Today we caught up with London-based musician Leena Punks, to chat about her latest release, musical journey, and more.
Leena Punks, a budding DJ and producer, had a successful start to 2023 thanks to Charlie Hedges‘ second selection of her song ‘Dawn of the Dead‘ for BBC Radio 1’s Hottest Record of the Week. The young artist had a hectic year in 2022 as well. Her Anjunabeats track debut, ‘On The Floor,’ was selected by Charlie Hedges as BBC Radio One’s Hottest record and received a lot of support from Jaguar, Sarah Story, Adele Roberts, and Ben Malone on KISS FM after being released on New State, appearing on LP Giobbi’s compilation on Insomniac Records, and receiving a remix on Stress records. ‘On The Floor’ was Jack Saunders‘ Next Wave feature for Future Artists. The success of her subsequent single, ‘Mirage‘ from the Stress album, led Ben Malone to choose it for his Spotlight feature. It received excellent support from DSPs as well, featuring on Lane 8’s Winter 2022 Mixtape and receiving support from New Music Friday, UK House Music, and Trance Mission.
Hello Leena, Happy New Year 2023! How are you doing?
Hey House Nest! I’m doing great and HNY! I just released a track with SUB X entitled ‘Dawn of the Dead’ using the Papua New Guinea – Future Sound of London vocal sample. The track is again another breaks & trance fusion and got a lot of radio play on BBC Radio 1 including another Hottest Record by Charlie Hedges so yes I’m on cloud 9 now!
Could you introduce yourself to those who are not familiar with Leena Punks?
So I started many many years ago as a DJ and radio DJ in my hometown in Athens, Greece. In 2013 I did an online course at Pointblank music college in London. Even though I always knew I wanted to work in music (I’m also trained in classical piano), during my course everything clicked. Each time I was working on a project I got completely in the zone, I lost track of time and I felt I found what I was really passionate about. When I finished the course, I applied for a full-time course in Electronic Music Composition and Sound Design in London, quit my job, and moved to London. I spent many years DJing n London including Ministry, Fabric, Cargo, the Cause, and XOYO but I never had the time to really apply myself to writing. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I got back into it. I started experimenting with different types of sounds and styles which was daunting and super exciting. I got a personal tutor, I paid for vocalists to learn and work better with original vocals I tried to write anything and everything from tech house, pop, synth wave, breaks, and progressive.
You’ve started the year strong with a four-minute banger ‘OOO (Out Of Office)’. How did you develop the idea behind it?
Even though I love doing moody breaks tracks this time I wanted to write a feel good dance track, with lots of 90s throwback elements and a bit of an aggressive/ sassy feel. I had the first draft down from London and I was re-working it in Ableton on a long flight to LA. All I was thinking about was the feeling of switching off completely, reclaiming fun, and the sheer excitement of being OOO. I think there’s also something about the altitude that made me feel super euphoric and so that’s how I came up with the title. When I landed I went to dinner with two DJ friends and mentioned it – they loved it too so that sealed the title. The track is quite simple and has a long breakdown where I swap 4 on the floor to a breakbeat, I also chose a very simple vocal as I think it works well for these type of tracks. I tested the track a few weeks ago at XOYO and the reaction was insane plus it’s so easy for people to get into it again because the vocal is simple and memorable. I’m a big believer that simplicity is key – trying to strip down as many elements and keep the main idea running through the entire track.
You have released and remixed on some of the world’s best record labels. Which track of yours is your favourite and why?
First of all, THANK YOU! That’s a very very difficult question, I’m usually most excited about the track I’m working on at the time, so for example now I’m super excited about another 90s throwback track I’ve been working on, I’m looking for a vocalist by the way if anyone is interested! I really wish I could release a track the day after I finish it. On the Floor has a special meaning to me and also the remix I did on Because of Art’s track for Stress which was my introduction to the label. I have to say I’m also SUPER excited about OOO – I think it’s a great track to dance to and it’s also on my workout playlist. Can’t wait for everyone to hear it!
Let’s talk about one of your most iconic releases ‘On The Floor’. What’s the story behind this track, and what message does it translate to your fans?
On The Floor has a very special meaning to me. I wrote it after going through a very difficult breakup (actually on the day of the breakup). I was in a really vulnerable state and whenever I listen to it I think of that moment. At that time I only had one small release under my belt so I’d never thought in my wildest dreams it On the Floor would get released on Anjunabeats let alone being picked as Radio 1’s Hottest Record. Even now, I can’t believe that happened. Also, it originally had a vocal which was by an 80s funk band but in the end, we kept it as an instrumental, which worked to its advantage.
What piece of hardware/software do you find the most useful in your productions?
I’m a synth fanatic – I have an issue so I try to stay away as much as possible. If I could get anything it would be the Minimoog Model D and Juno 6. However, I think there’s so much affordable software that you can get away with having no hardware at all. I have lots of hardware from Behringer like Model D (which is great if you can’t afford Moog), the MS1 keyboard, and TD-3 to write acid lines. I also love my Roland TR-8 rhythm sequencer. I also have an MK2 mini keyboard and an Ableton controller which is mostly when I attempt to set up a live session. However, you don’t need all of that. I wrote the main riff for On the Floor on my laptop keyboard. Also, there are so many amazing plugins that you can buy or rent. I also use Splice at least when I’m drafting a track (I then go back to it and properly produce it) also TrackLib is great for sampling vocals.
Could you tell us how does your daily routine look like?
It really depends – but I usually do mixes during the day and I prefer writing/ producing at night so I know I won’t get distracted. I usually spend a lot of time researching and have a clear understanding of the track that I want to make. I have many reference Spotify playlists which I go back to each time I want to work on a new track. I have a different playlist for everything from different breakbeat references to cool drops, ethnic, classic, or unusual vocals, and anything I find interesting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be electronic music and it’s more interesting when it’s not. Usually, by the time I sit down to produce I have a good idea of what I’m going to do, I wish I was more spontaneous but every producer is different. I also like to get a workout in when I can and meet up with friends regularly especially to see other DJs I find you learn a lot by just going out to gigs and observing.
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Unfortunately my phone.
Finally, what’s next for Leena Punks?
I just had my release with SUB X, now OOO, I have a very exciting release with Amy Wiles coming up in April and a breaks version of Cece Penniston’s ‘Finally’ coming out on Good Company in early May. I’m also in talks with two other big labels for a release, I have another Stress release in July and in the same month, I’m traveling to Washington for the Anjunabeats festival at the Gorge which will be insane! Yes, overall super excited! xx
Purchase Leena Punks – ‘OOO (Out Of Office)’ via Beatport
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