When you want to get down - REALLY get down and dirty - Steve Lawler is your man. Why else would the British DJ be nicknamed the "King of Space," after the famous nightclub in Ibiza (not Miami's own Space, which he's also left his musical mark many times)? Lawler plays a brand of house music that's groovy, dirty, filthy and spine-tingling, just the way you like it - for a taste, check out his CD compilation series "Dark Drums," "Lights Out" and now "Viva." And he's commandeering SOHO Studios in Miami's up-and-coming Wynwood art district Friday night for an epic party as part of his 13-city tour by bus. Lawler talked to Miami.com about the tour and why you don't want to miss it.
For your VIVa MUSiC Tour, why did you choose to travel by bus?
It’s easier on you when you’re traveling, as we are usually doing around 15 gigs over a period of three weeks. We want to cover as much of North America as possible and bring this tour to as many cities as we can. To do that with flights every day after playing every night is quite hard on the body. So when you get a bus, it makes the whole thing a lot easier, because when you finish a gig, you get on the bus and off you go enroute to the next city. You may hang out for a while now and again, or parties can brew here and there (this does tend to happen), but in general we're good boys and can sleep while the hours of travel are passing through your dreams.
Are fans allowed on the bus, or is it just for people involved with the artists?
Yeah fans are allowed, and we're recording the tour for a future documentary, recording every day every night, all the gigs, the backstage shenanigans, living on the bus, everything.
Your Miami show is at SOHO Studios, kind of a warehouse event venue, rather than a megaclub like Space or Mansion. Why did you choose it?
Well, to be completely honest, I didn’t choose the venue. What I did state to my agent was, this is a VIVa MUSiC Tour, and we want to do something a little different this time. We try to bring different elements into the United States with each VIVa MUSiC Tour we do every year. Obviously in Miami, I would usually play Space or Mansion. [But] I said to my agent, "Can we do a warehouse party in Miami?" And this is what he came back with. I saw the photos, I saw the grand layout, and I thought, "Yeah, looks cool."
What can we expect the night to be like?
Well, musically, David Pher will be performing first throughout most of the tour. He plays a really nice blend of deep house. That will lead beautifully into Leon, who, of course, completely has his own sound. I don’t even know how to tag Leon. It’s just a darker shade of house music, I guess. And I’ll be closing most of the nights out for the whole tour. I think there will also be some back-to-back shenanigans toward the end of the night and no doubt the occasional afterhours. It’s going to be a party, first and foremost, because we want it to be an experience. We want everyone to join in and just get on it and have a great time to some great music.
How long will you spin?
It’ll be at least three hours. I would say more toward four or five. At the end we’re gonna have a back-to-back session. I’m gonna play a three-hour set on my own, but all the time slots haven’t been agreed throughout the whole tour yet, so we’re still working on that. I want the guys to also play later in some cases, so I’ll get the other guys back on with me as well. Because the whole idea of the VIVa MUSiC family is supporting each other.
What's your idea of the perfect night out at a club?
I remember I went to Sound Factory many, many years ago and Junior Vasquez was playing. And this was way before Junior Vasquez went off on his New York Hard House ride. This was in the early '90s. And the experience for me was a huge impact: It was almost theatrical. I remember you never knew when Junior was going to go on, because the DJ booth was blocked off and you couldn’t see what was happening. Everyone was waiting for him to come on, and he wouldn’t come on until around 4 or 5 in the morning. The whole drama and build of anticipation in the night, along with the lights, the darkness, the whole thing added and created an exciting drama. The reason I've always started my set with an intro is because it signifies the beginning of something. The whole night is (dare I say it?) not just about the music. It’s about the atmosphere in the room. The lighting contributes a lot to the atmosphere. Even the friendliness of the staff contributes to the atmosphere. If you can get all the elements right, you can give people a night of their life. A proper CLUB experience. How it should be. People go out. They leave their baggage behind. They lose their minds. Get lost in the music and they go home with, "What the fuck just happened?" That’s what, for me, is a good experience.
How was your summer in Ibiza?
Amazing as it always is. The start of the summer, I heard a lot of people panicking, saying, "Is the summer going to be busy this year?" And actually, I think it was just a slow start for some people and some clubs. But this summer was as busy as ever and the clubs were packed and the music was great. It’s all positive. Ibiza is always amazing.
How do Ibiza and Miami compare?
I can’t really compare Ibiza to anywhere. I can’t really compare Miami to anywhere else, either. They're both quite individual for different reasons. Anywhere that is built majorly around a passing trade, which Miami and Ibiza definitely are, i.e. people on holiday, you can’t really compare them to other places. Every city has its own flavor, I think, as the people do.
Have you started planning for WMC?
Yeah, we've started to plan WMC. I was talking with my agent a couple days ago, and for the past few years I’ve done seven or eight gigs at Conference and played all the great parties, just went absolutely crazy, and it’s been great. It’s been an amazing way to do Conference. But I get the feeling that a lot of people started to emulate that last year and they started playing everywhere. It was just the same lineups every night. And I thought if that’s how I feel about it, then I imagine that’s how other people feel about it. So this year I’m going to do it differently and just play my own parties. I’m going to do the VIVa MUSiC party at Space again. I will also be doing the Lights Out party. The Lights Out party this year is going to be something special, because it’s the 10th anniversary for Lights Out and we’ve got a new venue for it [venue TBA]. It’s looking like it’s going to be a 10-hour set from myself, to celebrate 10 years of Lights Out. with the launch of Lights Out 10th Anniversary album. I think we are also going to make this the last ever Lights Out party.