These days Lee Foss is quite the man, and everyone is blabbing about him, from London to Paris, from Miami to L.A. We have to say, he’s acting on all fronts, at the same time DJ, producer and label manager (i’ll give you that, yes it’s quite common nowadays). In about two years he became the hero of the nu-school house nation, alongside other artists like Art Department or Deniz Kurtel, who are all now inevitable performers. He not only owes his success to his solo productions and his duet with Jamie Jones, but also to his label Hot Creations. A label which started flirting with the top of the house scene in less than a year, right next to Crosstown Rebels and Wolf + Lamb. Despite his very heavy schedule, Lee managed to answer some of our questions: down there he speaks about his career, his exciting projects, and also about his eternal love for vintage sunglasses.
Hi Lee, what’s up today ?
Hi there, I’m in London today; I just got back to the UK on Friday after 9 days in Miami and started my UK tour this weekend. I’ve been sleeping from a heavy weekend with some great gigs. It’s pretty exciting to be back in the UK because it’s an interesting barometer for me, every time I leave for a few months and come back it’s amazing to see how my profile has grown here and how interested people are in the music.
So, did you manage to make it to WMC after the usual dates have been changed ?
I managed to make it to “Ultra week” or “Miami music week” or whatever the final week of March is called now. No one that I know in my scene went during WMC, which moved a few weeks ahead, and most major DJs were unable or uninterested in changing their schedules around or the dates they had locked in for their label parties at the end of March. It was a great week, I think overall maybe numbers were down especially with some airport fires in Miami international that kept people away, but in terms of my crew and immediate group of friends, the Visionquest party, Get Lost/Crosstown Rebels party, and Hot Natured were all mobbed and better than expected so I was really happy. I think some of the dinosaur events were hurt/slow/cancelled but all the new school stuff was better than ever.
I’ve always wanted to go to WMC and try the Crosstown Rebels and Hot Natured parties, but it’s pretty expensive to go there, and far from France…But I watched so many videos of WMC, and there really seems to be a special, cool and relaxed vibe out there…Can you try to describe it for us Frenchies who can’t go to Miami ?
Miami is my favorite international festival week of the year. You get so many of your friends from all over the world together in a place with such cool venues and great weather, so many pretty girls, and great parties going on, it’s just my favorite week of the year. My friends and I usually get a nice villa as well and have some fun afterparties, lots of great new music gets signed from a label perspective, all your mates show you their new tunes, it’s just fun and at the same time benefits your career. Also I love anything with palm trees.
There must be some kind of rivalry during WMC between the «underground» scene that you and others represent, and the more mainstream stuff like David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia etc ?
I’ve never ever felt any rivalry or noticed anything of the sort, but then I don’t go to those parties. I always feel like there’s a good chance parties like Get Lost and Visionquest and Hot Natured are going to draw a few of the cooler people from that mainstream scene and it will be a gateway to better music for them. I don’t begrudge anyone the music they listen to, there’s no accounting for taste, but if the people on the underground scene make good enough music and put on good enough events with attention to detail, then everyone including mainstream fans will enjoy them if given the chance.
Anyway, you definitely have a lot of things going on right now, between the Modern Amusement EP on No. 19, your new solo EP on Hot Creations, the new Hot Natured EP and the Hot Waves compilation…How do you manage it all ? Do you ever get some sleep ?
Yeah I definitely have a lot of music out, there’s also the Hot Natured album on Hot Creations, and a Lee Foss album on Hot Creations, an original track on the Soul Clap No. 19 mix, plus a ton of remixes, too much stuff to mention really. There’s also another EP coming on No. 19…I do suffer from sleep deprivation a lot ha, but it’s really prioritization and the fact that I work quickly. Also the fact that I finished a ton of releasable music over the last couple years that was not released in a timely fashion. Especially with the fact that I usually do 4 track original EPs, it is a lot of output.
I’ve sat on a lot of Lee Foss and Hot Natured songs that most people would have put out straight away. Some of that was probably a mistake as a lot of old music is judged in relation to current trends that I kind of precursored and sometimes I hate to read reviews because I feel a bit defensive like, well this wouldn’t have been reviewed this way in 2009, but at the end of the day, all that really matters is that some people are enjoying the music and that I like it. I wish I had more time to work on music, I tour more than I would like, but I know it’s equally important for people to hear me DJ in new markets as it is to release quality product.
Firstly, you released music on some of the trendiest labels of the past few years, such as Wolf+Lamb, Culprit, Hot Creations…How does it feel to appear on such amazing structures ? And secondly, you still haven’t released anything on Crosstown Rebels, which is in my opinion the most important label of this «new underground house scene»…Why is that ?
Well I think the answer to both parts of this question tie together. I will always have an association to Crosstown Rebels and I love it as a label and it is my home as a DJ agency and the home label for many of my closest friends. I’m happy for Damian and for my friends that there is such success related to the label. That being said I have promised myself from the beginning that my career was going to be about building things for myself and with new labels instead of working with established ones. Hot Creations/Hot Natured is my brand, it is my heart, and almost all my energy in this world goes into it. I want people in a year’s time to be able to say, Hot Creations is the most important label of this “new underground house scene”…
Culprit was a brand I helped build, one I will always be associated with, run by and owned by some of my closest friends. Its success warms me in a way that a release on an established label never could, I guess I just have always felt like an underdog in this industry because of what work I had to do and what I’ve gone through to achieve success. In a sense this was also my label or one that I felt strongly I had a personal interest in.
Wolf + Lamb and No.19 are also exciting new labels run by close friends who showed extremely high interest in me in the spring of 2009 just as we were launching Culprit, so they supported me and were excited about me from the beginning. Gadi and Jonny White have been two of my biggest supporters and helped give me a huge early boost in my career so Wolf + Lamb and No.19 will also always have my support because they were there from the beginning after they saw me play at Get Lost in Miami 2009. Never say never, but you are unlikely to ever see an EP of original product or album from me on an established label until if and when there comes a time that I become a major label producer or artist.
Your career has grown pretty big for the past two years, but doesn’t it feel a bit weird (and wonderful at the same time) that so many people talk about you, and suddenly have a real interest in what you do ?
It is weird in a lot of senses, I worked towards being a DJ and producer for so many years and always felt I was doing something special so on the one hand I always believed it would happen for me eventually, it was just so strange because once it started happening, it happened so quickly. It was also strange because I was in a relationship with a girl for 7 years leading up to my success and I was so used to thinking in a “we” mindset and not spending money on myself and being broke and feeling like I was doing the work for me and her and my family, and that relationship ended just before the success came and it was hard to accept straight away that the success was just mine and not shared because I believed for so long I was dedicating my hard work to a shared experience. But now yeah it feels good that people are taking notice of me and of Hot Natured/Hot Creations. Any time you work hard, it feels good and validating to be recognized.
Thanks to all the media attention that is now around you, you’ve definitely become a trendsetter in the house music scene…Aren’t you a bit afraid of the new challenges you may have to face in the future ?
Yeah there will be a backlash, there’s no way around it. People love the new thing and then they move on, but the thing is if you are doing something really good or really special, by the time the bandwagon jumpers move on, you have more and more legitimate fans and it just doesn’t matter. So I don’t really fear it, I won’t enjoy negative comments or reviews, but who really cares if your music is making people happy.
When I see all this new music from you that keeps coming every month, I can’t stop thinking that you must have like a thousand yet unreleased tracks and edits on your computer, am I wrong ?
Yes I’ve still got loads of unreleased Lee Foss tracks and edits and Hot Natured tracks, some should be finished, some should have been released at the time and now probably aren’t good enough considering my current profile, others are great and will be released when the time is right. Not thousands but definitely a lot…
Let’s get back to the Hot Waves compilation…Can you tell us a little bit about it ? How did you choose the tracks and the artists that are featured on the compilation ?
Hot Waves is our new label that will feature quarterly compilations with 4 track vinyl samplers. We decided to create the label as an outlet for songs we were receiving that weren’t full EPs and as a way to create these quarterly compilations. It’s a great way to break new artists or showcase some of our other material. The music on the release you’re talking about are songs that we’ve set aside from our own tracks i.e., Jamie, Hot Natured, Robert James, myself etc plus some new artists who’ve sent us tracks but didn’t have full releases or had songs we thought would make the compilation special. I don’t want Hot Waves to be an afterthought, I want every one of these comps to be special and looked forward to.
And what about Hot Creations’ future releases ? How do you usually choose to sign an artist instead of another one ?
Hot Creations upcoming schedule is Hot Natured Forward Motion EP on April 25th (which should be huge), then my next solo EP, then Jamie Jones has an EP, then Danny Daze has an EP, then Robert James… After that we have EP’s from Miguel Puente and MANIK. Independent of that EP schedule we have full length artist albums from Hot Natured, Lee Foss/Me, and Miguel Campbell, and I assume there will be an EP from Miguel Campbell that will precede the album. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this release schedule, the Hot Natured Forward Motion EP and the Danny Daze EP will have two of the year’s biggest tunes, the Danny Daze is massive. I feel like I couldn’t even begin to say enough about each and every one of these releases, I’m so excited about mine, about Robert James’ and Miguel Campbell’s album, coming out of Miami this is an exciting time.
We choose an artist based on if the songs are good enough/fit with our aesthetic, and also on if we like them as people. We want to have people represent the label that are good fun people to be around and we want to be able to tour with people we like and play with people we like. But mostly we want them to make dope music.
Tell us a bit more about Forward Motion…How did you meet Ali Love and decide to work with him on this track ?
I have known Ali for about a year, he’s best friends with one of my best mates Ben… Ben had been trying to link us up in the studio for a while and when he played me Ali Love’s Diminishing Returns I could just see how brilliant he could be vocally and lyrically. We hung out a few times at parties and Ali and Backyard recordings asked me to remix his track Moscow Girl.
As I was working on the Moscow girl remix Ali came in to check on my progress/hang out and we ended up doing quite a few vocal overdubs to where basically it was a completely new track and all I’d used from the original was one line of lyrics and one other sample. I was so excited by the process and how talented Ali was that I told Jamie that night that we’d found our vocalist for Hot Natured. From there we organized a date for a session and did Forward Motion in one night. The process that night was amazing, we had a pretty cool loop started on the track before Ali got there and we just did this amazing all night session including a collaborative lyric/cadence writing session from all 3 of us (it was mine and Jamie’s first experience writing lyrics and I loved it). It’s so great because I feel like the vocal in this song is really special and has a deep a metaphysical meaning. We sort of started the sequence of the track part way through which is unusual on a Hot Natured song, but it was the best way to work on the lyrics from a verse/chorus/overdubs perspective. As we got going we knew we had a hit on our hands and there was a great energy in the room, we were up until 10 am finishing it I think.
Speaking of production, my question could seem a bit useless here but do you have any tips for good disco/funk drum samples ? They are not so easy to find, and I’m sure it would help many of the bedroom producers who read this blog…
No specific recommendations whatsoever. All I can recommend is to listen to good music and be influenced, and learn your sequencer. Learn how to use your tools whether they are hardware, plugins, loops, records, harmonicas, whatever…Spend thousands of hours in front of a sequencer making music and thousands of hours DJing in clubs seeing what people react to.
You were talking about a Hot Natured LP earlier, what kind of album will it be ? Can we also expect a live set of you and Jamie as Hot Natured, to accompany it ? The album I’m really happy with so far, we are planning on working on some more vocal collaborations like Forward Motion to finish it off, but I think it’s a really varied, fun, deep artistic expression. We did a bunch of tracks a year ago that were somewhere between our version of Daft Punk and Metro Area, and we’ve got some of our cool bassliney stuff, some epic moody stuff as well. I think it’s cohesive but varied and sounds great…Jamie and I have actually done two live sets as Hot Natured in the past, one in Miami last year at the Culprit/Freak’n’Chic party and one live p.a. at Space. I’m sure after the album we will work towards a fuller proper live p.a. Live sets are a lot more work but if you’ve got enough cool music they’re worth doing for sure.
And what about your solo career ?
I have the next 4 track Lee Foss Hot Creations EP in mid May and the Lee Foss solo album on Hot Creations in September. I’m very excited about this album as well as the Hot Natured one.
A Euro tour for the album release would be nice too, because we don’t see you playing in Paris that often…I heard there was a Hot Natured party scheduled in Paris for May 21st, is it true ? Can you reveal the line-up, or the venue, or anything ?
There is a Hot Natured party on May 21st but I’m not on the line-up for that gig, I’ll be in the US on May 21st. However, I’m playing in Paris in two weeks though, April 23rd at We Become. So I’ll be in Paris DJing a whole month before the Hot Natured party! Spread the word…You’ll be seeing me in Europe a lot more in the future; visa issues have kept me out the last 9 months.
I really think your music is made to be listened to during summer, because it’s mostly inspired by summer stuff such as palm trees, topless girls, vintage sunglasses and ice cream right..? So what are your plans for this summer ?
I definitely try to have some fun in my music mixed with some moodiness and depth. I love summer and all the things you mentioned. I’ve got too many dates this summer to mention them all here, I’ll be in the UK and Europe all summer though, quite a few UK festivals and fabric/Louche type gigs, and some cool stuff in Europe. In May and early June I’ll be in Brazil and America touring. But from the second week of June ‘till late August it’ll be all UK/Europe. Then back to the US for Burning Man and Los Angeles for the Standard rooftop parties.
You make great music, you have your own successful label, and today your career as a DJ/producer allows you to tour the world and get paid for it…What are your next goals in life and how do you plan to achieve them ?
Thanks that’s nice of you to say. Yeah it’s a good situation. I personally have a goal of touring less. My goals are also to produce major label artists like Lykke Li or Alicia keys or Jay-Z etc…And to release full Lee Foss or Hot Natured albums that feature vocalists with major label talent. If we keep doing what we’re doing I think all my goals will be achieved. We work really hard.
Last but not least, I know you’re a big vintage shades fan and I just bought myself a pair, so I would love to have your opinion…It’s the Cazal 734′s, here’s a picture. What do you think ? And what vintage sunglasses do you have ?
I have quite a few vintage Versaces, in fact I’ve been wearing different colors of my favorite pair that most people now recognized as “Lady Gaga shades” for almost 10 years now. I have a few other model numbers from that same range with slight variations. They’ve sort of been rinsed and copied to death now, but they suit my face so I still wear them…I also have Cazal 858’s, some cool vintage Diors, some cool Silhouette’s, just found some cool vintage YSL’s… to be honest I’m not interested in people knowing the model numbers of the shades I wear. But yeah your Cazals are pretty cool…