DJ Times: What’s some of the inspiration behind the Repopulate Mars party series?
Lee Foss: I think it’s always been important on a party aspect for me to create something—especially in America—that wasn’t apart of Hot Creations, Emerald City and Paradise. I’m not always everywhere Jamie [Jones] is, and we each have our own ethos. I just wanted to do something that stood out from a production standpoint [on the party side] that took people and put them somewhere. It could take places where people haven’t been and deliver them to a beach party on Mars via staffing and production. [Repopulate Mars] is kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing because I’m interested in environmental causes because the Earth is worth saving, but it’s funny how much of modern media talks about looking for the next place to live. It’s very prescient and in-the-moment; people are interested in this stuff. People want to be somewhere where they’re next to a cyborg or a robot or an alien, but in this club where they had to come through a star gate to get in, while I’m in the back working some machine that looks like nuclear reactor while wearing a cyborg mask.
DJ Times: Why did you decide to make it a label?
Foss: There’s been a lot of music I wanted to sign that I didn’t for [my other] labels or I was holding onto for something of my own. It became clearer and clear to me—and to Jamie—that we were just passing on so much music. We started Emerald City to do more song-based stuff and not have Hot Creations really cluttered by so many different genre styles. Me launching Repopulate Mars—which is really going to be across the board, too—was just because there was so much good music I was passing on. I’ve been really focused, and I just thought as a natural progression of growing this brand and creating an ethos behind it.
DJ Times: The first EP’s got Eskuche & Nu Sky, MK (as 4th Measure Men), Sonny Fodera, and Flavio Acaron. What was behind the decision to launch it with a multi-artist compilation?
Foss: I’ve had those songs the longest, and it’s taken me the longest to get those songs out. I think they fit well together, but it’s a varied EP.
DJ Times: Are those first three tracks setting the tone sonically for the label, or is it going to be even more varied in the future?
Foss: Oh, it’ll definitely be more varied, but I thought they fit well. I thought it was a cohesive little EP. There’s all kind of stuff coming that I think is a wide variety.
DJ Times: Did you have a musical upbringing?
Foss: I took a couple years of piano when I was, like, nine, but I lied and said I was learning to read the sheet music, but I was too lazy to, so I was just memorizing it to get the free piece of candy at the end. I’ve never taken that leap to learn music theory, but I feel like that actually assisted me and Jamie Jones and some of my friends because we kind of learned it on the back-end and came to things from another angle. I’ve had a lot of friends who were classically trained who said that if I hadn’t practiced it was an advantage because you’re not thinking why something should work—you’re just thinking if it does or doesn’t work.
DJ Times: Were you parents musically inclined?
Foss: My parents liked music. They played music in the house, but it certainly wasn’t—when I discovered “black music,” as it was—it was a revelation. My parents listened to ’60s rock. I grew up in a university town [DeKalb] about an hour outside of Chicago. I could get Chicago radio stations, and in the early 1990s, hip hop was using all of those old funk samples. Sometimes, radio stations playing the original songs they sampled was mind-blowing.
DJ Times: It’s interesting that you grew up near Chicago, which was such an epicenter for house, but you were drawn to hip hop and R&B.
Foss: I liked house when I could hear it. We also didn’t have cable or MTV, so [what I heard] was very controlled until I had access via radio. I really liked the house that I heard, but I was more initially to artists drawn that were sampling jazz and disco and funk. And then the house that I liked initially did that same thing.
DJ Times: How did you cut your teeth in the club scene?
Foss: At the end of high school, I started going to raves and to a friend’s house who had turntables. He blended two hip-hop songs, and it blew me away. My freshman year of college I bought turntables and a little crappy DJ setup and started spending lots of money on records. I was pretty lazy on learning to mix. After I graduated college, I went to Ibiza for the first time. I got hooked; I stayed there for the summer, met my best friend Jamie Jones and a lot of my other friends to this day. That became my life. I loved being there and being in these clubs for days, but I knew something was lacking in the DJ.
DJ Times: Why?