At the age of 14, Christian Löffler stumbled upon music making software and began tinkering with production. From the start, he had a strong connection to music, although no one in his family was a musician. “I have to do it, nobody will do it for me; I have to find a way,” he recounted thinking in conversation with EDM.com about his self-learning approach to music. 20 years later and the German producer’s organic stance on music remains the same.
Löffler’s sound is heavily inspired by nature - particularly his home, a cabin in a small village by the Baltic sea. Walks by the sea and through the surrounding coastal forest fuel Löffler’s creativity. You can quite literally hear it in his music as he incorporates field recordings of his surroundings into his tracks. All three of his albums were named after aspects of nature: A Forest, Mare (which translates to “sea” in Latin), and Lys (“light” in Danish).
Like nature, Löffler’s music is fluid, evoking sounds as bright and spirited as the sun, yet veering into pockets of isolation and wistfulness reminiscent of cold winds and dark nights. As an artist whose aim is to produce electronic music that doesn’t sound electronic, Löffler’s focus on capturing nature in music - as well as his consistent use of field recordings and organic, acoustic instruments - helps drive such a sentiment.
Beyond music, Löffler dives into art with painting, drawing, and photography. Like his music, his photography is hazy and spacious.
Much of Löffler’s music is connected to his art. Lys, his third LP released this past Friday, saw him creating individual paintings for each track off the album. Lys plays on the theme of light, as Löffler began to increasingly reflect on luminous themes - in particular, how light fills his studio. Inspired by this, he painted patterns of light permeating his home and then channeled the same energy into music for the album.
Recently, Löffler performed at Cityfox LIVE, a strictly live performance event by one of New York’s leading dance music collectives, The Cityfox Experience. He joined a lineup alongside Paul Kalkbrenner, Gui Boratto, and Rodriguez Jr, among others, at Brooklyn's famed multi-room complex, Avant Gardner.
Before his performance, EDM.com sat down with Löffler to discuss his new album, Lys, the themes running through his music, and more. Read on for more from Christian Löffler.
EDM.com: How would you describe the Christian Löffler sound to someone who hasn’t heard your music?
Christian Löffler: Always the most difficult question! For me, it’s actually techno but maybe deeper, melodic, introspective. I try to focus on the personal side of electronic music, but also have this organic part with field recordings and traditional instruments, like piano and guitar.
Your albums, particularly the titles, are always grounded in home and nature. What’s the connection in your latest album, Lys?
That was not the plan! The first album was called A Forest because my dad took us to the forest and I realized how inspiring it is. Then, I moved closer to the sea which was when I recorded Mare. Now there’s Lys because light is very important, especially for me as an artist and a painter. For example, when you photograph, every hour the same place looks different.
Also, with touring so much, I realized I never lived in a big city. All my friends live in Berlin and I live two hours from there on the coast. But, I need this to clear my mind and be focused on what I want to do. It’s very necessary for me so it makes sense to name everything off that.
You did paintings for the first time for your music on Lys. Why now?
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I always have a sketchbook with me, doing little drawings while touring. But I never really had the time to do proper paintings. I used to do big ones two or three meters wide - I was studying art before doing music! I stopped because playing shows and releasing music took a lot of time.
Recently, I got really inspired by the art scene again, like I had been in university, having all these amazing artists around and seeing exhibitions. I got back into drawing and painting. Kind of similar to when I got in touch with electronic music for the first time, a new world opened up!
What made you want to put your vocals in your music for the first time in Lys?
I felt now is the time to step ahead and have it on the record because it makes it even more personal.
You got into music through software programs at the age of 14. How did you discover these programs?
My best friend and I were playing guitar every day and listening to all this guitar music, but I was always too lazy to learn an instrument! We had a computer at home and somehow a friend gave me this music maker. Something very simple, I just played around with it. It was so much fun, so I started checking around to see if there was something else. Then, I found more professional software like Rebirth, Reason and the first version of Cubase. It was like a world opening up, so many possibilities – you can do all the music you want right here and you don’t have to learn an instrument, just draw notes, experiment and do it!
As a self-trained musician, how do you practice and learn?
I always have it in my mind, the sound or how the music should sound. So, I try to get there by myself. It was frustrating in the beginning. It took me a week to get a sound out of the software. Somehow I managed because I always had the music in my mind. I thought, “I have to do it, nobody will do it for me; I have to find a way.”
Did you ever consider formal lessons?
I think about it from time to time, but still, I never did them! Somehow what I do works for me. Maybe because it’s my personal approach; it would be different music coming out otherwise. I play the piano, not in a traditional way, just by feeling. Maybe I find melodies or paths I wouldn’t otherwise find if I did it logically.
As an artist known for more relaxed and moody music, do you find it difficult to connect with a crowd that’s been listening to driving techno at certain festivals and shows where you perform?
When I started, I was very nervous. With this kind of music, I remember my first show in Berlin and a girl showed up like, “You have to play fast! What are you doing?”
But after the years, especially after getting more and more fans, I know they’re ready for this. There isn’t so much of this going on in the electronic music scene so it’s good to do this. And of course, sometimes you have people who want to party more. But still, I think the music is very powerful even if it’s not so focused or fast on the beat.
You’ve previously stated that you think, “most of the industry behind the electronic music is focused on what is popular and catches people’s attention most easily.” Is there anything in specific that made you say that?
Nothing specific. In music, you feel like you have to do something for the audience. But, actually, you just have to follow what you enjoy and people will enjoy it or you’ll find the people that will. Especially in electronic music, it’s so much about entertainment and having fun, which is a great part of course, but it’s good to stick out sometimes.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.