LukHash - An Interview with the Chiptune Master
LukHash is a Polish-born British music composer based in Edinburgh, UK. He creates a compelling fusion of chiptune mastery mingled with synthwave, cyberpunk and EDM elements.
HIs distinctively unique approach to electronic music weaves the hallmark features of several genres together with a nostalgic return to the musical motifs of the 80's to create something entirely fresh.
An avid experimenter with hardware synthesizers, LukHash's unique twist on 8-bit sound arises from over a decade of experimentation with digital logic hardware, ranging from custom modified Commodore 64 systems to hacked Nintendo Gameboy consoles.
Darker, dystopian and pensive in feel, LukHash's striking sound captures a curious contrast between longing for a time since passed, and the tentative steps into a future unknown. I revelled in a chance to interview him, he doesn't do many that I know of preferring to let his awesome music do the talking. Its a pretty interesting insight, take a look.....
I don’t think that it’s any great surprise that ‘Lukhash’ isn’t your real name, how did you come up with it?
That name goes all the way back to year 2000 when I was in high school. I was in a band and one day we just came up with it and it stuck. Initially I was credited on the band albums and demos as luk#, but at the beginnings of the home internet era, use of special character started causing some challenges so it got changed to LukHash.
Since the release of ‘Dead Pixels’ back in 2010 how do you think your sound has developed over time?
In 2009 when I was working on ‘Dead Pixels’ I’ve been experimenting with combining a Chiptune with Metal and Rock styles. I’ve used electric guitar a lot back then. Over the years my taste has moved towards pure electronic. Today I still incorporate retro computer sounds within my music so that aspect remains the same, but I’m fusing it with other genres. In addition, I use much different production techniques. I’ve also recorded few albums prior to ‘Dead Pixels’, however I take this record as the beginning of my experimental chiptune
His work pre 'Dead Pixels'
..and his more recent
Have you noticed a big change in the industry in the last 10 years and in what sense?
When I started my solo music project and released first demo in 2003, I was only uploading it to my website. I can’t recall any music service I would use back then. I think YouTube became popular few years later, but initially my music would only be available directly from my page. People would find out about it via some forums I was active member of, and a word of mouth.
Few years later things became a bit easier with emergence of platforms like Bandcamp, Soundcloud or Jamendo, which allowed music sharing and reaching new listeners in a more convenient way. I still remember the time when Spotify was relatively new and some of my listeners were asking when will LukHash music become available there. I was searching for a music aggregator that could support me with this task but after my 1st stab at it I decided to give up. My music eventually hit Spotify and few other streaming platforms a couple years later. Today we have endless possibilities of getting new music out there to be discovered. In my option it changed for so much better in terms of platform availability. Same goes for the music production aspect where composers have access to hundreds of great virtual instruments and sound banks at their fingertips.
What is your creative process like for each Album? Is it a certain thought process that goes with the melody for example? How long does it typically take for you to lay down a track?
I start each track from laying the drums and drafting the bass line. I come up with the desired chords progression and I’ll develop initial idea over the course of few hours. It depends on the track but I also tend to begin from composing chorus/drop, and building other parts around it afterwards. I actually enjoy writing melodies the most. I often leave them towards the second part of my composition stage. The interesting fact is I’ll write a melody in less than 5 minutes and often leave it pretty much ‘as is’ in the final version of the song. I
also would have a rough desired melody in my head as I develop the song, but I tend to write it down later in the process. In my case that melody composition part is pretty straight forward but laying the song foundations will often take me good number of hours.
The artwork for each of your fantastic releases is married with some pretty aesthetic artwork it has to be said…who creates the work for you? And how do you go about researching the perfect conceptual designs for each piece?
A lot of my earlier artwork was done by my good friend Jolene. Jolene was featured on 3 album covers and is responsible for a lot of LukHash visuals. I’ve met Jolene back in 2011 and she provided a great amount of support with the graphic design aspect for this project. I always had a vision for each of the releases and we would chat how is to best convey this in a still image. In terms of more recent albums and singles – I was responsible for some of it. I had most fun designing the cover for ‘Better Than Reality’ and it was great to see it
being printed by Timeslave Recordings in 2019. Since joining NRW Records I decided to leave album artwork to the professionals. I always have certain idea when it comes to the artwork concept, so I will describe it to the designer. Sometimes it will be accompanied by a hand drawn picture but my drawing skills are so poor that I have to scribble loads of descriptions over it to make sure it all makes sense.
Your newest release ‘Transient Offworld’ which came out in March of this year seems to have garnered a lot of buzz since its release which is fantastic! It’s certainly up there with some of my favourite releases of 2020! How long did it take you to pull that album together?
Thank you, it’s really amazing to hear that! It took me about 3-4 months end to end to produce this record. I wasn’t sure what to expect - while I’m used to the fact each of my releases is slightly different than the previous one, this time I was also sending it to NRW Records for review. It wasn’t just another self-release, so I remember being a bit nervous about it. I was delighted to soon find out there were no changes required and my vision for each song as well as the entire albums concept was received so well.
Who are the musicians and bands that have inspired you over time?
My inspiration will come from various artists of the 80's computer game music, however in terms of the bands outside the computer scene my favourites have always been Korn, Muse, Queen, No Doubt, Daft Punk.
If you could open for any Synth musician on the circuit currently who would it be and why?
Carpenter Brut. Frank’s music has really pushed me to further explore Retrowave and gave me a lot of inspiration for blending my usual chiptune-oriented style with some classic synth sounds.
Haven’t as yet had the good fortune of seeing you play live; is there any gig or tour news we can look forward to in 2021?
Due to a number of reasons I’m currently not performing live. I hope this will happen one day, but unfortunately, I can’t see this happening in a foreseeable future. My main focus is on my beautiful little daughters at this moment, the rest will have to wait.
What is a day off for ‘LukHash’ like? Or is there such a thing?
My life over the course of last few years has been a bit of a bumpy journey. I’m glad to have ability of creating music as it’s been a form of escapism that I much needed. Whenever I find a spare moment I try to create. Whether it be an experimental stuff with a tape loops you can occasionally see on my videos, an original song or a game theme remix. Creating stuff keeps me going and gives me a real sense of accomplishment so I don’t really take time off from it.
Over the entire tenure of your musical career to date what has been your best memory?
I’d say the conversations with the 2 largest record labels in retrowave, which were concluded with getting on NRW Records roster. It was great to see the biggest players on the market being open to new ideas. This also happened to me only 1 year of my experimentation with Synthwave, so it has definitely been a highlight of my musical journey. I actually take it as the beginning of it. Previously I wasn’t very serious about my musical career and while I was taking a lot of pleasure from composing, I wasn’t actively promoting the outcomes.
Up to early 2018 I wasn’t even aware of my Spotify numbers until a colleague at work told me I had an established listener base. I was producing because I enjoyed it, and talking about it was always secondary. Of course, I enjoyed receiving feedback and knew a lot of listeners were awaiting my next releases, but I wasn’t actively seeking to reach new audiences as such. I now see a much bigger picture and notice how this music have an impact on other people’s lives. I also started to realise about much wider scope and potential. It’s awesome to hear from a long-time fans but at same time it’s great to have new listeners getting on board.
What made you decide to pursue a career in Synthwave Music?
I always loved sound of 8bit sound chips so I was trying to incorporate the sounds I grew up with into my songs. Whether it be Metal, Rock, Electro, EDM or a more recent move into Synthwave ground which was a kind of natural progression. I always try to balance on the spectrum of different genres and Synthwave was a very interesting place I was keen to explore. Also, despite Chiptune and Synthwave being a different styles I think there’s a lot of synergy between the two and I really wanted to demonstrate that. I thought there’s a
room for an artist fusing them together, so I decided to go in that direction.
Can you tell us a bit more about your current projects and anything exciting you have planned for 2021?
I guess it’s no surprise I’m currently working on new material. Hopefully I’ll be able to share something new with you soon!