Steve Lawler Interview

by Clubplanet
10.07.2005

-By Mira Rashidzada

lawler 1.jpg
Steve Lawler has come a long way from his "tunnel" days, when he stirred up local UK buzz by putting on underground parties, literally, in an unused tunnel.

He's one of the world's most in-demand DJs. His sets are legendary. He's the force behind the compilation series Dark Drums 1 and 2, Home, and Lights Out 1, 2 & now 3.

And, like any good Celebrity DJ, of course he has a few record labels - Harlem Records, Harlem Trax and Harlem Electric, each with distinct and defining with music from artists such as Mark Knight, Cutlab, Sal Basile, Dirty German, and Stu Hirst.

Steve's international fan base awaits the release of Lights Out 3 along with a 15-date North American tour that starts Thursday (DATE) in Seattle, Washington. On the phone from Ibiza, where he just won an Ibiza DJ Award for “Best Tech-House/Progressive DJ” for the third consecutive year - Steve gave Clubplanet this 1:1.

How has your summer been in Ibiza?

Fantastic. I love living here. It's a very beautiful place to live for four months. It's my second home.

After experiencing underground warehouse parties in the UK, at the age of 17 you decided to put on your own parties in an unused tunnel under the M42 from 1990-1994. What inspired you to do this?

Well, the main reason, is I was too young to play in clubs when I first started. I was 17. I had this whole collection of music and I really wanted to play it out in front of people. We used to hang out in these fields and camp and stuff together as kids.

We started this place that was the ultra private party. It was a huge success. We had a great time. It was a free party - we never made any money from it and it actually grew into quite a huge thing. By the fourth, fifth party, we had like 500-600 people showing up. From there - it actually got me gigs working in the cities that I lived in. Club promoters were hearing about this proper, wicked like illegal party. Big heads turned up to these parties and it became very popular, very quickly. (Laughs.) How raw that was - something a promoter would pitch. It was quite surreal.

Who, or what, are your influences as a DJ?

My experiences - more about feelings and thoughts. Musically - I guess my biggest inspiration is being Depeche Mode and The Doors. The Doors is, for me, some of the most magical music ever made. You can really feel that Jim Morrison was singing these songs from his heart - he meant it when he sang it. I love that music. The kind of sound The Doors make in their music was like the last in this world of wonders. I love that sort of edge that the music gave, the atmosphere that it created. That had been a big influence on me - a big inspiration.

Depeche Mode - I don't know why I liked their music, but I just did. I was collecting Depeche Mode records when I was 14. But now I look back, I realize that Depeche Mode is actually quite dark. Their lyrics are quite dark, their songs are quite dark. I think I'm just turned to a deeper, more meaningful music than pop for instance. I need something that means something, has got depth to it. I think music should be an expression - it shouldn't just be music for money, it should be music that means something. As far as a DJ is concerned, one DJ who I've always hugely looked up to because of his dedication and his passion - he does what he does because he absolutely loves it and he really does it for the people, for the crowd - Danny Tenaglia.

CDs or vinyl or both?

CDs.

Describe a set by DJ Steve Lawler:

The most important thing for me is to get a vibe in the room. I need the room to be dark and sweaty and I want to get it vibed up. When I get people to the point of where they just about to explode - they are gagging for it and I give it to them. Programming your music is really important. It's important how people receive the music.

Deep, dark, sexy - I want people to be lost in the music. I want people to just forget - leave their baggage at the door, forget about the problems, forget about looking cool - forget all that shit. Just get into the music and let yourself go. Enjoy yourself the way music is supposed to be enjoyed. Have a good time and let all your worries go and just get involved. I don't like music to be so obvious and full on - with no meaning to it. Music has got to be nice and mean something.

What's in your ideal DJ booth?

4 CDJs, 2 Pioneer EFX 1000s, Pioneer DJM 1000 mixer, one 1210 turntable, some great speakers and bass bins, racking for my CDs and records if I have any occasionally; a mini bar (laughs) with a bottle of vodka and a bottle of champagne and lots of water, Coke and lemonade.

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Favorite venue/party ever:

I don't feel that there is actually one, but one sticks to mind. Last year I played Creamfields in Argentina and there was like 15,000 people in the main room which I was playing in. I had the main slot there so it was a fantastic gig for me. The Argentinean crowd is without doubt the best in the world - they go crazy. The atmosphere in this arena was sick - it was just unbelievable. It was an amazing gig.

How about your favorite current party?

My favorite party is my own Harlem Nights. I'm not being bias towards it but Harlem Nights has grown organically over the last four years and what it's created is a regular crowd. 1000 people in that room - it's packed. They all kind of know each other - it's all the same faces, they all come every month. As soon as they step into that room - they're all having a good time 'cus they all know each other. They're all saying hi, what's happening? There's such a great vibe in there - it's an amazing party.

What are your thoughts on New York City's club scene?

I think New York City took a dip for a while to be honest. The last time I played there in June, I was really happy. You could kind of feel that New York is getting itself back on track again. I could feel that in New York. When I used to do Twilo - New York was special. Growing up as a young DJ, it was always my dream to play in New York. I was a big collector of very old Junior Vasquez records, Danny Tenaglia records. A lot of my sort of heroes when I was 18/19 came from New York. Twilo was amazing - I had a great residency there. I loved it!

To be honest, it kind of took a little bit of a dip and it was a shame - clubs were getting hassled from the police and negative things were kind of going on. It didn't feel really nice. When Twilo closed - that was a big wound for everybody, including myself. It's kind of back on track and there are things happening - it's good.

You have toured North and South America, South Africa, Australia, Asia and Eastern Europe. What do you think about the global club scene?

I love it - it's amazing. No matter where you go in the world - once you're in the club and you're playing the music to the people that enjoy themselves - you could be anywhere. It's not about the country - it's about the people. People are the same. They come from different backgrounds and they have different issues to deal with - but when people are in a club, it's the same. It's so refreshing
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