Festival Chat: Steve Lawler at We Are FSTVL

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We Are FSTVL returned for their fifth birthday celebrations over the Bank Holiday Weekend 26th–28th May including our Data Transmission Stagewe sent Jack Finnan down to check it out and whilst he was their he caught up with Steve Lawler and chatted to him about his Ibiza residency at Hï Ibiza, Festivals, his upcoming two exclusive Warriors events at Sankeys, Ibiza on the Wednesday 31st May and Wednesday 4th October and more.

It’s an exciting time for you as Warriors goes from strength to strength opening for this season on Wednesday, you’re also starting a Thursday night residency at new club Hï for the In The Dark parties. Can you give us a bit of background into In The Dark and where it’s headed?

Yeah it came about at the end of last year, Yann (Pissenem) who is the owner of Ushuaïa and Hï, he called me into his office for a meeting and basically said ‘I want to start a new night and I want you to be a part of it, I want you to be a resident, who plays more than anybody else. I want you to be a part of our team, help us curate the night. You’ve led a successful night with Warriors for the last five years, you’ve smashed it on the terrace for ten years in Space, we want you as part of this.’ I thought to myself here’s a great opportunity because as much as I love the basement, and I do love the basement it’s an amazing room, you know Sankeys comes with its issues. I just thought there’s an opportunity here to be part of something that starts from brand new and that’s a great thing to be there at the very beginning, and help shape what it becomes. Those kinds of opportunities very rarely come along, how many clubs are brand new, tailor-made built in this day and age, hardly any. Then he talked about his ideas of who else he wants to get on board, which residents, he showed me the plans of the club, the sound system, the spec of everything. I just thought ‘I’d be fucking mad to turn this down’. The reality of it is being a part of a team that is majorly professional, they get shit done, it’s like a team of people are the creative team, who I really love to work with. You go in you have these creative ideas, you talk about some amazing things and whereas with other people shit never got done. You talk about an idea with Hï and a week later it’s done, and I like being a part of that because it gives me the opportunity to do something better, to step it up. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s all about one thing, giving the paying punter a better experience. More and more the world is becoming a harder place to live in, so if people are going to go and spend their fucking really hard earned money, then we need to give them the most that we can. I feel that I now have the ability to do that on a much bigger level with Hï. So that was the main thing that was going through my head, it was ‘I can do more here’, ‘I can do what I’ve done at Sankeys but better, bigger and more’. That was the decision.

Punters really appreciate that, they can really tell.

I am a totally selfless person when it comes down to my work, everybody thinks that DJs earn a fortune this that and the other and all these things. The amount of shit I do for fuck all, the amount of things I work really hard for and it’s to provide not only a better experience for me but a better experience for the people that have come to see me play. The biggest reward for me, I know it’s cliché but it actually is, is having the best night in front of me, having a packed club, everyone’s in it, everyone’s properly fucking amongst it, it’s going off, every track that I play is appreciated. I am still that kind of DJ, after all these years. for twenty years, I still get involved, I still love to be in it. The music is the most. So that is the biggest reward for me.

I’ve seen the club and I’m telling you, the club is two rooms, it’s an amphitheatre and a basement, that’s what the club is. What they’ve built, is a club for everyone and I’ve never seen it before like this because it’s tailor-made. Yann, it’s his creative input, it’s his baby and what he’s done is take his years of experience and built the most perfect venue for clubbers, you wait until everyone sees it. The best thing for me is, there’s a room that’s like a basement but instead of for 1200 people, it’s for 2000 people. Low ceiling, black room, that’s going to become my room and I know what I’m going to do there already. Everybody seems to think it’s going to be tailor-made for VIPs, it isn’t, it’s a club for clubbers and I can’t wait.

You released Take Me There at the start of the month and have got your single Crazy Dream coming out in a few weeks time on Turbo. Were you writing the track specifically with Turbo in mind or did it just come about the more the track came together?

Somebody gave me this new piece of kit, it’s basically a hands on sequencer, so you can run shit through it and manually manipulate sounds, which is really fun to play with. In the summer last year, Ushuaia gave me their studio and have again this summer. So I was going in there a couple of days a week and I was getting all this kit sent over to me from people, people sometimes give us equipment for free to use. That’s what this was, I got it wired up and I was fucking around with it, that’s where Crazy Dream was born. And as I was sequencing the bassline, I hadn’t built any drums yet, straight away just thought Tiga would love this, that’s just what came to my mind. So then I carried on building a track that Tiga would play and I finished it, instantly text him and said ‘I’m just doing this track in the studio which I’ve kind of tailor-made for you’ so he said ‘wicked send it to me’. Sent it in, ten minutes later, ‘I want to sign it’, so that was it that’s literally how that happened. With Take Me There and Feeling, I was trying to recreate, bring back some of that old tribal sound. Because of my history with tribal, I’ve got thousands of soundbanks of drums and percussion, so those two tracks got born out of that. Phil (Weeks) heard me play it in Ibiza in Warriors and he was there smoking this joint, it’s really funny because he was in the booth behind me and turned round and tapped me, and I look round and all I can see is smoke. Like a cloud of green smoke. He was like ‘what is this shit?’ and I said ‘it’s a new track, I’ve just written a couple of weeks ago’. He was like ‘is it coming out on VIVa’ and I said ‘no it’s not signed’, he then said ‘I want this shit’. So the organic way of music being signed, I like that. Some stuff I do send out for labels, like everybody else, but usually, it’s a personal hookup to friends like Seth, Jamie, whatever, it gets snapped up that way. Every month up until October I’ve got a release coming out, it was all written last year. In August is going to be a track I spent two days in the studio with Darius (Syrossian), everyone knows me and him reconnected at Space closing last year. We were both feeling pretty loved up that day and we made all sorts of plans, and one of them was I was going to get him on a Warriors show, which is happening. The other one was to get in the studio, and I went over to his place and we started jamming and out came ‘We Like To Jam’ and ‘Back To The Future’, so that’s going to come out in August on his label. Then in September, I’ve got a release coming out on Kaluki, with a Riva Starr remix. In October I’ve got a collaboration EP coming out on VIVa. Actually first of all, in July I’ve got a single of mine coming out called Par Amour which was a track I did specifically for Apollonia, so Par Amour translated from French is ‘for love’. I wrote it and I gave it to them, with all this shit that was going down in France, with all the terrorism, whenever something happened I always text my friends ‘are you ok?’. So I wrote this record for my French friends and that’s why Chris Carrier is remixing it, for me he’s the hottest French producer there is aside from Laurent Garnier. So that’s going to come out on VIVa, Par Amour with a Chris Carrier remix, then August Feel on Do Not Sleep. September, Kaluki. October, a collaboration EP, which was all done last year. So I did a track with Cuatero, I did a track with Arthur Baker. I’ve got like eight collaborations that I’ve chosen for the EP, there’s on with me, Detlef and Denn, so it’ll be a 3 or 4 track EP.

As music and technology have developed over the years, what would you say is the bit of musical tech you just couldn’t do without?

My original 808 and 909, they always come out. My 606, 606 I use on everything, 909 I usually for the techno side of things because whatever you put a 909 it instantly starts sounding like techno, it’s got that old grungy analogue sound to it. I tell you what I use all the time, is my Maschine from Native Instruments, I use that on every track, so that’s probably the go to for me. 

What record would you have signed?

That’s almost an impossible question. I’ve got so much admiration for artists, not DJs that write music, artists. To me, there’s a difference. There’s artists that write music. What’s happening at the moment is a lot of people are making music so they can have a DJ career, everyone is trying to make a big record, that’ll shoot their career. I’m talking about people who write music that is just a really good piece of music. Laurent Garnier, just mentioned him a minute ago, I’ve got so much admiration for him because he writes these 9 minute, 10 minute epic beautiful techno journeys of really beautiful music. So I can’t really name a track, but it would be an artist like that.

You must hear new music and new producers all the time, so what makes you want to sign an artist to VIVa MUSiC?

I’m looking for something original, it depends. I’ve got 3 labels, I’ve got VIVa MUSic which is my baby, for me that’s where I put music that has more integrity, music that has a bigger shelf life goes on VIVa MUSiC. I have VIVa LIMITED, which is the sound of now, which is that driving tech, British tech sound. I’ve had artists on there like Solardo, Latmun, Eli Brown this sort of music is tailor-made for VIVa LiMITED and the reason why it’s important to me is because I am all about now/the future. I don’t dwell on the past it’s not who I am and I see there’s a real scene in that, I want to be a part of that. Be someone who A&R’s it, puts it out there. Then I have iVAV Recordings which is more melodic techno, Christoph, Hot Since 82, Slam, Yousef, Paul Ursin, Nicole Moudaber, that side of the music. 

 Check out our full review of We Are FSTVL here