Collaboration and Isolation: In Conversation with Lou Karsh
Among the youth of today, it’s become the norm to avoid strict definitions on your identity or interests and traditional career pathways have been ditched. Young artists in particular are enjoying the benefits of a career that sprouts like a tree branch in different directions, spreading themselves across a variety of creative disciplines. Subcultures have become blurred and the internet has provided an endless insight and accessibility into scenes and software that were previously out of reach, spawning a generation of multifaceted creatives with a whole new range of tools at their disposal.
One such creative that exemplifies this modern mindset is Lucas Hatzisavas AKA Lou Karsh. Residing in Australia’s club capital of Melbourne, Lucas is a known name in his scene and perhaps one of the city’s busiest artists. Producing, DJing, live sets, running a label and freelancing as a graphic designer, he has squeezed a lot onto his resume in his short 22 years.
Looking at his body of work, it really is hard to believe it has all come from someone that has only legally been allowed to step foot inside of a nightclub a few short years ago. But reaching your teenage years in the age of Garageband, Youtube Tutorials and Soundcloud has made developing your craft and sharing it with the world more commonplace. “I guess I've always tried to recreate everything that's interested me” Lucas recalls, “When I was around 14-15 there was a lot of 90's hip hop going around within my friendship group, so I put down the guitar and looked at ways I could make some hip hop beats on the computer. In my late teens when people started getting to an age where they wanted to spend their time in nightclubs, my music taste swerved towards dance music. I spent a good year making some of the worst dance music ever, but once I started to get good feedback I came up with the name Lou Karsh and it’s gone from there.”
It’s through this Lou Karsh moniker, and his scaly Reptant alias, that Lucas has managed to create a world of machine driven, acid drenched soundscapes that although sound at home on a dancefloor, encompass a certain emotive human touch that stops it from solely being characterized as ‘club music’. This distinct sonic identity paired with his background in communication design have led to building the strong backbone behind his label LKR Records. Started in 2016 as “an outlet to release his own music and other underground sounds produced by friends close and far” LKR Records is a solid exploration into the other sides of Lou Karsh; “there is definitely a bit more of a roughness and rawness that might not exist in the music I release or plan on releasing myself, but that’s not to say it's not something I totally adore.”
The next release is due to hit the shelves in March and will feature four raw electro cuts from Jensen Interceptor and Assembler Code with Roza Terenzi on remix duties, making it an all Aussie affair. One thing that is evident across Lucas’ work is that he loves his local scene. Scattered throughout his releases and collaborations you see the names of Australia’s rising talents, though it doesn’t appear contrived. After all, they’re just his mates and he can’t help but to gush about them. “All three of them are absolutely killing it, and have inspired me in different ways and it's an absolute honour to have them on my label as in my mind they all have played a role in my story.”
Collaboration is a major part of dance music, and important when you come from a region as geographically isolated as Australia. For Lucas, he finds he doesn’t often have to go further than his own backyard for a bit of inspiration. “Collaborating with other people here extends further than just what's created. The more I collaborate the more I learn about so much else, and the people here have a lot to teach. It feels like there’s some new wave and the people I speak of right now are definitely not the top dogs running the scene, but the ones who are creating alternatives to what the top dogs offer and with new life and a new agenda.”
The isolation of a music scene definitely has its positive aspects but the distance between the scene in Australia and its European and UK counterparts is an issue that keeps surfacing as of late. It’s great that with distance a unique local perspective and community closeness can be established but with this separation it can also feel hard to progress as an artist. There still is a thriving underground scene present and cities like Melbourne are an example of this, but with lockout laws targeting Sydney, high national touring expenses and limited networking, more and more artists are jumping across the pond to cities like Berlin and London to pursue larger opportunities. Whilst the internet has obviously made things more accessible, there is no denying the increased opportunity that comes with living in Western Europe and the UK. With the likes of Jensen Interceptor, Nite Fleit and Mall Grab all making the move, it’s hard not to wonder what effect this could have on the local scene in Australia and whether it’s necessary for artists to move in order to further their careers.
For now, Lucas is still undecided. “I’m still not sure if I will take the plunge. I like to think that moving is not crucial to your success. Obviously things like the internet have closed the gap, but being over there would be completely different. Honestly I'm extremely proud to be playing a part – however small – in the scene down here. It's unique and there's enough inspiration here for me right now. There can definitely be moments when you feel like there is no progression, but at times it's nice feeling limited in those steps. The last thing I would want is to take the plunge to move over and have it not go as planned, so maybe there is an element of fear in leaving home as well.”
Fortunately, things are proving to be working out in his favour for the moment and he’s had no major issues collaborating in a digital capacity yet. “Somehow, out of the luckiest of pots, the people I've worked with online and later on met have turned out to be so nice. Even on early tours, I planned sleeping on the couches of people I hadn’t even met yet. That's a huge amount of trust to put into someone on the internet and luckily it's always turned out to be an amazing experience.”
With all of this going on, I wonder whether Lucas is finding his current workload hard to manage. It’s one thing to undertake numerous projects at once, but the added dimension of international time zones adds an extra level of difficulty into the equation. “Sometimes juggling projects can be really hard. Incoming work is totally unpredictable and there can be quiet weeks and sometimes more work in a month than you've had all year.” But, he’s making it work and it’s beginning to pay its way, forcing him to create a schedule that will allow him to “shut off” and start enjoying some freetime on his weekends again.
Schedule in tow, Lucas shows no sign of slowing down. Among his upcoming plans, he lists more vinyl releases under both aliases, label releases, represses and collaborations in the works, including a forthcoming one under a new moniker with Rudolf C on Salt Mines. Having recently joined booking agency Nectar, an Australian tour is forthcoming as well as more dates in Europe this Summer. His excitement is almost palpable through the screen, “it's going to be an insane year I hope. I put so much work in last year and a lot of the stuff coming is back dated. I’m hoping I can stay out of the studio for a bit, focus on gigs and focus on a social life.”
And as for goals for the year?
- Go outside more…seriously
- Less internet
- Enjoy the summer etc etc
Follow Lou Karsh and LKR RECORDS. Check out LKR's forthcoming release here.
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