From Hong Kong to Burning Man: Lee Burridge's Adventures in Music

08/26/2016 03:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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For decades, sunrise-set-specialist Lee Burridge has emblazoned the underground music world with melodious house beats that sing the songs of a generation. All Day I Dream has been a place where, for over five years, Burridge has orchestrated a deep and emotive house music experience.

The newest addition to the All Day I Dream family is Lost Desert who Burridge discovered by chance in the bowels of an Antwerp nightclub. The two instantly connected finding that they shared a musical chemistry which eventually effervesced into their debut EP, Get Weird. Their newest creation is Lingala, a two-track collaboration due for release on September 9th, 2016.

The title track, "Lingala," is a delicately composed, ten-minute odyssey featuring ethereal vocals sung by Junior, undulating basslines and Burridge's signature melodic grooves. Spacey and rhythmic, the ears of Burridge's fans will happily slurp up these new sounds at the upcoming All Day I Dream of Summer's Fade on Governors Island in New York on September 18th. In this incredibly comprehensive interview, house-master Lee Burridge shares his epic life story, challenges, failures, and much more.

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Who are some artists outside of the electronic music scene that inspire you?

Lee: It all started with Pink Floyd for me when I was a kid and I still go back and forth for inspiration -- although let's face it, they are in a different universe to most of us who 'attempt' to make electronic music. The last few years I think Nils Frahm is doing some really interesting work.

Tell me about the Genesis of All Day I Dream.

Lee: There were quite a few factors that lead to me creating it. Firstly, I'd started collecting and looking for some more musical music around 2007. Tracks or artists that didn't really adhere to the more popular sound of that time. Minimal music was extremely popular everywhere. Melodic music was not. I was super into Kollektiv Turmstrasse's productions and had been scouring the digital and vinyl sites for any and all music that had emotive elements to it.

Around this time period I'd also started to notice a disproportionate amount of men attending events. I'd always preferred a more balanced mix of males and females as a crowd but had seen a few photos of events in New York. Actually there wasn't a girl to be seen and it was a big crowd shot. I found that kind of sad as girls love music as much as men. I wanted to change that.

Next, I found myself playing an after-hours event in a villa in Playa Del Carmen in 2010 during BPM festival and a lot of my friends were there hanging out. I decided to play only the melodic music I had with me. The response was amazing. A lot of people got up and started dancing and didn't stop for hours. Most, were girls. That really stuck with me.

I went against the tide, energy-wise and music-wise at Lightning in a bottle festival, also in 2011 and played this music out for the first time as a DJ set. It was somewhat unexpected for people, I think. Deeper and more blissed out than what else was going on, on that stage or in general, but I felt the people connect deeply with the actual music itself. Again, that stuck with me.

I'd played July fourth for another promoter in New York on the same rooftop -- one year later that became the first home for All Day I Dream. It was sweltering and really uncomfortable with no shade, nowhere to sit and a very simple set up; speakers, decks on a table, and a bar. The venue was great but I felt a quiet discontent as something's always been a little off in New York. Bear in mind, New York was where I felt the most affinity with a crowd and where my biggest fan-base was at that time.

I decided at some point a little later on that instead of complaining about what I thought was lacking there that I'd simply try to do it myself. I want to add that it wasn't like nothing was happening in New York, it was pretty good actually with promoters bringing in great artists and some using really good sound. I just wanted to add certain things and uncut corners that were being cut. I thought it would enhance the attendee's experience.

Putting on the events also allowed me to go back to the days when a DJ could play a really long set, tell a story with the music, go on a journey. I didn't really know anyone else who was playing this kind of music, although I'm sure there were some out there, and, if they were, getting to play for eight hours and really create a certain atmosphere.

Tied closely in to that thinking was my attending burning man for many years. It had renewed that appreciation of creating an atmosphere. Both visually and sonically. I wanted to meld the two together in a very grey environment. That being Brooklyn. A few months later I put on my very first All Day I Dream event.

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What are some of your favorite music festivals and venues to perform at?

Lee: Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle, Sunwaves Festival in Romania, Altitude Anonymous, Public works, Fabric in the UK, Panorama Bar in Germany, Kristal in Romania.

What is your story? Tell me about the early days as well as the ebbs and flows of your career.

Lee: I grew up in a small village in the South West of England. My parents ran a pub. I learned vital life skills the likes of pool shark and being really great at space invaders and scramble. In 1983 I became a DJ one year after getting to hang out in my first DJ booth -- that being the one a mobile DJ set up for a birthday party in my parents pub. I'd always loved music and, I guess, it was a natural progression. I played weddings, birthdays and national holiday celebrations, initially in the pub, until I was able to drive all my equipment to local village halls where the kids birthday and wedding parties never ended.

I did school discos and one summer a local holiday camp. The doorman told me to apply at the local nightclub, a club called Scruples. I was really only playing pop music, disco and slow jams at that time. About six miles away was another club, The Palace. It was definitely the best club for miles around -- blue cocktails, a laser and light show and DJs who mixed, come on, it was the 80s and I was kind of young and dumb.

I had no idea that you could mix records and keep them in a mix for extended periods of time. It blew my mind. I applied for a job there and was offered Monday nights which was the under 18's night. I graduated to the grown-ups at the weekends and played there until 1991. I also was playing at other clubs in and around my county but nothing further than that. In 1987 someone happened to be on holiday and was in The Palace. They were from London and asked me to play some acid house which drew a blank stare from me.

I had chanced across some early house records in my local record shop and loved them but had no idea they were described as house music at that point. The guy had been to some of the early outdoor rave parties that were happening around London and his description peaked my interest so I set out to experience this new thing myself and, of course, was hooked from my first time. I tried to find more of this music and started shopping in London. I also tried to put on an event on the local beach after a night in the local commercial club. No one was really interested apart from myself and a few friends though.

We started going to parties in Brighton and London but as I was young the idea of actually moving to somewhere like London without knowing anyone there was somewhat daunting. Randomly though, a life changing opportunity crossed my path. I was handed a business card in The Palace and offered a full time job DJing in Hong Kong, which at that point I thought was in Japan. I knew I should have listened in geography. Although kind of scary, I decided to go.

It was the true beginning of me making my life of music. I loved Hong Kong of course and ended up staying for six years. The DJ gig was, again, in a commercial bar but during the first few years there I started playing most nights incognito across the road in another empty club. I was lucky enough to be a part of the earliest dance music movement in that country and really helped shape the scene there. I was also fortunate to discover Koh Pagn Ghan in Thailand really early on in 1992. Think hippies playing drums on the beach for full moon and two hours electricity a day. I visited that island, Haadrin in particular, for months on end playing sunrise sets on the beach and then for days at a little hidden club. Well, a wooden shack that was a snooker venue before it transformed, called the backyard.

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Myself and a handful of other DJs from both abroad and locally carved out something truly special and word of mouth at that point. It was a beautiful secret. Of course, none of us knew what we were doing but we were doing it for the right reasons. Passion for music and love of partying. I spent six years in Hong Kong and went to Haadrin until 2000. Things changed enormously for me and for those locations which I didn't really resonate with so much anymore. Hearing 'I'm a barbie girl' blasting out of a shitty sound system on the same beach I'd shared so many magical experiences on made me leave and not return.

In 1997 I had returned to the UK to attempt to start a DJ career there. This was facilitated my Craig Richards and Sasha who'd heard me play in Hong Kong and loved what I did. They were super kind and generous and helped me begin to start a new phase of my career as a DJ, first in the UK, and then off the back of success there out across the world.

As for ebbs and flows I've been fortunate. The only time I've really felt an ebb was as minimal music and its stars blew up. I was living in Ibiza that summer and everything that came before felt old and tired while minimal felt new and exciting. I liked it but wasn't really a part of that world. I'd always carried certain preconceptions due to affiliations with brands like Global Underground. A hugely successful mix CD series whose heart mostly beat to progressive house. If you listen back to my CDs, I was still playing house music with some break-beat.

I was always kind of the black sheep of that family of artists and although I'm always going to be grateful of the opportunities it presented to me, it also had a stigma. Especially in a lot of Europe. As music transitioned away from that sound and towards minimal a lot of artists didn't. Many started noticing a diminished interest. I found myself for a hot second trying to cling on to the side of a world that wasn't really mine and that was the new sound of minimal.

There was one particular villa party with Luciano there. I somehow got to play and according to friends needed to stop as it wasn't the 'cool kid's music.' Oh the shame! I thought about it for a little while after and decided to simply continue on my path as that's what I believed in. I wasn't going to abandon something just because something else was more popular.

I decided to continue playing music from my heart and that I believed in. Be it trendy, popular or not. To be honest nothing much really changed for me. I guess I started playing less in certain places but during that time other doors opened. Around that time I also started going to Burning Man. This was the beginning of another flow period for me. Both mentally and with my career. I felt inspired by the whole experience and took that energy and those ideas back out in to the real world.

Well you have a badass story. What are some of the challenges you face in your line of work?

Lee: Continuity and balance between music production and touring. If you're on a roll musically in the studio, taking off for a weekend or going on a three week tour kills the vibe. Not so much for me these days but drinking and drugs are a challenge to anyone who chooses to do it on a regular basis. As artists, we are traveling and partying every weekend. I think it's hard to say no for a lot of artists as there's always pressure to behave that way, plus it's fun. It's easy to have a whisky. Then ten. Not sleep properly. Go to an after-party and then straight to the airport and then repeat the next night while those who dragged you to the after-party are in bed recovering.

We are all machines at times and think we can do it but it will catch up with you. I've had periods of time suffering anxiety and believe it's linked. A super tough challenge is being away from my girlfriend and our home. She's fortunately an amazingly understanding person. I've seen other artists struggle to hold down long term relationships as you need someone who can support you when you're not even there and understand the life. That's hard when you're on different continents sometimes unless they are a very special type of person.

What is something that you have a strong affinity for at the moment? Be it food, movies, hobbies, activities, artists etc.

Lee: The beats of Die Antwoord tracks, Salman Rushdie books, lenticular clouds.