Christian Smith is without a doubt a prolific visionary in the global techno scene. His legacy doesn’t stop at his credibility as DJ and producer. He is also reputable for his widely respected Tronic imprint that hit the 20 year mark a few years ago. It is also one of the top three best-selling techno labels in the world according to Beatport.
As an artist, he has consistently been on top of his game for over the past decade. His last two albums, Stranger Than Paradise, released in 2014, the follow up to the critically acclaimed 2013 release, Omakase garnered massive reviews and praises worldwide. These releases successfully showcased his multiple styles within the techno genre.
The Swede native returns to South East Asia this weekend with a gig in Singapore scheduled. Christian will be hitting the decks of kyō Saturday, 20th February he for Tropiclab featuring Christian Smith. We caught up with the Swede to chat about the current state of techno, and of course, his label, Tronic.
How is 2016 shaping up for you? Have you started plans for summer?
I started the New Year with a ten gig tour across South America. It was great fun to play in Buenos Aires for New Years Eve, and also to have my Tronic event at the BPM Festival in Mexico. This summer will be busy indeed. Besides doing a bunch of festivals around Europe, I am also working on a new album as well as planning on doing more Tronic branded events. This gives me a chance to push some lesser known talent to play with me and to help their careers.
Who are some of the upcoming producers in Tronic at the moment?
I quite like Reinier Zonneveld from Holland. He is still very young and I think he will make it. I also think that artists such as Enrico Sangiuliano, Anna, and Rob Hes have bright futures ahead.
After all these years of nurturing Tronic, what is that distinctive element that sets your artists apart from the rest of flock?
I’d like to think ‘loyalty’. It gives me great pleasure to have artists use the Tronic platform to help them develop their careers. Some artists move onto other labels while others stay loyal. At the end of the day, I am not a militant label owner that forces artists to stay with the label. I think it is important to work together to achieve goals. Some artists agree with my vision and I certainly managed to get their names some attention in the world of house and techno.
It’s common practice that DJ’s/producers end up starting their own label and brand. Is it really necessary for one to do so to enhance their musical career? What was your motivation to do so?
When I started Tronic it was purely out of passion. I had no long-term strategic goals or to build a massive brand. I just wanted to have an outlet for music that both house and techno DJ’s could play. This was long before the actual term ‘tech-house’ existed. I called it ‘housey techno’. Back in the day, things were very simple. You make a few records that are successful and you have a full booking schedule all around the world (assuming you are a good DJ).
Now, however, things have changed a lot. In order to succeed you need to make the right alliances, release music almost on a monthly basis, be very active on social media, have proper PR, release podcasts, and strategize a lot. I love what I do, so I don’t mind, but on the other hand all these secondary things take a lot of time from music production.
That’s a bit of a shame, but it is what it is. I am also very thankful that my touring schedule is busier than ever and takes me all around the world every year. I’ve been touring so much and for so long that if I’m home for more than ten days I get antsy.
He has many valid points, but he just singled out the commercial side of one genre. Let’s face it, all genres have their cheesy sides. Techno as well as house have horrible cheesy music and producers. One thing that really bores me is when an artist or label becomes too predictable.
I always try to evolve musically as an artist and A&R for Tronic. The problem are the sheep that don’t have their own tastes and just follow trends. As soon as something becomes popular or hyped producers copy the sound over and over and it gets watered down, saturated and banal. I see the same happening with the “ueber cool” Berghain techno now.
How do you think techno has evolved? What are some of the things that you like about its evolution?
I like the fact that Techno slowed down in BPM’s a lot over the last ten years. Now the speed of techno is the same as house. This opens up to a new world of tracks to make your set more interesting and original. I also like that techno is hyped again. Everything is cyclical. A few years ago minimal was hyped, then tech house, now its techno. I’m happy because techno is for the most part underground music and its cool to see people go crazy over songs they have never heard before.
What is your current mood of techno these days?
I don’t like to get stuck within names of genres. I’m not a purist and if I like it, I play it. My sets go from house to techno, and everything in between. I often wonder how some DJ’s can play the same style for four to six hours not and get bored out of their mind. When I started DJ’ing I was taught to be open minded and tell a story with my sets. This is one of many reasons why I find the sets of Laurent Garnier and Francois K very inspiring.
Coming from Sweden, where it’s pretty obvious that EDM artists are thriving. What is the current state of the underground scene?
I actually left Sweden a long time ago so thankfully I was never exposed to all this EDM crap. Adam Beyer is still going very strong with Drumcode and I’m very happy for him. But you hit a nerve when mentioning this EDM genre to me as I have a strong dislike towards it. It’s without a doubt the worse case of pop music we have ever had.
Zero creativity, and just clowns jumping with flags or cakes that don’t even know how to play longer than their pre-programmed two hour sets. One thing I love about techno is that you are expected to play tracks that the people have never heard before.
This won’t be your first time in Asia. What’s your favorite part about playing in this region?
I have been touring Asia for many years and I really enjoy being part of an emerging scene. I do around two to three weekends a year in Asia, and love the different cultures, foods, and listening to people’s stories. I go to Japan every year and the vibe there is really amazing. Some other new markets are also slowly opening towards techno.
From what I could gather EDM is still by far the biggest genre is Asia, however countries such as Thailand and Indonesia are slowly opening up towards underground music. Singapore and Hong Kong seem to slowly get back on track as well. Asia is definitely a market that’s expanding for underground music and I’m fortunate to play there from time to time.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like to try while you’re Asia?
The food! I’m a big foodie and love the diversity across Asia. Can’t wait to have my Peking duck when I’m in Singapore.
Check out details for Christian Smith's gig for Tropiclab's shindig on 20th February at kyō here. This month marks an important milestone for the label as Tronic celebrates their 200th release. 'Passion Over Fashion' by Christian Smith and Wehbba will be released on 29th February.