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Interviewed by
Martyn Pepperell
Monday 18th February, 2013 10:00AM

Friendly, inquisitive and considered, Lunice (aka Lunice Fermin Pierre II) has a mind as sharp and spotless as the chrome plated, low slung instrumentals and vocal tracks he DJ's and produces. Known for crafting and presenting songs that glisten and glow like a pair of perfectly white high-top sneakers and a matching semi sheen tracksuit, while his music was originally rooted in hip-hop formalism, he found international fame and respect within the angled lens of the contemporary international beat music underground.

Originally from Montreal, Canada, Lunice is connected with respected record labels LuckyMe, Mad Decent, Warp Records and his foundation, the Turbo Crunk crew. He's also one half of rising production duo TNGHT (alongside Hudson Mohawke). Having built his solo reputation through globally acclaimed DJ sets, loved solo EPs, polished production work for Azealia Banks, Angel Haze and Rocky Fresh and heavily played remixes for the likes of The XX, Ryan Leslie, Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka and Theophilus London, post the release of the debut TNGHT EP, things are moving into a new echelon for both Lunice and Hudson Mohawke. As a result, with the likes of Kanye West reaching out to the duo, they both look poised to slip into the driver seat, or at least the flight deck of mainstream international hip-hop.

Since Lunice is making his New Zealand DJ debut this month in Auckland and Wellington, I called him up to talk about his roots, where he is currently at, and the cycles of creativity through which underground musical cultures can, given the right circumstances, eventually achieve commercial dominance.

You're from Montreal, could you give the readers a bit of an idea of what was happening in the early 2000s there that brought you into b-boying, making beats and DJing?

Oh right, yeah. In terms of getting into b-boying in Montreal, it just felt like it was part of the culture. It was always present. It wasn't necessarily just happening downtown, it was always happening around the suburbs and that. I grew up in another area called Lachine which more on the west side of Montreal. What was crazy, was at that time when I was young, they used to have this little hip-hop festival called Do It Jam. To me it was one of the best hip-hop festival that you could really do.

Basically the whole message behind it was positive, you know, do it! You wanna be creative, be creative. You want to dance, you dance. So there was a floor for the b-boys or whoever wanted to dance. There were turntables for people who wanted to play music. Guests would come through and play a set. Some people would come through and rap. They would have a whole mural from graffiti writers doing stuff. You would have veterans coming through and teaching kids certain techniques and getting creative. Culturally, it was one of the best hip-hop festivals you could have. That was when I was in high school, so that was between 2000 and 2004 so.

After that they stopped doing it, but learning from that environment really got me realising that hip-hop is a culture rather than a sound, or music that you see on TV or whatever. Growing up with that it was always that vibe, it was always different experiences. It wasn't just rap music or anything, it was that and everything else. That was the vibe in Montreal. People just wanted to know stuff. People just wanted to discover things.

Having started out as a b-boy and then become a DJ and a producer, do you feel like your dancing background has had much of an effect on your music?

It's not significant enough for it to be like, because I'm able to dance I can make this type of music. It's not that literal. It's more like, I can maybe catch a rhythm in my head quicker, because of how I'm used to catching a rhythm. In b-boying, you start to dance by catching a rhythm. You don't just move, you listen for the first three, four bars, get the idea of the song and then you start grooving to it.

You've had tremendous underground success as a solo artist, but since you and Hudson Mohawke have started working together as TNGHT, things have really gone to a new level. Tell us about what has been going on?

Basically we started this project together with the idea of producing simple rap music. Stuff that was very straight forward, not too thought out. You know, we get to the studio and we jam. With the project we came up with an idea we wanted to present to people. The whole idea was leaving space in the song and making it as simple as possible, but still having it bang. We also kept in mind with each track that we would like to have a rapper on there, one day. That was pretty much what the whole project is. We were headed towards the whole rap game, or whatever you want to call it, with it.

How did you and Hudson Mohwake meet originally?

We met way back, maybe five years ago. We booked the whole LuckyMe crew to play a night of ours in Montreal called Turbo Crunk. After that I was just playing shows with him. I'm trying to remember, I get a bit blank sometimes. It's a really simple story, we played the same gigs around the world and became friends. I approached him after he did that remix for Gucci Mane called 'Party Animal'. It was a really straight forward rap track. So I approached him about working together and he said sure. We only really started working together a year later in London. We made three of the tracks on our EP in a night or two. So it just happened that like.

I find this interesting, because you started in quite a conventional hip-hop manner and Hudson Mohawke was a scratch DJ in the beginning also. You both made your names in the modern beats and bass music scenes. Now, post TNGHT, you guys are getting a lot of attention from people like Kanye West and various rappers. Do you feel like you've come full circle in a way?

Right. It's definitely looks like it is coming full circle. It's hard to explain though, how did it come to be that more mainstream people in the industry are paying more attention to us? What I feel like is, what we're doing together, it's not just us two. It's me, the LuckyMe family, everyone around us, Warp, Brainfeeder and all of these people. We're likeminded and we're all hip-hop heads. We're just making music how we perceive it. It feel like it is no different from how it was back in the day. The team was Timbaland and Missy Elliot and that. They were chilling, and they were coming up with their own sound. RnB songs at the time were mad experimental and stuff like that.

I just notice these pockets of people who get together, talk, chill and work on music. It's beyond music though, it could really be anything. It's really a cultural get together. Then it becomes this rich bank of knowledge and sound. That kind of thing. That is what I notice as so far as analysing where people come from, you know? I feel that is how it happened. I feel that is why Kanye West paid attention. He is from that kind of scene. He has his crew who surround him and help inform how he sees it. I guess he feels it too and is like, yo, those people have that mindset where they are getting together and creating music.

It's a very classic thing to do, wait until a fringe collective has a power circle going before you let them into the larger discussion. On the flipside though, it's also a product of you guys building a vision big enough that people outside of your world can see it.

Yeah, yeah. That is what I mean when I say, the culture within becomes rich to the point that the people outside the circle see it. That is how I came across Hudson Mohwake's music because I was like, oh, he is into that stuff too, but he is bringing his own sound into it.

This will be your first time performing in New Zealand. Is there anything about it you are looking forward to aside from the shows?

Man, I have never been to New Zealand, so what I'm looking forward to is really seeing New Zealand. I can't really specify anything. Whenever I go to a city, what I really look forward to, as corny as it is, is the culture. I just want to get knowledge that I can't get anywhere else. It could be anything, cooking, sculpting, I don't know what exactly, but I'll be more than happy to just have people drop knowledge on me. I like that kind of stuff. I am a learner, you know? I'm the kind of guy that just likes to learn things. I'm definitely looking forward to what I can learn in New Zealand.

See below for details of his two New Zealand shows this week.


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