Using his Repopulation EP with MK and Sonny Fodera to relaunch his Repopulate Mars label, Lee Foss is already onto his next release with his old friend Patrick Topping's three-track, tech-house Baddie EP. The label takes its name from his regular party series and was inspired by the general ethos of the Chicago-born house DJ. For the uninitiated, Lee is a prolific producer and DJ. Besides his own productions, he operates as one quarter of Hot Natured alongside Jamie Jones, Ali Love and Luca C, and, as Pleasure State he produces and plays out live with MK and Anabel Englund—and that's to say nothing of the growing Hot Creations empire that he runs with Jamie Jones. Patrick Topping, he began producing his own tunes around the same time but usually works alone; the notable exception being two collaborations with legendary Chicago figure Green Velvet.
Since meeting when Patrick booked Lee to play his Motion club night in Newcastle (which he runs with fellow Geordies Richie Steedman and Ben Wood), the two DJs gradually became closer and closer friends before eventually Patrick released his debut "Walk On" single via Hottrax (a sub-label of Hot Creations, the label Lee runs with Jamie Jones. Patrick quickly followed that with his Any Amounts and Boxed Off EPs and in no time the transatlantic duo were firm friends and collaborators, regularly travelling back and forth to play at each other's nights and, of course, Ibiza. United by dismal weather and little to do besides party, it seems the Chicago and Newcastle-raised DJs have found a great deal in common.
I guess a good place to start would be to talk about how you guys met each other.
Patrick Topping: Well, I booked Lee to play for me in Newcastle—that was the first time I met him. That was 2012. So that was before I'd had any releases with his labels. Then I booked him again around 2013, but we didn't really keep in touch.
Lee Foss: I remember that. I remember going up in some attic [The Skitzy]. I couldn't even sit up or lean back. There were so many people up in that attic for an after-party. You get a lot of good shows in the north of England, but I remember a real electricity at the end. There was all this condensation in the air and nobody was leaving. It was powerful stuff for me. It felt like for the first time I'd connected in Newcastle. I'm friends with a lot of Geordies and I'd always hoped it would be a good city for me to play in, so that was great. Jamie [Jones] initially signed the stuff to Hottrax but Patrick signed a load of music for us through Hot Creations and we got to know each other through playing together all over the world and we've become really good friends.
I'm assuming you'll be working together more this year. Is there anything specifically we should know about?
PT: Yeah, there's a few things. I've got a remix I'm going to do for Lee's new label with Jamie Jones called Emerald City. That's a really cool tune; I'm excited to try that. Then I've got another EP coming out on Hot Creations which I'm really looking forward to. Releasing stuff on Repopulate Mars just felt like a really natural way to release stuff, since I'd been doing stuff with Lee already.
LF: For me, I'm mostly done with an album. There are some remixes too, but I'm really focusing on the album. We're not working on Hot Natured until the beginning of next year. MK's finishing his album, so we can't really work on Pleasure State. I haven't released a lot of stuff in a while, so it's been great to focus on the album. I'm happy with it. The first single comes out in late June and it's called "The Gift", which comes with a Sonny Fodera remix, a Detlef remix and a Lee Curtis remix. I'm doing the album on mine and Jamie's Emerald City label and I'll be releasing original material on Repopulate Mars after that cycle.
So what were your upbringings like? Did you come from musical families? Did they encourage you?
PT: I actually used to learn the piano when I was younger, but I used to hate it because I was forced to. We didn't even have a piano so me mam used to take us to an old people's home she used to work at. I used to have to play in there. Think how horrible that must've been for a child! So first opportunity I had, I quit. I did do a couple of little performances at school then but I've forgotten it all now. I wish I'd kept going.
LF: I briefly took piano lessons for maybe two-and-a-half years between the ages of 9 and 11. It wasn't so much that I was forced, but I just didn't want to learn to read music. I never wanted to learn to read music, I just wanted the candy at the end. So I stopped and I'm sure my parents were disappointed. I think it was a pleasant surprise when I ended up doing music much later in my life. They liked music, but I wouldn't say I came from a musical family. They liked The Mamas & The Papas, The Carpenters, '60s pop like that. So I grew up on that. Then when I was living in Chicago, I couldn't even get Chicago radio stations in my house so my dad put a second storey on the house with a dish and all of a sudden I could get all of these stations. I suddenly had all of this hip-hop and house music. This was around 1993 right when Dr. Dre's The Chronic and all this incredible music was coming out. It just blew my mind! I was interested in hip-hop before that, but there was just this whole world that I hadn't been exposed to. It was an escape for me back then.
Going back, what was it that got you into DJing? What was the record, rave or moment?
PT: As clichéd as it sounds, it was when I went to Ibiza. That's when I knew that's what I wanted to do. I was just there thinking "How can I come back here every year?" because I just completely fell in love with it. From there, I just became obsessed with pursuing it.
LF: My story's related to Ibiza as well. The first season I was out there I was at Sound Of Sundays at Space and Laurent Garnier was playing. I was there every Sunday and there'd be Spanish and Italian guys standing by the bar and they weren't really paying attention to the music, but that Sunday Laurent was playing this funky techno and everyone was watching this guy in awe because it was just so different from what everyone else was playing. Everyone was just entranced by it. Out of nowhere he dropped this J Majik drum & bass track. I've never seen anybody get a reaction like that; everybody was jumping up and down. Even the cool, model-looking types were going crazy. I'd been there all summer and I honestly wasn't that impressed but that really made me want to DJ. I went back more and more after that and decided as soon as I got back to Chicago I had to learn how to DJ.
London always complains that nightlife is under threat. What do you think the future is for UK nightlife?
LF: I think a lot of that is just the fact that in all these urban centres there's so much gentrification. You had all these bad neighbourhoods that the clubs were in and they made it cool for people to be there. Then the yuppies moved in and they didn't want to hear any noise so they kicked out the thing that made it cool. There's just going to be less and less places in these big cities where poor people can live and the clubs can be. A lot of these people and the clubs may have to move out of the city somehow. There may be less clubs, but you can't fight money.
How does that compare with the States?
LF: The UK scene is so much better. Up and down the country, every major city has a healthy club scene right now. Because it's part of youth culture and student culture, it's constantly rejuvenating itself with new clubbers. In the States, you have this drinking age thing where you can't go to a bar until you're 21 so they're all binge-drinking, listening to hip-hop, trap and R&B, and they're thrown into these clubs. Naturally, it's going to take a few years for their tastes to mature into house and techno or anything like that. Then, by that point, they might not be in the cycle of nightlife anymore. I think it's very limiting in America. A lot of cities have a 2am shutdown on alcohol so most of the clubs close because they can't serve alcohol. Also, for scenes in America, imagine you're a cool local promoter: you want to showcase some local talent but if you open at 10, how do you even do that? Obviously the promoter wants to showcase themselves so they can escape their little town. So if you've got four hours you basically can't put more than one touring act and even then most people aren't going to get there before midnight anyway.
Presumably, that's why the louder, brasher EDM has been so popular, because a lot clubbers' tastes haven't matured yet.
LF: Yeah, but also young people just like things to be faster. I mean, children experience the world much slower so they want faster music. Whereas, when time starts to move faster as you get older, you want to listen to something even just a little bit slower. So it's kind of down to the relativity between getting older and how you experience the passage of time as well as your heart-rate changing as you grow older.
Would you say you're generally positive about the future of nightlife in the UK?
LF: I think it'll always find a way. I just think that music, especially in a country that has weather like you do, is so important. Especially with Geordies. I mean, what else are you going to do up there? [Laughs]