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Redbrick Meets: Lewis Oxley
Greg Woodin talks Chapter XIII, Cloak n Dagger and hour-long DJ sets with Rainbow resident Lewis Oxley
Born in South Yorkshire, house/techno DJ Lewis Oxley fortuitously wound up living in Digbeth, Birmingham, about five minutes away from the Rainbow Venues, and hasn't looked back since. For several years now he's been a resident at the venue and in his time there has supported the likes of Nina Kraviz and Hot Since 82, amongst others. I caught up with Lewis ahead of his performance at Chapter XIII on 15th April at the Rainbow Venues.
You performed at last year’s Chapter event. Can you sum up what the festival is all about in terms of acts, vibe etc. and what it is you enjoy most about it?
Last year was my first Chapter Festival. I was lucky enough to play an extended warm up set on the main stage with Adam Shelton. I think we played for over four hours so it was really enjoyable to be able to start from the beginning and see the room fill up. I usually play smaller, intimate gigs so to perform in front of that many people was something new for me. The festival this year looks really strong. It’s more diverse musically than it has been in the past and there are even more venues. Art of Dark are hosting a stage with Zip and Treatment, and Social Underground have a great line up too. There’s something for everyone and it’s amazing to see such a huge event right on my doorstep.
You grew up in South Yorkshire. What is it about Birmingham that attracted to the city?
I grew up in South Yorkshire but lived in Leeds before I moved to Birmingham. Leeds is where I discovered electronic music about ten years ago. Even though there were plenty of things to do I would always find myself coming to Birmingham for the Sunday party Below. It used to be in the old Rainbow Courtyard. Whenever there was a party on we would literally spend all weekend in that pub! That’s where I met some of my best friends and I decided to settle in Digbeth. Birmingham has changed so much over the last five years, particularly Digbeth. It’s a city on the up, definitely.
“Birmingham has changed so much over the last five years, particularly Digbeth. It’s a city on the up, definitely.
How did you come to be a resident DJ at The Rainbow Venues?
I was asked to play at a few parties at The Rainbow when I first moved to Birmingham back in 2009-2010. Then I played my first Below with Craig Richards and Adam Shelton in The Rainbow Courtyard. Since then I’ve played regularly and I suppose it was a natural progression to become a resident. It also helps that your friends run the place!
Tell us a bit about Cloak n Dagger and how you got involved in that.
Cloak n Dagger also started around the time I moved to Birmingham. A few mates decided to start a small intimate Sunday party with the concept of not announcing any DJs or the location until the day of the event. I think I had just put out my first mix on Soundcloud and I was asked to get involved off the back of that. I played at the first party in an old, disused gentleman’s club in the Jewellery Quarter. To this day it has got to be one of the coolest spaces I’ve been to. It was on the third floor of an old Victorian building looking over Snow Hill train station. The room only held about sixty people but it was perfect. Since then I’ve played at every Cloak n Dagger.
The mixes you’ve posted up on your Soundcloud are dark, glitchy, low-key - even a little eerie at times. Which artists would you say have had the biggest influence on your sound?
I like dark/moody music in general! I rarely buy happy records, whether it’s house or techno. I go through phases but recently I’ve been buying a lot of minimal house and techno from around the early 2000s. Baby Ford is an artist whose records are always in my bag. I must play at least 2-3 of his tracks in every set. For newer stuff I really like Les Points. Almost every record they have put out I’ve bought so far. It’s a nice mix of club-orientated and experimental house and techno. And obviously anything on Perlon.
“I like dark/moody music in general! I rarely buy happy records, whether it’s house or techno.
Would you approach a mix for Soundcloud differently to a live performance? They’d be listened to in very different contexts…
I don’t put out many mixes in general so when I do, the focus is usually on structuring a bunch of records that represent what I’m playing at that time, new or old. I don’t really come up with a plan before recording a mix. I just try to arrange those tracks in a way that flows coherently. If I was putting out mixes on a regular basis I may approach it differently and try and do something not so club orientated.
Last October you performed alongside Nina Kraviz. Where does this rank in your list of top performances, and who’s on your bucket list of DJs to perform with?
I’ve been lucky enough to play before and after some amazing DJs. The Nina Kraviz show was great and the venue for it summed up Digbeth for me. In all honesty I don’t really have a bucket list of people I want to DJ with. Some of my close friends are the best DJs I know. Although last year I warmed up for Ricardo Villalobos at System in Leeds, which was cool.
If you could pick just one person, who would you most like to perform a back-to-back set with and why?
Back-to-back sets can be pretty hit and miss, I think. I keep seeing DJs performing back to back and all I can think of is I’d much prefer to see them individually!
Recently I read some posts on Facebook from DJs calling to ‘ban’ hour-long DJ sets on the basis that it’s difficult to take club-goers on a ‘journey’ in such a short space of time. What are your thoughts on this?
Hour-long sets are pretty pointless, 6-7 tracks and you're done! That’s not great for the crowd or the DJ. Two hours should be the bare minimum. Three hours is perfect. I think the reason why you see ten DJs on a line up with an hour each is purely to get the numbers in.
“Hour-long sets are pretty pointless, 6-7 tracks and you're done! That’s not great for the crowd or the DJ.
Do you have any upcoming shows or projects that you'd like to make our readers aware of?
I had a very busy winter last year and since then I’ve been focusing on my own music and production. Watch this space. I’ve just recorded a promo mix for the Chapter Festival, which should be out soonish.
You can catch Lewis Oxley performing at Chapter XIII on 15th April at the Rainbow Venues. Grab your tickets here.