Someone offered LTJ Bukem £10 million for Good Looking and he turned it down


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Over the years you have been responsible for some of drum and bass’ most defining tracks. Do you feel that this puts pressure on you to keep up the high standard that people have come to expect from you?

There’s no pressure at all. I’m making music out of love and the enjoyment of making music. I can’t sit there and go ‘will this track be better than the last one’, I make stuff because I enjoy making it you now?

There are no tracks from yourself in the mix that you have just done for Fabric; are you still producing yourself?

Bloody hell, I wish! I’ve just been too busy with djing and running the label. If I was just an artist sitting in my studio writing tracks for a label to release then I'd be on my sixth album by now, but the fact that I run a label and A & R for that label means that something has to give somewhere along the line - there are only so many hours in the day and music production is that thing. I’m hopefully going to get ahead with the label in terms of the promotion, releases and what I’m doing so that the guys can then get on with that and I can actually spend some time writing music next year.

Will it still be drum and bass that you are writing?

I’m a lover of all music. I think an album would be predominantly drum and bass but I can’t help it if there has to be some soul bits or some jazzier bits or some downbeat breaky bits; I enjoy all forms of music so why not make them?

So are you continuing to release music from other genres as well?

Yeah, definitely. We’ve started the label up again now and obviously I’m concentrating on d’n’b, but of course, why not do another Earth album or something else – I’m definitely into doing all that kind of stuff.

How would you describe the sound that you are currently trying to push with Good Looking and how has it changed over the years?

Over the eighteen years that Good Looking has been going the sound has obviously changed but the feeling hasn’t. I still think exactly the same thoughts and get the same vibes from the music that I’m releasing now to when I was releasing Apollo back in 93. I’ve just got a feeling for all my music, be it house, hip hop, jazz, soul, reggae or whatever. I like a certain groove, I like a certain feeling from my music, so I think that will never change you know?

The amen break has always featured heavily in both your productions and dj sets, although you seem to be moving away from it slightly of late. Do you continue to see it as having creative potential or do you feel that it has now been over used?

If you look at the Fabric mix, you’ve got three or four tracks with the amen break on there. I just think it’s such a complete break beat, it does so much on the dance floor if used correctly. I think it will always be used in that way and so it should be. Breakbeats can reoccur over and over again, ultimately it’s the music that you put around it that sets off that tune to make it a great track. I love that breakbeat, it will always feature in what I do.

Do you think it is possible to define what makes it so special?

I think it just fills up so much space, just as a drum break - you can almost just put an amen on. Take a tune like ‘Drum Tools’ by Conrad and Furney that came out on Good Looking a year or so ago - that tune is just the amen break with a couple of bleeps in it, yet it fills up so much space in a club. When you play it, it just works and I think that’s why the amen break has been used so much, it fills up every frequency and space in a sound system.

The influence of jazz on your music is obvious. Which are the elements of jazz that particularly excite you?

I think it’s the freedom of expression if that makes sense? Those guys just seemed to be so free to express themselves in what they did and they weren’t actually worrying about how things should sound, they just did what they did and thought, ‘this sounds great, this is from the heart and this is what I want to produce’. That same ethos is what I’ve based my whole career on. I think all those guys just did stuff that made them feel good about who they are and their expression in music. That will never die for me.

You speak about these great artists from the past; if you could collaborate with any musician you liked then who would it be and why?

Oh, there are too many people. An obvious one would be Lonnie Liston Smith but there’s so many. James Brown – imagine being in the studio with that guy and vibing off what he did. Mandrill and Kool & The Gang have been big influences, The Mighty Ryeders, even going back as far as guys like Rare Earth. There’s a whole wealth of people; I could sit there all year writing a track everyday with someone else and still not have completed all of my list.

It would be a good year though…

It would be a fantastic year - one to remember for sure!

You’ve been part of the music industry for a long time now and must have learnt many things. What would you do differently if you were starting out again?

That’s a deep question you know… As strange as it may sound, for a whole number of reasons in my life, at various stages, I don’t think I’ve had enough belief in who I am and what I’m capable of doing, which sounds really weird because of what has actually happened in the past. So one thing I would change is having more belief about what I’m doing and who I am as an individual. It’s only really changed over the last four or five years and maybe you have to go through that path of fifteen / twenty years to arrive at somewhere where you can be chuffed with who you are and what you’ve done.

Do you think the self belief that you have now is based upon your past achievements?

I think it’s based on a lot of things, definitely achievements of the past, for instance what we’ve achieved with Good Looking. There was a time when people criticised Good Looking for things that we did, said or felt. Now I think ‘bloody hell, that’s sort of laughable now’. We did something with Good Looking, myself and my business partner Tony, which maybe no one will ever do again in life, musically speaking. Picking unknown artists and turning people from nothing into somebody.

So half of it is based on what I’ve done and half of it is based on my background. I’m an adopted kid from birth, a kid who didn’t know his mother and didn’t know his real family. That kind of brings its own sort of self belief that I now understand fully as a forty two year old guy. In the last few years I’ve met my real mum and it’s been a magical journey of self realisation and self finding. Some things you can’t change but you have to go through. Now I know though, I wish I had more conviction in what I was doing back in the day.

What else would I change… when someone offered me £10 million for the label I should have taken it!


Well I was offered money at a certain stage but we were all fully involved in the label and thought, ‘no we can’t take the money, that would be a sell out’. But looking back I think why not take the money, maybe I could have done something even bigger and taken the music even further you know? So there are a few things like that but ultimately your path is your path and I think you should be happy with who you are and what you did.

You mixed the Fabric CD live rather than use a computer. Is this physical element of djing important to you?

It is… If it was so easy that I didn’t have to do anything with my brain apart from pick tunes and then let them mix themselves, I think I would get bored. I like to be constantly busy behind the turntables, concentrating on a mix, trying to get something in time, trying to make my set better each time I go out. I’m at home sometimes and I’ll get two tunes and I’ll mix them and think, ‘I can’t wait to attempt that mix when I play out at the weekend’. That whole ethos keeps me doing what I’m doing. The actual sound of playing dubplates as well, it’s amazing.

You can't have anything but respect for a man who turns down an offer like that. I know that had I been in his position I'd now be writing this from my own island whilst being served drinks by a dozen sexy waitresses


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You took a break from Good Looking a few years ago, was it always your intention to return to it?

I did hear a lot of people saying, ‘oh are you giving up?’ People thought I'd actually given up djing and everything. When you’ve been doing something for 15 / 16 years and dedicating your entire life to it, at some point you have to realise that you need to live a life as well. To a certain extent you can’t live to work, you have to work to live.

At some point you have to realise that there are things like family, relationships and love which are ultimately the most important things in life. LTJ Bukem is what I do but it’s not who I am. At some stage in life you realise these things and have to adapt to it and get some kind of balance so that both sides of things become enjoyable at all times. I think I’ve arrived at that point now; I enjoy all my hard work but at the same time I enjoy the breaks and spending time with the people I love. For a good fifteen years it was just about Good Looking, LTJ Bukem and working and people got left by the wayside, which is not a good thing.

So it was kind of that as well as a shift in artist mentality, the way that artists want to go and do their own labels and their own thing, heavily inspired I must say by Good Looking and what I’ve achieved since 1991. So it was the right time for a break - me and my business partner both felt that the label needed some breathing space for a while.

You mention artists increasingly wanting to set up their own labels and do things independently. Do you think that this can end up leading to a lack of quality control?

You can get a bit lost in that world, you can get a bit confused. Often I’ll get someone playing before me who’s playing all their own tunes that haven’t been tried, haven’t been tested and haven’t had that seal of approval from the scene, or the big players in the scene who will ultimately promote that track for you. But at the same time I think it’s good for people to do that, to realise what’s involved. It’s not just about putting out a track without the right promotion etc, I think it’s excellent for people to learn about the business that they’re in. That should make for a better industry.

You said earlier that you don’t have time to write music anymore because of having to run the label. Looking back do you regret the decision to do it all yourself?

No, because running a label was a big part of LTJ Bukem’s progression - they go hand in hand. Good Looking is just as big, if not bigger than LTJ Bukem.

Having just done the Fabric CD do you have any plans to do any more Progression Sessions CDs at all?

Absolutely. We’ve got this Exit mix which we’ve been trying to get out for the last year or so – a DVD which we’ve been editing and stuff – hopefully that will be coming out in October. First it was called Logical Progression, then it was called Progression Sessions and now it’s called Bukem In Session. I like to change the angle and names of what we do, to help keep a different spin on it. I’m also going to start a new mix series called Mellow Yellow. I’m going to re-open Looking Good and really go deep into the soulful elements of drum and bass and create a mix series around those releases which will be Mellow Yellow.

We’re releasing two 12”s on Good Looking at the moment and some EPs are going to start happening on Looking Good. We’re also doing a re-run of all the old stuff, starting with ‘Demon’s Theme’ and ‘Music’ and all the old PFM stuff – that’s going to be called Good Looking Moments. We’ve also got some offshoot sub labels - Spacefunk, Soulful and Lovebeams, there’s going to be albums on those from Furney and Paul SG, so there’s a lot happening at the moment.

So are these sub labels all focussing on different elements of the music that you’re into?

Yeah, I mean everyone knows what kind of music I love, I just need more platforms to release the abundance of music that I’m receiving on. So as I’ve done in the past I’m just creating some sub labels to spread out the music. I can’t just put everything out on Good Looking. There are so many great artists at the moment; it’s a fantastic time for music.


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good read. Got a lot of respect for LTJ... even more after reading this... seems like he has his head screwed on in the right direction.... hes very diplomatic and profesional aswell... especially when asked the question about lables being set up all over the place and not having any Quality Control.... blatantly aimed at a certain part of the scene! haha..