“Sometimes when I'm when I'm going to sleep, symphonic music starts playing in my mind,” says Jay Lumen.” I get very interesting inspirations almost every night before I sleep.”
That might not be something you would expect to hear from a techno artist. Then again, it could be the very reason the Hungarian DJ and producer’s cinematic style has elevated him to the upper echelon of the genre.
Tracks like “Human” and “Mandela” speak to Jay Lumen’s timeless aesthetic, interweaving the corrosive textures of techno with intricately layered synths in a way that evokes vivid mental imagery. Both tracks arrived by way of his artist label, Footwork, but his discography also includes releases on world-renowned imprints like Drumcode and Octopus Recordings.
Jay wanted to pursue a career in electronic music since he was only eight or nine years old. Even in this nascent phase of his musical exploration, he found inspiration in the music of techno folk heroes such as Jeff Mills, Steve Stoll, and The Advent.
"I really loved the old school dinosaurs of techno and house music..." says Jay. "...It was the beginning for me if we are talking about electronic music, and I was really sure that I had to do something like that. I started to produce my own tracks and releases—only for my friends in the beginning."
One of Jay’s most formative experiences as an artist had nothing to do with electronic music, however. He studied in a music conservatory for the better part of a decade, learning to play the violin and building a strong base of habits. "I have that kind of music knowledge because I had to learn it for eight years," he says. “That's why I do have really a different point of view from others.”
Jay Lumen’s earliest official releases fell somewhere between progressive house and progressive trance, landing on labels like Pangea Recordings, Global Underground, Baroque Records, and Anjunabeats. Singles like "Inner Tour" and "In Love" emphasized effervescent synth work far removed from the challenging timbres common in his more recent output.
It didn’t take long for him to get restless working in this style, however. “I'm always happy to change and switch up my sound a little bit,” Jay says. “Because if something is not inspiring me anymore, I don't want to keep doing it. So I switched to tech house around, I don't know, 2007 maybe, and I started to make that kind of sound.”
In the years that followed, Jay Lumen delivered tech house numbers like “B-Groove” and “Good Woodoo” that still exhibited some of the infectious melody that defined his earlier work. After a few more years, though, he once again decided that it was time for a change.
“After the point when everybody just started to jump into the scene, maybe around 2011, I said 'I gotta do something different,’” he recalls. “I don't want to be in a scene that’s oversaturated, and getting more commercial because of there being too many acts. I switched my style to techno fully around 2011, and I'm so happy with that choice. I never say never, so maybe I'll get back into house music or tech house music. I always change if I feel some new inspiration from any kind of genre.”
Jay began predominantly producing techno—although tracks like his Green Velvet collaboration, “It’s All About Me,” would temporarily pull him back into the tech house orbit. “Of course, if you get a request from Green Velvet you always say yes,” Jay says. “Especially if the guy is your hero. I was happy to do that, and it was a milestone.”
In the years since then, Jay Lumen has had no trouble releasing music on techno’s most monolithic record labels. Tracks like “You Know” and “Dark Rooms” spoke to his ability to distill his wide-ranging music taste into a style of techno that cuts through the noise.
Perhaps one of Jay's most fruitful relationships is with Adam Beyer's Drumcode, the most commercially successful label in techno. "The first one was in 2011 or '12, when I released the special collaborative EP [Lotus] with Gary Beck on Drumcode," Jay says. "That was my first release ever on the label, and it was very successful. I was very happy to see that the B side of the release was the best seller in the in that five years on the label."
Jay nonetheless launched Footwork as an outlet for “everything that is interesting to me,” giving him creative freedom not afforded by other labels. The majority of releases on the imprint are his own, but it has also given a home to music by the likes of Hito, SAMA, and The Reactivitz. And while Jay insists that he’s “not that business kind of person” and started the brand out of sheer musical curiosity, it nonetheless rose to be one of the top 20 highest-selling labels on Beatport in 2022.
"I created Footwork because I wanted to get a little bit more freedom," Jay says. "If I release on my own label, I don't need to wait for an answer from anybody. If I have an idea, I can put it out as soon as I want, so that was the main goal when I created the label. And also the other thing is I wanted to show people some of my friends whom I find interesting as artists."
Who knows—maybe the success of these endeavors will lead Jay Lumen on his next creative tangent. No matter where his music career takes him, time has told that he’ll embark on that journey with all of his heart.
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