LASHED: Interview with Lisa Lashes

The iconic Lisa Lashes has been a pioneer in Electronic Dance Music for 22 years now, touring China, Canada, US, Russia, Australia and New Zealand and headlining festival big hitters such as Global Gathering, Creamfields, Nocturnal Wonderland and Dance Valley alongside her own Lashed nights. Sixty9° caught up with Coventry born Lisa to talk about the past, present and future of Lisa Lashes and UK Clubbing.

22 years! It’s been full on and I’ve had about 3 different styles changes of music but the music I want to play and that I love now, is techno.

Everything about the night life scene, music, clubs has changed across these three decades, do you think things have changed for the better, is the atmosphere still there?

If you’d have asked me that about a year or so ago, I would have said it’s
changed for the worse. 10 years ago, there were nearly 4000 clubs but now there are only around 1700. Pretty much all of those are the clubs I used to play in; the old hard house, the trance, the Godskitchens, the big super clubs but then, all of a sudden, everyone seemed to go to festivals.

Things seem to be coming full circle though as there’s now been an influx of really cool promoters in and around London hiring these big spaces, bringing over some really cool DJs and making a club out of it. A bit like the old school warehouse parties. They’re making waves and taking things forward so there’s this whole new injection of fun and good times. Let’s just hope they spread out of the capital.

Is this something you’re quite passionate about?

Yes it is. I had a meeting recently with Philip Kolvin QC who wrote the night time memorandum for London and asked him what I can do to help the nightlife industry in my hometown because I really want to see it grow.
Now I’m actually the night-time commissioner for the Midlands region and I’m actively trying to help clubs if they have a problem. They can come and see me, and I can see if I can help them.

For example, at the weekend I was helping Dryden Street Social in Leicester who face losing their licence because a developer wants to build some flats next to them. The club used to be known as Street Life and has been there for 25 years but now, with one resident complaint, they can be closed down. It’s crazy that developers get planning to put residential properties beside licensed premises. Venue owners and promoters need some protection as one noise complaint and they could lose everything. Birmingham’s facing problems too with licencing as is Nottingham. It’s a widespread problem.

It’s a very real problem part of the SIXTY9° family of businesses was a night club which was faced with a huge bill for sound proofing after a block of student flats were built beside it. The venue is now a child’s nursery. Another nightclub dead.

I’m hoping it’s not too little too late. I’m actually doing a night now in Leicester at Boxed in Braunstone Gate because that area seems to be slowing down in terms of walk through trade etc and that’s an area that used to be
absolutely buzzing. So, I’m trying to do parties and bring some of the Lashes fan base to the area. I don’t know what else I can do but I’m trying my best.

Another thing I’m involved in is free young DJ workshops to try and get budding young DJs out of their bedroom. I’ve had hundreds of applications which is amazing, and I’ve got Pioneer and Roland on board, just using my
connections to help out. I’ve got 30 DJs who are taking part, so we’ve got to keep the clubs open, so they have somewhere to play!

So, let’s take a step back for a moment, how did you get started in music?

Well my friend’s boyfriend had some decks, but his mum and dad didn’t want him to have the music too loud and always complained when he tried to mix so he brought them round to my house. He wouldn’t let me go on them – I wasn’t allowed as I was a girl so I used to go on when he wasn’t there, I used to sneak on during my lunch hour, but one day I got caught! He listened to me, could tell I could mix and It was only like a couple of weeks later that I was invited to a boat party for my friend’s birthday. The guy that ran Sundissential was on the boat and looking for a DJ, so he booked me. So, in a matter of 2 or 3 months of me being on the decks I was actually playing at these big venues with Pete Tong, Judge Jules, Paul Oakenfold and absolutely shitting myself!

I can’t believe you weren’t allowed on the decks because you were a girl!

Girls were not allowed to DJ! There was hardly any DJs then, Mrs Woods, Sister Bliss, that was about it. I think I came along just at the right point of time; Spice Girls were number one,
it was very much girl power and I was dressing the way I was with a very strong, powerful image so it was kind of a no brainer making me a resident really. They didn’t know if I could play or not but thankfully I could. I remember one promoter being really shocked like “oh you can actually DJ then.”

That must have been really frustrating though for being booked for your look rather than your ability?

It made me make sure I was better. had to work at it. I had to be the best mixer, pick the best tunes, be the best DJ because I would get penalised on anything like the shoes I was wearing, what I was
dressed in, what music choice I had because I was a girl. You just have to be consistently good. If you’re going to be a female DJ, you have to be shit hot and most of them are. I don’t see Tiesto being
slagged off because he wore the same t-shirt last week but with me people will be like well you wore that 3 years ago!

I remember, I won’t say who it was, walking into the DJ booth at Sundissential and them saying “oh the dancers aren’t allowed in here” knowing exactly who I was. You do have to be quite strong minded because it could wind you up. I’ve never had any harassment, but I suppose with all the chains I used to wear no one would really wanna come near me, would they?!

I was going to ask you about the whole Lisa Lashes look, I remember seeing you out and you’d be in all of this leather or rubber fetish wear, very much the dominatrix.

Well it was Sundissential that brought that look out of me. I was resident at one of the most hedonistic clubs in the UK, the first super club. It held 1000 people and we’d have about 10,000 people queueing round the street and everyone dressed up. Things are different now, it’s on trend not to dress up, to go out in your trainers and your t-shirt. I still dress up because I like that, that’s just me. I’m comfortable in heels and dressing up in heels, I don’t want to wear a jumper and plimsolls!

Did you use the fierceness of the look almost like a barrier?

Possibly it was, maybe it was subconsciously that because the harder our music, the harder that makes us. I don’t know, I like the music, I don’t think it was because I was trying to prove anything.

When you’ve got a gig you don’t ‘put on’ Lisa Lashes now?

I seem to have blended into me now, it’s more like Lisa Lashes is Lisa Rose Wyatt now. I did think about that about changing my name once. I’m signed up to Intec Digital which is Carl Cox’s techno
label and I went across to Ibiza to see him and I asked his advice on whether I should change my name because I am synonymous with that certain look, style
and sound and he said don’t ever change anything. Don’t change your name for anyone, don’t shorten it, don’t do anything, this is you, be proud of what you did and what you’re doing going forward. If the number one DJ, the god of techno is telling me not to change my name I’m not going to go against him, am I?!

What is your average day now?

I still make music;I’m signed up to 3 or 4 labels, the biggest is Intec Digital so I have a release every few weeks. I have a studio at home, so I’ll still work from there, I do have people in the evenings come around. I do lessons sometimes for the youngsters and sometimes I have some celebrities that come around to me. That’s why I want to do this academy; it’s getting a little bit too busy and I know I could do more.

Are there any high-profile celebs that you are secretly training?

There’s James Haskell, the rugby player. He’s really good, I did have to apologize to him as I didn’t think he was going to be that good! He plays Techno and I’d like for him to come and play for one of my parties soon.

It’s better than getting someone of TOWIE that is just gonna stand there…

Definitely, if he was rubbish he wouldn’t be in my house again.

Tell me about your new night.

I’ve done a couple of OriginL at Boxed in Leicester’s Braunstone Gate and they’ve been amazing. There are so many amazing DJs and Techno DJs in the UK and there aren’t enough platforms for them to play at. Once I said I was gonna do an underground house and techno night, the amount of people contacting me saying please “I’ll play for nothing, in fact, I’ll pay you” was crazy. It’s a shame because everyone wants to be a DJ and there are not enough venues. I can’t wait for the next one – follow me on social to find out more or read up about it in the magazine – I know you guys are big supporters.

And you’re still travelling all over the world?

Yeah, I still do all that, I’m trying to filter that out a bit now as I am 47. I don’t want to do a hundred mile an hour around the world. It’s hard work, I’ve done 22 years of it. People think its all that and and it can be if you have a private jet but when you’re stuck in an airport waiting for an EasyJet you just want to go home! When you’re on the touring schedule you miss so much; I’ve never had a holiday and I’ve missed my Mum’s birthday and weddings and I’ve missed funerals and everything. You’re married to the business musically so that’s why I wante to still do music, teach kids and have my own night so that keeps me in there but also, I can pick and choose where I wanna play. That for me is perfect.

Where has been the most amazing place in the world you’ve DJed?

I’ve played some amazing places: Sydney Bridge at New Year’s once when the sun’s coming up, I’ve done South Africa in a cave where they hand in their guns as they come in, so everyone is like chilled. I’ve done Johannesburg in the big fields where the seas coming in, I’ve done Dolphin sanctuaries and Ibiza of course! You can’t beat a little boat cruise in the evening in Ibiza.

Has there ever been a point or can you remember point where you’ve been stood there at your decks and you just look out and think oh my god this is bonkers.

Yeah, all the time! I think when I did the millennium in South Africa in Cape Town that was a pretty good one. 9,000 people with their hands in their air, you just can’t beat that.

www.djlisalashes.com @djlisalashes