Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lee Foss Interview

Well, I bumped into Lee Foss in Cambridge last month. We met at The Priory when Jamie Jones was playing. I'd recently reviewed Lee's excellent 'The Edge' for RA so, armed with that tenous means of introduction, chatted to him during his more coherent moments. He was courtesy itself and agreed to answer some questions, which I duly emailed. A very good interview has appeared in the interim, on the Teshno blog, so I didn't want to duplicate too much. Anyway, here it is.

Jamie Jones also agreed to answer some questions, he's got them but I don't know when I'm getting them back. I shall prod him presently.

Lee Foss Questions & Answers:

What's your take on London and the UK generally? Is everything really a lot smaller over here?

Hmm, I love London and I’ve really been enjoying my UK gigs. I mean there are things about the UK and Europe that I don’t love, things are definitely smaller, I don’t really prefer the food, there are things I get homesick for but at this point I’ve definitely spent enough time here over the years to feel at home in the UK.

Your music is as American, and humid, as house gets. How do you think living in a damp, cold climate will influence your output?

That’s a good question, we’ll see. The last month since I’ve been in London the weather has been terrible and I was sleeping all day and never saw the sun and that and some really tough personal times made it hard to work, but I’ve been working lately so I think it’s just something you get over and get on with. The truth is I will probably always spend a lot of time both here and L.A. I do really enjoy the sunshine and I can’t say it doesn’t help me work. I couldn’t really say if the weather would influence the mood of my tracks.

A lot of American artists say that the scene stateside is relatively non-existent. What's your experience of this and how does it compare with the UK and Europe?

It is absolutely non-existent compared to Europe. It’s a case of DIY or nothing really, and if you are throwing parties stateside booking credible music, it will always lose you money, so it's an investment in building your brand and your relationships with artists.
Certainly there are more up for it people in the UK and Europe and bigger youth cultures in the major cities and more knowledgable fans, but it’s not something that ever made me bang my head against the wall, it is what it is, and its not likely to change. England has Radio 1 and a national media, everyone sees and experiences the same thing and dance music is showcased, it is obvious you are going to get a more clued up generation of kids that in a country that is spread out into dozens of regions with regional media and virtually no exposure to dance music. America will always have a disconnection when it comes to youth culture.

Your work as Hot Natured with Jamie Jones is very much flavour of the month. Re-edits feature heavily in both your's and Jamie's sets and output. What's the difference between a remix and re-edit? And do you ever feel that what you're doing is too poppy and approaching the wrong side of cheese?

For me there is no difference between a remix or a re-edit or at least not the way it is currently being defined, edits are just a trendy way to call it to sell records in Phonica and to make it sound cooler to put them out and not have the original artist notice it's out there. I mean a re-edit in practice would just be a rearrangement of a tracks sequencing without additional production.
I don’t ever feel what I’m doing is too poppy, I have every intention of eventually producing for major label artists, who wouldn’t want to work with Jay-Z, or Santogold, or La Roux, or people that inspire you?

It's interesting that LA has suddenly become a focal point for house. Is it all Droog and the parties at The Standard, or are there other things happening?

I suppose there are other things happening, but I moved there to work with Droog and to do those parties, and my life has been focused around that scene. Certainly there are other promoters who book techno and house and do a perfectly good job of it, but Culprit is definitely building a sound and creating a brand, so for me that is the focal point of what's happening there. The fact that music is being created out of this scene that people are appreciating has got a lot more to do with the price of eggs than whether or not there were people there before us booking djs.

You're originally from Chicago, the home of house. Who did you associate with when there and did/do you have any contact with any of the scene veterans?

Hmm yeah I hung out with Mazi and Diz quite a bit, and I definitely knew Derrick and Justin Long and everyone that was still in the city from their generation. I basically did the parties I did there on my own which was probably part of the reason I left. I was getting good bookings and playing with great artists and sometimes doing my own parties but I definitely saw a cap as to what I could accomplish there and who would appreciate it. I will always have love for Chicago and it will always be my home, it made me.

Do you have any all-time favourites: albums, artists, tracks . .? And what are your influences outside music?

Albums – Jay Z – Reasonable Doubt and the Blueprint, Notorious BIG – Ready To Die and Life After Death, Nas – Illmatic, Outkast – Atliens, the Pharcyde - Labcabincalifornia

Artists – Notorious B.I.G.

Tracks – too many to begin to start to name them

I am influenced by The Wire

You're associated with Wolf & Lamb. Can you put your finger on why they're in the ascendancy? What do you have in common?

I think there are quite a few reasons Wolf + Lamb are having so much success, but I think the main reason is that Gadi is obsessed with staying ahead of the curve and probably overthinks things but the attention to detail and forward thinking a+ring and presentation to the point point of neuroticism really give the brand a distinct identity. Also the parties at the Marcy are unparalleled in the world right now, and it just adds to the fact that so much great music is being released.

For me the biggest thing I have in common with Gadi, Zev, and Deniz is work ethic. Gadi and Zev are constantly working, whether its towards the label, or setting up for a party, or touring, and Deniz is the only person I know who works as hard as Jamie and I do in the studio so I’m constantly impressed when I’m around them and see other people with ambition like mine.

Define your sound and try and explain what makes you stand out from the crowd.

I have a hard time answering questions like this, I guess bouncy percussion, rising dark basslines, moody chords, disembodied 90’s soul vocals, and 80’s funk snippets with updated production techniques. Depth mixed with funk.

I don’t hear a ton of music that I fee like playing outside of my immediate circle of friends, so I guess that the music we are making does stand out a little. As a dj I think I stand out from the crowd because so much of what I’m playing is my own, and because I’m really working hard the first time I go to new cities to make set special and connect w every crowd.

Many thanks Lee.

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