Perhaps the botanist and DJ/producer combination was mint to be actualized through Lawrence – a director of the tulip and the turn-up. A mainstay of Hamburg, Germany — Lawrence aka Peter Kersten — has been a steadfast contributor to underground electronic music since the early 2000s, consequently building rapport within the scene as a favorited DJ, producer, and label-head of the respected Techno/House driven – Dial Records. Working with the dance floor in mind for quite some time now, his DJ sets do differ from his other productions. His most recent EP, The City of Tomorrow, uses meditative tones and sophisticated edges (that would nicely compliment a cucumber-infused beverage) or remediate a perturbed state. His productions are minimalistic and ambient in nature, though not necessarily genre-specific, as he balances an unstructured design with lustre-filled synths and spatially light elements. Today, Torture the Artist chats with Lawrence about his latest EP, the 21st anniversary of Dial Records, and some of the dear (non-ventilated) spaces yet to be freed by the CDC. Until then, maybe all an overstimulated culture needs to plan the “city of tomorrow”, is simple as stopping to smell the flowers (with Lawrence).
I really enjoy the morning hours, it’s the most inspiring time of the day.
Torture The Artist: Hi Peter, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today! What do you have on your agenda for today and where are you now?
Lawrence: Hi Bella, thank you for the interview! I’m in Brussels right now. Last year I helped to build a tiny courtyard garden here and we try to grow eggplants and peppers. Everything seems to grow much slower this year. My music is becoming slower as well, I’m working on extremely long ambient pieces side by side with the gardening activities.
Torture The Artist: What do you typically find yourself listening to in the mornings when you’re getting up for the day?
Lawrence: I really enjoy the morning hours, it’s the most inspiring time of the day. There’s always a great radio show to start the day: Zakia on NTS for instance or Phil’s Jazz Dis-Junction, or I just tune in on WFMU. My tiny record selection at home in Berlin is also great for the morning hours: Eiko Ishibashi, Kali Malone, Walt Dickerson, Oren Ambarchi, Ellen Fullman, that kind of stuff.
Torture The Artist: Let’s start talking about your most recent release The City of Tomorrow; can you tell us a little bit more about the EP and describe the installation behind it?
Lawrence: My friend Gigiotto Del Vecchio asked me to be part of the audio/visual program for Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève. I shut some blurry video sketches in my neighborhood in Berlin, the Hansaviertel. Other footage is showing Marina Pinsky’s bronce models from the same area as opposed to Koekleberg, the rural place in Brussels where I am right now. The music is mostly recorded last year, using acoustic instruments and organ sounds.
Working on the running order of a release is always exciting, you turn the single pieces into a whole story.
Torture The Artist: In your latest release and otherwise, how do you select single tracks to accompany one another; does order ever play a part? In the final stages leading up to the actual press and release, have you ever left out a track(s) for any multitude of reasons?
Lawrence: Working on the running order of a release is always exciting, you turn the single pieces into a whole story. The City Of Tomorrow was definitely compiled in a way that the pieces lend together perfectly. If a tune wouldn’t fit in at all, I would leave it out, sometimes I even produce an extra track for filling a gap.
When I produce music, I am pretty lost in what I’m doing, entirely spaced out.
Torture The Artist: In the culmination of producing an album, which “tasks” do you find more organic; which ones are more functional?
Lawrence: When I produce music, I am pretty lost in what I’m doing, entirely spaced out. Even the arrangement and mixing doesn’t follow a proper functional routine, the whole process is pretty intuitive and playful.
Torture The Artist: Speaking of bringing things together, you have a few other monikers in addition to Lawrence including Sten, Lloyd, and Bordeaux. Firstly, what led to your choice to distinguish your genres, initially with Lawrence and Sten and more, why didn’t you choose the alternative?
Lawrence: Most of these monikers do not exist anymore, but I do have some lovely memories. Bordeaux for instance was a guitar band with Pawel Kominek, Martin Hossbach, and David Lieske, we released exactly one song in 2002 haha! I’ve been working on some Sten tracks recently again, after many years. Yossi Amoyal from Sushitech brought it up and we’re planning a release sometime in the future.
Torture The Artist: Although the pandemic is still lingering, how had this past year away from clubs/nightlife influenced you to explore different territories than before as Lawrence?
Lawrence: While I got into gardening again, I discovered a much deeper and slower approach to music. A one-hour-long piece like last year’s Music For Plants is definitely new musical territory. Just recently my friend Martin Hossbach invited me to be part of “The Sun Machine Is Coming Down”, a festival hosted by Berliner Festspiele at the legendary ICC. We’ve been talking about expanding time and space, not only as a result of the pandemic but also opposed to the fast pace and short attention of present days.
My approach to music production is very spontaneous and open, I never go to the studio with a proper plan or concept.
Torture The Artist: When producing, it seems that you take an uninhibited approach rather than adhering to a strict schedule. With your style, what do you find motivates you into the studio?
Lawrence: My approach to music production is very spontaneous and open, I never go to the studio with a proper plan or concept. Sometimes I’m inspired by my own imagination. My last album, Birds On The Playground, was connected to places and moments, that had been very close to me before the pandemic and became incredibly far away in the current reality. I was fantasizing about places like the Studio Mule bar in Tokyo or the Golden Pudel Club in Hamburg, and what kind of music I wanted to share there with my friends.
Torture The Artist: In your recent production, which do you think has been consuming most of your time these days: the linking moments took between producing or creating music itself?
Lawrence: These days I spend a lot of time on actually recording music – writing a half-hour piece and improvising over it, again and again, sometimes I end up with 40 tracks or so! Which makes like 20 hours of music hahaha. Sometimes I just can’t stop, it’s so mesmerizing.
Torture The Artist: Regardless, there is always variability between “creative bursts” some involving shorter or longer time frames than others. What do you like to do in these liminal spaces?
Lawrence: The “creative bursts” you are talking about are a total mystery to me. I always asked myself where it comes from and why so many people encounter it, those inspirational peaks are truly magical. I really enjoy the time in between too- for a while, I go on these large walks without a destination, there are always new places to discover.
Torture The Artist: What does your current studio look like?
Lawrence: My current studio in Berlin is literally placed in my bedroom. There are two office tables cluttered with tiny instruments, microphones, and cables next to a vibraphone. My computer is definitely the essential instrument and main recording tool.
Torture The Artist: Congratulations on celebrating your 22nd year of Dial Records! Can you tell us how you have noticed an evolution in your label’s ethos and where you drew your inspirations compared to your present ones?
Lawrence: Thank you, almost 22! I can’t really see an evolution, it’s more like phases- musically and productively. Our workflow is not always consistent, which is very important I think. Sometimes we’re extremely motivated, and there’s a lot of releases, but then we also need some downtime to figure out new ideas.
Something that stayed with us throughout the whole time, was to keep focussing on music and not get too involved in the business side.
Torture The Artist: What has stayed consistent throughout the years with the team?
Lawrence: Something that stayed with us throughout the whole time, was to keep focussing on music and not get too involved in the business side. Also, the variety of music was always very important to us. Some of my favorite labels have a significant trademark sound, but for Dial Records, it’s more exciting to look at a brighter spectrum of music.
I am in love with House Music and Techno since I first discovered it. But being forced to listen to it in random cafés, restaurants, or on the street can turn it into the most annoying thing ever.
Torture The Artist: Switching to the other side of the spectrum, sound can also be heard as “noise”. Noise is typically connotated as perceptually bothersome, lacking purpose, or meaning. What “noises” do you find displeasing in your everyday life and what makes one stand out more than other noises (e.g. repetitive, time of day, etc.)?
Lawrence: I’m very sensitive to sound. Hearing a bird singing can be lovely one day and very annoying the next. Depending on your mood or the context, sound shifts all the time. I am in love with House Music and Techno since I first discovered it. But being forced to listen to it in random cafés, restaurants, or on the street can turn it into the most annoying thing ever, hahaha. Right now a plane is flying over the house here in Brussels, it’s pretty loud, I kind of like it.
Torture The Artist: As covid sights get brighter, what venue/place are you most looking forward to returning to after all the restrictions are lifted?
Lawrence: Hopefully more small places and underground venues are being able to open soon again. Also, I missed going to concerts and movie theaters. It’s incredible how most participants of every cultural field kept being patient, hopeful, and inventive, now we’re slowly getting back to our beloved activities and to the places we missed so much.
Words by Isabella Gadinis
Pictures by Robert Kulisek