With prevailing tastes in commercial dance music shifting towards house and techno during the past few years, Chris Lake has emerged as one of the scene’s most successful artists. Lake’s catalog — with hits including “Operator (Ring Ring)” “I Want You” “Deceiver” and “Stay With Me” — neatly embodies the tech-house-oriented “underground” sound that has replaced EDM as the genre of choice among Stateside dance fans.
While the English-born, LA-based producer has released music on labels including mau5trap and the OWSLA offshoot HOWSLA, the majority of Lake’s output has come via his own label, Black Book. Now, he’s expanding his own work and the Black Book brand by signing both projects with the venerable electronic label Astralwerks.
“Essentially, I just wanted to take the label to the next level and have a worldwide support system,” Lake tells Billboard Dance. “It’s quite difficult to get to all the countries and get the coverage you want everywhere. I felt like Astralwerks was the team best able to help me do that.”
With the signing, Lake is partnering with Astralwerks and its distribution label Caroline for his own artist project and for Black Book. (Both Astralwerks and Caroline exist under the Capitol Music Group umbrella.) The moves places Lake on an Astralwerks roster that also includes Illenium, Alesso, Fisher, The Chemical Brothers, Marshmello, Alison Wonderland, Duke Dumont and other scene heavyweights.
The formerly independent Black Book — operated by Lake, his manager at AYITA management firm Brett Fischer and Ian Massoth, who will now serve as Black Book’s Head of A&R — has released music by Walker & Royce, Noizu, Eli Brown, Chris Lorenzo, Goooey Vuitton and Wade, along with Lake’s own output. With the partnership, the goal is to develop new artists on Black Book and leverage Astralwerks’ infrastructure to help these artists make gains in global touring and streaming. Black Book’s forthcoming releases include those by Brown, Lorenzo, Noizu, Cloonee, Ango Tamarin and Biscits.
“I want to help bring up new artists, and I also want a home where established artists can come sign their records and know they’re going to get coverage worldwide,” Lake says. “I also want to be able to support those artists with touring…Obviously it’s difficult at the moment, but in normal times we’re developing really strong events…and making sure we have a strong partner that can help us work records in the right way.”
The deal sees Lake reuniting with Astralwerks general manager Toby Andrews, who’s known Lake since 2008 when he worked as Lake’s publicist. “From there,” Andrews says, “he went on to give me a job working out of the couch in his studio when I was 19, helping to manage some of his projects at the time – and I’m thankful we’ve stayed close friends ever since. To be back in business with him over a decade later is incredible, and a true testament to his pioneering of the house scene.”
“The thing that I’ve always like about Toby and I’ve known him since he was young, is he’s always given me a good feeling about everything he’s working on,” Lake echoes. “I just like the way he thinks and approaches things. He’s very much an individual thinker. His ideas are a little bit different from anyone else’s, and they end up creating great results.”
While coronavirus currently has the dance scene on lockdown, Lake — who had to cancel two headlining shows at The Shrine in Los Angeles, along with dates in Las Vegas and beyond amidst the pandemic — emphasizes that quarantine isn’t affecting his artistic vision. He and the team are still releasing music while scouting new artists and getting organized for everything they want to do when the world is once again allowed to gather en masse.
“One of the most disappointing things about doing things in this time is this is predominantly a dancefloor led record label that makes and releases songs for nightclubs and for people to dance to,” Lake says. “That component is completely missing in our scene right now. It’s the weirdest time. You don’t even get the opportunity to send songs to DJs [for them to] test and get feedback on, which has pretty much been the norm since the ’80s for dance songs…so now it comes down to instinct and that judgment call on what’s going to work, what’s right and what’s resonating.”