“I love love songs,” says Lukas, scraping the last bits of raspberry merengue out of his bowl. “You can put that in your story. I fucking love love songs — even the sleazy stuff. I haven’t mixed a sensual set before, but it’s definitely something I’m interested in doing.”
An hour has passed since Lukas began chopping rosemary and tossing it atop copious amounts of butter for the zesty chicken dish he was about to create, and he’s just revealed his lesser-known passion for baby-making music. Cold mist falls slowly beneath the streetlights outside of the old brick building in Kralingen where Ries lives, but inside, the atmosphere is warm. A flickering candle creates a dancing shadow on the slanted wall of his bedroom, and the owner of that shadow speaks slowly about his own love affair with mixing music. The pair of turntables in his room, the hundreds of vinyls below them, and his rather encyclopedic knowledge of different record labels give off the impression of a person who has mixed music his whole life. This, however, is far from the truth.
“Before I moved to Rotterdam, I’d never heard of techno music”, says the former Moscow-native, who is finishing off his Bachelor’s in Business Economics. “People were talking about it during a smoke break two months after I moved here, so I thought I’d give it a go. The first techno event I went to was at the nightclub Transport. I liked it so much I went back the next night.”
The transition from being amongst the crowd to being behind the turntables happened in a flash. Alongside roommate Yannis Muller, the duo started gathering the necessary equipment and learning the basics of mixing. Months later they were playing local parties under the name Groove House, and uploading obscure futuristic funk and disco records onto Youtube just to ‘contribute to the online music community’.
By the time 2018 came around, both were deeply involved with Rotterdam’s online radio station Operator and the opening of Pinkman Records’ brick and mortar shop. As emerging electronic artists, both also felt it was time for some change.
“We decided to start DJing solo. Our opinions and tastes were branching away from each other, so we thought going solo was the necessary next step. That was a big step to take because we had been doing it together for a solid year and a half, and we had learned together every step of the way.”
Was it like a breakup? “Yeah,” Lukas grins as he rolls up a cigarette. “Except that we stayed buddies afterwards.
The birth of Riesberg
As a DJ, Lukas prefers to keep a low-profile. On stage he dresses in the plainest clothes in his wardrobe to avoid attracting attention, and rarely smiles when he’s working the turntables. Like his subdued nature, the stage name he assumes as a solo DJ has an air of simplicity and subtleness to it; the Russian-German goes by the name Riesberg.
“I asked my girlfriend at the time what I should call myself as a DJ. She thought about it for a few seconds and said: ‘Riesberg!’ It was that simple. The whole process took about 10 seconds.”
Along with the birth of Riesberg came another creation: Off.Kilter, a conceptual music-collective founded alongside fellow EUR student Jasper De Fluiter Balledux that puts on radio shows, podcasts, and events that embrace the dark and strange.
“The word off-kilter is synonymous with out of balance or unaligned, which is what we want our sound to be. Full of surprises. It’s just an extremely open-minded platform for people to experience music in an eclectic, yet coherent way. By no means should Off.Kilter be constrained to a single genre of music. The atmosphere of our parties at BAR tends to get quite dark, but our podcast series has all kinds of stuff. Jasper crafted a podcast with slamming techno and electro, Yannis made an ambient podcast, another DJ by the name Lo Kindre did a mixwith dub and ska. Off.Kilter is really difficult to explain, but it carries a certain vibe that people are starting to pick up on.”
For the record, it’s nothing like what you hear at the University SPAR.
A night in Baku
Although Lukas prefers to stay under the radar, his mixing is starting to gather attention—so much so that he was asked to play at a party in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
“My friend Ayaz, who helps run Off.Kilter, also throws events in Baku and wanted me to play at an event last summer. I had never played in a foreign country before, never played for hundreds of people, never played outdoors, and had never played on such a big sound system. The whole thing was a whole bunch of firsts for me. And the craziest thing was that I didn’t know anybody in the crowd.”
“It was a completely foreign crowd to me, which was actually quite liberating. When you play somewhere where nobody knows who you are they have no preconception of you or the music you play. You can surprise them. People were coming up to me before the event asking: ‘What are you going to play? Can you play some euphoric house music? I’m really into that.’ And I would tell them: ‘I’m going to play a lot of different stuff and it’s going to be fun.’ And that’s exactly how it was.”
Lukas pours a glass of white wine from Germany and continues: “When I’m mixing, I don’t think. It’s all very intuitive. I just see the decks and the people in front of me and I can either keep them in a certain mood or I can switch it up, change the key of the song, throw something wild in there, and see what happens. I’m very focused on the music and my surroundings, but I’m not thinking a whole lot.”
Although the year started with an artistic split between Lukas and his roommate Yannis, who plays under the name Sinnay 4, the duo reunited under special circumstances just last week to perform their craft at Blijdorp Winter Festival. The festival, which was held at the famous Van Nelle Factory, was the biggest event in which their names were on the billing for both DJs.
After listening to Lukas recount what has been a special first year as a solo DJ, the question naturally arises as to whether this might turn into a career for him. He shakes his head and frowns.
“I thought a lot about this before, but the moment I started considering making a career out of music it took the fun out of the music. I’m still very much focused on university and getting a job. If an opportunity pops up where I can make a decent living with music, maybe I’ll take it, but it’s not going to be my primary goal. Mixing is something I’ve always done for myself, so to put pressure on myself to make a career out of it just spoiling what is a very nice hobby to have.”
With that said Lukas finishes his glass and drops a 45 on the record player. As the old Italo track progresses, a singer starts to moan ‘your lover boy is what I want to be’. The little grin that appears on his face says it all: for now, Riesberg is just in the mood for some sensual, sleazy goodness.