Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Secret Weapons: Luke Una’s Favourite Music

As he prepares for the second volume of his É Soul Cultura series, Luke Una takes us through 13 of his favourite tracks, from his secret dancefloor fillers to the beauty of Pharoah Sanders

Photo by Daniel Lindegren

Taking a sip of his mushroom soup, Luke Una is pondering how the parlous state of his health pre-Covid has led to clean living, an improved state of mind and an unforeseen career trajectory. “I had a few heart issues come up,” he says. “It was a case of being overweight and eating late and boozing and everything else, not looking after myself and stress and hard work.”

Removing himself from the restaurants and bars he was frequenting with his Unabombers partner Justin Crawford, Una has taken a back-to-basics approach that has infused him with a renewed sense of purpose. “I didn’t want to manage people anymore,” he says. “And in doing that, I kind of ended up DJing a lot after lockdown. I realised I needed to be fit. You know, when you’re out of breath doing your shoelaces up and you can’t see your dick when you have a piss; you realise you need to sort your shit out.”

It was a culmination of 30-plus year career that saw the production and DJ team of The Unabombers transcend their origins in cult night Electric Chair at Manchester’s long gone venue The Roadhouse, to become festival favourites and hosts of parties still spoken of in breathless terms. But with such massive growth, which later saw the pair moving into the hospitality industry, came the almost inevitable conclusion of burnout just as Covid brought the world to a standstill.

“A lot of my businesses, especially the events, the restaurants and bars, like everyone else, got leveled out,” he sighs. “Covid was quite good for me in a really weird way,” he continues. “I think there was a huge existential reset that went on in my life. You know, I was so ingrained in my path, I never got a chance to look up and slowing down [during Lockdown], the weather was red hot, and I just stopped. And when you stop, you just, you kind of inevitably reassess and have a post mortem.

“And I thought, ‘Fucking hell, why am I’m working so hard? What am I doing with my life?’ So I came out of Covid and it changed me. The existential reset meant that I eventually lost my mojo with most of what I was doing, which was… well, a lot of what I did wasn’t just the music stuff; I did restaurants and bars, and I really enjoyed it. I loved it, but I wasn’t really me in the end. It just became a spreadsheet.”

And then, a chance call set Luke Una on a path he hadn’t considered before. “Due to my prolific use of narcissism on Instagram, Giles Peterson hit me up and said, ‘You need to do some radio. And so I ended up joining Worldwide FM. And it was just a perfect storm, really. Everyone was at home. Everyone was listening to radio and podcasts, and mainstream media probably was less of an attraction to people in such strange times of imposed home living. It ended up being a great thing for me. And I don’t mean that in a selfish way, but I fell back in love with music, not that I’d ever fallen out of love with it, and I ended up doing this radio show, and I had to go through my entire sort of archive and collection. And it was brilliant. And I loved it.”

This, in turn, led Luke Una to reconnect with music and his clubbing origins. “I was going out to clubs before acid house in the mid 80s,” he says. “And it was the most exciting part of that revolution for me, which was getting cosmic and staying up late, was listening to records that I ordinarily would never have listened to. I love house music, but equally as strong were the doors that opened up listening to Nick Drake records and cosmic records and psych records and Brazilian music. Pop records, when you were cosmically high, suddenly sounded momentous and majestic. So the radio show was a reflection of those days of staying up late as the city slept for days.”

So successful was his radio show, that an invitation was soon extended to him from label Mr Bongo to put together an album of deep cuts that helped alter his life. “E Sol Cultura is a name taken from Disco E Cultura, which is the little logo on the back of every Brazilian record, but we turned that into E Sol Cultura, because it was a word that we used in the late 80s in Manchester. It’s a compilation of this story where the late-night disenfranchised shared records together. That’s essentially what it was. And the first compilation came out last year and we’ve only scratched the surface, really.”

Luke Una Presents É Soul Cultura Vol​.​2 is released on 9 June via Mr Bongo. To begin reading his Baker’s Dozen, click the image below.

First Record

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