Exclusive Interview with Steven Lee
One half of the massive Lee-Cabrera team who’s 2004 “Shake It” record sought record of the year honors and champed a #10 National Pop Chart Selection with “Shake It” (Move a Little Closer). Signed with Ministry of Sound world-wide and a regular on Pete Tong’s Essential Selection Steven Lee (Lee-Cabrera) in his short 5 years has tasted about all this business can offer.
Siam2nite had the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with Steven Lee, shortly before his performance at BASH's Halloween party on Wednesday 31st October.
How did you Albert Cabrera meet and what made you decide to team up together as “Lee Cabrera”?
Albert & I met in 2002 at Strictly Rhythm where I was working as the Marketing Manager. He helped engineer my first album with Strictly and we hit it off well. I came home from Ibiza in 2002 and said “I have a big idea for a record, do you want to get in the studio” he said SURE, and we end up with the Record of the Year in 2003-2004
I read a quote of Albert where he said ”One day we're making an electro record and the next we're playing live Rock & Roll solos, diversity is definitely the key.” So how would you describe the sound of Lee Cabrera?
Albert & I are no longer partners but yes our sound was diverse probably because of my inexperience at the time. After we made Shake It we should have made 5 more “Shake It’s” but I was a bit too creative and too eager to be original and explore ALL the sounds that have inspired me. The Steven Lee sounds is anything with a groove. Old, new, classic, dirty, clean, vocal, I don’t care. My job is to move the crowd and keep the crowd and educate them a little bit at the time. This is what I want to be known and respected for and this is what my mentors like Erick (Morillo) & Roger (Sanchez) showed me growing up
Is the sound you play as Steven Lee different from the sound of Lee Cabrera?
I just think its more that it has evolved. I never follow and I feel I have been fortunate both as Lee Cabrera and Steven Lee to PUSH the envelope of the sound never sounding the same as others or just staying the same. I do believe there is a common thread throughout all my music which is to make everyone that hears it, to dance! People don’t seem to understand especially the newer younger DJ’s these days that you can’t play like Steve Lawler or Loco Dice or Sven Vath just because you like his music. If you are playing for the crowds of thousands that they play for, sure, give it a try, but understand they are doing what they do for a reason…because they earned it! As a DJ your job is to entertain and make the floor move and keep the floor! I never know what I’m going to play, it’s a blind date each and every time I play and this is what drives me.
Shake It (Move A Little Closer) was the #1 hit and a 2004 bomb still recognized as one of the biggest records in dance music today. How did the song influence your life and your career?
Well for starters it made me a very rich man ha! I was a poor college kid with very big goals and ambitions and when it hit and Mark Finkelstein (founder of Strictly Rhythm) took over my career management wise I knew things were changing and quickly. Notoriety of course as well changed. Suddenly you are a very well known producer DJ but most importantly I got an amazing chance to travel to every part of the world and share my talents and creativity as a DJ showcasing what I truly believe works in clubs. To say that there isn’t a HUGE amount of pressure after making a #1 hit and having it be your FIRST record ever is an understatement. From there it was signing exclusively with Ministry of Sound and here I am still learning and pushing each day!
For those that are not familiar with your music yet, what tracks should they listen to?
Top tunes for me right now are: TJR-Funky Vodka, my remix of Roman Anthony’s “Lets All Get 2Gether” for Strictly, my new single “Forever” with friend and producer Granite also on Launch/Strictly. I’m in love with the Nu Disco-Deep House stuff and have recently and aggressively started a new alias TALKBACK with releases on Nurvous, Culprit, & Kassette. My Single TalkBack feat Janet “Controlled” for Nurvous received some big attention a Janet Jackson “Control” redo. My remix of Erica Rhone’s “Sabotage” is probably the best interpretation of what I am doing for my TalkBack sound right now but guys, anything that moves the floor is what I play
You just finished your first full Ibiza season with residency at Space, something most DJs dream about. How was it?
I did residencies in 2009 and 2010 for Space and did opening of Privilege with others shows at El Divino and many others. It was great its an honor. I just came home from doing the closing party at KM5 Ibiza a few weeks ago before coming here. If you are playing Ibiza, you belong in the business. A big year in the studio for 2013 will make the summer in Ibiza all that much better---this I promise!
What can you tell us about your new new album forthcoming?
I have had my Lee Cabrera album unfinished for years now with Ministry Of Sound and Its time to finish it for sure. I’ve just signed on to do the new album for LAUNCH/Strictly Rhythm that I will be putting together when I get home in December and I released a mix album for the Indochine Group “Destination” which did very well. The Steven Lee album is well overdue but its so hard to get off the road. Touring is non stop but I promise….coming soon!
Do you remember the first record you bought?
Phunkie Souls-Tha Music-Strictly Rhythm. Back then you didn’t even have to listen to Strictly’s records, they were just that good. Little did I know 2 years later I’d be working for them, and making music for them. God is good!
Where did the impulse to make music come from? Does anyone in your family play music?
Yes most definitely my roots are in the family. My mother has been singing & songwriting since she was a child. She had a recording deal with Sony but turned it down to be a mom (God Bless her). Bother her, my aunt & my uncle are all pedigree musicians. Having an older brother as my musical influence definitely helped as well.
You are known for you precision. Are you self-taught or did you have someone that introduced you to the art of mixing?
Thank you, I appreciate hearing that! Yes, watching Mr Morillo and being nick-named Baby Morillo because I emulated just about everything he did behind the DJ booth and I guess I just took a pride in putting records together properly. Danny Tenaglia is a MASTER programmer and DJ as well and I have spent many of nights taking notes on his dance floor as well
What was the best and the worst gig you ever played?
Typical question with a very very tough answer. I’ve had some memorable nights at Cavao Paradiso in Mykonos in Greece. Ridiculous times at Space in Ibiza. Green Valley & Warung in Brazil are definitely the Top 2 clubs in the world. PACHA in Buenos Aires or the Big Room can’t be touched either. The worst gig is the gig I haven’t had a chance to play yet ;)
What was the funniest thing ever occurred during any of your performances?
Hmm well I have had a few pairs of panties thrown my way which is flattering but probably not the most sanitary. I’ve also walked into a club in Manchester saying I was Lee Cabrera and that I was THE DJ for the night and was NOT allowed to enter for about 30 minutes. I guess the door guy had heard that line a few too many times
You have been the main act at BASH Bangkok’s Grand Opening, how was it?
It was Chaos. Bitter & Sweet I guess. Sweet cause the damn venue is now open. Bitter cause it too too damn long TO open. The room is incredible. Daryl Scott is the KING OF BANGKOK hands down and the best host I have EVER seen in club land and I have seen every club. The dude is smiling all the time and makes you want to be at his venues. His designs & styles are his own creations and maybe I don’t always get them but they are always ORIGINAL. The sound is PERFECT and I think it will only get better as we warm it up and beat it up more each week.
How much longer will you be in Bangkok and when can you be seen again at BASH Bangkok?
I am playing tonight for Halloween and then Friday as well. I am touring in Asia until November 14th, then off to play London & Brazil and finally home for the Thanksgiving Holiday and some well needed time off. My Pure Disco Sh*t Party will be a once month event at BASH and each month it will get bigger & bigger with new themes, special guests, and God knows what else. The only think I can promise you is that it will be the BEST PARTY IN BANGKOK (respectfully)
What comes next after Bangkok?
London, Brazil, NYC. Then comes the NYE parties, etc. I have offers in South America, Asia and Europe but I’m sure you will see me at Bash for NYE (shhhh, don’t tell anyone)
Love you SIAM2NITE and i'm honored to have the opportunity to chat with you.
God Bless and keep up the good work.