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The Ralph Lawson / 2020 Vision interview

3 October 2015
The Ralph Lawson / 2020 Vision interview
For the past 20 years, Ralph Lawson has played a pivotal role in the underground dance music scene. He currently holds residencies at Back To Basics (Leeds), We Love Space (Ibiza) and The Loft (Barcelona). As well as regular appearances at Watergate (Berlin) and Fabric (London) he is also a founder member of the highly acclaimed 20/20 Soundsystem as well as running 20/20 Vision Recordings. We catch up with Ralph ahead of Saturday night's 20/20 Vision showcase at the newly-opened Headrow House.

Ralph Lawson Interview - Article 2 Photography by Mark Wheelwright

You pretty much helped Leeds shape its foundations within dance music. Did you ever envisage the progress and achievements you have brought to the City?

It's great to see Leeds with such a healthy and vibrant nightlife, including clubs, bars, restaurants and concerts. Of course, we had no idea there would be such a developed scene in the City when we started in the early 90s. I'm proud to have played a small part. There are some very creative people who have contributed to making Leeds what it is today.

Tell us about Headrow House and your involvement in the new venue. What can we expect from the 20/20 Vision shows here?

I'm massively excited about Headrow House. There is a lot going on already in the City, but there is space for a cool new music, arts and food building that looks like a Brooklyn brownstone from the outside and a Berlin warehouse inside. The building has been designed by Ash Kollakowski & Simon Stevens from The Belgrave Music Hall and features two floors and an awesome roof terrace. There will be a restaurant called Ox Club downstairs and art exhibitions, events and loft parties on Level 1 (including 20/20 Vision nights). It is also a live music venue and bar downstairs.

There will be some special visuals in place too. What can you tell us about those?

Ash has commissioned kind of avant garde-looking light boxes that look super cool. We will also be working with local artists, photographers and VJs to change the look of space each time. The first event will feature the light boxes as they are brand new, and we will develop from there.

With 20/20 Vision right now you have been focusing heavily on the local talent as well as the international artists, plus you have had a change in management and branding. Tell us about your ideas behind your refurb?

Last year (2014) we celebrated 20 years in the game with an album and tour called ‘Content’. We released a 20 track album featuring heavyweight artists that we wanted represented on the label like Herbert, Maya Jane Coles, Simian Mobile Disco, Cassy and many others. But after that was done I drew a line in the sand, and we moved on to looking forwards into the future with fresh new music from new talent. I also felt we needed to make a statement of intent so commissioned a totally new look for the label from Leeds based designers, We Are Golden. I love the job they've done.

Ralph Lawson Interview - Article 1 Photography by Mark Wheelwright

You also had a huge release with Christian Loffler earlier in the year. He has been a major player for you recently. What brought him to your attention and what can we expect from his live outing?

Yes, it was great to have an artist of Christian’s calibre on the label. He is one of a rare breed of artists who transcends music merely made for clubs and can pen sonic landscapes for an album, and I presume at some stage, film. His live show blew me away when I saw it in London in March, and I am looking forward to bringing him to Leeds for his debut show in the City.

And another figure that loves his live elements Subb-ann, he will be next up on the imprint. What can we expect from this release?

The Subb-ann release is a mix of no-nonsense techno tracks for the dance floor and more experimental sounds. We liked his work on Ghostly and Spectral and wanted to push him to make an EP that stood out from the crowd. I feel he achieved that. You can hear it for yourselves on Monday 5th when it's released.

Can you give any tips on who else you have your eye on, on a production tip? Who we should look out for?

Maurice Uzzan aka Whitesquare from Italy.

Of course it wouldn’t be an interview if we didn’t mention Back To Basics, still heavily involved and influential in the clubbing market in Leeds. On a slightly different tip, why do clubs and events not seem to stand the test of time like Basics has?

I don’t feel people think long term in general. We like in a world filled with information and activity that constantly demands our attention through our phones. It’s all about the ‘new' rather than the real deal. We have always prided ourselves in bringing substance, consistency and quality to the table. I also always think of building things for the long game, I have been resident at basics for nearly 25 years, and 20/20 Vision has lasted over two decades too. They are built to last. I look at DJing as a craft that you can progress over a lifetime. Also when you’re this far out, as Adonis said "You'too far gone, there’s no way back”.

Finally, are you back in the studio yourself and if so can we expect anything soon?

Yes, I have recently started a new project called Lost in Time. The 5th release is out now Lost in The Storm, been getting a lot of love over summer from a number of DJs including Seth Troxler.

20/20 Vison host their inaugural showcase with Christian Loffler on Saturday October 3rd at Headrow House - http://headrowhouse.com

You can read read an interview with Christian Loffler on the Ralph Lawson blog here: http://www.ralphlawson.co.uk/blog/2015/9/30/know-your-artist-christian-loffler

Rob is a Volunteer Writer for Leeds Living specialising in Music/Dance. He works in music PR, promoting club nights and events in Leeds