The smooth, soul-influenced, sample-based production of Eric Lau is an all too-hidden sound. The London artist has worked alongside the likes of Oddisee, Guilty Simpson and Lupe Fiasco since his debut New Territories in 2008. Since then he has kept a fairly low profile, whilst touring the world with his music and teaching production to young people. Ahead of his upcoming album One of Many Lau toured Australia, and caught up with ACCLAIM to answer some questions about his music, his many collaborations and what’s coming up next.
I’ve read that you got into music production at university, what originally drove you to making beats?
I was always a fan of music when I was young however I never really had a chance to actually make it until university. I was studying a business-marketing degree but I music found me. My friend had some music software, I tried it out and I was hooked. I never would have imagined that I would be doing what I’m doing now!
London is obviously a very diverse place, how has living in there affected your sound?
Moving to London from Cambridgeshire had a huge impact on my sound and me as a person. I got to learn about so many other cultures and people that I had never had a chance to interact with before. This really made me understand where I fit in as a human being and as a musician. There are so many talented artists and musicians in London, I’m very blessed that I have had a chance to learn off and become friends with so many of them.
You’re a well-travelled producer, having toured Asia, Europe, US and Australia, what do you take away from the experience of playing to different cultures and crowds?
I give thanks for all the love that I receive and try to give it back in whatever way I can. I feel that it is a privilege to go to other countries to play music. I have learnt about how important it is to communicate with the crowds and to be myself wherever I am. I understand my role is to uplift peoples’ spirits through my music and as a human being.
Your production is notably detailed; do you have a clear idea of what a track will sound like before you make it?
Yes, I try to surrender to whatever the music or song says. I react to whatever is needed, it’s not about me, the vocalist, the musician or the engineer, it’s all about the song. The song is King.
I find your music to be distinctly calming and smooth…. there’s so much electronic music that isn’t really melodic, how do you manage to capture the ‘soul’ element into your sound?
I gravitate to sounds that makes me feel something on an emotional level. If you start with wholesome ingredients then the outcome usual is a satisfying meal.
How do you think your music changed since your 2008 LP New Territories?
I think I have allowed myself to come through more in the music. I went away feeling that I could have sonically expressed myself more accurately so I went away and experimented a lot with sound mixing techniques and changing up my equipment. I feel that I can now channel music that is more honest and true to what comes through me.
2010’s Making Sound and your latest LP Quadrivium are both instrumentals, what keeps you returning to that form?
I’m a fan of listening to instrumental music and I feel that it serves a purpose. It gives the listener more headspace as a vocal can sometimes be a narrative that may not be needed. I practice the art of making music so a lot of it may not require vocals so the result is vast number of instrumentals.
Can you tell us a little about your collaboration with Guilty Simpson for The Mission EP?
I did a track with Guilty a few years back called For the D, this was my homage to Detroit Music which had a huge impact on me. We both loved the song and so it was natural for us to do a whole project together. Kilawatt Music approached me to do an E.P with one rapper and Guilty was top of the list. I feel that the EP shows a different side to Guilty and shows that he has range as a writer and MC. The aim for me was to give to people some hip-hop that had all the classic elements but with a modern sound.
You’ve produced music for many artists, including Lupe Fiasco, what shapes you when you make tracks for someone else?
I usually think about the quality of the voice, their rhythm and try to gauge what they are looking for emotionally within music.
How does that differ from when your make music solely for you?
The process is slightly different because I can have more freedom in terms of the sounds that I use. When I cater for artists I usually look for specific sounds.
What can we expect from your upcoming album One of Many?
Expect a lot of collaborations from my musical family from London and America. The aim of this album is to give the listener a joyful experience and to show that they are ‘One of Many’ too.
I’ve only recently heard about the project RollingSound, how did you become involved with teaching music?
My friends from university started up the company and I brought the music production side to them. In the first few years I was head of music and helped them produce and deliver many different music courses for young people all around the UK. It was an incredible experience and made understand that I am naturally a teacher as well a musician. I learnt so much working with young people from all different types of backgrounds; it gave me an insight in to what the youth are experiencing. I hope that I can continue to share my knowledge and experience in this capacity in the future.
Follow Eric at www.ericlaumusic.com