Eclectic electronic artist LAAKE has just shared his latest new album VOLT. The 10-track journey of sound features unique sonic arrangements including thrilling electronic backdrops, dreamy synths and looping old timey piano. A fusion of classical and modern instrumentation make for an intriguing and cinematic listen, drawing the listener in with every note. Thematically, the album is based on an autobiographical story of the artist having an intense and almost fatal experience being electrocuted. Each song centering on electricity and the various feelings and power it radiates. The sophomore release follows his 2020 album O which garnered much critical acclaim.
Earmilk chats with the artist, producer and composer all about his creative process, dream collaborations and the once of a lifetime electrifying experience he lived through.
Hi LAAKE, congrats on your new album VOLT. I hear the album is influenced by your experience having an electric shock. That is insane and quite creative. Can you tell the readers more about this experience and how it reflected the sound on the album?
Hi there, thank you so much for having me. This album was originally intended to be an acoustic solo piano album, I've had this idea in my head for years. During the recording of the first track of the album, I suffered an electrocution by touching an old lamp with my arm. The impact was so strong that I was thrown backwards. I was burnt on several parts of my body. After a check-up in hospital, I suffered a psychological trauma that lasted a year, I was unable to touch a switch or screw in a light bulb. I couldn't make a solo piano album now because of this electrocution, my album had to be electric. There are a lot of references to electricity on the album, the tracks "VOLT', "ELECTRICITY" or "SPARKS" for example. I used a lot of little synthesisers and piano sounds that go back and forth like electrons. Many of the tracks end very abruptly, directly, to signify the shock I've experienced. It's also a brighter album than the previous ones, which is totally unconscious, but maybe it's a way of thanking life for keeping me alive!
Piano is an important instrument to you and you play it with such precision. What drew you to this instrument and what surprises you to this day about playing it?
First of all, What I love about the piano is first its simplicity, from a visual point of view, all the notes are visible and accessible. It's a percussive instrument and that's what interests me most about the piano. I started playing the piano when I was very young. My sisters used to play it on the piano in the living room and I think my ear was formed by hearing them play. It was from my middle school years onwards that I really immersed myself in the piano, I could spend hours improvising on the way home from school.
It's a demanding instrument, you have to practice regularly, but you always have to enjoy it. What I like most and what still surprises me is when I haven't practised for 2 weeks (because I never force myself to play), the improvisations can be incredible, you discover new things because you've left yourself the time not to play. I think that's true of all instruments.
VOLT also features an electronic sound combined with classical instrumentation. Why did you decide to blend these musical elements and do you aim for a particular sound when creating?
It came quite naturally. The piano was my main instrument, but I played guitar in rock bands on the side. I became interested in electronic music after my rock period, in the 2010s. The idea behind LAAKE was originally to do a project that mixed piano and electro, but in a more aggressive way than what you were used to hearing in neo-classical music. My lifelong dream was to record with an orchestra, so after the first 2 EPs I set about recording an orchestral album, with a string quartet and a brass quartet. These are instruments that generate a lot of emotion, and that's what interests me. The dramatic dimension of the strings and the epic dimension of the brass really suited what I wanted to do with my music.
Do you have a favorite song on the album and if so why?
My favourite track on this album is probably "ITHAPPENED". It's the track I was just starting to record when I got electrocuted. It's a bit different from the others, it's a mix of jazz, oriental and electronic music. On this track I recorded the trumpet by myself, even though I'm clearly not a trumpet player. Once in the studio, I asked the trumpet player I work with to come in and improvise some solos at the end of the track, which I layered on top of each other. On this track you can hear some distorted choruses that represent a sort of cry, the complaint of what I experienced after the shock. The track ends very abruptly, like many of the tracks on the album to reflect the electric shock I suffered.
Do you think there is a perfect time and place to listen to the music, does it lend itself to a particular listening experience?
Personally, I always prefer to listen to an album at night, because my mind is more focused on the music. Nobody can disturb me, I don't get any emails and I don't have any important tasks to do. It's also at night that I feel most creative and hard-working. However, everyone is different, so I don't have any particular advice to give on how to listen to my music, the best would be to listen to it from morning to night :)
What do you hope listeners take away from VOLT?
I don't like to give instructions on how to interpret my music. I really like to know that for the same piece, people feel different things, understand different things. I make music instinctively and I'd like people to listen to it in the same way. I just hope they like the album, and if it evokes something personal or makes them feel something strong, all the better.
If you could collaborate with any artist or musician, who would that be and why?
One of my favourite bands is Radiohead. Throughout their career, they've managed to reinvent themselves and never fall into the fake or the grandiloquent. But then, that's totally impossible! Otherwise, I really like the band BADBADNOTGOOD, but they certainly don't need me to make great songs. To be more realistic, I'd love to do a featuring with the band Brand Brauer Frick, 3 great producers from
Germany who produce complex instrumental techno. I feel quite close to them, their approach is similar to mine, mixing genres to create a unique sound.
Finally, what is next for LAAKE?
We're starting a tour of France and Europe to play the album in front of a live audience. I'm already thinking about the follow-up to VOLT – I've been meaning to do a solo piano album for a long time now. I'm also going to rest a bit because the last few years have been so intense!
Thank you so much for the interview!
*photo credit Xavier Dragon
Connect with LAAKE: INSTAGRAM