Christopher Lawrence: Do You Even Acid House?
In early December, prior to the massive hit of the Holidays, I had the opportunity to interview legend Christopher Lawrence at the annual Holiday Grove Fest located at Exchange Nightclub in Los Angeles.
While conducting the interview with Mr. Lawrence, I noticed that not only is he a totally awesome human being, but he is very passionate about the music he creates. He does not care about the superficiality of pop trance, rather he wants to showcase amazing tracks as pieces of a story to take listeners into another realm of the unknown. In my very first OTB article last year, I wrote about why electronic music was so important for the soul: “No matter the rhythm, I create the lyrics that are pertinent to my life; in a sense, electronic music allows me to be in control and alleviate any sense I want, depending on exactly how I’m feeling. The pressures of the world quickly trickle through the cracks, and I am set free.”
As a personal favorite DJ of mine, Christopher Lawrence has taken me into another dimension of the unknown. I literally am taken on a quest, like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings. His melodic meshings alleviate the daily struggles of the world, and enable me to feel emotions that I didn’t even know existed.
After listening to his new mix compilation Pharmacy: Phase 4 and conducting the interview, I realized that the category of trance is no longer what it used to be. It is both a blessing and disguise that technology has progressed; however, the flow and story told through trance music has dissipated and no longer exists. Veterans like Christopher Lawrence continue to keep the underground scene of true trance thriving; for those who believe they know trance, this is a must take a look at Christopher Lawrence’s epic weekly podcasts in addition to his new Pharmacy: Phase 4 mix compilation.
OTB: First and foremost, how did you get into the music you create and produce during your era? Specifically trance, what drew you into that?
CL: “I was sixteen when I started going to clubs in San Francisco, but it was not this type of music, it was alternative music like Depeche Mode, New Order, that kind of thing, so I was always drawn to electronic dance music and clubbing. Because of that, we were drawn to underground clubs and parties, which are quite similar to raves, where you leave one event and then they give you a flyer for the next event; at that time, that was the style of music. Then something happened; somebody discovered acid house in like 1990, and the music made a shift. I remember hearing a DJ from one of the parties playing acid house for a straight three hours, and I remember falling in love with it saying OH MY GOD! It was all music with 303’s, and I remember thinking this is what I wanted, this is where I want to be, this is where I want to live in this moment. At that time I did not know anybody who was DJing that type of music, but I did know who was collecting the records, and I would be hounding those guys asking if they have new acid house or techno coming in. So I just started collecting the music, while attending UC Berkeley. When at university, since I was the only one of my friends who had the records and this type of music, my friends suggested I should DJ and we could throw our own parties. I just taught myself how to DJ. I actually got some tips from a guy who worked at a record store: you have two records, and you have to get to the point to play these two records simultaneously.”
OTB: What is interesting though, is the way technology has altered and changed so much over the years. It’s amazing seeing DJs pre-technological advancements alter their style because of the technology.
CL: “Yeah, now you don’t even need to know how to beat match (laughs). You just push the button SYNCH (laughs). But yeah, thats really how I got into this kind of music, by default. No one else was DJing this type of music, I taught myself, and started having free parties at places like Golden Gate Park, and break in parties in warehouses. And the rest is kind of history, because I had a following. People at clubs would say ‘Hey, we will give you seventy-five dollars, and you bring your 200 fans’.”
OTB: You are kidding me, seventy-five dollars? (laughing)
CL: (Laughs) “Right, I would think THIS IS AWESOME, I CAN BUY NEW RECORDS.”
OTB: I am a fan of your Rush Hour podcasts. When creating them, what is your creative approach? What type of mindset do you have? What do you want your listeners to feel when listening to each podcast?
CL: “Well, the first bit is that I go through all the promos I have been given. Then I go online and shop, and look for all the new music that came out between the month after the last podcast and the new podcast. I then listen to EVERY SINGLE track in psy-trance, psy-progressive, and tech-trance genres. By that time, you have 20 to 30 new tracks; then its about finding the 5 or 6 tracks that will play together like a team; you can make awesome tracks, but not everyone can be an all star. Some tracks just don’t play well with others. Its about finding the tracks that play together and that tell a story. Somebody has to do the introduction, and by the end you are going crazy. Everyone is supposed to introduce everyone in the newest music, but it must also be a proper set. Because, I know a lot of people when they do their radio shows play a couple of tracks, then they stop and say, ‘Well coming up in the next track.'”
OTB: I hate that!
CL: “Right! Its like where is the vibe? You are a DJ, play a set.”
OTB: Thank you for saying that! SO TRUE! People now a days claim to be trance artists, but stop the vibe and set, and do not incorporate that fluidity and flow of music. I feel as if the musicality of trance is being lost. What do you think?
CL: “I agree. A lot of what is being called trance is not trance. There is two types of trance right now which are absolutely gross: 1. There is the full on commercial vocal trance; what is this… it is full on pop music that you call trance. 2. Then there is that big room EDM stuff that has some trance elements, some electric elements, and other elements, but you just can’t call that trance. So what is really sad is when someone like me comes along, and I say I play trance, people automatically think I play one of those two.”
OTB: Right! People automatically think your set is like W&W or Armin van Buuren.
CL: “I know, it’s not even what I do! And so what I have been saying to underground music is that the trance music term has been totally…”
CL: “Yes, it has been destroyed and hi-jacked. But I don’t know, I guess that’s the state of the way things are.”
OTB: So your new mix compilation Pharmacy: Phase 4, what was the background? How did you approach making this mix?
CL: “Well originally the Pharmacy: Phase 1 came out to showcase the new music that came out of Pharmacy over the last year, and the compilation was more of a collection of hits. This time, unlike the first time, was more difficult because we did not have as such good music, and now we have released music each week, and the quality these new producers are putting out on the label are so good. I would listen to the music and say OMG I WOULD PLAY THIS, and that is the point of a label, to put out music you would want to play. In the beginning, we struggled because we were a new label and didn’t have the type of music we wanted, and so we had to be picky and choosy. But when I went to create this new compilation, I have so many good tracks, that I had to narrow it down, which was difficult. For this Pharmacy mix, for the first time I was able to DJ a full proper mix and set: tell a story. And I was just so excited when I had it done, and so proud of the artists we have on the label.”
OTB: So, for this mix, what was your story you wanted to showcase?
CL: “The story is basically the story I try to do with every set. To start out at a point where you jump in and get everyone’s attention and kind of direct everyone down the same path, go a little dark, and then in the end there is hope. There is always hope in the end.”
OTB: Something to live for?
CL: “Yeah, something to live for. You are going through this journey; life… it can be difficult, it can be dark, but you always look for that hope in the end. I don’t know, for me, I make my sets that way.”
OTB: You move people.
CL: “Thats what I try.”
OTB: WOW! Awesome can’t wait to listen to it!
Stay up to date with everything Christopher Lawrence by checking out his:
PHARMACY: PHASE 4
1. Lisa Lashes – Dia del Presidente
2. Frost Raven – The Beast
3. Kessler – Mission Confidential
4. Kessler & Skydance – Planetarium
5. Dub Tek – Psyched Up
6. John 00 Fleming & Christopher Lawrence – Predator (Casey Rasch Remix)
7. Chris Oblivion & Astro-D – Step Beyond (Chris Oblivion Remix)
8. Liam Wilson – Tangled
9. Fergie & Sadrian – Soplo (Champa Remix)
10. Christopher Lawrence – The Dark
11. Splattered Implant & Nicholson – Outta Control
12. Christopher Lawrence – Whatever You Dream
13. Seven Ways & Planet Disconnect – The Samurai
14. Christopher Lawrence – Terminus
15. Digital Basement – Cosmic Traveller
16. Christopher Lawrence – Pharmacy: Phase 4 (Continuous Mix)
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