07 Dec Welcome to ‘Suid Tronica’, LEEU’s Vigorous and Collaborative Debut Album
Suid Tronica is the name of LEEU aka Alex Coetzee’s debut full length album, and of the genre he and his musically-inclined friends are pioneering. With 8 collaborations generously packed into a 10 track album, Suid Tronica offers a unique insight into the current landscape of South African electronic musicans – particularly that of LEEU and the place/space he calls “Leeu Island”, which all the artists who worked with him on the album, and now its listeners, are invited to explore. Within this lively arena, we encounter a swirling mantra about ‘Somewhere Really Fun’, a spacey 9 minute ode to ‘ChimiChanga’, and are ushered out (and back into the real world) with the scattered beats of ‘39.5 AU’.
LEEU chats to us about his music-making journey and challenging the way we interpret sound, hints at an impending cooking show, and shares his thoughts on the local scene.
What’s your earliest music-related memory?
I was a bored toddler at my parents friends’ house, her name was Aunty Bobby. She had an extremely large grand piano, and I’d sit on the bench – my feet far away from the floor – and just press the keys while pretending to be some famous classical pianist. It would entertain me for hours while the rest of my family ate food and got drunk.
When did you know that making music was something you’d like to do? And how have you gone about pursuing this?
I knew I wanted to get involved in music seriously from around the age of 14. I had just started taking drum lessons and formed a mini rock band. From then on I went all in; I started writing music on my computer, went on to study sound engineering, and have been constantly pushing myself and my sound to get to where I am today.
How has your sound evolved since the first track you ever released?
I feel like I’m constantly evolving as a person, so is my sound – if it wasn’t I’d be a little worried. Yet the core/fundamentals have stayed consistent, I can hear this when I listen to my older works. That said, I try not to stick to a particular sound, because that too would become boring. I like to keep everything I do open to interpretation.
You’ve just released your debut album Suid Tronica. What does it reveal about you as an artist? Tell us a bit about “Leeu Island”.
I think this album was a good way to bring all my ideas together into a body of work that flows and tells a story. For a long time I’ve been putting in a lot of hours in the studio, crafting ideas and making loops and learning as I go along. I’m now in the process of finishing off all these pieces of music I’ve started with many great producers who I’ve been working and adventuring with. “Leeu Island” is a glimpse into a world that no one in the outside world gets to experience, and Suid Tronica is an exciting new genre that we are slowly pioneering as a collective.
Apart from two songs, the entire record was created in collaboration with electronic artists like Micr. Pluto, Big Space and Thor Rixon. What do you enjoy about working this way, and how did you bring it all together to form Suid Tronica?
The idea of this album was to incorporate all the artists and producers who I’ve been working with for some time now. They’re all a big influence on me, and also happen to be really close friends, so I wanted to build on something together. We’ve been indulging in some long night jams and production sessions, and I thought it would only be fair to share some of this to the world. Originally, I was just going to release a series of EPs, but I decided to push myself to finish this album – being in constant contact with all of the artists, bouncing ideas back and forth, until everyone was happy. And more importantly, I didn’t want the album to sound like a bunch of tracks, they had to move into each other, capturing that Suid Tronica goodness!
Can you talk us through one or two tracks on the album that were particularly memorable or fun to create?
One of the tracks that speaks to me the most is ‘Somewhere Really Fun (original mix) – Metoo (Dom Benigno & Leeu)’. This was created during a very special time of my life while living in Oslo, Norway and making music with Dom Benigno. We wrote this sketch about a year ago, and then brought it back to life by adding in personal sound recordings from our experiences together. It’s one of the most personal tracks on the album; the mood and atmosphere hits a very soft spot in my life, I love it.
What are your favourite genres and musical influences?
There are way too many to name, but I’m very influenced by world music. I love listening to ethnic music, and a good combination of electronic and acoustic music, but my ears are always to the ground listening and learning to various styles and genres, seeing what resonate with me.
What’s the strangest sample or tool you’ve ever used in a song?
Hahaha, great question. Well I’ve used some strange things in my recordings, I recorded a bunch of farm animals once and incorporated them into a song called ‘Away in a Stable’. I’ve also sampled a mouth bow with my friend Mo, and simple things like thunder, traffic, pretty much anything I can capture on my day to day.
As one of the core members of the Hadedah collective, you’ve been involved in some pretty interesting projects like Nerve – a dinner experiment in paired sound and cuisine to pollinate the senses. Why do you think it’s important to explore new ways of experiencing and interacting with music?
I think it’s fundamental to constantly challenge the way we interoperate sound, cuisine and art; they have remarkably different outcomes when combined and experimented with. I also feel it’s important to push the boundaries a bit, otherwise things stay stagnant with no progression and that’s a boring world for me. The level is high globally, we all gotta keep up and contribute to this exciting pool of arts.
How do you view the music scene in South Africa right now? What could the local industry use more/less of?
The South African Music scene is so booming it’s hard to keep up with. It’s so exciting to come back here after some years of travelling and see so many talented producers, DJs and live performers. Now more than ever, the whole world is watching us.
We could use less of the promoters and “gate keepers” mainly booking friends. Less people complaining and more people doing. We could do with less focus on brining international artists here, and highlight our local artists. Less people trying to emulate what they hear overseas and more focus on exploring their own uniqueness. Less big brands and corporates trying to slap their brand on everything we do as artists, less monopolies and a fair system of fees and rates for musicians – ‘cause I’ve heard some ridiculous things!
We could use more people coming out and supporting music movements, happy faces and audiences engaging with music in settings other than clubs, more producers, we could definitely have more focus on live performance shows, and people covering more of the underground scene.
What are you listening to on repeat right now?
The new St Germain album.
And lastly, what’s on the cards for 2016?
Next year I’ll be playing a live set at WolfKop Weekender in Capetown, they are bringing down Frivolous who is definitely one of my top 10 favourite experimental producers. I’ll also be working on the second Suid Tronica album, working with Hadedah on various exciting projects, and I’m looking at a cooking show in the pipeline, plus more gigs, friends, food and adventures! Other than that, who knows? I don’t like to plan too far ahead!
Stream ‘Suid Tronica’ below, or purchase it via Bandcamp.
For more from LEEU, find him on Facebook.