Name: Steve Lawler
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Event: Steve Lawler brings his Warriors party back to Ibiza, with the White Isle’s newest club, Playa d’en Bossa’s Octan.
Recommendations: Wilderness - A book of Jim Morrison's writings / poetry, often simply seen as a hedonistic rock start, but underneath was a truly colourful message of hope and love and even desperation, he also sighted exactly how music was going to be now, and he wrote that in the 70’s!
A more recent thing is an album by one half of Groove Armada - Andy Cato, Times and places. This is a seriously underrated album which he just did for the pure love of music. A real artistic statement from a dance music legend.
If you enjoyed this interview with Steve Lawler, visit his excellent website, which has everything you ever wanted to know about him.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I Started DJ’ing in the early 90’s when I put on some illegal parties under the M42. It wasn’t just the music that drew me into the scene it was the comradery, the energy, the vibe, the atmosphere. It all blew me away so I had to get involved.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
The first DJ I followed and literally around the country, was Sasha, then later on it was Tenaglia, so I guess this is where my style was formed, not by copying, but by being inspired, I think I took the music inspiration more from Tenaglia and the Mixing from Sasha, and voila, my style was born. It was a natural thing as long as you do what you love and stick to it, which I have done my whole career.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
Its very different now, back then I had to make mix tapes and send them around the country to promoters, hope they would take the time and listen and give an unknown DJ a shot. Put it like this, out of 50 tapes sent, I would perhaps get one opening slot booking. It was a much harder and longer process back then, but im happy with that as it formed and shapped me into a better DJ and a better person.
Now you need a couple of hit records and playing for a “cool” brand. Along with always being on social media. viola. done. Easy peasy.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ?
We perform the soundtrack to peoples lives, and I personally take great pleasure in being a significant part of culture.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first set up was 2 decks and a mixer and they weren’t even belt driven decks, they were cheap shity things. Technology evolves, you evolve with it, or become a dinosaur
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Humans bring the spirit, bring the feeling, the musical programming, the essence of building a set, this is human. The rest technology takes care of now.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Everyday is different, I get up and decide there and then depending on how I feel, for me being creative isn't on a clock. It's when it pleases, and sometimes that doesnt fit your schedule. The busier you are, the less creative you can be. Trust me.
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
I go through promos and demos weekly, I spend hours and hours listening to music putting a crate together on my rekordbox the day of a gig, and its usually in my flight and hotel times.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Escapism, a place for music and dancing is not a place for stress or anxiety. I literally sink myself into the music and nothing else matters. me, the music and the crowd. It's my happy space.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
There are definitely cases when you play 2 tracks together and they create this amazing thing on its own, you remember it and do it often. But I think planning a set out is dangerous as crowds, places, views, scenes are different and I like to take it all in before I decide where to go musically, or how I start.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
It's both, there is a lot of planning and a lot of improvisation. But the main thing is know your music, know the tracks you are going to play. So it becomes an instant auto pilot when you play tracks, you know where to mix it, where to mess with it. You know it.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
Trust your ears, after playing in thousands of clubs and festivals, I know how music translates onto big speakers or big rooms or small rooms. I guess this is where experience plays a big role
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
In all honesty I'm like a tortured artist, I know (and this is going to sound very arrogant) but I know I'm one of the best, I know that whole heartedly. But I also kill myself all the time to give more, to do more, to be more. It's a tortured life to live.
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
Haha yes it could, and sometimes it feels like it does! When you play and after party for 6 hours, then another after after party for 8 hours, then another for 5 etc ...
For me a perfect set time is 5 hours - enough time to tell your story.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My approach is providing a sound track to our culture, expressing not only how we feel, but also how people want to indulge and want to release. Music evolves along with technology but also along with fashion and how we as people need to manoeuvre around the times we live in. Music has always served a purpose of escape. It did in the 60’s 70’s 80’s 90’s and it does now. We are a result of a repression period. They say don't. We say DO.