Welcome to Planet Luke: home to the raw artwork of
Lucas Hunter, aka Luca Lozano, is the man behind the Berlin-based imprint Klasse Recordings, a label known for its rough- and-ready approach to techno, house and other sounds from the underground.
He is also a producer and DJ, having put out releases on labels including Optimo Trax, Sex Tags UFO and Unknown to the Unknown. He runs Klasse with Mr Ho while overseeing their imprints Grafiti Tapes and Zodiac44. Crucially, he’s in charge of the graphic design for all three labels, creating artwork under the name Planet Luke.
At first glance, his output can appear crude: it’s a mish-mash of 90s acid house aesthetics, dot matrix printing vibes, janky Mickey Mouse-esque characters, non-slick typefaces, photocopier accidents and classic graffiti writing. However, as Hunter asserts, “A lot of the stuff I do is imperfect and it looks wrong and it looks unfinished and it looks naïve and it looks innocent, but I also spend a lot of time making it look like that.”
As a teenager, Hunter attempted to get a formal graphic design education at Norton College in his hometown of Sheffield. He quickly became disenchanted with how limiting the briefs were, and he’d dropped out after just nine months. He then moved to Cornwall to study photography at Falmouth College of Arts, which he did for seven years. “I’m not doing anything with photography whatsoever now,” he admits, “so that was, in a way, wasted.”
It wasn’t until he left the UK for Berlin in 2008 after a stint in London that he started to settle into his own skin, both as a musician and a designer. “With uprooting yourself and moving to a new country, there’s this period of re-adjusting and aligning yourself with certain things,” he tells me. “Looking back on it, I was kind of lost in something and I didn’t really know where I was going.”
Currently, a typical day for Hunter entails spending mornings at home creating artwork for forthcoming releases and
club night flyers. Around 2pm, he heads to the music studio he shares with Mr Ho, where he’ll spend the rest of the day experimenting with all manner of sounds. Music, of course, is an inspiration for his design. “The atmosphere of the music, or the impression of the music that’s given definitely affects me,” he says. “If I listen to some weird Memphis rap tape track that sounds really gnarly and fuzzy and under- produced, that personality of that sound affects my artwork somehow.”
One of Hunter’s biggest all-round influences is Ian MacKaye, the architect of Washington, DC’s 1980s hardcore
punk scene and the founder of Dischord Records as well as the bands Minor Threat and Fugazi. “I’m just a bit obsessed with him as a character and how strong he was with deciding to pursue the independent path,” Hunter says. He draws parallels between his own work and MacKaye’s DIY ethos, looking to the musician as a perfect measure of the sort of success he himself hopes to achieve, gained through years of creating music and not compromising on his vision or ideas. Hunter also sees a link between his art and punk’s rough visual language. “With recopying things, scanning things, giving things a bit of an analogue edge, you can definitely compare that to the punk thing.”
In founding Zodiac44, the all 12” vinyl label he co-runs with Johanna Knutsson, Hunter was determined to establish a recurring identity. Each record, by the likes of Cardopusher, DMX Krew and Hermans, features the label’s name written in a different loud typeface atop a sickeningly bright background colour with a distorted pattern and includes a sign of the zodiac. “I realised that all my favourite labels are the ones that keep it exactly the same for every release,” he explains. “If you look at a Trax release you know it’s a Trax release. If you look at a Strictly Rhythm release you know immediately it’s a Strictly Rhythm release.” By employing these specific visual devices, Hunter feels he’s able to channel the aural language of Zodiac’s techno output: noisy, weird and dark.
In contrast, his art for Klasse’s releases vary wildly. On his own recent trip-hop and broken beat-inspired Visions of Rhythm EP, made with Mr Ho, beady eyes peer out menacingly (or, is it sexily?) from atop the label’s name. For Phran’s electro house-tinged Bad Format EP, Hunter has drawn an unpolished, two-headed figure wearing a cap. Here, as on many other Klasse releases, track titles and other text appear to be degenerating in quality, having been copied and recopied ad infinitum. “Each time, I try and make something that resembles a weird record I’ll find for 50 cents in a record store,” he states. “You have all these regular labels and you’re so used to seeing some Detroit stuff, or some Chicago stuff, and then there’s these weird things that pop up in between made by people who have probably never made a record before. So with Klasse, I’m trying to emulate that in some way.”
A common thread running through all of Hunter’s designs is an interest in nontraditional typography, whether it resembles classic blackletter fonts, retro- futuristic pixelated 80s type, or juicy 70s bubble letters. There are a handful of typefaces he uses regularly, including the ever-popular Helvetica, which he likes because “it’s very easy to project ideas onto it; it’s such a boring, plain font.” He also researches type by digging around online as well as taking pictures of street signs and storefronts, which he’ll then adapt to his liking. “I try and use stuff that’s not so pre-packed and readily available,” he says, “stuff that’s not done by a designer, stuff that’s just done by a normal guy who wants to advertise that they’re selling ice cream for two euros, stuff that’s not intentional, it’s all accidental.”
This attention to typographic detail has also manifested in Hunter’s life by way of graffiti, which he got into in the early 90s when he was just 13. Though he doesn’t write much himself these days, he created Klasse’s Grafiti Tapes imprint as an attempt to stay involved in the scene. The cassette-only series sees him releasing tracks by graffiti writers who also create sleeve art. The first tape, put out in March 2014, featured a throwback-y electro track and imagery by Swedish artist Luke Eargoggle; it’s clear from its deep yellow sleeve and streetwise handstyles that Hunter seeks out kindred spirits for this pet project. He thinks the graffiti lifestyle imparted some crucial lessons about work ethic on him, too. “With what I’m doing now I’ve definitely taken a lot of influence from that, just in the kind of determination and pig- headedness,” he describes.
"I try and use fonts that aren’t done by a designer, stuff that’s just done by a normal guy who wants to advertise that they’re selling ice cream for two euros"
Hunter doesn’t care about achieving perfection, preferring to keep things moving constantly. By pushing new ideas both sonically and visually at all times, he’s ultimately able to be quite prolific. “As things are getting busier and more people are asking for work, I’m trying to complete stuff satisfactorily but also to be less precious about things.”
“I think that you can’t really force creativity,” Hunter argues. “When it’s good, it’s really quick. You can make a track in a day or a flyer in a couple of hours. That doesn’t mean it’s any less in comparison to things that have taken weeks. For me, when it comes naturally is when it comes fast – when you’re in the moment, just to wrap it up and then move on.”