LOVE him or loathe him, you can’t deny Crosstown Rebels label boss Damian Lazarus’s impact on clubland over the past decade.Known for his enigmatic DJ sets, flamboyant fashion sense and offbeat podcasts, Lazarus has helped shape the careers of superstar spinners such as Seth Troxler and Jamie Jones.
This year marks his pioneering label’s 10th anniversary, a landmark that will be celebrated with a suitably epic world tour and a bumper three-disc compilation.
We caught up with Damian to discuss birthdays, brushes with bankruptcy and rebellious behaviour.
What inspired you to start your own record label? I’m guessing it wasn’t to get rich quick...
After gaining experience in the early 2000s co-running other influential labels such as east London’s famous City Rockers (home of Felix da Housecat), I decided it was time to branch out.
I wanted the creative challenge of running my own label and to continue promoting the most adventurous underground artists.
What are the financial realities of running an independent label, especially in the world of underground dance music?
It’s obviously more a labour of love than a decent money-making business.
Occasionally I sign a record that breaks through and we make ends meet.
Despite physical record sales being at an all time low, we manage to at least cover our costs with most releases.
What's the Damian Lazarus recipe for success?
Make, play and release music from the heart.
Name the record labels which have most inspired and influenced you?
The big indies Domino and XL are a source of inspiration because they prove you can have success and credibility, as are groundbreaking imprints such as Kompakt and Perlon which champion a more melodic style of electronic music.
How do you define the Crosstown Rebels sound, and has your move to Los Angeles from London influenced the label's musical direction?
Our signature sound is best described as future-thinking, melodic electronic music.
I have lived in LA for four years now, and as I regularly fly back and forth to Europe, the label has acquired a truly international flavour.
Do you prefer the laidback LA lifestyle to the London buzz these days?
My life in LA offers a more stress free environment than that in London.
I live in a rather isolated house above a beautiful park and keep myself away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
I also visit a Shaman in Mexico, which is good for my spiritual health.
Were there any times when you nearly gave up and shut the label down?
There were three occasions when I felt that the stress and workload had got too much, but I managed to find the creative juices and energy to continue.
Over the past decade we have lost a lot of money as a result of distribution companies going bust, but each time the talent of our amazing artists has convinced me to fight on.
Did you ever imagine you would make it to your 10th birthday and what does it mean to you?
It snuck up on me if I’m honest.
It was only recently that I took stock and realised we’d made it this far.
It’s a cliché but time actually does move fast when you're having fun!
How do you find your artists? Or is it just a case of wading through endless demos?
I have a knack of stumbling across the right people at the right time.
I do listen to demos, but my eyes and ears are always open waiting for a new talent to spark my interest.
You have to have something special to offer both musically and as a person to become a member of the Rebels family.
What’s your relationship like these days with two of your most successful signings Seth Troxler and Jamie Jones?
Are you supportive of their label projects or is there a rivalry there?
Crosstown Rebels is a big family that constantly helps and supports each other.
I am extremely proud of their successes, and consider them special people in my life.
As I learnt during my earlier career as a music journalist, there is no place for negativity in music.
What releases and parties should we look out for from Crosstown in 2013?
Our anniversary tour starts in February and there’s a big announcement coming soon about something we are planning in the US.
As far as artists are concerned this year is all about Infinity Ink, Ali Love, Art Department, Subb-an, Maceo Plex and Francesca Lombardo.
What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in the music industry over the last decade?
While digital releases have revolutionised the industry, people are still dancing as crazily as ever and are just as hungry for the next new record - and that's where I step in.