Voted the #7 DJ in the world by DJ Magazineís prestigious ĎTop 100í poll for 2004
Winner of the "Best American DJ" at the IDMAís at WMC 2005
A recent winner of the "Best DJ" award at the Dancestar US Awards
"One of The Most Popular DJs on The Global Circuit" by DJ Magazine
Once viewed as an outsider in a world dominated by European and British DJs, Christopher Lawrence has fought his way to the top of the burgeoning international dance music scene. Now considered one of the key global players and one of Americaís leading dance music exports, Lawrence finds himself in high demand as he racks up frequent flyer miles living a jet set lifestyle.
But just a few words with this unpretentious and amiable gentleman will allow you to understand that his successes have been earned, not bestowed upon him. While working to become a star in the dance music phenomenon, his personal life remains well-grounded around family and home. I recently had a chance to sit down with Lawrence, a scant few hours after returning to Southern California from shows in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. At a time when, given the same 17 hour flight behind me, I certainly wouldíve rather have been sleeping, Lawrence was a ball of energy and eager to talk.
Having endured similar flights myself, I teased Lawrence about the disorientation of being, essentially, in a tunnel for the better part of a day.
"Yeah, it was six hours to Tokyo, and then about 11 hours back to California. It takes up a good chunk of the day flying," he laughed.
But that seems to be the fate of a DJ today. In preparation for the interview I read through Lawrenceís itinerary only to be horrified by the continent-hopping lifestyle. Bands find themselves on tour buses riding to the next city, a DJ's schedule can be far more demanding.
"Yes, Iím perpetually on tour, thatís what it is!" Lawrence explained. "And thereís just always something new thatís coming out along the way. Thatís what keeps the ball rolling. I started touring early last year in support of my first artist album called, 'All or Nothing' and just as that was winding down, I put out another artist album and went out on tour for that. It just all kind of carried over. And now weíre into the summer, which globally is summer festival tour season, Iíve been in Argentina; I just came back from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur today, next weekend is 'Nocturnal Wonderland,' which is a big festival here in Southern California, and of course a few weeks ago I was in Amsterdam for a 60,000-person festival. So right now itís kind of busy."
We continued talking about his schedule and the demands of being a DJ.
Lawrence was pleased to share, "My international demand has increased a lot. For me, itís important to go to these other places, like the former Soviet Union or the Ukraine, because these represent new territories. For me, itís quite exciting to go and play events in countries like that. Iíve been playing the U.S. for quite some time. But of course the problem is keeping the balance, you donít want to alienate your hometown crowd, North America, so yeah, Iíve been trying to play a few cities in between the international dates. Coming this fall, I will be settling down and playing more shows domestically. I will focus more on North America because there are many smaller places that I just havenít had time to visit."
I explained to Lawrence that my knowledge of the international dance scene was somewhat limited. Here at DaBelly, we often feature up-and-coming new bands, but itís a rare day when we get a DJ in the house. Lawrence took a moment to share a personal insight and compared the life of a DJ with that of others in the music business.
Lawrence reflected for a moment and smiled, "Itís completely different. In fact, I get really jealous if Iím in line at the post office and Iíll have a guy in front of me with an Ozzy Osborne tour shirt on. I look at the back of the shirt and itís Reno one night and then Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San DiegoÖ These cities are a couple hours apart by bus! And thatís what a band does, but not DJs. Weíre usually alone, and we donít have that whole support network like lighting and sound. All we carry are records, so we can be anywhere in the world provided you can get there in a day by plane. Thatís the thing. I might play New York Friday, Amsterdam Saturday and head over to Singapore the next day, just because you can. That doesnít mean itís the smartest way to do things, but thatís the way we do it. For someone like me, it works out because if thereís a festival coming up in South America, like in a couple weeks thereís the 'South American Music Festival,' I can go play that. It will last a couple days, then I can go to Europe and play a festival there. DJs arenít necessarily regulated to a certain tour thatís going out."
Irrespective of genre of music or performance, there is a pinnacle that artists strive to attain. For some, itís playing the Garden or Carnegie Hall. For others, itís the little gold statue found at the end of a red carpet that means the world. I asked Lawrence when he first sensed success.
"For me, I think I felt it when I put out my first artist album," Lawrence admitted. "I had done compilation CDs. Compilation CDs are mixes that we DJs do. They are mixes that represent our sound and theyíre sort of a snapshot of what we would play in our set in a club. The compilation includes other people's music and maybe one or two of your own tracks. I think that when I did my own artist album, I finished it last year, it was quite significant because to me it was saying something special. When I was younger I would go out and buy albums of my favorite bands and then I would bring them home and play them from start to finish and read the liner notes. So for me to have my own album with liner notes, that meant a lot!"
I asked Lawrence about the current trend of DJs releasing their own albums. I wanted to know if it had yet become a common occurrence.
"No. I think the A-list DJs have the opportunity to release their own music, but there are a lot of DJs that never get the chance. But they donít necessarily need to, as long as they create a sound and you represent that sound you donít necessarily have to make music yourself," Lawrence shared.
But the significance of a performer releasing their own music is unquestioned. For that opportunity most performers risk everything. And when success comes, it often arrives in many forms, perhaps most importantly in the form of support from one's peers. In an acknowledgment that I feel shows a great deal of camaraderie amongst the dance community, many of Lawrenceís peers have chosen to play his releases.
Lawrence continued to share the moments of his career that have meant the most to him, "Another thing that was important to me was when I was first offered to play in England and Japan and Australia. These are places that I had never gone too and yet these people know who I am and want me to come play at their club. That was quite a special feeling. It made me understand that I was doing something that touched people on a bigger level than I ever imagined."
I wanted to ask Lawrence about the performance itself. I wondered if he had a specific formula or set or if he just felt the atmosphere of the club and reacted.
"Itís a bit of both," Lawrence shared. "I go through my records every week. I add new records and take some out. And I go through mixes and see what records work together. So when I go out I stack my record bag so that I am extremely familiar with the order. Within that, when I go to a venue I get a feel for the DJ thatís playing before me. You know, the records heís playing and how the crowd is responding. From that I know where I want to begin my set. So Iíll get my records out and if the energy level is pretty high already I might skip the first third of the record bag. And if Iím going along and have a set that I think is working well, I may feel that the crowd likes a little more of a groove, so I may pull back and go to a different section of my bag. I take great pride in knowing that my set is extremely well thought out, but that doesnít mean Iím going to play every record every night."
As we all know, success spawns opportunity. Lawrenceís music has found its way into the gaming scene with songs licensed to PlayStation.
"Itís really exciting!" Lawrence bubbled. "Especially because I have younger brothers. They were really never very interested in what I was doing. That is, until recently when they called up and said, ĎHey, your song's on Need for Speed 2!í So now all of his friends have come over to my house to see me! Now suddenly Iím a celebrity and really cool! Before I got my music in a video game they didnít care about what I was doing because they all like punk music!"
Lawrence has taken his successes in stride never forgetting the years of hard work that were a prelude to members of his own family discovering him. Throughout our conversation, his gratitude to the fans, as well as his peers was apparent. Also apparent was the work ethic required to be on five continents a year and to endure the endless string of airports and hotels necessary to make people dance. I want to thank Christopher Lawrence for working through some jet lag to allow this interview. Heís on tour.... Heís always on tour-- so get out and see him.
Check out his Web site at: http://www.christopherlawrence.com/
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