Underrated classics: Lhasa - The Attic (Music Man, 1990) » nightclubber.ro

Bleep techno was all the rage in the late 80s / early 90s. On this side of the pond, seminal labels such as Warp were helping to popularise the sound, with tracks such as Sweet Exorcist’s ‘Test One’, LFO’s ‘LFO’ and Forgemasters’ ‘Track With No Name’ ushering in a new, inspiring and highly intoxicating strand of electronic music. Although its influence is limited and spans but a relatively limited number of tracks, bleep is a sound that definitely left its mark on electronic music. Most recently, a new UK label, Cease & Desist, has chronicled the sound via a brilliant reissue collection of tracks on ‘Join the Future: UK Bleep & Bass’. If you’re a fan of the aforementioned tracks, you’ll be all over that one. 

Another such label that emerged victorious thanks to a flirtation with bleep was Belgium’s Music Man. Alongside the likes of R&S, the imprint was every bit as influential to Belgium’s electronic music scene as the aforementioned Warp was in Britain. And their crowing achievement when it comes to bleep is most definitely Lhasa’s ‘The Attic’. Released in 1990, the track has proved an afterparty staple for over three decades now, with in-the-know DJs regularly returning to its many charms. Recently repressed via the STROOM label, Lhasa’s sound is enjoying a sort of mini-rejuvenation of late, with those wily old repress merchants Dark Entries also repressing the equally on-point ‘Acetabularia’ / ‘Acetatechno’. With all this in mind, we decided to call up Lhasa himself, as he gave us the lowdown on ‘The Attic’…

I’ve read that you’re from Siegen in Germany, but ‘The Attic’ is known as one of the signature ‘Belgian’ techno anthems. So first off, can you tell us a bit about how the track came to be on Belgium’s Music Man? And did it bother you that it was characterised as a Belgian record? 

Well this is more down to my dad being stationed in Germany in the early 1960s. Indeed, I could have been born in Texas because he was asked to relocate over there at one point, too. But make no mistake, I am Belgian, it just so happened I was born in Siegen in Germany and during the mid 70s we actually moved back to Belgium.

The 1970s were a very fruitful time to be a youngster, especially when synths appeared and began to capture my imagination. Even then, I thought they were being used in far too obvious a way, especially in the context of space and technology… something I found as conservative as plain rock music. But the switch came later in the 70s thanks to the likes of Tubeway Army, Cabaret Voltaire, Mi Sex, Metro etc. All of these bands conveyed other moods into their music. I thought of them as being like ‘hybrid’ acts in that they were far more than just electronic acts. 

To go back to your question, characterising ‘The Attic’ as a Belgian techno record is hard. Really, it’s just what I was influenced by and a result of how I interpreted things around me at the time. As it came out on Music Man, I guess a lot of people do see it as a classic ‘Belgian’ record though. Actually, I had a choice between signing it to Music Man or R&S, but I chose Music Man because otherwise I was locked in not on a per record basis, but on a fixed time basis. But the thing that bothers me about narrow-minded, mainly Belgian press and labels, is that they rarely appreciate their own creative people. For example, I’ve long felt that if I’d have been German that the track might have taken on an added dimension. But anyway, that’s just how things go sometimes. 

To go back to your question, characterising ‘The Attic’ as a Belgian techno record is hard. Really, it’s just what I was influenced by and a result of how I interpreted things around me at the time. As it came out on Music Man, I guess a lot of people do see it as a classic ‘Belgian’ record though. Actually, I had a choice between signing it to Music Man or R&S, but I chose Music Man because otherwise I was locked in not on a per record basis, but on a fixed time basis. But the thing that bothers me about narrow-minded, mainly Belgian press and labels, is that they rarely appreciate their own creative people. For example, I’ve long felt that if I’d have been German that the track might have taken on an added dimension. But anyway, that’s just how things go sometimes. 

How would you describe the mood in Europe around the time you produced the record? How did that influence your sound at the time? 

It’s funny because the track came out around the same time that the UK was also coming out with these crazy sounds. It was almost as if there was this sort of synchronicity to it all, even though people weren’t aware of it and different musicians were approaching things from a different angle. We had a club culture back then but I think it was probably different to what was going on elsewhere in Europe at the time. 

You could feel Belgium was different and the scene would draw crowds from all over Europe. But the fact is: the Belgian music scene was always very DIY.. If there were electronic bands over here during the late 70s and early 80s, chances are that they were more recognised abroad than in Belgium itself.

Were you surprised by the reaction to the record? 

My main aim when producing the track was to make something that I could listen to outside the context of a moving / dancing environment. So from that perspective, yes, the record’s reaction was a welcome surprise. Actually, although I’m not the type to want to go somewhere like Tomorrowland, the track did definitely make an impact in Belgium’s club scene during its heyday. I’d hear it in unusual situations, like the TV Broadcast company in the Netherlands who used an intro snippet in their programmes. Interestingly, people would often enquire about the name of the track, as if they were asking a DJ! So I found it really great that it was getting these sort of reactions from people who might not always be exposed to electronic music, and especially not in a club environment. 

Yes, I read elsewhere that you weren’t exactly receptive to a career in electronic music, saying you “despised” the big beat sound, and saying of the culture: ‘To me, they were yuppies with smileys plundering a subculture, shitting out one bland record after another’. Have your attitudes changed in recent years about the electronic music scene? 

What I meant was that I didn’t like music with a whole different backstory being used as non collateral in a dance – environment, which is what happened to several key tracks from the ‘80s indie scene. Nowadays things are different but impose their own problems,  and the democratization of music technology also means that the quality of music has suffered a lot. These days the chances of a piece of music grabbing us by surprise is actually severely less likely, which when you think about it as quite an odd fact. 

But I very much welcome the vinyl resurgence, especially around the album format because it really does provide a different experience: it rekindles the feeling you have when you discover as opposed to virtual overload. It is also great that the younger public can now be the real judges about what works or has qualities that make it unique.

Looking back now, do you have any regrets? Do you think you should have put out more music? 

I was very particular about it making music. So I would rather people speak fondly of something I made rather than it be something that felt like work to me. I am not the type that would use his elbows to force himself into the picture, and although I would have liked to have collaborated with people from Germany at the time, I don’t have any regrets about my stint in electronic music. 

Were you approached by any other labels at the time to release music? 

That was handled by the label actually. But I was approached as a ghostwriter for some well known DJs at the time. You know… the kind that wanted to put their name onto something by paying you. I could not be bothered though!

Do you still make music now? Or have you given up on it altogether? 

Both… depending on my mood! I do believe the best ideas come quickly without endless hours of faffing about, so there is still a chance I find an urge to produce, but it kind of depends if everyday life sucks you up too much. But there is no way I could live with the strain of trying to make money from a creative process.

Are you surprised by the track’s rejuvenation? Does it feel odd that label owners want to repress your music 30 years later? 

Absolutely! The person that says that he knows something he made will live on in some way in the future is a liar. You make it in the moment and then let it free. You cannot possibly comprehend why people pick it up again other than you have given them something from yourself that they in turn give back to you with their own thoughts. It is like lending your dreams to others in some ways… 

Why do you think ‘The Attic’ is still popular all these years later? 

Probably because, and I could be wrong, be I feel that it signals both a loss of something or a closing of something. But at the same time, it has an open view to the future, like the story is not finished yet.  You yourself, the listener, are of course the judge of all that. 

‘The Attic’ is available via STROOM’s Bandcamp here