Steve Lawler is a definitive DJ and producer, renowned as one of the hardest working DJs in the industry with an acute ear for a tune and a technical ability that is second to none. His rise to the top has been the result of pure talent and dedication to playing and producing the finest quality house music first. It's been a steady rise from the infamous 'motorway raves' of the early 90's, to his legendary sets at “Space” in Ibiza, his pioneering success with “Session” in Birmingham and the current triumph with “Harlem Nights” at The End. From Newcastle to New York, Steve continues to build an ever-growing band of avid followers who pack out any venue that bills his name.
Steve has always been a pioneer of twisted house. His sound has evolved through the years but remains at the tribal end of the spectrum meandering through deep and dark through to sexy, dancey vocal tracks. It’s music for boys and girls – cool enough for the boys but sexy enough for the girls. Still evolving, still redefining boundaries, Lawler is the stuff of legends and undoubtedly a staple diet of dance music for years to come …
Steve hails from the Midlands, yet there is something distinctly non-territorial in his work. Although loving the atmosphere in the big Saturday nightclubs (he's an ex-Cream resident 1997 – 1999) Lawler also refuses to pander to any punter wherever he's spinning. Think DJ communism, with equal treatment for all the masses.
"It's rewarding for me to know that so many people are going off and enjoying quality music every week across the country and all over the world. Clubs like ‘Renaissance,’ ‘Space,’ ‘Tribal Sessions, ‘‘BackToBasics,’ ‘Shindig’ and ‘Clubland’ to name but a few, all have the best sound systems and crowds in the world, and the feeling you get from playing these nights is amazing."
Turning to electronic music from an early age, Steve used to buy Depeche Mode records when he was young, so he obviously loved electronic sounds without even realising it. But it was Acid House that really turned him on. Tuning devotedly into a local pirate PCRL radio station gave Steve a taste for house music, and it wasn't long before his mates were luring him off to warehouse parties.
"I was totally blown away by the whole experience: the dark room, the strobes and the atmosphere. The whole thing just blew me away and inspired me to do my own parties."
Which is exactly what he did, putting on a series of illegal parties in a disused tunnel underneath the M42, (between 1990 – 1994) with guests appearing, un-advertised such as Tony De Vit (rip), Anthony Pappa, Pete Gooding and Scott Bond, (whom were all friends of his). These few parties became legendary throughout Birmingham and across the Midlands.
"It all started with me and a bunch of like minded friends getting a sound system, generator and some disco lights together and taking them out to a field in Lapworth. (nr Birmingham) It just escalated and grew into this big party, it was something we never made any money on, as it was free, but it was a way for me to play my records in front of people. By the last party, which I think was the 5th or 6th one, we had about 700 people turn up, by that time the police were on my back so they had to stop."
This didn’t deter the ambitious young Lawler. Next stop Ibiza where Lawler got his first true break. He's been to the island every year since 1990 through to the present day. The day finally came for Steve's to prove himself as the accomplished DJ he knew he was in 1995. At the time he was a resident at Cafe Mambo (1995 to 1998) spinning his legendary 8-hour sets every day, as well as playing 3 times a week at Pacha on the roof terrace. It was there that Lawler was spotted by Darren Hughes (then promoter of Cream), who recognised his talent and ambition immediately and signed him to Cream's DJing agency. Steve began a residency at the eponymous Liverpool institution. At only his second date at the club he had to follow Paul Oakenfold at their NYE 1997 party. Not an easy feat, but one that Lawler coped with admirably. The rest, as they say, is history...
Lawler continued to build his sound and his army of fans through his residency at Cream and gigging all over the UK but it was his stint with “Home”, IBIZA in the summer on 1999 where the legacy was truly realised. Anyone lucky enough to hear one of his groundbreaking sets on the terrace at “Space” will be a forever fan. Two incredible years in Ibiza earned him the well-deserved title as “The King Of Space” and he began to get his props both within the discerning dance press and the industry at large. With a solid fan base, a proven track record, legions of fans and his first compilation Dark Drums 1 locked down what he needed was a “Home” in the UK, and that is exactly what he got. His next step was to set the capital alight with his weekly Friday night residency “Deep South” at Leicester Square’s multi million pound super club “Home” London. Again his marathon 6-hour sets became legendary as he weaved his magic across the club's awesome sound system, wowing clubbers and critics alike. The latter half of 2000 saw the timely release of his hugely successful Home compilation that epitomised the residency that brought him fame in the capital. In February 2001, Steve decided to finish his stint at HOME London, due to overwhelming demand for his skills across the USA and the rest of Europe.
"I'd done over 14 months at Deep South, and it was a great year. It gave me the opportunity to stamp my musical trademark in the South of England. But then it was time to move on. I wanted to concentrate more on monthly residencies across the world and taking my music to a worldwide audience…”
Lawler fast became the DJ every clubber wanted to hear so he needed a new home. The perfect solution came in the form of his own monthly night at Code, “The Midweek Session”, which fast become one of the most important club nights in the U.K, with guests including Danny Tenaglia, Sasha, Pete Tong, Dave Seaman, Futureshock, Carl Cox, John Digweed, DJ Vibe and Laurent Garnier. The roadblock events were an incredible success as Steve returned to Birmingham as a local hero with the A list of super star DJs in tow. A boy done good. Success followed success and it was in March 2001 that he released his revered Nu Breed album with compilation kings Global Underground.
As well as bringing the finest DJ's in the world to his own night in Birmingham, Steve began touring South Africa, the USA, Australia, and South East Asia to great acclaim. Due to time and work constraints Lawler decided to keep “Session” limited to 12 parties. 2002 ended on a high as Steve entered at no.9 in the DJ Magazine’s Top 100… a huge achievement in such a small space of time and testament in black and white to how far he had come. His second Dark Drums compilation followed in September 2001, further appeasing his worldwide fan base.
In 2002 Steve took control yet again launching 2 new concepts around the Steve Lawler sound. The first was his well-received Lights Out compilation released in the summer of 2002 and the second was Harlem Nights. Lawler made an eagerly anticipated return to London, and the crowd he once wowed at “Deep South”. This time to be at the helm of his own monthly night – “Harlem Nights” at The End, said to be one of the best nights in the UK, bringing a fresh dirty house vibe back to London which to this day continues to provide the perfect club setting for Steve to unleash one of his 6 hour sets.
For Steve, “Harlem Nights” is where he is now as a DJ! It’s the umbrella for his sound taking things back to basics and setting a vibe that people can call their own so that they keep coming back for more. Harlem Nights has been bubbling away for over a year now and has grown organically with one of the most dedicated crowds and sounds around. It’s sexy and sweaty, it’s house music at its best. With no guest DJs Steve carries the whole night and builds it to feverish levels. Lawler is on the road to becoming one of the great legends of dance music. Making any record he plays his own, he always puts that little bit of Lawler into everything he does.
“This is my baby right now, and a lot of my musical direction and inspiration comes from that night, from that crowd. I feel so comfortable from the second I walk into that room, there’s a lot of regular faces and that’s why it’s such an intimate party, that’s why its such a great vibe” “Harlem Nights”: it's not a club night - more a party for the house faithful.
It's not all about DJing though… Lawler's accomplished production, under monikers of Novacane, Chameleon and naturally Steve Lawler, are always favourites amongst the elite. His singles “Rise In” (2000) & “Andante” (2002) prove that Lawler, in his production as much as DJing, understands how to work a crowd. His remix-ography consists of Trisco's "Musak," the Tenaglia favourite Cevin Fisher's "Love You Some More," Soul Providers’ "Rise," BT’s "Never Gonna Come Back Down," Dub Pistols’ "Chemical Generation," Silicone Soul’s "Right On Right On," DJ Sandy V’s "Housetrap," "Overdrive" and "Shiver" by Scanners. So, as you can see production is fast becoming a big part of Steve's career.
"First and foremost I am a DJ," explains Steve. "I happen to make records because I want to make my own version of sounds that would go down well in a club. When I make music I sit there and close my eyes and imagine being on a dancefloor, with the lights flashing and the sound system. It's hard to get it right all the time and I'm learning a lot in the studio but I'm going to keep banging away at it until I'm comfortable enough to make it a career."
If DJing all around the world, promoting his own nights, his production and his remixing is not enough, Steve also runs his own labels Harlem Records & Harlem Trax taking full A&R control of both the labels and signing the finest underground tracks from across the world. Watch this space for future release details and for details of his forthcoming compilation album.
And there you have it in a nutshell, a DJ who has never taken the easy path to success. A DJ whose passion for house music over throws the boundaries of just playing records. From his mammoth sets at Space in Ibiza, or his tendency to re-edit half the tracks in his box, Steve certainly knows the meaning of graft:
"I do a lot of my own re-edits, this is because I get sent so many records where it's all good and then some horrible break kicks in. So I just cut that bit out, or even to revamp an old track that I'd like to play, but it needs something doing to it. It's the way forward. It means that a lot of records that you play are unique.”
Steve's spun at every club in Ibiza and every decent club in the world. He has stunned all detractors of the progressive sound. He was described in Jockey Slut as "One of the best DJ's in the world." Steve Lawler: The pioneer of the twisted house who loves a bit of hard work. If you are waiting for a change of musical tack, then follow Lawler's lead. Don't get left behind...