Chris Lake has enjoyed the kind of fast success that most only dream of. We track him down for a chat - eventually
Tick tock. Tick tock. Time’s getting away from us. We’ve tried the house phone. We’ve tried the mobile. Chris Lake is proving far too elusive. We try the house phone again. ‘Hello?’ Success! But only briefly: ‘Sorry, mate, I’ve got to pick up a visa from an embassy. I’m going to Albania this weekend and if I don’t get it I’m in trouble. Can we re-arrange this?’
Curses. Still, this is Chris Lake’s life now. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago he was plodding British streets delivering mail. But then, in 2006, Lake released ‘Changes’, a piano-led vocal house track that became a huge crossover success, peaking at 27 in the UK singles chart and rocketing up to 10 in the US Billboard dance charts. His profile went from ‘respected’ to ‘downright huge’, and he was able to put down the postman’s sack once and for all.
Speaking from his hotel room in Albania a few days later, Chris is fairly laidback about his sudden success. ‘I never really felt much pressure from anyone to have a successful follow-up,’ he says. ‘Any pressure I feel only comes from me – I’m pretty single-minded and very driven in what I do. I have many things I want to achieve in life, and don’t stop until I achieve them. The best thing about ‘Changes’ was that it elevated my career to a level that allowed me to do whatever I wanted musically. I’m very lucky it connected with the public the way it did.’
Lucky indeed – it’s opened up plenty of doors for the man, including the opportunity to play exotic locales like, er, Albania. But he’s been to even more unexpected places. ‘My scariest gig?’ ponders Chris. ‘I played in an Eastern-European club, where I was surrounded by guys from the mafia, all carrying guns. I was really, really scared, and couldn’t wait to get out of there. I was on edge all night.’
Hopefully he’ll be a little bit happier when he brings his house/techno/tech house/electro/everything else set over to Alpha this week, not least because it’ll give him a chance to show off tracks from his new album, Crazy. ‘The album’s a mixture of my existing tracks, like ‘Changes’, ‘Only One’ and ‘Carry Me Away’, with brand new material like ‘Crazy’ and ‘Communicate’. There’re quite a few vocal tracks on the album along with some really deep stuff. I just love writing music of all styles and I think the album reflects that.
‘The hardest thing about making the album was keeping focused and converting ideas into finished songs – I write very quickly, but I’m very slow at finishing tracks, so I had loads of material to play with. That was the challenge.’
And Chris likes a challenge. Not one to rest on his laurels, he’s pursued a number of collaborations with fellow producers, including some with Sébastien Léger, who played Quantum last week. And while Sébastien feels that collabs can dilute his influence on a track Chris is all in favour of them. ‘Collaborations can be great,’ he says. ‘Approaching a track as part of a collaboration means that you have to do it in a different way, which can really freshen up your work. I’ve collaborated with a few artists now, and each one has been very different. I’m collaborating a lot with Marco Lys from Italy at the moment. He’s a super-talented guy. Expecting big things from him.’
On the whole, then, it seems that Chris Lake has a lot to be proud of: he’s overseeing a flourishing production and DJing career, he’s continuing to express himself artistically and he’s managed to develop a stable home life outside of his career – something that not all DJs manage. ‘I got married two years ago,’ he enthuses. ‘Of course my wife finds it tough sometimes, but a lot of the time she comes with me and is my biggest supporter. She loves the free drink at the parties too! I’m very lucky to have met her.’
But surely it’s not all good? There must be something that he misses about his days working as a postman? ‘Yes, the routine. I don’t really have routine any more. I used to start early and finish early, leaving me with the rest of the day in the studio. But I could tell you many more things I don’t miss about being a postie. I now have the best job in the world, so it’s pointless to look back.’
Sadly, however, Chris is unable to use his DJing powers to improve things for his own postman. ‘There’s little I can do for him,’ he laughs, ‘He’s completely deaf and socially awkward!’