From holding a multi year residency at London’s late nightclub The End, to successfully running the esteemed Viva music label, there isn’t much that Steve Lawler hasn’t accomplished. With such a wealth of experience it’s no wonder he’s become one the industry’s most respected heavyweights, so we wanted to get the low down. We caught up with Steve for a little chinwag at this years Winter Social festival.
WWD: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us Steve! We saw you here last year and you smashed it as always. How does the social festival stack up compared to other festivals you played at?
SL: What makes this a little bit different from other festivals is that this is centred around just two stages and it’s inside, so it’s more like a warehouse party than a festival but it’s because of the size that I suppose they call it a festival. But yeah I know when Nic booked me last year he said do you want to play the second room or do you want to play the main room and I was like main room of course, and he said yeah but the second room still holds 3500 people and I went I’ll play the second room. I just feel that for me personally I can get more of a sort of intimate feeling in that room than the bigger one. You know a lot of festivals have several arenas and it’s outside, it’s raining, it’s cold and all these things and that’s generally what you think when you mention festivals, so this is different for that reason. And Nic curates an amazing line-up, you know from being someone that runs a night – Warriors – when you act as a promoter I can tell you now curating a line-up is no easy task, so yeah my hat off to him.
WWD: They do indeed do a stellar job. We sat down with Do Not Sleep boss Darius Syrossian the other week and he said you two have got some tracks on the cards. Is there anything you can tell us about them?
SL: Yeah we spent a few days in the studio. We did the large sort of pack of the work, then we went away and Darius did some mixing to it and then I got back in the studio for a day and then we got together and finished them. One of the tracks is called ‘Back to the future’ and we kind of named it because obviously, me and Darius were really close, I played a hugely pivotal role in sort of forming his career, we had some issues, we both went separate ways and we’ve kind of reconnected and that is the future. I think the future is going to be a really bright thing. I think going through life you just have to sort of rise above certain things and we both did that and it’s been a really positive thing. And this record, this one track ‘Back to the future’ is phenomenal. Darius wrote the bassline, I’ll tell you all day long I didn’t touch the bass he did it and it is incredible. Most of the drums are from myself, but the bass phwoar it’s just the icing on the cake, it’s a really beautiful record. It’ll be my last track I play tonight.
WWD: Good stuff I’m excited to hear it. And would you say that reconnection is shown within the track?
SL: Yeah it has because there’s a lot of emotion in it. It’s an instrumental record, there are vocals in it you know vocal samples but generally it’s full of emotion. It’s a classy piece of music, it’s not a sort of track that’s been made to be a big record that goes off, it’s not been made like most records are made at the moment. You know this was just me and Darius in the studio sort of really happy to have let bygones be bygones and work together. And y’see I recognised Darius many years ago as a talent before anybody else even sort of clocked onto him, I saw a hugely talented kid y’know a huge talent with a drive that I’ve not seen before in anybody else. He’s a grafter, so when we got in the studio the whole sort of connection just instantly came back, the chemistry was there and it’s created an amazing record.
WWD: Nice we’re looking forward to the release! You’ve been at the top of the game for donkey’s years now and there’s not much you haven’t accomplished, so would you say you prefer working on tracks in the studio or Djing to live crowds?
SL: It’s a very different feeling yeah. The studio is a love-hate affair for me. If I go in the studio and I start writing a piece of music and it’s going well and then I hit the wall. Every producer knows that saying you hit a wall and you just can’t get past it. And you know there’s a great record there but you’re just stuck you have a creative block and you can’t get past it. You could spend 2 days listening to the same fucking loop and then whatever you wrote before now sounds shit. When you write a piece of music you pretty much have to nail the base of the track in day 1 because if you don’t then what you’ve already done after day 3 is going to start to sound monotonous and boring. You lose that energy, you lose the inspiration for the rest of the track. My record ‘House record’ which was one of the biggest records I ever released I wrote that in 6 hours start to finish and that was a piece of piss making that record. Yet another track of mine which is my personal favourite ‘Avaida (The organ track) that’s my number one record I’ve ever written and that took me the best part of nine months to finish and I don’t think it did very well. You know I think ‘House record’ sold 10,000 copies and Avaida sold 1000 copies and it just goes to show you can’t plan that sort of thing.
WWD: And generally how do you come over that creative block once you encounter it?
SL: I have to sort of ground myself, I have to get out of the studio, get out of the claustrophobic setting and maybe even just call it a day. The worst thing to do is when you hit that is to stay in there. You know you’ve got to persist for at least a couple of hours because all of a sudden you could be playing with a new instrument and you think right let’s pull this out, you pull out something you start playing around with sounds and then all of a sudden you’ll get past that block. But if you don’t in a few hours you’ve just got to leave it. And the next day probably even start afresh. I think once you hit that block most of the time you can’t get past it, you have to start something fresh. That’s my experience anyway.
WWD: Well as you already mentioned you’ve teamed up with Darius Syrossian to produce tracks. I wanted to ask you who would be your dream producer to collaborate with if you had to say one?
SL: I don’t know really. In the electronic sector, our sector, there’s a lot of amazing producers out there but for my own personal reason I would love to do a record with Danny Tenaglia because he was my biggest inspiration. I really sort of formed my sound from loving what he did. Of course, when you take inspiration from somebody else you end up with your own sound your own style but he was the guy that turned me on musically. Before that I was probably a bit all over the place and that’s when I locked in. And I know Danny’s notoriously difficult to work with in the studio, you know he’s very very specific. You’re looking at least a month to make a record guaranteed. You’ve got to change the frequency on this hi hat sort of vibe. But it would be a learning curve for me as much as it would be a challenge.
WWD: Your Warriors brand has become one of the most successful imprints in recent years, especially over at Sankeys Ibiza. Any plans for the White Isle this summer?
SL: I can’t really mention it at the moment, we’re literally about a week or two away from announcing some big news so yeah unfortunately I can’t really say anything until I’m given the green light so to speak.
WWD: No worries we’re excited for the news! After the sad closure of Sankey’s Manchester in January we were relieved to see the iconic brand open up in your home town of Birmingham. Are you thinking of making an appearance there perhaps?
SL: I don’t know. I’ve got a gig this year in Birmingham which will be at the crane warehouse which is a new 3000 capacity warehouse and Lee McDonald the guy who does all the Rainbow Venues contacted me straight away and said this is going to be opening this year, I want to do something really big in there, so I picked up the phone, and called Nick Yates who does Paradise and Kaluki and said let’s do a Warriors vs Kaluki party and do a big show. So yeah I’ve not even really thought about Sankey’s Birmingham at this stage. I want to do this big show there and then see what else is on the cards.
WWD: Great stuff really looking forward to that. And next Saturday is Audiowhore’s 6th birthday and it’s safe to say it’s looking like a big one. Have you played at this party before? And are you looking forward to it?
SL: I haven’t no so I have no idea what to expect really. And yeah I look forward to all my gigs and London specifically is a good territory for me. I’ve always had an affinity with London, I’ve had many residencies there going from my Home residency and then I did the residency at The End for seven years which was Harlem nights. Then we did the big shows at Studio 338 and every Warriors show at Studio 338 was slam dunked. I did New Year’s Day at Fire which was great and I’m also playing Fabric in April for Circus. So yeah, I love playing in London.
WWD: Awesome stuff thanks for chatting to us today Steve
SL: No worries!
Words By Olly Gunns