If there’s one holy grail for any producer looking to make their own stamp in any genre, it’s this: to sound unique. Ridiculously easy (and pretty obvious) to say, painfully hard (and pretty frustrating) to achieve. But it seems 22-year-old west country d&b flexer Liam Ralph has definitely found his own solution to approaching this age- old conundrum.
Liam operates as Lakeway, a jungle fusionist whose singular sound is consistently unpredictable, playful and just as prone to smouldering halftime grooves as it is scatty breakbeat brock-outs. After a few initial steps on minor digi labels as a 15/16-year-old, Liam first began to dent his name on the game with his dispatches on evergreen futurist stable Diffrent around 2015. Now, as of this month, he’s officially joined the ranks at Hospital’s experimental talent-incubating imprint Med School and is about to drop his debut label EP ‘Frozen Nerves’. From the dissonant piano lingers of ‘Death Becometh’ to the roadman riot ‘My Ting’, the EP succinctly sums up why Med School snapped him up; he genuinely sounds like no other artist operating on the 170 axis. Here’s one of the reasons why...
“I literally stopped listening to drum & bass for a year,” he grins. “I went totally cold turkey on it and it did me good! It meant I was getting inspired from other things and I think that reflects in the drum & bass I’m making now.”
It’s the original jungle recipe: the strongest melting pots reflect the flavours an artist is tasting outside of the genre. This is definitely the case with Liam; his persy music collection is currently top-loaded with grime and wave music, heavily scented with the instrumental stench of labels such as Coyote Records, Gobstopper Records and Terrorhythm. “It’s the melodic and emotional weight,” he explains. “Not so much the MC stuff or the aggy ‘wahey gun fingers!’ stuff.”
“I literally stopped listening to drum & bass for a year, I went totally cold turkey on it and it did me good!"
Ironically, Liam’s music will frequently make you pull the sharpest of bazooka digits. His break- melting, synth-smelting Med School debut ‘Lock Off’ earlier this year is apt evidence. But within any given Lakeway track, there are also moments of introspection and emotion. And while some of that definitely does smack with strong twangs of grime and 140 influence, there’s another much stronger ingredient that gives him his unique sound.
“This music has to reflect me and what I’m feeling,” explains Liam, who has spent challenging times in his life battling the black dogs of depression and quit his music technology degree because he felt he was being taught production by-numbers and wasn’t being encouraged artistically. “Music has become more of an emotional outlet than anything else. It makes things way more personal than maybe they could be, or should be maybe, but approaching things in any other way feels contrived or forced. So if a track turns out to be a banger, I must have just been feeling a bit aggy and fucked off at the time. Sorry, I have to be honest!”
If there’s another holy grail for any producer looking to make their own stamp in any genre, it’s that: honesty.