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Damian Lazarus Just Might Be A Household Name Quicker Than He Is Comfortable With…

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Most know Damian Lazarus as a British-born globetrotting international DJ and founder of the wildly successful label Crosstown Rebels, home to such artists as Jamie Jones, Art Department and Seth Troxler.

Some may know him as a devoted animal lover (he is trying to get a "kitten disco" off the ground to benefit the Santé D'Or animal shelter he volunteers at in the Los Feliz area) and a Burning Man enthusiast (temporally in his world, things only happen before or after the weeklong music and arts festival held in the Nevada desert).

There were some occasions where we’d have a 100 or 200 people in the house from Sunday morning right through until Tuesday.

But actually sitting down with him and talking for an hour reveals that at his core, he is clearly one thing above all else: confident.

Not brash or arrogant as his success might suggest, but quietly confident in his accomplishments and his sensibilities.

"In a lot of ways, it's not rocket science," he says about the prominence Crosstown Rebels is enjoying right now. "We've just been kind of sassy about it."

We meet at Fred 62 in Los Feliz at my suggestion. He walks up wearing what must have been one of the first Culprit shirts ever made, some equally traveled black Thai fisherman pants and black military boots, sunglasses and a funky black hat with his half-Chihuahua, half-dachshund puppy Mikito in tow.

One superficial glance at the menu and he quickly suggests that we walk a block south to Figaro Bistro, which he much prefers. Within minutes we are chatting as we wait for our beef tartare (his recommendation) and beers to arrive.

"I'm sitting here in the hot weather and my lovely garden reading about what's going at home, on the street where my house is in London, outside the windows of my friend's houses and my family's," he muses, referring to the riots that were ongoing when we sat down.

It was a very instrumental place, but like all good things, it had to come to an end.

"All of these disaffected kids, supposedly my countrymen, who feel that they have nothing better to do than run wild and do these horrific things, it's just awful," he says.

He recommends the movie Fish Tank as insight into what happened in those few bleak days across the pond, calling it the equivalent of The Wire here in America.

"I was very upset and very saddened by the whole thing," he says. "But here we are in beautiful California, where things aren't so bad," he follows with a cautious chuckle.

Lazarus moved to California four years ago and now lives in Echo Park with his girlfriend, four cats and puppy.

He has been coming here for much longer as a DJ but was finally lured away from England for the obvious reasons (the weather) and because he had established a good crew of forward-thinking party people.

It was the then-fledgling outfit of Droog, comprised of Andrei Osyka, Brett Griffin, and Justin Sloe, who implored him to make the permanent move and help them get their Culprit label off the ground.

They were already on the cutting edge tip and knew what was going on according to Lazarus, but wanted to take the next step.

"And really, I had just had enough of London, was feeling creatively stifled, like I had been there, seen it, done it," he says.

Lazarus had a growing label and was throwing a Monday night party called Stink that regularly drew a thousand people and went until 6 am or later. After about ten of those parties, he was sure he couldn't better it. And the creeping gentrification of the London scene as a whole wasn't helping.

"London had become this completely oversaturated city and scene for the Essex boys and girls coming in at the weekend, which is the equivalent of the suburbs kids just coming in and jumping on the cool bandwagon."

It was through a series of underground afterparties in Los Angeles, culminating with the now legendary weekly affair at The Bunker, that Lazarus made the connections which deeply entrenched him in the LA scene and convinced him that things would hit the next level on America's left coast.

"There were some occasions where we'd have a 100 or 200 people in the house from Sunday morning right through until Tuesday."

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The house known as The Bunker finally got shutdown recently, but not before it morphed into one of the defacto tastemaking events in the LA electronic music scene, where DJs were drawn to the experimental freedom and the random celebrity would make an early morning cameo.

"It was a very instrumental place, but like all good things, it had to come to an end."

This is where the Culprit and Crosstown Rebels sound solidified its grip on Los Angeles' musical psyche.

The sound is Miami without the tanning oil and fake tits. It is the soundtrack to the hotter-than-you couple ferociously making out in the corner at 3 am, oblivious to the packed dancefloor behind them.

It is best exemplified in Lazarus' upcoming Get Lost 4 mix compilation. He manages to weave a sonic tapestry that works equally as well in the background or as an upfront, dance-friendly mix.

"For me, that's the ultimate mission to get that in one go," he acknowledges. "It's really hard, but I think I achieved it."

And the sound is resonating with dance music fans everywhere. Crosstown duo Art Department had the most charted track on Resident Advisor in 2010 and the label has been given full stages at events as large as the Exit Festival in Serbia.

The more I DJ in America these days, the more excited I am about the whole scene here in the US. My scene, the underground, the coolest fucking music scene in the world, is starting to pick up a lot more cooler people in America.

He is still in awe of what has materialized from a "vanity project" to supplement his DJing with the work of like-minded musicians he surrounded himself with.

"It stands to reason that if I wanna play only amazing producers and I have all these friends around me that agree with me musically, let's make our own fucking music."

Seven years later, though he acknowledges that Crosstown has had a "major infiltration into the dance music market," he still refuses to credit himself.

"Once the digital market started to overtake, I think people just got bored and fell off their game," he posits, leaving the door open for Crosstown to fill the void.

"I don't blame a lot of people because if you're in this business for the business, there's no business for you to be in, really, unless you're super commercial, right?"

In recent years, with parties like Insominiac's Electric Daisy Carnival drawing 180,000 attendees and Deadmau5 selling out multiple nights wherever he plays, the super commercial has a firm hold in the States.

But America has always been behind the curve in appreciating underground dance music as an art form.

"Unfortunately, Americans don't have the cultural landmarks that the Brits do when it comes to the understanding of dance music and rave culture," he explains.

In Britain, the punk, DIY and Soulboy movements all played a part in ushering in dance music and were all borne of despair and disaffection. It's similar to the way that Americans experienced hip-hop as a grimy, underground voice of the streets that eventually swelled into the mainstream with its potency.

But increasingly, he is more and more positive about the stateside adoption of dance music as a legitimate culture.

"The more I DJ in America these days, the more excited I am about the whole scene here in the US," he says. "My scene, the underground, the coolest fucking music scene in the world, is starting to pick up a lot more cooler people in America."

The Get Lost party this Saturday in Hollywood, which will feature Lazarus, Visionquest (Seth Troxler, Lee Curtiss, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves), Art Department (Live), Deniz Kurtel (Live), Droog and others, looks to be one of the biggest local parties of the year, uniting LA lovers of all variations on the 4/4 beat.

"We thought about doing it underground, but eventually decided that it's time to take the step forward and put the Crosstown sound closer to the people," which landed them at the newly remodeled Music Box theater. The show will feature a massive custom-designed DJ booth, several art installations and a patio presence like no one has seen.

Some of these artistic cues are taken from the Burning Man influence, which he calls "absolutely one of the best weeks of my life ever." This year's festival opens to the public on Monday.

Though he only went last year for the first time (at Lee Burridge's insistence), he is already geared up for several huge nights on the playa this year: the Crosstown sound will be taking over the Robot Heart sound system with the Liquid Sky party on Wednesday night, and then a huge chunk at the massive music camp Nexus on Friday.

For those familiar with the Burning Man credo of gifting something to those in attendance, Lazarus offers his latest podcast installment (Lazpod 22), which has been in the works since he returned from Burning Man last year and is what he considers to be one of his best, most eclectic mixes ever.

And beyond Burning Man, Crosstown Rebels is set for huge things next year as well with a new Art Department artist album and a shift in sound courtesy of artists like Fur Coat, Amirali and Mother of Seven.

If 2012 builds on 2011 in the same exponential fashion as the previous years have, Damian Lazarus just might be a household name quicker than he is comfortable with.

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