From organising underground raves when he was just 17 to being crowned the King of Space in Ibiza, Steve Lawler is one of those DJs who’s seen it all through his 19-year career. And now with his new digital label Viva Music, he’s throwing the spotlight on today’s hottest electronic acts. JUICE hooks up with the business-savvy DJ and finds out what makes the man and his label tick…
How’s 2009 been so far?
It’s been fantastic. I have had some amazing gigs. I feel really excited by what we have built up with the Viva Music label. Now we also have the DJ agency and Viva music events… it’s exciting times. I have the opportunity to take other artists to Viva events and residencies across the world,Â like in Toronto and Moscow. They are loving it! And so am I. Being a DJ and a producer and label owner is a joy, but to be able to take other artists on tour and help them develop is awesome, we are doing it as a family, as a team and its wicked! There is such a good vibe at the moment, it’s incredible.
You’re known as the King Of Space. What other kingdoms would you like to reign over?
I don’t want to reign anywhere. If you are a king you’d have too much responsibility. And it’s something I don’t do well! (Laughs)
You’ve cited Depeche Mode as one of your major influences. They’ve got a new album out. Have you heard it and if so, what do you think of it?
You know what I haven’tÂ heard it, that’s so slack! I should though, for me Depeche Mode has never failed to deliver amazing music. They made a career out of not conforming and I respect that.
You started Viva Music as a digital record label in 2005. Do you feel that major labels are redundant in this digital era?
Not at all, everyone knows it’s hard for a label to make money. So we run it in a way so that it can pay people. The way we do it is get money from lots of different avenues, likeÂ from publishing. I really admire the Twitter application Richie Hawtin invented. It’s so typical of Richie to be forward-thinking, it’s bringing recognition back to the artist and it’s great. Our label works because it’s not designed to be this massive thing. It works within its remit, I just want to be fair to everyone involved. That’s the ethos and it works.
I am not the only person who is doing it, it’s kind of like back in the day in the late 80s. That’s how electronic labels started – they did it because they loved it.
During your US tour last year, you recorded with Audiofly and Tiefschwarz on the tour bus which resulted in this year’s On The Bus EP. Was it easy to record while travelling?
No! (Laughs) The original idea was for us all to build 1 track together – start it and finish it on the bus.
But we encountered some difficulties. First of all, having 5 people around a computer building a track was cramped! Secondly, you need to be accurate with arrangement. And the suspension in the bus was really heavy! So it was messing up all the time. We decided to build 3 tracks then each take our favourite ones away and finish them. So we ended up with 3 records each with our own flavour which I think is nice. We wrote the songs after gigs when we were all hyped. It was the perfect happy vibe to write songs under.
According to Wikipedia, when you were 17 you staged a series of illegal parties in a tunnel under the M42 motorway. Do you feel that there’s a lack of danger in today’s club culture?
Of course it was different then. Everytime I did one of those parties I risked getting arrested. The 3rd time the police caught me they said if they got me again, they would put me prison! Drunk people at the parties tried to cross the motorway, and so we had to stop doing it. It was an exciting time but also a very worrying one, I couldn’t run the risk of anyone getting hurt or killed or me getting arrested, so we had to stop doing them.
The world is in the grip of a possible swine flu pandemic. People are avoiding crowds for fear of contraction. Could this be a bleak time for clubland?
No! I just came from South America where I played to 15,000 people, so no I don’t think it’s a worry.
Finally, what releases are you looking forward to this year?
We have the remix package of the On The Bus EP which I am really looking forward to. Radio Slave’s remixingÂ my single, David KÂ is remixing Audiofly’s, Matthew Tansman is remixing Tiefschwarz’s. We have loads of other exciting stuff too -Â another Mat Tolfrey single, and a new guy I am very excited about called Leon. We just signed him exclusive to Viva, so keep an eye out for him.
For more on Steve Lawler and Viva Music, checkout www.myspace.com/vivamusicstore.
Image Viva Music