Lunice has been leading the way for Montreal's hip-hop and dance music scenes for over five years and making noise for almost twice as long. Smashing festivals, working alongside Kanye West and Hudson Mohawke, and setting the stage for a trap and rave merger are just a few credits the producer can claim. It's hard to imagine global dance music sounding the same without his influence.
With his long-awaited debut album 360 out later this year, THUMP caught up with him after an energetic performance at Montreal's Igloofest to discuss performing in sub-zero temperatures, death metal, and what it's like opening for one of the biggest artists of all-time.
THUMP: What's it like playing a festival this cold?
Lunice: What's interesting about [Igloofest] specifically is how well organized the logistics are in terms of making an event happen here and making it work. Surprisingly it's what, -12 degrees [Celsius], but it's actually one of the best nights ever in terms of temperature. We had a couple nights where it was -30 degrees [Celsius] and people still came through with full spirits. I tell it time and time again, from all the festivals I've done around the world, this is hands down one of the best winter festivals that I've ever done.
Tonight it seemed a lot more seamless the way you were connecting rap tracks, like Kendrick Lamar, to your own straight-up productions, to even UK grime. How has that been, synthesizing everything?
What we use to do in the early days, to people starting to understand, is completely relatable to how jazz came to be, in terms of their using marching band instrumentation to develop something more funky and tribal and rhythmic. That took awhile for people to catch on to, so when I researched that and learned that they went through the same thing, that was completely inspiring to me knowing that we're going the right route.
You just toured with Madonna, who's obviously a huge artist, but her background is completely different than yours.
To me, that's proof of like-mindedness. There's this amazing quote from Miles [Davis], he says "It's not what you know but what you hear." So, it's that kind of thing; if they hear and see and it feels good to them, then they react. I believe that's what happened between me and Madonna.
You've had your hip-hop audience for a long time, you've had your electronic audience, now there's this whole other zone of people. In terms of writing your music, does that play in to your thought process?
One thing that I can keep consistent throughout all of these different crowds is my love I guess, my positivity. The positivity of what I want to do, what I want to push, my message to the people. Whether it's rap music, and unfortunately, there may be some curse words hidden in there and some terms that some people might not be comfortable with, but I'll be the guide to mediate it between both of us. Beyond that, this is the emotion and I'm presenting it to you: physically how it feels. And so, hopefully it translates.
You mentioned Miles. Jazz has become kind of a hotly tipped sound again thanks to artists like Kendrick and Kamasi Washington. What have you been listening to that's been inspiring recently?
I've been listening to jazz since way back in high school. I really like over time as you listen to a lot of rap, a lot of jazz, house, techno, you get to familiarize yourself with the pattern and structures of certain songs that inspire you, and eventually you try to look for something else. Right now, I've been really inspired by a lot of metal. Death metal, black metal, stuff like that. I'll listen to bands from Opeth to Skinless. I've just come across this other band called Graveland, who are insane.
"Dials" from your 180 EP was a really amazing track in terms of the drum patterns. It doesn't really fit with anything else that you've done. What was the inspiration for that one?
That's something I've always done on the side in terms of what I've enjoyed. It's messing around with rhythm. Also being a dancer, a b-boy, I've always got these different tempos in my head that I want to dance on, so whenever I do something like that, it's really my expression of how I wanna jam out with people.
What can we expect from your upcoming album?
Well, I've been playing with the title 360 for a good four years at this point. 180 came in terms of just simply directing the listener into something that's half way into my idea of a transition. So the 180 term fitted that project well. I just wanted to show an idea of where I'm going with my music, sort of like a palette. So 180 really doesn't go anymore beyond than that. But 360 does, because it's my first [full length] project so I'm really trying to cover a lot of different things. You'll see!
You were really an innovator behind the merging of hip-hop, especially Southern hip-hop, and electronic music. How do you keep ahead of the curve?
What I've come up with, and I've been doing it five years full time solid now, is that consistency is one of the most important traits to have. Not like you're trying to do the same thing, but within consistency it's incremental improvement. People try to find the blow up, the viral track that will be the biggest. I'm not about that. I've never been about that since the beginning.
But here's the thing, you need to learn how to respect how people hop on trends. They've got the full rights to go about it. It's up to you as individual artists to recognize that trend and leave it as is and let them label it. If they want to label me as trap, then so be it, because you have the right to. I'm gonna keep it consistent because that's what makes me feel good and if whatever makes me feel good comes out with this type of music, then that's what I'm gonna keep doing.
Son Raw is on Twitter.