TSC Behind The Decks | Christian Smith
Christian Smith is one of the world’s leading exponents of techno, both as a DJ and producer he is always bold and innovative. With his output in recent years, it is hard to imagine a list of prolific producers without his name towards the top. Although Swedish by birth, Christian spent most of his childhood years in Frankfurt, Germany which no doubt played an unexpected role in determining his musical tastes from a young age.
In 1995 he started his label Tronic, since then it has dominated the charts with releases from Christian himself and the likes of ANNA, Paco Osuna, Drunken Kong, Kaiserdisco, Enrico Sangiuliano, Nick Curly and more. The label has been the No.2 top selling techno label in the world according to Beatport, and it has just celebrated its 400th release.
To date, Christian Smith has released 3 acclaimed albums “Omakase”, “Stranger Than Paradise”, and “Input-Output”, alongside countless EPs on his own Tronic, as well as Drumcode, Cocoon, Plus8/Minus Bedrock, Mobilee and others.
We are joined today by Christian Smith to chat about, what is it like to be back on the road and tour again, his latest release, and why Argentina is such a special place to play as a DJ.
Hi Christian Smith, happy to have you as a guest on our Behind The Decks interview series. Where am I catching you and what have you been up to lately?
I am in London, UK right now chilling in my apartment. I just returned from a 13 gig USA tour so it’s nice to get everything back in order with the label, Tronic Ibiza for 2022, and planning several other tours in the coming months.
Can you remember the first time you heard electronic music? What was your initial reaction to it – was it love at first-side, or did it grow on you over-time?
I was around 9 or 10 years old. I have an older brother and sister and they Brough home a mixtape from a local club in Frankfurt, Germany called Dorian Grey. The music on the tape was everything mixed from early electro like Kraftwerk to Newcleus, as well as more mainstream stuff like heaven 17, and Human League. One track that I remember to this day that just blew me away was Unit by Logic System. It was a Japanese synth track that sounded so futuristic. Still does. I listed to a lot of late disco music, soul, and funk, and then gradually got into house music around 1987, then a few days later in 1990 techno sucked me to a point of no return.
What is it that you love the most about DJing and music till this day?
It’s all about the energy of the crowd. It’s one of the greatest feelings to have people go crazy to the music that you play. That raw adrenaline is incredible.
What is the second thing you love the most after music?
Well, I have two small kids, so they come even above music! However, music has been my passion since a child, and I feel extremely grateful to have my hobby as a career. It’s really a dream come true. Especially when you think that I started as an investment banker. I hated that career so much that I figured the only way to get out of it was to go back to university. Then while I was at university at Stockholm School of Economics, I produced a few records and they happened to get the attention of many big DJ’s and promoters. It all happened very fast. I suddenly had booking requests all over the world. Needless to say, I never finished my master’s degree and jumped straight into the music life. This was nearly 25 years ago now and I never looked back!
What was the first record you bought with your own money? What was the latest record you bought?
I bought a bunch of pop singles when I was kid, but I honestly do not remember the first since that I bought. I do, however, remember the very first 12” that I bought. It was Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill. Still love this song today! As for my latest record that I bought, it must have been around 10 years ago as I switched to DJ’ing digitally around 2011. I played with records for so many years, and loved it, but also see the benefits of being able to have thousands of tracks with you on a USB stick. This gives me a huge library of music to choose from during my gigs and feel it has made me a better DJ.
What led to creating Tronic Recordings? You have been very honest that you are not running Tronic for the money. Have you had moments where you felt like walking away from it, and if yes, how did you find a way out of it?
I have had Tronic for over 25 years now. I would be lying if I said it’s been all amazing and I had no obstacles to overcome. I have had several moments where I got very upset, and once after my distributor went bankrupt it was very discouraging that I even took a two-year break from releasing music on Tronic. Then you have the occasional artist that you spend a lot of time building up and they leave for other labels. But this happens, it’s part of the industry. But generally, I think the label has survived and thrived for so long because it’s a passion of mine, not a business. Most of the artists that release on Tronic are personal friends of mine and a real joy to work with. And now that the scene is slowly coming back post pandemic, we will do loads of Tronic events again. Ibiza 2022 will happen as well! 🙂
Tronic Podcast – Radio by Christian Smith
What are you proudest of as founder of Tronic, and what is your #1 advice for DJs wanting to start their own record label?
What makes me the proudest is that I have been able to help many artists with their careers and bold profile. It’s a real pleasure seeing that artists that I first identified and helped through Tronic becoming popular international artists. My #1 advice to people wanting to start your own label is do it when you are ready and organised! So many artists start they labels because they don’t have luck with the bigger labels. That’s not a smart move. I would suggest you first have a few releases on bigger labels then start your own label once people know who you are. And then work your ass off, and be very organised with promotions, alliances etc. it’s easy to start a label, but very difficult to run a label properly.
Your latest remix is of “Robotman – Do Da Doo (Christian Smith Big Room Remix)”, released in 2021 on City Noises. Tell us more about that remix? How did you get on it, how did you go about remixing?
I made this remix around 10 years ago. I’ve been friends with Richie Hawtin for many years, and I always loved his acid house version of this track. So, I called him and asked to remix it, and he said “sure why not”. I just made it a bit more edgy and powerful. When you have a good original, it always makes it a lot easier to remix.
Robotman – Do Da Doo (Christian Smith Big Room Remix)
Your latest original release is “Let Yourself Go/Atmosphere”, released on your label Tronic. As described, this release has your trademark of party techno vibes. The release is energetic, while staying true to your roots. Would you mind describing the production process behind “Let Yourself Go” and Atmosphere, and what equipment/hardware did you produce it all on? Lastly, why did you decide to make a stripped-down remix of “Let Yourself Go”, and an Electronic Mix of “Atmosphere”?
These days a lot of producers feel pressured to make ‘Hits”. When I started in the techno industry most of us DJ’ s were encouraged for playing anonymous music. The DJ’s that played tracks that all the clubbers knew were considered cheesy and not good. Usually as soon as a record came out most DJ’ s stopped playing it. Obviously, times have changed, but when I make my ‘party style techno’ I don’t look to make a hit. I just want to produce good functional club tracks. If some of them became big, then that’s great, but it’s never really the intention. I like to make whatever keeps me happy and motivated. This can change from week to week as well. As for this release the tracks were made ‘in the box’ with no hardware on Ableton. Some of the plug ins I used were the U-He Repro 1, Arturia Pigments, TAL Bassline101. I also used a lot of samples. The main bassline in ‘Lets Yourself Go” is actually from a hip-hop track from 1988. I made a few versions because its nice to have different versions for different gigs. Some more underground gig I would probably prefer playing the stripped-down warehouse mix over the original. Just like on records, there always used to be a few versions. As for the electro mix, it’s a passion of mine. I really enjoy producing electro. I like to challenge myself and do different things in the studio.
Christian Smith – Let Yourself Go/Atmosphere
You recently finished your US tour. How is it being back on tour after almost 18 months break during Covid-19, and how is it gigging again in the US? What did you miss the most about performing live?
I was amazing but also a bit overwhelming to be honest. After such a long break to suddenly to do 13 gigs in one month is heavy. I am happy I did it and super proud that my team managed to put together so many gigs in such difficult times, but next time I will do a big tour once I’m already used to the touring life. Thankfully have 2 weeks off now become heading to India for a few gigs. I always travelled a lot for my gigs and usually am used to it, but it takes some time to fully get into this lifestyle again with not sleeping regularly, eating loads of shit, and being away from home for so long. Having said that I love my job, I honestly do! Lol
In previous interviews you said that Argentina for the last few years is the best place to play Techno. Has this remained the same for you, and what is it about the Argentinian crowd that makes it the best place to play to?
That’s a very good question! My very last show before the global pandemic kicked in was in Cordoba, Argentina and it was fantastic. Argentina always had a very strong nightlife scene. It used to be more for progressive dj’s, but for some reason I was lucky and always got booked to play the main clubs there. I have not been back in 2 years and cannot wait to return! Especially now that techno is big there. I have been part of the scene there for close to 20 years and seen it progress to amazing levels. I can’t wait to return in 2022!
Can you tease what your fans can expect from you and Tronic in 2022? Any exciting releases or collabs you’d like to mention?
I have been very productive in the past year when it comes to making music. You will see forming releases on Eric Prydz’s Pryda label, Ben Sims’s Symbolism label, Harry Romero’s Bambossa label, and of course Tronic. My next release will come out Dec. 17th on Tronic and I think it’s the best release I have done in a while. As for Tronic you will see more releases by Japan’s Drunken Kong, Uruguay’s Diego Infanzon, and Turkeys Procombo. I am also planning a bunch of Tronic events for 2022, so we will be busy again. Finally! And lastly, as 2021 is coming to an end, what do you wish for yourself, Tronic and your fans in 2022?
I want people to try to care more about the content than the package! It should not be about how good looking or how many IG followers a person has but should be about how the music is and how that artist DJ’s. Social media has become a necessary evil and I get it, but this is my wish. Please pay more attention the actual music! 🙂
Thanks for being my guest for this interview Christian Smith. See you behind the decks!