Robbie Williams: "Acid house was a big phenomenon, I was part of that culture"
We caught up with newly formed electronic trio Lufthaus in the midst of their European tour to talk Berlin, Partying at Pikes and the 'melody of being a human being'
Having made a number of anonymous appearances in Ibiza last summer, it wasn't until October 2022 that newly-formed electronic outfit Lufthaus revealed the three masterminds behind the project: Australian songwriting/production team Tim Metcalfe and Flynn Francis and their regular collaborator, 18-time BRIT Award winner Robbie Williams, on vocals.
Despite nearly a decade working together, starting with Metcalfe and Francis' work on Williams' 2012 album 'Take the Crown', Lufthaus as a trio only came about during lockdown. Inspired by a shared love of Berlin electronica, with its melodic, somber synths and frenetic basslines, the "Lufthaus sound" is a spiritual, atmospheric take on the trio's multitude of influences. It's music “for those who know there’s more worth knowing,” according to Williams, who teased the Lufthaus project in 2020 — declaring intentions to "start a band and be a DJ and want to rent a space in Berlin, a gallery with my art, and in the evening it will be a club — a bit like Berghain.”
The three have so far unveiled four releases on paradigmatic NYC/London electronic label Armada Music, 'Sway', 'To The Light' and 'Soul Seekers' in 2022, and most recently 'Unloveable' — with the latter released alongside a music video consisting of footage from the Robbie XXV tour, on which Lufthaus are acting as support.
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We sat down with Lufthaus amidst their 26-stop European tour to talk old skool rave inspirations, studio magic and nights out at Pikes.
How does it feel to be on a world tour?
Tim: It’s been great so far. We love food, so we’ve enjoyed being able to scope out the best places in each city to eat. Italy has been a big highlight so far.
Flynn: I feel privileged to be doing this in arenas this size. We got to play to over 100,000 people in Munich. Did three shows in Ibiza. It's amazing to be able to go onstage and play to 15,000 people a night supporting Rob. Excited to go to a few places I've never been like Lithuania and Latvia, and obviously looking forward to the two nights in Berlin. Including the UK and the EU, it's 50-odd arena dates. I feel like we are living the dream right now.
Can you tell us a bit about making music together? What is your process in the studio?
Robbie: The boys send me a track and then I usually listen to the music and see where it takes me melodically and lyrically. I want these lyrics to be different from what I usually do, I guess they’re more spiritual and from the heart.
Tim: Lufthaus was essentially born during the first COVID lockdowns, so we did a lot of writing via zoom calls and facetimes. We’ve been working with Robbie for over 10 years now, so we have our system down pretty well. By the time we met up face-to-face (after the restrictions ended) most of the heavy lifting had already been done.
Flynn: We will make a piece of music, sometimes come up with top line ideas and send them over to rob. Rob has come up with some amazing melodies and lyrics over these songs. People really like this side of Rob’s writing, and his voice sounds incredible across all the tracks.
How would you describe the Lufthaus sound? What do you want listeners to take away from your music?
Tim: We like electronic music, but we also like songs. So we’ve tried to create something that allows a bit of both. Try to land somewhere in the middle. Atmospheric, melodic electronica with a fun side. A lot of our unreleased music will reveal the other sides of lufthaus in the coming months.
What about you Robbie, what have been your inspirations in the sound from Lufthaus? Any dance music/electronic artists that you're really into?
Robbie: '90s dance music is a big influence for me, I always go back to when I first fell in love with 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Lil Louis —acts like that. But I also loved electro hip hop from the early '80s too.
You've got decades of experience in music, but this project is a deviation for you into electronic. Have you gravitated towards it for a while? Is it something you've always loved?
Robbie: It’s always been part of my life in one way or another. In 1990 acid house was a big phenomenon and I was part of that culture with my friends. We pretty much left school and partied our arses off.
You recently appeared at Pikes in Ibiza, can you tell us about that?
Robbie: It was an interesting few nights, I always thought with this project that it would be me and my friends around a DJ booth and a few people dancing like it used to be. But if you throw me into the mix, everybody thinks I’m going to do something. I just want to be part of the crowd, yet on stage. I may have to re-assess that at some point, I don’t want to have to entertain when DJ-ing with Lufthaus, I want a night out!
Have you got any great club anecdotes from over the years you'd like to share with the Mixmag readers
Robbie: Nothing that wouldn't make a front page headline for a red top tabloid, so I best give this question a miss.
Can you tell us some of your biggest influences? How did you all come to music?
Tim: There are so many good producers out there doing great things. I’m loving Partiboi69 at the moment. GHEIST and Pan-Pot are two other favorites of mine. I also love The 1975 but I’m not really sure how that ties into this.
Flynn: Massive Attack, Jamie XX, Chemical Brothers, Ben Klock, Norman Nodge, Amelie lens. Fred again.. is also doing some genre-bending stuff that I love right now.
What is it about the "Berlin sound" that you have affinity with?
Tim: Berlin is the home of techno. I always find it so inspiring to go out to the clubs and hear all the new music being played. I spend a lot of time at Riverside Studios in Berlin whenever I’m there which is a great place to make music and be surrounded by great people. Flynn lives in Berlin too, so it has become a bit of a Lufthaus base of late.
Flynn: Having lived there for a number of years it's impossible not to be influenced by the city. Electronica is so interwoven to the fabric of Berlin, it's a way of life. It has so many iconic venues and clubs, so many prominent DJ’s call it home. Every type of music you can imagine, Berlin has a home for it. Out of all the cities I've been to, it truly is the city that never sleeps.
What can listeners expect from upcoming Lufthaus releases?
Tim: We’re going to keep evolving the sound and see where we end up. Lots of different sounds, lots of fun. Some potentially exciting collaborations.
How would you say the Lufthaus differs from the "Robbie Williams sound?"
Robbie: It’s without the nod and the wink that you might have heard in a Robbie Williams track. It’s more spiritual, about the melody of being a human being
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What else is coming up for you?
Tim: Hopefully bigger and better shows and our debut album.
Flynn: More singles, clubs shows across Europe for summer. An album at the end of the year.
Lufthaus are currently supporting Robbie's XXV World Tour, check out a full list of dates here.
Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter