Courtesy of teshno.com comes an interview to accompany the podcast with Lee Foss:
Tell us…who is Lee Foss? Where have you come from and where are you going?
“Hmm, I’m from Dekalb Illinois originally, lived in chicago for 10 years, except for a few seasons when i was in Ibiza/London, then moved to Los Angeles a little less than 2 years ago. I’m probably going to be moving to London primarily but still spending a lot of time in la and ny in the new year, just had a difficult breakup from a long time girlfriend and need a change, and as jamie jones and i are starting a label and focusing on more hot natured stuff it makes sense.”
If the aim of this interview is to introduce people to you, what should i be asking? What do people need to know about you? What makes you, you?
“Hmm I couldn’t say what people need to know about me, but I guess what makes me me is loving music and having a sense of urgency about doing something about it. Also, I love the wire.”
What music did you grow up around and does that influence you now?
“My parents listened to pretty standard white 60’s stuff mostly around the house. Beatles, Momma’s and the Papas, Jim Croce, Beach Boys, stuff like that. As a child that is what I grew up around, I do remember really liking michael jackson songs that I heard. As soon as I was old enough to buy my own tapes and cds it was hip hop and r +b and new jack swing, and that was pretty much the only music i was into throughout the 90’s, Daft Punk and Stardust and going to a few raves started getting me into house towards the end of the decade just before i moved to chicago. The house stuff got me into disco when record shopping as chicago is a great city for that.
I would say that my love of 90’s r&b and hip hop and new jack swing influences me more than anything else and is tied in closer to my ethos, though obviously 80’s funk and disco are a huge interest and influence as well.”
You’ve done some edits and stuff for W&L’s black label… What makes you want to play around with old stuff/samples?
“I think there are a variety of factors, but I would say it’s largely because I was making music for years on my own in chicago in logic and not really getting very far, except for when i would do edits which i would send to my friends who were bigger djs and they would love. My experience and interest in 80’s funk and disco and 90’s r&b and hip hop were probably my strongest asset till i moved to la, started working on music full time and switched to ableton live which improved my workflow enough to become a competent producer quickly.
To tell you the truth it takes a long time to get the notes right as a producer. It’s trial and error for a long time and gradually you just start to do everything better, so for a long time samples were the best and only way for me to really start a track and not get bogged down. They sort of worked like sculpting around a mould, forcing me into a key, then from there the sample might not even end up in the track in the end but it would have helped shape the creative process, that happened in almost every song on my album.”
You’re close to Jamie Jones and work as hot natured together but individually your sounds are quite different I’d say… How does it work?
“I think with the hot natured releases, they sound different from our individual tracks because we are sort of meeting in the middle of what we do, and also sometimes they are mini experiments, like let’s do a song like ‘a’. I can tell you this much, i’m really excited about some of our upcoming releases this winter.
It’s a cool working process, it’s nice because we respect one another’s opinions and always listen to what the other person has to say, and I have a very specific skill set that actually brings something to the table, because obviously jamie doesn’t need any help to write great records.
How does it work? We just sit down in long sessions and make music. Sometimes we take breaks.”
You also work with Lee Curtiss as Freelance Lovers. That’s a lovely name…Tell us about that partnership? How is it different to your solo work and work with Jamie?
“We’ve finished a couple of really cool tracks but haven’t been around each other enough to work in a long time, which is a shame as Lee is a really good friend of mine and we work together really well. But we should have plenty of opportunity really soon and i’m excited about that, should be really fruitful.”
How do you prioritise with all these different projects?
“Well the hot natured original productions only happen when Jamie and I are in the same place, so until recently, only if he was visiting L.A. as i spend more and more time in London, the priority will increase. I would like to work with Lee Curtiss more but we just haven’t been in the same place at the same time enough, but again I think that will change in the new year. To answer the question the collaborations take priority when I’m with my friends but aren’t touched otherwise although I have worked on a few hot natured tracks on my own if the project was started but not finished.”
You used to play R&B and hip hop i think… Why the change of track? What do you make of the state of those genres in 2009? Are there any lingering references in your work at the moment?
“I was initially a house/techno/electro dj in Chicago and was opening for big djs pretty quickly in that scene, but obviously there isn’t a ton of money in that, so as I transitioned to a full time dj, I started working with venues in other scenes playing old school hip hop and 80’s funk and disco, new wave etc. I went through a phase where I was getting back in to 90’s hip hop again 3-4 years ago and the parties were really fun. It was a skill set I already had, and I knew the music, it’s what I grew up on. I can tell you that a few years in chicago playing 3-4 nights a week, sometimes 20 hours a week will really make you a good dj. It also forced me to find a ton of music again and to learn more about those genres. Specifically with R+B and hip hop, I didn’t purposefully stop playing them, they were making me a lot of money in chicago, I just never went out and made the connections in L.A. to start playing them or working in those genres. I threw myself into building what we were building and those other genres were still influencing and informing my production so I didn’t feel like I was losing anything.
The state of hip hop in 2009 is a joke. Yeah 90’s hip hop and R&B is in everything I do.”
What’s an average day/party with the Wolf + Lamb family like? They said on one of their podcasts they are ‘obsessed’ with you! Sounds a lot of fun…
“I couldn’t begin to explain the average Marcy party here, but I love being in N.Y. with those guys. Gadi, Zev, Denise, Greg, I consider them all really good friends even though i’ve only known them since March. It’s edifying that they are into what i do, because i’m definitely into what they do.
The average day usually involves Biali’s at Atlas in the morning, eating something else that is really ill, working on music, ordering rueben’s late night. Walking around Williamsburg. The average party is the best party in the world, can’t be described.”
How does that help you musically or personally?
“Musically Gadi has had really good feedback that has helped me, and playing the parties is definitely a great experience as a dj, I would say it has raised my profile in N.Y.C. personally it’s helped me to have some great friends who are looking out for me in a really amazing city.”
What rules/processes do you impose on yourself before, during and after writing music… What do you aim to achieve?
“I wouldn’t say I impose any rules or processes on myself but I can tell you that there was a point this summer when I was writing the bulk of my album that I was obsessed with it and the work and it’s release to the point that it was instrumental in some irrevocable damage to my personal life.
I would say i have enough drive to do the work, and I don’t really need any processes, I generally have ideas. In my day to day life, or at parties, when I get new ideas i text them to myself and they usually work out. I work as much as I can but there are various factors that usually keep me from working excessively or even as much as i’d like. It’s one of those things the more you work/play keyboards, build/use your sample libraries the easier it gets to make music you are excited about.
I hope that music reaches people and that they enjoy it, my goal is just to continue to improve as a musician and to make music that I am proud of that others enjoy, for the first time in my life I can honestly say I consider myself a musician first, instead of a dj.”
And how do you hope people will react to your music and is that important or do you have different goals?
“I suppose the most important thing for me is that i’m happy with it, but yeah I care if people enjoy or react to it. I don’t really think of the music I make as club music though I’m sure some djs will play it, so I’m always immediately thinking of my music from a album/afterparty/car/home listening situation, and I want people to enjoy it and for it to affect them. That was what was so important to me when I was doing my album was creating a cohesive and emotive statement. I find it hard to believe anyone makes music only for themselves.”
You started Culprit Records this year i think… What’s the label’s outlook, how is it going?
“I would have to say it is Droog’s Label, though I do have quite a bit of input and influence on the direction, and a lot of the early output has/will centre around me/hot natured. I think the emphasis/outlook is on what has been going on in L.A. and how the scene grew there and artists started to work in my/Droog’s studio and the great music that was coming out of that and influenced by what was going on there.
I think it has been very successful for a new label, and I think it will really turn the corner with the release of hot natured equilibrium/wintertime a forthcoming ep that is garnering a lot of attention.”
What brought about the move from Chicago to L.A.? You moved your whole studio didn’t you? You must really have wanted to go – artists i’ve spoken to before from Chicago says it’s player hater central was that anything to do with it?
“I think it can be hater central, but it wasn’t for me, I actually had tremendous success there and was making a ton of money djing locally and my ex girlfriend was making a ton of money as well, so we gave up a sure thing and it was hard to do. I basically saw an opportunity to build something in L.A. with my friends that would be really special and it has been. They were bringing me out frequently to dj, and I saw the opportunity we had to throw some incredible parties and start a brand. I think had I stayed in chicago my career definitely wouldn’t have progressed the way it did, but I can say that giving up my life there was the hardest choice I ever made, and the struggle of being in L.A. with virtually no income the last few years was more pressure than i would wish on anyone, but I’m proud of the results.”
I can tell you for a fact I didn’t really want to leave chicago and I had as good a local career as you can probably have there, the problem is there is no real local scene or community to inspire you, build your profile, or help you connect to other artists. It will always be my home though and I love to go back and play for Spybar.”
You’ve built your own scene in L.A. with Droog and the rest of your crew – what has it taught you, how does it influence you? Was it very important to bring the party to you instead of go to the party in i.e. Berlin or wherever?
“That is actually a really good question and something that conflicts me heavily about my possible move to London. I have been proud of working with growing U.S. labels like Culprit and Wolf + Lamb, and the idea of building something ourselves. It was very important to me that that was my path rather than going and riding coat tails in europe. For me I saw no point in sending my music to big labels and hoping to be a cog in a wheel on a machine where I have no say in the direction. My friends and I have enough good ideas to do things the right way from the ground up.”
The scene in L.A. influenced my life in more ways that I could begin to explain and definitely influenced my music.”
Can you tell us about your love of vests?!
“Ha I like tank tops. L.A. is hot.”
Tell us a bit about what people can expect from you at Louche?
“They can expect me to play songs beatmatched into each other and ‘mixed’ with eqs. Probably about half of them will be songs I made. Then get really off my head.”
And finally can you leave me with a question for the next person I interview please?
“What is the meaning of life?”