DJ, Manager and Mom Heidi Lawden Does It Her Way
Heidi Lawden is a woman of many facets. Within a five-minute stretch she can switch from manager mode, talking with promoters, to DJ mode, making track selections while effortlessly carrying on another conversation, to mom mode, her eyes shining, her entire being softening, talking about her son Harley as if he is still 4 years old, even though he's in his early 20s.
As a manager, Lawden’s most high-profile client is, according to L.A. Weekly, Los Angeles’ best DJ, Harvey Bassett. It is with DJ Harvey that Lawden had the aforementioned son while she was barely out of her teens. These days, alongside her husband, Andrew Hogge aka Lovefingers, Lawden herself occupies a solid spot among her adopted city’s most beloved spinners, with a weekly show, The Magic Roundabout, on dublab, as well as her original productions, regular local appearances and work with ESP Institute, Hogge’s highly curated label.
Right now, she is in hippie hostess mode at her inviting home in Laurel Canyon, an Angeleno through and through since moving to the city in 2003. Following the flicker of a spluttering candle, she leads the way to a hidden outdoor seating area, her caftanlike dress flapping around her bare legs. It’s a typically temperate L.A. evening, about as far a cry as you can get from Lawden’s beginnings in the Lake District in the north of England.
Lawden spent her very young years flipping through the pages of trendsetting magazines i-D and The Face, wishing she lived in London. She soon found herself there as a 14-year-old hair model, whisked into clubs under the grown-up guise stylists created for her. She came back at 16 and quickly become a fixture in London nightlife, not only clubbing but also DJing and later moving into management — all while handling an infant, the product of a youthful relationship with Bassett.
“There’s nothing like having a kid at that age to help balance your life at a point when it could have gone down a way wilder path,” Lawden says. “I’ve always been controlled and measured, everything in moderation, but people will walk in a room and project onto you what they think you might be. Plus there was always the attitude of ‘She’s just a young girl.’ At a time when the industry was completely male-dominated, being a mother broke down barriers for me. I was given more of a chance.”
When Harley was about 2, Lawden started working full-time at the U.K.’s Ministry of Sound, one of the world’s first super-clubs. She would put Harley to bed, go to work, come back in the early hours, nap and wake up with him for a full day’s activities. “He was always my primary concern,” she says matter-of-factly. “I didn’t plan on having a child that young, but if I was going to do it, I was going to be the best I could possibly be at it. I’m like that with everything.”
Although the three lived as a family, she and Bassett weren’t together in the traditional sense for very long. “It never occurred to me to kick Harvey out or to him to kick me out. Nothing was more important to me than my son’s upbringing and how he could relate to his mum and his dad,” Lawden says. “I thought, and still think, Harvey’s a genius. He’s magnetic. He has these incredible talents. I really believed in him. I felt it was my duty to give my son an amazing father.
“I knew Harvey was misunderstood and inclined to party,” she continues. “I had a lot of connections and trust, so it was easy for me to say, ‘We’re going to get you a night at the Gardening Club.’ That put his creative talent and energy and focus into something. It was the natural thing to do to hold us all together.”
Lawden stepped away from DJing formally for a long time, mainly to not compete with Harvey’s career. But she didn’t automatically assume the girlfriend/manager position, either. After leaving Ministry, she managed such heavyweights as Masters at Work, Roger Sanchez, Ashley Beedle and Trevor Jackson. She recounts her conversation with Harvey at the time when he expected her to manage him: “'I’m your partner and I’m going to manage you? It feels really cheesy. No one’s ever going to take me seriously as a manager. I don’t want people to then not take you seriously as a DJ.'
“I ran clubs, so I made nights for him to play,” Lawden continues. “It didn’t feel like I was managing him, I was just booking him for the nights I was working." When she helped Harvey get his famous residency at Ministry of Sound, "I hired him because he was the perfect fit for the job. That’s how I reconciled it to myself."
But as Harvey's career began taking off, she says, "It became obvious he needed actual managing. It could be a full-time thing for me; I could work from home and spend more time with Harley.”
Heidi Lawden, Harley, DJ Harvey at FYF Fest 2014
Now that Harley’s an adult — and running Harvey’s General Store — there is room for two DJ parents. Lawden’s DJ calendar is as full as she lets it be. From playing Day in the Desert, Burning Man and Sunset Campout to supporting Andrew Weatherall at Lot 613 to headlining A Club Called Rhonda with Lovefingers this weekend, Lawden focuses less on any one specific style than she does on the setting.
“My whole life I’ve created playlists by mood and place,” she says. “I’ve come through so many different kinds of music, I have a disdain for anything that’s easy or that lots of people are playing. If I’m playing with South London Ordinance at VSSL at a warehouse in downtown L.A., it’s going to be dark and devilish. If I’m playing with Dimitri From Paris, it’s going to be upbeat and fun. I’m addicted to SoundCloud and go into SoundCloud wormholes all the time. I’m also very label-led and producer-led.”
She continues to help advance Harvey's career as well. She strategically booked him at FYF in 2014, knowing that it was a trial of sorts and that if he succeeded there, Coachella would come next. “When we got the call from Coachella for Harvey, I burst into tears, Harley was hugging me and we were a crying mess,” she says. “It solidified all the years of hard work and breaking Harvey in a whole new country. It stood for something for me.
“We are the happiest dysfunctional family, and we have grown," she says of her husband, son and son's father. "Harvey has his relationship, I have mine, that comes with a lot of family on both sides and we all mesh together. I love it.”
Heidi Lawden DJs at A Club Called Rhonda with Lovefingers on Friday, Dec. 9, at Los Globos. More info.
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