Q&A with Damian Lazarus
Damian Lazarus has made a global name for himself as a massively popular DJ doing what comes naturally to him − mixing together weird and wonderful sounds that make you jump high on the dancefloor… or sometimes sit down. Ahead of his first-ever Hong Kong gig at Kee Club, the British DJ tells us about devil worship, Burning Man and his lasting love for show tunes. By Maddie Gressel
Hey Damian! You’ve got a whirlwind tour schedule. Whereabouts are you right now?
Yeah, I’ve actually done five gigs in seven days last week. I’m at home in LA now, on my sofa with my dog and my laptop. I’ve been in LA for three years. I was feeling a bit creatively stifled in London and I felt like I needed a change of scenery. I needed some sunshine. And I think that LA is kind of getting ready for electronic music.
There seems to be a growing recognition of house and club music across America in general these days, like at the Grammys…
Yes, and I think that’s just going to grow and grow. Irons and fires and fans ahead!
You’re the creator behind the record label Crosstown Rebels. What do you look for in artists you produce and collaborate with?
First of all, they need to be super cool people. I like to work with people who are forward-thinking, who are extremely creative, and who are happy to join me outside the box. People who are creating music that make people dance but also that has the ability to bring about other emotions. People who have a live presence and people who deserve to do well.
It says on your blog that you’re ‘drawn to the darkness but buoyed by light.’ What does that mean?
I wear a lot of black clothing. I don’t devil worship, but I do read a lot about it. I’m generally drawn to anything with a bit of mysticism and strangeness. I like oddities. I like weird and wonderful sounds. And I’m inspired by slightly dark and twisted movies and literature. I think that comes out in my music and in the way I perform − but not in a shoe-gazer, gothic way. Essentially I’m still performing quite happy, joyful music.
You once had a sitting ovation? What happened?
Well, I was in DC10 in Ibiza, where I have a residency. It’s one of the best clubs in the world. I was playing this track, and the club was going absolutely bananas, and I kind of turned to sort out my next record. When I turned back around, I couldn’t see anyone. It was like the whole club disappeared. For a second, I was like, ‘woah, what’s happened?’ It suddenly dawned on me that everyone had sat down on the floor. I looked down, and everyone was sitting, cheering, waiting for the breakdown to drop in. When the track smashed back in, everyone just leapt to their feet and went absolutely wild. It’s something that people were doing in South America a few years ago. I guess it’s like the ultimate sign of respect for a DJ, so it was quite a pleasing moment. I was very chuffed.
You’re interested in show tunes, which is pretty unusual for a DJ and pretty awesome. You played Oliver! once in Ibiza?
My grandfather was a big inspiration to me musically, and he was a massive fan of Hollywood musicals. It was in my blood and I guess it’s never left me. I’m a closet Barbra Streisand fan, and my mom was in Oliver! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I have pictures here of her with the cast! I went to see Les Misérables about three times in one year when I was really young. I still shed a tear when I hear the opening notes of On My Own [laughs].
Can you tell us what it was like performing at Burning Man?
I had two incredible years there. The parties have been simply just off the scale. Bananas. It’s quite something to play there and get that kind of reaction to what you do. And I just hope I’ll be going this year, but I haven’t got a ticket. The whole situation is quite fucked up and frustrating. I dunno, maybe I won’t go this year, we’ll see.
Have you ever performed in Hong Kong before?
It’s my first time in Hong Kong! I have no real understanding of what I’ll find when I get there. The promoters of the event organize the most amazing sound system at Burning Man − Robot Heart. That’s how I know them. But I’m really looking forward to the party, honestly. Hopefully there will be people from Hong Kong bringing me the music that they’re making. That happens. I’m really keen to know who is making what.
What are some more of your weird inspirations these days?
I just met this incredible cosmic architect called Memo. He inspired me like no one else has. He blew my mind off like no one else has. I’m reading Hunter S Thompson’s Hell’s Angels right now… I’ve been really busy working on a lot of homegrown stuff for Crosstown Rebels, specifically Jamie Jones, and new artists Amirali, Infinity Ink, Fur Coat from Venezuela, and Mother of Seven from Berlin. Have you heard this artist Yuna from Malaysia? She’s good. Her first track is produced by Pharrell and it’s super cool. I’m listening to the Tree of Life soundtrack. But I do this lazpod.com podcast, which is a two-hour show of crazy music from all across the board. Techno, weird electronica, rock… and show tunes.
Small & Tall celebrate their first anniversary with Damian Lazarus on Saturday March 10 at Kee Club with support from residents 2Gweilos, Swamy, Wendy Wenn and Suru. Click here for tickets and event info.