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At the end of 2019, the musician Damian Lazarus was brainstorming a new album. The DJ, who is known for his mysterious house music and sunrise sets, is equally acclaimed for his work ethic. After performing close to 150 shows around the world that year, he was looking for a reset. His hectic travel schedule wasn’t allowing him to take stock of what truly mattered— global issues, taking care of himself, and watching his family grow. He was grappling with ideas of spirituality and religion.
Just a few months later, he checked into a medical center in the Swiss Alps to detox. He partook in daily health screenings, followed a liquid diet, swam, and took time to reflect. He began to see through the haze, and went on to write the lyrics for the album Flourish before returning home to Tuscany to continue.
In September 2020, the day before the release of Flourish, Whitewall spoke with Lazarus on Zoom about the new album, how he’s fostering community, and what role sustainability plays in his music scene.
WHITEWALL: What was the epiphany you had that led you to beginning Flourish?
DAMIAN LAZARUS: One night I went out onto the balcony and was looking over the mountain range opposite of me, and in the center of the mountain was what looked like a flickering fame. I’m sure it was just the cafeteria where they keep the lights on at night [laughs], but I had this impression that it was a spirit fame in the center of the mountain that was going to explode the snow and take us all into another dimension. My mind was wandering. I turned that into a song idea. I wrote “Mountain” there, lyrically, but I also got ideas about what I wanted to do musically. After that week I came back home, rested for a few days, and then got straight into it.
WW: Shortly after you began writing your album, COVID-19 struck, and Italy was one of the first countries to be hit the hardest. What was that like?
DL: The thing I was actually looking forward to was taking stock and resetting. By being in nature, by watching my kids grow up—they’re two and four—and by being at home, I was able to see what I’m happy with and proud of and share it with them. I watched things grow, helped things grow, and just chilled. It made me realize this is the moment to reset and there will be a better future. There has to be.
That’s when I wrote “Into the Sun,” which started to turn things around for me. Once I realized I had something beautiful and uplifting, yet still with a bit of that edginess and darkness, I looked at some music I was previously making that was really dark and realized how I could brighten the mood a bit.
I went through some type of rebirth during this period. I’m still trying to get my head around what’s been happening. For someone like me, who does over 150 shows a year and traveling every week, coming in and out of family life, this is a massive shock to the system. It makes you question whether the career that I have is something I want to continue doing in the way that I have been.
WW: You and your label, Crosstown Rebels, foster experience, in addition to releasing music. For years, you’ve been bringing people together for standalone parties and festivals like Day Zero in Tulum and Get Lost in cities around the globe. How are you strengthening community?
DL: From the events perspective, I would never want to be accused of just putting on a party for financial gain or to massage the ego. My reason for doing Day Zero and Get Lost is literally to bring a community of like-minded people who like the music together. I don’t really like a “them” and “us” scenario at parties; it’s about collective thinking. Togetherness.
With the label and the music I release, it’s a reminder to the community that I’m still there looking out for them. If we can’t be partying together every week, I can feed you gifts of music that I’m finding or making to help you feel like you’re still a part of this family—make people feel like they’re involved in something positive and forward-thinking.
WW: How are you considering sustainability?
DL: It’s still in the works, but I’m launching Crosstown Consciousness. One of the things we’re doing is for carbon offsets. I’m working with my travel agent to get a better handle on responsible travel within the DJing world. We want to raise money that we can put into worthy causes—specifically, greener travel. If we’re having a party in Mexico and we’re expecting people to fly in from all over the world, they also want to know what they can do to offset their footprint.
I’m also working with a company called Orca Sound Project that makes this machine that takes mixed plastic waste and turns it into building materials. This machine is really exciting because it
means we’ve found a solution for when we go to other cities—we can [use it to] grab plastic from landfills, turn it into these blocks, and then use that recycled material to create the festival—staging, art installations, furniture, bars—all from this recycled plastic.
And my new album is completely eco-friendly. It’s made by a new company in Amsterdam that’s making the vinyl—the greenest vinyl production plant in the world. And my new website is completely green, optimized in a way that uses less energy.