Melbourne artist Luke Million is currently on tour for his latest single, Heard it on the Radio. Before this went down he spoke to Grok about his musical origins, sound development and a whole lot of synths.
What initially got you into synth-pop and electronic music?
It was a bit of a journey for me because I started with classical music, and I started playing piano from the age of five. Then at school played in different bands and discovered all different types of music. You know, like Pink Floyd and The Doors, then I kind of moved into the synth territory, which is where I discovered Jean-Michel Jarre, Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, and that piqued my interest in synth. With the sounds I was hearing, I was like ‘wow, these are so cool’. And I started assembling a collection of gear, buying all these synthesisers from the seventies and eighties, and drum machines. It then became my sound, and I really gravitated towards all that stuff.
I had a bit of a history with funky, fusion stuff, and I really liked Herbie Hancock, he had like a million synths. I have this picture of him in his studio, surrounded by synths. I’ve been trying to go one by one, buying each one of the synths that are in that photo. I’ve got most of them, and there’s just a few missing now [Laughs]. So yeah, I gravitated towards that with a whole range of influencers, and I really connected with what was happening in the early-to-mid-eighties, and obviously now there’s kind of a rebirth of that genre. With synth wave and synth-pop, there’s great artists like Waveshaper, The Midnight, Kavinsky. There’s a lot of great stuff going on, and I just really love what’s happening at the moment.
Your sound has progressed over the years, with your initial releases being purely instrumental. What inspired the change to start including lyrics?
I think that’s always been the eventual goal to have lyrics. It really takes songs to the next level. You can still have a great track that captures the mood perfectly, but as soon as you pop a vocal on it, it becomes accessible to so many more people. You also get to share a story in the lyrics, which is something I’d always thought about, and eventually, I got down that path. I’ll still put out instrumental music for sure, and I like being able to work and collaborate with artists, which is what I’ve been doing quite recently.
You’ve been releasing music for nearly a decade now. Has your creative process changed a lot over the years?
Yeah, it has been almost ten years, it makes me feel old [Laughs]. My skills have definitely developed in terms of production, and I’ve got a lot more synthesisers than I did ten years ago. I think the creative process isn’t something that’s strict, it changes every time. Sometimes I’ll just chuck a beat on a drum machine and start playing a couple synths, with bass in one hand and chords in the other. And sometimes I’ll be on the computer and plotting things out like that. The essential process hasn’t changed that much, but other things are more accessible now.
How did your latest release, Heard it on the Radio, come about?
It started over a year ago, and it was born with a jam I had with a good friend, Touch Sensitive. We share a passion for synths and cats. Every time I’m in Sydney we’ll have a jam, and when he’s in Adelaide we’ll do the same thing. So, we were having a jam the day after one of my shows, and we were making stuff that was a bit more disco and upbeat. Then decided to drop the tempo, and do something darker, and pulled up a few synths. I was on a Yamaha DX7 and I played like three chords, and we were like ‘wow, this is fire’. Then it all just came together so effortlessly. It wasn’t long and we already had a full, rough arrangement of the track, and it pretty much sat on my hard drive for almost a year. Which was weird because we liked it when we did it.
I was searching for things when I was thinking of releasing new music and was like what have I got sitting around. I put it on, and was like ‘wow, something must be done with this’. So, I pretty much just reassembled it in my studio, added more synths and worked on the production, till it got to the point where it needed a vocal, and that’s where Asta came in. I’ve been running into Asta for years at festivals, and we always spoke about collaborating one day and hadn’t had the opportunity at the right time. I thought that this was one that she’d be amazing with, so I sent it to her and within about 48 hours she’d come back with a demo of her vocals, and it was just absolutely perfect. I flew to Sydney to record the vocals, and that was done in three to four hours, and then I went back to my studio to finish it off. It was the perfect fit, having her and Touch Sensitive involved, as friends, making music that we all felt a connection to.
I would’ve expected it to be a longer process with how well the song turned out.
Yeah, the actual working on it came together so effortlessly, I think that shows that when you’re writing music and stuff just happens, they’re the best tracks. When you’re not forcing anything, and letting the music come out. It’s something that I want to do more of; release tracks that really mean something to me, and reveal myself I guess.
So, in 2016 you’d released a cover of the Stranger Things theme song, did you expect that to blow up as much as it did? When you search your name, the first thing that pops up is “Luke Million Stranger Things.”
[Laughs] No, I had no idea. It all started when I put a video up on Facebook of me jamming, recreating it. And then I sort of took it somewhere else and was just having a bit of fun. I popped it up online and thought, this’ll get a few likes and suddenly I was getting all these notifications. That night I wondered if it’d hit a million, and then the next day I woke up and it was like 1.7 million. I think it finished at around 4.5 million views. Everyone was calling me to say you have to make a full remix from this, and I went to the studio the next day and knocked out a whole track, and that was probably the quickest track I’ve ever made. The next day it was mastered, and the following it was on Triple J, and then the next day it was on Spotify. When things need to move fast they can [Laughs].
Do you have anything else in store for us for 2019?
I am working on another single right now, I can’t reveal too much about it. But yes, there’s more music on the way, and obviously the tour is starting in less than two weeks. Also, every Friday I put up a thing called Friday Funk Jam on my socials, and that’s something I’ve been doing, with me playing a one minute track of something I really like, putting my own spin on it. So I’ll be doing a lot more of those as well. I haven’t announced this, but maybe I’ll do a compilation of all of those at some point. Besides that, I’ll be doing some more studio work, I’ve been doing a lot of mixing and producing for bands recently, and that explains why it took me so long to get my song out. Obviously also there’s been a lot of touring, with Asia and New Zealand, America, it’s been hectic. So the rest of the year’s looking good, with performing on New Year’s Eve at Lost Paradise. I played that a few years ago and it was a lot of fun.
I’ve read that you’re recently recovering from a back injury, how are you feeling about hitting the road for this tour?
I’m feeling good! Unfortunately, last year my back started wigging out, and I got it under control but then right before the tour I’d planned before, it just got really bad and I had to cancel that run of shows. I couldn’t give one hundred per cent, and I couldn’t give people a lesser show than they deserved. I got right into everything I could think of; chiro, physio, changed my diet, got a personal trainer, and stopped all the fun things like drinking (laughs). I did everything, and I’m totally healed now in that sense. If anything happened in the future I’d know how to take care of it, being a lot fitter and stronger now, which is awesome.
So, what can we expect from your upcoming Heard it on the Radio Tour?
You can expect me up there, jumping around, playing my synths and drum pad, and rocking out on the keytar. It’s going to take people on a journey with most of my discography. I’ll play a lot of the older tracks that I started with because I don’t usually get a chance to do that. So, I’ll go back to the old-school, and chuck on a few new things that are happening. It’s going to be super fun, and I’ve got great supports onboard, with Reija Lee and Juno Disco, and we’re all kind of in the same territory with our synth directions and productions. Everyone is different but they’re definitely going to set the scene for the night, and it’ll just feel like one whole experience.
Catch Luke Million at his Perth show, Sat 7 September at Jack Rabbit Slims.