Lee Pennington is one of the unsung heroes of electronic music. Over the last 15 years, he has been at the helm of one of the UK’s longest-running club night, *Riffraff and responsible for bringing Tale Of Us, Peggy Gou & Marshall Jefferson among others to the area of Teeside. As Lee Pennington’s stock rose so did his responsibility with him heading up the bookings at The Zoo Project Ibiza for the last few years.

Lee Pennington’s dedication to dance music is second to none and a string of chart-topping releases prove he is as talented in the studio as he is daft on the dance floor. As part of our Tour Baggage series, we invited him to tell us a bit about life on the road.

The city I would love to move to one day

I love NYC and would love to live there, I played a string of underground party’s in my early years and lived with the promoters which really gave me a taste of NYC life. Unfortunately, I can’t ever see me moving away from my nest which is Middlesbrough because all the people I love are here and I just love the place so much because of its insanity.

The last time I got into trouble with a hotel

On a riffraff trip to play Zoo Project, two of the lads in their Zooed up state decided to buy the largest dinghy I have ever seen and put it into their room. Before leaving they wanted to sail it and flooded the hotel room. We got in trouble for that. 

The last place to blow my mind was… 

I come from Middlesbrough so every single city from Dubai, Seoul, Barcelona, NYC, Berlin, Vienna. They all blow my mind, I love walking around them. I think the craziest city was Seoul, that was some experience because I played there for the 50th anniversary of the Korean War ending and it was bedlam, there were so many Koreans just sleeping on the street pissed. These Koreans weren’t homeless these were in shirts and ties and some clinging onto their briefcases.

I never get on a flight without… 

I sleep on flights, I like to get on, get my head down, sleep, wake up when landing so I miss the whole thing. I travel light, never check luggage in, just cram everything into my DJ bag, which is easier these days because my DJ bag doesn’t have records or CD’s anymore! Thank God for the USB, it beats lugging vinyl around like I used to or CD’s. The reason I travel light is because on my first tour of USA my bag was lost. This was early on in my career and so I learned the hard way, keep everything on me, with me ALWAYS!

The most surreal thing that’s ever happened to me while travelling was…

There are so many, I don’t really want to tell you about those special moments when I sit in a hotel such as the Atlantis in Dubai thinking “How did I end up here?” I don’t want to mention those moments in Watergate when a packed room is rocking it out to my own productions I am playing, and I think “How did I end up here?” I would rather mention a moment in a dark DnB afterparty in Seoul with my Zoo Project team after we played Ellui, being absolutely out of my mind at 9am asking Michael James if we were in a strip club and he just confirms “Nah mate these Korean chicks are just dancing on tables and getting naked to some DnB for a laugh” then I think to myself “How did I end up here?”

The most unique place I’ve ever played was...

 I love this question because out of all the places I have played in the world I am resident at Zoo Project in a Seal Pit and it is still one of the most unique places I ever play. I am also resident at riffraff and we put on parties in an old Victorian street house, so I guess its hard for me to pinpoint somewhere unique. I played inside a large wooden Owls head once with Lee Walker in a Forest, that was pretty unique… That was Zoo Project too though at the UK festival we did.

The daftest thing I’ve ever done while travelling

riffraff at Zoo Project Ibiza flight, my mate Carl Brown unbeknown to me as I had an hours shut-eye had told the cabin crew the following. I was a lover of fish and nothing else in life, that the heatwave in Britain had killed all my carp.

He informed them I was in a bad way about it and so the lads had all chipped in to take me on holiday. I awoke and the cabin crew gave me free drinks because they felt sorry for me. Carl told me we were in too deep with this story and typical Teessider I just went with it and played the role of this poor guy who’s fish had all died so we could get a few free drinks.

I could also mention the time my mate Sean pushed me around Belfast airport in a wheelchair which we had found pretending to be my carer. We decided to play pool and he had to keep wheeling me around to take shots. Finally, when they did last call for our flight I jumped out the chair and made a run for it…. It was a 50/50 split on peoples faces of who found that funny and who thought it was disgraceful. it will probably be the same split now from those reading it. I was much younger then.

The loneliest I’ve ever felt travelling was

There was one time this happened, I will never forget it. I had split up with a girlfriend and I had a gig at Jikka Jikka in Derry one of my favourite ever places to play. The year before was an amazing gig and experience and I was on a high but twelve months later and I was in a dip with my career.

I was sat in the hotel room alone after the gig and it was a dark time. However, I do what every man should do and picked myself up, then returned to Jikka Jikka with Zoo Project two years later, winning! You just have to keep going, remember we are all blessed to even have this life, learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them, but that was a dark time.

My Lost in Translation moment...

I recently had an EXACT lost in translation moment from the movie and its crazy you asked this question ha!

The best hotel I’ve ever stayed in…

 The Atlantis in Dubai, I walked onto my balcony and below was a pool with sharks in it. Honestly, some people say it’s the best hotel in the world and I think they could be right.

The worst flight I ever had…

One time the flight was delayed to Switzerland because the riffraff lads were sniffing poppers, (Yes poppers the substance gay men use) the pilot took off then mentioned they would be dealt with at the other end, it was a scary flight thinking they would be arrested. Poppers were legal anyway, so it was all fine.

Another time was when me and Dave Little one of the riffraff lads, flew to NYC for a gig straight from riffraff. Paul Bowen who we ran the event in Middlesbrough with had got into a fracas with some Gypsie lad who was kicking cars in and the Police got involved, meaning nobody was left to look after Matthias Tanzman who was our guest DJ in Boro.

We didn’t know the outcome of anything from that event and it was the longest flight of my life, I felt sick and was worried about Paul and Matthias. When we landed, we got on the phone and all was OK

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