Chris Lake Q&A on Heavyweight Bass Producer Forum
Well, here it is…The very first HWB group Q&A, and I could not have asked for a better person to start it off.
Chris Lake does not need any introduction, but if you have been living under a rock, Chris is a Grammy nominated producer, releasing some of the finest house music for the past 16 years.
The group members could ask him anything related to his music production, DJ’in, career advice…You know the drill…
Paco Reynoso – If you had to start with nothing and no industry contacts today, how would you try to gain a fanbase or have a successful EP/single release
Chris Lake – Paco, I’ve always told people to put your focus on finding your uniqueness. You know there’s a lot of choice in this world now with everything. Music, food, technology, entertainment, everything. Think of it like how you choose what you’re going to watch on TV when you’re chilling out. You most likely want to watch something you’ve not seen before that you’ve heard is sick. When you watch something that’s a copycat of something popular, it’s not very exciting. Music is the same. If you can find something unique / new / or exciting you have a much greater chance of standing out in the crowd. So how do you do that? That’s where the time and experimentation comes in. I’ve personally been doing this for a very long time and gone through many different ideas / phases / processes until I found my lane, but, the main thing I try to aim for is to make it sound like me. I haven’t always got it right, but that’s my aim. The ultimate aim is to have such a signature sound that makes people go ‘that sounds like Eric Prydz, or this sounds like Disclosure’ etc. If you have created a sound that’s recognizable as your own (and is good of course), that’s something that can capture the attention of many people.
Stuart Kettridge – After you’ve initially written a track do you find yourself making many Changes?
Chris Lake – Very often yes. I always tinker with tracks after I’ve made them. Usually I road test tracks when I play them out and keep tweaking it until I feel happy that it’s hitting in all all the right places sonically / emotionally etc.
Ricardo Álvarez – Any tips for the bassline? I often find it amusing how you get them good even in unusual root keys, btw, see you in El Paso soon!
Chris Lake – I don’t stop tweaking it until my ball hairs tingle when the sub hits
Efrain Ramirez – What’s your favorite gear that you use for your productions? Thanks Chris!
Chris Lake – Ableton by a country mile
Klaus – Chris Lake, have you tried Bitwig 2? i much prefer it Live
Chris Lake – Klaus yes. It’s fantastic. If you have no interest in ever collaborating with anyone and you’re only focused on your own personal workflow, I’d definitely recommend Bitwig 2. I’m just too far down a lane to change
Stefan Ilic – What would you say is a better approach, sending demos to labels or sending demos directly do dj’s? And how much would you say is too much? Btw, love your work!
Chris Lake – Thanks! I guess both are good ways but if you can get music directly to a DJ that’s a pretty good route. Labels get sent so much music now. So many links. It’s crazy and pretty overwhelming. I can’t listen to everything that’s sent. I have to just kinda play ‘lucky dip’ so to speak. Sucks, but it’s just reality.
Robert Mulhern – With regards to social media marketing,
What are the most Common mistakes you see musicians making on social media?
Have you got any tips for making social media work better in your favor?
When is it a good idea to post about politics on your musician page on social media if ever?
Thanks so much!
Love your music.
Chris Lake – Common mistakes? Trying to hard.
Politics. I believe in free speech and if its something you are passionate about and believe in, by all means, go for it, but don’t be surprised if a load of people think you’re a cock
Chris Lake – Sorry, to finish, regarding social media I’m currently sat with my pal Seb from Rising Digital ( www.rising.digital ) and having just discussed this with him, we both believe it’s all about authenticity. Also when you have the time, engaging with your fans, because at the end of the day, not everyone can go to shows or interact with you directly. Use social media to bridge the gap and show who you are as a person and as an artist.
Paul Duras – What’s your top 3 favourite plugins right now? (can include hardware if that’s your bag)
Chris Lake – Ok here are a few –
Kick Tweak – https://www.pluginboutique.com/…/42…/3425-Kick-Tweak
UAD Little Labs Voice Of God – https://www.uaudio.com/…/little-labs-voice-of-god.html
Sonic Charge Synplant – https://soniccharge.com/synplant
Joshua Patrick – How do you achieve those amazing snare fills and builds to sit so well? Particularly in your track : ‘I want you’. Any tips on EQ for drums would be great
Chris Lake – practice
EQing of drums – Roll off all un-needed low end form percussive sounds. Leave as much low end room for the kick and bass.
Marcel Maarbani – Thanks heaps for this guys! This is awesome… Something simple but not so simple for me…. I love all sorts of music but really vibe on emotional melodic piano synth bigroom whilst trying not to be generic, as a genre to strive for… the main thing I never seem to be able to ever nail properly is my kicks… the drop kick in particular. I’ve always been aware of eqing, layering top and low kicks, and trying to give my kick room to breath. But I can never get it thumping the way guys at your level can get it sounding without it being either muddy or something else. I guess my question is, what is the very few key factors, hints and tips, that you do to try to get your kicks sounds clean and mean? Or I would even love to know your go to plugs or sounds that help you get that solid backbone kick driving your tracks!? Thanks heaps Chris.
Chris Lake – You’re not alone. Getting the kick right is half the battle. Honestly, on some tracks, it’s the whole battle. It just takes a lot of tweaking and variations sometimes to get it right.
Callum Reid I’ve got two main questions if that’s okay?
1) Where do you source most of your samples from and how do you go about organising them? / Do you still download samples or do you mostly stick to the ones you’ve collected over the years?
2) One of my favourite tunes from you was the Remix you did for FONO alongside rrotik. I was just wondering what you used for the bass in that track? (Eg: synth / sample / processing / etc)
How did you get it to fit in with the kick so nicely?
Chris Lake – 1. My library has built over the years. It’s a kind of organized mess. I still buy sample libraries. I’ve said it on here before but my favorite libraries over the past few years have been made by Wave Alchemy. Their stuff is superb. Great one hits.
2. The Fono mix. I can’t remember what we did the bass with on that one. I think it was just a distorted 808 kick. Eduardo (Rrotik) did a lot of the low end detail on this one so I can’t take the credit for the mix down element of the remix. That was him. Mine would be much worse.
Sebastian Gawlik – Thanks for taking the time Chris
1. Are you working into a limiter to check what final loudness you’ll be able to achieve without distortion?
2. What sort of RMS and dynamic range are you looking at for your final product?
3. What’s some interesting ways you like to start your intros?
4. Do you find particular scales and chord shapes work better for the type of music you like to make? What are they?
Chris Lake – 1. Mostly yes. Pretty bad habit really, but it works for me.
2. I don’t look, I listen, personally.
3. My intros are not my strongest. I have to really force that side of my production. I often try to grab a piece of audio from the heart of the track then manipulate the audio somehow to lead you into the track.
4. Not really. Minor predominantly. I do like G and G minor as a key for dance. I don’t seek to start in that key though.
Ben Alla – When you made your break in the music industry, did you find that djing regularly at local clubs helped while making music to get you where you are? I don’t get booked often, so i just think keep making better and unique music to get a bit more exposure
Chris Lake Fuck yeah. Gave me great experience, but I would take whatever I could get that was right for me.
Shoaib Shepz Mughal – This is great! Thank you Klaus Hill and Chris Lake!
1. What is your starting point in making a track?
2. What do you do when you hit writers block?
Chris Lake – 1. I just mess around with sounds and wait for some magic to happen. it’s different every time. Often just a beat really though.
2. Walk away, moan to my wife, threaten retirement to everyone around me, kick a door, eat a chocolate bar, go to sleep in a terrible mood, wake up, start the day fresh and fuck the world up
Seriously though, there is one interview I watch that ALWAYS inspires me. It’s by Tiga and it’s the best thing you will ever watch, ever. EVER.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ0z9yIMseU
Kye Bonventi – 1) In your opinion what is a genre that you could see breaking out and becoming quite big this year!
2) How would you go about getting vocalists even though you have a small following and are overlooked a fair bit
Cheers for this.
Chris Lake – 1. No idea. I literally have no idea regarding that one, sorry!
2. That’s just down to networking. You have to find someone with talent that just wants to work with you because they vibe on what you’re doing. Dig around on Soundcloud. Loads of great artists that go un-noticed.
Ash Barlow – Hi Chris! I’m really interested in your workflow. When you are in writing music mode do you fiddle much with synth parameters and other “sound design” aspects or just hammer out the track from the presets (self-made or not) and samples you have ready to go? Your tracks have a solid natural confidence to them that sounds like they are written quickly and backed up by really sound knowledge.
Chris Lake – Hey. Yeah I do quite a bit of fiddling, but I’m also not the greatest sound designer. I do mess around a lot with presets. I’d struggle without them. I’m much better at ruining a great preset than I am improving it. That’s why I don’t make my own preset sets. The good ones end up in my tracks.
Ash Barlow – As my hairy hands and chronic glaucoma testify, I’m a massive fiddler. I can also totally lose a groove/vibe of a track I’m working on through said fiddling (Shout out to the Arturia X-mas special). Do you just naturally stay “on groove” after diddling a filter for half an hour or do you have a way to refresh? I use ref tracks/TV/even human interaction but sometimes my track just sounds foreign.
Chris Lake – Ash Barlow Yeah I mean I’m pretty focused. I just try to make sure whatever I’m doing is musical and keeping the vibe of the song moving forward. it’s good to learn when to tweak what, when (if that makes any sense). I’ve learned how to tweak certain things that are sonically imperative to the song immediately, then other things I leave till later on in the creative process so that I don’t lose momentum on a project.
Rick Williams – I’ll add to everyone’s thanks for doing/organising this, I’m a big fan of your style Chris, mainly because you’re able to get my mind to wander to a different place – especially in Sundown, gives me goosebumps every time!
Similar to Ash’s question, I’d love to ask you if you have a routine process for construction of tracks, i.e. do you have a basic setup that you first get a basic chord progression or drum line down or do you begin with sound design etc or is it different each time…?
Chris Lake – Thanks! Yeah it’s really different every time. Sebastien Leger always put it perfectly for me. He was only ever looking for a great mistake. Just something that makes you go ‘fuck yeah, I can build a track around that’. I just look for something that excites me.
Paulo Jardim – Hi Chris, really digging your music. I met you ages ago in my town, Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Your music really changed over the time, but since then was really well produced. But my question is, do you have a go to plugin for basslines? Or you use manly hardware?
Chris Lake – Thanks Paulo. Not really. I sometimes use samples of bass tones and mess with them in a sampler. Other times I use synths like massive or serum. I like Rob Papen SubBoomBass too. Things like that. Omnisphere is good too.
Edward Wolfe – How many tracks do you finish a month ?
Chris Lake – Depends on my touring schedule. Finish finish? Only one or two a week I reckon, but I often leave tracks 95% done then never release them. Usually because they’re not good enough.
Edward Wolfe – one or two a week is pretty good going. How many hours on average is that ?
Chris Lake – Edward Wolfe My whole life.
Koray Altiparmak – Hi Chris, What’s your approach to mixing? Do you mix as you go, or prefer to knock an idea out then visit the mix later separately?
Chris Lake – I do it as I go most of the time, then give it a once over at the end
Koray Altiparmak – Thanks Chris! If I may also, what’s your thoughts on master bus processing. Do you prefer to have nothing on whilst writing/mixing, and focus on tightening each element individually or by group processing etc. Or do you prefer/recommend to write into some form of mild compression, or any other plugs for that matter. There’s this major stigma around producing with a master chain active.
Klaus Hill – Koray Altiparmak there’s no stigma to it at all….there’s just no point mixing into one..then taking it of at the end
Chris Lake – Nailed it Klaus.
Jase Fos – My thought here was that the decisions you make in terms of track balancing would be influenced by master bus processing and so by having a ‘stand in’ during the writing process you’d be simulating what a mastering engineer would be putting on the master (which to my understanding would be a good thing however please tell me if I’m wrong). Naturally I have the sense to remove temporary compression on my master bus. Keen for your input here Klaus Hill and Chris.
Chris Lake – Yeah I don’t really disagree with this personally. There are many ways to skin a cat.
Klaus Hill – you’re only simulating a mastering engineer if u put a limiter on……any other processing in just part of your master bus strategy, and thats where the issues show up…people mixing into compressors and eq’s, then taking those of and wondering why the track falls apart, or expecting the mastering engineer (if you use one) to be a mind reader, i know how it sounded before….
Stephen Cole – Hey Chris, thank you for taking the time to do this, really insightful! ‘I Want You’ is a really incredible track and I am often referencing it when checking my own mixes. Was wondering if you could enlighten us on how you made the vocals sound the way they do, processing and mix wise? Also curious about what you used to create the lead synth in the drops? Thank again!
Chris Lake – Pleasure. The vocals were just recorded that way. It was originally recorded a few years back by my Wife and I but I didn’t love the vibe overall so there was a guy over working in the studio with me called Black Gatsby and we were recording a big vocal for another project. At the end of the session I asked him if he’d indulge me and record this vocal I thought would sound good in his voice. His flat mate was with him and I asked her if she’d record the female part. She’d never recorded before and I asked her to sound as raunchy as humanly possible. She nailed it because she sounded so damn sexy I didn’t quite know where to look! There isn’t loads of processing on the voice really.
As for the lead, it was created in Massive.
Christian Pillot – Favourite saturater?
Chris Lake – I like the Ableton one
Jason Salomon – Big love! Had the pleasure of being liason for you a couple times down in Edmonton and all I can say is thank you! You’ve inspired me tremendously!
My biggest question is where do you derive your inspiration from? I find myself hitting some holes that keep me from producing for a set amount of time and then being into some crazy creative times. How do you balance those down times?
Chris Lake – Vegan restaurant runs followed by DnB in the car.
That creative spark is tough to manage. I personally just try to keep reading about things that inspire me on a human level. I’m fascinated by the future and future technology. I do a lot of reading about what’s coming next and about how it’ll change the world. Keeps me very inspired. Probably helps with the music.
Sebastian Gawlik – What dnb do you listen to Chris?
Chris Lake – Sebastian Gawlik I’m not very good with the names of the DnB tracks I listen to. I know Noisia are the shit.
Sam Hill – Hey Chris, Your drums always come across as being very loud and punchy..1 – Any general advice on your drum processing technique? 2 – what vsts are on your drum buss to glue them all together? 3 – What reverb/delay are you using on the vocals for turn off the lights?
Chris Lake – 1. Just choosing good sounds for the drums. There is very little processing on my drums lately.
2. Lately, the most I seem to use is the new Ableton drum bus plugin. LOVE it. I also use quite a bit of distortion on individual sounds to bring out their character in the mix. Occasionally saturation. Always rolling off unwanted frequencies from sounds to leave me more room in the mix to get pressure from the sounds that need the headroom (like the bass and kick
3. Probably Valhalla room and sound toys delay (forgotten the name)
Mike Rish – Big fan of your earlier stuff mate like Changes, Carry Me Away and Aqualight with Seb amongst others.
1. Can you pinpoint the time it all started happening for you with touring and remix requests etc ?… that point where you realised you could quit the day job (if you had one) and said “hey, this is actually something I can make a living from.. he hobby has become a full time thing”
2. Did you have a day job prior to your success ? Haha
Chris Lake – 1. I had two phases. One around 2002-2003 where some of my progressive house records came out and I got my first international shows off the back of it. Second phase where it really kicked off was after I released my single ‘Changes’. I gave up my job after I signed the instrumental to Universal.
Sebastian Gawlik – How did universal get a hold of you Chris? That’s a huge step!
Chris Lake Sebastian Gawlik A small label signed the instrumental version and it blew up so it got licensed onto Universal
Edward Wolfe – Would you recommend starting with smaller labels Chris Lake?
Chris Lake – Edward Wolfe it worked for me. There is no magic formula. You just need to find someone that connects with your record and will give it the push it needs. There are so many tools out there now to self publish. Anyone can make a tunecore account. It’s a great time to be a creative.
Adam Carter – Originally called Piano Tool if I’m not mistaken… closing track on Disc 1 of Desyn‘s Balance 008. Epic mix that one. He played heaps of your early stuff
Chris Lake – Adam Carter correct. He’d finished the mix then I sent it to him and he re-did it to add the track in. Glad he did.
Jake Reid – Massive fan of your tunes! you’re a big inspiration for my production too! Thanks
1. What’s your “go to” reverb?
2. You mentioned UAD in a previous comment, what other UAD plugs do you use regularly and what do you use them on?
3. Do you use a special sampler or just the ableton simpler / sampler?
Chris Lake – 1. Valhalla room or 2C Aether
2. I like that Ampex one. Nice for messing up sounds a little bit. The Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor
3. Ableton simpler / sampler / drum rack
Ryan Deighton – Pretty new to your music, I’m one of those guys that has been deep under a rock. My friend brought you to my attention, been vibing your soundcloud for a minute now aha!
Got two questions:
1) how long was you producing before you took the plunge to do it full time?
2) I noticed your branding on your new tune is similar to all what I use (black background, minimal white designing) so I’m curious what inspired you for that? I’m a fan of that style, so curious what made you want to use it? I’ve always been a minimal design fan
Chris Lake – 1) roughly 7 years. In that period I did go full time with it, but by full time, I really mean ‘living at my parents for nothing playing video games and finishing one track every 6 months’. Doesn’t count.
2) it was inspired by the name for the label it’s on, which is ‘black book records’. Worked with the designer to come up with something I felt was fitting. Didn’t give it a crazy amount of thought beyond that though
Alec Bonnici – Who’s one artist you’d love to get in the studio with?
Chris Lake – Chemical Brothers
Alex Whitwam – On “Nothing Better” what synth and process did you use on the bass and also do you have any go to tutorials on bass sound design that youd recommend? Sound design is my weakness
Chris Lake – I honestly can’t remember! I think it might be the novation bass station II. I’ve never come across a tutorial either for bass but I’ve also not looked. Sorry!
Tom Heist – Hi Chris, was a big fan of ‘Changes’ back in the day… Can I ask what your advice is for actually getting tracks done and having consistent output? How do you get to the point where you are finishing stuff regularly that you’re actually happy with?
Chris Lake – Thank you. Procrastination is an enemy. If you know what you need to do on attack, just do it. Don’t mess around. Don’t be scared to make Big whole sale changes. If you like a sound you’ve made in a vst, just flatten it to audio. What’s the worst that can happen you know? I just keep working and move forward. Don’t take the attitude of your latest track being ‘the one’. Just let it be one and keep being creative. I don’t say that with the mindset of churning out loss of music. More with the mindset of staying creative. There’s no point in stagnating on one idea.
Sam Shepherd – Hey Chris Lake, really appreciate you taking the time out to do this! Just had a couple of questions.
1) Just wondering if you could give any insights, on how you did the vocal chop processing on your remix of How deep Is your love? eg. Do you use simpler in ableton to achieve that effect.
2) What sacrifices did you have to make, to make it to a professional level ? How many hours were you putting into music production ?
Chris Lake – Pleasure. So for vocal chops I’ll normally throw an acapella into the Ableton sampler then hit keys on the keyboard whilst moving the start point of the sample along until I find a good point that sounds musical with my rhythm. I’ll then add any effects that are needed to make it pop or sit better in the mix. Another approach is setting a small loop region within an acapella on warp mode, (let’s say 2 beats loop length) then move the loop region along within the audio clip to find a good 2 beat loop. I normally find something really quickly this way if it’s a good acapella.
As for sacrifices to make it. It’s mainly time. I’m lucky to have a very supportive family. Ever since being a teenager I’ve spent almost all my spare time making music. Beyond music, I’m a quite spectacularly boring bastard.
Grant Reynolds – Hey Chris, I’ve been stumped on what to ask you from a production standpoint for the last two days so I’ll ask you a couple of Fan boy type questions instead.
1. What artists inspired you in your early days of production?
2. What other sorts of music do you like listening to besides your own style?
P.S. Ive been playing your tunes out for years and seen you play in Brisbane a few years back. I remember when i first got into Djing (just over a decade ago) some of your tunes were very active in my playlists. I gotta admit, i haven’t really listened to any of your new tunes for a long while until today (i went on a more trance and progressive path personally) but I have to say your tunes are still very classy!!
Chris Lake – Sorry missed this
1. Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Robert Miles, Timo Maas, Sander Kleinenberg, Sasha.
2. All sorts. Nothing is really off the table. Except country music haha. Can’t get into that at all.
Scott Stevenson – Hi Chris Lake, thank you for this opportunity. I would love your advice please on how to find the right Record Label to release music with. I make electronica/leftfield house and techno and I have no idea who the bigger/more successful highly regarded Labels are in this genre and even then how do I try and identify which one would be a good fit for me ? Is it a matter of doing some research to find the Labels that my favourite artists in the genre release on and then enquire with those Labels and basically roll the dice as to whether we’re a good fit. Thank you
Chris Lake – Hey Scott. Yeah I think you just answered your own question perfectly.
Mark Baddiley – Hi Chris, ive been a fan of your music for a long long time – 14 years thereabout, so many times ive been like “Whats that song?!” And then on finding out its you “oh.. Chris Lake.. of course [i love it & well composed]” Two questions:
1. How do you stay original? Do you have any processes which help to keep you original.
2. Do you ever write and get stuck. For example you have a breakdown but cant make a suitable drop? Or vice versa. If so how did or do you get past this.. ive been in this spot for years now and tried so many things but still have this big skills shortage.
Thanks – appreciate your time for us here
Chris Lake – Hey, thank you!
1. I just try to push myself to always go that extra step and make things that make me go ‘ fuck yeah, I love that’ after I’ve listened to it over and over again. It’s a battle, honestly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That leads me onto question
2. I have mountains of failures. Loads of nearly great tracks. Sometimes I just walk away from them and revisit them years later. Perfect example is I want you. I think I wrote that vocal around 7 or 8 years ago now. I just never had the beat that did it justice. It was like the 5th or 6th different beat I’d made for that vocal before I got the one I wanted (I also changed who spoke the vocal too). Just keep practicing. Don’t beat yourself up about each stage of your production being perfect like how it’s been described it should be in a tutorial or something. Just keep moving forward and give it your all. Avoid the stagnation. Move forward.
Chris Davey – Thank you for the Q&A. Massive respect to you, Chris. You’re one of the artists that got me hooked on the dance and rave scene even before I started DJing and producing. So thanks for that!
My main question is no.3. But I was really curious with 1 & 2 too. So if you have the time to give those an answer it’d be greatly appreciated. Ty.
1) – Firstly, your Cross The Line record with Marco Lys, to me, is easily the best Progressive House record ever made. I’ve had it for what I guess is almost a decade. I own a lot of Progressive House, many excellent tracks (Less so these days) but nothing has ever topped it. I still drop it in any relevant set I play. The dance-floor always reacts incredibly to it and I’ll probably continue playing it for as long as I DJ. I just wondered whether you had the same kind of opinion on this record? Like what are your thoughts/feelings about it? As whenever I chat or read an article, blog or interview about you. That record is never brought up.
2) – What happened to Rising Music?
3) – I’ve been producing for 6-7 years. Had my first release 5 years ago next month. I’ve released many original records and remixes, mostly through Plasmapool. Had a few records hit the Beatport Top 10. And yet, I don’t really feel as though I’ve made any progression career-wise at all. It’s been getting me really anxious, as I’ve invested so much of my time, money, life etc into it. My productions have gotten better but I get no booking inquiries, no media/magazine interest, no tangible fan-base growth etc. Did you go through this? Am I doing something wrong? Should I be seeking out a booking agent or what? How does this go from where I am to a career?
Thank you greatly for your time.
Chris Lake – 1. Thanks! Yeah I was very happy with that record but the whole project overall didn’t get loads of traction. I played running out the most off the album.
2. Rising got a little complicated on the back end so rather than continue releasing music on it I decided to stop releasing and start something new (black book recordings)
3. That’s a complicated question to answer without knowing your artist name etc. It helps to have a good team around you now because, don’t forget, this world is s noisy place and it takes a lot to make your voice heard amongst all that noise. Beatport, although powerful in the dance scene for DJ’s, is tiny compared to the music industry. Don’t rely on Beatport to make / break you career. It’s just one tool. You have to build up a presence outside of that. When a club books you, unless they just LOVE your music or what you’re doing, you need to represent a way to sell tickets for their club. Reverse the thinking. What do you need to do to make someone buy a ticket to see you. For me personally I just took the route of making records people would play and tried to stay consistent and I’ve been on the road now solid for 12 years. It’s not the answer for everyone. Maybe the key is to stop playing cross the line? MAYBE I’M HOLDING YOU BACK!!!!!
And that’s a wrap! A big thank you to Chris Lake for his time to respond to the questions from our group members. Remember to check out the links below if you want to know more about Chris Lake!
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