Lee Burridge Hopes His New Album With Lost Desert, 'Melt,' Helps You See Passion & Truth In Yourself
If you've ever attended a transformational music festival (like Southern California's Lightning In A Bottle) or enjoyed the underground house scene in the last 36 years, you probably know Lee Burridge. The British DJ/producer is perhaps as well-known for his dreamy, expansive electronic music and the joyful All Day I Dream events and label that showcase those sounds, as he is for his ever-present smile.
Recently, on July 19, he released Melt, his debut full-length, produced collaboratively with Belgian labelmate Lost Desert, who Burridge explains has helped expand his own skills in the studio. The pair have released a handful of tracks and EPs together since 2016, including "Lingala" that year. It features evocative vocals from Junior, who sings on the track in native Congolese language, Lingala. A new version of the song appears on Melt, along with another Junior-powered track, "Mibale." Across ten songs in an hour and seven minutes, the LP is the perfect soundtrack to play as you soak in the magic feeling of enjoying a sunny day outside and watching the clouds pass by, as is encouraged at ADID.
Back in 2011, Burridge launched ADID on a Brooklyn rooftop. It has grown exponentially, into a label and a global event series that highlights a growing, talented crew of house and techno DJ/producers, like Öona Dahl, Lauren Ritter, Bedouin and YokoO.
As Burridge, the other artists and their loyal fan base helps bring the vibey parties to more cities, including Berlin, Ibiza, London and Los Angeles, ADID feels like a movement to create more mindfulness and joy in the dance music space. Sitting down with Burridge at an extra-sunny edition of San Francisco's June ADID, he explains that creating mindfulness is exactly what he set out to do.
"This is the soundtrack to collective engagement and community building. This is really important to me to bring people together, it always was. And also to make them smile. That was actually the first intention at the first party and it's never changed," Burridge said of the events.
Below, Burridge tells the Recording Academy more about the intention behind ADID, Melt and more.
Junior performs live with Burridge at ADID SF | Photo: Roshanak Sariaslan
So you started the All Day I Dream events in Brooklyn about eight years ago? Was it at the Output rooftop?
In 2011, yes. No, I scouted a rooftop one year before. I basically moved into it. They did a job, set up some speakers and two tables, my equipment, a bar. It was baking hot, July 4th. And I just thought, "I can do this better." I'd been to Burning Man. I thought, "It's very gray, I'll hang up material, lanterns and fairy lights and make it look not like an industrial rooftop in Brooklyn. I'll create a world." And that was it. It was just an empty space with a really wonky, wobbly floor that was made of a sort of soft material. The hotter it got, the wonkier the floor got.
Was that the birth of All Day I Dream as it is today? Can you give us a bit more of the origin story?
I mean, it was the birth of the event, the origins came from not being content with where music was and wanting to add another layer or another option for people. Melody, harmony, emotion had kind of been drained by minimal. And that's cool because people are having a great time with minimal, but me personally, I was noticing it being a lot more men at events. Like 95% men at some events, all in black T-shirts.
I really wanted to rebalance that energy out in club land because there seemed to be less options that were attracting girls. And I think it's not only the music, because minimal was a good sound for girls and guys, but I think it was also the tipping point of too many men at a party becomes less comfortable. And it was in black, dirty warehouses with one toilet that had been overflowing for like nine hours.
So I was exploring and trying to find that music to try and play in a set, which became a mix that was released on Resident Advisor. Then I played a set like it at Lightning In A Bottle. Everybody else was playing banging [electronic music]. And it really worked, people really connected to it. Then I started playing it at Burning Man, BPM Festival and when 2010 came around, I played that kind of music on that rooftop and it seemed so perfect with the sun setting. But I just knew that I could do it better and add other things to it to create this world. That was the first step forward that I had hoped people would connect to the idea and then it would allow me to take it around the world, which, fast forward nine [ADID] seasons, and here we are.
With the ADID events, it seems very intentional that mindfulness and just being present is at the forefront of the events. I think part of it is the music itself and your presence and the people that you bring together, but is this something that is important to you?
This is the soundtrack to collective engagement and community-building. This is really important to me to bring people together, it always was. And also to make them smile. That was actually the first intention at the first party, and it's never changed.
I think the music is a filter of sorts, it's not for everybody. Everybody's welcome of course, but you really kind of draw a line with some people, it's not enough energy for them or it's not focused enough on pumping your fist in the air. They don't come and then we get this amazing collection of people that we have ended up with. One of the proudest things is, I've said this a few times, is that I've had over 30 couples that have come up and said, "We met at your event and now we're married." That's amazing to me.
"This is the soundtrack to collective engagement and community building. This is really important to me to bring people together, it always was. And also to make them smile. That was actually the first intention at the first party and it's never changed."
You often open the events with yoga and meditation, which is really cool. Is there anything that you've learned along the way, or anything else that you do to make sure that vibe remains at all the events as you grow to more cities?
By not selling the event to people and letting it grow organically, letting people bring their friends. They are the best filters we have. We could get so many more people and make so much money, but it's not the drive. Of course, the event now makes money, but we put money back into the event to make the event better for people. I always wanted to do that, it never really was a financial project for me. It was a community building project for me.
And to leave it in the hands of everybody else, to not make it my party and make it everybody's party. Of course, we're not the first people to ever have yoga at an event, it's been existing for years, but we definitely want to keep building on other experiences people can have. But at the end of the day, as you just said in the previous question, about the music not being really the center of the experience, absolutely. Because people should come and sit on a blanket and literally look at the sky if they want and listen or hang out with their friends. A lot of people use it as a sort of social meeting point to either make new friends or to bring their friends all together at the same time. And there's not so many of those out there. People go to a festival with a group of friends, but sometimes you're so focused on I need to be here, I need to be there. It seems to be more relaxed it at this event.
Yeah. Less shoving.
Totally. You can dance your ass off, but also you can just wander around, look at how cool people look, you can enjoy the food. It's not really a pop in, schmooze, I was there. People sort of come and commit to it. I love that because I have the same energy.
You said ADID is not really about you, but you're still running it, making sure it happens. What's your favorite thing about being a part of it?
Actually getting to develop new artists now. I always wanted to help everybody along my way. You know, "come and DJ with me, we should do this together." A few years ago I tried to do it, but I wasn't really at that part of my career where it was easy. Sure, I got gigs for a few friends and it helped a bit.
But with this, I get to curate, explore, discover and then, sort of, impart advice. All the mistakes I made along the way, maybe I can expedite that younger artist's growth and experience within the industry. Because we didn't go to school for this, we just sort of fumbled forward and discovered and loved it, and went wholeheartedly into it. But that doesn't mean you're good at it. I see some people that are great business people and I see others that are just true artists. I feel like we should all be somewhere in the middle.
And those that have been successful shouldn't be paranoid about losing their position. They should totally be pushing, influencing and growing the industry. Because it's not about losing your place, it's about the industry getting bigger. That's been a joy for me to see the successes. It's almost like you're vicariously living other parts of your career through younger people. I'm not going to be doing this forever, but I'd like the scene, all this music, to be out there in the world as long as possible because it's positive for people. It's enjoyable. It allows them to have a group of friends that they can empathize with and experience things with.
I want to touch back to when you mentioned the underground scene was all minimal. Going into it were you like, "I want to see if I can create another lane here"?
100%. I found a few artists that had made some records that really blew my mind. Because I came from—I love saying this because it makes me sound so old—I am from a time where DJs used to play long sets and some of them had this innate ability to make you feel like you were on a roller coaster. It wasn't one specific thing. It wasn't this banging energy. I could do that 'til the cows come home and it works.
But there are other lanes, as you say, to really weave together music. If you go to a classical music symphony, it's not one thing, is it? It really has crescendos and it has drops in it and you're on an emotional roller coaster. So it really made sense to me, if I'm going to play music that has emotional elements to it, without being overly cheesy or obvious or overdramatic, that it made sense to actually think of a beginning, a middle and an end, and everything in between. So I integrated that into what the whole thing should feel like.
I also had anthems. Music moves so fast, you might come to a party and only hear a song once. In New York, it was four parties and I decided on about ten records that I would play every single party. They weren't particularly big records at the time, but people grew into them and then were crying because they loved them so much. Then they were asking for them, after they owned them at home or streamed them. I think it was coming back to how it used to be previously for me and seeing if it resonated with people still. It does.
Obviously, I can do that through the label now, but I also do it with any track I find. Every year I try to have a few that they're identifiable with that year at that party, everywhere you go and they're moments, you know? Not fleeting moments, they actually are moments you can build on and become bigger moments.
Yeah, so there was a lot of thought behind it on my part. One of the mistakes I made, but also of the things that worked, was the first ADID New Year's parties I played for the whole seven hours. I got to tell the whole story. And still to this day, it's hard to step away from the project because I'm so integral to it. I'd like to because I'd like the other artists to be more in the spotlight, which is why sometimes I'll put myself on in the middle set and let another artist close, because they deserve it. A lot of the time you don't get that opportunity.
Today is the day we finally get to release Melt out into the world for everyone to experience. I hope you enjoy listening to the album as much as we enjoyed creating it. https://t.co/ExmySUud6F pic.twitter.com/qA3OAIdPjV— Lee Burridge (@leebu) July 19, 2019
So I was kind of shocked to realize that your album that's coming out soon is your first full-length, because you've put out tons of great music.
Yeah. Finally, right now, when it's not relevant to do albums anymore.
I think albums are coming back, honestly.
No, no, this is the point. We wanted to buck the trend a little bit because people tend to put a collection of tracks on an album in dance music and then there's just a bunch of singles. I really enjoyed listening to albums all the way through and just because it's out of vogue right now doesn't mean it won't find the right people. So, we decided to do an album.
I'm not really a producer, that's the thing. It's not my first skillset. I have to work with people and sort of guide the ship. Everybody I've worked with is super talented. I'm sure they do quite a load. I'm just giving them more ideas and taking them to different worlds. So Lost Desert really even didn't even exist, actually. I mean, he existed as a man, but he didn't exist as an artist then. He was in the middle of nowhere ghost writing, feeling he missed the wave. We became friends and I was like, "there's a new way to catch a ride," and here we are today.
It's one thing to make a track together, but with a full album I'm sure there's points where your visions differ. What was your favorite part about collaborating on that project and what was the hardest part about it?
I thought the differences are the best part because they pull left and right. If you eat a dish that has one ingredient, it doesn't taste the same as if you throw a couple in there. And his emotional journey through life and my emotional journey and our professional journeys led to a lot of conversations about who we are as people and what's happened to us in our lives. And then we've tapped into those experiences of ups and downs, of things that you wish you'd done, but then we say, "Why don't we do it?"
And I actually got to make a friend out of it which was important on a very deep level for me. Again, the music will stay out there in the world, and I have this friendship that was built by being really honest with somebody in the studio about how you feel and just learning from somebody, actually. Patrick [Bruyndonx]—Lost Desert—has so much talent, it's so raw and just gushes out. He could make a thousand tracks in a year. But you need another person to just sit and really focus on what's actually coming out and whether that resonates out in the world. As people, our moods change on a daily basis. If he's tapping into an angry day where somebody's turned up and shouted at him, perhaps that's not the message we want to put out there in the world right now to represent him.
My favorite bit was the learning. And growing as a producer for me, because if I'm compared to Patrick, I'm still in my infancy. He's teaching me the walk. I can articulate what I want, but I'm a one finger keyboard player. I used to be afraid to do that but he encouraged it and now at least I can, again, muddle forward and we can get to where I hear something in my head.
So now, when you're producing, do you prefer to do collaborative work?
I think I have to only do collaborative. I think I'm a long way off of even making a single on my own.
"It's never too late for anybody to make music. If you feel like you have any sort of creativeness inside you, why not?"
When you first started DJing, was producing something you were scared to try?
I just was busy being a DJ, I think. I was in Hong Kong and back in the day, when I used to party all the time, my days were being up all night and sleeping all day. I didn't put time in, which is my one regret, that I didn't allocate more time to learning then because it was time I could have started on the path. But it's never too late for anybody to make music. If you feel like you have any sort of creativeness inside you, why not? I mean, you don't have to release it. Sometimes you just make it for yourself.
Honestly, I could have just paid Patrick and this could be a Lee Burridge album, but I don't like artists that do that because it's not really a representation of who you are. And I want to always big up everybody I work with. I mean, we tried to put Patrick's name first on the album, because I think he deserves that, and everybody was saying, "No, you're the bigger artist." I understand why, but I'm definitely going to make sure he gets his credit for being the true talent behind the music. I guess I'm much like an executive producer.
When you've made a name for yourself and you're good at what you do, it can be easy to just keep doing that. But it sounds like it was a great experience for both of you.
It was. Fantastic!
Are you going to make more albums together?
Absolutely. I mean, we're already starting the new one. We're both hugging each other constantly going, "Thank you so much." From me for various things, but definitely in the case of making the album, Patrick's generosity, and from him for plucking him from obscurity, I guess, and giving him the opportunity.
How did you first meet?
The real version or the lie? I said I was hiking through a desert and I heard strange sounds coming from around the corner and found Lost Desert field recording in the Serengeti. It works. I wanted it to give it some mystique. You know, we didn't say his real name at the beginning and then people buy into things, and why not?
It could have been that, but we just played together in Belgium and luckily he had been on as the warmup DJ. I really liked him, I felt that "I want to get to know this guy." I never go to after parties anymore and he said, "Do you want to come to my house?" We went and sat and listened to music all night after we played and we just really got along. Then we started talking and then I just was like, "Can I come work in the studio with you?" I took the train from London and went to the studio and we started making music. "Lingala" actually came out of that. So it's magical. It's magical to still be able to have the drive to learn, not just be, as you say, stuck in a lane where everything's fine. I like learning, I have a thirst for it.
How are you feeling about sharing the project now, your first LP?
I'm really excited. I listened to it a lot and, ego free, it's a nice album. It's cohesive and it has some really nice moments. We worked with Junior who's going to sing today, he's got an amazing voice. I have no fear because I don't think we have any aspirations for it to be number one or anything, you know? We're putting some work out there and hopefully people will find it and enjoy it for a moment. Or it'll mark people's summertimes.
I gave it to a few friends who I knew would critique me, but the worst I got was, "It's kind of an album you'd hear in a restaurant in Ibiza all summer." I think that's amazing. People will have Shazam, I don't need to just be discovered at my own gig playing a record. I think it's really important to reach other worlds and that's a brilliant place to hear music. I've Shazamed plenty of things in restaurants, so it makes me happy to think that they said that.
I like that.
No, and also everything's always out of our control. So, 100% there'll be, "This is dull, it doesn't sound fresh," because the person who's listening, it's not their jam. And other people will be gushing. I think you learn more from criticism than you do from praise. So bring all of it on. I'm going to read everything that's said and it's not to fill my heart with joy that people love it or this might do well, I actually want to read what people didn't like. And then the next album, maybe somewhere in my subconscious that will sort of spike other ideas.
What was your biggest vision or hope for this project?
That people will listen from the beginning to the end is all, and realize it's one piece of work that is a journey. And maybe win some more people into committing to an album rather than three minutes of a track or just 30 seconds. Because it's passion, it's honesty, it's truth and hopefully other people will find that in themselves.
"[My hope is] that people will listen from the beginning to the end is all…Because it's passion, it's honesty, it's truth and hopefully other people will find that in themselves."
And then what about for All Day I Dream, what's your biggest hope and wish for—
All Weekend I Dream is the next cycle.
Yes. But we want to approach it in a different way, that it's not just relentless music. There's a lot of talk of the mental health consciousness. So we're going to approach it in a different way and actually have things for people to do, it's not just party after party. Lots of quality things that people can connect to, but they can also go sit and have dinner with their friends or go have a nap, and just approach a weekend a bit differently.
You travel a lot with ADID events and other DJ gigs. Do you have any self-care musts to stay grounded when you're on the road?
Meditation, 100%. And stretching out after the gig. When I get back to the hotel, I'll always stretch for at least half an hour because I'm old. I throw my body around and forget I'm old because my spirit is exactly the same age it's always been.
How old is that?
And then I wake up. I'm 50 at the moment.
No, your spirit.
Oh, my spirit. Oh I don't know, like two and a half with the maturity of a 15-year-old. [Grins.] I forget and I'll wake up in the morning, [saying], "Oh my legs, my back." Ever since I started stretching, I don't really suffer from that anymore. So definitely meditation and stretching.