By guest writer Jonty Skrufff.
The one man stag-do
“It’s all about new ideas. Those with the best ones will win.”
Living his entire adult life in club culture and chatting to Skrufff just hours after finishing a three day long Balearic bender, 2020Vision chief Ralph Lawson might be expected to be more than a little grumpy though fizzing with enthusiasm and élan, he’s both energetic and remarkably lucid.
“The weird thing is I have always been able to stay up,” he chuckles. “I have massive adrenaline levels, in fact, I have far more problems going to sleep than staying awake.”
His latest trip to Ibiza has been to headline 2020Vision’s closing party for We Love Space, his last in a season of bashes that have seen him packing out the main dance-floor of the legendary Ibiza superclub each month. After each event, he’s handed out free We Love Space 10 / 2020 Vision mix CDs and label compilation he’s mixed with tracks from 2020Vision signed artists including Crazy P, Simon Baker and Audiojack.
The idea for the giveaway came from We Love (‘I jumped at Mark Broadbent’s offer for the We Love CD’, he admits) and is one of the new concepts he’s hoping will help his label prosper as music sales continually shrink.
“We pressed 11,000 copies and have around 1,000 left still to give out this week and next,” says Ralph, “For a comparison, in 2007 I mixed Fabric 33 which did 12,000 so it’s about the same in terms of numbers. Compilation sales five years ago were in a different league but those days are gone. Mix CDs are lucky to sell 2,000 (units) now. Why would people buy them when they can get podcasts for free? But you have to move with the times rather than get angry about it. It’s like King Canute ordering the sea to go back, it’s not going to happen,” he predicts.
“I gave out a bunch more after my set finished last Sunday and people were biting my hands off for them, if anything I could have done with more,” he laughs.
“I suppose we’ll only start to see the full effect over the next year and see if I am suddenly the next Luciano and We Love is bigger than God. Joking aside I have had amazing feedback both personally and on the internet so I am just glad if people are happy and have a memento of their night to keep for ever.”
Skrufff: What’s been your impression of Ibiza 2010 compared to earlier years?
Ralph Lawson: “I must say I have really enjoyed this summer. I have been lucky to have the monthly We Love residency and every single one has been great although June was perhaps slower due to the World Cup. Personally I love September, my favourite gig was my last one. The crowd are the real deal by this time of year, the hardcore. I went out to DC10 and Cocoon on Monday afterwards and both were packed, with good music as well. I ended up at Ibiza Rocks on Tuesday which was sold out for their closing party. I also played at the Underground in the summer which I love and we did a 2020Vision label show at Zoo Project which went great. So I think overall it’s still very positive for the Island.”
Skrufff: The last time we chatted in 2006, you talked about scaling back from 3 day marathon after-parties (“People don’t realise how much it takes out of you, when you’re partying, time is a different thing, hours pass like minutes and before you know it, it’s fucking Tuesday, then it takes you two days to recover, then it’s the fucking weekend again’): 4 years on, how much does it remain a temptation to get lost in party adventures? When was the last time?
Ralph Lawson: “Ha Ha, it’s a bad day to ask me as I did go for a full three-nighter this week but hey it was my personal closing party. And yes I feel terrible today. I have been a good boy recently though and mainly concentrating on my work. I have a lot to do in the week. Everyone goes to Ibiza to let their hair down and I’m no exception, if there’s anywhere I will fall off the wagon, it’s there.”
Skrufff: How much has being work focused and less known for being a party animal changed the way people treat you? Have you ever felt not in synch with revellers: or uncomfortable by people caning it around you?
Ralph Lawson: “I think it’s hard to get rid of your reputation, my nickname in Ibiza is ‘stag-do’; because I’m the quiet one who is actually the worst when let out to play. Music keeps me very high. I still love it. As soon as I’m playing music, I’m in the zone and people know that, I don’t have to prove myself by taking every drug on the planet. I know which ones work for me and they are all the mellow ones. I need calming down not revving up. I really don’t mind what anyone else does at all though. The only thing that bothers me is if people try to shove stuff down your neck and get offended if you refuse. People have to respect personal choices.”
Skrufff: Talking about when you were DJing in the early 90s living in a farm outside Leeds, you recalled finding Hopefield Farm when you were homeless, splitting it between 3 of you for £400 in the 90s: sounds like you were quite happy despite being nearly penniless: how broke were you and how long did it take you to turn DJing into a lifelong career?
Ralph Lawson: “I would never be so glib as to suggest being skint is fun. It’s not at all. We happened to get a great deal on the place at the time and made the most of it. I have definitely missed out on the big money some of my contemporaries have made as I’ve always been a resident at Basics where we started getting £30 a week and trying to get it up from there. I don’t think I’ve had a pay rise for over 10 years there. I think I was naive as to what other DJs were getting paid as I just wasn’t in that scene. Of course now I get paid OK when I guest and can’t complain. I have never had to work outside music since 1991 and I don’t plan to so it’s a constant hustle. Maybe I’ll finally be in the big money in the coming years, I actually believe I deserve it, especially when I hear some the guys who get paid up to 10 times more than me.”
Skrufff: What was the closest you came to quitting music and getting a straight job (was it ever an option you seriously considered?)
Ralph Lawson: “Yes I did consider this at times over the years though never for very long. Usually on days like today.”
Skrufff: What do you see the key role of 2020 Vision is these days: how much is it about marketing- and branding your acts as opposed to selling physical units (digital or otherwise?)
Get it while it's hot
Ralph Lawson: “Our key role is to put out great music. Our job now is to find ways of doing this that still create a revenue stream for the artist. For me it has become more about playing live shows and gigs as that is the only place people can’t steal your work. It’s you up there, doing it. Your experience, your skill, your music. There has always been bootlegging since records were invented but now we have a format that is so easy to copy it has got out of control.
It is possible that in the future someone will invent a format that is harder to copy but right now it doesn’t exist for public use. Until then we are focusing on building 2020Vision live. We recently did a sold out show at Village Underground in London for 1000 people with 300 unable to get in outside. That’s gotta’ be a wake up call that I am heading in the right direction with a good crew of artists.”
Skrufff: How much do you see yourself as a brand?
Ralph Lawson: “I was always uncomfortable with brands as such. It reeks of marketing jargon. I also think kids can see through companies that are all about their brand with no substance. Of course you have to build your name but substance has to come first. I prefer to look at it that way.”
Skrufff: How much do you believe in visualising success? Do you (and have you always) been- and felt- lucky? Well? Do you?
Ralph Lawson: “I was lucky at the start because I was in the right time at the right place with the right records. Everything since then has been hard graft. As I grow older I am more and more believing in the visualising idea you suggest. But what’s more important is not thinking or talking about it but doing it.”
Skrufff: What’s been the greatest mistake you’ve made?
Ralph Lawson: “Not signing Trentemoller when I had the chance. That still pisses me off. I should have listened to my instincts which were right and not the track he sent which was wrong.”
Skrufff: And what’s been the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome?
Ralph Lawson: “The deaths of my girlfriend and DJ partner in 1993.”
We Love Space Sundays 10 / 2020Vision summer 2010: mixed by Ralph Lawson is available from various outlets in Ibiza (and almost certainly at We Love’s closing party this weekend (Sunday September 26th).
If you are not one of the lucky ones being in Ibiza for the closings you can get the cd on beatport as well.
Ralph Lawson DJ Profile