Interview: Steve Lawler

A child of the acid house generation, Steve Lawler has been busy with the beats long before genres were but a twinkle in clubland’s eye.

You would be hard pushed to find a more in-form, in-demand, exceptionally talented artist, regarded as highly by his industry peers as he is by his huge global base of musically educated fans. An electronic artist who defies generic boundaries, ever since his days organising the infamous motor way raves back in the early 90ʻs underneath the M42 motor way, in the UK.

With that, Today Steve and his team have announced the release of a new documentary, ‘The Art of the DJ’, documenting Steve’s rise to the forefront of UK underground dance music in a career which has spanned over two decades in the music industry. With help from peers such as Carl Cox, Darren Hughes, Danny Whittle, James Todd and Ben Turner, and through Steve’s friends and family, we discover the path leading to Steve Lawler’s status as one of the most truly influential DJs of our time.

‘The Art of the DJ’ is a brutally candid expose of Steve Lawler’s life which sees Steve opens up completely on his experiences of drugs and his self-proclaimed destruction of his reputation. With nostalgic footage of the Space Terrace and Cream and exclusive interviews from some of the UK’s leading figures in dance music, ‘The Art of the DJ’ has been two years in the making. As Steve’s Viva Music imprint celebrates in tenth year, ‘The Art of the DJ’ is a first-hand account of the ups and downs of Steve Lawler’s life. An extensive in-depth account of Steve Lawler’s twenty-three year career at the top of UK underground music, ‘The Art of the DJ’ explores Steve Lawler’s legacy to a now legendary period of dance music history.

Steve Lawler presents ‘The Art of the DJ’ is available to download now

” We’ve been doing this long enough and it’s about time we tell it like it really is. “

How were you first approached with the idea to make a documentary on your life and career?
Around 7 or 8 years ago I did a bus tour across the United States for six weeks. There, it was brought to our attention that no one in the electronic sector had done a long bus tour like this before. It was always rock or pop bands. My manager at the time had the idea to film the whole thing and do a documentary. We did that, but we couldn’t find a director to then make the movie out of the 6
TB of footage we had shot. I think we went about it the wrong way since we didn’t know about making films.

When this faded away, the idea stuck with me and it was literally by chance that an old colleague, Director Piers Sanderson, did a Facebook post about a film he just made. I didn’t even know he made films! So I contacted him and the film was incredible. His work is very touching!

From there, I told him how we had this idea some years ago. We met up and started talking about it. He said to me straight away, “Look, I’ve watched a lot of DJ documentaries. I would never make a film like that. They are too fluffy.” He said that his one condition to making this film would be that he would want it to be raw he wanted to know the grit of what it’s like to really be a DJ; he wanted to know if it is all champagne and such. This unfolded my own story, asking me why I wanted to get into this in the first place.

Obviously the visual aspect of a film makes storytelling using that medium a bit different from storytelling as a DJ. With that in mind, what were the conversations like between you and Piers regarding the visual aspect of the film?
I didn’t really have any say in it, to be honest. Once Piers and me met up and discussed the idea, the next meeting was my interview which would become the narrative of the film, He went off and sourced loads all the interviews of me on TV. Since he is a documentary filmmaker, he just knows where to go to get this kind of material. He Contacted family and friends and built up a collection of material to use. I had no say in what he went and got and what he put in the film. When I watched the first edit of the film, I was both excited and petrified.

The way we went about and did the film, especially with its raw elements, meant that we shot my interview in this warehouse space. It was a raw space to reflect who I am musically, and I left the rest to him. I was literally in there for hours telling my story and Piers did the rest. When you see the film all put together it had quite an impact on me. Since I stumbled upon electronic music, the film explains, quite well, how hard I have worked at it to get where I am now.

There is an interview with your parents in the film. Did you always know you would include your parents in there?
After I told the story of how I was badly beaten, Piers stuck to the fact about how that incident affected my parents. Imagine them: their 17-year-old coming home near beaten to death. It scared them quite a bit. As soon as I said that, Piers said he wanted to see my parents. To my surprise they were open to talk about it. I think this movie will shock a lot of people, to be honest. It will certainly shock some people who know me, including my family, who know so much about me but don’t know to the extent. Like I said, I am petrified and excited.

As the film will be out today, what plans to you have to get it out to the widest audience you can?
There is a whole team behind all that. My only involvement was to check the edits and make sure I was happy with it, really. I know the first release is rental only via my Facebook. Facebook has gotten behind it and they have an app where people can pay a rental fee and they have around a month to watch it. Then, I believe it will be released physically and digitally, and then distributed to a handful of channels. It has also been to music festivals. The producer took it around for a bit, but I am not sure where exactly.

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