vendredi 30 septembre 2011


Damian Lazarus started his career in music as a journalist for Dazed & Confused, rising to the position of assitant editor. He then took his bulging contacts book to City Rockers, where he was head of A&R. Here he was instrumental in releasing two seminal records that gave rise to electroclash: Felix Da Housecat’s ‘Silver Screen Shower Scene’ and Tiga & Zyntherius’s ‘Sunglasses at Night’. In 2003, he founded his own label, Crosstown Rebels, the mandate being to release non-formulaic, cutting-edge electronic music. This manifesto led to the label growing into the global force of DJ talent we see today: Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones, Deniz Kurtel, and Art Department are all members of the Rebel Agency, the envy of house and techno DJs worldwide. As a DJ, he has mixed pioneering Rebel Futurism, Bugged Out, Sci:Fi:Lo:Fi 2 and Fabric compilations, all of which set the benchmark for electronic music at the time. In 2009 he released his album ‘Smoke The Monster Out’. True to form, it was a unique piece of work, infused with Damian’s devious sense of humour and vivid, childlike imagination: a clear statement in his belief that an artist’s personality should be heard on a record. Mixmag spoke to Damian a week before he set off for the Burning Man festival, Texas...

Are you excited about Burning Man?

Myself, Jamie Jones, Art Department, Deniz Kurtel, Magda, and Heidi are all doing a Crosstown Rebels party. I was there last year too, and I lapped up every second of it. It took me so long to actually go, but once I did I felt like I’d arrived at a place to fulfill my wildest fantasies and beyond. Chances are I’m going to turn into one of my alter egos for the full seven days. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to be Damian Lazarus or not.

Does this tie in with your penchant for fancy dress?

I do like playing dress-up. I think it harks back to when I was a kid and I was cast as the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. But at Burning Man it’s interesting because you’re at one with the elements in the desert: ridiculously hot by day and stupidly cold by night. In between you might even get a sandstorm. I’m thinking a long and flowing desert dress will do the job.

Last year was your first time?

Yes, when I was working at Dazed & Confused I got invited to go and review it for the magazine but I had a family commitment and couldn’t go. I’ve regretted it ever since. It’s an arts festival, not just music. Thousands of artists creating a community, a universe even, but with some order amongst the chaos.

Where do you stand on the US dance music explosion? You recently tweeted about the horrors of caps with ‘dubstep’ on.

The problem with America is that there isn’t the history of rave that we have. As a nation, they didn’t have the underground M25 and warehouse scenes, so they’re coming in from a different angle. The kids in America are coming to it via the commercial dance bands, psy-trance and what they call EDM as opposed to house and techno. It’s a case of slowly and surely showing people where we’ve come from, so it’s not such a culture shock. That’s what I’ve tried to do with the Rebel Rave films: show people what we bring to a party.

Why does it matter if people aren’t into what you’d say is ‘good’ music?

Well, it doesn’t if you’re not interested in hearing fresh new music. In that case you’re not going to come and see us. That’s fine, go see the same old faces and names, but personally I like new exciting music. I’m never worried about drawing the ‘wrong’ crowd, because if they’re wanting to put their hands in the air every two minutes they ain’t going to last long.

Any interesting adventures recently?

I just did Peru and Santa Domingo in twenty-two hours.

How did you cope with that?

I drank a lot of Jägermeister before getting on the plane. The lonely life of a travelling DJ!

We would have thought you’d have an entourage!

I’ve got a dog that travels with me quite a bit, Nikito. He’s half sausage dog and half Chihuahua. He’s fucking cool. I took him to a gig in Mexico the other week. Obviously he had to stay in the hotel. It’s a bit like having a child, actually. I never realised how much energy you have to give to a dog. I like it. I’ve also got four cats. I’ve never really been into dogs, but I saw him in the animal rescue that I volunteer in.

You looked into his eyes and you knew he was the one.

Pretty much. Puppy love.

What have we got to look forward to from the Rebel camp?

Our current roster of Maceo Plex, Jamie Jones and Deniz Kurtel have all had an incredible year, but also we’ve got some new talent coming in. Look out for Amirali. You can hear his first track on ‘Get Lost 4’. Plus we have two guys from Venezuela called Fur Coat and a new act called Mother of Seven.

Where did you find these guys?

I’m on it every day. I’m always being sent new music, talking to friends about new projects; it takes up all my time, but the payoff is I find some great new acts.

The position you’re in, at the fore-front of cutting edge music – do you ever find it stressful to have to be ahead of the game?

Of course. Fortunately, I’m still really driven. If I wasn’t I couldn’t do it, but I’m proud of my label and the people I work with. We’ve built a strong family. We party together, go through issues together. It’s important to me.

You were assistant editor of Dazed & Confused and then left to pursue a career in music. Our very own Gavin Herlihy left Mixmag and is now releasing tunes on Cocoon. In your experience, do most music journalists want to be DJs?
 No, but I think there are a lot of wannabe DJs and musicians who become music critics, and they don’t always see the value in writing creatively about music. There are a few great writers out there, but most people take ‘route one’ when writing an album review or an interview. Personally, I’m about thinking outside the box and poking around in the psyches of DJs. People talk about the lack of personalities in dance music. But I think maybe it’s a case of the journalists not asking the right questions.

How have we done?

You’ve delved. But for example, after reading my tweets you could’ve sent 100 of them to a psychiatrist and seen what he came back with.

Hey, psychiatrists don’t come cheap! But it’s a good idea, we may use it... Imagine an imaginary ink blot. What do you see?

A butterfly.

What does that say about you?

I wish I knew!

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