As half of the production outfit Knee Deep, Mr. Sebastian Doering soared to heights few professionals in this industry ever reach. Topping the dance charts? Check. Remixing pop stars? Check. A shelf full of awards from Very Important People and organizations? Check. And at the top of the game, Sebastian broke from his past, re-inventing himself and his sound as Lovebirds – a throwback to the classic House vibe with a modern flourish.
So-called “Soulful House” reached a stage where it was totally uninspiring. People thought that because they used a singer and maybe a live bass player, it’s soulful – but when you look at it, it’s really the opposite.
A lot of people have charted your evolution from Knee Deep to Lovebirds, particularly the shift around 2006 or so when Lovebirds began to “take over”. Why did you make that leap?
So-called “Soulful House” reached a stage where it was totally uninspiring. People thought that because they used a singer and maybe a live bass player, it’s soulful – but when you look at it, it’s really the opposite. Because of that, I started to produce hip hop instrumentals and down/midtempo tunes just for fun. Then my partner sent a few to John Buckby, who wanted to release them right away. From then on, I found my new direction.
Knee Deep remixed Brandy, Jamiroquai and several other mainstream acts. Lovebirds from the beginning has had a more underground texture to it & almost feels “homemade”, if that makes any sense. How would you characterize the difference between these two sounds you’re best known for?
To be honest, I don’t see a big difference between the two. It’s more like the packaging has changed but the inside stayed the same. Maybe these days it’s easier to have more of that original ’70s and ’80s feel in the music which makes it look a little more underground.
One of the reasons I wanted to do this interview is that I think you’ve made a dent in the universe with what you’re doing as Lovebirds – taking the essence of “Golden Age” House and giving it a modern spin. Pretty much every track I can think of, you have a hook, even when there are no vocals (for instance, “The Ride”). How much of this is intentional creation and how much is trusting your gut instincts?
I never really have a strategy or blueprint. I start with something and add another thing until I feel it’s enough for arranging. Or trashing.
Yeah, I totally miss hooks in modern music. Sometimes I get sent tracks for remixing and I think, “What the hell am I supposed to use from the original? a hi hat? a sampled chord stab?”
I think “The Limit” was the track I did when I went to the studio with a six pack and a bottle of Jaegermeister and worked and drank until I threw up right in front of my feet!
One of my favorite tracks you’ve done as Lovebirds is “The Limit” from 2000. Both “Lovebirds” (the song) and the title track are so far ahead of their time that I don’t know if people have caught up to them yet! Can you tell me about this one?
I’m not 100% sure anymore but I think “The Limit” was the track I did when I went to the studio with a six pack and a bottle of Jaegermeister and worked and drank until I threw up right in front of my feet! I guess I reached the limit! I don’t know if they are ahead of their time – just some Deep House tracks with a hook!
A lot of the Knee Deep recordings were released on your own label; Lovebirds, on the other hand, seems to have a tight relationship with a couple of labels that release most of your stuff. How did you establish connections with Winding Road and Freerange?
I’ve known John Buckby of Winding Road for years through Vincenzo and their sound seemed perfect for my stuff back then. And Freerange seemed to me the right label to promote my fairly new name. For the future I will mainly release on my own Teardrop label. Next will be a 4 track EP, and after that the follow up single with Stee Downes. I can’t wait to see the reactions and feedback to that because I totally love it and think it can do great!
A lot of your tracks stay “current” for a long time. Are you surprised by this? For example, “Want You In My Soul” (And since that one had a particularly long shelf life, can you tell us anything about how it evolved from an instrumental to a vocal with Stee Downes?)
No, I can’t tell you why it is like that. If it is like that, it’s a great compliment. The contact with Stee came while I was checking MySpace (which I rarely ever do even these days). I wrote him a message, then sent some instrumentals and the first track he worked on was this one. I think he was in the middle of a very fresh breakup with his girl – that might have influenced his lyrics a lot. In general, I stop working on a track when I realize I lose the vibe for it instead of forcing it to the end. That’s why a lot of tracks are basically 99% ready but in a deep coma until I rediscover them and finish with fresh love and feelings for it!
Is this your first time playing in Chicago? It’s at least been the first time in awhile…
I was only in Chicago once, and that was unintended – I missed my flight from Detroit and my friends were going to Chicago by train. So I’ve had a taco in Chicago and that’s pretty much it.