Eric Lau X Craig Monts (Full Moon Magazine)
Subject: Eric Lau X Craig Monts
Title: Positive Vibes
Eric Lau provides his listener with the smoothest sounds. The English born producer has that vibe that oozes age and history. Jazz breaks with slick drums and occasionally sweet vocals courtesy of some of today’s most exciting and progressive vocalists. Where does this man get his inspiration? How has Lau become a hip hoppers house hold name? I caught up with Eric, one chilled autumn afternoon to find out how he goes about Makin’ Sound.
So how are things with you? What’s new?
Things are hectic at the moment. I have been really busy. So today I’ve finally had a day off. I’ve been able to catch up on some cleaning and stuff.
So it’s all non-stop eh? Rock & roll lifestyle with you?
Oh yeah (laughs) that’s how I roll! My recycling game is high!
You’re London based at the moment right? Are you a Londoner born & raised?
Yeah that’s right, I’m living in London at the moment. But I was born in Hertfordshire and raised in Cambridgeshire. It was OK growing up out there. It was pretty leafy with plenty of open spaces and farmland. Life was pretty normal for me.
I guess we could say that you were a late bloomer. You got into music production pretty late in life.
Yeah I guess you could say that. It depends on how you look at time. I always loved music. I was and will always be a music buyer. Then I went to university with a really open mind, I had a few bereavements when I was young. That really changed my outlook on life. So I went to university with the aim of enjoying myself. I made a few friends who were into hip hop & rap music and they had dreams of setting up labels and making music. One day they lent me some music software and it kind of stemmed from there I guess.
So you have taken a different path. Often producers say that they grew up listening to hip hop and then decided to produce it.
Yeah it has been different for me. I wasn’t really into hip hop until late. My first Tribe [Called Quest] album was The Love Movement. I was far more into bands and 60′s music. I mean I did own the obvious stuff like [Dr] Dre & Snoop, Nas and the bigger names. But I never listened to the more ‘underground stuff’.
That’s interesting. Did you find it an easy process: learning and making music at the same time?
It meant that I made a lot of mistakes. I found myself in places that were not really me, up until now. You know I was into more of the commercial stuff, I just wasn’t aware of the other stuff. I was listening to The Neptunes. Not saying that they are bad, I think they’re fantastic at what they do but they are fairly new in the grand scheme of hip hop.
Do you think that having less historical hip hop knowledge has been beneficial for you?
Yeah. I have always done what I felt. With innocence and naivety that is still there today. I mean before I had done a few UK hip hop things with friends at my university. Things that totally didn’t represent me or the person I am now. But I’m not ashamed of it. I was just naïve, I simply didn’t know. My friend showed me something the other day. Master P (No Limit Records). You know Master P right?
Yeah I know him.
He grossed so much money in his career. $50 Million from hip hop is a hell of a lot of money to be making from music. In fact it was unheard of at the time. He recently went to congress in America with David Banner (a well known US hip hop artist) and basically apologised for the music he had made. He said that he was naïve and that he was just trying to make money for his family and that he didn’t know the effects his music might have on the young and impressionable.
He was making pretty negative music back in the day.
Yeah he was making pretty ignorant stuff. But now he’s holding his hands up in congress and saying he’s sorry for the music he’d made and that he’s sorry to the community. He’s seeing his son (a famous TV presenter) doing positive things that benefit the community and [he] sees it as a very good thing.
Publicly apologising is a pretty adult thing to do. Many others would just try and forget about it. Count their money and happily live on.
Exactly, I agree. I take my hat off to him. The naivety for me isn’t such a problem. You know I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve made in the past. It was all done in innocence.
Let’s keep with the positive theme. I recently heard your See & Under Standing (Reprise), Save The Children project. How did that come about?
This sounds crazy, but I had a dream. I had a dream that I needed to do something for a cause. Something to bring people together. There are so many trends in music and a lot of hype about stuff. I wanted to move some of that hype, some of that buzz towards issues that deserve our attention all of the time. I work a lot with young people, so I see on the day to day (especially young people in London) the hardships that many go through. I wanted to do a music project that brought people together and it so happened that Save The Children fitted the type of organisation I wanted to support. They are doing many great things. I’m really happy that you mentioned this, as many other people haven’t.
I think it’s a very admirable project that deserves to be discussed. More people need to know about it. I hope this style of charitable music becomes a trend within the industry.
Yes I agree. You know I did this project because I had a dream to do it. None of us got paid obviously, it was really tough. There were literally 12 people in the studio where I had one session to record three tracks. In the end I only managed to record two of the three tracks, but I’m pleased with the outcome. We raised a bit of money, it was never really about raising money, more about raising awareness and spreading the message. Bringing people together for a reason other than themselves and making money.
How was it working with Save The Children? Were they supportive of the project?
We spoke to them beforehand, just to let them know that we were planning the project. Then we submitted the finished project to them and they really liked it. They were happy for us to use their logo and they put it on their Facebook and Twitter and were very supportive and grateful. So I’m glad. I’m not going to claim to know everything about the charity or claim that I’ve raised thousands and thousands [of pounds] for these children! It was the point of bringing like-minded people together to make positive music sending a message to others in the community to do the same .
Mission accomplished! Do you think you’d do that type of project again?
Oh of course. It’s funny, the other day I was watching some Youtube video’s with some of the kids I work with in a weekly workshop. I was just playing them some old soul tracks and there was one Curtis Mayfield lyric talking about race issues. The track called: We People Darker Than Blue is one of the first songs I heard with a western musician speaking about brown and yellow people. This kind of struck a chord with me. Anyway, we watched the video and at the bottom it said that the performance was in aid of Save The Children! I was like ‘Oh my God!’. One of my all time favourite artists did the same things as me in 1976! If Curtis Mayfield was doing the same thing, then we are on the same page!
So, your current album: Makin’ Sound. How long did the project take you?
Some of the tracks are older than others. The oldest is about two or three years old and the newest being Cruise Control. It’s getting a lot of heat at the moment. I’m a huge Jaydee (J Dilla) fan, I love listening to his beat tapes. The tracks are always the perfect length, so I have tried to emulate that style with the Makin’ Sound project.
What’s next for you?
I’m always working, learning and producing. I’m currently working on my next album which should be dropping at some point next year.
Eric Lau’s album: Makin’ Sound is out now on Killawatt Music Limited
This interview was conducted with a foreign audience in mind. excepts of the interview were printed in Full Moon Magazine (CZ) and can bee seen here