Christopher Lawrence: Heading Home

Currently promoting his latest mix compilation entitled Rush Hour, America’s top trance DJ Christopher Lawrence chats to inthemix about the importance of mix-CDs in 2010, and bumping into your kid’s school teachers at parties.

You have been based here in Australia for some time now. How has that impacted on the touring schedule? How are the frequent flyer points going?

Being based in Australia has been very difficult. Because it is so far away from the rest of the world I have had to go on the road for three to four weeks at a time. It makes it hard to work on music and I rarely see my family. For this reason we are moving back to Los Angeles. I have loved living in Melbourne, but it is just not practical at this time in my career. I am sure that we will move back at a later date.

Your latest mix compilation is inspired by and based on your online radio show, Rush Hour. In this current age of podcasts and free internet radio shows, what value do you think a ‘traditional’ mix compilation CD still holds?

You are right that in the current age podcasts and internet radio shows have made the physical CD almost obsolete, but I think that in itself is what makes the traditional mix compilation on a CD so special. The CD sets itself apart from the abundance of digital media. It is a tactile experience with a booklet and photos. For me as a DJ, knowing that I am mixing a compilation that will be manufactured as a CD, I put a lot more work into gathering the tracks for the mix.

You were booted out of the DJ Mag Top 100 poll for 2007 after “voting irregularities” in 2006, but then cleared of any wrong-doing later. How much of an impact has the poll had on you personally, both when you charted quite highly and then when you were not in it at all?

Surprisingly, the poll doesn’t have as much effect as you would think. At the end of the day, promoters book DJs that they make money on. That is the bottom line. A DJ either draws or they don’t regardless of their poll position. There are the few exceptions in places like China where a sponsor may say that they will only book a DJ that is in the top twenty of the DJ Mag Top 100. There are a lot of talented DJs that do not place in the poll but still have international recognition.

You’ve been taking your wife into the DJ booth with you under the moniker Mr & Mrs Smith for a while now. Do you ever argue inside the booth over tunes? Does she take the headphones off to remind you to take the rubbish out when you get home afterwards?

Ha! She has never reminded me to take out the rubbish while we were in the DJ booth, but we have had arguments over who gets to drop a particular record in the set. Most of the time we divide the tracks up pretty well based on our own personalities and the character of the record, but sometimes there is a dope track that we both want to drop. It is a tricky situation because when you are married, it doesn’t end in the DJ booth…you take that home with you.

Who is looking after the kids when mummy and daddy are out rocking it late? Have you ever randomly bumped into a babysitter at a party or anything like that?

The kids usually stay with their grandparents, who are fabulous with them. We have on a few occasions run into their crí┬Ęche and school teachers at shows – it’s quite funny, especially if they are off their head! On Monday morning everyone just pretends as if nothing ever happened. If only the kids knew!

The sound you two are playing together is a bit of a departure from what you are known best for. What has the response been like from the old school fans?

The old school fans have been really digging the new sound. One of the reasons is because it is a tough unrelenting electro sound – no fluffy bits – which is similar in a lot of ways to the way I play trance. Also, most people like a variety of sounds and are open to a good set if played well. I have even regained some fans that moved away from trance but have come back around to the new sound of Mr & Mrs Smith.

The office of your label Pharmacy Music is only a couple of suburbs away from my house. If I lead a clandestine black-ops late night raid, what goodies could I expect to come away with? What’s coming up?

If you were to successfully complete your clandestine operation you might find the new releases by Magnus called Forward Command and Eclipse. If you were really lucky you might find the as yet untitled release from Sean J Morris and myself. It is a psy-trance influenced monster of a track!

You have mentioned your views on your nation’s politics in past interviews. How has it been living and playing under the shadow of the RAVE act? Do you think dance music, in particular trance that isn’t often heard on mainstream radio, can be an effective tool for getting a view across?

Things have lightened up a bit in the US regarding EDM. Possibly because there are far more pressing issues like the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think that the old saying “teach by example” is what is most applicable in the dance music situation. The more successful events that take place without incident, the more that people will learn to accept raves and clubs as positive forms of entertainment and not the evil that the media has tried to portray them as.

People like David Guetta have been described as instrumental in the rise of dance music in the US and former underground stalwarts like Gatecrasher now offer VIP private booths with champagne. Has the underground come to the top or is it diving deeper? Where is ‘the scene’ going?

The scene is going in many different directions simultaneously. There is definitely the above-ground, more commercial aspect to dance music which is helping to increase its popularity as it crosses over to the mainstream. But at the same time there is a strong underground scene that is thriving. There will always be people looking for an experience more special than a club of undiscerning people listening to a DJ play the hits. Both scenes are necessary for the survival of EDM, but it is the underground that is the driving force.

Rush Hour is out now on Moist Music.