Chris Lake Tells the World How to Write a Club Anthem

Never heard of UK DJ-producer Chris Lake? Then you're hopelessly out of the loop, because he's one of the greatest EDM stars in the world. Some notable stats: Two Billboard Dance Airplay Chart number ones, several US Dance Chart top tens, and "the best thing to come out of Scotland since Mylo," according to BBC Radio 1 über-tastemaker, Pete Tong.

But Lake prefers to hype his music, not his accolades. And following 2005 vocal house smash "Changes," he would go on to remix Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Black Eyes Peas, while banging out his own chart-topping anthemic house originals.

Most recently, Lake has teamed with Italian producer Marco Lys for the full-length album, Cross The Line, due out November 29 on Nervous Records. With its infusion of electro-house, disco, and everything from bebop jazz and Latin to music of the American South, this is an ambitious work that offers a little something for everyone.    

We caught up with Chris Lake ahead of his Saturday night performance at Cameo to talk about the new album, his eclectic influences, and how to write a club anthem.

New Times: You've climbed the international ranks and charts pretty quickly these last few years. To what do you attribute your professional success?

Chris Lake: Well, I'd like to think it's my music hopefully, as I'm not some loudmouth showboat kinda guy grabbing attention by being seen here or there, or whatever. I'm just a guy who started making music because he loved it, and somehow ended up with a career in it. I'm very lucky!

What gear are you using in the studio and how do you normally approach a track from start to finish?

Most of the stuff is done in the box now. I run a Mac with Ableton Live, and sometimes Logic Pro, with various plugins like all the Arturia and Native Instruments bits, and processors like the Cytomic Glue, Sonnox plugins, etc. Then for outboard, I run a Universal Audio LA610 mic pre and compressor, Moog Voyager, Nord lead 3, Dave Smith Prophet 08, etc  As for my approach, it varies, but most of the time it descends from a rhythm and bassline. I just play around with synths, and tweak away until I dig something. I write pretty quickly.

You've spent some time in the studio with Deamau5. How did you two first hook up and what has he imparted to you as a producer?

I was introduced to his early music by a friend, and I got in touch. I ended up heading to Canada to work with him for a few weeks, which was fun. He's a super talented guy, and deserves all the success he has. He taught me a few tricks, which I'll take to my grave though. [Winks]

Cross The Line has a lot of eclectic influences beyond EDM. How do you account for the diversity of sounds on the album?

I get influenced by so many things, and I rarely approach a record worried that it sounds too this, or too that. The only thing I don't want it to sound is too shit. I love listening to all sorts of genres, with my favorite being ambient and downtempo. Artists like Air and Amon Tobin really inspire me.

What prompted the album's release on Nervous Records instead of your own Rising Music imprint?

Nervous have done a great job with a few of my singles in the past, and it seemed like the right thing to do -- to give the record a chance to reach the North American audience.  Nervous is a bunch of guys passionate about music, and seem to love what we do, so these are the sorts of people we like to deal with.

What is the status of Rising Music these days? Any forthcoming projects or releases?

Well, for now we're putting out some singles from the album, the next one being "Running Out", with remixes from L.A. Riots, Redroche, Mind Electric and Jordy Licious. After that, I have a few new singles I want to get out there, along with some other new bits I've signed while out here in America. Watch this space.

Putting aside your penchant for eclectic sounds, what do you think is the formula for a club anthem?

It just has to have the right emotion. A great example is Dennis Ferrer's "Hey Hey".  It's not a dancefloor destroyer in that it's got massive rises and falls, but damn it works somehow, as the emotion of the record is PERFECT. You just have to capture a moment. "Changes" was like that for me. It's mixed pretty bad, but it just worked as it captured a raw emotion.

What's your working relationship like with Marco Lys, and what did you each contribute to the album individually?

Marco is amazing, and a good friend. We met a few years ago as he got in contact to say "thank you" for playing one of his remixes on my BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix. We've been friends ever since, and we work really well together. He's much better at rhythms and mixing than me, and I'm a maniac when it comes to writing riffs, creating sounds, etc.  Most of the time we work in the studio together, either in London at mine, or at his studio in Italy, but failing that, we collaborate via the internet, which I can't say I love doing, but it works, as we have a good understanding between each other or what each track needs to work.

For example, "Running Out" was a demo we put together in Italy in one day, and we just had a mock breakdown, and a groove down. I then traveled to the USA for a week or two for gigs, and I put down the arrangement on the plane, and tested it out at my gig that night. I then sent it back to Lys, and he put his finishing touches to it, and that was that track finished. I can't say they were all that easy though...

What does the future have in store for Chris Lake?

I'm loving what I do, so I just want to keep touring and producing as I have been, but I've been thinking about developing an alias for another sound I've been working on. I love making ridiculous noise with synths, and I've made some pretty damn crazy tracks that I want to put out without people going "what on earth is Chris Lake doing?" Think I'll do that in 2011.

What can Miami expect during your Saturday night performance at Cameo?  

I'm going to crack up the energy, make people shake their ass, punch their fists, and sweat like they're in a sauna!

Chris Lake. With Christian Falero. Cameo. Saturday, November 20. Doors open at 10 p.m. $20 in advance from 1445

Washington Ave., Miami Beach. 786-235-5800.