Steve Lawler interview: Marching to the Beat of His Own Dark Drum
Sunday, 2 April 2006
UK DJ Steve Lawler has managed to distance himself from the progressive house movement. It's only when industry types are stuck for a description that he's pitted against Sasha, John Digweed and Dave Seaman. Maybe it's something to do with his hailing from Birmingham, but Lawler has defined his own genre of house. In his official bio it's referred to as "twisted house".
Lawler relishes his tribal rhythms, no question. He's not afraid of the dark, the dirty and the sleazy (his first mix was entitled 'Dark Drums', after all). Indeed, Lawler could be England's Danny Tenaglia. "I tend to like my music deep and dirty and sexy - and that's always stayed the same," he affirms.
At any rate, the Brit is DJing at this year's 'Good Vibrations'. But don't expect the DJ to dramatically change his style. Be he at a club or a festival, Lawler studies the crowd and, on discerning the vibe, spins harder, deeper, darker or funkier.
Nor is Lawler one of those DJs who immediately embraces trends. "As boring as it sounds, my taste hasn't really changed. There's elements that I love in music - and they've stayed the same. The only thing that changes is music itself. One of the really exciting things about house music is its constant progression. It's constantly moving and taking new influences from different styles of music and I encompass that, which is why people probably find it hard to categorise me into any particular style. I really have my own style. I just play what I love, what excites me. Everything that I play now, and that I've always played, has its roots in traditional house music - the kinda tempo, the kinda grooves that you hear, and something that I've always been a huge fan of is big basslines."
Lawler is occasionally receptive to change. He's abandoned turntables for the CDJ Pioneer 1000. Lawler was first exposed to acid house through pirate radio - not so divergent from his peers. He was inspired to throw his own illegal raves in an old tunnel beneath the M42 motorway - until the police got wind of them.
Lawler's big break happened in the mid-'90s in far-off Ibiza, where he was resident DJ at Cafe Mambo. Steve was spotted by Darren Hughes, who not only booked him for his Liverpool superclub Cream but also signed him to its DJ agency.
Today Lawler is disinclined to depart his home, outside Birmingham, for London - although he resides in Ibiza several months a year. He likes to be close to his family.
Lawler has done what every sensible DJ does - he's branded himself. Years ago he launched his label Harlem Records, plugging it with the Harlem Nights at The End in London. And, following 2001's 'NuBreed', he's completed a trilogy of 'Lights Out' compilations for Global Underground.
However, Steve has lately re-evaluated his career. He's pulled Harlem - and its offshoots - to concentrate on a new online venture, Viva, named after his fledgling night at Space in Ibiza. The Viva concern entails a merchandise range. Lawler is in talks to develop a full fashion line. Steve plans to issue a Viva CD mid-year. Meanwhile, he'll continue his gigs at The End as Viva Harlem Nights.
"This year I've focused everything around the one brand," he explains. "So I'm cutting it down - I'm cutting down the workload, so the workload that is there can be more about quality than quantity."
Lawler has been responsible for a succession of club records, including the recent That Sound. Still, Lawler is yet to unleash an 'artist album'. (In mid-2004 his website reported that he was recording with "one of pop music's leading ladies.")
Nearly as newsworthy, if quite different, is Lawler's remix of the theme from Iain Softley's suspense movie The 'Skeleton Key', which stars Kate Hudson. Steve was invited to rework it by Softley himself, the director who counts 'Hackers' among his other credits.
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