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Phonica Mix Series 119:
Luke Una

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It is not everyday we are sent a 5 hour mix from someone we have asked to join our Phonica mix series; but when Sheffield & Manchester legend Luke Una sends one… you have to jump straight into it! Having become first recognised in the late 80’s and 90’s as one half of production team “The Unabombers” with Justin Crawford, Luke over the years has shown to be a master in all genres be it Balearic, to Brazilian to E soul, House, Disco and Techno, you name it! With his Worldwide FM show over the years gaining a cult following Luke has gained an even more of a broader crowd from his curation of his E Soul Cultura compilation series via the label Mr.Bongo (Both comps topping our EOY lists in 2022 and 2023). This exact vast taste (that is displayed in these compilations) is very much pummelled into this five hour journey of a mix like a piece of clay and sculpted into a fine piece of art. We had a chat with Luke about this timeless mix and what he has been up to lately:

Hey Luke, thanks for joining us! Can you tell us about your mix and what the idea behind it was?

I started off with no real plan other than a genuine reflection of where I’m at musically right now after more than 3 decades in the DJ trenches. My sound has definitely grown, deepened and matured over the years. Six years ago one of my hero’s and inspirations, Sheffield’s Chris Duckenfield told me after me getting totally overwhelmed by the constant digital overload of new music and promos to go back to source and feel the force.Thats what I did. It genuinely felt like a phoenix moment through the fire and I came out with what felt like a complete neurological re-wiring.

This mix is in honour of that. To Chris Duckenfield- putting yourself into the fire. During covid I did this and somehow came out the other side very different. I had an almost existential reset. Its about removing yourself and going off piste to the source. I know it sounds cringe but after covid it felt like arriving. I kinda found my true sound. My head was free. It was like a light suddenly coming on. My DJing before now kinda felt anaemic almost. I genuinely don’t care about trends or fashion. Its just about music.Thats it.

Its also in honour of the Papania crew in Sydney where I got a chance to do this in the most perfect way. I don’t mean me, but to a crowd and a space that was magical and appreciative of a forward thinking approach to music and dancing. It was liberating. That space is probably one of the most perfect spaces I’ve ever been to. This mix is about that. The freedom to play music from all corners of this infinite rotating musical 3D pyramid from Spiritual Jazz, Electronic Machine Soul, Proto House, Black Heart Disco, Cosmic Jazz Dance, Brazilian Rhythm tracks ,Psyche, Kraut Rock, House, Spiritual Deep US Garage, Detroit Hi- tek Soul, Techno, Bass- Buggin UK Futurism, Deep sonic Murky Jazz Buggin Break Beat, South African 3 Step, Afro tech and outer Space astral Percussive dubbed out heaviness.

Ultimately its about dancing. Thats it. Escaping. Transcending.The Freedom to get lost. That portal to the soul I guess. Sounds cheese bollocks but I’ve felt that as a punter too when I heard Ron Trent this year at Southport Soul Weekender, it was something else. I was in outer space a genius. I was in awe. The mix also has about 7 or so new ‘Luke Una’ re-edit demos I’ve made specifically. There are also unplayed demos from the likes of Quiet village (Radio Slave) and new music from Thakzin and Hessle Audio’s Pearson as well as classic bombs I’ve been dropping since covid and some even since the Electric Chair days in the mid 90’s.

Can you tell us a bit about how you usually approach recording a mix or a set?

I don’t over think it. I try and feel the force. I select over 300+ tunes in piles of records and digital folders. 50% vinyl and 50% Rekordbox and just go deep in and see where it goes. When I’m asked to do a two hour mix I usually end up at 5 hours. I get in the zone and I can’t stop myself. Theres always a rhythm to it, a style Ive learnt and crafted after years of slowly building up the vibe over a 6 hour musical trip. Justin (Unabomber) and I cut our musical teeth slowly warming up for the likes of Carl Craig ,Theo and and FK at Electric Chair nearly 30 years ago where we wouldn’t go above 112 bpm before the guest took over the decks. For me Its not all about big 140 bpm +++ bangers and the hyped instagram hits furiously and relentlessly smashed out from the first record at 10pm. I know it sounds like an awful DJ spinal tap cliche but its more of a journey… Its about space and the gentle build… going up and up and then down, plateauing at the peak moment, going deeper and then going up again and then down, and so forth. That feeling, thats It. Freedom. Ultimately you need over 3 hours for this but ideally 5 or 6 hours is truly required to create that sound. At Sydney’s Papania they gave me 6.5 hours from start to finish. Playing a one hour festival banger only sets encourages bad habits and the wrong feeling.

What are your preferred methods for finding new music—do you still enjoy digging around in dusty crates, or do you prefer to buy online? 

Im an OCD obsessive. I literally do it all. I dig vinyl every week. I listen to music all day and night. Radio, Bandcamp, promos, record shops and when I’m out I shazam everything. I literally can’t stop. I phone and message people for new demos. Its infinite. It never stop. When I lose that addiction and love, then I’m done. Its over I’ll go to die in a cul-de-sac and fall down the cracks at the back of a DFS 0% finance sofa as I watch “A Place in the Sun”.

Your “É Soul Cultura” compilations have been massive sellers with us and have such an interesting wealth of music from all styles and era’s. How did this project come to be alongside Mr.Bongo and what inspired the compilations?

It was about about staying up late cosmic high over the last 4 decades and my mind being opened to music from every corner of this 3D swirling musical pyramid. 1986 house music in Sheffield kicked off the doors for me and I was never the same person again. É Soul Cultura was about that, staying up late forever, feeling alive and finding refuge in the afters and Shebeen hang outs with music that stopped the noise in my beleaguered over thinking ADHD mind. It stopped the relentless procrastination and self doubt and all I could here was the music. Nothing else. Loss, grief, fear and anxiety just stopped. Hearing a machine soul record like Inertia Satisfaction by A Guy Called Gerald at 6 am on Monday morning in Hulme Manchester took me to another place. It was kinda like falling in love. It still feels the same now as it did then. It excites me, makes me feel alive, makes me happy.

What is your dream setting for a DJ set?

250 people. No nobheads. A tight crew of pure souls. The Best sound system ever and a next level rotary mixer. The perfect room with no corners. Lights down low. Darkness. Eyes down. Love. Non stop dancing humans… Liberated and open. Ecstasy. Mushrooms. Lots of Water and almonds. A natural non contrived diversity and inclusivity of pure souls. A real togetherness. A red light, a basement and a feeling. Can you feel the force.x

What has been one of your most memorable sets over your career?

Electric Chair, Heidegluehen Berlin, Barbarella’s Tisno and Papania Sydney Australia 2 weeks ago. Hands down a game changer gig.

What do you have up your sleeve for 2024?

Giving up booze and everything else 2 years ago was the most liberating thing I ever did. It allowed me to focus more creatively and finally find my true path… So yeh more music. edits. Compilations with RE:WARM records and Mr Bongos. Deepening my É Soul Cultura record label with new music. Transmission Towers new album. Doing my own productions. More DJing. I’m starting series of podcasts and I’m going back to radio. Talking shit and writing again… streams of consciousness. Just creative shit. Love. My missus Amy and the kids and my family and my dear true friends …and creative shit forever. Nearly dead soon anyway . Seize the time. Don’t be a cunt. Be kind. Be a better human.

Memento mori x


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