Lee Burridge talks full moon parties, 30 hour sets and why music sounds better outdoors
When this interview got published on Pulse in 2017, Lee Burridge had just played Victoria’s inaugural Babylon festival. It wasn’t until later that year that I got to experience an All Day I Dream set and briefly meet him in Barcelona for Sonar Off Week. This interview wrote itself – Lee has the most visionary energy and eloquence.
While most of us struggle to find matching socks to wear in the morning, Lee Burridge is busy planning his next move in world domination. His infamous All Day I Dream parties, trademark marathon sets and residency at Burning Man somehow keep moving the goal posts, even after nearly three decades at the top of his game. But in a game built on the constant art of recreation, sometimes you’ve got to step back to make the next move forwards.
‘I’ve observed during my own career that a lot of the time it’s a rollercoaster ride,’ he says. ‘The results that follow certain peaks are followed by times where others take centre stage. You can’t always be in the middle of something and that’s exactly how it should be to allow the scene to flourish.’
Burridge’s All Day I Dream parties began on a rooftop in Brooklyn in 2011 and have leapt from strength to strength globally at a whole host of gorgeous outdoor venues. For Burridge, these were the parties that allowed him to grow once again in a different direction.
‘I’m really happy how well people have responded to the party. When I brought it to Australia the reactions in Melbourne and Sydney events were fantastic. Of course it’s just one pocket of dance music, but it has become something that has allowed me to help other really talented artists grow through. This is where my motivations have changed I guess. Over time the motivation to only look after myself has morphed into something bigger – trying to build a place where other artists can also shine.’
As he mentioned, the All Day I Dream parties aren’t just platforms for his own music, but also more importantly a chance to showcase breakthrough artists – like Melbourne’s Retza who played All Day I Dream in the Clouds in Dubai. ‘YokoO, introduced me to Retza after releasing an EP on my label with him,’ he says. ‘Both, in my opinion, are super, super talented DJs and producers.’
‘All Day I Dream is partly about celebrating individuality. Creating unique experiences for me is really about finding inspiration in life and using it as a springboard for my own ideas. I don’t think everyone will find what I do a unique experience, but I’ll at least try to create something I would love to go to and support. It’s all about not resting on your laurels and constantly trying to improve.’
If you’ve earned your raving stripes, no doubt you’ll agree music sounds better outdoors. This sentiment resonates very strongly with Burridge, whose alignment with outdoor parties goes right back to the famous full moon beach sessions of the ‘90s.
‘Certain music, in my opinion, isn’t meant to be contained,’ he says with passion. ‘Being outside in the elements adds other layers to the sound as well as to the aesthetic of an event. I love playing in clubs but soundtracking a sunrise or sunset are in a world of their own.
For Burridge, music takes a deeper level and is intrinsically linked to the natural world in his own consciousness. It’s obviously something that means a lot to him, and his inner hippy. Earlier this month Burridge graced the inaugural Babylon festival with his presence. In the wilds of the great outdoors, it was certainly a gig that fit in with his al fresco ethos.
‘The natural world is music. Just open your ears. Drum on a tree. Listen to the birds. Play a rainbow with some twigs. OK, sorry. I went a bit too far with my inner new age hippy vibes, …man…!’ Sounds like he’s made for the Australian scene!
But it all began for Burridge in a land far, far away. Making his mark in Hong Kong and Thailand’s fledgling Full Moon parties; back then the Asian scene was a blank canvas that worked so well with Burridge’s melodic paintbox.
‘It was all about timing,’ he says of his days there in the early 90s. ‘Hardly anyone else was playing this kind of sound in Hong Kong and Thailand, but there was certainly a demand. Many people who’d experienced the first wave of house and techno raves between 88 – 91 were out traveling the world. I feel deeply grateful to have been in the right place at the right time as it really was the true beginning of my life as a full time DJ.’
‘As I played seven nights a week I was allowed the time to explore and develop my own sound and style without any real influence from other artists or clubs. Which is because there weren’t any! I think this really defined my own style. I got to play for hours, build the crowds and champion particular tracks.’
Of course the Full Moon parties when Burridge was playing are a completely different ballgame to the neon eDM fuckfest we see these days on Haadrin. He expresses this sentiment much more diplomatically.
‘My Thailand was a gift,’ Burridge reminisces about the early days. ‘I spent a great deal of time in beautiful places doing what I love the most. The Full Moon parties in Thailand have developed and changed enormously. It’s just not the same place for me anymore. I will always cherish my memories and time spent there but I want to remember it the way it was.’
Hong Kong is still very much on his travel radar. ‘I try to go back every few year as musically, it’s a wonderful city. There was already a vibrant local scene going on there when I arrived in 1991 run by Joel Lai so it’s nothing new. We both tried to encourage expats and locals to our events during my time there but it was somewhat segregated which was sad. Scenes expand and contract all the time dependent on many different factors. I believe the night clubs are still in a good place.’
The kind of man who never sits still, Burridge clocks up a lot of air miles. Spending a lot of time in America, his views on the eDM culture are certainly enlightening. It’s refreshing to see such a wise and positive slant on a topic that usually invokes such vitriol from most industry pioneers.
‘EDM was the key that opened the door to the masses and I’m grateful of it. America has already had several important electronic musical movements but I don’t feel they connected Americans at the time as much as is happening today.
I feel Detroit techno and Chicago house had a broader impact on Europe than the US back in the day. In recent times, eDM was electronic music’s most recent gateway drug. So many people discovered electronic artists from that leaping off point. I believe a lot of people are only ever born to go so far with their own tastes but others move forward and keep growing. Broadening their tastes and looking for different musical experiences. I travel between the major cites of the USA a lot each year and everything there seems to be continuing to blossom.’
For obvious reasons, Burridge revels in the annual pilgrimage to Burning Man, an event he has referred to as ‘the great equalizer.’
‘It has a way of showing you that nature is the boss and you’re at the mercy of the elements out of your comfort zone. Whether you’re in a tent or a trailer everyone’s in it together. There’s no escape from the heat, the cold or the dust.’
‘But this has a positive effect.The vibe of the place seeps in to what I believe is ingrained in 99% of those attending. Sometimes it takes a while for people to let go of all of those ingrained habits, personality traits and daily routines of reality. But time and time again, I’ve seen Burning Man unlock the natural desire in people to want to help and give to others within its communal space. People suddenly seem to shed layers of reality and start to be kind and part of something that’s much larger than themselves. A community forms and people become increasingly open.’
Burridge is known for his trademark marathon sets at the festival that can span up to ten hours. For those of us who do not possess superhuman stamina or an unwavering creative consciousness, thus could be a challenge. For Burridge, the flow happens organically.
‘It’s not really something I can describe as a conscious thing. I get lost in the music. It’s like driving a car without knowing where I’m going. I know how to drive without really thinking about it. The journey is more exciting without a plan.’
‘The longest set I’ve ever played was in Romania. I played for thirty hours straight two years in a row, It started in a club for sixteen hours and then I walked outside onto the beach and played another fourteen. I seem to remember pizza being delivered twice.[KS1] My planning extends as far as what track I’m going to play first. That’s about it. I’m not sure I could stand up for that long these days though. My legs hurt too much. It’s old age kicking in.’
Sounds like he’s dealing with it pretty well so far…
[KS1]Shut the front door this is good!!!