"The most reliable hitmaker in the music business today." - Rolling Stone
"In an age when our musical tastes are famously fractured and our listening habits supposedly unfathomable, Dr. Luke produces pop songs that millions of people embrace and that no one can escape." - New York Magazine
"An unstoppable force. His discography is pop writ large." - Village Voice
In a standard bio, this line is where all the overblown accolades and hype would go to get you interested and excited about an artist. With 39 year-old songwriter/producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald), hyperbole is wholly unnecessary.
The facts speak for themselves:
-A staggering 30 #1 songs in the past nine years -Billboard Producer of the Year and Songwriter of the Year for 2010 -17 ASCAP Pop Awards, including Songwriter of the Year in 2010 + 2011 -Top 10 spot on Billboard's Producers of the Decade. -Owner and founder of Prescription Songs- ASCAP Indie Publisher of the Year2012 -Billboard 40 under 40 - 2011, 2012, 2013
He made history as co-executive producer, producer, and songwriter on Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream", which set many records, finally achieving a historic 8 #1 singles (of which the Dr. penned seven), beating the longstanding, global record of 5 #1 singles held by Michael Jackson for "Thriller." He recently co-wrote and produced Katy's first single "Roar," from her album Prism, which he serves as co-executive producer. The song is already setting records.
The end of 2011 saw Doug Morris tap Luke as an integral part of his new Sony team, bringing Luke and his label, Kemosabe Records, into the Sony fold in a landmark, highly precedent setting deal written up in many financial papers including The Wall Street Journal. Home to Ke$ha, Bonnie McKee, Juicy J, Becky G and G.R.L , the label, which began operations in January 2012, finds Luke overseeing a label that has grown organically based on targeted signings rather than a widespread, sign-everyone-and-see-what-happens approach.
Most importantly we can accredit Luke to his continuing nonstop litany of the country's most popular and ubiquitous songs - Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," "Teenage Dream," "California Gurls," "E.T", "Last Friday Night," "Part of Me," "Wide Awake", and "The One That Got Away," Rihanna's "Where Have You Been?," Britney's "Hold it Against Me" and "Circus," Ke$ha's "Tik Tok," "Die Young", "We R Who We R," and "Blow," Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" "Right Round," Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A.," Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" and so many more - that have dominated contemporary music the world over.
In short, Dr. Luke's combination of hip-hop, danceable pop, and catchy, anthemic hooks has defined this decade's pop musical landscape. As the producer continues to rack up #1 hits quicker than most of his competitors can think up a chorus, Gottwald has quietly been building a mini-empire to rival the majors.
It's a long way from where Luke started. "Growing up, I never even knew you could do what I do right now as a job," admits Gottwald. "I had no idea you could be a songwriter or producer."
As a teenager, the rebellious musician was kicked out of a number of schools, but always retained his passion for playing guitar and drums. Starting out, the fledgling producer made his living as a guitar player, appearing on countless commercials, jingles and as session man for other artists. "Wherever I could get paid to play guitar," says Luke when asked where he would play. It was during these sessions that the producer/songwriter side came out in earnest. "It was when I started playing for other songwriters that I realized I had ideas about the song that I couldn't express as just the session guitarist."
After getting into the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, a strange connection led to his next career move. "I got a call from my weed dealer in 1997," Luke says, laughing. "He knew a guy that was helping 'Saturday Night Live' find people to audition for their house band. I beat out about 80 or 90 people and got the lead guitarist gig."
While performing each week with SNL (he would keep the day job until 2007), the versatile musician continued his session work and started producing hip-hop beats for influential underground label Rawkus Records. (Crate-diggers still check for Luke's remixes of Mos Def's "Body Rock" and the Zack de la Rocha/KRS-One collaboration "The Last Emperor.") At the same time, Luke met Liquid Todd, an electronic DJ who turned him on to dance music and club deejaying.
"I would be out deejaying at a club and mix my own music into my sets so I could see what was working and what wasn't," says Luke on his transition from beatmaker to songwriter. "You quickly realize that if people act intuitively and think they know the song, then it's good. One day, it occurred to me: instead of getting your music out to 5,000 people, how about reaching as many people as you can? I just decided, 'Fuck it, I want to reach millions of people.'" A new rung on the ladder was created.
Cut to 2004 and Luke is in the studio with uber-producer Max Martin (Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears) composing what will become the biggest song of the year: Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone". The track became a worldwide hit, earning the #1 spot on multiple U.S. charts and garnering a place on numerous "Best of the Decade" lists (Pitchfork called it a "perfectly realized sing-along chorus.") Since then, Dr. Luke has been music's preeminent producer; a musical Midas who can create superstars (including Ke$ha, who the producer discovered when she was 17, and Katy Perry, who only hit superstar status upon working with Luke) and ensure that any track with his imprimatur is destined to be stuck in your head for weeks.
While Dr. Luke is far from abdicating his songwriting throne, his success has propelled him to delve into other, more business-related, aspects of the industry. The producer currently oversees Kemosabe Records, publishing company Prescription Songs, a production company and his latest venture Kemosabe Kids, a children's label that recently handled production and distribution for The Smurfs 2 soundtrack featuring Britney Spears, Nelly Furtado and Becky G. Luke also executive produced the MTV series "Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life" which was just picked up for a second season.
"I follow my own compass, but I want to write songs that reach the most people, make them feel good and spread joy," says Luke. "I want each song to be the Song of the Summer that people remember for the rest of their lives. I want to create moments in time."
Many people have written a number one song. Some have written two. A handful has written three. Then there are artists like Dr. Luke who reside in the upper echelon of music production. For Luke, what's coming up is exponentially more important than what's in the past. "I get panic attacks when I'm number one. There's nowhere to go after that," admits the producer. "Every time I have a hit, I just think, 'What am I going to do next?' What's happening right now is based on what I get done today. The charts are history and you're only as good as your last song. Sure, I get excited when one of my songs goes to number one, but I'm more interested in lining up more number ones behind it."