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Artist story: Why collaboration is so important for downbeat artist Lehto

Fusing together a wide range of influences, Lehto has been crafting his versatile sound for a long time, with collaboration being at the heart of his musical journey. His story is an intriguing one, and his downbeat music is sure to capture your attention.

Published on
April 6, 2023
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What's your band/artist name? Can you tell us a little bit about you and your career/projects so far?

Lehto (formerly Keno). I got into electronic music around the turn of the millennium, after spending the 1990s pretty much entirely in Seattle rock. I started playing guitar when I was 15 or 16, but all my friends played guitar, so we never got around to forming a band. When I went into electronic music and understood what sampling was and all it takes is a computer and samples, I was immediately immersed in that world. The prospect of being able to do everything on my own and not having to rely on anyone was great. Downbeat was my first love, and it still is the greatest one, but strangely enough I quickly moved on to other musical areas and only really started producing my own downbeat music in 2016. First under the name Keno and in 2022 I renamed Keno to Lehto, which is now my main project.

How did you get into music and what were/are your influences?

In the 1990s, as I said, it was Seattle Rock and from the 2000s onwards it was the downbeat of artists like Quantic, Bonobo, TM Juke, Hint, Luke Vibert, Mr Scruff, The Cinematic Orchestra or Nightmares On Wax. These artists had a strong influence on me in the early years, but today they are joined by names like Jon Hopkins, Tor, O'Flynn Catching Flies, Indian Wells, Rival Consoles, Feiertag and Overmono.

Which partners or artists have inspired/accompanied you on your path and how?

The first person I made music with on the computer was Kolja Starkowski, whom I met through Discogs in the summer of 2006. From then on we released funky breakbeat together as Mash & Munkee. It was a great time, we lived 400km away from each other, did a lot over the internet and additionally met two or three times a year at each other's places and then locked ourselves in for a week and produced. That went on for a few years, a great time and I learned a lot from him back then. Today I make a lot of music with Tristan de Liège, a multi-instrumentalist and producer from Los Angeles. We met in 2018 through a mutual friend and originally just wanted to make an EP together, which turned into our "Transatlantyk" album and we continue to make music together regularly. It's all done over the internet, we've never actually met in real life, but we talk on the phone from time to time and discuss everything else via chat.

How would you describe your music or sound?

Versatile for sure. The first albums I made in 2018 and 2020 are mainly instrumental downbeat in the classic sense with an organic sound. Then my last album "Between All Days" became a bit more electronic and I'm building on that now with the upcoming album. I'm also doing some more clubby songs now.

What has been the most formative experience in your career so far?

So there are a few, but the first experience or a moment that strongly influenced and pushed me was sometime in 2009 when we noticed that Bonobo was playing a track from our first record in his DJ sets all the time, which we had released as Mash & Munkee. I met Bonobo at a festival in Hamburg in 2018 and took the opportunity to thank him again. The wheel has come full circle.

Can you tell us about highs and lows of your music career so far and what you've learnt from it?

The time between 2012 and 2017 was definitely a high point for me, especially as a DJ I had a lot of bookings back then. I travelled a lot during that time and met a lot of great people. The pandemic was of course quite a drastic change, suddenly you had no more gigs, but 2022 was by far worse than the pandemic years due to the energy crisis and the increased cost of living. Also, many clubs had to close down or cut back their programme significantly, so it's far away from the booking level the clubs had before the pandemic. Let's see how the rest of 2023 will be like. What I have learned from this is that you have to stay flexible and not rely too much on what you have and that things eventually turn out differently than you think.

How did you hear about MusicHub and why did you choose our platform to distribute your music?

A friend told me about it, I tried it out and since then I've been a convinced MusicHub user. Good conditions, easy handling of the website and great and fast support from nice people, what more could you want? Moreover, you are constantly expanding your offers and improving everything possible, and after 15 years of mostly negative experiences with distributors, you are a wonderful positive example.

Tell us more about your latest MusicHub release.

"Arches" is the latest single I made with Tristan De Liege, a multi-instrumentalist and producer from Los Angeles. We met in 2018 through a mutual friend and were originally only going to make an EP together. However, that turned into our Transatlantyk album and we've continued to make music together regularly ever since. Arches is where we discovered our shared love of synths, after our music had previously sounded relatively organic.

What goals do you still want to achieve? What are your plans for the future?

The big goal is still to be able to make a relaxed living from music one day, it just takes a little longer. Continuing to release music regularly, challenging myself to develop, trying out everything possible, not ruling anything out and releasing as many of the albums as possible that I still have in my head, that's the plan.

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