We had the opportunity to sit down with one of the leading figures of the underground Trance sound. Here’s what he had to say.
TranceMag: Hi Christopher, how are you doing? First of all, thanks a lot for letting us take some of your time to do this interview. We at Trancemag really appreciate it! Where in the world do we find you answering these questions?
Christopher Lawrence: I am home in Los Angeles taking a couple weeks off touring to get some work done in the studio before the new year.
TM: Let’s start off with a little introduction for our readers who may be new to your music. When did you first become interested in DJing? Producing? Who and what inspired you to follow this path?
CL: I began DJing in 1992 after I went to my first acid house party. I fell in love with underground dance music the minute I heard it. I began collecting records and learned how to DJ from a DJ that worked at one of the record stores I shopped at. I never imagined at the time that the scene would grow as big as it has. The idea of being an international DJ didn’t even exist back then.
TM: What kind of path has it been for your journey in the music world? Has it been easy? Difficult? A little bit of both?
CL: A little of both. 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.
TM: What are some of the changes you have noticed in the music industry now, compared to when you first started (DJing, Production wise)? Do you prefer the industry today, or back when you first started?
CL: I have loved every stage of the journey this industry has taken. There are times when I am nostalgic for the early days when my focus was on DJing and playing vinyl. There was an innocence about the scene. We were creating it as we went along. Which brings us today and I can talk for days about the changes. The most obvious is the production power that you have now in a home computer and home studio. It used to take heaps of outboard gear and a computer that could only run midi and no audio files. What you can do now with a laptop is incredible and every year the technology gets better and better. I could never go back
TM: 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?
CL: 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.
CL: Pharmacy Phase 6 is a compilation made up of the best tracks on Pharmacy over the past year. It’s not just a compilation, though, what makes this series special is that every Pharmacy Phase release is mixed by one of our Pharmacy artists. Past compilations have been mixed by Fergie & Sadrian, Jonathan Allyn and Frost Raven. I feel that a mixed compilation gives the listener a better experience than just a selection of tracks randomly playing from start to finish. Pharmacy Music is more than about just great sounding tracks. The label and the artists behind the label are about a sound, a very sophisticated underground psy trance sound that incorporates traditional trance elements with the hypnotic groove and power of psy trance. But more than anything, Pharmacy Phase 6 is a showcase for the impressive talent of the artists on the label.
TM: This has certainly been the biggest and most bold entry in the Pharmacy Phase series. Twenty nine new tracks, and two continuous mixes. Could you give us a little behind the scenes info on it? When did you start looking for brand new material? Was there a certain feeling you were going for? How long does it usually take to put the compilations together?
CL: Over the past year we have ramped up our release schedule due to the incredible tracks being produced by our amazingly talented roster of artists. All or our releases have been charting on the Beatport psy trance top 100 with many entering the top 10. This is quite an achievement and I am proud of the artists on the label. Because there were so many great tracks to choose from it was nearly impossible to know where to begin. I ended up narrowing it down to fifty tracks and just started playing with them. Normally a mixed compilation like this would have ten to twenty tracks at the most but as I worked with the tracks I found a flow and rhythm that worked beautifully. The result was a mix made up of twenty nine tracks. It was like a novel and to take out one chapter would ruin it. After several listens all the way thru I just went with it. The mix is actually meant to be listened all the way thru but had to be divided in two because the file was too big for digital distributors and retailers. It ended up taking three weeks to put the mix together because of the number of tracks and because I am a perfectionist.
TM: You’ve been doing the Pharmacy Phase series since 2011. What compelled you to start it? What does the future hold for the series?
CL: I started the Pharmacy Phase series as a way to showcase the incredible music that had been released and more importantly to showcase it in a continuos mix by one of our artists. Pharmacy music is first and foremost a label that puts out quality music to rock the dance floor, from dark sweaty after-hour clubs to the main stages at festivals. The Pharmacy Phase series puts the music in that context as a set that would be played at a party. I see a long and successful future for the series as the label continues to grow.
TM: To expand on the last question, what does the future hold for Christopher Lawrence? For the Pharmacy Music label? Can we expect some fresh new productions from you soon?
CL: I already have several new productions lined up for the new year which is a exciting. Going into 2017 the tour dates are looking great as well beginning with two Fleming & Lawrence shows over New Years, the first on the 30th in San Francisco and the second on NYE in Toronto. There are some big festivals across the US confirmed but I can’t announce at this time. I can tell you that I will be performing at the Luminosity 10 year anniversary Festival the summer. Pharmacy Music has been so successful that last year we split it into two labels, Pharmacy Music which is dedicated to psy trance and Pharmacy Plus which is for trance, tech trance and progressive house. Both labels are looking great with fantastic releases coming up from our amazing roster of artists.
TM: Straying a little from the subject, this is something we’ve been wondering about for a while, and it relates to arguably one of your biggest tracks: How did the inclusion of Rush Hour on the Need For Speed Underground 2 soundtrack come about?
CL: To be honest, it was just luck. Someone in the development department of the game was a fan of my music and wanted the track included in the soundtrack for the final game. I was contacted by Electronic Arts and offered a license for the use of Rush Hour. I was blown away and of course said yes.
TM: Before we head out, do you have any parting words for our readers? For any upcoming DJs and Producers who want to make it big in the industry?
CL: Play from your heart and follow your dreams. But be prepared to do a lot of hard work and preparation so that when your one lucky opportunity comes your way you are ready. I think if you ask any DJ they will tell you the same thing. There is always that one lucky break. You never know when it is going to come but when it does you have to seize it. That is when all the years of hard work pay off. Lastly, thanks to you and your readers for your support.
Thanks for your time, Christopher! We look forward to hearing more from you in the future!