Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if an orchestra of transformers from the future soundtracked a Japanese anime movie with contemporary electronic jazz fusion? Probably not, but I certainly hope your curiosity has been tickled enough to read on.
Rowdy Lewing was born on 7th of August, 1989, in Enschede, a small city in the eastern part of the Netherlands, where he still resides. From a young age, he was surrounded by lots of soul, funk and jazz – music that formed the cornerstone of hip hop. One of his first memories of consciously liking a song was listening to Michael Jackson’s 'Human Nature' on his walkman at the age of six. When he was eight he started 'breaking' (more commonly known as breakdancing). While he was exposed to a lot of different music at dance battles and jams, it was the energetic drum breaks that mostly moved him. This understanding of intricate rhythmic patterns and percussion is one of the main ingredients that shapes his sound today.
Lewing started making music when he was about 15 or 16 as Rawdee, his previous moniker before his 2015 name change to LEGOVE. He grew up watching his uncle Peeano – a dancer in the 80s – make beats with Fruity Loops and that was how Lewing caught the bug himself. At that time it was mainly Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes and N.E.R.D. that inspired his first productions. They had an R&B/Hip Hop vibe with mostly warm chord progressions and hard-hitting drums. Back in the days of Myspace, Lewing put some of those tracks online, and later released several beat tapes. All of these are sadly no longer anywhere to be found. His earliest available work is his 2012 self-released debut album Hawks Eye View, which is still, & only, available on Bandcamp.
In the years leading up to this album Lewing was heavily inspired by the glitchy audio effects and other sounds found in the Transformers movies, and by Japanese cyberpunk anime movies like Akira and Tekkonkinkreet. 'The Diary' is Lewing’s interpretation of his Akira experience.
Perhaps surprisingly, given his background as a B-Boy (breakdancer), many of LEGOVE’s creations are highly challenging even for other dancers. I think it gives his productions an edge that most producers/musicians are unable to achieve, simply because he is able to connect to music on a whole other level. When they are able to, however, the result is pretty special; like when this dancer named Gil won an experimental dance competition in Amsterdam improvising to his track, 'Phase Two'.
When asked which artist has shaped his sound the most, his answer was: Onyx Ashanti. He first discovered Ashanti – an American inventor, musician and street busker – through the internet, where the two struck up a friendship and have since met several times in person.
A saxophone player when he started out, Ashanti – who has lived in London, Amsterdam, Berlin & Detroit – picked up an EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) in the 1990s and began experimenting with other electronics, ultimately culminating in the design, programming and 3D printing of his own instrument. We’ve yet to see its final manifestation, as it remains a work-in-progress that continues to evolve every day.
When Ashanti performs, everything is 100% improvised. The following is a precious moment in time captured on audio that had a huge impact on LEGOVE, and it continues to be one of the most inspiring pieces of music that graced his ears. Named 'Phoenix', it’s a recording of a live performance by Ashanti in Berlin back in 2008.
Another one of LEGOVE’s key ingredients is the broken-beat sound. Instead of emulating what they did in West London around the early 2000's, he created his own interpretation of that sound. His timing and groove is nothing like what Dego, IG Culture, Kaidi Tatham and the rest of the Bugz In The Attic were doing. In 'Explain' you can clearly hear the funk/broken beat influence, just expressed differently in his own language.
I always love it when artists translate the feeling they get from certain experiences and put that into their craft. 'Wayfarer', a beautiful composition inspired by the movie Interstellar, was made the very next day after Lewing had seen it, using nothing but a regular PC with FL Studio, VSTs, dozens of sounds and a MIDI keyboard. Mind blowing and definitely needs to get played by a full orchestra at some point!
This next piece has that same ethereal quality that allows you to transcend into another realm.
When asked if there were any specific orchestral compositions that had touched & inspired him, Lewing instantly offered 'Love Remembered' by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar from the Dracula soundtrack. And I can see why, as it’s an extraordinarily beautiful and haunting piece.
Besides electronic and orchestral music, Lewing’s other source of inspiration is the 70s; more specifically the complex chord progressions & soul stirring lead synths in jazz fusion, soul and funk. In my opinion, there has never been an era quite like the iconic 70s, in terms of the way everything was recorded; the ideas and concepts manifested back then still enrich my life every day. LEGOVE picked 'Theme Of Angels' by The Stairsteps to emphasize this.
The synths used on this recording all came from the infamous TONTO, the enormous modular synthesizer built by Malcolm Cecil and Bob Margouleff which was used on essential Stevie Wonder albums such as Music Of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness’ First Finale. It’s still one of the most beautiful characteristic synth sounds out there and 'Theme of Angels' is the perfect example of its richness.
LEGOVE’s creations are always brilliantly balanced. With just enough warmth in his sometimes slightly darker and industrial grooves, he never fails to tell you a story and take you on a journey. 'Trecna', the opening track of his 2017 vinyl-debut EP Cybroke, show it with a beautiful, powerful orchestrated intro that morphs into a futuristic groove which then slows down in the end and make a peaceful landing to complete the narrative.
Another interesting addition to LEGOVE's sounds are animated visuals. In 2017 he shared his own interpretation of the intro theme for the, then new, Street Fighter videogame, employing the same visuals on top of his creation. I honestly think it works really well and would love to see actual games use his music. (Sony, I hope you’re paying attention!)
2019 got him to start his own movement/label SEIRYOKU with two like-minded artists: his younger brother Laverne and ASTOHM, both living in the same area as Rowdy. Several EPs and two compilations have been released so far. When I last spoke to LEGOVE he told me the American producer BUSY will probably be part of a next compilation. Let's hope that will happen anytime soon!
His most recent solo output is the EP ‘In Too Deep’, where he delivered three incredible tunes all with a distinct inspiration: water. The overall feel flows through various emotions & sounds like his most organic piece to date. I love the melodic call and response-storytelling in the track 'Tidal Wave'.
LEGOVE’s uncompromising music sometimes reminds me of the honesty and raw attitude of artists like Miles Davis and Fela Kuti, so I would like to leave you with the following words by the latter:
"Music is a spiritual thing. You don’t play with music...
See, because when the higher forces give you the gift of music... musicianship, it must be well used for the good of humanity. If you use it for your own self by deceiving people, you will die young."
* This article was originally written for 'Strange Sounds From Beyond' and got published in its 1st version in 2017.
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