There’s few out there that can boost a musical CV as impressive as French-born, Geneva-based artist Lee Van Dowski. The veteran producer has garnered a stellar reputation for pushing the boundaries and his latest piece is no different. This month, forward-thinking Van Dowski delivers ‘Cerca Trova’, a brand new LP encapsulating exactly what the producer is all about. The album is an eclectic journey through the electronic landscape fusing influences from across the board. It’s his first artist album in ten years.
Ahead of its release on Anja Schneider’s Mobilee Records, Lee took the time to talk us through his process, taking us behind the concepts and intricate details, which hold together the fourteen cuts featured in the release. In addition, he’s provided an exclusive preview of title track ‘Cerca Trova’, which you can hear only on When We Dip today.
WWD: First off congrats on the LP Lee, it’s an impressive production! Tell us about the moment you decided ‘that’s it, I’m done’.
That’s actually one of the most difficult thing! To be honest, this very moment only arrived the night before the album was getting mastered. I had all structure of the tracklist ready since a few weeks but i was still feeling something was missing in the last part of the album. So i kept working on music till the last moment. This ‘missing’ thing was the track ‘Toran’ which i’ve finished only a few hours before the mastering was starting. I think I had the Mobilee guys a bit on the edge of their seats that they didn’t have the tracklist till the very end, so I must thank them for their trust. I don’t know many other labels who would have handled this kind of situation like them and let the artist have the final cut.
WWD: What was the one thing you found most difficult about putting it together?
The most terrible thing was to select the tracks that will feature on the album and do the tracklist. After working on the album for the past two years, i had a total of 38 tracks. Then the big job was to know where i wanted to go with them all. All the tracks were more or less in the same kind of vibe but the album could have really go in a lot of different directions. I was thinking that i’ve done the hardest part with having the music ready, but this wasn’t the case at all. Even having so much music, i’ve kept working on tracks till the end.
It took me an entire two months to get to the final tracklist, swapping, changing tracks all over, listening to the entire project every times. Such a pain in the ass if you compare it to the production process which is definitely more chilly.
At one point i was being driven so mad that I nearly told Mobilee I wanted to release all 38 tracks because it was too heartbreaking to put some really great songs on the side instead of others. Surprisingly though, as soon as the album was mastered and ready to release, this tracklisting was really obvious. It couldn’t be any different to what is is now. It’s a strange feeling really.
WWD: How do you see the value of an LP in the modern era of electronic music?
Releasing an album before the digital era was making definitely much more sense. Since people can buy the separate tracks online without having to buy the entire album, the long player concept is kind of fucked up. I’m not sure people still see this as a global piece of work that may has its own story.
They go directly to the tracks that touch them the most, without getting the full picture of the project. That’s the main problem.
Still, it remains the best way to connect with an artist. If you’re a bit curious, there’s a real reward to going deeper, and eventually you will experience something more meaningful. Full length albums are novels instead of short stories. The narrative is more complex and elaborated.
I really want to believe they have still value, as soon they are created with care, and listened to with an open mind.
WWD: Are there any albums in the electronic domain that stand out for you as ideal examples of quality LPs?
Each Apparat’s release is systematically standing out for me. He is a genius. His last 3 albums to date ‘Walls’, ‘The Devil’s Walk’, ‘Krieg Und Frieden’ are the perfects example of what an album should be should be. He’s really special… I wish i’d have half his talent. I’m also awaiting the next M83 album. Another genius who knows how to create stellar journeys along his albums. They are both definitely one step beyond.
WWD: In your eyes, how did you plan to approach the album stylistically?
The main idea was to do something very different from what people have been used to listening to me for the past 10 years. I wanted to get out of the 4/4 format and create an intimate project more for home listening. It wasn’t a real new direction for me though. I was already doing this kind of music before starting to produce dance music. My first album i’ve released in 2003 was in the same way, a little more experimental maybe. I’ve just went back to my first love with a bit more maturity I believe.
WWD: Was the album a drawn out process for you or more short and sweet?
Let’s say it was a long sweet drawn out process. The work was long and meticulous but never tedious. After producing so much dance music over the last years, It was very refreshing to do something different.
WWD: Is there a personal message behind the tracks?
I’ve been working on this project for two years. So it’s been two years of a life with typical ups and downs. Each songs are obviously related to personal things i’ve been going through during this time. That’s the beauty of doing music, being able to transcript emotions.
Eventually my emotions may have some resonances on some listeners personal histories; if this happens, my mission will be then accomplished.
WWD: Now that the production side of things is all sewn up. What does the rest of 2016 hold for Lee Van Dowski?
I’m having a production break now. The last year was really heavy for me and even worse for my family. I’ve been kind of a ghost for them.
It must be terrible to live with someone who’s spend 12 hours a day on a computer totally disconnected from the day-life routine. I’m very lucky to have very understanding people around me, they know it’s important for me. However, I need to get ‘normal’ life again for a while.
I’ve just moved to Zurich a few weeks ago and i’ve just started to build my studio there. I’ve made a little list of new toys i wanna get urgently, It’s exciting! You’ll be hearing from me very soon for sure…
Lee Van Dowski’s ‘Cerca Trova’ is out 26 February on Mobilee. Go here to buy: https://mobilee.lnk.to/