Steve Bicknell

Since its inception almost ten years ago, Lost - run by Steve Bicknell and partner Sheree Rashit - has become one of the longest running and globally influential events in the techno calendar, pioneering the deep percussive sound from which much of the music within today’s scene derives

By Alex Ward

 
My memories of last seeing this legendary DJ/producer/promoter were vague, watching him huddled behind the decks three summers ago as I stumbled around a pitch-black warehouse in London’s Docklands at Lost. With a compilation CD scheduled for release in August, this man who has been prominent on the London scene since the heady daze of acid house is in rare flirting-with-the-media mode. "We don’t court the press – It’s not about that," maintains Steve. "Lot’s of people start a club and rely of the press to promote it, whereas we’ve built it up from a very small thing in to something that we’re comfortable with."

I try to find out a little more about the man and his music. Many see him as a purveyor of ‘minimalism’, and I ask him if he’s conscious of this. "To me, it’s just a word. People call us underground. People say this and that. Why minimal? A lot of the things we do you can’t really define. You can’t necessarily hear everything that’s in there, and that’s a conscious decision I make. It’s not about one part standing out, it’s about the whole thing."

It is in this spirit that Lost Recordings – The Collection, his first album to ‘represent the dancefloor sound of Lost’, is released on Sheree’s Cosmic imprint next month. Unusually, the CD contains mixed and unmixed segments because "that’s the way it worked". "We could have put it out on all formats, but I didn’t want to split the tracks. It’s about a block, and not just a record. It will be interesting to see how people work it out, how and where they listen to it.

First entering the public consciousness with his residency at the legendary Brain Club in Soho and his first release, The Gonzo on Perfecto, Steve established the Lost nights together with Sheree in late 1991, doing early gigs at the Vox in Brixton. "The second party we did got closed down by the police, so we made that decision then that every party had to be legal. We’ve got people travelling from all over the country and abroad. We’ve got DJs that we’re bringing over and we can’t afford to get closed down." Lost has always a standard of line-up worth travelling for, yet recently there have been a few rumblings amongst diehard fans. Accusations that Lost isn’t doing all in its power to support the thriving British techno scene that it so obviously helped to inspire. "When we started, the music was coming from Detroit, and we still have an American influence, but if you look through my record box, I’d conservatively say that eighty percent of it is British. Many of the people that have been coming are now making records and DJing. We’re really happy to be putting out their work, people who discovered techno through coming to Lost. We’ve got quite a few releases coming out and none of them are by American producers – people like Max Duley and Richard Polson, then there’s another guy who’s never done anything for anybody before, he’s just been coming to parties." But surely then irony exists in the notion of some American DJs performing at Lost, playing predominantly British records? "It’s not about a British or an American thing, it’s about a sound. We’re still happy with the people we’re employing and the music people are giving us to be released, and that’s what it’s about."

If recent line-ups have led to a little criticism through over-familiarity, few could deny that the thrust of Lost’s guest policy over the years has become of marked historical importance. Basic Channel played live, around about the time they were breaking a then unheard-of Jeff Mills into the UK. Lost’s events and Cosmic’s Clubtracks sub-label provided many people with their first taste of jackin’ Chicago, releasing material by the likes of DJ’s Funk and Deeon. Recent parties have brought new blood into the equation, with Dave Clarke, Surgeon and Oliver Ho (who described playing at Lost as a ‘rite of passage’) joining the lofty guest ranks. Is this a conscious effort to broaden horizons? "Dave would have played before, but he’s a very busy person. Oli [Ho] played recently, and like I said, there’s a turn around. We’ll see where it goes. In six months time it could be different. It’s not about putting someone on to draw a large crowd, it’s a very personal thing. I’m happy with what we’ve done and what we’re projecting. There’s nothing better than an educated crowd, and I think that’s what we’ve got a core of."

However, some argue that Lost’s offspring party, the housier ‘Burundi’ has put off some of its thoroughbred techno crowd due to its residence at classy London night spot, The End. Surely gigs here are far removed from the underground vibe of playing in warehouses? "What you’ll find is that some people will go to The End, and some people will go to Lost" he counters, placing a demarcation between the punters that both events attract. "Some people don’t like The End, and some do. If it does put them off, they’ve always got a choice. What do you do? Do you just sit in a corner and not let other people hear this music, or do you try and give them a choice? We’re still going to do the parties at The End. It [Burundi] was about creating another sound, away from Lost, and I think it’s working okay."

A new night, linked intrinsically with a label project, is on the cards. ‘Chiaroscuro’ will operate as another Cosmic sub-label, alongside a series of parties "that will work with incorporating more visual elements", according to Sheree. With the first release almost ready to roll, could this signify the next phase of creative development for the Long Lost couple? Watch this space.

 Photo credit: Great Blondino
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