Words by Dominic Magli
Steve Lawler has always been a DJ who isn’t afraid to break boundaries. He first emerged into the music scene in the early 1990s, hosting several of his notorious parties under the United Kingdom’s M42 motorway.
Ever since, he has become one of the biggest techno/house producers in Europe, earning the fitting alias as the ‘king of space’ due to his successful performances at the Space nightclub in Ibiza.
The veteran producer has many accolades to his name, with multiple DJ awards such as being a four-time ‘best tech-house/progressive DJ’ and winning the ‘leader of the new breed’ award back in 2000.
Lawler is not only viewed as a prominent house producer but also an ambitious entrepreneur - founding his own record label ViVa back in 2006. He spoke to MITA Magazine journalist Dominic Magli, discussing his lengthy career in the music industry.
DM: What drew you to the career path of becoming a DJ and when did you begin?
SL: I had no desire to do a “proper job” and nothing else caught my attention except music. I never set out to be a DJ it just happened naturally. I was too young to get into clubs at the age of 16, but going to raves back then, no one really cared about your age and I got to experience this music on a big scale. I was hooked instantly on this music and started collecting records, buying house and techno from record shops all around the country. Then I began playing on illegal pirate radio and then doing my own illegal raves, which turned out to become a thing of legend in the midlands.
DM: What are some of your musical influences regarding your tracks and other producers?
SL: Influences changed over the years, but I would say, in the early days I was a fan of Sasha. I used to travel around the country to see Sasha. I developed my own sound in the late ’90s after visiting New York & San Francisco. I was hugely influenced by the west coast tribal sound and the New York after-hours sound. Which I championed then throughout the UK which became known for Tech House, myself & Craig Richards championed this druggy darker sound. We called it tech-house because it was music made with instruments commonly found in techno along with being built around a groove rather than a vocal along with the arrangements and tempo of house music.
DM: With these influences, how would you describe your style? What is your distinct factor as a DJ?
SL: My style as a DJ is about the groove, my sets are a journey, from deep to hard, but all maintaining a continues relentless groove throughout. My sound has evolved over the years as it absolutely should as I like taking on new ideas, using new technology, and that is what evolves sound, it's the equipment that is available at that time. I’m not one for hanging on the past but definitely use my history to introduce old ideas into new sounds and new ways of bringing something back.
DM: After spending time in Birmingham, how would you describe the music from there as a whole? Are there any artists or producers you enjoy listening to?
SL: Growing up in a small town outside of Birmingham called Solihull, I had to venture into town, and could never find any clubs or DJ’s that were doing anything exciting, to me Birmingham was cheesy. I remember trying to get work in Birmingham, but promoters would say, “you played too deep Steve, or too dark, or can you play some vocals, or play some classics people know” to me I would rather not play at all than be someone’s jukebox. So, I didn’t get much work in Birmingham, which in turn forced me to go outside of Birmingham to get gigs. Cities like Leeds, Manchester and London recognised good music, so that’s where I first started playing regularly. But over the years Birmingham has put out some talent Adam Shelton, Subb-an, Remelie to name a few.
DM: Entering the third decade of your career, what has been a career highlight for you?
SL: It’s so hard to really single out any one highlight because I’m fortunate enough to say I have had many, My infamous 11 year residency at Space in Ibiza, 7 years residency at The End in London, monthly residency at the mighty Twilo in New York, Recently when we started Warriors at Sankeys in Ibiza. I have literally lived the dream and still do. I owe electronic music everything, I am beyond grateful for the experiences I have had and how I still have them now.
DM: Have there been any struggles or challenges that you have faced as a DJ? If so, how did you overcome them?
SL: I have pretty much lived with anxiety my whole career and had to learn how to live with it. I refuse to take medication; I believe we can be strong enough if we go deep enough into ourselves. It’s not been easy but somehow, I’ve managed it. Once you have made it, the struggle is to keep your fame and to maintain some kind of healthy balance in your life. Life of a DJ is a good one, very rewarding spiritually and mentally, but it is taxing on your health, your relationships and your ability to have balance.
DM: What is your message to aspiring DJs who want to make it into the industry?
SL: It is much easier in this day and age to make music, to perform music, the whole industry has been made easier by technology, but you will still find it’s not as easy as you may have thought. Do what you feel is right, regardless of whether it's being done by others or not and do not give up.
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