The Unstoppable Force of LEGOVE

Lucas Benjamin steers the soundship closer to home this time, exploring the sounds, inspirations and unstoppable force of Legove, a promising Dutch artist whose musical roots stem from B-Boy culture, Onyx Ashanti’s improvisations… and the Transformers franchise.

Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if an orchestra of transformers from the future soundtracked a Japanese Anime movie with 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 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 B-Boying (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 online 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 breakdancer, many of LEGOVE’s creations are 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 won an experimental dance competition in Amsterdam performing 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.

Onyx and Rowdy

A saxophone player when he started out, Ashanti – who has lived in London, Amsterdam and Berlin – 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 an impromptu live performance by Ashanti in Berlin in 2008.

Another one of LEGOVE’s key ingredients is the broken-beat sound. Instead of emulating what they did in West London, however, he created his own interpretation of that sound. His timing and groove is nothing like what Dego, Kaidi Tatham and the rest of the Bugz were doing. In “Explain” I can definitely hear the funk/broken beat influence, just expressed differently in his own unique way.

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, only VSTs, dozens of sounds and a midi keyboard. Mind blowing!

This next piece has that same uniquely classical quality that allows you to transcend into another realm.

When asked if there were any specific orchestral compositions that had touched him, Lewing instantly offered “Love Remembered” by 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 warmth of 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 are all 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 showcase of that.

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” shows exactly that. It’s a track of otherwise different organic and electronic sounds that are able to co-exist in harmony.

After Prince passed away in April 2016, LEGOVE decided to pay homage to the artist by covering “17 Days” from the single When Doves Cry. It’s one of Prince’s less widely-known but still highly-appreciated B-sides. It started off as an instrumental, but when he asked his young singer girlfriend Jarlentji, also from Enschede, to do the vocals, the result was outstanding. Any cover of Prince’s work has got to be a challenge, but Lewing rose to the occasion. While the track is highly respectful of the original throughout the process, Lewing still managed to innovate: adding unique details, unexpected changes, never losing sight of his signature sound.

The most recent project LEGOVE shared online is his own interpretation of the intro theme for the new Street Fighter videogame, employing the same visuals on top of his creation. I honestly thinks it works really well! (Sony, I hope you’re paying attention!)

After revisiting all of his music, I can’t help but wonder why he’s still an unsigned artist. His sound would fit perfectly with a forward-thinking label like Brainfeeder, and would work just as well for sci-fi movies or videogames. Perhaps it just hasn’t reached the right ears yet.

LEGOVE is working on a new EP at the moment. Do follow this talented individual on his channels and stay up to date with his future endeavors, because I believe he is going to blow our minds for many years to come.

LEGOVE’s music sometimes reminds me of the honesty and raw attitude of people 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."