Jake Lubell, better known by his genre-bending house alias Lubelski, is a man on a mission. In a sea of digital DAWs, Lubelski knows how to strike a chord – or better yet, plug in a cable- to create sounds of what he calls “happy accidents.” Lubelski treats his music creation with modular synths as an experiment, exploring sounds and sonic landscapes of which he has no preconceived plans. On the release of his second album, the multi-talented producer, DJ, and Percomaniacs label head is clearly just getting started in forming his own unique sound.
The new album aptly titled Happy Accidents, is out now on the West Coast-based label DIRTYBIRD, a follow-up to his 2020 critically acclaimed debut album The Universal Groove. Where The Universal Groove invited listeners to, well, groove on the dancefloor with punchy beats and smooth vocals, Lubelski took a looser approach and a more uncommon approach to create Happy Accidents. The former electrical engineer is certainly a gearhead, with a studio full of intricate modular synths he showcased to the digital world with a weekly show on the DIRTYBIRD Twitch channel. Always one to support those doing something different, DIRTYBIRD label head Claude VonStroke personally invited Lubelski to create an experimental album to release on the label.
The album comes at the perfect time, following the release of Lubelski’s two new mega-hit house tracks being rinsed on dancefloors all over the globe. The leading single “Asylum” is being played by the likes of Dixon, while the newest single “Ice Cream Cone” is a particularly interesting collaboration with Claude VonStroke, combining Lubelski’s mathematical complexity to VonStroke’s club-ready sounds. The duo, with Life on Planets on vocals duty, recently released a music video for the single which is just as wonky as the track itself. Catch the two of them as they embark on a North American tour in support of the Happy Accidents release.
We caught up with Lubelski at the annual Dirtybird Campout 2021 in Modesto, California ahead of his stand-out set to chat about his new album Happy Accidents, his creative process with modular synths, and much more.
Thanks for sitting down with us today. So how are you doing? What have you been up to aside been working on your new album?
I really love rock climbing. I try to go every day. But as of right now I am pretty tired. Not a lot of sleep, but having a really great time. Five words I never thought I’d say is ‘happy to be in Modesto.’
Agree. That being said, how are you feeling being back on the festival circuit and playing shows again?
It’s been pretty wild. I got to play [Dirtybird] CampInn in the spring. And that was my first show back since the pandemic started. And my last show before the pandemic started was in Fresno. So a lot of apprehension, I think of that, you know, being my last show. I mean, it was really fun show so I don’t want to hate on Fresno. It just, I think the idea of it was just like, ‘Damn, my last show is gonna be in Fresno forever.’ But coming back, it had been just really wild. Very just excited to be back on the scene, like almost every show that I’ve played, thankfully, has been just like, absolutely ripping. I think a lot of people were just really excited to be back as well. So yeah, a lot of fun.
A lot of pent-up demand, I imagine.
Oh, yeah. A lot of pent-up energy for sure.
Did you pick up any other hobbies during quarantine times?
I lost a lot of hobbies actually. Couldn’t rock climb during the pandemic, I’m not much of an outdoor climber. And I lived across from an indoor gym. So I stopped doing that. But I got to pick up the live modular stuff, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do.
Right, so speaking of that, congrats on your new album, Happy Accidents.
Thank you, thank you.
You just got a major co-sign from the legend Dixon himself recently playing your new tune [Asylum], how did that feel?
Oh, it was amazing. I had just played a not-so-great show in New York. It’s just a lot of stuff was going wrong. And so we went to the [Brooklyn] Mirage after the show was over. And I was just feeling kind of sad about it. And then Dixon played the song, and I was just super elated. Just really, very kind of life-affirming in a way. I was just like, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore, because of how bad the show was.” And I got to get on stage, and I was like, “Hey, I’m Lubelski. This is my song. Thanks for playing it.” And he goes, “No, thank you for the music and I hope you’ve never stopped doing it.” And I was like, hearing that from Dixon was just unreal. Pretty crazy, too, that same night someone had sent me a video of Âme playing it in Paris so I guess they both shared it. And even last night, someone had sent me a video of Dusky playing it in LA, and I’m really happy to see all the support. And yeah, it’s been really incredible.
That’s great. So, is the title Happy Accidents kind of related to your creative process of just the physical modular synths? And just kind of like going with the flow with those?
Yeah, I’d say and I’ve always kind of described my process with modular in this way is that it’s sort of a conversation, because of the uncertainty and like, all the like, the probability of getting exactly what you want from a modular, you know, it’s it kind of you say something to it, ‘like, hey, do this. And it’s like, ‘No, I’m doing this.’ So it’s, in a sense, like, found music, or found sound, right? Like, finding the things that you wouldn’t expect. Just be like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ And like running with it. So I just always thought it’s like, oh, that’s a happy accident. You know, it’s like, with digital synthesizers, it can be a little too perfect. So I think being happy with those imperfections was kind of the core ethos kind of stuff with it for the name.
“And I got to get on stage, and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m Lubelski. This is my song. Thanks for playing it.’ And he goes, “No, thank you for the music and I hope you’ve never stopped doing it.” And I was like, hearing that from Dixon was just unrea.
– Lubelski on witnessing a legend like Dixon playing his new track out
When and how did you get started with all of the physical modular synths?
I actually studied electrical engineering in college, and I also had like an electronic sound synthesis program. And I just was kind of, I’m just like, kind of a mathy person, I guess. And they had modular synths there. I just had a lot of time around that kind of equipment. You know, I just loved it, you know, the kind of archaic-ness of it, just like how it’s sort of old technology that’s constantly being innovated on. It’s just like Legos for adults, really. It’s just like the endless possibilities of it. And I can really make my own sounds and use them in my own ways, which is really fun. So yeah, just got started in college and kind of never looked back.
Going along with the synths, I saw that you enlisted a visual artist named Alex Pelly who does visual modular synths. Can you talk us through your process with Alex creating those visual synthesizers along with your own music for this album?
Well, we had kind of just stumbled upon Alex Pelly when because we were considering doing all the visuals ourselves like really making it an A/V experience that I could control live. The kind of the initial thought of it, but if I were ever to do a live set, which is to be fully improvisational. So, when we found Alex Pelly, we just felt like it would be best to do give to somebody who really knew what they were doing with it. She just took the music made sure she had like the finals of the music the final masters and just ran it through her gear and she really just came up with something very incredible that I think sort of reciprocates the audio element with a visual element because the way she works is very similar to me like…. sort of just letting it flow and finding the things that she thinks were cool.
So intuitive in a sense?
Yeah, intuitive and just kind of having a conversation with her synthesizers… or almost just being one with them, I guess.
I’ve always kind of described my process with modular in this way is that it’s sort of a conversation, because of the uncertainty and like, all the like, the probability of getting exactly what you want from a modular… you know, it’s like, with digital synthesizers, it can be a little too perfect. So I think being happy with those imperfections was kind of the core ethos kind of stuff with it for the name.
– Creating new sound formations by working with modular synths is what Lubelski is all about
Your last album, The Universal Groove, featured an impressive roster of collaborators including many vocalists. Any other collaborators or evolving sounds on this album compared to your last one that you’re excited about?
Yeah, you know, I really did want to bring some of those collaborators back from the first album, like Kaleena Zanders. I loved working with Durante. I just you know like, even Wyatt [Marshall] and Rybo. I didn’t get a chance to work with Rybo on this one. But yeah, I just wanted to kind of bring some friends on the album and a lot of people’s schedules didn’t kind of line up with it given the time crunch that I was on with this one. We have you know, Claude Vonstroke, Life On Planets. Wyatt Marshall’s on there, as well as Ardalan. My friend who goes by a house alias, I don’t know if he wants me to tell what his real alias is. There’s some really great collaborators on the album.
So speaking on that who are some of your top artists right now electronic or not since you put a Spotify playlist together featuring some of your inspiration for the album?
I love Mildlife. Mildlife is incredible. They’re like a four-piece band from Australia. I believe Melbourne, but they’ve got like a very funky sort of Pink Floyd sound that’s like very psychedelic and jazzy but at the same time has a lot of the like, flavors of funk music kind of just in that lower disco range. As far as electronic artists go, I’ve always loved Tiga. Tiga has been a huge inspiration of mine. Matthew Dear… love Matthew Dear. Just kind of like expanding on songwriting and like concepts of electronic music I think it’s really incredible. But I think my absolute favorite at the moment electronic and all non-electronic is Red Axes. Red Axes is incredible. They’re from Israel and they’ll go from like, sort of a Bossa Nova sounding track to techno to like, very World Music inspired stuff. They kind of inspired the sound called dark disco, working a lot with DJ Tennis’ label Life and Death and they’re just really amazing. I just love everything that they do.
Are there any other types of media or forums other than music that inspire your work?
Yeah, absolutely. I try to pull inspiration from everything.
Actually. I hired my uncle to do the artwork for this album who’s a very, very talented graphic designer. He, his company is called Truf Creative. He’s done stuff for like Adidas and the City of Santa Monica. He designed the logo for Indiegogo, Kickstarter and he just does like incredible fine art. I love artwork. Luca Font is another artist I love. He’s a tattoo artist and muralist based out of Milan. And even for my label, we found this guy, he goes about Blue Collar Art. His name is Jimmy Sheehan. And he does all the artwork for the releases on my label [Percomaniacs]. And I’ve always been very interested in visual mediums, but it’s not how my brain works. So, I just kind of take his art, repurpose it into release artwork, and I’m pretty crafty with Photoshop and that sort of thing. And I like to paint occasionally.
Did your uncle do the artwork for Asylum as well? Because I saw it and thought it was really cool.
Yeah, he did. Truf Creative… Adam Goldberg. He did Asylum. So, he’s done three variations of the same piece. He actually sent me like ten concepts, and it was very, very difficult to pick which one we wanted to go with. But I was very excited to get him involved because I’m such a fan of his work. And he designed my logo six or seven years ago. And now that we had a bit of a budget behind [the album], I wanted to sort of repay the favor by getting him to do all this work for me.
So do you think you enjoy producing or DJ more or about both the same? And why?
You know, I spend so much time in the studio. It’s really five days a week for me. I get asked the question of why did I like not stop making music through the pandemic, whereas others may have thought like, “Oh, it’s kind of pointless, maybe I shouldn’t do it.” I never really saw that as an option. Like whether or not music and live music was gonna come back, I was still going to do it. So I think I’m absolutely more of a studio guy, but I love being able to share it, as well. But yeah, at some point when I’m old and rickety I’ll end up just trying to score films or just doing more sound design type stuff.
Anything else about your new album, or any other upcoming exciting things that are going on that you want to share?
The album was made in a very short time period, and I’m still proud of it. I think, had I been given six more weeks, it would be a very different body of work. But I’m very grateful to Dirtybird for allowing me to do what I want to do and not being super picky about the music. Barclay [Crenshaw] just said, “It’s really about you. It’s not up to me but what you want to put out… but here’s your deadline.” I’m really stoked to get it out. I have a few releases to follow up on it. In the year, I’m going on tour on a few dates with Claude [Vonstroke] to play around the U.S. And yeah, I’m just really excited for people to finally hear it.
Just one more question… speaking on that you’re obviously known for creating house music with your modular synthesizers and creating your own unique sounds. And so there’s been a decent amount of criticism lately about tech house for kind of becoming stale. You’ve kind of carved out your own sound and style, obviously. So, what are your thoughts on the whole tech house has gotten stale argument? Do you agree, disagree, any rebuttals?
I mean, tech house has been around forever, and people are constantly innovating on the sound. So, I think everything comes in waves. Like I remember what 2011 to 2016 really was kind of more about the electro sound and you know, big room stuff and dubstep. Tech house had a big wave over the last five years, I’d say, and now that it’s becoming more mainstream, I think people are just looking for newer sounds that are inspiring them. But I don’t think any one genre is gonna die. You know, like people, there’s gonna be people who like tech, there’s gonna be people who don’t and that’s totally fine. Whatever floats your boat, as they say. But I’ll leave you with a quote that always stuck with me. Frankie Knuckles said, “You have to listen to everything so you know what’s good.” So I just try to listen to as much different music as I possibly can to kind of just find the core of what makes it good and just go in that direction as best I can.