I first encountered Heidi Lawden when she policed the door at seminal London Balearic party, The Yellow Book. I`d like to say met, but sadly I know that Heidi wouldn’t have had the faintest idea who I was – just one of the many desperate faces in the queue, pleading / flirting with her to let my roughneck-looking arse in (this was at the point in the capital when things went from beaten-up baggy clobber, to dressing up again, and I`d be sporting stolen – and therefore often ill-fitting – Paul Smith and Michiko Koshino. These combined to non-catwalk effect with my skeletal textbook “E-body”).
Heidi, of course, has since gone on to forge a singularly stellar career within the dance music industry, as a DJ, promoter, and manager – perhaps most famously handling the ever-ascending affairs of the one and only Harvey Bassett.
Now based in California, but currently spinning all around Europe, with husband, the equally legendary Andrew Lovefingers Hogge, I caught Heidi for just a “few” questions while the couple were en route to Love International in Croatia, and Heidi was preparing to headline at Campo Sancho.
Cover photo care of Flaunt Magazine.
Where are you from?
I`m originally from the UK, the north of England in Cumbria.
Where are you currently based?
I`m currently based in LA but have been traveling back and forth to Europe this summer.
When did you first fall in love with music?
Like many people as a child, I had my own mini record player, with a lid that became the speaker, and my mom would buy me 7”s to play on it. She was also a big music fan and collector.
Can you remember the first record that you bought?
I had records bought for me, but the first 12”s I bought with my pocket money as a young child were Joe Jackson’s Steppin Out and Gloria by Laura Brannigan.
Where and when did you first go out dancing?
In the UK we had Saturday afternoon youth/teen discos and they were my first experiences of being in an actual nightclub. I was as fascinated by the lights as the music.
Pre-acid house / second summer of love what kind of clubs and parties were you going to?
I moved to London as a young teen and I would go to places like The Wag club, Africa Centre, parties such as Raw, Delirium, Soul to Soul, Boilerhouse 3A’s, Mud Club, Sacrosanct. I would go to bars such as Black Cap, etc. I always went to queer bars and parties. I was wide-eyed and loved the scene, and there was a different party to go to every night of the week.
What sort of music were you into? Were you a rare groover?
I was indeed, Soul II Soul at the Africa Centre and The Wag were both huge influences on me musically at that time. I would go record shopping at Groove Records in Soho, and various market stalls around London. I was really into hip hop and breaks at this time too, and always wanted to be able to scratch. I can a little but am not great (laughs). I loved to double copy breaks though.
What would you have been wearing?
I was a black Lyra dress and sneakers, or Doc Martins, girl, or Levi’s black bodysuit and MA1 for regular wear, but also a huge Vivienne Westwood fan, and into designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Bodymap, Yamamoto and Comme de Garçon. I just couldn’t afford too much of that, and so my grandma – who was great with a sewing machine – would copy things for me. I remember the fake Chanel, etc., tees too. I would rock those with jeans and Westwood block sneakers/shoes. I guess I considered myself a fly girl.
Can you remember the first time you heard a house record, and the impression that it made?
I think it must have been at Delirium! where Maurice and Noel Watson would DJ, and it was probably something like This Brutal House, or Jack the Groove. Colin Favor had a radio show on the then pirate station Kiss, and I think Jazzy M had a show too. Pirate radio at that time was always on in my house, and I discovered so much music that way. House was being mixed in with all the other stuff.
Did you go to Future, Shoom, Spectrum, Trip?
I did indeed. Those clubs came a few years later. I particularly loved Future. I was a big fan of Nancy Noise and Lisa Loud. They had a party, Loud Noise, in Camden as well, and I would go there too. It was rare for females to be behind the decks back then, and I was inspired by them.
How did you first hook up with Tonka?
I met Harvey through Rev – we would often be at the same parties, so I knew him from the scene. I was DJing a little myself by then, and I met Harvey and invited him to come hear me play (laughs), then I went to a Tonka party to hear him play and was blown away.
Were you a regular at their parties in Brighton?
I was. We would all drive there with Rev’s mom (laughs). The Tonka parties were already a bit of a thing by the time I started going to them.
Were you involved in the free-party scene?
As a party goer, not an organizer, but when I met Harvey I lived in a squat on Camberwell New Road. It was a real hive of creativity. A bunch of us lived there, and there was even a recording studio in one room. We had these parties, and Fraser Clark would come give talks on fractals and stuff. I met Felix Dickinson at one of these parties and we bonded, so I invited him to a Tonka party. The rest is history.
Were you at Glastonbury in 1990, when Tonka were famously one of the first two sound systems to bring dance music to the festival?
That was funny. Nobody really wanted house music anywhere at the festival, so they eventually ended up being welcomed in the travelers field.
How did you get the job doing the door of the Rock Garden and Gardening club?
I actually co-promoted a party in the Rock Garden, Yellow Book. The owners were used to the indie-band scene, but we put a night in there with DJs, Rocky and Diesel, Andrew Weatherall, etc., and the owners were really shocked at the success. They had some storage arches underground next door, and showed them to us. The party at Rock Garden became so successful that they let us use those rooms to get more people in. Then they realized that they should turn that into a club too – that’s how the Gardening Club was born. They then tasked my friend and I with getting different people in to promote and fill various nights. We had the Acid Jazz label take a night, Patrick Lilly and Queer Nation took Sundays, I, of course, offered Friday to Harvey and co-promoted/hosted our night, Moist . We`d been inspired by a trip to NY, where we went to The Loft and loved the one DJ all night idea. So Moist, although we had guests, was largely a night for Harvey to get to do his thing all night long. I would DJ on the Saturday night, as an occasional, unofficial, resident at Ophelia.
When did you first meet the Boys Own crew? Were you a regular at associated parties like The Raid?
I was at The Raid weekly. It sounds crazy to think back to all the things that I went to, but we really did go out every night. I was a big fan of Kevin Swain and Kevin Hurry, who played the downstairs room. I would spend most of my night down there. Boys Own had the Fanzine, then there was Flying records the record store and club night. I occasionally did the door of Flying, and was involved in their Ibiza 90 trip, where I guess I bonded with them all a lot more. I was a bit of a young un to them, I think, so people like Terry Farley and Cymon Eckel were always kind of caring and protective of me. I met Cymon at The Wag. He used to run an after-hours drinking den, called Roosterfish. Cymon probably intro’d me to that whole world.
When did you start DJing?
My first paying gig was a weekly party in Southend with a friend. That’s honestly where the idea to start the party at the Rock Garden was conceived. I worked around the corner from Rock Garden, at Paul Smith, for a moment and would walk past this failing venue most nights. I would play house parties too. House parties were a big thing. One time we had a party in our place and we had Ashley Beedle and some Shock Sound System DJs and they were super gracious and let me play a few. I got the bug that evening. That actually predates Southend.
The first time that I heard you play was at a Yellow Book event. I think the boys were upstairs and the girls were downstairs. I’m pretty sure you span DSK`s What Would We Do – it was the first time I`d heard it. Where else would you have been DJing at this point?
Oh wow! (laughs) Yes, that was a big track for me. I`d start with just the acapella, then bring in the dub mix, before letting the full vocal version drop. I always had two copies of things that I really loved. I loved Stay This Way, by The Brand New Heavies, the Morales mixes, Ultra Nate`s It`s Over Now, Pin-Up Girls` Take Me Away, Fingers Inc, Lupo`s Hell or Heaven.
Then I was really into Altered States by Ron Trent, and that whole sound that was emerging at the time – Convextion, A Guy Called Gerald.
Was it hard to find bookings?
I never really thought of it as a getting bookings type thing. If someone asked me to play then I was happy to do so. I wasn’t buying music to DJ, or get booked, just for myself. It never really occurred to me that DJing was a legit living.
Did you ever DJ with Tonka?
No, not at all.
Harvey has said that it was you who was responsible for booking the parties eclectic guests at Moist. Can you remember any guests that particularly stood out?
I loved every one of them, of course. The evening with Larry Levan was a standout night of absolute magic, but we had incredible vocalists too – Darryl Pandy, Sharon Redd, Robert Owen’s, who DJed and sang. I love Fingers Inc, I played Music Take Me Up at Cocktail D Amore this past weekend. Never No More Lonely is an all time favourite, and hearing Robert sing that live had me in tears. Da Posse played, Underground Resistance rolled through. I was and still am a huge fan of Da Posse’s music too. We had incredible local DJs play – Luke Howard who is now one fourth of Horse Meat Disco – Ricky Morrison, Princess Julia, Frankie Foncett. Some really incredible UK talent.
Did you DJ at Moist?
I never did. I really wanted to to elevate Harvey and his massive talent. He really was, and still is, on a whole other level – seamlessly mixing between crazy styles as he does – so the night became more of a showcase for him to largely play all night long.
Do you have any Moist favourites?
A huge favourite that Harvey turned me onto via his sets at that time was Chaz Jankel`s 30000000 Synths.
Did you have any future stars – DJs, promoters, label founders – in your audience?
So many. I met everyone I know, many that I am still in touch with to this day from that era of clubbing.
When and why did Moist finish and what did you do next?
Honestly, Moist wasn’t a commercial success. Any money made was used to book the guest DJs. Clubbing was more about multiple DJs on a line-up at that point, and we really rejected that notion. When Moist finished, we took a moment out and then went on to start New Hard Left at the Blue Note – that was an incredible night.
I went on to work at the early Ministry Of Sound. I was responsible for naming the Saturday night there Rulin. I was largely going to queer parties at that time, and so Rulin really was inspired by that, then Friday night was Open All Hours – which was focused on Techno, and where we booked that genre`s early US pioneers.
At what point did you move to The States?
Why did you make that move?
To take a break (laughs)
Did you initially settle in San Francisco, with the other ex-Tonka folks – Garth, Jeno, Markie, Thomas – who were running their Wicked parties?
No, not at all. They moved years earlier. Tonka was kind of no longer after Harvey did more solo stuff. Those guys all went to SF and created Wicked in the ethos of Tonka, and made their own magic there with that. We visited them, Harvey was a guest DJ at Wicked, and the legend is that Doc Martin got a bunch of people to drive up from LA to see him – that’s where the seeds were sown for Harvey to go play for Doc in LA, at his Wax Records party. Doc and Chris and Juan, who ran Wax, were the first people to first book Harvey in LA. Doc had a section at Wax Records of Harvey’s classics. Harvey also played for Marquess Wyatt’s Deep party back then too.
Heidi at Ego Trip, care of Peter Speyer.
Out there, did you quickly find yourself DJing and organizing parties?
Not in a commercial sense, but I lived and still live in Venice Beach, which was house party central, so I would play all the house parties and local bars. That sustained me, along with a day job booking talent for a Hollywood events company.
How difficult has it been to sustain / maintain a career doing this?
It’s honestly been a life not a living. I’ve always lived pretty simply, and things that some people measure success by – the big house the cars, etc., etc. – it’s never been my thing. I’ve always been an experiences over things type person, even as a kid. I love collecting music, books and fashion, but other than that I’ve always wanted to experience things over own things.
Would you be able to share with me just a few of the key events and parties that you’ve been involved in since your move? Maybe chronologically, to give an idea of how things have progressed?
LA or London? As a promoter or a DJ? Or both? How much time do you have? (laughs) Let’s talk about currently `cos I love drawing from the past but not harking on it. I’m currently in Croatia to play at Love International, while also in the middle of pre-production for a party I fly back to LA for at the weekend. With my partner, Masha Mar, and a small team of friends, we have an outdoor party that we’re planning with Harvey, plus another two more later this year, which is quite the undertaking. We have to get Change Of Use permits, dance and alcohol permits, etc., and build an outdoor club that goes from 5pm to midnight. We threw one last year with Harvey, and another in Grand Park LA with Honey Dijon and local guests such as Chris Cruse. I help run the ESP Institute label parties. Lovefingers and I hope to grow those next year. I also oversee all of Harvey’s global bookings. So, yeah, planning upcoming parties while DJing all over the world has me really busy.
From a distance I’ve always assumed that you’re also involved in the fashion world. Is this correct?
I was when I first moved to London. I went to London College of Fashion, and later worked for Paul Smith. I adore fashion, and have an incredible archive, a lot of which I’ve started selling off or gifting to friends. Like any creative person, fashion, art, music film, I love to soak it all in. I follow fashion fanatically.
Photograph of Heidi care of Flaunt Magazine.
I know that you manage Harvey and have worked with people like Ashely Beedle. Is artist management still a big part of what you do? Aren’t you, yourself, looked after by The Pool?
I do have a knack for it, and am always extremely happy to help friends on an informal basis. I get very, very happy about other peoples successes – always have and will – as well as a big love for the new and upcoming. I don’t do it in a official capacity for anyone other than Harvey, and that’s mostly because we have such a level of trust and understanding that he just couldn’t find in anyone else. I don’t have a manager or agent in the true sense of the word. I could do with one honestly at this stage (laughs).
Have you ever done any A&R, worked with or run record labels?
I worked with Acid Jazz for a bit, and was quite instrumental in getting Jamiroquai into that deal, also Braniak records for a bit – a kind of Brain Club imprint. I commissioned a Weatherall remix as one of my earliest forays there.
I’ve done a few bits here and there, helped sign and promote Paperclip People to Open, the now defunct MOS label run by Jim Masters.
When I left Ministry i worked with Marts Andrups at Unmanageable, the company that he founded, and we managed people like MAW, and Roger Sanchez. I released Rogers stuff at that time, on his Secret Weapons album there is a track, Heidi or Heidi’s Shoutout? – I forget the exact name – dedicated to me (laughs). We released the Hard Times compilation, and managed hip hop act, The Brotherhood, produced by Trevor Jackson, who Marts also managed.
I`ve overseen all Harvey’s releases from Locussolus, to Wildest Dreams, commissioned many remix projects, and gotten those released worldwide. I’m also responsible for the Mercury Rising compilations, and putting those together for him.
In the pandemic we released a compilation, Dusk, whose purpose was to highlight and give a platform to LA`s burgeoning producers. I had a track on there under the moniker Heidi Hoven – Dancefloor Dreams – that got a really great reaction.
Have you ever done any regular writing / journalism?
No. I’ve also only in recent times started giving interviews too.
Can you please tell me more about your Dublab / Magic Roundabout radioshow? How did you land the spot? How long has the show been running? When does it go out? What the music “policy”?
Dublab is an incredible station. Its founders are responsible for creating streaming software. It’s a real LA community station. It was studio-less for a moment, so my show has been on hiatus -with mostly rebroadcasts – but they are currently building a new studio in a newly leased building, and I can’t wait to get back to doing in-person shows. It was weekly Wednesdays, 6-8, and it’s now bi-weekly, shared with ESP Institute.
I know that you have deeply eclectic musical tastes. Would you be able to give me, say 5, things that you’re currently into? Maybe things that you might play at Campo Sancho?
I do have pretty nuts taste, but the party and people really dictate the direction that I`ll go in. The line up of Campo Sancho, and friends` stories of going to the festival in previous years, are what I have to go off – so I’m currently marinading what kind of thing to play – taking the tempo of the crowds at my recent UK gigs, at Glastonbury and Night Tales, and those at Love International too. A recent release by Nick The Record will for sure be played, there’s also a new Massimiliano Pagliara piano stormer that will get played too, but that’s pretty much all I got right now. I might pull hours and hours of music together for each gig but still wing it on the night.
Are you on a European – & UK – tour right now? Other than Campo Sancho what other gigs do you have lined-up?
My calendar is solidly booked through to mid-October, with a few things also in November and December. I’ve held off booking any further, so as to take stock a bit before the winter. I play Ant Bangos Festival, Crossbreed, Glitterbox and Pikes in Ibiza in September, some incredible parties in the US – Daytrip, with Jayda G and Derrick Carter. I’ve played a lot of Factory 93 events in LA and the US, and they really are some of the best, Midnight Lovers Open Air Affair, another LA warehouse institution – ’m not sure which parties I’m allowed to announce (laughs) – one for them with Masha and Cinthie. I love Cinthie so am super excited for that.
There’s a new old spot in Tijuana Marko Disco, that’s soon to be on everyone’s radar. It’s a proper disco that’s remained untouched, decor-wise, since the `70s. I play there with Soul Of Hex, who are incredible DJ producers based in Mexico.
I play at some upcoming ESP Institute parties. We book a really diverse line-up for those, everyone from Sherelle, to Bruce, Nicky Nair, Vladimir Ivkovic, Roman Flugel, the more left of centre leaning DJs and producers that we love and are inspired by.
I play a lot of queer parties and am so, so grateful to do so, as that’s where I choose to have my personal clubbing experiences when I go out for fun. Bears In Space in LA, I play annually for them at their day-into-night party, also there’s a party with Horse Meat Disco that they are putting on in a warehouse. Chris Bowen and Victor Rodriquez of Bears are my LA family and have been instrumental in LA’s nightlife since the late `80s. Osbanhof is another incredible LA queer party, then there’s the second installment of a 3 day camp out that I played last year – just as the world opened up – for Victor called Camp Caftan. He plans that with his partner Jerren. There’s lots of circumnavigating the globe till the end of September. I got really booked up in the US post-pandemic and quite a few of these Europe plays are reschedules from pre-pandemic. It`s a shame that I couldn’t just spend time in Europe taking more things here, but hopefully in 2023 I’ll plan that a bit better. I really want to play more in London and Manchester, and Scotland, Ireland, Manpower’s night in Newcastle, something for Luke Una. All the places that I’ve never played, and didn’t have time to do so this year. I want to get back to Panorama Bar too – my ultimate happy place. I’m also sitting on a shit ton of music that I’ve self produced which I need to finish and get out into the world – hence not really taking more far flung gig offers for the latter part of this year. Like I said it’s a life not a living, and I’m a lifer.
Heidi at Ego Trip, care of Peter Speyer.
If you’re in the UK, then you can catch Heidi at Campo Sancho, who return for their 6th Festival, over the weekend of July 29th to the 31st. Taking place at Walkern Hall, near Stevenage, you can find out more here….and book tickets here.
A big “Thank you!” to Sharon at Shine PR for setting the interview up.
2 thoughts on “Interview / Heidi Lawden”
A life not a living – yes, I’m with that all the way! Great interview + sounds
Thanks John! Did you ever go to The Yellow Book?