Few DJs have made such a dramatic impact on the underground house and techno scene over the last few years as Lee Foss. Described by DJ Mag as “one of the most talented new forces in modern dance music today” and by fellow future house innovators Art Department as their favourite producer, Lee has firmly established himself in dance music’s collective consciousness. Lee and his Hot Natured band mates Jamie Jones and Infinity Ink are currently leading a whole family of like-minded producers that includes Richy Ahmed, WaFF, Digitaria, Robert James and Miguel Campbell, who are currently re-writing the rulebook of how to make evocative, emotive house music. In 2010 he was the highest new entry into Resident Advisor’s key Top 100 DJs poll, entering at number 38 and by 2011 he had climbed to number 18 in the chart, a huge feat given that he only played his first European gig in 2009. Having hit the UK charts with ‘Benediction’ as part of deep house super group Hot Natured, with genre-spanning hits such as ‘Electricity’ (with MK) and ‘Reverse Skydiving’ under his belt, alongside remixes of chart topping artists such as Rudimental and Lana del Ray, Lee Foss is one of the most exciting forces in modern house music. Not forgetting Hot Creations, the groundbreaking label he runs with partner Jamie Jones, which is arguably one of the world’s most innovative house labels. His unique sound, born out a lifelong love of classic house, 90s hip hop, 80s electro and Detroit techno, has earned him fanatical grassroots support from clubbers in both Europe and North America.
At present, you now host the consistently growing Repopulate Mars brand and label. What are the challenges of being involved in so many projects like this alongside your solo career?
I think time management is absolutely a challenge- giving myself enough time at home to stay on top of being a musician, songwriter, DJ, remixer, band member, and owner of 3 labels can sometimes be a challenge, but the onus is on me, to be honest with myself about my time management. I’ve also got a girlfriend and a social life and a body to keep fit and healthy so its just a question of doing my best and being honest with myself and trying to keep myself motivated. Doing the little things to keep DJing interesting, etc.
On Repopulate Mars you’ve had some big artists like CamelPhat, Solardo and Pirupa release music on it. Most recently Jamie Roy & Jay De Lys shot to #3 spot in the Beatport charts with their ‘The Floor’ EP – what specifically do you look for in demo’s for this label?
I just look for songs that catch my ear, that have something original…simple as that. There is no formula – aspiring producers just need to make whatever moves them and feels fresh. If it’s one of their favorite songs at the moment then there is a good chance someone else will like it too. Far too many producers overthink what kind of songs a label is “looking for“. At the end of the day, we are all looking to sign one thing – great music.
Your greatest inspirations?
I am constantly inspired by music. There are some artists who provide inspirations consistently, but more than anything I am inspired by moments of brilliance and transcendence in music. Sometimes I find a bit from a song I like and I start to sample it/do an edit, and 99% of the time, but the time I finish the track, the sample isn’t in the song anymore, but its worked almost like a sculpture where I have molded around the sample then not needed it anymore. I’m influenced primarily by my friends. I’m lucky that the music I’m into is what my friends are making. Jamie Jones is probably the biggest influence on what I do, and we work together the most. I take a lot of influence from disco producers like Paul Simpsons, Patrick Adams, Jacques Fred Petrus/Mauro Malavasi. New school disco producers like Metro Area, Tensnake etc.
What would be a dream collaboration or event for you?
To be honest I’m really happy with the collaborations I have, I work with Jamie Jones as Hot Natured, and Lee Curtiss as Freelance Lovers. I guess my dream collaborations are with pop artists/vocalists as I feel like the electronic artists I already work with are as good as it gets. Would love to work with La Roux, Alicia Keys, Jay Z, Nas. I would like to time travel back to 1993 to work with Notorious B.I.G. and S.W.V.
What favourite pieces of equipment do you like to use in the studio?
Linn LM1 drum machine, I think it has a remarkable punchy character and I am using it on all my new songs. There were only 500 ever made and it was the sound of Prince, Michael Jackson, and Hall and Oates, but it fits seamlessly into disco-influenced house and techno. The Roland Juno 60 is a great workhorse for me as a synth… I have tons of more expensive pieces, but this one really gets the most use.
What makes dance music so special to you?
I think most house music lovers can relate to being brought together by raves and parties. I think it brings together a lot of socially misadjusted people and opens them to others. Maybe initially ecstasy was or is a catalyst but the music lends itself to a sense of community and universal love. The bpm itself of around 120 is close to the human heart rate.
You’ve had some great releases on Repopulate Mars recently. We are especially intrigued by “Crawl” featuring hip-hop artist Mal Rainey. Such a dope track! Is it true that he was your high school bud? How did this collaboration finally come about?
Jahamal did indeed go to Dekalb High School with me, he was a few years younger but even then I knew he was a great freestyler and I remembered that all these years later. He came to a show two years ago and afterward in the car I asked him to freestyle again and was so blown away that I told him I wanted to sign him to repopulate mars and to get on the straight and narrow and focus on music. he’s definitely grown as a rapper who can tell stories with his written and he has a bright future.
Another release we are fired up about is this Eli Brown + Mason Maynard banger. Eli’s transition from D&B to house has us rapt! He’s incredibly talented and such a nice guy. You’ve been supporting him for quite some time. How did you two connect?
I booked Eli brown for my bday party in London in July last year as I was playing so much of his music throughout 2017 and I wanted him to perform at my bday. We got along well and I started signing his music to repopulate mars, and over the winter we discussed starting a collaboration the first of which comes out tomorrow. It’s been easy to continue to support him as he works hard, is a good dude and I give him priority with the label and vice versa he gives the label priority. Also, I think as he’s making different styles of music the stuff that he makes for Repopulate Mars can focus on the weirder, bassier, and funkier end of the spectrum.