Lee Foss has been one of the most talked-about producers in 2009, both for his solo releases on Wolf+Lamb and Culprit and for his releases as Hot Natured, together with Jamie Jones, on Culprit.
Among the projects coming this year, there are new releases as Hot Natured (which has become also a label), new collaborations with Lee Curtiss and his debut album.
We interviewed him at the end of last year.
So Lee, how was 2009 for you?
2009 was a great year for me. I would say at the beginning of the year I was pretty much unknown and a lot has happened in the last 12 months.
Its exciting to really start to tour properly and play great parties, and I’m really happy that my releases have been well received and people are getting a chance to hear my music.
To start out, can you tell us how you got into producing electronic music?
When I came back from Ibiza in 2004 I knew I wanted to start producing, Jamie had started producing in Reason and I had watched him a few times so I kind of had an idea of how to do it.
I bought a computer but teaching myself everything took a long time and it really took moving to Los Angeles and working full time on music in 2008 and switching to Ableton live to start making releasable tracks.
So what about your own music? Could you describe your current studio setup? What are you making music with?
I produce in Ableton Live on a mac pro, as far as gear I use a Roland MKS 80, a Roland Juno 106, a Minimoog Voyager, a Dave Smith Prophet 08, and have been lucky enough to use a Roland Jupiter 8 on a few of my songs.
I have various sample libraries that I use and I think the most important thing is I have good ideas. There are a lot of people out there who are probably better at keyboards or engineering, but at the end of the day you need good ideas.
Are you a hardware or software guy?
I’m a hardware guy, I can’t remember the last time I used a plug in as a sound source, there is one plug in delay that I use but other than that, I don’t use software for anything but sequencing.
Have you got a favourite track out of all the music you have made?
Hot Natured – Wintertime is my favorite I made it with Jamie Jones and it should be out soon, and I really like this track I made yesterday called Run Around, neither are available yet. I’m pretty happy with everything I’ve done.
Let’s talk about “The Edge” ep. What can you tell me about it?
Well its my first solo ep for Culprit.
Most of the songs were written this summer when I was working on my album and were intended for the album but we decided to put out an ep first in the fall and these were the songs that the label felt best represented my sound and that would make an interesting ep.
Its difficult for me to judge my own feelings on the ep because I improve so much as a producer every month that I’m usually ambivalent about my music by the time it comes out because I’ve heard it so much and because I’ve got better stuff finished, but I’m still proud of this ep, it represents the work I did to get where I am.
I’m glad that it has been well received and people are playing it.
I heard in the title-track some echoes of “Drink To Get Drunk” by different Gear. Were you aware of this?
I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s a nice compliment, that was a really good record.
What is the music you grew up with?
I grew up listening to 90s hip hop and r + b and new jack swing.
That was what drew me in to be a music fan, and is still what I like to listen to in my free time.
As I started to dj I got heavily into 80’s funk and disco, but it wasn’t something I heard around the house as a child or teenager. Definitely my friends and I were into hip hop, but luckily in an era when it meant something.
Do you remember some of the first records that really struck you?
As a child I remember being struck by the Thriller album.
When I was old enough to buy my own music I remember loving Mary J Biige – Real Love, Notorious BIG – Ready To Die, Dr Dre – The Chronic, basic the hip hop and r +b of 92-93. As far as dance music goes, Daft Punk – Homework and Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You got me interested in house and started djing.
I think being in Chicago, I was lucky because I got straight into house music instead of starting out listening to trance or progressive, I think it helped me to be interested in disco and other genres that have informed my production.
Your move from Chicago to Los Angeles, why?
Droog were starting to do some really great parties and I was visiting frequently to play and I saw how good the scene could be and an opportunity to start a brand if we worked together.
It took a while and a lot of hard work but I think it’s paid off. It was a difficult decision to make. My ex girlfriend and I were earning a lot of money in Chicago, I was djing a lot there, so we gave up a sure thing and it was a big risk.
There are some things I regret about how suddenly we left and how much pressure it put on me to basically be broke for the last couple of years, but in the end I’ve been a part of a lot of great parties and a really cool new label and I’ve forced myself to become an excellent producer.
How is Los Angeles these days? It seems it is growing a new electronic scene in the city. Can you tell me something about it?
For me the scene centers around the Culprit parties at the Standard in the summer. I have friends that come from all over the u.s. and the uk for these parties. I’m not sure how much more the scene will really grow to be honest, but it has provided some excellent parties and its definitely made a lot of artists feel at home their and helped start a label.
How was your friendship with Jamie Jones born? How did you first start your musical relationship with Jamie?
I met Jamie in 2001 in Ibiza and we used to live there together during the seasons and I visited him frequently Iin London. As he started to grow as a dj I booked him for some of his first international gigs and he used to come play frequently for me In Chicago and L.A. and he’s always been one of my closest friends.
We djed together frequently and we would send each other music, but we didn’t start producing together till last August so its been a little over a year.
It was just something that made sense once I had grown to the point where I was good enough to contribute, because Jamie is a great producer, for me he’s the best in the world, and it meant something to me that I had reached a point where he was into the music I was making and that I had a skill set that meant I could really contribute something when working together.
What was it like working with Jamie?
It’s been great, I haven’t been able to successfully work with anyone else except Lee Curtiss. Its just one of those things, you never know with collaborations if they will work.
Some people just don’t click in the studio.
Jamie and I get along really well and respect each others opinions and have similar tastes and good ideas so the work just comes natural.
And what about your Hot Natured project? I see it is also a label now. Any new material on the way as project and label?
Yeah hot natured is our name as production duo and will also be the name of our label. As far as our production goes, we have a new ep coming out on culprit in January, and a new hot natured ep on our own label probably in February, as well as another hot natured edits coming soon on our own label as well.
As far as the label goes, we’ve got an amazing Jamie Jones track called Ruckus (to the ladies) coming out, a great EP from Robert James, material from Clive Henry + Jamie, solo material from me.
We should be releasing an original ep and an edit ep every month from now on on the labels.
What's a typical day like for you right now? Are you still working on the new album or is it finished?
I have been in London for 6 weeks, and I’ve been in the studio some while here and djing around the UK. I have been doing some original production and some Hot Natured production, I’m not really sure how much of what I’’ve been working on here will make the album.
I’ve been trying to get over a breakup and the music I’ve been doing is a little different from what I’ve been making towards the album. I don’t think the album is completely finished, I will try to finish it in January back in l.a.
When I get back to L.A. my typical day should be working in the studio, going down to the beach, playing with my cats, and getting on it.
What can we expect from your forthcoming album?
Well it definitely has a theme and a concept. I worked really hard on it, especially over the summer and I feel like it’s really easy to listen to from beginning to end. I have a few interludes and hip hop speed tracks, I would say the music is true to my sound, deep, moody, electronic, with meaning.
I’m hoping it’s something people put on and listen to straight through because that is definitely the intent.
How did you come to work with Culprit?
Culprit is a label that I helped Droog start.
I think it was always something I had in the back of my mind when I moved to l.a. I saw an opportunity to do some great parties there with the combined resources of what Droog was doing and what I could bring to the table.
I also knew that we could build a great brand out of the parties.
From there they have done a great job starting the label and I think the music and presentation speak for themselves.
What are your plans for 2010 in the way of Djing and production?
In 2010 I will be in the U.S. Jan – March finishing my album and starting a different album project with Jamie Jones. Really looking forward to Miami this year where I should be debuting a live set, and where we will be doing another hot natured party to finish WMC on Sunday Night.
I will tour Europe again in April, then spend May touring the U.S. and going back to Detroit for DEMF, and another Hot Natured party there as well. Then I’m planning to spend the Summer in Europe/London.
Other than that, I don’t have any particular production plans except to continue to work as much as possible and make music I’m excited about.
Hopefully Lee Curtiss and I will get back in the studio together.
I’m happy that Hot Natured is moving forward as a label as well as a production duo and it should give us a great creative outlet.
Antonio Di Gioia