Just who is LTJ Bukem? Ground breaking DJ? Inspirational musician? Record label entrepreneur? Club visionary, perhaps? The man who took the drum and bass concept from a small venue off London’s Charing Cross Road to the nation’s superclubs and then onto the international stage….The geezer whose records launched breakbeat into a brand new galaxy of sound…. In truth, he is all of the above: a Renaissance man for a digital age. Although he wouldn’t like to admit it, LTJ Bukem is the living embodiment of the post-acid house entrepreneurial creative spirit. He is a mild mannered energy flash whose panoramic musical vision has found success in every area he has explored. From running sound systems to cutting up breaks at raves, from relocating the heart of breakbeat culture to redefining the spirit of drum and bass, the man known to his friends as Danny has sat at the forefront of breakbeat evolution, lighting the way with little more than a zest for life and a love of the music.
Like many, Bukem’s first introduction to music was initially through piano lessons as a child. The young pianist turned out to possess a natural talent, effortlessly picking up the basics, soon to be sight reading the music of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky which rubbed off on him. However, thanks to his progressively minded teacher—Nigel Crouch—he was also introduced to the world of jazz fusion and developed his first true musical love – a style which has informed his work ever since. In the early eighties, (at the age of seventeen), Bukem discovered the joys of clubbing. The teenager regularly checked out the local soul venues, and legendary rare groove all dayers. As a keen record buyer, he soon became interested in the idea of mixing his own version of a club soundtrack, and in 1984 started a sound system of his own named Sunshine. During this time, he also dabbled with a jazz funk band for fun. DJing became his main focus, and by 1988, he gained a reputation for his unique sets. It was in 1989 that Bukem first realized that DJing could maybe offer a full-on career.
In 1990, LTJ Bukem got his first big break at ‘Raindance’. Booked to play between 1 & 2am in front of 10,000 people, it was the first true test of his fledgling DJ’s skills. At the time it may have taken all of his mates to push him onto the stage, but it proved to be a set he’d never forget. That night LTJ Bukem — a world class DJ — was truly born.
Naturally Bukem then ventured into the studio to record a track which would become one of the most influential records of the era. The 12″ titled ‘Logical Progression’ surfaced on the newly formed Vinyl Mania imprint. At once anthemic and relaxing, it offered the first true blueprint to Bukem’s sonic vision. By the time of his follow up to ‘Logical Progression’ Bukem had set up his own imprint. Run from a small office in Harlesden, London, the label was christened ‘goodlooking’ and its debut offering came in the shape of ‘Demon’s Theme’. Finished in late 1990 and pressed to dub-plate, Bukem dropped it into his sets for a full year to test the reaction before he finally released the track officially in July ’92. ‘Demon’s Theme’ immediately caught the imagination of many people, its soulful combination of rushing breaks, lush ambience and mellow vibes. Bukem’s next release was ‘Apollo’ Return to Atlantis in ’92, however his biggest breakthrough came with ‘Music’ in 1993. In 1994, Bukem unleashed ‘19.5’ while the release of the similarly epic ‘Horizons’ coincided with the opening of the legendary ‘Speed’ at the Mars Bar in London. The label was gaining ground with its growing catalogue of must-have tunes and Bukem’s own in-demand DJing. The launch of ‘Speed’ was intended to run hand in hand with the growth of goodlooking while also offering a focal point for the growing drum and bass scene. After a shaky start, which almost forced the night into closure, ‘Speed’ quite literally took off one night in the summer of ’94.
Using media attention to highlight goodlooking Records and its label roster, the label licensed a compilation to London Records in 1995. Titled ‘Logical Progression,’ it featured exclusive cuts from the roster alongside older tracks (and is still one of the highest selling drum & bass compilations to have been released). While focused on the label, Bukem stretched out in many directions. Various remixes and collaborations included the critically acclaimed reworks of Jodeci’s ‘Feenin’ and Michelle Gayle’s ‘Sweetness’, as well as an epic project with David Arnold on the infamous James Bond theme to ‘Thunderball’.
Goodlooking was established as a leader in the industry. In the midst of all the activity, Bukem also released the ‘Mystical Realms EP’ in March ’98. The EP featured ‘Twilight Voyage’ with sombre flute refrains, chopping keys and an outer world ambience. The vocal and instrumental versions of ‘Orchestral Jam’, with its urgent breaks, echo dropped sonar, and dissonant violins, along with the reflective Herbie Hancock-esque last track ‘Journey Inwards;’ represented a deeper development of the Bukem sound—further underlining Bukem’s position as a sonic leader of post rave breakbeat culture.
Bukem continued to produce and mix some of the World’s best drum & bass and cross-over music compilations that have ever been released. Titles such as ‘Progression Sessions’, the ‘Earth’ volumes and further installments of the ‘Logical Progression’ series have become notorious for the new and exciting directions that Bukem has always strived to take, but without losing sight of his original musical roots and all the things that inspired him in the beginning.
The start of the 21st century saw LTJ Bukem continuing on his extraordinary musical odyssey with his long awaited solo album ‘Journey Inwards’; A diverse and multi directional album of drum ‘n’ bass, soul, downbeat and house tracks that opened the eyes of those that had no faith and warmed the souls and inner belief of those that did. He also added to his impressive remixing portfolio with his interpretation of ‘The Essence’ by jazz legend Herbie Hancock. During this time, Bukem continued the ‘Progression Sessions’ series of live mixes captured on CD, featuring epic performances recorded live in The USA, Tokyo, London and Germany. Bukem also compiled the highly acclaimed ‘Soulfood’ and ‘Soul Addiction’ compilations, and released two ‘Producer’ series CDs. Later on he spearheaded a number of new releases including the much anticipated ‘Switch’, while 2015 saw him remix the house anthem Yohoo by the London electronic music duo Dusky released on their own 17 Steps imprint.
Keeping a keen eye on music and business climate has directed Bukem toward new challenges. Jumping forward, Bukem has been developing his own brand, pursuing new collaborative projects, and extensive travel to share his unique sounds and visuals with new audiences. In a constant pursuit to reinvent himself and his work within the industry, Bukem is on to solo projects as a producer and continuing to bring the sounds of soulful drum and bass to heads through stunning performances worldwide.
“Few drum & bass DJs have attained the cult status LTJ Bukem has reached. His productions have proved to be truly timeless and it’s a testament to his tireless workrate and talent that he’s remained relevant whilst staying true to his dedication to real music. With an unparalleled selection packed full of exclusives, his sets are a joy for heads and newcomers alike.”