Growing up in Detroit, it’s hard not to get sucked into the rich musical history of the city. For artists like Lauren Flax, it was a great stomping ground in the early days where she was not only inspired by the locals, there were also influences filtering through from Chicago at the time. Such a hub for creativity, all of these different sounds led to Lauren Flax becoming quite a dynamic artist who not only exists in the underground world but has crossover experience working with pop culture tastemakers such as Sia, Little Boots and Tricky through her CREEP trip-hop project which went on to release the album ‘Echoes’ in 2013.
With such an extensive back catalogue of original productions, collaborations and remixes on labels Dance Trax, Unknown to the Unknown and Nervous Records it was only a matter of time before Lauren was picked up by the now local label The Bunker New York. Releasing ‘One Man’s House is Another Woman’s Techno’ last week, the EP sees Lauren return to her Detroit roots, with her base firmly in Bushwick. As life moves in cycles, we speak to Lauren to discuss how living in both Detroit and Bushwick has influenced her creativity, the inspiration behind ‘One Man’s House is Another Woman’s Techno’ and protecting yourself from the vulnerability of social media.
What has your journey been like as an artist? How do you think growing up in Detroit has shaped you?
I feel pretty lucky to have gotten my start in Detroit. At the time, of course, you don’t realize you’re in such a special place, rubbing elbows with the people that started it all, all while watching your neighbours houses burning down. We had constant access to the best house and techno on the planet, especially being so close to Chicago. It went beyond dance music for me though and helped formulate my obsession with trip-hop and shoegaze. I don’t think CREEP would have happened had I not been exposed to that sound as a teenager. We had this show called Big Sonic Heaven and it aired on 96.3 every Sunday night. That station usually played pop and alternative but on Sunday nights it was all trip-hop, ethereal, shoegaze, basically the best of the best. It was hosted by Darren Revell and Tom Kikot and I basically called in so much to make requests, I made those guys be friends with me. We still are to this day! There’s also 101.9 WDET. Liz Copeland hosted a show and I honestly think that’s where I first heard Aphex Twin. I think Detroit as a whole really had its finger on the pulse and helped me formulate who I am and what I write today, whether its dance music or trip-hop / experimental.
What has living in Bushwick added to your creativity and personality?
I feel like again, I’m in the belly of something really special and may not even fully recognize it. If you really think about all of the things happening right here, it’s pretty inspiring in itself. Labels, clubs, club nights, underground queer techno parties, daytime dance parties, radio stations – all right in our little backyard. I see crews supporting each other instead of competing and to me, that’s the most special. The community feels much more supportive and empowering than the scene was 10 years ago.
Having previously been in the band CREEP, do you feel you’ve ever been treated differently as a band member vs DJ?
I’ve learned a lot about whether people are genuine in their interest in me or not. CREEP put me in a new spotlight that I hadn’t been in before and when that spotlight fades, people seem to scatter. I am probably more loyal than I should be so when that first happened, it was pretty heavy to go through. My door may not be as open as it has been in the past, but I’m trying to reconcile that but with a keen eye on those that aren’t quite so genuine. My bullshit meter is pretty acute and it helped me surround myself with people that care about me through all the ups and downs of the volatile industry. The spotlight comes and goes and comes around again so it’s been good to have learned from the past. I feel much stronger and supported.
Aside from the style of music you’re creating, are there any notable differences between working on your solo stuff, CREEP and when you’re working with artists such as Sia, Little Boots and Tricky? How have these projects come about?
Collaborations are super important to me, whether solo or with my band. They help me grow as an artist and I enjoy learning how others work, especially working with other producers. It was fun working with Little Boots because she’s classically trained and I am very much not. It was nice to tell her what I wanted her to play on the piano and she would come right back with it in her own style. I don’t get to work with many people like that. Sia and Tricky are their own spaceships in that we just sent them music and they came back with literal gold. It was magic. Sia and I met and became friends in 2007 and in 2008, she came over to my loft in Bushwick to record one of the songs we did together called ‘You’ve Changed’. She wrote the lyrics in the car ride over! The entire building heard her lay those vocals down. Being a bedroom producer never felt so good haha.
In a previous interview you mentioned how you were built for writing film scores, why do you think that is? Have you had any opportunities to do so yet or any on the horizon?
I’ve written very moody, sad music going back from when I can even remember. I’d like to partner with someone first so I could learn the ropes, but I’m definitely still interested. Maybe my friend Kate Simko can walk me through the process, but there may be much more involved than I even realize. It’s definitely something I plan to go into at some point.
What do you enjoy the most about working with your hardware live sets? How do you prepare for them and what are some of your favourite pieces of equipment to work with?
I still can’t believe that a year ago I had no idea how to do this! It was definitely a process of figuring out what works for me to stay true to how I want to express my full cunt. I don’t have a ton of gear, but what I have works. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to do this without a laptop. I dunno, there’s just something about a laptop on stage that turns me off and I know a lot of artists that hide their laptops for that exact reason. Although it’s probably unreasonable and purist of me to feel this way, as a lot of artists simply have too much live gear on their tracks and need to have a little help from a laptop, so I get it! I personally just wanted to be 100% midi, no backing track with full control. With my band, we were so green that we used a lot of backing track and had to stick to the script every time. It’s very freeing knowing I can do what I want and change things up real time with the feel of the audience. Being a one-woman show and touring alone, the gear being used is the most important because I have to fill a lot of space with a small amount. I’m using my prophet 6, TB-03, TR8S, some pedals and a beatstep pro. The beatstep pro was the smartest practical decision because that’s the piece of gear that replaced my daw and kicks out all the midi to everything else. The learning curve isn’t that bad but you are limited to sequencing only 3 pieces of gear with it. I will probably grow out of it unless they release something more expansive.
What is it about the clubbing environment that draws you to it?
Nowadays, it’s mostly the music. My younger years it may have been centred more around escaping reality, which I absolutely needed and have no regrets! That still may be the case, but it’s in a much more sustainable way. I’m pretty much sober when I go out so if the music doesn’t take me there, then I’m out. I need to cut out my little square on the dancefloor. Dancing just feels more important to me now than it ever has. I grab inspiration from what artists are putting out there for us, especially ones that are taking risks so being part of those moments also feels very personal and special.
Can you talk us through the concept behind your latest EP and the meaning behind the title ‘One Man’s House is Another Woman’s Techno’?
That was the first song I wrote for this particular EP. I didn’t have a name for it yet but played it out for the first time at Unter a year ago and the name just came to me. I refuse to be put into any box genre-wise as a DJ and I think my production style blurs the line between house and techno, especially with this EP. It was a play on that.
In the press release it says that everything has to come full circle in relation to you returning to your Detroit roots – why do you think this has happened now?
I spent many years hyper-focused on my band and it was and still is very special to me. I wanted to give dance music that kind of care and focus and that’s what I started to do in 2014. This has been a long time coming actually and didn’t happen overnight. It was a lot of work to learn this craft in the manner it always deserved but I never gave it. So I guess it just came down to me committing fully to dance music to understand who I actually am as a producer and even as a DJ. All of those Detroit roots came forward loud as hell, so it felt super natural. I really do feel lucky to have gotten my education in Detroit.
How did your relationship begin with Bunker and what makes the label the perfect fit for the EP?
The Bunker to me is a collection of some of the most talented selectors out there. I’m not even saying that because I know them! But there really is no one that even comes close to the DJ sets from Servito and Plaslaiko. They can teach a thing or two! They were spinning the best house, techno and acid way back in the day when we all did Family at Motor together in the 90s. This was when I was a jungliest, mind you haha. I was all over the place genre-wise and ultimately that’s what made my band what it is, but these guys have an acute knowledge of house and techno that I learn from every time I hear them play. In 2018, I released a record with DJ Haus’ Unknown to the Unknown and that sort of put me on Bryans radar musically, although we had already been friends for many years. I wrote One Man’s House is Another Woman’s Techno and Deeper Side of Jack and sent it to him and he picked them up right away. I wanted to write one more and that’s when I wrote You Have To Work. I thought those 3 tracks made for a pretty well rounded, no filler EP. It all just came about so naturally so once they asked me to be a part of The Bunker, I, of course, said yes. I have so much respect for everyone involved so it’s a real honour. Talk about coming full circle to my Detroit roots! I’ve known some of these people since we were teenagers.
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Not one but two records out in the next week, y’all. 🤠 . April 13th – ACID88 comp on @djpierre’s Afro Acid imprint . April 19th – One Man’s House is Another Woman’s Techno EP via @thebunkerny (premiering a song Friday via Mixmag) . #acidhouse #acid #jackingtechno #laurenflax #djpierre #thebunkerny #house #techno #jack
Do you ever feel there’s a different reaction to your music when you play in the US and Europe?
I mean it really differs from even just city to city. I’m noticing this even more with my live sets. For instance, in Detroit people likes to watch and bop around a bit. It made me nervous! But the next night in Chicago, people danced much more than they watched. I just have to hope people are always enjoying it. I mean if no one’s dancing and the room clears, then there’s a problem. And that hasn’t happened yet luckily.
How do you make sure you’re protected as a person and as an artist? Is there a way specific way that you treat social media and other media outlets in order to avoid unwanted criticism?
I don’t feel that there is anything I can do about unwanted criticism. People will always say what they want to say with the protection of remaining faceless (and tactless) on the internet and I have no control of that. I’ve certainly had to thicken my skin, otherwise, I’d end up in the fetal position all the time haha. I always assume that if I don’t have haters, I’m doing something wrong. They will always have the time to insult you but I don’t ever have to give them the time to affect me. I feel like trolls and haters are like bad dreams. The good thing about that is that I always forget them after a few minutes.
Politics is prominent throughout your social media, do you feel that it has an impact on your music?
100%! My bunker EP was written to channel my anger with where we are politically, especially One Man’s House. Again, this is me needing to express my full cunt. It’s my therapy. Otherwise, maybe it will manifest in an unhealthy way.
‘One Man’s House is Another Woman’s Techno’ by Lauren Flax is out now via The Bunker New York – buy here.