When Leo Pol decided to dedicate his life to music, he did so knowing it would cause problems with his family. Though his parents were both music lovers, his father was adamant that his son should commit to formal education. At first Leo attempted to study law, but left the course after three weeks. Then he tried his hand at art, before moving to Berlin to study there. In the end, though, music was what he really wanted to do, and he took himself out of the education system. It was a decision that led to a family rift. “My father wanted me to study – we didn’t speak for a long, long time,” he tells Mixmag. “The funny thing is, none of my siblings have taken a formal path either – my sister is a singer and producer, one of my younger brothers is a skater and the other one is a stand-up comedian.”
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Playing drums in punk bands as a teenager, Leo initially discovered electronic music through a friend who passed him a copy of Ableton. His initial sonic experiments were electronic interpretations of punk, but as time went on and he started to dip his toes into Paris’s club scene, Leo began to explore house and techno. Leaving home at 16, he got a job and began to work towards achieving his dream, knowing that it would be a long-term process. While working in retail he used all his spare cash to buy studio equipment, while also learning how to make tunes, collecting records and refining his sound. When he finally reached the point where he could leave his job and immerse himself in music full-time, he ended up suffering from depression. Isolated in his studio and alone on the road most of the time, he rarely socialised and found the shift away from seeing friends very difficult. “I’m not that close to family, but I’m rarely alone because I love to be with friends, so it was very hard to be isolated,” he tells us.
Finding balance as a touring musician is still something he battles with today – especially as a live performer. Transporting 20kg of equipment is physically demanding, as well as unpacking and repacking it all at airport security, then having to go straight to the club to do a soundcheck. There’s little time to chill, but Leo enjoys the challenge and wouldn’t have it any other way.
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One of his very first gigs was in 2011 at Paris’s 16th century Church of St Eustache. Since then he has performed around Europe, showcasing his ability to traverse the full spectrum of house and techno, from soulful atmospherics and the deeper basement sound to chunky 909-driven Detroit-inspired sounds – all of which has earned him a sterling reputation with releases on his own IILE label, plus Bass Culture and Concrete, and Denis Sulta calling him “the next big thing in European dance music” after booking him for his Printworks takeover at the tail end of 2019.
The long-term plan is working out well, with an increasing number of gigs and respect among his peers and elders, too, but the work is only just beginning. “I’ve reached the first step, but now I’ve got to get to the second step, which is even harder,” he says. “It’s going to be a lot, a lot, a lot of work!”
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