Ahead of him putting out his fine entry into the Cr2 mix series Live And Direct, Lee Walker offers two exclusive singles from it. He has already released on labels like Defected and Nervous so is no newcomer, but is very much rising to the top as these singles prove. The mix itself is divided into three parts that show off his many different sounds and styles as a DJ, from the deep warm ups to the more peak time techno offerings. In his time he has been resident at various clubs and here we speak to him about the art of being a resident, about how he approached the mix, what he has coming up and much more.
Words by Rob Chadwick
How are you, what’s good, what’s bad right now?
I’m good! Everything is really good, nothing bad that can’t be solved very easily, a lot to look forward to for the remainder of the year so just buzzing for that.
Tell us about your relationship with Cr2, how you first linked and what its like working with them?
We first linked up when they asked me to play one of their live streams at DJ Mag HQ, it was really good fun, we went for food beforehand, had a good crack on and eventually the topic of the Live & Direct series came up, and here I am, knocking out a Live & Direct!
Do you send music out to all labels once its finished or do you get specifically commissioned to make them before you start?
There are some that are specially tailored but for some reason, I’ve never found that very inspiring, it makes music feel a lot like “a real job” for want of a better phrase, one of the many many reasons I love being self employed working within music is the freedom you have and the fact that it’s nothing like sitting at a desk 9 to 5. I prefer the former, putting music together and then sending it where I think it’ll fit, this way there aren’t any obstructions in the creative process.
You have had many different residencies in your time – what have they taught you?
I’ve held residencies from side rooms, to bars, to basement clubs to dark, unsanitary rooms, they all teach you something different as a DJ, playing in so many different spaces teaches you a lot about what the crowd expects in each environment which is vital, it allows you to play across the board from opening slots, to closing, to warm up slots for guests and so on, there’s so much to be learned from it, I wouldn’t be the DJ I was today if it wasn’t for empty room opening slots, to the power hour closing slots, it also gives you a much wider taste in music when you have to adjust so frequently to different audiences and spaces. The essentials of being a resident for me at least is that it isn’t about you, it’s about the party, your service is to the party and the people who attend, not to your own ego, if you’re churning out 125bpm Tech House at 11pm with a bottle of tequila up your arse while wearing a sombrero, all the while warming up for a guest, you’re doing it wrong on the most part and the party isn’t gonna flow properly, you’re essentially breaking the party. Another thing is that you have to be able to play any slot, before any DJ, after any DJ so getting your head buried in music is hugely important, the top 100 isn’t gonna cut it if you want to be a great resident, look to Craig Richards and Terry Francis as the perfect example of what a resident DJ is, loyal to their club/party, know what to play, when to play it and how far to go as well as what the crowd need at any given point in the night.
Tell us how you approached the Cr2 Live and Direct mix – was it live in one take?
It was all live in one take, I obviously already knew exactly what I was playing, it was just a case of recording it and getting everything to sit well.
What gear did you use to put it together – the same as you would in the club? Does that matter?
Just a pair of Pioneer CDJs and a DJM 900, no I don’t think it matters what you mix on, I’ve never thought it has, although this is a massively contentious topic at the moment with a lot of people claiming you’re not a real DJ if you can’t beatmatch on vinyl, I mean I understand the point, it’s a reasonable point and everyone should have to overcome that difficulty, but still, being able to beatmatch isn’t really a skill any more, I choose not to use the sync button because I don’t have to, but I don’t begrudge a DJ that right as long as they can actually mix, which is far more than just beatmatching two tracks, and that their music is good.
Were any bits particularly easy or hard to get right?
Well the idea for the mix is 4 different 4 track sections to suit 4 different club spaces which represent the types of places I’ve played throughout my life, the hardest part of putting that together is transitioning for space to space without it sounding like a bomb going into a teardrop.
Tell us about the new singles you have coming that are on the mix – what informed and inspired them? Did you write them to fit into the mix?
There are 4 on this one, Tim Bongconga, Ambiguity, Break The System and Back Down To Earth. These were all written at different times not specifically for the mix or with it even in mind, I just came up with the concept I wanted to work with and since I have a hoard of music that I’m holding back like a techno gremlin, it wasn’t too hard to pick 4 tracks out to fit each space.
What were you trying to capture, did you have an audience or club in mind when putting it together?
As previously mentioned the mix is supposed to represent 4 different types of club space, the first is a throwback to the warm up slots I played a lot at Solar Knights, stripped back tech house/minimal with a bit of chug slapped into it as the section progresses. The second space is from my time at *riffraff where I mostly played the upstairs bar, I played a lot of housey numbers and as the night wore on I’d go into slightly more driven yet still housey stuff. The third space is the music that since I was a kid, I’ve always thought perfectly represents Ibiza, really driven, chuggy, sun-soaked house and tech house, I played like this a lot at The Zoo Project last season as well as in the Sankeys basement, it’s always fun to play. The final space is more representative of the type of place I play now, headline slots in bigger rooms to more people, a bit heavier and darker to round everything off nicely. I’m really happy with how it turned out since transitioning from section to section had the potential to be a complete car crash.
What else have you got coming up/are you looking forward to?
The thing I’m most looking forward to which I’m sure is what most DJ’s look forward to in the Spring is getting back to Ibiza in the summer, I have a residency with Taste The Punch at Eden this year and I’ve also got a gig with Fatboy Slim and Roger Sanchez on the Amnesia Terrace, which is kind of a really nice turnaround considering it’s that very room that gave me my big break a year or two ago. I also can’t wait for Hideout Festival in Croatia playing for Elrow!
Lee Walker has just mixed the brand new ‘Live & Direct’ Compilation on Cr2 Records