Drum & Bass in 2022 is all about unpredictability but Lakeway comprehends the meaning of unpredictable a little differently.
Blending influences from Grime, Trap, Footwork, and R&B with Drum & Bass being at the heart of his experimental music, Liam Ralph aka Lakeway is one of the most exciting producers to have emerged from the UK. Despite all the multi-dimensional explorations, Lakeway always manages to pull his music to the dancefloor and delivers fresh and wonky material owing to his refusal to accept the notion of style boundaries.
With releases on Med School, Hospital Records, Diffrent Music and Sweetbox, Lakeway is expanding his catalogue at a frightening pace and after an appearance on Unchained Recordings last year for a tune in the label’s yearly compilation, the elusive producer has now returned to the label for his debut EP that brings Footwork, Grime and Progressive Electronic with the common thread being Drum & Bass.
The ‘No Escape’ EP is a combination of three heavyweight club tracks based around the 170bpm axis and a slower introspective grime collaboration with PAV4N’s menacing vocal delivery,
We had the bass music wizard with us for a chat about the EP that follows no musical directive, his journey as a producer, biggest influences and lots more!
How and when did the Lakeway journey begin?
I first started making music under Lakeway back in secondary school. I was in year nine, so I must have been around 13 or 14 at the time. I always had a keen interest in music, wanting to be in bands but that never really worked out. So starting off with a microkorg and korg EMX, I eventually discovered Ableton which brought everything together! I even gave out a ‘Christmas EP’ in the playground that December. I really hope no one still has a copy of that. From there I kept grinding, and here we are today!
Having dabbled around a wide range of sounds throughout your career, how would you like to define your sound?
Expansive… I think being inspired by so many different types of music often keeps it hard to define, but experimental Drum & Bass is probably the way to go. A lot of people know me for my, for lack of a better term, sped up grime sound. That’s definitely a staple of my sound, but it’s always fun to catch people off guard with something they wouldn’t expect. I suppose not even I’m qualified to define it, and I make the stuff!
Your catalogue boasts releases on labels across the board. How has the experience been for you?
Mostly positive! I think I’ve learnt to refrain from putting all my eggs in one basket. Different labels offer different opportunities, so it’s good to work a bit more freelance than worrying too much about exclusivity. Much like life, things go wrong occasionally, which I have definitely learnt the hard way in the past. And when they do, you don’t want to find yourself stuck in an exclusive contract or anything like that. It’s all a learning curve though, and the more experience you gather, the better!
Who were your biggest influences when you started making music?
Starting off, a lot of my big influences were more band based. Enter Shikari changed that a lot though and they were the reason I started asking for synths for Christmas. I went to see them live in Plymouth and they had True Tiger supporting which opened me up to the world of dubstep. Hearing Sukh Knights Diesel Not Petrol in a venue that big definitely caught a young me off guard haha! From then on I was obsessed. I also went to see Pendulum at the same venue. Similar story… Sub Focus was supporting them with his big light up wheel thingy and that was the highlight for me. From then on, I was once again obsessed. Interestingly, it was the support acts that helped me on my journey the most.
Some of the best music you have written came during the lockdown period in 2020. Do you reckon that the headspace you had for yourself in isolation inspired your creative flows?
It definitely helped somewhat, perhaps the headspace was more a need to be heard due to not being able to go out anywhere. Slightly narcissistic perhaps, but it almost created this fear of falling behind. But of course, everyone was in the same situation, so rather than worry too much about that, it was best to use the time to push myself further creatively. Music has always been the best therapist, so if you can’t go out and express yourself in a normal way then opening Ableton is the best bet, and if you’re unhappy with the state of the world it can amount to some truly honest material.
One of the most positive experiences was the Wave Rider EP. It was written during one of England’s rather rare heat waves, and I wanted to capture that despite my PC constantly overheating. I couldn’t go out and dance, but if I could, what would I want to listen to during that time? Wave Rider was it.
An EP on Unchained Recordings which in our opinion is your best work to date. How was the creative process like while writing the EP?
Thank you! Yeah I’m very happy with how it’s turned out. Interestingly, and I may still have these files somewhere, the tunes went through several iterations. Lighter in particular started off as a 135 BPM dark Garage/House bit which I eventually sped up. I’m becoming more interested in that idea. It’s almost like remixing yourself. It can also make the sound palette much more interesting when you make a DnB tune that was never really supposed to end up as a DnB tune in the first place. Similar stories with the rest of the EP. Unrequited dub came from a 140 demo from a few years back. Wasn’t sure what to do with it but I knew I had to use that vocal sample somehow, so it became what it is today. All Massive All Crew was, going back to lockdown, a yearning to get back to the rave in a love-letter form.
You may also like: TFword’s Top Drum & Bass Labels of The Year
The title track of the EP features a collaboration with P4VAN. How was the experience like while working on the tune with him?
It was fantastic! Everything just sort of fell into place, it’s always great when you collaborate and that happens. No going back and forth, just a resounding “YES MATE”. Working with PAV4N has always been a goal of mine, and to hear him deliver with such honesty and emotion was wonderful. I’ve been listening to his music for a long time now, it’s always mental when you get to work with someone who you were listening to even back on the school bus days, so you could say it was definitely a bucket-list moment!
One artist that you would like to collaborate within and outside of Drum & Bass?
Fred Again… The guy delivered two of my favourite albums of 2021, both in the same year… Two potential albums of the year in one year. What’s not to love about that? An inspiration who I’m I could learn a lot from. Particularly his sampling work.
What is lined up for Lakeway in 2022?
All Sorts! A few Singles here and there, a few tunes on various compilation albums. An EP for Super Sonic Booty Bangers, which I am particularly excited about. Hopefully some more collaborations in the future. Writing beats with vocalists in mind is definitely something I’m trying to centre my ideas around more, so hopefully more of that! And who knows, maybe I’ll take the album out of limbo. No promises though.
5 tunes you are digging at the moment?
The Sun Made For A Soft Landing – HAAi
IMANU & The Caracal Project – Neiges
Marco (And Everyone) – Fred Again…
How Bout Dat (Feat. FFSYTHO) – The Bug
Gimme The Loot – Zero T
Here is a sneak peek into Lakeway’s ‘No Escape’ EP’: