We talk to the man behind the beats as he looks ahead to his summer billing on Hideout.
Friend Within really needs no introduction – but he’s gonna get one anyway. Liverpool based Lee Mortimer burst onto the scene back in 2013, in no small part due to that indisputably excellent banger “The Renegade”: a song that’s no doubt soundtracked a great many of your wildest and sweatiest nights and early mornings in the mixer. That aside, though, he’s also worked with Karma Kid and Yasmin, DJ-ed in more places than you would care to mention, and consistently dropped excellent EPs (‘The Holiday’, in particular, is a standout) that get a whole lot of air time both on the radio and in the club. This summer, you can catch Mortimer at Hideout in sunny, sandy Croatia. If that’s not enough to get you buying a ticket (it certainly should be), then how does DJ EZ, Skepta, and Jamie XX sound? Thought so.
Over a crunchy cross-Britain line, we talk anonymity, Valentine’s Day, and why Glasto 2008 will always be the one.
You kept your identity concealed when you first started out, why did you decide to unveil your face to the world?
I didn’t really go out of my way to hide my face that much. I never wore a mask or anything when I was DJing but I was surprised how much the mystery increased people’s interest in my music. It wasn’t intentional but a very nice bonus! After a couple of years there were plenty of photos of me online so I just went with it.
Are you excited to play at some festivals this summer? How does the atmosphere differ from your usual club night venues? Which do you prefer?
It really is exciting when festival season comes around. You know how crazy us Brits get for the summer! The atmosphere at a festival can be influenced by so many more things than in a club. You’ve obviously got the weather to contend with and even things like how long to queue is for bar! If I really had to choose between the 2 I would choose clubs as I do love the intimacy. But getting the opportunity to play to thousands of people at once is incredible.
Favourite festival memory?
In 2008 I played at Glastonbury on the Arcadia stage. My wife and loads of friends were dancing below me and I had a view of the whole festival and thousands of people around me. I’ll never forget that.
Around 50 to 60% of your sets are made up of your own material, which other artists make the cut to feature alongside yourself?
I probably play less than 50% now. It used to be 100% when I started out as Friend Within but I was mainly just showcasing my own music. I’m a DJ at heart so it’s impossible to not play all the other good tunes that are out there. Needless to say I play loads on Dirtybird – such an awesome label. Big artists like Shadow Child, Eats Everything and DJ Haus of course. I’ve been digging stuff by Keeno18, Maximono, Solardo & MANT, The Mekanism, Qubiko.
What music did you listen to as a child? How has that influenced the tracks you create now?
I listened to dance music – House and Rave tracks that got into the charts to start with. I didn’t know about an underground scene or anything. I discovered Kiss FM when it was still pirate radio and loved it because it played all house and garage. I’ve still got a tape called Maximum Rave from 1992 which I loved! Has that influenced the tracks I create now? Er, yes!
You’ve been touring with Hannah Wants recently, how has that been for you?
Great. You know you’re gonna get a full house when Hannah is playing! And the crowds want to hear new stuff, they’re open minded. Hannah is smashing it.
What would you say was the best night of your life?
The first answer that came to mind was one of the first Valentine’s Days my now wife and I spent together. This isn’t a soppy story! We went for a posh meal and then took an impromptu trip to Fabric and had an amazing time. Don’t ask me who was DJing! We got out at silly-o’clock went to a park and played on the swings as the sun was coming up.
You’ve shown your opinion of Kanye West and Justin Bieber on Twitter recently, what is it about them that grates on you so much?
I get annoyed by the amount of coverage West gets so this question is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bieber just jumped on 2 popular producers but I guess that’s the way pop music works. Do you blame Bieber or the producers? I don’t know.
What can we expect from you after the festival season in 2016?
I’ll be sunburnt. And I’ll have a load of music and collaborations to put out. And a tour to go with it. Heard it here first!