Next week, Halcyon SF turns two, and to celebrate they have two artists we absolutely love playing the west coast hotspot on October 26, Lee Foss & Detlef. We catch up with Lee ahead of the show to discuss playa-love, high school buds, and dream DJ B2B’s.
Lee, we saw you play an absolute next-level AM set for Kazbah, at this years Burning Man. You seem so at home on the Playa! And you do bring a bit of the Playa to your club sets.
I first went to burning man in 2010… I hadn’t planned on it and didn’t think I was a “Burning Man guy” the week before Burning Man, I had my bag stolen out of the DJ booth in Rosarito Mexico with my laptop, hard drive backing up my laptop, UK and US phones, and camera in it. (at the time I was djing on Serato so this was extra debilitating)
Then when I got back to Los Angeles I turned on my ancient mac pro tower and it died as well. this left me with no way to make music or collect music to replace what I lost. This was early in my career so I had no money to replace anything and I was just going to internet shops to email my friends to beg them for music to burn to cd so I’d have something to play for an upcoming gig.
The weekend before, I was at a party at The Standard when my friend Willis (a DJ from Hawaii) pulled me aside and told me I needed to come to Burning Man with him and his friends. He pointed out I was just sitting around stewing in my own juices w no phone or computer or way to make money. They offered to let me ride and stay with them and buy my food, all I would need to do was buy my ticket (2010 was the last year you could buy a ticker on the door). I decided “what the hell why not” and agreed to come with the next day…. the only problem was I would need to leave on Friday when no one is leaving the playa in order to make my only upcoming gig that would pay for my rent and start my life over.
I went to Burning Man with blind faith and a belief everything happens for a reason and 2 pairs of socks, t-shirts, and underwear. I brought no costumes, fancy dress, or music to play, but I had a remarkable time and was blown away by the setting and the openness of the people I met and the spiritual significance that can be taken away from so many aspects of the event.
On Friday morning I had no money and no way out… just some African beads someone gave me at the party I had just left and a flight leaving from Reno, but I was told there was a bus there from the neighboring town of Gerlach. I went to the bus stop and luckily someone was willing to trade me the beads for a bus ticket. I rode out to Gerlach and waited on the boiling hot asphalt for 5 hours trying to hitchhike back out towards reno. I thought about giving up dozens of times and wondered if I should just go back into burning man and give up but I kept my faith that everything happens for a reason
I was close to fainting from dehydration when finally someone stopped and picked me up just in time to rush to Reno airport to make my flight.
The people in the car were curious about my story and I told them what had happened and why I had hitchhiked out and how important it was that I made it to Panama to my gig the next day. The passenger told me he was in a similar situation and the only reason that he had a driver out was that he had read online it was impossible to hitchhike out of Burning Man on Friday and that is why he decided to stop and pick me up… we had a good laugh and I made my flight and my show in Panama and slowly I saved up money to get another computer.
A year later I was boarding the underground in London when the same guy who had stopped to pick me up saw me and grabbed me and hugged me and the synchronicity of the moment and life reverberated and that was my first step to seeing the magic of burning man.
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.
It is really exciting to have you and Detlef on the decks together in one night! Let's face it, we will all-always have SWAGON! Did you know that track was a hit from the moment you heard it?
Detlef gave me a pack of music new years 2016 that I knew had a few hits on it that we were lucky enough to release through Hot Creations and Repopulate Mars, but I definitely felt like if we could resign Swagon and release it with the vocal would be an absolute monster that would cross over and luckily it did.
Will you guys go B2B late night after your solo sets? Have you done that before together? or prefer to play it straight?
We usually get some b2b between the sets and sometimes at the end as well… this typically depends on the event/venue and lengths of sets.
Speaking of which, you're going B2B with Felix Da Housecat at the DTLA Day of the Dead party. You two together is scary - in a good way! Who would be your dream artist for a B2B set? Who would be a nightmare?
I’m pretty lucky, I get to work with my favorite artists all the time, and have been able to throughout my career so….
I don’t know I guess the dream and nightmare artist would be the ghost of Larry Levan.