You are here

Lisa Lashes's interview for local newspaper "Leicester Mercury"

Lisa Lashes: 'I want to bring back the Friday night. People just don’t go out any more'


As female superstar DJs go, Lisa Lashes is undeniably the world's finest. Still the only woman ever to break into the top 10 of DJ Mag's Top 100 DJs, she's been playing alongside the likes of Judge Jules and Pete Tong since she started scratching records in the late 1990s. The original queen of dance earned her name from her lengthy eyelashes, and it's a name that's become synonymous with dance music the globe over. But she lives here, in Leicestershire, and has done for the whole of her career.

"Leicester's my home now," she says, in her unmistakable rich, husky tone. "When I first moved here, to be with my best mate, Neil, I started going out partying and meeting new people and I loved it."

Lisa Rose Wyatt was brought up on a council estate in Coventry with her five brothers and sisters. "When I was 16 I got a job at Marks and Spencer, in Nuneaton, and moved away from home," she says. "My housemate had a boyfriend with decks and he kept them in our dining room and I used to have a go on them when he wasn't looking. My friend caught me one day and said, 'you're good, you've got to show the boys what you can do'.''

And the rest, as they say, is history.

"The first records I mixed were two of the same track – Suzi Carr's All Over Me," she says. "I played all different styles, hip hop to big beat to breaks. I got into hard dance through staying late at clubs."

Lisa used to go clubbing at Miss Moneypenny's in Birmingham. By the time she moved to Leicester, she was hanging out with clubbers and promoters, including Roman Tristan, the man behind the city's well loved Hotdog and Bubble Love nights in the '90s.

"It was brilliant," she says. "You remember Junction 21 – it's not there any more – but I ended up playing there every month and getting paid."

Lisa loved her residencies and, in '97, as soon as her DJ salary allowed her, she left M&S to turn her attentions to the decks. "Not long after, I played a boat party on the River Severn for a friend's birthday," she remembers. "I said yes, as it was just for fun. Or so I thought."

It turned out a Birmingham promoter was on board and he was making plans to open a super-club called Sundissential. "I was made weekly resident that day and found myself playing alongside guests including Paul Oakenfold, Judge Jules and Pete Tong – within three months of stepping behind the decks."

Life was a whirlwind for Lisa.

"It all happened so quickly," she says. "There was also a massive amount of luck, too. Back then, you could be a DJ by just playing tunes. Now, you've got to be a business."

Sundissential was a dream come true for Lisa, but it wasn't an easy ride. "Being a woman, they didn't expect me to be any good – which really annoyed me," she says. "I used to dress up and wear leather and stockings, and I did have a catsuit – I looked the part – but they were surprised when I got up there and could actually mix. Why would I put myself through that if I wasn't any good?"

One DJ (Lisa won't name him, but let's just say he was fairly well known) wouldn't let Lisa into the DJ booth, she says. "The dancers are over there,'' he signalled to her.

"Well, good job I'm a DJ then," she replied, raising a metaphorical two fingers. "I had to laugh," she smiles. "I put it straight back in their faces. But it is frustrating, because you have to be super-good at what you do."

There's no escaping the fact female DJs are few and far between.

"I've done my research and I think girls aren't coming into music because guys are allowed to think they're the only ones who should be doing it – that it's a man's job."

Last year, Lisa launched All Girls On Decks – a competition to find the next big UK female DJ. "It was really good, but we didn't have as many girls turn up as I wanted," she admits. "There must be female musical artists out there, under the radar, who don't have the confidence to shout about themselves – that's normal when you start out. I wanted that to change. I wanted this to be a stepping block.''

Right now, Lisa loves Nicole Moudaber. "She's this techno DJ who plays wicked tracks and has a style that says, 'I just don't care'.

"People are loving her. She'll wear a T-shirt and why shouldn't she? As a female, you should be able to express yourself how you want to and that should not impact on the DJ you are.

"I was on tour with this guy for a week recently and the only thing he changed was his pants – though I think there were some inside out days," she laughs. "It's just the way it is."

In recent years, Lisa has been dividing her time between touring and tireless late night studio hours. "I knew I could make tracks; it was just easier for me to get it all engineered before, with help. But it was always something I wanted to do on my own," she explains.

"I've made a new track, a remix of an old stage one classic by John Graham, called Space Manoeuvres. I'd describe it as the darker side of techo – progressive, perhaps – which is perfect for now. I think it's timeless, though, kind of old global underground with a girly edge to it. I don't know what it is, but's there's something in there that really makes it stand out."

It was actually picked up by "The Boss'' Carl Cox, who has mixed it at festivals and venues around the world, including Victoria Warehouse at Manchester's Albert Hall. "He reached out to me, saying he knows how difficult it is and if I need advice, I know where he is," she says. "He's had massive longevity in the business. He'll regret saying it, though. I'm going to be pestering him like a little sister."

Lisa's music span genres from hard dance to trance, breaks and, more recently, psy-trance and electronica, but the release of her secret "back-to-mine'' sessions in her private basement studio has left her fans wanting more techno. "I do love live DJing, I love playing techno stuff, but there weren't many places for me to go out and do that," she says. "It's why I set up an event called Basement Boutique."

The series of exclusive, intimate and underground parties around the UK bring all the elements of an after-party session back at Lisa's place, to the club.

"I made a point of choosing strictly 200 or so capacity venues so there's an intimate vibe – and they're going amazingly," she says. "I've got nearly 20 requests to bring the boutique to venues around the country.

"In every town I'm asking DJs to send in their mixes and two will get on the line-up. I hope people grab the chance. I'm looking for a venue in Leicester, actually," she says.

"I want to bring back the Friday night. People just don't go out any more. I'm as bad, but then, going out is my career – I live in an upside down world where I'm free in the week when my friends work."

There's no continent Lisa hasn't played and that list of gigs is seemingly endless. In the next few weeks and months, Lisa is playing Stockholm, Canada, Buenos Aires, Argentina, London, Vietnam and Ibiza, to name but a few. And let's not forget Leicester Pride next month.

Lisa loves dazzling the crowds with her tricks, skills, flawless mixing and passion for scratching. "It's great to get scratching and turn-tabling. I've got a blood blister on my finger from last night," she laughs.

"I've had to evolve with the industry, but I want to do better things, with better equipment. When I hear someone else doing something, I'm intrigued and want to learn."

Forever old-school, there are no CDs or digital tracks going down when Lisa DJs. And you won't catch her giving into commercialism, either. "The button-pressing 'DJs' give us a bad name – but put them on decks and they're not so good," she smiles.

"There's no escaping electronic dance music is massive and when we started hearing DJs like Hardwell and Swedish House Mafia on the radio it was like 'wow,' something is changing, but it was the underground becoming commercial and everyone got on the bandwagon.

"It's amazing for them – selling thousands of records – but that's not for me. I don't want to be out shopping and listening to a track I'll hear again at a festival or late night in the club. It's not cool. I could have made commercial tracks for the radio, but I chose not to."

So with just a few weeks until Leicester Pride, Lisa is lining up her records ready to close the main stage and the day's events in Victoria Park. "I've played Leicester Pride every year now," she says. "I'm not there to break any news, just bring out the happy vibes, play a few anthems, remix some others and generally drop cool tunes I know people will love."

She'll also be on the decks later at Sloanes in the city, for the after-party. "It's going to be tight," she says. "I'm proud of Leicester and I always try and help out the community. I want the event to keep going. And I don't ask for much," she smiles. "Just a couple of bottles of wine – and I'm not sharing!"

Lisa Lashes will close the main stage at Leicester Pride on Saturday, September 5.

By Leicester Mercury