It turns out that Lenzman is an intellectual. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that someone so heavily influenced by soul, jazz, and blues actually has something to say, since the foundation of such genres was built on independent, free-thinkers. Those influential artists have integrated their views and struggles into their music, and just like them, Lenzman has a message — and it’s a profound evolution of his music.
I met with him in a hotel lobby a few hours before his Calgary show during his whirlwind North American tour. He was coming from performing at a weekly drum and bass show at Dragon Fly in Hollywood and heading to Houston the next day. He was well spoken, real, and relaxed. We discussed his new album Looking at the Stars, his influences, his take on the future of music and the state of the world.
Listening to his music, I noted classic, defining drum and bass rips and breaks, but also piano solos with a jazz-like discord that reminded me of the legendary Thelonious Monk. I brought the self-titled vinyl record Monk to the interview to give to Lenzman. When I gave it to him, he started reminiscing about what musical influences have helped shape his style, a style that landed him on the Metalheadz drum and bass record label with the likes of Goldie, Grooverider, and Fabio. The label’s name is a reference to the metal heads used to cut grooves into dubplates, which were used in mastering studios before pressing of the record to be mass-produced on vinyl. Lenzman has been a part of the label’s illustrious output for five years and a contributing founder of the liquid funk genre.
“I have a big love for 70s soul, jazz, funk, and blues,” Lenzman told me. “Music with a feeling, you know? Like Curtis Mayfield, obviously Marvin Gaye, Minnie Riperton, and Ahmad Jamal for piano. I discovered jazz through hip-hop because 90s hip-hop would sample that a lot. Then, through that, I was interested in where it came from and delved into it. Then I would find singers that would give me that same feeling and musically try to go for that.” One of the singers that appear on three tracks in his new album is Martyna Baker, who has a Nina Simone like quality to her voice that lights up the tracks like ether.
In his new album, Lenzman takes aim at contributing deep bass and smooth synth lines to the world, but also dips his toe in post apocalyptic vibes. The track “Collapse” exemplifies this in a sound bite that states: I think it’s fairly certain that the mortal flow of the human industrialized civilization will have the oil prices that spike again and nobody can afford to buy that oil and everything will just shut down. Since he was visiting the oil capital of Canada, I asked him about the sound bites and what his agenda was musically. Lenzman said,
“With dance music people don’t generally put political messages in it, but I’m opinionated by some things and I think the human race, as I see it, we’re like locusts and were just eating the planet dry. There are so many of us and if we don’t change our ways, that’s where we are headed, and we’re not really stopping. I’m not that happy about how the mainstream is treating drum and bass. They’re using it, we all use it . . . and use it and use it. We all just really want to consume and only take what suits us and we’re doing the same with the planet.”
It was refreshing to hear this from an artist. It seems like generations of music fans and festival goers have come a long way in the wrong direction since the 60s when we had a message, when we promoted more than self expression, when we did it to make the world better. In an industry saturated with greed and apathy, Lenzman rises to the top and gives something back.
In a famous interview with Jim Morrison, a relic of the revolutionary frame of mind, he was asked to predict the future of music. He concluded, “The future of music might heavily rely on electronics, tapes. I can kind of envision maybe one person with a lot of machines and electronic setup singing and speaking.” Visionary, considering how big electronic music, rap and MCing is today. I asked Lenzman to predict where music will be 40 years from now, in the same way. Lenzman responded that:
“40 years from now music will be very visually linked. Maybe, feelings or your senses will somehow be triggered through devices like Oculus Rift [Virtual Reality Headset]. They’ll find ways to put music into that as well. You put it on and you might be at a concert or you’ll be jamming with your favorite artists.”
Whatever the future holds, one thing’s for sure, while Lenzman is looking at the stars wondering about the future of the world, we’ll be watching as he helps re-establish the counterculture that brought us together in the first place.
“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.”
credit: Noam Chomsky