GALCHER LUSTWERK INTERVIEWED BY ASHER PENN

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Portrait by Asher Penn

In 2013 a mysterious name began appearing on Soundcloud feeds: Galcher Lustwerk, a faceless techno act that combined minimal, moody house with restrained, spoken rap lyrics. It was eventually revealed that Galcher was part of the NY based label White Material Records crew, and a collaborator in numerous creative projects- all under different pseudonyms. Despite his rise in popularity, Galcher refuses to play any numbers game, operating instead within the decisive parameters inherent to anonymity, using this freedom to cultivate a signature style with a hybrid of typically divided genres. His debut full length LP, Dark Bliss, is out now.

The other night I asked you if your music had been affected by Trump. You said no, but girls always do.
That was just an example. The people and experiences in my life influence me to make music more than who the president is. When Obama got elected, my music didn’t change. I don’t really put the politics in the music, don’t really put the two together.
So you were making music as a teen? I read you played the Sax.
I played saxophone for about 9 years. It wasn’t until middle school that I started to make electronic music on the computer.
Were you putting it out?
I was burning CDs and giving them out to friends. I would use Photoshop and try and create a whole mood with the artwork, pretending I was a legitimate artist. I would put fake barcodes on the back, print it out onto a clear jewel case just so it looked like you bought it at a store.
Was there a certain label your style was emulating?
One of the guys in the band Underworld worked at a design agency called Tomato. They did a lot of the Underworld covers and a few other smaller things. That was formative. I was really into all the Warp Records packaging and artwork. As far as musical styles go I was trying rap, trip hop, noise, techno, drum and bass, IDM, I dabbled in all of it.

What was the program you used?
I used the Fruity Loops demo to record and then I would loop the recordings in ACID Music. That was my first setup. After that I got an early version of Ableton. Pre-Midi Ableton.
How did you get into computers?
My parents got one when I was really young. We had a Micron computer and my mom taught me how to use DOS, how to open and install programs from floppy disks.
So you were just chilling in your bedroom jamming?
No, it was the family computer, in the living room. They would just be in the other room watching TV or whatever and I’d be just keeping it at a decent volume working on music.
Were you making this music under your name or were you already into pseudonyms?
I would make different names and come up with different concepts and aesthetics. I would see some cover and wonder if I could recreate that in Photoshop.
Was that why you decided to go to art school for graphic design?
It was just a safe bet. I enjoy it… to a degree. But learning about design is important in a time when you’re hit with so much advertising. It’s good to know whether you’re being marketed to, whether something is communicating at you in a subliminal way. You learn to pay close attention to those things.
Were you on Myspace?
Yeah.
Did you meet any people on it?
I met Morgan Louis there while I was at college. He hit me and Alvin Aronson up randomly because he had a college dance night on Tuesdays. We helped him grow his night, would bring a lot of kids out, and started deejaying together at different parties. That was my first taste of being small town local DJ.


Were you putting stuff up under your own name?
I was using pseudonyms.
Did Morgan’s parties kind of contrast what was going on at the time?
Yeah. It was more sophisticated sonically than the DIY stuff, which was the norm at the time. He definitely put me onto some dope artists, a lot of the more obscure electronic dance stuff.
Stuff from Detroit and Chicago?
Yeah, I mean I was aware of that already, but even more recent than that. We all got really into filter house at the time. And loopy, dubby techno.
Did it feel rebellious at the time, playing electronic music?
It felt like the not-so-cool-thing-to-do but it’s personally what I like. The parties were fun. Girls would come, and random people would come, as opposed to a noise show where you’re going to see the same crowd every time. I mean honestly at the time, club goers didn’t even care about the music. It was about drinking for cheap, or for free. We would have to do drink specials or BYOB to get anyone to come to a party.
How come you moved to New York?
Most of my friends moved out here and I got a good job offer.
Was the job in advertising or marketing?
It was a corporate branding agency. I designed some logos for brands, but a lot of the stuff I made never saw the light of day. You make some crazy shit, the client says, “No thanks this is too crazy,” and you’re onto the next brief.
Designers in their 20’s get really disillusioned by that work.
Theres a lot of Kool-Aid drinking going on. If you want a promotion you gotta drink the Kool-Aid.


Did working in that environment influence how you presented yourself as an artist?
I’m definitely jaded by branding. I wanted to remove parts of that equation so I can do what I want for personal reasons and not put myself on display as a “brand”. Social media has turned everybody into an ad. Without that foresight I probably would’ve lost my artistic soul more times along the way.
You’re involved anonymously with a lot of collaborations. Is there a particular reason?
It’s just a fun way to interact with friends. If I work with somebody on something, it means I’m going to be seeing them more. We get to chill and hang out or whatever. It gives you an excuse to interact with people and put people onto stuff.
How did Galcher Lustwerk start?
I made this whole mix and was feeling pretty committed to it: The 100% Galcher mix. That was the first batch of songs where everything went together. The lyrics, the vocals all kind of have a similar thing going on. I could see what Galcher Lustwerk was.
What’s was the story with the name?
I didn’t come up with the name. I saw it and I chose to use it.
What’s your attitude towards appropriation in general?
When it’s done poorly, I hate it so much. You can appropriate something and it may work for the general public, but you’re going to have to answer some questions. If you can’t people are not going to fuck with you. Sometimes, it’s just a sensitivity. If you don’t have the sensitivity then it’s obvious.
What were you listening to when you started Galcher Lustwerk?
All sorts of shit.
What was your setup?
A laptop with Ableton, some plugins which I don’t remember, and a hardware synth and drum machine.


Do you feel slightly held back from Galcher Lustwerk to explore other things?
No. I know what the range is. But also I’ve got nothing to lose. If I pivot so hard that it ruins my career, I feel like I could start back up using a different name. I would take all the things I learned from the last one and just hit em with it twice as hard.
How long have you spent on your new album?
Some of the songs are from 2014. I basically sent dozens of tracks to Young Male and DJ Richard and for the ones they liked, I took those and added to them until I had enough to fill an album.
I love the graphic on the cover. The character looks like a spy.
I love spy movies.
Is there a lot of unreleased Galcher tracks that are still being worked on?
Yeah, but The songs need to work together. I have this one track and it sounds good, but it doesn’t sound good with all the others. They’re all waiting to be sorted.
What’s your process like for making a track?
I just start with drums or keyboard and build off that. Sometimes it ends up simple or complicated. Sometimes I’ll have some vocals to go along with it. I’ll listen back on iTunes and then delete the ones that don’t work and keep the ones that do.
Have you always been into the way your voice sounds recorded?
No. I am comfortable at this point but I wasn’t for a while.
Being comfortable is important.
Yeah.


How do you feel about the music industry?
When you pay too much attention to the industry, it makes you think you’re doing something wrong. You start to just do what you can to get industry attention and there are ways to do that. Some people do just that. They just work the system. But it’s like that with every industry.
Speaking of popularity: you’re pretty low key on social media.
I think Facebook, twitter and Instagram are mentally damaging. I go on there and everybody is either angry, depressed or manic. It’s sad how much the industry is dictated by follower counts or how much of your personality you share with strangers. I’m too sensitive for that. Like I’m afraid of being judged, I’m afraid of being misunderstood. I’m afraid of random DMs from people asking for vocals or remixes. I’m afraid of seeing like a tweet or image that will put a damper on my day. So I just have to accept the fact that I will get less gigs, sell less records, be less popular than the artists that overshare.
What would you like to see change?
Aside from the social media stuff, I just hope soon that in the United States, rap music stops being the default thing to make. A lot of the black kids growing up here just see the money and default to making rap beats. But the rap lifestyle isn’t very healthy right now. It would be great to see more black artists try to fuse genres a bit more. I’d like to see that in the future. :)