Leeu and the sound of ‘suid-tronica’
With his earthy, versatile and imaginative approach to making music and ever-evolving “suid-tronica” sound, Leeu has emerged as one of the most exciting producers in the country.
As a solo artist and together with his creative collective Hadedah, 2016 has been a particularly fruitful year – with a string of well received releases and high profile bookings.
This Friday is no different – Leeu will be opening for one of his long-time heroes, Stimming in Room 4.
We caught up with him to chat about the journey so far, his favourite hardware, the importance of travel and what the scene looks like from where he’s standing…
Talk to us about your background.. Where are you from and how did you get involved with electronic music?
Leeu: I was born in Johannesburg, spent most of my years back and forth between here and Cape Town. I first got involved with electronic music my first year of high school, I took up drumming lessons and wanted to make more electronic type drums, then a friend Nolan Dennis gave me Fruityloops, I was already messing with Ejay and experimenting with my PC games sound libraries making loops at the time. It was a fun period of learning this program and spending late nights trying to recreate Timbaland and Dilla type drum patterns. 10 years down the line and the journey continued to the point where I’m now playing live and pursuing a full time career in music.
You have spent some time in different countries, did this influence your output?
Leeu: Most definitely, it’s a big world out there with lots of humans doing amazing things. It puts you right in your place and gives you perspective. Moving to Norway for two years was the best thing I could of done for myself as an artist, I got to travel around Europe and attend many music festivals and gave me time to work in seclusion on my own productions, refining it to the point where I can play live.
As an artist, what do you strive for?
Leeu: To tell an honest story with what I’m expressing musically, be an open and willing vessel for creativity; to challenge myself and my audience with new sonic experiences. I strive to be humble. I find that it’s important to hold back your ego, be constantly hungry to learn and share new musical ideas. I strive to discover the amazing possibilities of sound – why music plays such an important role in our wellbeing, I always embrace music from around the world and strive discover its origins.
2016 has kept you pretty busy. What were the challenges and highlights?
Leeu: This year has been crazy in general; I think a lot of people can agree! If anything 2016 has taught me a lot about time and energy management, juggling a career as a producer and live performer with my work as chef, working on a collective with my close friends, making time to work on my music along with other collaborations. Preparing for live sets can get really frantic at times and I’ve had to re-evaluate my life and how to focus energy on certain things at a time – I’m only realizing now how important time is.
That being said, when I look back at this year it’s hard to sum up the highlights cause I’m still here pinching myself to see if this is real. I didn’t expect things to manifest the way they did, just doing my best job to take the blessing at hand and go forward. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with some incredible musicians, producers/DJs and creatives this year, I have played at all festivals I’ve always dreamt of playing at. It’s going to take me some time still to come back down to earth from it all, I’m forever thankful to everyone who helped made it happen.
Share some of your latest releases and tell us a bit about them..
Leeu: This is my latest release with Ricardo Benigno on Kalushi Recordings a local label run by Rob Toca and Darren Murphy. I’m really proud of what we made, it was a very fruitful experience, I learnt so much working with Ric – we really challenged ourselves to make something we´ve never made before and hone in on each others strong points, this is a very experimental kind of dance music, and its been very well received when I’ve played it in my sets.
Leeu: Here is my Remix of Ben Werchohlads Means of the End on JustMoveRecords another amazing local label run by Miguel Pone And Nuno Estevez, this release got a lot of attention before it was even out, with Thorne Millers remix which was being played at various clubs in SA – the whole EP is Quality!
Leeu: This was my contribution to the Emerald Feather Archives, The Podcasts Hadedah host monthly where we feature producers and live artists playing only their original music.
There are some new tracks on this mix still to be released.
What elements would you say binds all your releases and sets together?
Leeu: An emphasis on raw grooves that play on and stimulate the imagination, when I build my live sets I want to allow the body to lock into natural motion whilst your mind is stimulated with intricate soundscapes and melodic phrases. It’s journey music for me and each song plays an important part in the full puzzle to my story.
There is always space for the unknown, I don’t like control, I like to surprise myself and people listening – but still having a consistency in the way I go about my music, I don’t want to be put in a box, I have interests in all kinds of music and want to spend my life exploring all the possibilities!
What piece of studio equipment do you treasure most?
Leeu: My Dave Smith Tempest, it’s an analogue drum machine and polyphonic synth in one, it’s an investment that’s really helped me craft my sound. I also love my Maschine Mikro, it’s been through a lot, I’ve had it for ages and it’s so portable and it’s really fun to play with live.
What does the South African electronic music scene look like from where you’re standing?
Leeu: There had been some huge strides in South Africa over the last few years, it’s an ever growing complex scene, I’ve seen and been on all sides of the spectrum, and I think we are living in very interesting times in the country, there is an endless pot of super talented musicians, producers and DJs – not enough platforms and industry to support and nurture this growth period and artists not being represented and respected the right way. The whole world is showing a lot of interest the last couple of years in what’s happening musically here, I think its really time we starting working on improving the playing fields – doing away with these elitists and gate keepers that are not adding value to the scene but in it for a quick buck and a popularity vote. We need to come together and work out event plans where promoters can work with each other and not against each other. Newer or less commercial artists deserve more platforms, and there is a lack of venues to hosting all the different scenes. The longer I’ve been submerged in the in the music industry the more I’ve noticed what is not working and what needs to improve and I intend to put a lot of hard work to improve things here too.
How do you feel about opening for Stimming this Friday?
Leeu: I’m really excited – it was a really proud moment when I was asked to be on the same bill as Stimming. His music has been so influential to me since the first time I heard his song ‘Radar’ in like 2008! When I started making deep house I idolized him, he stood out to me – his attention to detail with his authentic cinematic grooves, taught me that you can bend the rules and you don’t need to be scared to be yourself. I met The Lazarusman at Stimming’s first show in Johannesburg – also a big fan I loved his vocal ability and his larger than life personality, we became good friends afterwards, and to my surprise a few years down the line, I was performing with him at CTEMF and the Little Dragon tour!
I’ve spent many hours studying how Stimming does what he does, and I’m excited to hear his new material from the album and I’m honoured to have this opportunity!
Catch Leeu this Friday as he opens for Stimming’s Alpe Lusia Album Launch in Room 4 at Truth.
Truth & Jägermeister present Stimming ‘Alpe Lusia’ Album Launch
On Friday 18 November 2016, the inimitable Stimming returns to Truth for an exclusive Johannesburg show as part of the tour for his new album, ‘Alpe Lusia’. Supporting line-up: Mvelo, The Lazarusman, Leeu, Trancemicsoul, JONAS MANTEY (DE), STIMMING (DE)
NO tickets will be sold at the door. Presale tickets only via Nutickets.
Tickets: – Final Phase R300
Doors open 9pm.
Corner of Old Pretoria Main Road and James Crescent, Midrand