DJ twins introduce Dubai to their brand of soulful house. Time Out tracks them down to see if they're really related.
Twin turntable talents Bobby and Steve Laviniere have been at the heart of the UK house scene for the best part of 25 years. From their early days in a London wine bar, through their 80s warehouse raves and shows on then-pirate radio station Kiss FM to their regular gigs in Italy, Ibiza and Miami, they’ve shared an incredible history and risen through the ranks shoulder-to-shoulder with other dance luminaries such as Norman Jay and Trevor Nelson.
But how does it feel to reach a quarter of a century as a professional DJ? For Bobby, it’s a strange feeling. ‘We step back and look at what we’ve achieved and the people we’ve met and you wonder where all the years have gone. Sometimes you meet people who’ve seen you on stage and they say, “Oh we saw you five years ago and since then we got married and had a kid,” and it’s a weird thing. But we’ve had such a great time and we’ve been very successful – which is fortunate, because we’ve put a lot of work and effort into our jobs.’
That effort includes regular appearances at the Miami Winter Music Conference, where, in 1994, the two made a name for themselves by becoming the first UK promoters to launch a soulful house party there. And they continued to innovate, says Bobby. ‘Over time, we realised that everybody who went to the conference was doing night time rooftop parties and so four years ago we said, “Let’s not do a night time party any more, let’s do a daytime one.” So we held Soul On The Beach, which started at 11am and finished at 10pm and we had 3,000 people coming to it over the course of the day.’
So with that instinctive knowledge of what the punters want, what does Bobby think of Dubai’s chances at becoming the next Miami or even the next Ibiza? ‘Dubai is going to be massive, definitely,’ he says. ‘What’s happening there is very exciting – you have so many ex-pats living there and so many DJs going out to play there, it’s a great place to be. It’s one to watch out for, no doubt.
‘You have to have the people and you’re developing the culture, and the interest is in the music there. It just needs one big four-day festival and it will be huge. There are lots of bars and hotels out there, but Dubai needs to have something to pull them all together and say to the rest of the world, “Come here! Look at this!” All the elements are there for it to work. And there’s interest aboard already – over the last three years it’s just the place everyone’s talking about around the world.
It’s all going to change out there.’ Of course, Dubai’s not the only thing changing in the dance scene. The legitimisation and growing popularity of dance music in general and house music in particular have a had a knock-on effect that Bobby isn’t entirely pleased with. ‘In the UK, being a DJ – it’s not even trendy, it’s just something that everyone wants to do. Everyone has CDJs in their house, everyone wants to be a DJ and it doesn’t matter whether they’re DJing in a club, DJing in a bar or DJing in a friend’s house.
‘And that’s good, because everyone’s trying but whether or not they’re going to make it as a career…’ he breaks off and laughs. ‘There have been a lot of young DJs out there doing warm-up sets and a lot of them have that special touch, but many of them seem to want to do it for the money. And that’s attractive, but when we did it, it wasn’t for the money – we had day jobs to keep ourselves alive and you had to be top of the game to get people to your parties.
‘A lot of promoters and DJs from that time, including us, had to put a lot of work in to develop the business and open these doors for people, and now there’s so much less pressure if you want to be a DJ. Do you know what I mean? Now the world is your oyster and you can make it big, but then only last for two or three years. It’s all different.’
Something else that bothers Bobby is the growth of the snobby DJ. ‘When we’re playing we’ll do house music, but we’ll throw a bit of disco in there as well. We’re good party DJs; a lot of people forget that it’s entertainment and that’s the whole point of it. You can show anyone how to mix some records together, but the goal of the DJ is to entertain the crowds, first and foremost.
It’s not about only playing a record when it’s underground and then not playing once it’s popular – if the crowd still likes it then play that and sprinkle in a bit of what you like on the side. It’s about giving them what they want. Make them happy and keep the crowd up there – that’s what’s important. You can show them some new stuff, but you have to keep them up there.’
And apropos of almost nothing – what about when he’s ‘up there’? Does his twin Steve feel happy too? Are these stories of psychic twins true? ‘We don’t get the physical connection, but the spiritual thing does happen – sometimes Steve’ll call me and I’ll go, “Oh, I was just about to call you.”’ And what about when Bobby’s unhappy? Does Steve get down too? If I’m unhappy and he’s not, then I’ll call him up and f****** make him unhappy,’ he laughs.
‘Why should he be happy if I’m not?’ Bobby and Steve play MoJo on Friday June 6.