A musical virtuoso who’s always kept a low profile and knows what to play when he plays. A label owner, who puts quality over quantity. A producer who simply delivers timeless gems that still hit the current zeitgeist. Jens Kuhn alias Lowtec is a passionate and thoroughly music lover contributing and dedicating himself to the electronic music scene for more than two decades – always staying grounded, always sticking to his morals, always with a good read on bedside table or a flick flitting over his tv. Drawing inspiration from his peers and circle of friends or the beforementioned hobbies Lowtec, the founder of Workshop Records, speaks with Torture the Artist how he has perceived the last couple of months, what Move D has taught him, what set-times he enjoys playing in the club, where – aside from Hard Wax – he digs for music and much more. Besides he mixed and compiled the latest art:cast or how Lowtec would say: “I try to create a certain flow with my current favorite tracks with some highs and lows.”
Torture the Artist: Hello Jens, tell us something about your day.
Lowtec: It’s Monday and Gunnar from R.A.N.D. just callled because he had some questions regarding one of my upcoming projects: an LP with 70 minutes of music on just one record. I’m really excited about that.
Everything has its time or space in my life.
Torture the Artist: As a tremendous and inspirational selector for music on your own label Workshop as well as a producer and co-founder of r.a.n.d.-muzik your life seems to circle around music only. Firstly, do you prefer one field you work in over another and secondly, how difficult is it for you during the pandemic to keep on doing what you’ve been doing?
Lowtec: Currently I’m drawing inspiration from HipHop, whose three pillars are rap, break dance and graffiti. As for myself I focus on musical part of those three pillars, namely productions, label works and my live respectively DJ performances. I enjoy doing everything and everything has its time or space in my life. Due to the different tasks or their variability there is always enough energy for the other ones to do and I cannot imagine doing one without the other. Consequently there is no field in my work that I prefer over another because all of them complement each other – just the amount of work that you put into each field varies depending what’s on the table. At the moment it is impossible to play a DJ gig, so one could assume that you have more time to produce music, I’m witnessing the opposite though. I find it quite difficult to sit down in the studio and write a track because it seems as if I lack inspiration because of the missing input from the outside. From my experience many use the lockdown to go through their record collections and maybe perfect it. Obviously it is the time of home-listening and LPs. Besides you finally have the time to listen to all the music that you’ve bought over the years and give it a second listening or to rediscover it.
Torture the Artist: Speaking of your selector skills, back in the days the Hard Wax-newsletter played an important role for you. How and where do you dig for new music now? Do you have a certain digging-technique?
Lowtec: Usually when I’m on the road I like to visit record stores. That’s actually something I miss doing at the moment. Indeed I regularly visit the online stores of those records stores I’d usually go to in person, for example hardwax.com or the Honest Jons website. While I do the wash up I listen to mixes on NTS Radio and discover new music for myself. Some of my friends buy records on Discogs – they are real Discogs-diggers – and tell me what treasures they found. From time to time I find something myself on the site too or on Bandcamp. But you can get lost easily on these sites, if you do not know exactly what you want. There are almost infinite ways of discovering new music and I would not say that I have a certain technique. I think that you discover a lot of music because of your circle of friends – you speak about old and new music that you find.
Torture the Artist: What are your favorite 3 findings over the past months?
Lowtec: Here they are…
Julion De’Angelo, Viola Klein – We
Label: Meakusma /Ominira /Viola Klein – This one is also in the mix and is a collaboration from Gunnar Wendels’ (Kassem Mosse) label Ominara, Viola Klein and Meakusm Records from Eupen – a stunning record)
Ana Roxanne – Because Of A Flower
Label: Kranky – That’s an ambient record that offers a new facet each time you give it a listen)
The RZA – Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai (Music From The Motion Picture) – That’s a record that had been available for the Japanese market only until it got a repress for the European market. Have been searching this one for so long, because I love the movie.
Basically the entire Workshop-catalogue is part of my own biography.
Torture the Artist: There are rather few therefore quality releases coming out on your own label Workshop, that all have this timelessness in common. Which releases most-likely tell the story of Jens Kuhn or which of the releases do you have a strong personal relationship with?
Lowtec: Basically the entire Workshop-catalogue is part of my own biography. I still have a strong relationship to each of the releases – otherwise I would not have put it out. Of course, you are heavily connected to the most current one or the upcoming ones.
Obvious hit records only work for a certain amount of time.
Torture the Artist: What’s your schedule for the label at the moment and has the label’s philosophy changed over the years? Also is the aforementioned timelessness running like a golden thread through the label’s releases?
Lowtec: The golden thread is the taste, which can change over the course of time. The label’s philosophy is it to release timeless music without focusing on obvious tracks every label could release. Those tracks and releases, the edgy ones, can become your favorite records. It has happened to me quite some times that I had listened to a record in the store und put it back. Then, at night, a record in the club was played and I had to look it up – voila it was exactly that record that I had put back in the store in the first place. For some tracks it takes a moment to get through to you. This requires openness, sometimes energy and time as well. Once they’ve become your favorite records you can always play them out, while obvious hit records only work for a certain amount of time. But what about the time after? Perhaps they get on your nerves only.
Torture the Artist: There’s this saying “don’t judge a book by its cover“, however how important is a decent and continuous style of artwork for you and the music you release on your label and have you ever not bought an EP/LP because you disliked the cover?
Lowtec: Honestly speaking there are a lot of records with disgusting covers. Though I cannot remember not buying a record because of its artwork. Chacun à son goût. I have to admit that I’ve bought some records only because of their artworks and the same works for me with books. For Workshop we created a design that is influenced and shaped by those recycled and extensively harmonized covers as well as the stamp motives on the records. A Workshop release should be easily found within a pile of records due to its simply different cut of the cover and a different haptic. When it comes to LPs we work with printed inlays while the outer design remains quite minimal or reduced, so the artwork or the graphic design can be something that you discover at second glance.
If you do not depend too much on trends, you will be able to listen to your music in like 10 years without feeling ashamed or bad about it.
Torture the Artist: In an interview for Uncanny Valley a couple of years ago you mentioned Move, who is kind of a mentor for you, recommends artists for potential releases and that mutual trust in this relationship and context plays a big role. Do you think that the beforementioned things and values are often only relevant for a minority within the scene or only a small amount of people who live like this? Secondly, what have you learnt from Move D, that’s become essential for you or has shaped you personally as well as an artist?
Lowtec: You can definitely hold up these values if you do not have to make a living from music. What I appreciate a lot about David is that he has always been true to himself, even when things did not go his way at times. His maxim is: “Always keep doing what you believe in.“ If you do not depend too much on trends, you will be able to listen to your music in like 10 years without feeling ashamed or bad about it. When I produce music it’s mostly about experimmenting or kind of like trial and error, that’s how I proceed and work in the studio. David is a bit different though. He turns on his equipment, plays with a knob and it immediately sounds great. He communicates with the machines, you know, and this ability in his blood. I admire that a lot.
Once you’ve connected entirely with the audience and fulfilled its demands you can play the most wicked and weird music – quite fun.
Torture the Artist: What’s your favorite set-time to play, and why?
Lowtec: The warm-up is quite interesting because I can play rather slow. Spinning records until the very end can also be very charming, because unpredictable interesting things happen. Once you’ve connected entirely with the audience and fulfilled its demands you can play the most wicked and weird music – quite fun.
Torture the Artist: You’ve been releasing music since the 90s, firstly with Gunnar Heuschkel, Marco Fischer and Ronald Reuter as Metroscat, later on as Lowtec and various other monikers. What release of yours do you find most important for yourself and your career in a retroperspective, and what do you connect with it?
Lowtec: The Workshop 01 release was probably the most important one, because it brought me back into the game. The label gained a fanbase right away and I could work with that. An impressive release for me is the Kolorit LP with Gunnnar Wendel – a record that is hard or tricky to pinpoint to a genre or: just how I like it.
Torture the Artist: After such a long time in the scene what’s an artist you’d love to share your studio space with, and why?
Lowtec: I’ve always wanted to sit in the studio with David Moufang (Editor’s note: Move D). We’ve been knowing each other for such a long time but unfortunately we’ve never managed to work together in the studio. But he’s on the top of my list. A collaboration with Benjamin Brunn has been in planned for quite some time either but again we barely see each other.
Torture the Artist: Have you found yourself producing more music over the past months or did you feel less inspired since clubs are closed?
Lowtec: As already mentioned I’ve not been feeling too inspired lately. But that has, fortunately, changed over the past weeks. It’s always been the case that I did not produce much music over a period of time to then come back at it. At some point the sparkle or the urge of producing music takes over me and then ideas just spout.
Torture the Artist: Aside from music, how do you give yourself a treat?
Lowtec: I enjoy a good read or movie from time to time, which happens to be an important source of inspiration for me. At the moment I’m reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a novel that deals with the labor conditions of Lithuanian immigrants in Chicago’s slaughterhouses around the early 20th century. It’s quite recommendable. I also do enjoy some science fiction from authors like Phillip K. Dick, William Gibson or Neil Stephenson. However, I’m not committed to a genre per se. Over the last weeks I went cross-countryskiing a lot in the Thuringian Forest, which is basically just around the corner. This steady movement has something rather meditative and is kind of an escape from the daily routines.
The difference now is that you have more time to actually listen to music and get deeper into a record, which before you might’ve just given a short listen.
Torture the Artist: You’re responsible for the current art:cast, what was your musical approach to it, and why? Also has your taste in music and the way how you listen or perceive music changed over the past year?
Lowtec: My mixes reflect my taste, so I try to create a certain flow with my current favorite tracks with some highs and lows. I believe that’s the way I listen to music and my taste in general has not changed a lot over the past year, because I already had bought some experimental and home listening music before – and of course enjoyed listening to at home – the pandemic hit us. So over the past months I’ve just continued doing that. The difference now is that you have more time to actually listen to music and get deeper into a record, which before you might’ve just given a short listen.
Torture the Artist: What’s a habit/skill you’ve developed?
Lowtec: For quite some months I’ve been having breakfast with my family not just on the weekends but at every day of the week, so I must say that this home-schooling thing has at least one positive effect.
Torture the Artist: Who would you like to be abducted by aliens?
Lowtec: Arthur Dent for sure.
Words by Holger Breuer
Cover picture by V. Kuhn
Picture 1 by Valeriu Catalineanu
Picture 2 by Paul David Rollmann
Picture 3 by Kassem Mosse