Lange - Harmony In Motion
It was nearly fifteen years ago that Lange (real name Stuart Langelaan) first began making a name for himself as a DJ and dance music producer. In an industry where heroes come and go quickly and stardom is often measured in weeks rather than months or years, Lange’s consistent ability to wrap engaging and profoundly emotive melodies around cutting-edge sounds has earned him a place as one of dance music’s most respected elder statesmen.
“I feel lucky to still be doing all of this,” Stuart admits. “When I first got into making music, I didn’t realise that I could actually make a career of it. Like a lot of us, I just sort of fell in to it. Although I knew music was what I wanted to do, I certainly didn’t think I’d still be able to do it 10-15 years later as I have. I think about it sometimes, and it’s very humbling.”
While many know Lange from his more radio-friendly works – at last count he’s lobbed twenty records into the UK Top 40 charts – those who pay attention to trance will know Lange as a consistent peak-time hit maker, both under the Lange banner and under a range of aliases including Firewall, LNG, Offbeat, SL, Vercetti, and X-odus. He’s released records on some of the industry’s best-known labels, such as Positiva, Anjunabeats, Additive, Maelstrom and Nebula, and has been driving the scene forward directly thorugh his own Lange Recordings label, which is still going strong after seven years and 30+ releases.
“I’ve always tried to keep up with things, and I’m still as passionate about it today as I was then,” Stuart explains. “I feel that I’ve been reasonably brave in trying new things, which I think you have to do. If you keep on making the same old tracks, then it’s difficult to keep in the game, and it gets boring making the same old stuff. It really does get boring.”
If his international touring schedule is anything to go by, Lange is busier than ever. “Since playing Armin Van Buuren’s ASOT500 party in Johannesburg last month, I’ve been in Indonesia for a couple of dates, and back here to the UK to play at Passion, and then to Trance Gathering in Amsterdam. This coming weekend I’m in Buenos Aires in Argentina to play Pascha, and then the week after that I’m in Austin, Texas.” From there, Lange returns to the UK to play Slinky, before arriving in Canada for shows in Vancouver and Calgary in early May.
Lange’s recent gig at Passion coincided with the release of Passion – The Album, a double CD compilation mixed by Lange and Genix. “Generally I try to put a lot of what I’m playing in the clubs, or what I will likely be playing in the clubs, into my CD mixes,” Stuart explains. “I try to keep it as up-front as possible, and I really try to keep in the back of my mind that people will be listening at home or in the car or wherever, and so I try and keep it interesting.”
Given Stuart’s keen ear for melody, it’s no surprise that his mixes are built around melodic flow and with a well-defined set structure. “It’s all about making it flow and building the energy throughout,” he says. “I was quite particular about keys and BPMs for this mix to make sure it all flowed well. It’s the same as doing a live DJ set to a degree, but with a CD mix you have to pay even more attention to how the keys are working together, and to make sure there aren’t any clashes, and things like that. It’s similar to a live radio broadcast in that you don’t get away with much!”
As an artist, Stuart has tried to keep the Lange sound true to its roots, with releases that are melodic and accessible. In order to provide an outlet for the harder, more tech-driven side of his tastes, he has recently revived his LNG alias with a series of releases. “I’ve been playing a lot of the edgier stuff in my sets for quite some time, and have been dabbling a bit in some of my tracks in trying to make a few surprises in my production style,” he explains. “I felt that perhaps I should take things a little further in that way because I was kind of being held back a little bit by not wanting to completely put traditional Lange fans off the scent completely. I figured it would be best to split at this stage. If a track needs to go all the way into the groove territory and quite non-melodic then I’ll take it that way, and release it as LNG.”
With two recent LNG releases – Harmony Will Kick You In The Ass and Brandalism – featuring prominently in the set-lists of many of the top jocks in the months since their release, Stuart is quick to assure traditional Lange fans that he’ll be continuing both projects. “Oh, there’s still going to be a lot more traditional Lange stuff. “ he says. “I’ve tried to move the Lange sound on quite a bit over the last few years anyway, but Lange is going to be about the more melodic and vocal stuff, and I think that LNG is going to keep pushing the more groove-based stuff. But I felt that if the Lange sound was one minute a completely mental driving bass-driven monster and then the next minute a melodic vocal trancer, it would seem a bit strange. I think going with the LNG alias gives me the chance to really put the foot on the pedal completely in both directions.”
As one of the scene’s most technically competent trance music producers, Stuart admits that he is often bombarded with requests for tips from budding music makers. “I get asked questions regarding production techniques and so on from other producers, and people on my label, and people online,” he says, “and it can be difficult because I get asked things a lot. I used to have my email address on my website years and years ago, and it got a bit silly because I kept on replying all the time every day to people’s technical inquiries. Eventually I had to kind of knock that on the head so I could get some work done myself!”
As a DJ, Stuart relies on a steady stream of new music in order to keep his DJ sets and radio shows fresh and up-to-date. Fortunately, he has a second set of ears to help him separate the wheat from the chaff. “It all gets sent to one address,” he says. “I’m lucky that I have a guy who downloads it all for me, but I do go through much of it. I mean the obvious stuff that I’m not going to be interested in will be removed, like if it’s R&B or something, then that will be removed, but everything that is sent to me does get to me eventually if it’s the right music and the right feel. I spend a lot of my time going through promos, both for my radio show and for my sets.”
And just how much music does he get? “I get loads and loads of stuff every week – I mean gigs and gigs of MP3s. I just couldn’t get through it all myself and produce music, which is why I have help. It’s really quite frustrating that I get sent so much, when it’s literally five percent will get used, or be usable in my opinion, as something that I want to play out. It’s quite a job!”
Digging a bit deeper in to just what it is that Stuart looks for in a track before it will be considered in a Lange set, the topic turns to production and arrangement. “It’s difficult these days,” he says. “The volume of material I’m sent has gone up, because it’s much easier to send tracks out to people. It’s become quite difficult to quickly differentiate too, because the sounds are right there, the presets are right there, and so it’s not difficult for people to get the initial bass and kick and everything sounding good. And so the disappointment comes when you realise that the track itself isn’t very exciting, or it didn’t progress, or it didn’t have a moment that gets you out of your seat. That’s the difficult part at the moment, you see – honing in and finding those tracks that jump out at you. You have to listen to quite a lot of music before you go ‘aha, that’s the one this week!’ and quite often it is the same names that will pop up. I guess that’s why those names are still popular.”
From there, the conversation steers towards Stuart’s present sound as a DJ. “The way I’d describe it now is that I try to play epic,” he says. “I try and move people both physically by the groove, but also by the melody as well. Epic is what I am aiming for. To play interesting tracks that have something about them that gives them value. It can be melody, but can be a killer groove that I just have to put the track in. It’s about varying it enough to keep it an interesting performance, really.”
For many long-time Lange fans, seeing him play in person presents the perfect opportunity to request one of Lange’s many well-known hits from yesteryear. “It’s difficult, because some of the really old ones that are 10-12 years old, they do get asked for,” Stuart acknowledges. “In particular, tracks like ‘Follow Me’. Fitting those into a new set is difficult, in part because of the power you get in the newer productions now. It’s a challenge to do it well. Sometimes it is nice to play an old one, go ‘oh, what the hell’ and play it at the end of the set, where it’s not a massive issue if it doesn’t sound as punchy or as heavy as the later stuff, but certainly playing some of those old ones in amongst the new is pretty difficult to pull off. I do try – I do try now and then to play the old ones that people ask for, but… I don’t know, maybe I need to update a few more of them!”
Looking back over his decision to pursue a full-time career as a dance musician, Stuart says it all started with a keyboard put under the Christmas tree one year by his parents. “That’s how I discovered that I wanted to write music,” he recalls. “I always knew that I loved music, and I grew up with a lot of pop music. That’s what you did in the UK when you were a kid back then, you listened to the charts and recorded them onto cassette tapes, and so I always had an ear for melody I suppose. There were also some classical influences, probably from my dad who listened to a lot of classical music.”
“It was a home keyboard,” he continues, “one of the really cheapo things, but I then decided… the pressure was good, growing up, in that there was this ‘what are you going to do with your life’ and I kind of thought ‘well, I love music!’ I’d just discovered this, and had decided I wanted to be a sound engineer. So did this course, it was supposed to be a sound engineering course, but it turned out to be an electronics course with a little bit, maybe one day in the studio a week.”
While the course itself may not have delivered on its promise, it set into motion a series of events that would shape Stuart’s musical future. “When I was in that course I met other people, like-minded people who wanted to produce or be a sound engineer,” he recalls. “I learned about the gear that way. I came back from university, and I think at that point I started to realise that I was probably getting pretty good at writing melodies, and that my producing was getting better and better. After a few years of hard work, I got my first break. It was only when I got that break that I was fully assured that ‘ok, maybe I can do this’ – when I started getting remix requests and stuff. It took quite a few years from when I first started playing around with stuff before I realised ‘yes, I can do this job!’
Lange plays BLVD 22 in Vancouver on Friday May 6th, and Flames Central in Calgary on Saturday May 7th.