Reptant (Lou Karsh) is a Melbourne based producer, who combines experimental sounds with techno and electro. His recent EP, Ectoplastic has a track for every situation. A1 is probably my favourite track at the moment, it opens up with warm, dreamy, floating pads, which quickly transforms into an acidic booming bassline. This EP will be destroying dancefloors for years to come. I caught up with him to talk about his label, Lou Karsh records, Australia and his live set up.
What did you used to get up to in your early teens?
As a teenager I spent a lot of time skateboarding and doing graffiti, they were definitely my main interests at this point in time.
What music did you grow up listening to?
I was listening to a lot of stuff that was palmed off to me from my sister which included early 2000’s pop music, through to electro-clash and synth-pop. My parents would listen to a variety of world music that I wouldn’t even be able to identify to this day. Then once I started to form some friendship groups I quickly found that I was into 90’s hip hop, like the guy’s on the Hieroglyphics Imperium Recordings label, but I was also listening to some shoe gaze stuff from bands such as The Horrors.
Is electronic music big in Australia?
Totally! It’s always growing in popularity, most events that people are going to are electronic events in various genres but mostly dance music in my circles.
What is the club scene like? When did you start going to clubs?
The club scene is always having trouble with re-developments shutting down some of the best nightclubs in the city, mostly in Melbourne and in Sydney they have their own issues with club licensing and clubs having to shut at super early times. Although this has lead to some really awesome illegal parties and raves in warehouses on the outskirts of the cities. We also have some really great festivals in the Australian bush. I managed to get into club’s when I was about 16 with most of my friends being a bit older and I had managed to alter the date of birth on my ID.
When did you start making music?
I played a few instruments growing up but only started producing tracks when I was about 14-15 making hip hop instrumentals on my laptop.
Where do you find your musical inspiration?
I used to sample old soul records, in the same way that 90’s hip hop producers would. Now with my electronic production, I’m inspired by stuff I hear out as I’m still going out regularly and hearing some amazing music.
Talk me through your production process?
There’s no real method to it, I’m usually experimenting with some synths and samples trying to get an interesting sound going, then I’ll build up a groove and try to merge the two. The rest falls into place after this when I'm working on a bassline and other little atmospheric elements to sit in the back of the track.
DAW / Hardware? Or a mixture of the two?
I’m mostly using all hardware stuff and using a DAW to track all the sounds and arrange it at a later stage and do a second mix down in the box.
What’s three pieces of gear you can’t live without?
The Sherman Filter Bank, Electribe ESX, and the first edition of the Cyclone TT303.
What inspired you to start the label LKR records?
The label sort of fell into my hands when I was offered a deal with lobster distribution, I wasn't really focusing on having a brand and the first record was the idea (which I had already self released digitally). Later on when I was asked to do more releases I only then decided to give it a bit of brand and the idea was live sounding, semi experimental but functional tracks with a bit of a rougher feel to it. Nothing super clean, a bit more raw sounding.
Why did you decide to do stuff under “Reptant”?
Reptant was a secret side project for a while where I was just experimenting with some different genre styles trying to push more technical sides of things. I was offered a release on the label Tomahawk but as the theme for the label was releasing new artists we decided to release it as Reptant and that’s where we came up with the lizard branding of the project, which was why I had picked the name in the beginning as it’s a term in zoology that means “(of an animal) moving with a creeping or crawling action”.
Have you always been interested in hardware and live set ups, or did you used to dj too?
Rudolf C and Shedbug were running a party in 2015 when I was making some tracks and they asked me to play, I was never djing at this point so they asked me if I wanted to bring my machines in and just play 45 minutes live which was a big leap at the time. I was all hardware at this time, I’ve never tried to incorporate a laptop in a live situation as it’s too much to deal with. I also don’t really trust the laptop in this situation.
Can you talk me through your live set up?
It’s pretty simple, I use all self sequencing gear like the electribe ESX and rotating between some of the earlier smaller electribes. These are synced up with the 303 and routed into a mixer which I use to perform the parts and play it more like an instrument. I’m also using a range of guitar fx pedals on sends on the mixer. At home I’m using a few more things as I don't have to travel so far, this can include all my effects pedals, the sherman filterbank, occasionally my small modular system and maybe a second 303 clone as well. But for travel I’m minimised it just to a just a few things that fit in case that’s also comfortable to move around with by myself.
Do you plan your live sets or are they mainly improvisational?
I prepare a lot of tracks on all the machines and essentially play them in certain ways, the tracks themselves will not progress on their own so the way that I decide to bring in the elements and tweak the sounds is the way that I can find some kind of expression while playing. As all the gear is self sequencing, a large part of my live set is the transitions and mixing the different parts which are from the different tracks and making them work. There’s a loose track list that I’ll prepare for certain gigs but I’m able to easily pick other tracks on the machines I wasn’t planning on playing. Also with the gear I have it’s very easy to improvise things like the rhythms and switching up the grooves so at moments there is some improvisation for sure.
Where’s the best place you’ve ever played so far?
A mix between the Saule room in Berghain and the About Blank garden from 5-6pm on a summery day in berlin a few weeks ago.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Production is usually at a pause when I'm touring live as I'm focusing on tweaking the live set constantly and this takes up almost all of my music time. Though a lot of the the tracks that I'm making live will for sure end up being recorded in the studio but usually just some of the parts which I’ll build up on and maybe mix with some of the parts from other live tracks. I’m really happy with some of the live stuff I’m playing at the moment and can’t wait to start working in the studio with them.