Having played a pioneering role in electronic underground music for the past two decades, we feel very privileged to be interviewing Ralph Lawson. Apart from being a hero on our Island, he is also widely regarded as the crème de la crème in this industry. Ralph Lawson currently holds residencies at Back To Basics in Leeds, We Love Space in Ibiza and Barcelona’s The Loft as well as regular appearances at Berlin’s Watergate and London’s Fabric. Ahead of his recent showcase at the EGG this weekend, MEOKO chats with him about the highs of his musical career.
Ralph, what is it like being a resident at Back to Basics for years now?
Well it’s been a roller coaster ride, blood sweat and tears and it’s been a very long journey that strangely seems so short in a lot of ways. So much time has past and suddenly we’re 20+ years down the line and Back to Basics in Leeds is still going strong I’m really proud and happy to have been a part of it. It’s like being in The Rolling Stones dealing with Dave Beers, it’s kind of like dealing with Keith Richards as your cohort. It’s always interesting and I’ll always have stories from this time, we’ve had some ups, we’ve had some downs but we’re still here.
Do you find that there is a difference in the House scene in London with the scene in Leeds and hence do you consider that the scene in Leeds is still as strong as it was to begin with?
There’s definitely a difference for sure. I don’t think Back to Basics would have worked for as long in London as the scene move so much quicker everyone wants new things and as quickly as they can get them. It’s very fashion driven and there’s a need for everything to change so quickly. Back to Basics in Leeds is much more like a working men’s club everyone shares the same interests, it’s a place for people to go to week in week out. London is exciting it kickstarts a lot of scenes for the rest of the country and I love playing there. The crowds a bigger mix and much more cosmopolitan so you have to read the room slightly differently.
How did your interest in Djing in particular begin and what were the influences that directed you to that path?
I was drumming and in bands and I went over to Manchester around the time of Happy Monday’s and The Stone Roses and that kind of led to Hacienda and the Manchester scene. It was a real intro into acid house which we then bought back to Leeds which inspired Back to Basics.
When playing live, do you favour using vinyls or MP3s or is it a mixture of the two?
I never play MP3’s, I’ll play Wavs, Aiffs or high quality digital files if I’m going to play them. I try to give the audience the best music quality possible. I love playing vinyl to as it’s got a nice organic sound I like to mix it up and play both where possible.
What makes you decide on playing a particular record during one of your sets? Is there a criteria other than pure subjectivity, for selecting what to play next?
I just think it’s got to have a certain feeling techno, electronic, house, soulful it needs to grab you in a certain way and standout.
How important is it for you to achieve a desirable response out of the crowd you are playing for? Do you believe in the possibility of “reading an audience” and how do you put this into practise?
At the end of the day I’m a massive believer in people as a DJ you can be so up your own arse. but it’s not about just you particularly. It’s about the night and the crowd and the party and what you can contribute to that. People have paid money to be there so even if you’re tired or you’ve got a cold you’ve got a responsibility, you’re getting paid, you’re the guy behind the decks who needs to get people dancing, enjoying themselves and creating the atmosphere. I feel like I’ve left myself down and the crowd down if I don’t achieve that which I normally do.
When in London, what type or which venue in particular do you enjoy playing at the most?
Fabrics the number one isn’t it? It’s the real benchmark for what an electronic venue should be it’s so so important. It’s since spawned this amazing warehouse scene.
Do you feel that a crowd is actually able to appreciate the intricacies of complex DJing, if they don’t actually know what is happening behind the decks?
I actually think people are super clued up now about DJing, a lot of people have had a go. DJing is intricate but in some ways it’s very basic you’re putting on records whether its on digital or vinyl format and you’re mixing between the two. Even if people don’t know what skill is going down, most will appreciate how the music is being presented to the them. DJ’s work on so many different levels some people know the exact level skill that is going on and will be impressed by their technique whereas other will just appreciate that the music is flowing nicely and that it’s making them dance in the club.
Between Djing and producing your own music, what is it that interests you the most and why?
I’m a DJ first and foremost; I never saw myself as some big producer, I like working with bands and producers, I like remixing and learning.
I realized I’d learnt more than I thought by hanging out in the studios with these great people and bands. I decided to make my mark later on than most people and I’m really interested and enjoying producing at the moment.
When producing, is there anything specific that you aim for or do you usually follow your intuition as you go along?
I just really want to make the best track possible.
Lastly, other than 2020 Vision, are there any labels which you are really fond of?
Yes, I like a lot of the classic labels that were there when I first started they might not even be around now. As far as modern labels there are some really cool ones; Running Back, Hyper Colour, Barnhouse, that Axel Boman release is really good there are so many.
Ralph is playing at EGG on the 19th of April for Mobilee Back To Back Tour alongside Ray Okpara, Rodriguez Jr, Ejeca and Ranacat.
More information about the event and tickets CLICK HERE