In the business world, one of the most important things a person can do is be able to sum up their skills and ideas in a succinct and concise way. Forget Powerpoint presentations, laser pointers, or fresh-pressed business wear: if you can not sell yourself in a quick conversation, and stand out amongst "the others," you've lost the attention of your client or superior almost indefinitely. The same concept applies directly to those in the music world. On the daily we are inundated with new music coming at us through our email inboxes, Twitter feeds and Facebook news streams. Particularly with DJs and producers, the brand of music artists who remain relatively anonymous in comparison to their work, the need to make sure their first impression their best impression is crucial or else it may be their last. Without completely eliminating the dirty work, we have found several DJs and producers from around the world who we believe are worthy of your time. But you can't take them for granted as they are people with views about the music they create. We have interviewed them to see how they got into this trade, what inspires them, what pisses them off, what they have learned over the duration of their individual careers. Once you have read a bit about them, you can hear their elevator speech, an EARMILK exclusive mix they have made to succinctly represent their style and tastes. We are certain they will not fail to impress.
There are always going to be articles that start out by saying the subject of their article is largely underrated. This is one such instance and with very good reason we begin with the same claim that yes, Eric Lau is one of modern music's most underrated producers. If you go to his website, you will find a quotes from Jay Electronica saying, "When I talk with people about London, we talk about Eric Lau" or Phonte who calls Lau "one of the illest beat makers", both of whom are notable enough to validate the claim made earlier.
On that note, we could end the article here but there is much more ground to cover on this producer. For Lau, who is based in London, music didn't fully make itself a viable option until after he graduated from university. While in college, a close friend committed suicide, causing Lau to have a paradigm shift that allowed him to only narrowly miss becoming just another business man. The impact of his best friend's loss pushed Lau to approach university with an open mindset and it was in that stage of life that he first discovered mixing music and the art of hustling his music. "To this day, really, I can't believe I'm making music... as a full-time profession," he says.
Once he had graduated, Lau knew he wanted to continue pursuing music so he took on an internship at a record label in London where he was tasked with the responsibility of checking on the stock of each record store the label distributed to. In his trips to these stores he would play his music for the employees and patrons in the record stores and was pleasantly surprised to find his demos were received very well.
This led to a signing with one record store in particular called Deal-Real, who decided to make Lau a deal. The rest is sort of history, with Lau now working on beats and instrumentals for heavy-hitting folks like Guilty Simpson, with whom he most recently released The Mission EP, a seven-track collaboration which also features vocal work by Fatima and Olivier Daysoul.
The EP dropped earlier this month on February 3 and has already been met with critical acclaim, much like Lau's last outfit of work, the venerable twenty-track LP Quadrivium which offers premiere instrumental hip hop, playing off several influences but most notably J Dilla. On the subject of Dilla, Lau very soberly explains that Dilla's music clearly had the staying power to keep him relevant and sought after amongst so many producers.
For Lau, however, it is still somewhat of a mystery how music comes to him and how he is able to express that music through the beats he creates. "I don't know where [the music] comes from, specifically, but I just allow it to come to me and I receive it. I just have to be open to it and feel it, and not try and make it into something that it is not," he explains, venturing so far as to say that while this may sound somewhat "hippie-like" (even drug-induced, though he readily assures us he doesn't do any) this is truly how he feels about how what it's like to wield his craft. However effortless this may seem, it's clear Lau doesn't take this for granted in his lengthy explanation of the technical treatment he applies to all of his work. (Case in point: his tracklist below)
But whatever approach Lau is using to translate what he hears in his head to what he makes for his listeners, it seems to be working rather well. Striking that fine chord between receiving his music with openness and being able to give it the utmost attention to detail is likely what has made him successful at producing music, with a track record that includes collaborations with Oddisee, Georgia Ann Muldrow, Erykah Badu, Chris Dave, Questlove and Robert Glasper. It became fairly obvious that asking him, "If you could work with anyone, who would it be?" was largely an unnecessary question.
Around the time we approached Lau for an Elevator Speech mix, Lau had just worked with friend and founder of the UK music blog, Put Me On It, to construct his "Last Night On Earth" compilation, a 29-track mix of what he would enjoy hearing on his "ascent away from earth". Rather than recreate another similar mix, Lau felt this mix was a good embodiment of his taste. The tracklist (below) and mix are provided courtesy of PMOI. It will likely take more than a few listens to fully fathom Lau's "Last Night On Earth" mix but we don't doubt it will incite unlimited replays. Support Lau and be sure to cop your own copy of The Mission in the format of your choice while they're still available.
Eric Lau's Last Night On Earth [Mix #001]
Tracklist and Notes
I often get approached to compile mixes and have free reign to do whatever but this time I was given a theme, 'Last Night On Earth'. I was like okaaay, this is a challenge. Many thoughts and images came through but I never really thought about death as being my last night on earth but more that I would be flying to another place somehow. Probably on some craft or I would suddenly have the ability to fly, either which way I can picture myself with my iPod and Sennheisers on. There isn't any contemporary music in the mix apart from Dilla because I would like to think everyone would be leaving earth too! The selection is based on a combination of good memories and what I personally look for in music. This is what I would like to listen to on my ascent away from Earth, I hope you enjoy is as much I do!
- Eric Lau
1. Hugh Hopper & Alan Gowen - Morning Order - Two Rainbows Daily (1980)
Just so calming, I like listening to it either very late at night or when I first wake up! Thought it would be a nice way to start. (Dilla also used it for Common 'Nag Champa' one of my favs too)
2. Truth is The Key - Tarika Blue - Tarika Blue (1977)
Lyrics are so on point, I love the message and definitely resonates with what I stand for. Musicianship is next level too, especially guitar and synth solos!
3. We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue - Curtis Mayfield - Curtis Mayfield Live (1973)
This was the first song I heard in my life that was inclusive of 'Yellow' people and it really touched me. I was like, wait, he's actually talking to me too! I played a live video of this to some students of mine once and found out that the performance was in aid of the charity 'Save The Children'. I had just released a project for 'Save The Children' and it really choked me up. Made me realize I was on the right path.
4. I think I'll Call it Morning - Gil Scott Heron - Pieces of a Man (1971)
Reminds me when I was at Uni being all young and confused! This song reassured me that everything was gonna be okay!
5. I Love You - Weldon Irvine - Sinbad (1976)
This song just makes me feel good, Master Wel + Mr Blackman = Magic
6. Lucky Fellow - Leroy Hutson - Huston (1975)
Remember hearing this before I knew what sampling was, and found out that Erykah's 'No Love' came from a whole different song. I rinsed 'No Love' at the time and loved it, but Leroy's original version is next level.
7. Kevin Moore - Speak Your Mind - Rainmaker (1980)
This was used in one of my favorite Dilla beats ever. Once I found it I was like woah, this song is incredible! Lyrics are on point and its so funky even without drums.
8. Visions - Stevie Wonder - Innervisions (1973)
Reminds me of when I was truly falling in love with music. The songwriting is just out of this world. Thought I would cut the song at 'all things have an ending' which I thought suited the theme of the mix!
9. Rainy Day - Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information (1974)
From one of my favorite records, I could listen to this all day.
10. Dedicada A Ela - Arthur Verocai - Arthur Verocai (1972)
Reminds me of recent times with my father. He stayed with me for a month and it was the best time we have ever had together. Arthur Verocai was the soundtrack to this period of time.
11. Luiza - Beto Guedes, Danilo Caymmi, Novelli, Toninho Horta - Beto Guedes, Danilo Caymmi, Novelli, Toninho Horta (1973)
Mr Mensah put me onto this, the runs on this just do something to me. Stupidness!
12. Lihue - Nohelani Cypriano - Nohelani (1979)
Came across this through Karriem Riggins' Music Kaleidoscope mix (One of my favs mixes of all time!) I'v always wanted to go to Hawaii but never had a chance, this song takes me there.
13. Tell Me What To Do - Johnny Hammond - Gears (1975)
Had to Mizell it again, the groove is ridiculous. Makes me wanna move.
14. Music Is My Sanctuary - Gary Bartz - Music Is My Sanctuary (1977)
Came across this through 4 Hero LifeStyles Comp a few years back. Ultimate cooking song. Try it.
15. Instant Love with Minnie Riperton - Leon Ware - Musical Massage (1976)
One of the first records I bought, loved everything about this LP especially the cover! Had it on my wall when I was at Uni.
16. Baby, This Love I Have - Minnie Riperton - Adventures In Paradise (1975)
I love most of her music but chose this because it reminds me when I first started sampling and studying how people like ATCQ and Pete Rock used the this track. On another note I wanna marry Minnie, she is an angel. Hopefully meet her in another lifetime.
17. I Want You (Vocal & Rhythm Section) - Marvin Gaye - I Want You 'Deluxe Edition' (2003)
18. I Want You (Vocal) - Marvin Gaye - I Want You (1976)
If I could be any singer it would be Marvin. Sooo pimp without even trying. This record was played over and over.
19. I Wanna Be Where You Are - Michael Jackson - Got To Be There (1972)
Wow more Leon Ware written music, shows how much of a great songwriter he is. Not an obvious choice for MJ but I just like the purity in this.
20. All About Love (Outro) - Earth, Wind & Fire - That's The Way Of The World (1975)
Probably the best interlude ever.
21. Konda - Miles Davis - Directions (1981)
Reminds me of Japan, great memories.
22. Aisha - John Coltrane - The Heavyweight Champion: the Complete Atlantic Recordings (1995)
Flawless, makes me at ease. Nice in the winter. Could play this all day.
23. Yutaka - Evening Star - Love Light (1981)
Had to have something east asian in the mix! Plus it was recorded the year I was born. The sound is just beautiful!
I HAD to do a little Dilla section. To be honest I could do several Dilla mixes showing why I like his music so much and what I've learnt from his music but wanted to stick with the theme.
24. Im So Glad Your Dorothy - Jay Dee - Beat Tape (1998)
Dilla turned Evening Star into some sacred geometry.
25. Marvine - Jay Dee - Voodoo Demos (1998)
So simple, but the split second timing of the way he releases the guitar chops really gets me for some reason.
26. Interlude - Slum Village - Fantastic Volume 2 (2000)
Funky as hell, makes me go crazy. Loved the way he did the fades to make it impossible to loop!
27. Keep It Coming - Frank n Dank - 48 Hours
No one ever talks about this track, the patterns are craaazzy.
28. Ma Dukes (Original Demo) - Jay Dee - Da 1st Installment (2005)
This track is just eerie, it haunts me in a good way. The way the guitar just floats, the voice, synth rise just makes me shake my head in disbelief...
29. Fantastic Intro (Original Demo) - Jay Dee - Fantastic Volume 2 Demos (1999)
One of the most perfect chord sequences ever, this demo version also includes some other chops not used in the final version which seems to do something to my face muscles. If anyone knows the original sample please contact me!
30. Fall in Love Remix - Slum Village - Fantastic Volume 2 (2000)
Whenever I listen to this I see picture the sky opening up. I feel that my last night on earth would probably look this.