Having cut his teeth as music editor on style bible Dazed and Confused before going into A&R with London Records and City Rockers and bringing many a classic record into the public realm, Damian Lazarus continued to burn himself into the public imagination as a risk taking DJ and label boss at the Crosstown Rebels hit factory.
Not content with all of that, he then went on to become a producer in his own right with a live show that stunned revelers worldwide. Throw in hosting an influential podcast and releasing a plethora of acclaimed mix cds and a picture starts to emerge of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.
Ahead of his set at the Eastern Electrics festival, R$N caught up with the polymath himself, Mr Damian Lazarus to chew the fat on everything from his label to modern politics via a love of animals and David Bowie.
R$N: Label. We’re really looking forward to seeing Amarali play live at the Eastern Electrics festival, having really enjoyed his album on Crosstown Rebels. What releases/new signings are lined up for the near future on the label?
DL: After Amirali's amazing album drops we will be releasing the brand new artist album by Jamie Jones, that will be followed by Fur Coat's debut album and a brand new solo album from Ali Love. Then we have a couple of compilations to round off the year, including Get Lost 5 and another hush hush project, which will blow people away. This summer we will also celebrate our 100th single on Crosstown with something very special indeed from one of my favorite people in electronic music. You should also look out for new music from Walker & Royce, Francesca Lombardo, Bushwacka (Just Be), Quenum, Sis and Infinity Ink, amongst others.
R$N: Weird music. You’re into it, so are we. What’s the most avant garde piece of music you’ve recently slipped into a set and how did it go down with the crowd?
DL: I played Bowie's "Space Oddity" during the beginning of the solar eclipse at the Symbiosis Festival in Pyramid Lake, Nevada the other week.
R$N: Politics. The last time the UK went through similar political turbulence, under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, we had an explosion of expression that led to some really great music and the development of new, vibrant cultural scenes. Being a label owner and DJ, and getting so much new music sent to you as a result, are you noticing a sea change that reflects the dark economic days we’re in?
DL: Not yet, but once the people take to the streets, the producers will no doubt hit the studio.
R$N: Lazpod. Just listening to your May lazpod, excellent, eclectic stuff. Screamin Jay Hawkins up against Dilla, The Bee Gees, Four Tet and Jai Paul. It’s nice to hear a set so free of genre restrictions. With all of your experience as a journalist, A&R, DJ, producer and label owner, do you think that genre’s are adhered to too heavily, both in terms of audience expectation and artistic expression, and potentially end up being restrictive to people’s imaginations?
DL: Yes but it's understandable that there is not as much freedom of expression on the dancefloor as there is on a Lazpod; people need to keep flowing as much as possible when they're dancing; it takes a real musical genius to prevent disruption on the floor at night.
R$N: Production. What can we look forward to in the future in regard to your own productions, anything lined up? Also, what is your favourite piece of music making machinery?
DL: I have some dates lined up for the studio this summer. There is no rush for my next productions but I am starting to get organised.
R$N: Disco. Donna Summer, godfather of GoGo Chuck Brown and the last remaining Bee Gee have all recently died, bringing disco briefly back into the eye of the mainstream press, and with it the usual nonsense about white suits and studio 54. What does disco mean to you personally?
DL: Good times, Nile Rodgers and hot bodies.
R$N: Humour. You’re quite well known for having a sense of humour - your recent Macchu Picchu video a case in point! - in an industry that sometimes lacks it. Would you agree that a sense of playfulness is important in music?
DL: Laugh and the world laughs with you, hopefully not at you!
R$N: Animals. You’ve got four cats at home and also a dog that you take on tour with you. I read on your website that you recently had a soulful experience involving a group of snow monkeys in Japan, and you also volunteer in an animal sanctuary. Can we expect to see you opening up a safari park in the future? The ‘Lazoo’, maybe?
DL: Like it. You got me thinking...
R$N: Jubilympics. The Olympics are coming to London, have you heard? Obviously the event’s going to be dwarfed by the Eastern Electrics festival,but we thought we’d ask everyone playing to answer a couple of inter related questions, because, let’s face it, the Olympics need the exposure! If you weren't a DJ and you became a professional sportsman instead what would your sport be?
DL: Do they still do egg and spoon?
R$N: We are all potential gold medal winners, if you had to invent a new sport at the Olympics that you would be champion at, what would it be?
DL: Best Excorcism
Damian Lazarus plays the Main Stage at the Eastern Electrics festival on 4th August.
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