CALIFORNIA SOUL 

You know Heidi, that cool as fuck girl with that great haircut who owned the doors of some of London’s best post Acid House clubs. You know Heidi, that super smart business woman from The Ministry. You know Heidi, the DJ playing some of LA's hottest spots. But maybe there are some things about Heidi Lawden you don’t know. 

 

We asked Kerry Jean Lister to have an old friends transatlantic fireside chat with Heidi about her life and career in the industry 

HeidiLawden4.jpg

Taken from Faith Winter ’20 issue

KJL

So, Heidi, like me you were born up North, and escaped to London as soon as you possibly could…

 

HL:

I was living in Barrow and going to local bars dancing to The Cure, Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division, Art of Noise, an indie Northerner but my magazine obsession meant I was reading ID every month and pining for The Wag and Taboo. I got a job working at Vidal Sassoon in London and moved in with family in West Ham. One of my colleagues took me under her wing and said ‘We’re all going to The Wag, you're going to come and you're going to stay at my house and we'll get ready together” she put bright red lipstick on me and I put on my knock-off Westwood Mini Crini that my Grandma had made. We walked up to the doors of the Wag and the doorman was like “You two, you’re in” and that was it. I was fucking DONE FOR! My main goal in life was to go out and listen to music seven nights a week.

 

KJL:

Seven nights a week! Where were you going and who was playing?

 

HL:

Boiler House boys, Dave Dorell, Shake and Finger Pop, Soul II Soul, DJ’s Gilles Peterson, Mark Moore, Norman Jay, later, Rocky & Diesel, Terry Farley, Andrew Weatherall. We’d meet at the Three A's or Madame JoJo’s, then the Wag, Raw, Delirium. I’d go to the Africa Centre with Fraser Cook every Sunday. Tuesdays we went to Sacrosanct, Wednesdays was Cafe de Paris. I always wanted to be a DJ. I’d spend all day with double copies of Take Me to the Mardi Gras practicing. I’d say, “well if I get just chips I can buy a record, but if I get chips and a kebab...” Giving up food for funk as my mate Danny used to say.

 

KJL:

 

So how did you make the switch from punter to DJ?

 

HL:

Ashley Beedle played a house party and just said to me “throw one on” and I put on Yarbrough and Peoples ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ and I remember, the whole vibe in the room changed and people got really sexy. I got a bit of a nod for it and was all “Oh, did I just made this happen?!” Then they left with their proper set up and I carried on playing with one turntable and a cassette player! When we started programming for The Gardening Club it was a recreation of my early clubbing week - we had Moist with Harvey on a Friday, Yellow Book on a Saturday, Sunday was Queer Nation, Acid Jazz had Wednesdays – Frank knew I could DJ and asked me to open up. But to be honest, after seeing Harvey play, imposter syndrome kicked in and I just did it less often. There weren’t many girls doing it back then, Nancy Noise, Princess Julia were girls I looked up to. Then I got pregnant and took a backseat and started focusing on the business/promoting side of things.

 

KJL:

You had Larry Levan play at Moist didn’t you? 

 

HL:

Yeah, Justin had brought him over to help open The Ministry and he didn’t own many records at that point. Tony Farsides got Larry a guest spot with Judge Jules on Kiss FM and called me up saying “I’ve got Larry Levan here, can we borrow some of Harvey’s records?”. So he came over and that was it.  Justin was cool with it because he knew it would bring the Moist crowd to the Ministry. Larry and Harvey bonded and he stayed with us for a few weeks one trip. He was almost late to play Moist, I remember calling the house at ten to midnight being all ‘WHERE ARE YOU?!” and he was all ‘I’ll jump in a cab and be there in five”. And he was! He played all night long and blew our minds. 

 

 

KJL

And then you went to work at the Ministry of Sound?

 

HL:

Jim Masters really fought for me to work there because he and I had similar taste in music – Billy Nasty, Fabi Paras, Steve Bicknell, the Brit boy techno heads. Whereas Lynn Cosgrave was only into the big name American DJs like C&C. Jim felt he needed somebody on his team who would be his ally. Harvey became a resident because he was so musically diverse in that way. He could open up he could close, he could open Fridays, he could close Saturdays. We did some great stuff at Ministry including signing Carl Craig’s Paperclip People, but I left because Lynn pretty much bullied me out of there. 

 

KJL: 

She sounds lovely! Where did you go after the Ministry?

 

HL:

I went to work with Marts Andrups who was managing Masters at Work, Roger Sanchez, Ashley Beedle Trevor Jackson and The Brotherhood. We had Luke Solomon working as an intern! Marts died suddenly and I was absolutely devastated. I released two projects we had in the works after his death and moved on. I took everything I'd learned from Marts and applied it to managing Harvey, furthering his reputation. I made it my mission to make the tastemakers of UK/Europe want to book him. Terry Farley booked Harvey to play an Xpress 2 party at the Fitness Centre on Tottenham Court Road, and I felt like we’d opened him up to new audiences. He blew peoples minds that night. 

 

KJL:

You moved to LA just after 9/11. What were you doing work-wise, apart from managing Harvey?

 

HL:

We had to start again from scratch over here and rebuild Harvey’s reputation, which of course he did because he’s a truly fucking exceptional DJ! I had a day job working for an events company that booked DJs and bands for events. We organised Usher’s Grammy party and booked Madlib, Peanut Butter Wolf and J Roc and had everyone from Eve to Lil Wayne to Quentin Tarantino on the mic. After that my reputation at the company was locked in!

 

KJL:

So when did you start DJing again?

 

HL:

I started opening at the events we were putting on after my colleague Martin overheard me DJing. Then the internet kicked off properly and people were talking about old London clubs, and chatting on the Faith message board etc. and people in LA got a bit more curious about my time in the UK, asking “is this you on this flyer with Andrew Weatherall?!” And I would DJ at every single Venice house party with my laptop and Serrato!

 

KJL:

How did things get taken up a notch with regards your DJing career? What was the tipping point?

 

HL:

I got booked to play A Club Called Rhonda with Bicep, Hunee and Cosmo Vitelli. And Andrew [Lovefingers, Heidi’s now-husband] came and told me later that people liked my set. I was up there mixing a Divine track into a techno track followed by disco, I was definitely showing off! Then I played Bears in Space and a techno party called VSL and it wasn't long before I was getting booked to play all over America. I was contacted by the booker for Panorama Bar asking if I’d go play there as they liked the show. I mean how fucking cool was that. 

 

KJL

Then you became Mrs. Lovefingers, and the world was your oyster!

 

HL:

Yes! And one of the first clubs I played was Panorama Bar! I had two years of bliss DJing all over the place, and now I'm landlocked again. Thanks Coronavirus!

 

KJL:

Anyway, as we’re on the subject, what do you think a post-Covid clubbing world will look like?

 

HL:

I’ve been in this industry for so long and have seen so many things come and go and so many things change. When Leigh Bowery died, when Breeze died, when Frankie Knuckles died, when The Paradise Garage, Shelter and Plastic People closed – turn the lights off. It’s over. But it wasn’t. So although I'm devastated for everybody I also have really mixed feelings because also, BURN IT TO THE GROUND! IT NEEDED A RESET! 

 

KJL:

What about all the #MeToo stories coming out of the dance scene…

 

HL:

I’ve never been assaulted or mistreated in a sexual way, only professionally, but I have been told about it, and confronted people. There’s a promoter here in LA who I believe bullied their way into the scene, I thought they were really fucking sussed immediately. And then this person is accused of rape and admits to raping a girl. I’d seen them operate and how they behaved and spotted red flags. And very few people are holding this person accountable, but they were happy to lay into me for questioning their place in the scene initially!? It appals me and I said, “I don't want any part an LA scene that functions like this. I'm over it. I'm done” but then of course it’s who I am, I’ll continue to fight for *actual* safe places. 

 

KJL:

I can totally understand how that would have made you furious. Sounds like classic DARVO.  

 

HL:

A while back a friend called and said her friend had a really bad experience with a male DJ. I’ve since spoken to three different girls about him, none of whom have told their story publicly, so I won’t name names. One friend was crying on the phone recalling details, and said something that stopped me in my tracks; “He's your friend, he’s everyone’s friend, so I thought he was okay.”  And I felt SO responsible. I wasn’t there, I had no clue, but I talked to him and he was all “I'm really remorseful”. I said my piece, and had him talk to the girls directly, but I know I can’t work with him again, there are too many great people out there, why elevate any suss ones? Again, it didn't happen to me but it happened adjacent to me, by someone I know in our global community and it was fucking devastating. 

 

KJL:

Speaking of predatory men, it’s the election next week. Hopefully everybody is reading this in a world where Biden and Harris won the election, and can start attempting to repair some of the damage the tangerine tonsil has caused. Ok last question, favourite end of night track? 

 

HL:

Oh I hope so. Favourite? Well shit it really depends on the night tbh, I like to leave it on a high, let’s go with the last one I played in a club – ABBA “The Visitors” it was an absolutely perfect moment, thank fuck I have it to hold on to.