America’s Got Talent with DJ Christopher Lawrence
Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 15:07
For the number of times that American trance DJ Christopher Lawrence has appeared on the top of DJ charts across the world, he’s a pretty humble guy. But he’s got a lot to brag about.
In a world dominated by UK and European DJs, Lawrence has spun his way to the top of the international electronic dance scene along with the greats. With the help of his weekly, globally syndicated radio show, “Rush Hour,” Lawrence put the US on the map in terms of progressive trance music. And, by producing and playing quality, true-to-the-genre trance tracks, he has earned the respect of his DJ peers.
Even after two decades of playing clubs and raves and touring the world, Lawrence continues to surprise his fans. His latest side projects, Fleming & Lawrence and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, see him playing side by side with trance legend John “OO” Fleming and his wife, Sara Finlayson.
Lawrence recently caught up with College Times over the phone while he was in the studio working on a new track. He let us in on the secret to his successful label and his thoughts on the top DJ competitions.
College Times: You’re not campaigning for DJ Mag’s Top DJ spot this year?
Christopher Lawrence:No, I stopped doing that. I used to waste time trying to campaign for those but the whole thing has just become really ridiculous. It used to be that it was a popularity contest but now its not even that, now it’s just who has the best internet viral marketing team and it’s, for the most part, not very relevant to what people like. I mean, people know who they like and who they don’t like and I think my time is better spent making music.
You’ve had a lot of success with your label, Pharmacy. A lot of people consider it the highest caliber for trance music. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s that Pharmacy has always focused on quality underground trance music. We haven’t gone the commercial route. We’ve stuck to a sound that I and the other producers on the label have championed. It has powerful big tracks without selling out or without having love songs in them [laughs]. We’ve stuck to what’s really cool, what’s tough, what’s underground and we’ve struck a chord with people. There are other like-minded people out there that appreciate people that are producing this music, and I am really excited about the team of producers that I’ve got for the label.
Do you maintain the same kind of philosophy in your own music?
Yeah, for my music that I play and produce. First of all, I know that I’m playing for a dance floor so the number one thing is that it has to work on the dance floor. I’m not there to educate the crowd [...] but on the other hand I don’t want to just pander to them to the lowest common denominator. I have a respect for my audience, and I trust that they want to hear quality music, not just something they heard on the radio or on a top 10 chart somewhere. I respect them enough to go out and do my homework and find amazing tracks they may have never heard before, but when they’re on the dance they floor they go, “Oh my god, what is this? This is incredible.” That’s the moment I’m looking for and that’s what I want in my music.
You’ve become very successful as trance DJ. Is this what you’ve always waned to do?
I never thought I would become a DJ. I went to UC Berkley and studied philosophy and English. DJing was something that I did in the early ‘90s just as a hobby. The whole scene was just starting out. It was just starting to evolve and at that time there was no such thing as international DJs. There was nobody touring around the world. I was in San Francisco and I played in the San Francisco bay area, then I started playing in the LA area when the raves really took off down here … and, I don’t know, it’s just one of those things that if you were in it at the beginning, you just didn’t know how big it could possibly get. Now I look out and I just think, oh my god, this is going to be the new hip-hop or rock, this is the new thing, you know? [Electronic music] is going to be the sound of this generation.
Yeah, it’s wild to think about. With the sudden explosion of EDM in the US, what do you think of this notion that’s being tossed around that DJs are the new rock starts?
Well I’ll tell you, they’re not the new rock stars [laughs]. The rock stars are rock stars. In fact a lot of the guys that think of themselves as rock stars are probably the worst DJs out there. [...] Some of the new DJs that haven’t grown with the whole scene, when they first start getting that success, think they have to fulfill that role of a rock star, but don’t let them full you; they’re just guys that play records.
Christopher Lawrence, Monarch Theatre, 122 E. Washington Street, Phoenix, Saturday, July 21, 9 p.m., $10