We first met Laskaar last summer after he played a DJ set at Corazon and performed live at Cha Cha, one of the trendiest bars in central Madrid. His set was jam-packed with our favourite hip-hop and R&B classics, so it wasn’t difficult to catch our attention. Upon getting to know him we were introduced to his genre-blending music, his voice and forward-thinking vision.
A Spanish soul singer, music producer, and visual artist, Laskaar has made a name for himself in the underground culture scene around Europe, not just establishing himself as a talented musician but also by creating strong ties within the fashion and art communities. A true millennial at heart, his music and visuals play with concepts like nostalgia and identity. An exploration that extends to his social media. Now, after a year without releasing new music, he kicked off 2018 with a bang. Backed by a new record label, Drunk is his newest release, a track which sees him step into new territories musically and visually.
Where did the name Laskaar come from?
My first name is as Spanish as it gets. My parents are from Granada so I am actually Andalusian. However, I was born and raised in Switzerland. A few years ago, I was watching The Neverending Story and there was a scene where one of the characters had to rename the Childlike Empress in order to save Fantasia. So right after I saw it, I asked my parents to give me a second name as a Christmas present, and that’s how I got the name Oskaar in an envelope.
I had an instant connection to the name, it felt almost like reconnecting with a lost twin. Then, I went on to personalise it and turned into Laskaar. I find it very strange that we don’t get a choice over our name, which is a vital part of our identity. Instead, it’s picked out by our parents. There was something very liberating and powerful about renaming myself.
Does your Spanish heritage influence your music?
I am very inspired by my Spanish roots – the culture, music and the language. If you ever see a live show of mine, I tend to throw in some flamenco runs here and there. I spent last summer in Madrid and people were always surprised when they heard my full on Andalusian accent, yet they can still easily tell that I’m not from there. Something similar happens when I’mm in Switzerland, so basically, I’m always the ‘guiri’ (colloquial name for ‘tourist’) wherever I go. I’m cool with it, though.
You like to experiment with different genres. How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard of you?
If I really had to, I would describe my sound as electronic-eclectic-future-soul and would recommend listening to my track DNA, it’s that one record where you can hear most of my influences blended in one track. The production is fully electronic aside from my vocals, the chords have a neo-soul vibe, the beat has some weird rave feeling to it, the vocals are trippy with some gospel runs. And the lyrics are definitely on some esoteric New Age shit.
Who are your main musical inspirations and why?
I think the biggest musical influence in my life was the first time I heard Lauryn Hill sing. It was honestly unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of my favourite records alongside Björk’s Debut, which I used to listen to a lot whilst getting high and stitching stuffed animals with my friends. Stevie Wonder, Sade, Kim Burrell, D’Angelo and Erykah Badu are also big influences. They all have a very distinctive sound so they each speak to me directly in different ways. Listening to them was like a language that I somehow immediately understood and made me feel at home.
Anything that is authentic and has the ability to take me somewhere, I can connect to. So my taste in music is very broad: I can go from Mongolian throat singing to Eric Satie. There’s so much richness in music and such a magnitude of things to discover that it is impossible for me to not be continuously inspired and influenced. Currently, I’m really obsessed with late ‘60s early-’70s Italian music like Mina and Lucio Battisti.
Your latest release is called Drunk, How does it differ from your earlier songs?
My debut EP, Never Met You, was quite mellow, slow and melancholic, so I was really looking forward to putting out something that wasn’t so deep to show a different side of me. So in that respect, Drunk is a complete departure from my previous work lyrically, in its mood and in the production. It’s very ‘unpoetic’, straight to the point and aggressive. I’m breaking the fuckery down by confronting the booty call that is only available when it’s convenient for them.
Production-wise, we used some ‘Ha Song’ samples from the film Trading Places that almost sound like a whip leash to underline this challenging notion. Also, some ‘baile’ funk samples and vocals by my friend to give it this sexual vibe. There are millions of songs about love and heartbreak but not so much about the dynamics in between those two. So with this record I wanted to challenge myself and write about a situation that probably most people have experienced.
The music video was a collaboration with Swiss fashion designer Julian Ziger and the artwork was done by Andrew Thomas Huang. How do these collaborations come about? And are there any other artists out right now with whom you’d like to collaborate?
Julian Ziger and I have actually been friends since we were teenagers. We always wanted to collaborate but never knew exactly how. That was until one day, when I was playing him some of my new tracks, that he had the idea that I could be part of his fashion installation, which he wanted to record in 360 degrees during Paris Fashion Week. And so it happened.
For the album cover, I reached out to Andrew Thomas Huang on Instagram, mainly because I love his work and everything he has created for Björk. And I also thought it would go well with the artwork of my previous release. There are so many artists I would like to collaborate with, I think it would be dope to do a meditation/mantra record with Arca as the producer. Somebody link me up!
How important are visuals in your creative process?
I actually woke up today with a new concept for a music video for one of my unreleased songs. So yes, visuals are very important. There are things that you cannot express with just music or words, only with images. As an artist, I like to use and explore as many different mediums as I possibly can to paint a picture that translates into emotion.
You released a cover of Gimme More by Britney Spears, how come you decided to publish it?
I wasn’t able to release any new music for over a year after my first EP came out because I had some issues with my previous record label – getting out of the contract was a long process. At one point I was getting sick of being a musician but not being allowed to put out any original music out, so I decided to upload a cover to my Tumblr page.
Honestly though, I have no idea why I chose this song, as I’m not even a fan of Britney Spears. But when I heard the beat of the song I was possessed and thought it would be fresh to put my spin on a clubby Britney song. I love interpreting other artists’ songs, but for now, I will focus on my own music.
Out of all the cities you’ve lived in and travel to, is there one in particular you consider home?
Home for me is any place where I have friends and a strong spiritual connection with. So I feel at home in all of them, as they represent different parts of myself. I am moving to New York City next year as I was given an artist residency, so I’m beyond excited.
What is an essential item that you need when travelling?
I cannot travel without this one book that I end up never reading. It’s odd, somehow I always trick myself into thinking that this time around I will read it, yet I never do.
You’re a perfect example for globalisation done right: you’re constantly travelling, creating specified Spotify playlists, etc. Where do you feel society is heading towards in the future?
For me, it’s just the natural course of my cultural upbringing and sense of identity. I was raised speaking Spanish at home and German at school, yet in my spare time I was this kid who would religiously study and translate lyrics off CD booklets (when CDs were still a thing!), as I had a strong connection to the English language and African-American music. This gave me a wide spectrum and sense of freedom that made it hard for me to fit in a box.
I quickly realised that whilst identity is a social construct, in reality you are and can be whatever you feel like being – way beyond religion, gender and culture. When listening to my music, there is an eclectic diversity throughout due to knowing my cultural and musical background. It makes perfect sense and you see that it’s not me trying to do different genres, it’s just everything that I am.
Separation is the root of pain, so if globalisation manages to break down the visible and invisible borders that separate us from each other, then that’s the best thing that can happen toward us all finally getting along on this floating water ball.
An artist we should be looking out for?
Definitely look out for the homies Mikey Woodbridge and Ian Isaiah.
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2018?
I’m constantly working on new music. I have recently recorded about ten new tracks, all with different vibes to them. Currently feeling out which songs to put together and figuring out how to release them, so people can definitely expect a new EP this year.
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