Another guy from a band is about to moonlight as a DJ. But before you cringe, consider this: Sure, Reuben Wu may be part of the notable English electropop band Ladytron, but he was DJing long before that and has a classically trained ear. So stop scoffing. We had a delightful chat with the lad from Liverpool in advance of his May 30 gig at Artifice about everything from post-punk to shoegaze and techno.
Las Vegas is dominated by electronic-dance music superstars. Why should people break out from the routine and stop by your set at Artifice?
I try to program a range. People will definitely see a connection or relationship between what Ladytron sounds like, [what] I play and also stuff that you wouldn’t quite expect. To me, it’s just playing what I really like—there’s definitely a diversion from what people think Ladytron is. A lot of the time people come and see me DJ, they’re quite surprised that I’m playing music that isn’t just like Ladytron, but also surprised that I’m actually a DJ, as opposed to someone who just plays records.
Who are some go-to producers you include in your sets?
Right now I’m really enjoying Daniel Avery. His album came out recently on Phantasy; I really, really like it. It’s techno, but it has a lot of soul. Jon Hopkins is really good, though I wouldn’t play his kind of stuff for the dance floor.
You were DJing before Ladytron was formed. How did you get into it?
It was an attempt to be creative with music again, because as I was growing up, I was classically trained on violin. But I hated it because I was just playing what I was told to. I was playing in the way I was told to as well. It was just boring. And also I didn’t like the sound—but that’s another story. As soon as I stopped playing the violin, I really got into all of this other music: electronica, post-punk, indie, shoegaze, techno and all that. I was wondering, “How do I be creative with all the kinds of music I’m into?” A friend of mine had two DJ decks and was getting into DJing. He was a geek like me, so I was hanging out with him, mixing his records and realizing that I was getting the knack for it. He was into just trance, but because I was into a lot of different stuff, I was experimenting. “How do I mix Beastie Boys with Aphex Twin?” For me, that was quite creative. That’s how I like to mix, random genres together.
How does your background in classical music help you in the DJ booth?
When you’re learning music, you learn about music theory and you know about key structures, minor key, major key, and you notice that two tracks will go together because they’re in the same key. Nothing really specifically to do with classical music, but understanding the structures and the rules that define what is nice to listen to.
You’ve dipped your toes into the nightclub business, as well. How did your foray into running venues begin?
This was after we’d been doing a lot of touring all over the world. We came back to Liverpool, my hometown. [Ladytron partner Danny Hunt, also from Liverpool] and I decided we wanted to create a venue that our favorite bands would play at, a place we could play our favorite tunes and a place that didn’t exist anywhere else in the northwest of England. So we opened up our own club … and since then it’s kind of become it’s own big thing in Liverpool. While I don’t live there anymore, one of my friends who built it up with me is now one of the biggest promoters in Liverpool and booking all the right bands. It’s nice to be able to have an influence on how a city’s scene is developing.
Reuben Wu is also an accomplished photographer with a show under way in San Francisco. Follow him on Instagram @ItsReuben.