There's something almost mythical about DJ Lee Burridge. He's like the Johnny Appleseed of electronic dance music -- a wide-eyed nomad roaming the Earth and planting the seeds of quality sound wherever he goes.
Over the years, it's a journey that's taken him from the grassy fields of UK raves to Hong Kong's cosmopolitan urban scene to Nevada's dusty Burning Man festival.
And at this point, the holy man can gather his hordes of fans at the drop of a club flier. Because when Burridge gets behind the decks for one of his famous marathon sets, you're guaranteed to get a body-jacking roller coaster ride. Like the one he'll be treating Miami to with SAFE at the Electric Pickle on Friday.
Crossfade: What did you listen to growing up and when did you first get into electronic dance music?
Lee Burridge: I was always interested in music from my earliest memories. A cassette player and tapes led to hearing the '80s on the radio. And my dad's jukebox in the pub we lived in -- which I then purchased as 7" records. I loved Madness, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Level 42, The Cure, and even owned (both) Men at Work albums (why, I couldn't say.) I was also into breakdancing, so had some early '80s electro compilations. This I guess led me to EDM when I first heard it at a rave in a field in 1987. A stranger in a nightclub I was working in told me all about it, so I found one. It was love at first sight.
What was the EDM scene like in the UK when you were first DJing in the late '80s? Is it unfair to romantisize that era of EDM history or was it truly special compared to now?
It was as special for someone who hadn't ever heard music like that back then, as I imagine it is today for the same new person. The only difference was it was fresh and innocent. No one had heard music like that before and I think that made it a little more exciting and free.
How did you end up in Hong Kong and what can you tell us about the time you spent there?
I was talent-spotted in a club in the middle of nowhere in the countryside in the UK and offered a job DJing in Hong Kong -- blind luck that changed my life forever. It was the first time I was a full-time DJ and the first time I lived away from my parents. I got wasted an awful lot and learned to mix the way I do today, as I was playing seven nights a week. My time there was responsible for instilling the nomadic feeling I still have today and it taught me a lot about people. Apart from that, I don't remember much.
You're known for your marathon DJ sets. What do you feel are the advantages of playing dance music for such extended periods of time and what sort of experience do you aim to provide people on the floor?
It allows time to properly explore the different feelings in the music I play. A two hour set from most DJs is limiting, so they all tend to just bang it out and use energy as the thread of interest to keep people dancing. There's no deviation, no drop off -- just hits of energy. I like to think about my sets as a story, or a really fun roller coaster ride -- up and down, left and right. A roller coaster that goes in a straight line is a boring ride, right? I have a broad taste in music and I love to expose the crowd to different feelings and sounds as I play.
It's definitely not for everyone, as some people come with expectations of what they want from you, even if it's not the sound or the way you play. Most nights there will be a single guy at the front of the crowd motioning with his hands to play harder or faster -- he usually looks quite annoyed. But what he doesn't take into account is that the party is good -- everyone else is having fun. It's kind of selfish. I say to that man, wherever he may dance (and motion with his hands): learn how to be a DJ and put on your own event. Play whatever you wish. I won't be there at the front motioning you to slow it down or chill out a bit with your energy. I'll be happy for you that you'll get to hear the clattering and banging energetic records you love and feel the vibe you're into.
How do you keep up with your frenetic year-round travel schedule? Are there any special habits or personal rituals you use to keep yourself energized, morivated and sane?
I don't eat meat and try to drink juice everyday. That, and the electroshock treatment.
You've played all over the world, from Hong Kong to Burning Man in Nevada. Which are some of your favorite spots to play at and why?
Burning Man festival --everytime. It's just so honest and free and beautiful. There's no other place like it.
You've played countless times in Miami over the years, and not just during WMC. How do the crowds here compare to the ones in the EDM meccas across the pond?
The people in Miami are so much fun. That's why I keep coming back. It's hard to compare, as EDM has connected so many people to each other across the globe. People are people.
What are your thoughts on the way the DJ craft has evolved in the last couple decades? Do you think the trade is dying with the ubiquity of digital music and DJ software?
The format and the tools to play them with aren't what makes a great DJ. I learned this a long time ago. You need to know how to program music into a set to be a really great DJ, in my humble opinion. How to create a flow and a story. I'd say that DJs playing 'safe' music that 'works' and that everyone else is playing is doing more damage. Just playing hits and banging it out the same as everyone else is dumbing-down the audience. Be brave DJs and play from the heart, not from the wallet.
What is the concept behind your All Day I Dream party and eponymous record label? What do you have in store for ADAID in 2012?
It's not something we are really talking about quite yet. But I will tell you the parties in New York have been super special last year and will continue this year. The idea was to bring a different sort of event to people with a high level of production from the sound to the decor, and play music the whole day that evokes an emotion -- music to make you smile. Each event has been beautiful. I'm taking it, with my partner in the parties, studio and label Matthew Dekay, further afield in 2012.
We just did the BPM festival in Mexico, which was amazing, and are going to be doing LA and Miami and New York this summer as well as the Lightning in a Bottle festival in California. I hope to also to do a London show in summer. The label's releasing melodic, beautiful, melancholic music to accompany the parties. Our second release is just out on vinyl from Matthew and I. It will be available digitally soon and is up on Spotify for all you cheapskates.
What else do you have in store for fans this year? Any forthcoming projects or releases?
Lots of music from us on the All Day I Dream label. A release in April, on a German label I love called Innervisions. We are also launching our second label in April called Get Weird. It's more Saturday night dance floor house music. That and a few apps that are being worked on at the moment! The All Day I Dream events are going to be taking up a lot of the year, as the plan is to take it global. Watch this space for the party in the Sahara desert!
So what can Miami expect during your performance with SAFE at the Electric Pickle on Friday? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for this one?
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Funny you should say "tricks up your sleeve". There's another Lee Burridge on Facebook from the UK who is a magician. Are you sure you've been interviewing the right guy?
Lee Burridge. Friday, February 3. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.