A DJ since the 1990s, Lea Lisa has distinguished herself primarily but not exclusively through DJ sets that reveal an exquisite taste and a boundless knowledge of music.
In addition to her DJ residencies (including the recently relaunched BLISS parties at Folklor in Lausanne, Switzerland) and her radio show (No Boundaries Radio Show on Universal Rhythms), Lea Lisa recently dove headfirst into production to worldwide acclaim — ironically, a blazingly fast start to a late-blooming production career. Her first five original releases included The Legacy EP on Wolf Music, which featured a remix from Kerri Chandler, Here Comes The Night EP on Jorge Caiado‘s Inner Balance, Walking La Mona on Mona Musique featuring Rich Medina and Keys of Life, featuring two remixes from Glenn Underground.
“Kerri is a long time friend,” she explains. “For Glenn, he knows how much I respect his work and we mixed on the same stage during a festival. He liked the track a lot. It happened spontaneously. I’ve never worked for expediency, it’s important to do things from the heart.”
You can tell, I think, when a record is put together with love or when it’s put together for chart placement or to strategize for summer festival slots. Lea Lisa’s records are made with love. It’s a love for deep house and everything it came from, everything that influenced and inspired it. It’s a love for imaginary nights in Chicago or Detroit or Brooklyn, preserved in grooves of records from Chez and Ron, Kai and Kerri. That’s why I wanted to meet the person who made these records that I love too.
🔴 Listen: Lea Lisa 🔥 The Cover Mix – Sanctify vol 4
So there are a bunch of ways we get to know someone these days. The way we’re introduced to artists might come through a mix, or a radio show, or a record or a playlist or video story. What is the best way to introduce us to what you’re about musically?
I think it’s all of these things that help you feel the personality of an artist. As far as I’m concerned, the best way is to come and see me mix in a club. But in the absolute, listening to my mixes reflects a big part of my background.
What can you tell us about your youth and the start of DJing? At what point was it no longer something you did but something you did… which could be a career that you would do forever?
My youth was out of the ordinary, I had slightly irresponsible parents 🙂 A bank robber father who spent part of his time in prison and a sick mother who lived outside of reality. I couldn’t study because they considered themselves out of the system. I left home when I was 16, I had the chance to discover house music, clubs, raves. I knew right away that I wanted to be a DJ. It was an obvious choice. I didn’t want any other alternatives and I started to frequent the night world quite young.
Do you think a person can DJ forever?
I made a break of 6/7 years to privilege my family life, but the passion for this job came back very quickly, it is in my DNA but I do not see myself continuing at 70 years old. I will continue in any case to buy records, it is inevitable…
Who were the DJs that really got you going back in the day? Who is someone who does that for you now?
I lived in the south of France, and we had a lot of Italian DJs coming to mix. They had very good parties there, like Exogroove, Limelight etc. I could also see many DJs, like François K, Joe Claussell, Frankie Knuckles or Laurent Garnier… Actually, one of the last sets I liked very much was the one of Danilo Plessow (MCDE) at Polaris Festival or Volcov from Neroli label, top technical skills and really interesting selection.
I don’t know if you have a rider for your DJ booking, but what does it (or if you don’t, what would it) say? What do you need or really want to have present as far as gear?
I’m a huge fan of the DJR 400, it’s what I ask for in my rider. I enjoy mixing on rotary tables, I appreciate the fluidity and the gesture that goes with it. The resulting sound quality is much better. I pay attention to the quality of the sound, and I make a soundcheck so as not to have bad surprises.
⚪️ Disclosure Statement: This record was submitted as a promo by EPM.
I was saying to my boss here that I was getting ready to do an interview with Lea Lisa, she’s a great DJ and yet the main reason we’re showcasing this mix is because you’ve made these great records. It’s kind of like deciding who is going to fly a plane based on who is the best engine mechanic. Do you think it’s essential now for a DJ to produce and release material if they want to turn up their career to the next level?
People need to identify with a universe, a personality, a style. Production helps to develop but sometimes good producers do not always make good DJs … You can also develop your career by creating a label. When my career started to work well at the end of the ’90s, I didn’t produce but there was a real artistic approach to DJing shared by many of my colleagues and we were few in number… Today, it’s a completely different story and the competition is huge, everything is democratized for better or for worse.
I started to produce because I think it’s a good way to express myself artistically, but as you can see, I’m in a qualitative dynamic rather than quantitative. Some artists manage to do both, I need time. You have to do things for pleasure, there’s no point in thinking about a career. Besides, I saw DJs whose career took off with a Boiler Room. This kind of media has a certain influence but nothing is predictable.
Do you think the art of DJing is better, worse or more or less the same than it always has been? Do you think technology has made it better or worse?
I don’t have a problem with technology. If you don’t have talent, whether it’s vinyl or MP3, it’s gonna be bad anyway. It’s the same with plug in or analog production, you have to work with what you feel. You can’t stop progress. I would say that one of the problematic factors of our time are the social networks, but even that also brings positive things. There are many young people who want to become a DJ because they are given a biased image of the profession, around fame, success, number of followers. It is not enough to mix two records to be a DJ. It’s a difficult job, you need humility…
What can you tell me about InnerDisc and your relationship with the store?
Fred is the instigator of the project, of this store from the beginning, and I am part of the team. We are very happy to expand this year with a growing team. We are also moving to a bigger store, the online shop is being redone.
As a DJ, it’s very interesting. You get to immerse yourself in musical cultures that are broader than your own personal tastes. It’s an exciting job.
I’ve written about a couple of your records: “The Legacy” on Wolf and “Here Comes The Night” on Inner Balance. Those are, I think, two of the best deep house record labels going right now. How did this connection happen?
For Wolf Music, they know my work as a DJ for more than 20 years, via my mixes etc., we had already exchanged on the internet long before the creation of their label. After my record with Rich Medina, they wrote me to do a release with them. For Inner Balance, I knew well the label, the work of Jorge, and I had sent him a link with my last productions. Nowadays, I’m very lucky to receive requests from very good labels, but I’m still in the same perceptive of releasing one or two records per year.
You’ve had remixes from Kerri Chandler, Glenn Underground and a featured performance from Rich Medina — all on your first five records. That’s pretty incredible for an artist right out of the gate. Were these personal connections that made this happen?
Yes, I’ve been able to meet some incredible artists in my career, it creates bonds. Kerri is a long time friend, for Glenn, he knows how much I respect his work and we mixed on the same stage during a festival. He liked the track a lot, it happened spontaneously. I’ve never worked for expediency, it’s important to do things from the heart. For Rich, I’m a big fan, it was Kerri who made the introductions because I hadn’t had a chance to meet him.
Your radio show is called “No Boundaries”. Where can we hear it, when, and is that the name you give it? And if so, what does it mean?
Dean Anderson (Universal Rhythms Radio) contacted me to do a show, I like the way they do it, how they choose their residents, whether they are diggers, selectors or confirmed DJs. It was a brand new project and it’s really interesting, eclectic musically. The show is every two months, for me it’s a space where I don’t want any boundaries between styles, I can play everything, techno, house, disco, there are so many styles in electronic music that I think it’s a shame not to explore everything.
Everything was closed for (in most places) over a year. How did that affect you? Franck Roger told me it was pretty productive — he got to make an album he’d always wanted to make, which impressed me because I wasn’t productive at all. Do you think it changed the scene where you are or in the world in general?
For me, the stress came from the situation, the unknown. I wasn’t really thinking about my career but more about what the pandemic represented, I have two kids and the world is turned upside down overnight. It’s very unsettling. After the shock of the confinement, I did not produce much but I had a great pleasure to mix every day at home. I made a studio especially for mixing and I could really enjoy it. There was a lot of damage, some clubs closed, we lost great artists, and it’s not totally over but it is an experience that should strengthen us…