A Sit Down With DJ Christopher Lawrence
Christopher Lawrence. It may not have the same ring to it like Tiësto or Daft Punk but it does carry the same weight. Many would argue that it carries more. The California producer and DJ has been a mainstay in Trance music for over 20 years and won Best American DJ at the IDMA's at WMC in 2005 as well as being voted as America's Best DJ in 2008 by DJ Times. Aside from his list of awards, he's also been described with possibly every positive adjective in the English language by music journalists for his balance of progressive sounds and the original spirit of Trance. Two of his albums have charted on Billboard's Top 10 lists and he continues that level of quality with his two labels, Pharmacy and Pharmacy Plus. The dedication to his art is apparent as he told us his views on the power of music and shared his story of falling in love with Trance.
"The fact that I can still be inspired by the music is exciting and it's a testimony to the type of music that it's always evolving."
How and when were you introduced to electronic music?
I had been clubbing since I was sixteen in the underground San Francisco scene. I went to my first acid house and techno party in 1990 and never turned back. I had never experienced music that spoke directly to my soul before. I knew immediately this is where I belong.
What events that you played at just put you over the top?
There have been a lot of fantastic events lately, especially the Organic Music Festival here in Los Angeles, Mandarine Park in Buenos Aires, Luminosity festival in The Netherlands, Digital Dreams in Toronto, and of course Burning Man which was incredible as always.
When did you decided to start DJing and how did you go about it?
I had always collected records. Shortly after I started going to the underground rave parties in San Francisco, I began buying all the acid and techno records I could. The other DJs at the time weren`t playing the music that I liked the best so I taught myself to DJ so I could play house parties for my friends. My popularity grew and soon I was doing beach parties and warehouse break in parties. As my following grew so did the paid gigs. It was really all by accident.
What are your thoughts about genre psytrance, becoming more known and emulated in the mainstream dance world?
I think it is great that psytrance is getting the recognition it deserves. I have been playing psy in my sets for twenty years and it is still some of the most well-produced music being made. Traditional trance had become stale and needed an injection of new sounds. I just hope that psy doesnt get stripped of its integrity and left used and abused in commercial dance musics trail of destruction. It happened to trance fifteen years ago, then progressive house and dubstep.
What's your favorite record of all time?
Thats an interesting question because it changes all the time. My current favorite record of all time is "Passion" by Gat Decor.
Tell us a little bit about your label: Pharmacy Music. What made you want to start your own label? How did you come up with the name?
I started Pharmacy as an outlet for not just my own tracks but as a way to release tracks by other artists that were producing the sound that I played. I knew that there was a lot of great music being produced, especially by new artists, that other labels were not releasing. I would go to events and people would hand me CDs with amazing tracks on them that they had made. I knew the only way these tracks would get released is if I did it. Pharmacy was really a way for me to get the sound that I liked pushed out to the rest of the world.
People nowadays claim to be trance artists, but stop the vibe and set, and do not incorporate that fluidity and flow of music.What do you think?
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.
What do you look for in artists that you sign to your label, and how involved are you with helping new artists grow?
The number one criteria for signing a track is Would I play it? Its as simple as that. If I wouldnt play it I am not going to put it out. I have received a lot of amazingly well-produced tracks that I knew could be big but I passed on them because if they were not something I could see myself playing, they were not the Pharmacy sound. I am quite proud of the artists on the labels and the music they produce. Now that the Pharmacy nights are taking off it is fantastic opportunity to showcase the artists.
What kind of path has it been for your journey in the music world?
To be honest I came up as a DJ at the perfect time. In the early 90s there were not that many of us that played techno and acid house as it was called. As the scene grew, I grew with it. I think it would be much harder to break thru as a new DJ today than it was back then. One of the major differences as well is that DJs were DJs and producers were producers. Now you have to be both.
What is the hardest thing youve ever done in your career?
The hardest thing was becoming a producer. When I began DJing in the early nineties, DJs played parties, producers made music and the two rarely overlapped. Over time that changed and DJs began producing, and producers began DJing. After being a DJ for many years it was really hard to make music. When I started making music I would compare my production to the tracks I was playing out and it always came up short. I was very insecure about my music. To this day I still find it hard to complete anything by myself. I have tracks that I have spent months working on and never released them. That is why I like collaborating with other artists. With two people you have to make decisions quicker and move on. Its also just a lot more fun to make music with a friend. Given the choice of sitting in a room by myself or having a laugh with a friend, Ill take the latter every time.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years in terms of your music and label?
I expect to see Pharmacy Music continue to grow as the artists on the label grow. I am so proud of the label and the incredible talent of the producers in the Pharmacy family. I hope that I continue to grow as an artist and DJ as well. Music is my passion.
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