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Ralph Lawson: Clarity Of Vision

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You continue to keep things interesting and push yourself with the release of the “Content” compilation this year and the Content Tour that kicked off at Fabric in January. We’ve been hearing about this 3D cube concept you’ve been touring with. Can you explain exactly what it is?

It’s not one cube it’s a series of 12 cubes which are mapped onto by projection mapping using two or more projectors to focus entirely and specifically on the cubes themselves, so they’re not casting any light on anything else. You can map onto any object with a skilled mapper. Basically you kind of black out everything apart from the object onto which you want to project. So you get this strange effect that only this object is alive with visuals. It looks 3D because obviously the cube is a 3D object unlike that which you get in the cinema, which is an illusion, this is more lifelike because you’re mapping onto the different surfaces of the cubes. In a club it looks great. 

Where are the cubes placed? 

We’ve tried a few different arrangements. We’ve had them built up so that the DJ is in the middle, so that the DJ is playing from this “cube world” similar to the Daft Punk pyramid idea. You can have them anywhere really, but tends to come down to how many projectors you can get your hands on as they’re pretty expensive. The number of arrangements you can have is pretty much infinite though. 

So this is a geeky side coming through?

Oh yeah. I’m a fully self-confessed geek. I read Wired magazine and I’ve always liked technology; I grew up on Star Wars! I’m fully immersed in the world of techno geekdom.

Ok… now moving away from the Content tour, for a moment I’d like to focus on today’s Shoreditch underground station event. 20:20 vision is currently based in London’s Shoreditch, right?

It is, yeah. 

When did you set up in Shoreditch and to that end what significance does the Shoreditch underground event play?

Well at first I was kind of put off because it was becoming a bit of a cliché that Shoreditch was so fashionable and trendy, but I wasn’t really part of it and had only heard lots of things about it. Then when I actually started going down there in 2007/2008 I was just taken aback by how happening it was; it felt like a really exciting new area of London. Over time it’s moved further and further east with Hackney, Hackney Wick, Dalston, etc. becoming popular places for people to play and I’m proud to be part of that.

In 2010 we started Warehouse parties around there and we’ve done some film studios, some rooftops and then we found this train station which was the old Shoreditch underground station, now decommissioned. It was getting developed into flats but before they developed it they did a few events there and we were very lucky to have done one of the two events they’ve held there so far, back in May 2011. It was an absolutely phenomenal occasion with the ticketing booths still in place upstairs and downstairs you’re 20 metres from the track. It’s absolutely safe but you’re so close and there are trains going past, it’s kind of like DC-10 with planes going by! It was just really super underground and I know that everyone goes on about the word “underground” but when you really come down to it you couldn’t get much more… you’re kind of under the arches just off of Brick Lane. I thought it was gone forever because they were developing it and then one day I was walking down Brick Lane and I was curious to see what had happened to the place so thought I’d go and have a look. I literally took a little short cut off of Brick Lane and noticed that the doors were shut but where there should have been a padlock there wasn’t one and the bolt was open. I knocked on the door, a very nervous man answered worried about who might be knocking on the door, but it happened to be the architect. We got talking and he told me that they hadn’t got round to it, things had been slow and they’d just not got round to developing the place yet. We’d made a film from our last party there and the architect recognised me from the film. He told me that after the summer, plans were solidly in place for the development to go ahead but that if we wanted to do one last party this would be our opportunity and that I’d be the guy to give the location it’s send off. Luckily I have recently teamed up with London Warehouse Events and they’re the kind of people who can do this with licensing, safety etc. Low and behold they’ve allowed us to put on one last show. 

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A truly beautiful story.

I don’t believe in fate and spiritual stuff, as you said I’m kind of geeky but when coincidences like that happen it just blows me away. That’s some kind of crazy serendipity.

So this is another day night party for 20:20 Vision. Do you like them because you get to play a bit deeper and more soulful in the day and then go a bit darker at night?

Yeah, I think it’s the whole process. Day parties are very special, people love them, people love being outside. Hopefully you get some sunshine, but there’s just something about being outside in the daytime and there’s an intense energy; people can see each other clearly unlike in a dark club and they react accordingly. They remind me of my early times in Ibiza when I went to these day-night parties. You’d go in the afternoon and it would progress into the night. I love how the light changes, you know… people stop using their eyes and their ears takeover. As you said the music can get deeper and darker, the lights come on and I just think you’re giving people a really mixed experience. Then by the time you get to the club people have already been out all day. There’s no warm up and you just go straight into it.

The lack of warm up is interesting, not something I’ve reflected on before.

Looking forward now into the future. You touched on careers of professionals with creative jobs. Most professions have a clear career pathway with clear steps for progression. Roles ever changing as one climbs the ladder. With sportspeople the individual may need to adapt their game as they get older. Do you think there are comparable changes for DJs?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s much easier to get a springboard when you’re new. We have this fascination of the new at the minute and if anything it’s only grown. I think the internet has increased the speed with which we consume. People just want to consume the new, spit it out and then move on to the next thing, so for me I find it harder and harder after twenty years in the game. If you’ve been twenty years in the game I’m now of course a fair bit older than a lot of the new kids going through. Although having been around for so long people know me and it brings with it that level of respect, it can actually still be harder because people want the flavour of the month. One of my other favourite DJ quotes from DJ Harvey, a huge influence for me who I was lucky enough to meet and get to know early on, was not to try to be flavour of the month because “what happens the month after?” You’re not flavour of the month anymore. I’ve always gone out of my way not to be flavour of the month, so if there’s a hot new scene I try to pull myself out of it or if there’s a clique of DJ’s with a lot of focus on them I won’t join. I just try to keep myself away from those trends and fashions. I may have stayed in the same place and people may question what’s new but I’m kind of proud of that. This is still high quality, fresh music that’s always going to have new sounds and new ideas but it is largely the stuff that I’ve always played. It’s house music.

Ralph Lawson plays alongside Mario Basanov, Audiojack and Tristan da Cunha at London’s Factory 7 August 24 from 21:30 until 06:00 am. Tickets are available here. Check out highlights of another one of their adventues in East London below.

Words: Aman Chungh

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