Sometimes artists out there making great music go under the radar of the general electronic music scene. Edinburgh-based producer, LukHash is one such artist who has now gained such a following he’s becoming impossible to miss. He recently crashed through 10 million streams of his music and his new album ‘We Are Stardust’ just topped the Bandcamp overall sales chart on pre-orders alone. With his fanbase growing fast and a unique sound drawn from a melting pot of contemporary electronic music, synthwave, and retro arcade gaming culture, we thought it was time we caught up with LukHash to find out more…
Welcome to DMCWORLD! Your music is a mix of various sounds and genres, including ‘chiptune’ which I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of before. However, it comes together to create a very cool sound. For those who haven’t heard your music please can you break it down for us?
Sure thing. My style mainly consists of sounds influenced by ’80s synth era and 8-bit computers.
Synthwave / Futuresynth with rather dark dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic is a predominant style that has a strong presence in my overall sound. The genre itself takes roots from movie soundtracks and popular music of the 1980s.
Chiptune is a style that originates from an early era of video gaming and home computing where the sound is generated by a microchip. This style of computer synthesized music has been around for a long time and characterizes itself by the use of basic synth waveforms.
One of my visions for this project has been to bring all my influences into one place. I also wanted to share the beauty of chip sound in a more accessible way, especially with those who have not yet realised its beauty. This is how I started blending chiptune elements with influences from other electronic music styles and combined it all with some modern production techniques.
Alongside your music you’re also known for some pretty crazy videos. How did these come about and what do you do in them?
This is actually how it all started. In mid ‘00s I bought an old Commodore 64, a couple of Gameboys and later on an NES in order to try to make some music with them.
Initially I wanted to play each device as a musical instrument, so I found software that allowed me to turn the consoles into synthesizers. I then started recording videos of my live jams with retro hardware and eventually shared some of it on YouTube.
The response was great, with a lot of people finding my technique unique so I carried on uploading new videos and remixes of music themes from Commodore 64 games. In the meantime, I was also working on my original music where I started to incorporate some 8-bit sounds.
More recently I’ve been spreading some chip love by creating music solely on a Commodore 64 sound chip (aka. SID). The response to this type of music is really great at the moment, with a noticeable surge in interest about the sound of chip. What’s even better is that I found many new followers amongst younger generations, some of whom are also asking how they can make this type of music. It’s amazing to see this happening and I look forward to doing more around this.
I'm making Chiptune(s) ! 🤓
Your love of the 80’s and that retro gaming culture comes through clearly in your music and your artwork. Where does this 80’s obsession come from?
I think a lot is down to nostalgia. I have some very fond memories with the ‘80s music. As a little kid I enjoyed listening to the synth-pop mixtapes on my Walkman, I was introduced to Jean-Michel Jarre and many great artists and bands I adore to this day. I also got my first home computer that I used to spend a lot of time gaming on and listening to the micro music. At school I would listen to some classical music, as a teenager I would listen to a lot of metal, as a young adult I turned more into modern electronic styles, but as the years passed, I had a strong desire to go back to what used to give me happiness at the very beginning. This is how popular songs of the ‘80s become soundtracks to my life once again and how I started to explore making music with retro hardware.
I mentioned your artwork and I noticed that you rarely show your face as a ‘front man’. How important is the image of ‘LukHash’ to you and what feeling are you trying to create with the artwork and imagery?
That’s right. I think this is just my personality. I prefer to let the music do the talking. But while I shy away from being a visual front man of this project, I always put a lot of effort into the artwork that accompanies it. Whether I work on it myself or hire a graphic designer I already have a clear vision when it comes to imagery and I’m very precious about the visual aspect of my releases.
You’re a prolific artist and your new album ‘We Are Stardust’ (out now on NRW Records) is your 9th album to date. The last two topped the Bandcamp electronic album sales charts and the new album already hit no.1 in the Bandcamp overall sales chart. Your music has also been streamed over 10 million times and counting. Do you feel pressure that each album must do better than the last? Also what does success look like for you?
Not at all. The main point of this project was to provide an outlet for my creativity and to have fun. Music has also helped me to release the emotions that I don’t necessarily like sharing in other ways. Over the years I’ve learned that my work can help other people as much as it possibly helps me and I think this is my definition of success.
I’d hope my listeners find my ideas fresh and I get more people onboard with each release but I’d like that to be an outcome of enjoyment and learnings I’ve made through experimentation. I found definition of ‘better’ to be very much personal and subjective. You can think you’re releasing your best work to date and then get completely disappointed. I’m trying not to focus on that too much.
As an example, I plan to release a pure chiptune album at some point. While I realise that over half an hour of computer bleeps and bloops will be very different to my existing work and probably not for everyone, I bet I’ll have massive fun creating it. At the end of the day, I’m doing things out of pure enjoyment but if I manage to make at least one other person’s day brighter then it’s an even bigger win.
Can you tell us a bit about the new album? Is there a concept to it?
It is a concept album. The story takes place in a parallel universe. It focuses on the theory that after death a person transcends from one world to another. We are all the same, all born from stardust and our minds exist through energy contained in our bodies. Once we die our consciousness travels to an alternate universe.
People get comfort from different types of concepts, especially after the loss of loved ones. I have been thinking about this for a while and decided I would like to tell a story in a form of music.
You’re a classically trained guitarist and your music has evolved over the years. Is it still evolving? Where do you see LukHash in 10 years from now and what does he sound like?
The most exciting part of this post-school part of my music journey is that I actually don’t have an answer to this! I’d only like to remain as excited about creating as I’m today and have at least as much support from my followers as I have right now. I know a lot of people think of this project being unique in some ways so I’d definitely like to keep it fresh by trying new styles and experimenting.
There is a dystopian cyberpunk element in your music and imagery. Do you relate to this vision of the future or are you more optimistic?
Cyberpunk dystopia is literally the world we’re living in right now. Perhaps I’m presenting this in a bit cooler way with a lot of references to the ‘80s sci-fi aesthetics. We live on-line in a world that is run by governments owned by corporations exploiting everything just to make profits. Wealth inequality determines our life chances. All we’re missing from the ‘80s cyberpunk vision is flying cars and neon sign on every building. Other than that cyberpunk is literally now and my music is a reflection of how I feel inside. I guess you can find optimistic element in it. It’s not easy to find good in the worst situations, but it is possible.
You are invited to make a supergroup with 4 other artists (living or dead). Who do you choose and why?
This is a tough one! Okay, here we go:
Vocals – Freddie Mercury – Greatest frontman of all time with a unique and unmatched vocal ability.
Guitar – Matt Bellamy – Fascinating character. One of the most impressive, multi-talented rock stars.
Drums – Dave Grohl – Another multi-talent with an impressive drumming skills and such a great songwriter.
Synths / Synth bass – Jean-Michel Jarre – A pioneer of electronic music. I mean, imagine the above three in combination with Jean-Michel doing some tasty bass synth lines and beautiful background melodies. Totally unique and sick!
Do you have any plans for LukHash as a live artist?
Not at this point. My life is a little complicated shall I say, and I’m finding myself very well as a studio artist at this moment in time. I used to do a lot of gigs when I played guitar in some bands and I have to say I sometimes miss the stage. It would be cool to perform one day again, whether in a band or solo but I don’t have a burning desire to do it. We’ll see what time brings.
We can’t leave without asking you for your top 3 retro games of all time?
I have this thing for Commodore. Many of its titles are engraved deeply in my mind and heart. Hence, I’m going with: