"Underground DJs tend to have this desire to knock commercialism," says Lee Burridge. "I think it's partly jealousy, because there is so much money flying around. Also," he adds, "we all think we play the best music in the world."
Make no mistake — London-based Burridge does fall on the underground side of the dance music spectrum. He's the sort of DJ who has played events like Burning Man and Lightning in a Bottle. But he's also pragmatic, and understands how the underground can benefit from dance music's mainstream moment in the United States. "It's the door for young people to discover electronic music," he explains. For someone who throws a lot of parties, that can be good.
Since launching his All Day I Dream events in New York in 2011, Burridge has taken the brand across the globe. This Sunday marks the start of the party's third season in Los Angeles, with All Day I Dream of LA'zy Days at Imperial Art Studios. The first of three planned events for the summer in different locations (though he indicates that they might add a fourth installment), LA'zy Days will take party-goers from early afternoon into late evening, with Burridge and company's signature mix of melodic, house-inflected sounds.
"I made a conscious decision when I started this event that I wanted to put music back into electronic music," says Burridge. The DJ had become disenchanted with the prevalence of minimal styles several years ago. "That experiment had gone as far as it could possibly go and it was more about grooves and drums than evoking an emotion," he says.
While Burridge likes a good groove, he's interested in the tracks with a bit more substance. "Minor chord music is very effective," he says, "but, you need to sort of juxtapose it with major chords because happiness and sadness kind of go hand-in-hand and contrast each other." He'll play the tunes he made with collaborator Matthew Dekay, maybe throw in a Sade remix.
In the early years of the party, Burridge frequently played solo for seven-hour stretches. "Nobody at the time was playing that music the way I was playing it, as a whole," he says. Since then, he's come into contact with others who seek melody over groove and who can play without relying on the huge peaks-and-drops of late night party music.
From city to city, Burridge is joined by like-minded guests behind the decks. Sunday's party will feature Hoj and Öona Dahl. The former frequently plays All Day I Dream parties and the latter has recently released a few tracks through the accompanying label.
There's a vibe that goes with the music as well. All Day I Dream parties are almost always held outside. Ideally, Burridge likes to take over locations with trees and other natural elements. Of course, that's not always possible in urban centers. "The sky is a beautiful place, too," he says. "As long as we're outdoors, you have some kind of nature around you, including the sky."
Burridge got his start in the early 1980s, "playing pop music to drunk people" at his dad's bar in the U.K. and taking wedding and birthday party gigs. After venturing into the nightclub arena, Burridge took a residency in Hong Kong and spent a good chunk of the '90s playing there and in Thailand before heading back to Europe and hitting the tour circuit.
His expansion into party promotion started when he became disenchanted with venues in Hong Kong. Burridge decided to take the party to a rooftop instead.
There are some things, he says, that don't change as he takes the parties from city to city. "Outdoor venues are tough to find everywhere," he explains. When he came to L.A., he learned about a few of the city's quirks. Burridge hoped to draw the Burning Man crowd — he has attended the festival in the past and considers it influential on what he does — but realized that they were more inclined to go to underground events than proper clubs. So, the DJ/promoter worked on organizing legal events in unusual spaces.
Once in a while, problems arise. Burridge found a venue in Burbank with gardens that he enjoyed. However, he says, someone in the area didn't feel quite the same way about their parties. The police — "politely," he adds — shut them down.
With parties ongoing in New York, as well as events in San Francisco and Palm Springs, Burridge is exploring the country that he feels is the next big thing for dance music. "I just see the growth happening exponentially every single year," he says. Plus, he adds, the physical size and population of the U.S. has allowed festivals and club events to coexist nicely. By the end of the conversation, the DJ behind All Day I Dream starts to dream himself.
"We just have to find a small island off the U.S.," he says, referencing Europe's island party hub, Ibiza. Like Catalina?
"Exactly like Catalina," he answers. "That's what I was thinking."
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All Day I Dream of LA'zy Days takes place Sunday, June 28 at Imperial Art Studios in downtown L.A. Tickets and more info.