If you’re a fan of techno music, then you’re bound to have heard the name Christian Smith. If not, which rock have you been sleeping under for the past two decades?
Christian Smith, a Swedish DJ/record producer, is one of the biggest names in the techno scene. He’s been around since the ’90s and has an impressive list of accomplishments. In 1997, he started his label Tronic, which, according to Beatport, is now the second-most top-selling techno label in the world. He also started Tronic Radio, which is an extremely successful and well-known weekly radio show.
As well as starting Tronic and Tronic Radio, Christian Smith has produced, and then released, multiple albums and EPs, and has performed at shows and festivals all over the world. On Feb. 18th, 2017, Christian Smith played at Kingdom in Austin, Texas. I sat down with him before his show to discuss his accomplishments and what he has planned for 2017. Check out the exclusive interview below:
What first inspired you to make music in general and specifically techno music?
I started as a DJ and I think making music, once you’ve DJed a while, is a natural progression. Being a DJ, I got really curious as to how tracks are made so I then got into making music. I first started making House music, then I got into Techno later on. I’ve been doing it for close to 20 years now and I still love it. I’m very active as a producer, as well as a DJ.
It says in your biography that living in Frankfurt, Germany helped determine your music taste. What was it about Germany that influenced you?
What influenced me was my older brother and sister, who are seven and eight years older. When I was 10 years old, they would go clubbing and bring back mixtapes from the clubs. These tapes really inspired me to become a DJ, and still inspire me in my music productions today. Early 80s music has really influenced me a lot and I still listen to this music today once in a while.
What lead you to start Tronic?
I had been releasing a few records and then I suddenly decided that I wanted to do something on my own. It was more like a hobby really to start the label, but I wanted to start a label where you can release Techno, as well as House, and that appeals to both people, House and Techno DJs, and this was long before the term Tech-House existed. At first, people said no one would like this because it’s too hard for the House people and too soft for the Techno guys, but I definitely proved them wrong because Tronic is one of the biggest labels now.
When you first started Tronic, did you imagine that it would grow to be as big and as well-known in the techno genre as it is today?
To be honest, I had no idea. When I started the label, I was a student at university and it was really just a hobby, an outlet for my own creative music. Also, to be totally honest, I didn’t have a long foresight. However, in 2008, I started getting really serious about the label. I got a proper label manager and got really organized, and especially in the last three years the label has grown really fast. Everything is organized and I have a really good team behind me. Teamwork is really important these days if you want to have a good label.
You’ve started Tronic Radio, and that’s been very successful. Do you have any new ideas for or directions that you want to take Tronic in this year?
I’m just going to keep the radio show how it is now. The format is once a month I have one of my mixes from one of my live gigs and the other three times I have a guest DJ. I’m not a purist, so I invite House, Tech-House and Techno DJs so you have a large variety so it stays interesting. There are other radio shows that are just one style, and that’s cool, but I try to mix it up a little bit, and I think that’s partly the secret of its success, that people don’t get bored and enjoy tuning in every week.
Other than the second remix package from your album and your new EP, do you have anything big planned for 2017?
Yes, I’m always producing. But also you have to understand these days it’s a really competitive market out there for DJs and producers. To stay popular, you have to constantly work. You have to produce on a regular basis. You have to tour all the time. So what else I have coming up, I just finished two collaborations last week with John Selway and Harry Romero. I will have a few releases for the end of the year as well.
Is there a specific country or festival that you haven’t performed in or at yet that you want to?
That’s a very good question. I’m a very ambitious person and I always have these things in mind. The other day I thought to myself, are there any shows or festivals that I’d really like to play that I haven’t, and I can honestly say that most of the festivals I really want to play at I have, which is amazing, but I still haven’t played Burning Man. That’s one festival I really want to go to, not just to play at but also to experience the whole festival and be a part of it. I’m doing another festival at the end of May called Lightning in a Bottle, which is supposed to be similar, so I’m really looking forward to it.
Yeah, I haven’t been to either of those but they’re both on my bucket list. I feel like everyone should go to Burning Man at some point in their lives.
At least once, yeah. I have to go as well.
What’s your favorite festival you’ve played? Or are there any where you have had a specific moment in time where you were like, “Wow, this is why I do this?”
I have those moments almost every other week. When I have good moments in my DJ set, I sometimes pinch myself because I can’t believe that I’m getting paid to do exactly what I love. I’m really fortunate. With regards to festivals, I more of have certain clubs or areas that I really like. I really enjoy DJing in Argentina because the Techno scene is really big and good. For example, I go there and my events have somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 attendees and I get to play long sets, between 5 and 7 hours, and I really enjoy doing that. I also like Japan a lot because the Japanese are really passionate and very loyal, they’re a very strong, loyal fan base. Also, they don’t do drugs, which is very interesting, because in our culture, a lot of people do a lot of drugs all the time, but in Japan they don’t.
Is there a specific artist that you haven’t worked with yet that you want to?
I would love to work with Grace Jones because she’s an amazing artist, but I don’t think it’ll every happen. Other than that, I just worked with Harry Romero last week and I learned a lot from him. I enjoy working with people where we compliment each other and where I can learn things from them. Anyone that I can learn something from, I would enjoy working with.
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