Daydreamer: The Dance World According to Lee Burridge
All Day I Dream founder talks movement's global expansion and melodic dance music's moment.
The modern world of dance music production moves at warp speed, but the DJ/producer Lee Burridge savors patience. Though he's the founder of an increasingly popular party series dubbed All Day I Dream, which he estimates hosts six times as many guests as it did when it started five years ago, he's not interested in growth for growth's sake.
"Don't be in a hurry," he urged an imaginary audience of eager young DJs while sitting backstage before All Day I Dream's final event of the summer season at Governor's Island on Sept. 18. "Don't be desperate for success. It's hard to know it's going to be alright, that you don't have to panic, you don't have to sell out, you don't have to do anything," he continued, before delivering his rhetorical coup-de-grace: "You just need to be you."
This sort of statement is common for Burridge, who specializes in beatific language of self-actualization: "do everything from your heart," "express music in a pure way," "remember your inner child." In his world, we're all just one Burning Man away from enlightenment, and he has dedicated disciples — one girl who found her way into the DJ booth during his set had customized her umbrella with multiple pictures of Burridge.
Governor's Island has served as the site of several recent ADID parties. Manhattan skyscrapers loomed as a reminder of the daily grind, but they remain at a safe distance, stuck on the other side of a protective body of water. A raised, beach-like space — complete with palm trees — stood behind the dance floor, like a sandbox for adults; caftans, onesies, parasols, sheer fabrics, and captain's hats were in abundance.
Burridge wore a bowler hat, loose, pajama-like pants emblazoned with Keith Haring figures that cinched below the knee, and a heart-shaped pin attached to a sleeveless top made of meshy, burlap sack-like material. The teal laces on his large, multi-colored sneakers were untied, offering a nice contrast with his orange socks. He's wiry and tan, with a direct, blue-grey gaze and sharp stubble.
He presented ADID parties as an inevitable outgrowth of desire "to create my world, not just follow a direction." "I've always been a dreamer," he noted backstage. The All Day I Dream title grew out of a mix that appeared on the site Resident Advisor in 2008. You might not have pegged it as the mix that would create a small dance empire — Burridge's answer to the RA questions were glib, and he didn't provide a track list for the project because he was "having a bit of trouble remembering the names."
But he described the mix as "lovely, dreamy, gorgeous, melancholic music," and this turned out to be the crux of ADID's mission. "Minimal was an amazing moment for music and it lasted a very long time," Burridge recalled. But as a result, "less girls went [to parties]; it became less about community. It got quite cold — all drums and bleeps. We were calling it trendy pots and pans at one point."
His vision for the the ADID sound was accompanied by renewed commitment to social interaction at dance parties: "I wanted to create a place for people to get to know each other again," Burridge said. "Back in the day when people use to use chat room boards, people from London would know people from New York having never met them. I would like to create that sort of community where you travel around the world and people have common ground."
The first ADID party took place on a roof in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in 2011. It was in part informed by Burridge's experiences at Burning Man, where he is a regular (this year was his 12th in a row). The Brooklyn setting — "baking hot, grey" — shared some qualities with the desert in Nevada. "Color pops off of that," Burridge noted. "I was thinking ok, I need shade and color. Why don't we hang stuff." Many of the structures at ADID events, including the DJ booth, are built partially from bamboo, adding a natural touch, and being outdoors is an integral part of the events. "Outside, music spreads all around, it doesn't stop," Burridge said. "You are able to really immerse yourself in that feeling. Six years later we only ever did one indoor party."
At first, Burridge DJ'd the entire party solo. "That was one of the mistakes I made when started," he acknowledged. "I solidified myself so hardcore into it [that] it was hard to imagine myself doing an event without me in it. But of course it should be able to withstand me not being on board. This year we actually did some events without me [in Berlin and Beirut], and they went good."
As ADID expanded its party portfolio, it made sense to propagate the sound through original music as well, so Burridge started a companion label with Matthew Dekay. "I wanted to also be able to support artists that I respected," he explained. "Having a home which is an event — obviously most of people's earnings nowadays don't come from production, it comes from touring — we have an outlet where we can support their talent as performing artists but also as producing artists."
Each release on the label comes with artwork that depicts a lone cloud. Hoj, a long time ADID DJ who met Burridge at Burning Man and played before him at the recent Governor's Island party, helped create the visuals. "There was something interesting about a single cloud to me — every one is completely unique," he explained. "It represented a dream, since every dream will never be had again. The first years I would literally run around everywhere with a big camera look up in the sky. It's really hard to find a single cloud that's not attached to anything else. We called it cloud hunting."
One of the most recent additions to the ADID fold is the Belgian producer Lost Desert, who kicked off the festivities at Governor's Island. Burridge met him at a party in Antwerp. "He took me under his wing, which I love," Lost Desert said. "What I learned from Lee: patience. One of the first meetings we had on Skype, we were talking about some tracks, and he said, 'I like the patience in that track.' That's the first time I've ever heard that." (Burridge also came up with the name Lost Desert, which, he says, "fit in with Burning Man.")
The two men have a collaborative EP in the works, and the single, "Lingala," already has amassed more than 60,000 streams — making it one of the more popular recent releases on the ADID SoundCloud page. The track features vocals in Lingala, a language spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, courtesy of a singer named Junior. The well-known DJ John Digweed played the song recently during an interview on BBC Radio 1, and the South African producer Black Coffee has been playing it heavily as well. "It's so well-produced; I love everything about it," he told Billboard Dance during a separate interview. "It's African music packaged so well."
For Burridge, this is further proof of the value of taking your time. It's not surprising, then, that he's taking a "cautious" approach to ADID's expansion. "I like to pick very specific locations where I think the crowd will resonate with it, where it can do some good in the community," he suggested. "We've been talking for three years about going to Detroit. I'd like to take some of our love there and be a minuscule part of creating what is America's Berlin." (Burridge likes the concept of creating "America's Berlin:" in the same RA interview in 2008, he posited that San Francisco could earn that moniker.)
Burridge also hopes to put together an annual event to celebrate the diehard Dreamers. "I had this idea that once a year we would find one location globally — I found one in the Atlas mountains in Morocco — and throw a free event for all the people that are true lovers of what we do." But he's mostly set on growing in America, which "has the most potential for development." "There's so many people that don't know they like this yet," he added, referring to dance music.
Nowadays, melody is ascendant in the dance world, but this doesn't worry Burridge: "I don't think we need to jump off the ship because everybody else jumped on," he said. Instead, he sees a large, untapped pool of future listeners. "I always think of the untrained ear listening to my track and Justin Bieber's track. You might like one over the other more, but there's not much difference. If you're a 6 year old kid and you like Bieber, who knows what you're gonna like when you're 15?"
If that theory holds true, there will be music from ADID artists ready and waiting to enthrall a new audience. Burridge recently signed a track from Hoj, who only started producing his own music in 2015. The first time Burridge heard one of Hoj's tunes, he didn't think it was ready yet. "All I said was, 'I know you think it's important to put music out right now,'" he recalled. "'[But] you only need to release one amazing track.'"
The two camped together at Burning Man this year. "We listened to music that we're gonna play to see how it feels," Burridge said. "Hoj played a track, and I was like, 'wow, this is great! What is it?' He had a wry smile on his face — he said, 'this is mine.' I was like, 'this is the one I'm gonna sign.' A little patience goes a long way."
All Day I Dream will next take place in San Francisco on Saturday, Oct. 1. Info and tickets available here.