Damian Lazarus talks Crosstown Rebels, Rebel Rave, and party anthropology
Last week, Damian Lazarus’ global Rebel Rave tour stopped by SRB in Brooklyn and alongside Verboten, created a ten hour party experience lasting well into the morning hours. The night featured Culprit label owners Droog, recent Essential Mix inductee Amirali, the Infinity Ink duo, one half of Art Department, and rising underground talent Subb-an. The stacked lineup drew in hundreds of fans and packed out the miniature warehouse space for hours upon hours of the best techno and house music around. With beefed up sound and visual effects, the party will resonate as a memorable occasion for New York house heads. I had the chance to sit down with Lazarus later in the week to discuss his label, the world tour, and some special surprises he has planned for this year’s Beyond Wonderland festival.
The first impression you get from Damian Lazarus is his larger-than-life mentality towards just about everything life throws at him. Dressed in layers upon layers of dangling all-black everything, he comes off as more of a faux superhero than superstar DJ. His words exude enthusiasm with every description and phrase, and this is even more apparent all of his impassioned side projects. He is the label head behind Crosstown Rebels, which has grown to be widely acknowledged as the biggest underground label on the planet. He’s brought to light acts like Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler – who took back-to-back first place spots on Resident Advisor’s acclaimed Top 100 poll – and has toured the world with his infamous Rebel Rave party brand — bringing a next-level approach to the simple word “party.”
But how does Lazarus have such a knack for picking up on raw talent? With Troxler, it began at a sixteen-hour back-to-back set between himself and Richie Hawtin at Bar 25 in Berlin. Troxler was eighteen at the time, venturing out of the world of Detroit to find his musical calling. This is where the batch of the young talents emerged from the Crosstown Rebels imprint – from clubs in Berlin and the pastures of CircoLoco in Ibiza. Raw and unforgiving breeds of techno and house, a place where music is so ahead of the curve, that to the novice ear, it sounds like a different animal all on its own. With this forward-thinking mentality, Crosstown Rebels doesn’t fit into one specific sound or genre. At the beginning he stated its facade was “minimal techno with a clash of electro,” but has grown to become everything from crossover and easily palatable house, to deep, trippy and experimental music. From his debut solo album (where he said the goal was more for the listener than for the dance floor), he’s developed his focus for clubland.
Damian’s mentality on music goes beyond the offerings of releases and DJ sets, but to a party experience unlike any other. In December he hosted Day Zero to celebrate the Mayan’s prediction of the world’s ending. The 24-hour long party hosted a slew of top names and centered on the construction of a giant temple that laid as the foundation for a massive and over the top celebration. At this year’s Burning Man, he brought his famed roster to the Robot Heart bus – a bus fixated with a custom built, state-of-the-art sound system — playing music and creating an experience that you’ll never get to be a part of anywhere else.
The label has reached an important milestone this year. Ten years of releasing cutting edge music and throwing massive over-the-top parties has culminated into a giant Rebel Rave world tour. This year Crosstown Rebels has partnered with the crème de la crème of experience creators, Insomniac Events, to bring their own stage to a number of Insomniac hosted festivals; the first stop taking place at this weekend’s Beyond Wonderland. The venture will call upon the people who constructed the Day Zero temple, along with some of the best visual and creative designers in America. Promises of 3D projecting mapping, a dance floor made into a maze full of visual effects, with infinity mirrors and secret rooms will be sure to be one of the main attractions of the festival. Damian’s goal is to entice people with a different kind of experience — replacing LED walls, lasers, and repetitive builds and drops with an experience-based around forward-thinking music and never before seen production. Crosstown Rebels will also have their own stage at this year’s EDC Vegas, and a handful of other Insomniac events across the country.
The focus for Damian Lazarus and Crosstown Rebels remains the same since its inception: to provide a forward-thinking experience, where music, the vibes, and the memories have a timeless effect. From his keen ability to discover talent before anyone else, to staying relevant and atop the plethora of other electronic music labels, Lazarus has a winning formula that will continue to expand its foothold. If you’re at Beyond Wonderland next week, stop by his stage. Get lost in the music and see a different side of electronic music – you may find yourself an instant convert to the Rebel Rave ways.
Photo Credit: Alex Bershaw