Mirko Loko’s passion for music has led him on an upward trajectory ever since he first started DJing in the late ‘90s clubs of Lausanne. Based at the crossroads between Detroit-inspired techno and the stripped-down-yet-jacked-up side of house, his music is that of diversity and subtlety. It’s high-class yet low-slung, a hypnotic collage sewn together by shifting layers of darkness and light.
Mirko’s impressive discography has spanned such labels as Cocoon, Border Community, Wagon Repair, Planet E, Desolat, and Visionquest.
This is not to mention his collaborative work with Detroit’s Stacey Pullen, and his remixes of everyone from Martina Topley-Bird (Massive Attack) to Layo & Bushwacka. He’s also been on the receiving end of the remix treatment from such techno titans as Carl Craig and Ricardo Villalobos.
As part of our Behind The Headphone series, we sat with Mirko Loko to discuss what makes him tick.
At what age did you first decide that this is the career you’d like to pursue? Was there a specific moment or has music just always been somewhat of a passion from an early age?
I was always surrounded by music. I had the chance to grow up near Montreux and my parents would bring me to the Jazz festival from an early age. Then my first job at age 18 was at a radio station called Couleur3 at the end of the ‘90s as curator and DJ and it’s probably from then on that I realized that music would be more than a hobby. Then a few years later, I released my first record circa 2004 on James Holden’s label, Border Community.
To many people, the scene in Switzerland may be relatively unfamiliar, how would you best describe it? And do you see it continuing to grow to become like other major European countries?
Switzerland has a lot of talent and good producers. For our size, we are well represented by some great artists. We only have 8 million citizens, and we speak four different languages. We were one of the first countries that got into the rave culture in the ‘90s and from that movement we got a lot of good clubs. Of course, the Swiss-German side is most representative but on the French side, back in the day, a certain Laurent Garnier started his career in Lausanne. It was a big influence for many promoters and young DJs all over the Swiss-French side (like me at the time). The house scene was established as well with legendary Swiss DJ Djaimin, who was inviting all the Strictly Rhythm guys every weekend, Derrick May and Carl were also regularly playing in our country.
At that time, it was easy to feel the enthusiastic energy around electronic music with huge respect for people who were creating this music. Today I don’t think we can talk about development anymore because I feel that we are in between two waves. Many guys are now fascinated by Ibiza’s tech-house and want to show off and become famous. But I am deeply convinced that the new generation is more into music again and they are re-creating this circle that encapsulates the incredible value of the club culture, creativity and respect. It’s something precious for the future in our country. It’s fascinating to see the new wave of Swiss artists that are again bringing back our art as a proper culture. These are the artists I look for, for my festival. I try to help them and to bring them to the front line. We are a very small country and the Swiss mentality is the same (unrushed and quiet) but we have some interesting days ahead of us.
You have released on many big labels, Cadenza, Desolat and Visionquest just to name a few, while also running your own label Comet Traxx. Is there any advice you’d give to up and coming producers looking to get their tracks signed?
It’s difficult because everybody has to make their own experiences. The only advice I can give is to do your thing as honestly and sincerely as possible.
Following on from the previous question, when you’re listening to tracks sent to you, is there a certain style you look for with your label?
No actually, I created my platform to be able to quickly release my own stuff on vinyl. From my last album, I didn’t release new stuff on it. I’m working on new material under my Bel-Air Ltd alias.
I received excellent demos but unfortunately, I can’t release them.
Alongside producing and Djing, you are also the curator for the renowned Polaris Festival in Verbier, how has COVID-19 affected the festival? And what can we expect as we look to come out of the pandemic?
When we created Polaris six years ago, what we had in mind was to create a summer version of the festival. This month of June, we were about to launch a summer version but Covid19 arrived in March and we blocked all of our activities. We first cancelled the launch of Solaris and then with the evolution of things in Switzerland we adapted the concept to today’s new standards (300 pax / outdoor).
I think that Switzerland has a government that has managed the situation well and is trying to continue to live with all of this. It’s very difficult because we have to move forward without vision, but it has nevertheless allowed us to launch a small version of Solaris in an open-air setting with tracking of each person and an important sanitary protocol. We managed to launch Solaris I Playground and it was a success without any COVID cases and we are now working to adapt Polaris Festival to the current standards if the number of cases remains as low as it is now, which is much lower than the European average. If things continue to evolve in the right direction, the Swiss government should authorize gatherings of more than 1000 people, under certain sanitary conditions of course. We will adapt the festival in collaboration with the authorities to be able to launch a redesigned edition this year.
If there was one artist you could produce a track with, who would it be and why?
It’s a very hard question! Difficult to pick one because there are so many. I would like to say Gil-Scott Heron because it’s my mood of the day. I listened to his last album ‘I’m New Here’ again, and the way he produced it is very close to electronica, so if it were possible, it would be interesting to try something with him.
Finally, what would be your perfect event/party if you were to describe it?
A great location with a view, a great installation of balloons and an interesting line-up mixed with newcomers, legends and local heroes.