The DJ: More Than Just Sex, Drugs, and Vinyl

The DJ: More Than Just Sex, Drugs, and Vinyl

by Clubplanet
09.01.2005

-By Mike Gehrig

The DJ. At four in the morning he's a god. Worshiped by thousands, he's the pulse and soul of every party. But what's he really thinking when he's up there in that booth? Is he above it all? Where did he come from? How did he get started?

To get an insider's view of the world of the DJ, we asked all this, and much, much more, to superstar DJ Lee Burridge.


He's been spinning at clubs across the globe, venues like New York’s Spirit, Zouk in Singapore, and Space in Ibiza. With his 365 project, during the span of a single year, he's a monthly resident in seven different cities across the planet. He'll headline San Francisco's Loveparade with Paul Van Dyk. In short, he's everywhere.

From his roots in a tiny English town playing at his family’s bar, to the weekend-long hedonistic parties in Hong Kong, Burridge has become the clubber’s DJ.

He's as vibrant as DJs come, known for slapping high-fives while never missing a beat behind the decks. And of course he's known for those "where the hell did he find this track" moments that make clubbing so special.

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After 20 years of DJing, let Lee Burridge take you by the hand and show you this insider's world that only few know so well. Although his jet-setting ways and busy schedule make him tough to pin down, we managed to catch up with Lee (well, actually we had to strap him into a seat on an airplane) and get his thoughts on everything from, well just about everything.

In a shockingly candid interview, Lee Burridge tells all.

When you DJ, you seem to enjoy yourself as much as the crowd you're entertaining. Talk about your connection with the crowd and what it's like when you play.

Why do so many DJs look like they aren't having a good time? It's like they're made out of cardboard. This music is amazing. This job isn't a job. We can stay up late and even if you're a butt-ugly DJ, girls seem to pay attention to you. I guess that going out and dancing to music has always been a lot of fun for me and I find it very difficult to stand still when there's a track playing that I like, and I like all the tracks I play!

Even when I should be standing still, say, for instance, when the needle is bouncing out of the groove and due to an unfathomable connection that the floorboards I am standing on have with the time I was injured due to excessive snowboarding, I can't stand still for more than five minutes.

In my head I'm saying "Ok, spine and knees are really hurting... every time I start jiggling around it's painful... stand still... still... still..." but I start mixing and it starts in my foot and the tapping foot becomes the stupid thing I do with my hand during a particularly excellent part of the song and all of a sudden the needle jumps.

I really lose my mind a little while playing which is probably the reason some of the DJ dance moves are questionable to say the least. I really believe that if I'm having a good time it affects people around me, the same as how people with good energy around me affect me.

It's a trade off. I've played clubs that are full but there's been no vibe and it makes me feel different. It doesn't stop me trying my hardest to create a vibe, but a lack of energy or feeling for the music is apparent sometimes, and I think if I put out that feeling it's noticeable.

Talk about your early experiences as a DJ. We've heard a few interesting stories (such as DJing at funerals), but how did you get started and how did you get into the scene?

Back in 1985 I lived in a really quiet part of the UK called Dorset. It's in the South West of England and is beautiful, but as a teenager without a girlfriend, it's a pretty dull place. I actually lived in a bar that my parents ran in a village of around 50 people.

I think the average age for the residents was around 105 years old so chances of getting a girlfriend were slim apart from during the summer when the campsites filled up and the place was teeming with tourists.

My Dad had always encouraged me to do things (DJing being one of them ((thanks Dad!!)) and offered to help me out getting stuff together for playing music in the Bar...FREE LABOUR! I'd always really been into music and on December 26th, 1985 did my first disco.

I loved it and really wanted to play again but being the depths of winter and not owning much pre-war music for the old villagers who I guess wouldn't have rocked to the sounds of the Pet Shop Boys, The Cure or New Order I either had to wait for the campsites to open up for business again or start up a business as a mobile DJ. So Cutz disco was born.

I started traveling around and playing birthdays, weddings and as you mentioned above, the odd funeral (the after party, opposed to graveside). My whole mobile disco used to fit inside my first and worst car I ever owned, which was a Fiat 128. If you don't know what that looks like, imagine an oblong with a square on top and some wheels. Pretty sh*t really, but as I said the speakers, decks, lights, records etc. all fitted inside!

I played in and around my local area for ages 4 - 105 and at the time I thought the small black (or red on occasion) leather bow tie, flecked suit, white wing collared shirt finished off with mirrored sunglasses was a very stylish outfit to DJ in.... someone call the fashion police...but there again the DJ back then was just the guy who stood in the corner announcing the latest hits of the charts. You would think the ladies would have flocked to such a young trendsetter but I don't think the DJ groupie was around then either.

Talk about the first time that you played at a club.

I'd been playing records during the summer at a holiday resort and the guy working on the door also worked at the local club, Scruples, which went on later to become De'vinchies. Wow, clubs used to have such cool names in the 80's hahahahahaha... anyway, he got me a trial Saturday night (thrown straight into the deep end) and it went OK.

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I played chart music and some reggae and rock and got a regular night. I was given some advice to record myself as apparently I had to work on my voice. I listened and was horrified at how I sounded. I had the worst accent ever! I didn't realize how I sounded, but with a little work, I managed to sound OK.

It seems funny now to think of speaking on the microphone as much as I did (especially as dance music doesn't seem to encourage many DJs to speak nowadays) but I used to have a lot of fun, mostly abusing people's dancing techniques and asking the owner of the brown Ford Mustang to move it as he was blocking someone else in (that's not really true!)

There was another club in the area called 'The Palace' which at the time was THE place I wanted to play in. This sounds funny now but it had a laser. It had a whole show built around a track called 'Underwater' by Harry Trueman, it had a guy doing the lights (in Scruples I had to DJ and do the lights!) and had a DJ called Wayne Ridout who mixed. Yes folks, mixed records together! It was pretty much a new experience for me to see a guy playing 12" records and joining them together neatly without talking over the top. I had tried to mix but without anyone explaining the idea to me I didn't really have much of a clue.

Anyway, I took along a demo tape (ahhh the good old days) and was told if anything came up they would call me. "Don't call us, we'
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