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After 21 years of consistently punishing dance floors, Leko has now established his role as a leading electronic dance music producer. From the underground warehouse parties of the early 1990’s to sold-out clubs, raves, and festivals across the USA and around the world, he has earned a reputation for unblemished beat-matching skills, shrewd track selection, and the ability to meld all styles into an unmistakable, yet unique sound.
Leko crowds have grown to realize that his refusal to be pigeon-holed or handcuffed means no genre is off-limits. Classically trained in jazz percussion, and heavily influenced by the pioneers of disco, funk, rap, progressive, alternative rock, and industrial techno, his gift is blending the newest exclusive yet-to-be-released promos in genres that won’t be popular for another six months with cunning classic or obscure selections from the very depths of the deepest record crate in the business. Driven to stay unique and inventive, Leko’s focus is keeping his following off-guard and combining unexpected tracks, beats, and vocals that keep them curiously coming back for more. He quipps, “My arsenal is 50 years of great music. Every song has a distinctive vocal or bassline or drum break… all of these are magic bullets to wage war on your sensibilities.”
Electronic dance music first caught Leko’s attention in 1992 at Baltimore’s Club Orpheus. “We had just written some new tunes that we were really happy with, and wanted to play out. As a dance club, Orpheus wasn’t the most likely place for a rock band, but we knew their crowd had an open mind.” Leko, being a lifelong drummer, was naturally drawn to the DJ booth, where German industrial techno filled the gaps between his band’s sets. “The set up was incredibly simple. 2 Technics turntables, a Urei rotary mixer, hundreds of records, and limitless possibilities. I was hooked.”
Pondering how to introduce this tantalizing Underworld to the masses, Leko opened an under 21 dance club the following year and began gradually melding the sounds of two very different undergrounds. “Baltimore club music had already taken hold, and it was all the same speed as the industrial techno stuff I was into, like Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, and KMFDM. Naturally, we were mixing all that up with stuff like Miami bass and harder hip-hop like Luke, Beastie Boys, and 2 Live Crew.” Leko partnered with emerging 99.1 WHFS radio personality Zoltar, advertising the new style on his “Mutant Dance Party”. “It was a perfect fit. So much great new material was coming out, from Dust Brothers (now Chemical Brothers), Moby, and Future Sound of London, to Orbital, Ministry and Prodigy… it needed to be broken here, and we were going to do it.”
Leko’s popularity spread quickly once he hit the airwaves. 1998 saw Leko create the “Five O’clock Drive” mix show on OC104 (WOCQ FM) in the vacation destination Ocean City, Maryland. People returned to their cities across eastern USA infected by the sound, and demanding Leko travel to treat their affliction. On one such tour stop in Miami, Leko was approached by the underground 107.1 FM VybeRadio and his “Orion Spur Dance Party” mix show was born. Also streamed to thousands of subscribers around the world on www.1club.fm, the show gained immediate notoriety in the global dance community with weekly exclusive guest mixes from industry powerhouses like David Guetta, Chris Lake, Robbie Rivera, Starkillers, Chris Fortier, Judge Jules, Charles Feelgood, and Christopher Lawrence. Multiple radio stations scrambled for Leko to appear, from New York’s 90.3 FM (WHCR), Nashville’s 91.1 FM (WRVU), and Richmond’s 97.3 FM (WRIR), to international markets like Toronto, Canada’s Energy 105.1 FM (CHOQ) and Ekaterinberg, Russia’s 90.2 FM (Radio SK). Satellite radio wasn’t far behind, with Leko appearing regularly on both XM and Sirius Satellite Radio, as well as on Zoltar’s “The System”, broadcast globally on Worldspace Satellite Radio.
After appearing as a guest on the show, veteran funky techno and fidget house producer and label owner Bryan Cox asked Leko to remix the rave classic “Dominator” for his Crux Records imprint. The success of that remix vaulted Leko to the next level, where industry giant Sony Music picked up his “Conscious Mind” track for their global remix competition at www.AcidPlanet.com alongside Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, Black Eyed Peas, Chemical Brothers, Depeche Mode, Lenny Kravitz, De La Soul, New Order, and David Bowie. In addition to smashing the top 100 charts at Beatport.com, the Noel Sanger and Hy2RoGeN remixes of Leko’s “Conscious Mind” went on to repeated global airplay on Matt Darey’s “Nocturnal” radio show and heavy rotation on FM and satellite radio stations around the world.
The bar was set, and Leko had his sights on #1. He recalls, “The first #1 song is one I almost didn’t do. Mama Said Knock You Out was down around 100 BPM, which can be awkward when sped up enough for a house track. It worked out, though and people went crazy for it on the dance floor.” A staple at #1 in the fidget house chart at TrackItDown.net, “The Octopus – TKO (Leko Remix)” led to a series of other commercially released Leko remixes of top 40 dance artists, including Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, David Guetta, LMFAO, Beyonce, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, Timbaland, Dev, Kid Cudi, and Katy Perry.
Leko’s focus now is balancing a busy production schedule with the demands of running his multi-genre dance label Tharsis Records, while still finding time to tour internationally. He sums up his career as an artist quite simply… “I don’t try to define it. Music just makes me happy, and we gather up a few people along the way who feel the same. I think what keeps you coming back is never quite knowing what you’re going to hear, but knowing it will spark great memories and make you want to dance.”