Dance-music DJs don't get much more affable than Lee Burridge, a 23-year veteran who's been in the nightclub scene far too long to take it seriously. When the Straight tracks him down in Los Angeles, the conversation quickly turns to the recent murder of four people at a rave in Venezuela, where one of the DJ's fellow Englishmen happened to be playing. Asked if that incident might have him reconsidering the types of parties he's willing to play, Burridge gives an almost audible shrug, saying, "No, not at all. It's not like the shooting had anything to do with Carl Cox. I don't think he was playing bad, was he?"
Finding a bit of black humour in a tragedy is par for the course for Burridge, who is as serious about deejaying as anyone in the industry. After witnessing the English acid-house craze firsthand in the late 1980s, he decamped for Hong Kong, where he was one of the first artists to introduce house and techno to Chinese audiences. By the late 1990s, Burridge had moved back to England, becoming one of the top jocks in the progressive-house scene, then at the peak of its mainstream popularity. Since then, his palette has broadened to incorporate everything from bad-ass U.K. breaks to druggy German minimalism, making him perhaps the most eclectic of Britain's top DJs.
Burridge's anything-goes philosophy has a lot to do with the fact that he still plays vinyl records, rather than embracing the CDs or laptop tools most DJs have adopted in recent years. According to the man himself, it's the very act of sorting through physical artifacts that gives his sets their off-kilter, improvised feel.
"I never plan out a night, and I never know where it's going to go," he explains. "I flip through my box and work off the visual cue of the labels, because I never know the names of my records. Some of the people that use software programs probably end up playing the same sets over and over because they're just scrolling through an endless list of names. I could see how they could zone out and gravitate to the tracks that worked well the last time."
The Englishman's diversity is summed up on Balance 012, his recent, sprawling three-CD mix compilation for Australia's EQ Recordings. What the discs lack in spontaneity they make up for with sheer intensity, mimicking an imagined progression from early-evening warm-up through to the madness of a peak-hour dance floor. The first mix is Burridge's favourite, a labour of love that sets out a new, gentler vision of electronic music. You could almost call it emo-techno.
"I've been thinking about that CD for a long time," he says. "I don't know if it's been done before by anyone. It's got a feeling of home listening, yet it's club music at 125 beats per minute. It's got a lot of emotion in it and a lot of different feelings it can bring out of you especially this melancholic feeling. I'd like to think somebody who broke up with their girlfriend would go home and listen to it and cry."
Lee Burridge plays Celebrities on Friday (November 23).