Image: Christian Smith
The path of a globe-trotting DJ is probably one of the most envied positions around. For a pantheon of acolytes that pack into clubs and festival weekend after weekend it looks like the ultimate role, commanding the attention of thousands on a weekly basis and driving their club experience. The perception is it’s pretty easy too; turn up, play a few records and then cavort backstage with the bevvy of groupies at your beck and call. Dream job.
The reality is slightly different, with the grueling flight schedules only matched by the hard work that goes into the litany of tasks that define the modern DJ. Christian Smith, one of the defining voices in techno over the past fifteen years, epitomizes the dedication it takes to reach this goal. His release schedule has seen him clock credits on labels such as Bedrock and Intec, but it’s his own Tronic imprint which has really established him as a creative force. The label is built around his signature sound of driving yet melodic house and techno, and the imprint celebrated a hundred releases this year, an accolade they’ve reveled in by going on the road.
Smith also more than holds his own as a DJ (demonstrated by his weekly Tronic radio show, the latest with Chus & Ceballos is above), and also sees the continental travel as a bonus of the job rather than a hindrance, something he relayed to us in this interview. We caught up with him to discuss everything going on his world and that of Tronic.
Your record label Tronic achieved a landmark 100 releases earlier this year. What has been the secret of your success?
Passion, hard work and a good team - I really love what I do and certainly am not doing it for the money. I think that’s probably the main reason why Tronic has been so successful over the years and is still on top of its game.
How tough is it to run a label in the modern climate?
You have to adapt to market dynamics. A long time ago, people did extensive touring to sell more music. Now it’s the other way around, we make music to get more gigs. I never looked at my music production as my main source of income.
You’ve taken the Tronic brand out on the road in 2013 – how has that been?
Great, but hard work! You have a lot of responsibilities running a big label with a good brand. People depend on you for gigs, releases etc. But it’s amazing to see how many offers I have had to do Tronic nights at clubs just this year alone.
One of the locations you have done this in has been Egg London, where you’ve played a few times. What is your relationship with both the club and the city like?
Before I started playing at Egg I played at all the other main London clubs. I was a semi resident at Fabric for a couple of years playing there three to four times a year, then I did Matter while it lasted and also did Ministry Of Sound a few times. But it’s Egg where I feel at home!
I really love the energy of the crowd. At some of the other clubs people care more about being cool or important. At Egg they just go for it and have a blast. I also really like the team running Egg, it’s such a pleasure playing there and everything around it, and it’s like my family in London.
You’ve collaborated recently with Wehbba; how did that partnership come about?
Wehbba and I met quite a few years ago and while he lived in Europe a few years back he did some engineering work for me in the studio. His skills are top notch; he’s definitely one of the best out there. So, after working with him for some time we decided to collaborate on some remixes for Laurent Garnier and Funk D'Void.
Both of these remixes did really well and it was fun to actually work together in the studio rather than me telling him what to do, the way it had been before when he was engineering for me. Then we decided to make a few tracks together, our chemistry in the studio is really good and the workflow very natural, so we decided to make a trilogy of releases called ‘Passion over Fashion’.
The first one is currently at Number one in the Beatport Techno sales chart, so it’s a good start!
Have you any further collaborations primed for the future?
The second and third parts of our "Passion Over Fashion" trilogy still haven't been released. I'm very excited about them, as they are at least as good as the first one! The second one is full-on acid house.
Can you ever see yourself reprising the Smith & Selway project?
I worked for many years with John (Selway), and I really enjoyed both working with him and learning from him too. He was a mentor for me when it came to producing and arranging music. However, I'm quite happy where I am now, making music mostly solo and once in a while collaborating with someone else.
However, if I ever go to New York for a few days, don't be surprised if suddenly a new Smith & Selway track comes out on Tronic. John and I still keep in touch and are still good friends.
You’ve stated in the past that being a DJ has allowed you to experience a variety of cultures, not just via your gigs, but by living in differing locations with you currently being based in Spain. Where else have you lived, and has this had an impact on your productions at any point?
I have had the luxury of living in quite a few nice places. The single best benefit of being an international DJ is that you can live anywhere you want, you just have to be close to an airport. I have lived in Frankfurt, Washington DC, New York, Barcelona, Sao Paulo, and now in Palma de Mallorca.
Has the music I made been influenced by where I’ve lived? A little for sure, but I think what still influences me the most are my roots and history in electronic music. I grew up on early 80's disco, funk, electro etc. That period has and still influences me a great deal.
And finally - what is coming up for the future of the label and yourself?
Keeping busy making songs and remixes, DJing every weekend, and drinking some nice wine! Hopefully I can take 1 week off in early 2014. I’m in need of a small holiday.
You can catch Christian Smith at Egg, London this Saturday 10th August 2013
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