Six Questions With... Ralph Lawson of Inner City Electronic

Six Questions With... Ralph Lawson of Inner City Electronic

Welcome to the latest edition of Six Questions With..., a regular short and sharp interview with a live music figure. Email jhanley@nbmedia.com if you would like to take part or recommend someone for inclusion. 

This week's Q&A is with Ralph Lawson, curator of new multi-venue festival and music seminar Inner City Electronic, which will launch in Leeds on June 2. The event will feature the likes of Floating Points, Andrew Weatherall, Peggy Gou and the first ever appearance of Detroit electronic music act Dopplereffekt. Ralph Lawson Presents Back To Basics Rare Classics is released as a four-part vinyl series on Monday, April 23, with the album dropping digitally on Monday, May 28.

What was your first job in music?

I fell into the music business, like so many other people. I come from the ‘acid house’ boom of the late 80s. None of us set out to get jobs in music or thought about making lifetime careers out of it. Most of today’s job titles in the music industry didn’t even exist back then anyway. But my first job, as such, was as a DJ and it has been my bread and butter ever since.  

How long have you been in your current role?

I have several current roles. My two longest serving are as founder/director of the 20/20 Vision record label and as resident DJ at back to basics club, both based in Leeds, UK. They date back to the early '90s. I have recently taken on a new role as ‘curator’ of a festival called inner city electronic, happening in Leeds on Saturday, June 2. I have since realised however that I have always been a curator, it’s just the format that has changed. All DJs are curators by definition; instead of selecting our favourite records we select our favourite artists to select their favourite tracks. The result being that you can throw a wider net and catch more people through your curation.

What is your favourite thing about working in the music industry?

When times are good there is no better place to be working. Let’s face it we live the ‘Life of Riley’ compared to most people. I’ve had so many good times at gigs. As a performer you really do get used to the buzz of live shows. I suppose I’ve been lucky to be gigging nearly every week for over 25 years. I still love playing live and sure I always will. It definitely gets harder to sustain in many ways but I will never complain about the privilege of being put up on a stage and I will never stop enjoying it. You can keep the industry bit though…

What is the one thing you would like to change about the business

Ah, now this would turn into a very long answer if you hadn’t stated ‘one thing’. Have you read Peter Hook’s book The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Club? Well we’ve managed to write the book Music: How Not To Run A Business over the last 20 years! It’s just been one thing after the next hasn’t it? Anyone who has survived the last two decades in the industry should be given a lifetime subscription to a health clinic! Seriously though do read Stephen Witt - How Music Got Free - to fully comprehend the enormous mistakes made by the music industry dealing with the digital revolution. We still seem very far from adequate solutions but I do feel we have got through the hardest times, hopefully…

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I intend the highlight of my career to be June 2, 2018, when after 30 years working in music in Leeds, we manage to pull off the first ever edition of Inner City Electronic. It really feels to me that all the work I’ve ever put into the city’s music scene as a DJ, producer, curator and record label founder will culminate at this point. That may seem dramatic but it really does. It may all end in tears like so many music dreams but at least we will know we truly gave it our best shot. We have managed to attract the best possible selection of current electronic music artists available to perform, in my book. And we are presenting them at a golden moment for the city, coinciding perfectly with the emergence of the next generation of incredible independent venues.

Best event you’ve ever been to?
For sheer craziness it would have to be Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert. Nothing prepares you for that one. But in this country the first edition of Houghton Festival last year was the most perfect event I’ve been to, and that’s ever…

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