It’s always a pleasant surprise to chat with a DJ/producer who makes the interview process feel more like a conversation between two music lovers rather than a rock star and a some guy who pumps gas for the tour bus. I’ve had artists tell me they won’t answer a creative question (or so I thought) because “I should already know the answer” and others turn the tables in an effort to make me look like another oblivious member of the media. However, that was not the case during my interview with Chris Lake.
The House music DJ/producer hailing from the UK was not only polite, thanking me for taking the time to talk to him, but he even thanked our intern for transcribing the whole conversation – something I have never heard in all my years of interviewing musicians. It always seems that the nicest DJs should be the cockiest – and sporting a resume full of collaborations with guys like Deadmau5 as well as numerous Billboard chart-toppers, Chris Lake provides a perfect example of that phenomenon.
Check out what the artist had to say about his new compilation with Marco Lys, Cross the Line (now out on Nervous Records), the best cities in the U.S. for electronic music and his passion for disco.
Clubplanet: In the past year or so you’ve been collaborating with guys like Deadmau5 and Funkagenda. What do you get out of working with another DJ/Producer that you don’t get out of working solo, and vice versa, what you like more about working solo?
Chris Lake: I got to this point where I’ve spent so many years working by myself in the studio, and it’s great working your own vibe in your own head space, but it also has its drawbacks. You can sit there for days questioning whether something’s right or not, whereas when you’re in the studio with someone else they’ll just say, “That’s shit.” I really vibed off of the social aspect of music making this year. It’s something that I’ve intentionally done. In my opinion it’s reaped the benefits through the records; on most of the records you can hear there were good vibes in the studio. I’ve taken a lot from it, but now I’m moving towards solo stuff again, but collaborations with Lys, for example, that’s a mainstay. We’re definitely going to develop the “Lake and Lys” thing further. We get along really well and we work together a lot so I don’t see any reason to stop.
Clubplanet: Is there anyone else you mesh well with?
Chris Lake: I have a great relationship with everyone I’ve collaborated with. That’s probably the reason I ended up collaborating with them in the first place. Like my collaboration with Joel (deadmau5) for my new release, “Sleepwalker,” I did that in a hotel room last March. So, sometimes that’s the way the industry works – some records come out really quickly and some take ages, which was the way that one worked out. And “Sleepwalker” came about just ‘cause I played it one festival and Joel heard it and he freaked about it and asked if he could sign it to mau5trap, so I let him have it.
Clubplanet: You put out “Cross The Line” with Lys which came out at the end of last month on Nervous. What would you say that each of you bring to the table for this collaboration.
Chris Lake: Well, first of all, we’ve got a great friendship. He’s an Italian producer that’s been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. The first record he put out was in 1991, which was way before I put out a record or way before I even thought about putting one out. He’s extremely disciplined in music making, like when we’re working on a project, he wants to get every little sound right, whereas I get to the table and just write write write write write. I’ve got loads of ideas, I mean, I’ve got riffs coming out of every orifice of my body. [Marco] calls me “the riff man” and he’s really good at the rhythms. He starts pretty much all of the drum tracks we do together. He’ll spend like two or three hours on a drum track, with me sitting in the background not really doing too much. Then he’ll say “Alright, let’s get some music down on here.” For example, "La Trombona" – he spends three, four hours on the rhythm, then I come in and spend 20 minutes on the music. That’s pretty much how the song was done; that’s pretty much how most of these records come about, but, I mean, most of it comes from the vibes we have together. We’re always having fun - we make fun of each other. He’s Italian and I make fun of his accent because his English is really not as good as it should be. We just have good vibes in the studio and I think it’s reflected in the music.
Clubplanet: Good. That’s definitely important. Now moving on to your tour, was there a city or a club that you were most excited to play?
Chris Lake: San Diego… that was a fantastic show! And LA cause I hadn’t done a show in LA in years. I played at Avalon.
Clubplanet: Avalon is a great venue.
Chris Lake: Yeah, it was a really fun gig. It went down really well. Loads of people couldn’t get in, which was a shame, but the show was really good, I’m really happy with it. Then there was Voyeur in San Diego, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite clubs. It doesn’t hold too many people, but the vibe in there is fantastic and it just goes off. I was the first DJ to play for the reopening after their renovations. I played there on Saturday and it was just fantastic. So from there I’ve gone from sunny San Diego to sunny LA to freezing Winnipeg in Canada, and I’m not liking it.
Clubplanet: Well, it’s not too bad on the East Coast right now.
Chris Lake: Yeah, probably by the time I get there the snow will have come in and I’ll be depressed [laughs]. Nah, I’m only joking, it’s all good.
Clubplanet: In terms of electronic dance music, do you feel that there are any U.S. cities that are ahead of the curve?
Chris Lake: San Diego. I was really impressed with them. I didn’t really think they had much of a culture or much of a scene when I first went there, but now I’m really impressed. There’s some really clued-up people there loving the music really into the scene. And obviously there’s LA and New York: two of the most fun cities to play in. I’ve kind of been there done that, but it’s all starting up again; it all seems like it’s got this fresh blood, this new lease on life and it’s a very exciting time to be playing in the U.S.
Clubplanet: Wow, I didn’t know that about San Diego.
Chris Lake: Yeah, I don’t know what it is, I just love it there. Denver, too. Denver’s a great place. Detroit, too.
Clubplanet: Is there anything you would say that the electronic music industry is in need of right now?
Chris Lake: Well, I guess, in America it would be good if there was a bit more support for independent radio that doesn’t need to “balance books,” so to speak. So they could just play truly innovative dance music without needing the commercials flying to make it viable for the radio. We have a lot of things like that in Europe, which has been fantastic. It’s really helped feed the scene. There seems to be a lot going on in America on the commercial level, so maybe there needs to be more things on the grassroots level. There are a lot of things like Beatport, which is a great source for underground music. Maybe that’s enough, maybe we’ve moved beyond radio, I don’t know. I’m just basing that on what I see in Europe. We’ve had good things in Europe for a long time, but it seems as though America is moving maybe even ahead of Europe now.
Clubplanet: Oh, I don’t know about that.
Chris Lake: Yeah, it seems as though there’s more excitement about it here. That’s what it’s about, it’s all about good vibes. This goes back to how I talked about making music. It’s about the vibe and making it and the social aspect. That’s what dance music’s about. It’s about bringing people together and good vibes. And that’s what I’m liking about the American scene. I walk into clubs and people smile.
Clubplanet: I checked out your November podcast and it sounds like you’re inspirations are coming from a lot of different genres, which is my favorite thing about your music. Is there a particular avenue of dance music or any music that you’re particularly into at the moment?
Chris Lake: I think the podcast is a good way to understand what I like, but it’s also very difficult to draw conclusions to why I like it, because literally from podcast to podcast, I’ll play anything. I’m not thinking about just putting the biggest records on there, I just want to put records I like on there. I don’t give it too much thought, I just build up a playlist of records I’m digging on iTunes and I throw them on the podcast. I was shopping this morning looking for new records and I was listening to this ridiculously deep House record, and I put that in my crate. Then I was listening to some new records on Ed Banger, just like noisy electro and I’m loving it and at the same time I’m listening to a breakbeat record and then something from Amon Tobin, who does like kind of glitchy, intelligent electronic music and I love all of it. I can draw inspiration from all of it, it really doesn’t matter what genre it is.
Clubplanet: Do you have a favorite new producer?
Chris Lake: Let me look on my iTunes and I’ll tell you. I really like the stuff by these guys called Fire Beatz and these producers from America called Knight Riders, who I’ve done a track with actually. They do some really, really good disco. I love disco.
Clubplanet: Yeah, I’m obsessed with disco as well.
Chris Lake: I regret that I was born in the ‘80s, I wish I was born in the ‘70s. I actually wish I could grow an Afro. I’ve always wanted an Afro. I can just imagine myself with my flares, Afro, and my love of disco. Damn, I was born in the wrong decade.
Clubplanet: Do you have a favorite gig from the past year. Any particularly memorable shows?
Chris Lake: I had a really good one at Voyeur in July. On a Sunday night and it was just going off. I just love the intimate vibe; you can have a conversation with the crowd, not just make the crowd rock. I love parties like that. I also did a pre-party for the Exit Festival in Serbia. I played for like 3,000 or 4,000 people in this square, in this city in the middle of nowhere. I think it was the first time they’d ever had an electronic music event like that. It was just mental.
Clubplanet: It’s interesting that you say you like the smaller venues and then you can go to playing a show with 4,000 people. How do you change it up from one to the other? Do you just go with the vibe of the crowd?
Chris Lake: I suppose. I’m one of these DJs, who doesn’t really focus on what I’m doing up on stage and what I’m looking at. I’ve never thought the scene is about the person, I think it’s always about the music. I always just focus on the music and try to get it right. I just try to focus on what I would like to dance to and how I’d like to dance to it. I play to make myself dance, to make myself vibe, and if I can do that I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll rock the dance floor.
Clubplanet: Agreed. So what’s in store for for 2011?
Chris Lake: Well I’m not too sure. I’m kind of sitting here right now planning it all. I’m messing around with some records. I’m trying to find a new sound, as well. I’m just trying to figure out what exactly I want to do with my sound in 2011, just experimenting, making some new special recipes.