In the moment
Tim Love Lee's Tummy Touch label has influence that has been described as “far in excess of it’s tiny size”. His selector skills have been utilised by the great and the good of the film, television and advertising world. Lee has curated music for a range of projects from a Cohen brothers' film to several TV series, campaigns for VW, Gordon's Gin and Hewlett Packard, he's had shows with KISS FM, BBC and releases on Universal Records and Ministry of Sound. Considered as one of the pioneers of electronic dance music, the British DJ's latest project sees him team up with musical polymath Shawn Lee to play around with the rarefied rhythms of KPM 1000 series LP recordings of bassist Herbie Flowers and drummer Barry Morgan. Fans of Lee's eccentric and unpredictable style will not be disappointed with the new album titled New York Trouble / Electric Progression, out next week on the Tummy Touch label.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I dabbled a bit when I was 17 & 18 years old but didn’t start calling my self a DJ till I went to college in Nottingham at 19 and bought a pair of crappy turntables with my first grant cheque. Early influences were the illegal parties put on by the Tone Def Krew around Cambridge in the mid 80s – featuring none other that Harvey and Choci who of course both went on to be pretty well known.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic career?
There’s a couple – finding out there was a music degree I could apply to without any formal music training, and being forced to go off the dole.
What are currently your main challenges as a DJ? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
My biggest challenge these days is the late nights! I’m 44 and it takes me days to recover from staying up past midnight. Not very rock and roll. I still really enjoy it though. It’s amazing how much you can influence the feeling in a room with music. I know it sounds cheesy but taking people on a musical journey is still a big thrill for me, and I think I may even be getting better at it.
What do you usually start with when preparing for a set?
32 years of record collecting and 28 years of DJing. Not much more preparation needed after that. I do have to double check that I’ve not forgotten my headphones though.
How important is building a real relationship with the music you're playing for your own approach ? In how far, with regards to the overwhelming quantity of music available, is it actually still possible to build meaningful long-term relationships with a particular track or album at all? What, other than subjectivity, are your criteria for selecting what to play at a gig?
It is definitely harder for me to find the time to really get to know a new album, but it still happens and it’s still very important to me. I have a weekly DJ gig and a weekly radio show so it’s easy for me to have a bunch of favourite new tracks, actually easier than when I was jetting around the world doing one off gigs. I have no criteria other than what’s happening in the room at the time. I play with vinyl and CD these days so it’s pretty easy to have a very broad selection of music with me. I wouldn’t want to have too much music though, so I don’t like to use Serato etc.
When there's more music than one can possibly take in, it is becoming increasingly hard to know what constitutes an original and a remake anymore. What's your opinion on the importance of roots, traditions, respecting originals and sources?
Of course, from an artistic and moral point of view it’s very important that artists get credit, and any royalties, where they are due but in a DJ set what is important is what works in the moment, no matter its source.
One of the particularities of DJing is that takes people outside their own little box for a few hours, without the option of switching channels, changing the song according to their own taste or remaining within their virtual circle. How do you, as a DJ, make use of this freedom? How important are not just the entertainment- but also the curatorial functions of DJs today - compared to other media like radio or print- and online-journalism?
For me the curatorial aspect is central. I can DJ to entertain if I need to, but I would much rather educate! These days I am used to doing 5 or 6 hour sets and it’s possible to take people to places they’d never expect to be, musically, with that much time.