Q&A: Techno Titan Damian Lazarus Makes OC Debut Thursday at Sutra Lounge, Costa Mesa

Techno is to Damian Lazarus what strawberries are to Jamba Juice--a colorful and reliable base upon which to build a completely twisted concoction that can be renamed and adopted as one's own. 

​This month, Lazarus and a handful of his Crosstown Rebels label mates will serve up their own special blends of funky, spaced-out house and techno on the Rebel Rave tour, which kicks off Thursday at Sutra Lounge in Costa Mesa. One of the many UK DJs who've relocated to the Southland, Lazarus is a staple of the underground scene, and his debut full-length, Smoke The Monster Out (Get Physical Music), typifies a left field style that suggests you should expect the unexpected when he takes the decks.

OC Weekly (Richard Thomas)You're up pretty early for a DJ.

Damian Lazarus: I've got family in town, actually. We're about to go to Disneyland.

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Where have you taken them so far?

Just local bits and pieces. The Griffith Park Observatory, which is my favorite spot in LA. Maybe tomorrow some cool flea markets.

Will you be doing Disneyland, California Adventure, or both?

I think we're going to hit Disneyland first and see how we feel later.

When did you move to Los Angeles?

Just over a year ago.

A lot of UK DJs from started popping up in SoCal over the last few years. Adam Freeland is one that comes to mind.

He was the very first person I bumped into when I arrived in LA. I went to this Art After Dark thing, literally the first Friday I was here. I parked my car on a side street and Adam Freeland was parking just behind me. That was quite bizarre, but there are a lot of my friends and contemporaries that are coming over from places like Berlin and Paris. I think people are starting to see LA as a great base. It's a great hub for us, travel-wise, because we can get to North and South America and Europe pretty easily from LAX, but there's also a really good scene building here in California.

It's been one of those places that's always ebbed and flowed with the times. What do you make of its maturation over the past decade?

I had only been coming here for about four or five years, and very underground warehouse raves were my first look into the city's music scene. Now I'm a resident at Avalon, so I've seen the peaks and troughs. I think that it still has a little ways to go in terms of pushing an underground vibe and getting people into something a bit more challenging, but on the whole it's a gold mine of possibilities. For example, some of the bigger dance music events here attract up to 90,000 people.

What's been your experience with Orange County?

I'm actually going to be breaking my OC virginity Thursday, so it's all totally open. I hear there's a nice combination of hippies and trendies. I'm gonna be very interested to see what kind of people turn out to the party!

Talk to me about your label, Crosstown Rebels. 2010 is going to be a big year I take it.

We've had a difficult time since we started about six years ago. After the third release on Crosstown Rebels, our distribution company literally went into liquidation, and we've had two other similar situations since then. However, I'm very positive about the future of the label. We're essentially trying to create memories and great times for people, whether that be in the parties that we put on, the music we release, the podcasts we create, or the films that we make.

Can you quantify the label, musically?

I like to keep it as open-minded as possible. It helps to have people who have the ability to make people move on the dance floor and get people's arms up in the air, but it's not essential. I'm looking for people that have something really interesting or fresh to say, musically. People who are looking to take house and techno at its root, but going off on a tangent that doesn't necessarily fit the format. We can release a heavy techno killer from Laurent Garnier and the following week release a slow, twisted, melodic tune from an unknown artist. That's just what we do. The two key artists on the label this year will be Glimpse, whose album will come out hopefully in April, and Deniz Kurtel.

What can people expect from the Rebel Rave tour?

[Laughs] slightly unusual characters playing slightly unusual music, but creating an atmosphere that is warming, welcoming and fun. Rebel Rave is an opportunity for us to get people that don't really know us or our music a little bit closer to what we do, as opposed to us just being four lads standing on stage in front of a laptop.

I have to give you props for putting the word Rave in the title. I'm sure you know what a loaded word that's become for dance music.

But remember I'm British, and we have a very different perception of the word. A while ago I brought in someone to help us with ideas we were formulating for the tour. This was someone with a marketing background who comes from a rather big agency and has experience with how the American public perceives things. The first thing he said to me was, "You should definitely change the name. Rave has a really bad connotation in the States." I didn't understand why. Buddy Holly and his song "Rave On" wasn't about 100,000 kids off their heads on glue. [Laughs] Anyways, we're all raving mad, so it fits!

Rebel Rave Tour featuring Damian Lazarus, Jamie Jones and more, Sutra Lounge, Costa Mesa, Thurs. 9 p.m. No cover with RSVP.


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