Lee Van Dowski: Dreaming The Impossible
If there’s one thing we took home from our conversation with Lee van Dowski recently, it’s that time stands still much no man. Just as the universe evolves, so too does music (and electronic music in particular) – and often at a furious pace. So while he’s happy to shed light on his past with Luciano and his Vagabundos crew, Van Dowski is far more concerned these days with the present and the future. And by all accounts, the next stage in his career looks to be just as exciting as the last. His recent doubling up with Maltese producer Dean Demanuele promises great things (the boys have already produced together on Mobilee and Intacto), while Van Dowski will be joining the Mobilee crew a handful of times over the summer for their pool parties. One thing’s for sure – Van Dowski’s best days are far from behind him. We caught up with the main man recently to see where he’s currently at with it all…
How are you, Lee? What’s on your mind right now?
I’m super fine thank you. Right now I’m thinking about grabbing a gianduja ice cream from the Italian down my street. Nothing more exciting than that!
And what was the last record you bought? Do you still go record shopping?
I stopped playing vinyl 2 years ago after Lufthansa lost 2 of my cases in one year. As you can imagine, it was a pretty traumatic experience.
I have to mention also, that only few clubs can pretend to have a good vinyl friendly setup these days. Most of them have decks in poor conditions and that’s also why I stopped. So I’m afraid I can’t remember what was the last vinyl I bought… something funky I guess.
What’s really exciting you about music in 2014?
This was a very exciting year I have to say music wise, but I’ve been very impressed by the Keinemusik crew all year. Always excellent music from those guys!
How often do you get to DJ in your native Switzerland these days? What was it like as a place to grow up for electronic music?
I’m actually not Swiss born but French. I moved to Geneva 15 years ago to study Sound Engineering, and I’ve stayed ever since. But, for sure, a lot of people do think I’m Swiss! But lately I don’t play that much in Switzerland anymore, but I still have residencies In Weetamix/Geneva and Hive club in Zurich, two of my favorites clubs here.
Cool. What are the best and worst things about the scene there?
There has always been an amazing program for electronic music since I’ve lived here. I can almost say I’ve seen it all in clubs around Switzerland and this is the best part as it’s always easy to find quality music! The bad part is that people are kind of bored and not so excited right now in spite of the great parties that are always put on.
The only party that makes a difference is Rakete at Hive from my friends Animal Trainer. Every party they make is unique and seriously fun. They invest so much energy into the decoration that it’s like going to a different club every time. If you got a chance you should definitely go and try it out. You won’t be the same person afterwards!
Were the likes of Luciano very much a mentor for you then? What was the best thing about those times?
I think Lucien proved to me that it was possible to break through by just doing what you like. He took me under his wing and that was it. I will never be thankful enough, he showed me the way and I’m still following it now. At that time we were really working like ants, sharing ideas and spending most of our time in studio experimenting and testing new machines. There was like a little competition going on production wise that pushed us always further and I’ve learnt a lot like this! But nothing came easy … even if he did push me in the right direction.
How do you reflect on the Vagabundos days at Pacha? You guys really did something that hasn’t been done before, didn’t you?
Well, I was a small part in the story to be honest. I was just playing music without so much pressure on my shoulders. Luciano had the balls to do it when only Sven and Circoloco was rising on the island for this kind of music. When I think about it now, I’m like how the fuck did he decide to do this on his own. I mean, there were so many risks involved. Everybody was saying it can’t work at Pacha etc… but Luciano is like this. Nobody bet a dollar on it and it was a huge success…
Even if now I’m no longer related to Cadenza – as I moved to Mobilee Bookings recently – but I’m happy they joined Sven at Amnesia, it’s definitely a better move than Booom! last year.
And what are your plans for Ibiza this summer? How do you switch off when you’re there?
I’m super excited about the Mobilee day pool party residency at Hotel Santos for 8 Mondays… Free day parties in Ibiza, it can only be special! For the past 2 years I haven’t stayed in Ibiza city, I rent a flat in Santa Eulalia instead. It’s like being on another island, no club promotions there, it’s more a family place and I love it!
I believe you’re working a lot with Dean Demanuele right now. Can you tell us a bit about that one? How did it come about?
Yeah, it’s a surprising collaboration, as we didn’t know each other before working together. I met Dean las December when I was playing in Malta and let’s say we had a lot of fun together! We planned then to try working together and it worked perfectly from the very first second. Something unexplainable, the perfect alchemy. It never happened to me before and I’m still astonished about it. We produced everyday through Skype over two months and ended up with 23 tracks. Even myself I still can’t believe it…
You’ve also got some really cool releases planned on Intacto and Mobilee. Can you tell us a bit about those ones?
Well, after releasing “Branding you Damned” feat Cari Golden on Leena Music last month and those 2 next releases, I’m super excited. I feel like a newbie in the scene again, I’m more or less in the same state than in 2006 when I released 5 EPs and an album on Soma all in one year. I’ve always produced a lot but the last 2 years I lost my motivation a bit. Meeting Dean was like a breath of fresh air and suddenly I felt the urge to produce again like crazy. Damn, there’s really nothing like spending days in studio and seeing tracks come to life! Those 2 singles are the result of this new rush and there will be more soon.
Who continues to inspire you musically these days?
As I said before, I really love what &Me, Rampa and Re.you are doing lately. I’m always impressed about their music and how they manage to do sick tracks with very simple themes and hooks…straight to the point! It makes you feel like superman playing their records in a set.
How long have you been producing then? Do you still set yourself goals production wise?
I’ve been producing for over 16 years now and have no particularly goal I’m sorry to admit. I just love what I’m doing right now and will keep going on as much as I can.
How has the scene changed before you first became involved?
Uffffff! So much! There was no digital, there were only about 30 releases a week, now we’re talking about 200 a day. Producing was not only a one software business but you needed a mini studio set up at least. There was so many less artists back then. But all this iskind of thing is positive, I think I play better sets now as I can travel with more music than ever and because of the huge choice of music released everyday, anybody in is leaving room can make a hit. It pushes everything up.
How would you describe your style as DJ? How has this changed over the years?
The tempo has got slower now, but I don’t feel I play different. I always do my best to do wavy sets, I hate monotony. My sets can go from deep house to strong techno; it depends of the moment.
What’s next for Lee van Dowski?
A lot of releases…
Lee Van Dowski & Dean Demanuele’s The Impossible is out now on Anja Schneider & Ralf Kollman’s Mobilee Records. Fancy catching Lee in the sunshine but baulking at the prices of a jaunt to Ibiza? Then let us recommend a trip to Malta this September for Sunscape Festival. Tickets, camping and apartment packages can be purchased via the Sunscape website here