HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


Damian Lazarus Interview

I realised some time ago that it would be quite easy for me to make a phone call to a number of shit hot producers or engineers, organise some studio time, go in with some great creative ideas, and come out a couple of days later with a hot record, but it strikes me that that would be a little bit too easy, and a little bit too fake, and a little bit of a kick in the balls for the people around me who have spent most of their lives focusing solely on production and engineering.

Describing himself as a DJ first and A&R / label chief second, Crosstown Rebels chief Damian Lazarus is adamant about not producing.

I find it quite annoying when a great producer decides that he or she can go out and make a bigger name for themselves by going out and DJing to support their production work, because I feel that I spent a lot of years trying to be a successful DJ, and for someone to come along and just make one big record and start taking gigs that I could potentially be doing, I find that quite annoying, he explains.

So on the flip side, for me to push myself as a producer when I don't actually sit in front of a computer day in and day out, or in a studio day in and day out, I think would be quite unfair, so I've decided not to do it. Although saying that, I have been in studios and played around and come you with some ideas, but more as a hobby thing. I prefer to see myself as an executive producer, where I am overseeing projects and helping people creatively and directing stuff from afar.

Another project he's recently overseen is Bugged Out's latest compilation Suck My Deck, which he says has been quite different from his recent Crosstown Rebels mixes.

It offered me an opportunity to do something quite different, something that was a lot more underground, where I didn't have to think too much 'what are people going to like' , he admits.

This is strictly about me, it's what I'm playing and where my head's at right now. I'd just come off the back of doing 'Rebel Futurism 2' and I've kind of got a formula going with the Futurism series now, so that's slightly easier, and I think that this album offered me the opportunity to go deeper and darker, a little bit more late night.


Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff) : The track that really surprised me on the compilation was The Stranglers' rarity Love 303, why did you include that?

Damian Lazarus : It's a track that was on the B side of "Golden Brown", and "Golden Brown" has been one of the favourites in the house for many, many years and at a very young age, I fell in love with the B side. It's one of those records that I've always wanted to play out, and never found the opportunity. I thought maybe if I put it on this album, it might give me the opportunity to put it in a set one night.

Skrufff : Have you done that yet?

Damian : No. Not yet. I'm still waiting for the right moment, but summer is upon us.

Skrufff : You're playing DC10 in Ibiza a few times this summer, are you now a resident there?

Damian : It's an odd one with DC10. They've had their 'residents' ; inverted commas, for many years, and they tend not to add or detract from that list. However, I've been playing for them for three years now, and the deal is that they kindly offered me the opportunity to play whenever I liked, so at the beginning of the season I gave them a list of dates that I would like to do, and we've taken it from there. So this year, I'm actually going to be playing, with the exception of July; twice a month. I guess I'm considered a resident by the punters because I'm there quite often, and I tend to play a similar time slot each time as well as only inside, so I'm quite well known for playing there, but this year I'm also playing at Space a couple of times.

Skrufff : How important is Ibiza for you these days?

Damian : I've been going for some time now, but from a label perspective in terms of it being consistent place to be and an important place for our records to build, it's been about three or four years. There was a moment in 2001 I think, when I put together the Thin White Duke mix of Felix The Housecat's 'Silver Screen' when that I realised the real power of Ibiza and especially a club like DC10. We gave a couple of characters that record first, and to feel the energy of that being played as a last record out on the Terrace was pretty special. It showed me that actually Ibiza does have a lot to say for what's going to happen in dance music for the rest of the year and on into next year. So Ibiza is a very important place, for me personally and for the business because there's so much new energy flowing there at the moment. There's only a couple of clubs that I'm speaking about specifically, but it's pretty special place.

Damian Lazarus Interview

Skrufff : The last time I saw you was at Manumission last year...

Damian : Yes, I'd popped in to support a friend who was doing a party there. I think the clubs that are important for me there are DC10, Cocoon and Space. They are definitely the more forward thinking places and I think the music that I'm playing and that we are doing as a label, and music that you'll hear on the Suck My Deck is definitely being heard at those places right now.

Skrufff : What do you make of the island musically? Do you think it's set for embracing that sound wider?

Damian : Yeah. I was on the phone earlier to the manager of Babyshambles, and apparently they are playing at Manumission this summer. I think there's a lot of new ideas being thrown around on the island and some things will stick and others won't, but one thing's for certain; this techno / electro / house sound is really getting a firm grip in Ibiza. As this music grows it's definitely seeping out of the underground and a lot of it into the more mainstream clubs.

Skrufff : I guess by not producing you're taking a longer route for developing your DJing?

Damian : Absolutely. Many years ago, quite a well-known DJ said to me You're never going to make it as a big name DJ unless you've got a track out there that everyone else is playing'. I thought about that and I thought that doesn't say much for the art or skill of being a DJ. That really made me aware that it was going to be a longer road to get to where I could potentially go to as a DJ but I thought it would be much more rewarding if I could get there without having to put my name to a track that I may not necessarily deserve to reap the benefits from.

Of course I think it's really valuable experience to actually be in a studio to see how the whole process works, but like I say, I run a record label and I spend all week working with artists and looking for artists and trying to help develop artists, from the perspective of someone who loves the music and is totally immersed in the music, as well as from a business perspective.

I think I'm in a very strong position right now, because I'm not producing, I'm not in competition with releases with my artists, I'm actually going out there, totally supporting them, playing their records, reporting back to them, helping them develop into the next project, then releasing it on the label without my name being attached to it. There have been times in my life when I thought: do I want the limelight? How much of this is an ego thing? At the end of the day, I absolutely love what I do, I'm in it for the right reasons, and I think if I started putting my name to remixes or releases, it would maybe confuse the issue and confuse the people I work with, and I don't think that's where I want to go. However, I should point out at the end of this question, it's always been my ultimate dream to actually be responsible for making an album. I think anyone that's into music ultimately wants to do that. I think that's why I've been so busy working on mix CDs recently because that's my way of producing creatively, but still using other people's music."

Skrufff : As a DJ, are you embracing Ableton and ditching vinyl?

Damian : No, I'm never ditching vinyl. Obviously I embrace all forms of new technology, and I'm intrigued by Ableton, and I will look at it and play around with things, but essentially I'm a bit of a vinyl junkie. Regardless of how fucked up my back has been getting from shuffling my records half way around the world, that's part and parcel of what I do. I don't really want to be seen by an audience checking my emails onstage.

Skrufff : Do you see yourself still DJing at 70, ideally?

Damian : I was having this conversation with somebody the other day, actually. No I don't, but however, there are people that are out there already who are already just the other side of 50 years old. There are real icons, and people that should be applauded for still going out there, people like Francois Kervorkian, for example, the late John Peel. Music is always going to be in my life, though whether I'm still going out to play a set at Fabric at that age is yet to be seen. I think it's unlikely, but that's not to say that I'm not going to be involved with this for the long term and the long haul. At the moment I'm fortunately - touch wood, young enough to not have to worry about it just yet.

End of the interview

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