, all giving me an extra 20-30 seconds to mix.
If you could ask for a feature in TRAKTOR, what would it be?
Often I’ll be mixing, and want to miss a breakdown for example, skip to a point further down the track. You can jump 16 or 32 bars, but sometimes you might want more. So that would be a good thing – automated jump feature of any length that you can preset, or do on the fly, to anywhere you choose in a track.
Download free demo version of TRAKTOR PRO 2 here.