Dubspot’s Nate Mars catches up with internationally acclaimed DJ and music producer Lee Burridge for a discussion about his beginnings as a DJ, the influence of Chicago house on his music, and his All Day I Dream stage at the upcoming Wavefront Music Festival in Chicago.
From his humble beginnings as a DJ playing at his parents’ bar to becoming a crowd favorite at Burning Man, Lee Burridge has a great depth of experience with the electronic music underground. Burridge will bring his trademark sound to the All Day I Dream stage at Wavefront Music Festival in Chicago on July 5th at Montrose Beach. If you’re coming to the festival, make sure to stop by the Dubspot booth for a chance to win courses via Dubspot Online and more!
Nate Mars: What are you looking forward to the most about playing at Wavefront Music Festival in Chicago this year?
Lee Burridge: I heard so many great things about last year’s event. Chicago is obviously one of America’s coolest cities, and I’ve loved it ever since my first visit in 1998. I always feel so at home there. It’s great to be invited to bring our own unique concept to one of the stages for the whole of Sunday. I feel the setting and the city perfectly compliment what we do. Being outdoors with great sound and that gorgeous view of the city and the lake is going to make for an amazing day. What I’m looking forward to the most is hearing my friends and my guests play on the All Day I Dream stage we set.
NM: What’s the idea behind the All Day I Dream aesthetic?
LB: The year before I launched ADID, I’d played at or had been to many different events. I kept feeling that most were looking to make a few dollars by giving less to the customer. The economic climate was also making a lot of people nervous that year. As music has always been such a wonderful way to escape these feelings, I decided I wanted to give more rather than take more. I felt that if the party felt welcoming and looked pretty it would set the tone, which in turn would compliment the music I wanted to play. I already knew I wanted to hold it on a rooftop in Brooklyn I’d played the year before. I instantly loved the space, but felt that the party was somewhat under produced. To start with, there was no shade, and that July 4th was baking hot. Everyone was looking for shelter from the sun anywhere they could find it.
I really want to make people feel comfortable, and after experiencing Burning Man many times, I’ve seen many beautiful and comfortable ways of doing that. Also, out at Burning Man you always see how color pops against the muted surroundings. I had an idea to use material that would float above peoples heads, not only serving as shading, but also offsetting the brutal look of concrete buildings in Brooklyn’s industrial landscape. Sana Bindra, who has been with me since the first event, brings many well thought out touches and ideas to the ever changing look of the party. She hand makes many of the items we hang above the booth. Between us, I think we’ve created a very personal experience for everyone. The idea is to create a feeling between the music and the environment that transports you to another place. It all comes from a place of love, which I feel we could always us more of in our lives.
NM: How are you curating that stage?
LB: Christian Loffler is a fantastic live act from Germany, and was the first guest to play All Day I Dream outside of Matthew [Dekay] and I. I feel that Christian is still somewhat unknown in the USA, even after his amazing debut album last year [Ashes and Snow]. I am going to support him as much as I can, so I invited him to play for me in New York on July 4th this year. Luckily, Wavefront is right after which allows me to bring him to play there too. I’m a real fan of longer sets so the lineup has grown slowly. I was going to play a long set, and my amazing residents Mike Khoury and Hoj agreed to play, which I’m super excited about, and that was supposed to be it. Then, I signed All Day I Dream’s next release from Gab Rhome [and Maher Daniel]. I loved his last release on Supplement Facts, and after our paths crossed he signed two great tracks to the label. He’s moving to Barcelona this summer, but is in the USA at exactly the right time for Wavefont. Perfect timing! The music we all play tells a story, and this is how I see the ADID stage evolving.
NM: How has the Chicago house sound influenced you and your sets?
LB: It’s where I started. Where things changed for me. It’s the first music that truly blew my mind and had me thinking that I needed to be part of this. What ever “this” was! It’s always made me keep looking for new sounds that excite me the way the early Chicago house tracks did.
NM: Are you preparing anything special for your set and stage?
LB: We are working on bringing the full ADID look and feel to the stage. The music itself is really special, but we want to surround ourselves with our decor and details to add that little extra special bit. If that doesn’t work, out it’s all about communal stage diving and matching thongs.
NM: What technology are you using to DJ these days? How has it changed over the years?
LB: At ADID I’ve been using a mixture of vinyl and Traktor. There’s no debate for me when asked which I prefer: I’ll always prefer vinyl. But most venues are no longer able to allow this to happen. I’m always met with old broken Technics turntables, or no styluses, or the sound system being tuned to digital. This is the biggest problem. Even at my events, you can’t really flip flop between the different formats. It just doesn’t sound good. As I’ve been playing long sets of around seven hours, I really love Traktor. It’s great for looping and keeping tracks in the background for a long time, which only adds to the trippy, dreamy flow. I was also using CDs until mine were stolen, at which point I used the USB drives for the first time. The CDJ-2000s are really slick, and fun to use, but it still feels weird turning up in a club where my record box has been replaced by the tiny pocket in my jeans containing two USB drives. Burning CDs also felt really wasteful to me, as I was only burning two tracks on each CD. I started thinking about all those CDs in landfills. Not good!
I feel it’s really important as DJs that we are always able to adapt and use any technology. It will never happen, but I think young DJs should experience playing from vinyl. It’s a magical experience. Perhaps we should introduce a kind of driving test if you want to be a DJ. You must be able to mix without the sync button in Traktor, and be able to mix two records without Mixed In Key [harmonic mixing software]!
NM: What projects have you been working on in the studio?
LB: Matthew Dekay and I have been without a studio for a little while. The building was sold, and it’s taken forever to rebuild in the new space. We’ve got a few really nice unfinished tracks I’ve been playing for some time now which we really must finish!
NM: What is your production process like these days and how has it evolved over the years?
LB: I grew up as a DJ rather than a producer. I came late to the studio and still rely on someone else. I wish it were a different story. I do bring all those years of experience from the dance floor though. What feels and sounds good. I’m also always interested in the subtleties and small details. My ears and brain always listen to the sound in between the beat or what’s crackling in the background. It creates the ambience a lot of the time. I’m lucky to have met Matthew Dekay though. His musical talent comes from a place you’re born with, not a place you can learn. (Even though he continues to explore, and read, and learn constantly!) I admire him very much.
NM: Any advice you would like to offer to up and coming DJs or producers?
LB: Play and create from your heart. Don’t try to be or sound like someone else. It’s a highly competitive environment, but be you. If you make fifty average tracks, you’re just adding to the clutter out there if you release them. Instead, why not think of them as practice in honing your art form. Wait until you have something special that people will remember, rather than throw away releases. Also, it’s not about you. It’s about all of us. Without the crowd there’s no party (however great you are). Without the sound guy or the lighting guy doing a great job, it’s a lesser experience. Everyone is important. Try to remain humble and remember where you came from. We are all in this because we love the music, not the attention.
NM: Anything else you want to tell us about? Label news? ADID LA? ADID NY?
LB: The next release on ADID is from Gab Rhome and Maher Daniel. “Farewell at the Gates of Dawn” is a beautiful track that stole its drums from “Fur Die Liebe,” by Matthew and me! Our third ADID summer season started last weekend in New York. It really was unbelievable. I want to say a special thank you for the love shown by the two hundred or so people who waited outside for hours and hours when we were at capacity, hoping other people would leave. Seriously, thank you. Our West Coast summer season kicked off this past Sunday (June 16), at an amazing venue called the Humming Bird Ranch. It’s near LA, and we were super excited to kick off summer there.