Chris Lake Talks 'I Want You,' OWSLA House Compilation 'HOWSLA,' and the Future of American House: Exclusive

Jas Davis
Skrillex & Chris Lake

When Pete Tong gets on BBC Radio 1 and tells the whole world you're his favorite DJ from Scotland, you jump out of your chair and dance like a child who just railed five Pixie Sticks. The fact that you're not actually from Scotland is a less than important detail.

“That quote was so invaluable for me at the time, I didn't have the heart to tell him I'm English,” says producer and DJ Chris Lake -- who was actually living in Scotland at the time, so he could see why Tong would make such a mistake. But really, as a house-obsessed Brit in his early 20s who had just had his 2006 single “Changes” dubbed an “Essential New Tune” twice in a row, if Pete Tong had said the sky is yellow and the grass is black, he'd have just adjusted his color settings and called it a day.

“We used to say, 'The weekend doesn't start until Pete Tong says so,'” Lake laughs. “I never corrected him. I know him really well now, and I've still never really told him the full story. That's the reason why Wikipedia says I'm Scottish -- and the problem is, I can't change it, because obviously Wikipedia works off of citable references from a powerful publication. Maybe Billboard is going to play its part in correcting my Wikipedia entry.”

In the end, Lake isn't interested in the minute details of the past so much as he is the future. Tong's alternative facts are old hat now, and five and a half years ago, he moved to Los Angeles seeking a fresh creative perspective.

“It's a fantastic city, a fantastic state, and I love the country,” he says. “I love people's attitude toward music. It's so positive, and people just want to consume more and more music. They're open to many different things. It's a nice creative climate to be in.”

While some people move to L.A. and drown themselves in exclusive parties and red-carpet excitement, Lake buried himself in his studio, taking few interviews, turning off the social media notifications, and dedicating himself to cooking up a dark, subtle form of bombastic bass that characterizes what he calls the “new phase” of his sound.

It's a seductive, smoky sound, full of sneaky whispers that turn the hair up on your neck while the bass beats against your goosebumps. His tune “Operator (Ring Ring)” is a high point. He's done pretty much nothing to promote it, besides give it to a few DJ friends, but they gave it to more DJ friends, and they all started putting it in their regular rotation. Next thing you know, Annie Mac's named it the “Hottest Record in the World,” it's Destructo's unofficial anthem of Holy Ship, and Skrillex is calling Lake to ask him help curate a futuristic house compilation album for OWSLA.

“I wanted to collaborate with (OWSLA) and make something special,” Lake says. “I feel like they're absolutely at the peak of their game. I don't think there's anyone else putting as much attention to detail.”

The comp is called HOWSLA, and it's only the first in the taste-making label's serious nose dive into the cutting edge of house music in America. Lake's newest single “I Want You” serves as the first taste of things to come, a back-bending continuation of the space-warehouse vibe that “Operator” hit so hard. Thanks to OWSLA, it's got a fun, freaky music video to go along with it. Lake's vibe literally brings bodies back from the dead. It's gory, but it's also goofy, the perfect balance Lake hits with his sound.

The release is paired with a series of parties at L.A.'s Le Jardin, where OWSLA will feature exciting new house acts every Sunday from late May through early September. As far as what the rest of the HOWSLA compilation will sound like, Lake isn't giving away any descriptions -- he and Skrillex don't want to pigeonhole the sound with any expectations. Just know that it's out May 5, and it's totally “fresh.”

“We just wanted the coolest shit on this album,” he says, “the stuff that we felt was very 2017 and beyond. No looking back, completely looking forward … I'm absolutely very excited to be letting people hear this. There are artists on there that are supremely talented, and they're absolutely future. [These are] the artists that will be shaping the sound of house music in America and then beyond for the next few years.”

And where they were born is of little significance.

HOWSLA LE JARDIN DATES:
Week 1: Sunday May 28th
Week 2: Sunday June 4th 
Week 3: Sunday June 19th
Week 4: Sunday July 9th
Week 5: Sunday July 23rd
Week 6: Sunday August 13th
Week 7: Sunday August 27th
Week 8: Sunday September 3rd