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Forward thinking, groundbreaking, precedent setting: not just the true essence of progression, but an apt way to begin a biography on the world renowned DJ/producer Steve Lawler. That’s progression, not to be mistaken with the term progressive, music Steve Lawler’s often been associated with. Lawler is much more than a progressive house DJ. A child of the acid house generation, he’s been busy with the beats long before genres were but a twinkle in clubland’s eye.
An electronic artist who defies generic boundaries, ever since his days organising the infamous motorway raves under the M42, Lawler’s set his own agenda, following his natural musical instinct behind the decks and in the studio. 2008 has been the best example of this; after 17 years of hard graft, more people are beginning to take note of Lawler than ever.
One glance at his recent releases suggests as much. ‘21st Century Ketchup’ on Ali Dubfire’s much lauded Sci+Tec was a run away success at the 2008 Miami Winter Music Conference, ‘Femme Fatale’ on Josh Wink’s legendary Ovum was one of the summer’s heaviest hitters. And they’re just a small sample of what’s fast becoming one seriously prolific pie with releases on Tsuba, Drumcode, Systematic, Tanzbar, Boxersport, MBF and R&S all primed and focussed squarely on the dancefloor. ‘Horses For Courses’, released on Renaissance in 2007, is a fine example of Steve’s recent work; a dark rumbling romp, (it’s about as progressive as jelly and ice cream). His tracks with Audiofly and Dino Lenny as SLAAF and SLADLY are a similar affair with discerning acclaim coming from the dancefloor, DJs and music press alike.
VIVA Music, Steve’s label, has been key to this progression. His days heading the much-missed Harlem Records have paid priceless experience; Steve knew exactly what he wanted from VIVA from the off. Embracing the power of digital distribution and forming strong links with the MP3 powerhouse Beatport, he’s in the previously unheard-of position to only sign a track if he “thinks it’s the bollocks”. Those are his very words – focussed and passionate about his music, he doesn’t even care if it sells. Luckily it does sell, with each release receiving heavy patronage by techno luminaries such as Laurent Garnier and Carl Craig.
With VIVA came responsibilities such as promotion and adept A&R, both of which he’s excelled at; his VIVA launch nights at Pure Pacha will go down in the venue’s illustrious history, his VIVA tour has taken him across every continent and every festival worth knowing. As for A&R, just ask artists like Simon Baker, Audiofly, Presslaboys, Bearweasal and Livio & Roby and they’ll tell you all about the support, encouragement and opportunities Lawler has given them.
VIVA works as a culmination of everything that’s gone before; from the aforementioned illegal raves, to his residency at super club Cream or the Ibizan schooling where he famously played eight hour sets at Café Mambo seven days a week. He’s remixed high profile artists such as Jamelia, Dido and Justin Timberlake and worked with world renowned dance imprints Global Underground, Renaissance and Bedrock. He’s released some of the scene’s most collectable mix series such as the ‘Dark Drums’ ‘Lights Out’ and, most recently, the ‘VIVA’ series. Now on its second release, the ‘VIVA’ series has revealed Steve’s widescreen vision better than any mix before with down tempo and deep house playing a big part in the beat blend. Needless to say, the tours supporting such releases have taken him to every corner of the globe from New York to New Zealand.
Heralded as King Of Space by Ibizan locals, fans and industry peers Steve held a triumphant residency for seven years at the Balearic super club (a club he returned to in 2008). His Viva Harlem Nights events, be they at The End or on tour, consistently sell out and his residency at London’s Home Club was one of the infamous venue’s only success stories. He’s even been headhunted by horror film director Iain Softly to make the theme tune to the 2005 movie Skeleton Key.
Yes, Steve’s seen it all and experienced everything club culture can throw at him, from mistaken identity to scary stalkers… He’s even been held at knifepoint in a dark alley behind a Mexican club for not playing a request! It’s these years of hard sonic graft, however, that have fine-tuned his understanding of electronic music and its relationship with the dancefloor.
Now, armed with his experience and understanding of the intricacies of dance music and the drama that lies within, Steve enters the most exciting stage of his career. No longer seen as just a progressive DJ, he’s the happiest he’s ever been, both as a DJ and in the studio, working more prolifically and diligently than ever before. The summer is spent jet setting around the world’s finest clubs from Watergate to Womb, performing to thousands of revellers at every party, while the winter sees him retire to the studio making the music he wants to make. Not what people expect of him.
Dynamic, driven and drastically obsessed with performing as well as he possibly can. Steve’s passion for house, techno and electronica is too strong for one simple generic association, and right now his message is louder than ever. 17 years deep and Steve Lawler isn’t just at the top of his game, he’s pushing the boundaries of what a DJ can do – both technically and creatively – as an artist and as a successful label businessman. Now that’s progression.