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100 Not Out: Christian Smith

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Christian Smith has been producing records for over 20 years, first releasing on Music now as Neuromancer in 1992. Consistently rated amongst the brightest stars in electronic music for his work as a DJ, producer and label boss. Last month Christian celebrated his 100th release on his Tronic Music. Data Transmission caught up with him half way through the weekends festivities.

So you’re an experienced veteran of electronic music after over 20 years of making music. We’re aware you held down a job as an investment banker before striking out into the music business. For many musicians it’s almost a right of passage to jack in employment. How was it for you, did you reach a moment where you thought; “I just have to make techno”?

For me it wasn’t really like that. I’d been to university and got a degree in international business and finance. So it  was the logical move to become an investment banker. So I did that. I did it for two years, working for I think 80-90 hours a week. And yes I hated it and I thought the only way out of it is going back to school and getting a masters degree. So I moved to Stockholm to study  at Stockholm school of economics. While I was doing those studies I produced a few records which got the attention of Carl Cox. This was all in the late 90’s. All of a sudden random booking offers started coming in. I was living in  Sweden and suddenly I was being offered gigs in Australia and Japan. You know really distant places so I thought: Hey, I’m going to give it a try!

It was an opportunity that was presented and I went for it. You know when my parents found out that I was going to be a full time DJ they were not too excited at first buy as soon as I stopped asking them for money everything was fine.

You’ve just released your 100th record on your label Tronic. Did you have you have such a long term vision for the label when you started?

To be totally honest when I started they label I just wanted  to release music that was Housey Techno, that was long before the term Tech House existed. There were very few labels that released that type of music. That was the music that I was into at the time so I didn’t care I still wanted to go for it. And it worked! But did I have a long term vision for the label?  Not really. It was more or less just a hobby an outlet for my own music. But then over he years it became more and more serious and more evolved and more professional aswell. Now I have a team of artists like Wehbba and Dosem and it’s a proper label were I release albums and guys from the team release albums we do label parties. I never imagined that I’d being doing label parties all over the world and be one of the top selling labels on Beatport. That I would have never imagined but hey, I’m not complaining about it I’m very happy about it.

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You’ve got three gigs on one weekend to celebrate the century; Barcelona, Derry and London. You’re a busy man!

I played in Barcelona in a club called city hall at a night called Club4. Club4 is actually a night that I started together with Adam Beyer, Marco Carola and Paco Osuna. So we were 4 djs, and the plan initially was to each play one Thursday a month. But then I moved away from Barcelona, it was too much travel for Adam and Marco had other things going on so now Paco basically runs the show but it’s still called Club4 so every time I go back to play there it’s a lot of fun because I spent a lot of time working for the night and seeing it grow. Thursday rocked. Then yesterday I was in Derry in northern Ireland, I haven’t been there much, I think just once before in the beginning of my career like twelve years ago.

St Columbs Hall looks like it’s a great venue, a converted Theatre…

Exactly so the venue was incredible, and the people; they really go of in Ireland. They party as if it’s the last day on earth. So it’s always fun. And tonight I have my Tronic residency at the egg which I do four times a year and I’m really looking forward to that because that’s always good. It’s a very solid established club and I get to book some of my favourite acts and label mates, yeah should be fun.

You’ve got full length LP coming out in a couple of months. Something I know you’re keen on . What is it you enjoy about the long player?

If you look at most of the artists in the last few years very few people release albums.

There are always notable exceptions but as a general rule of thumb with the demise of the record industry people don’t really release albums and since I have my own label and the label is very5 strong I have the power to do whatever I want. so I don’t care about making money with this album; for me it’s not about sales. It’s just something fun and something challenging, because just to do peak time 12 inches, it’s easy. I think once you’ve had a few successful records, I don’t want to say it’s a formula or you’ve figured it out but to do an album means also to go outside of your comfort zone and that’s something I have a lot of fun with.

I respect a lot of artists that release albums and I like to get Tronic artists to do albums too. Dosem is actually the next album coming. His album is coming out next month, then two months later is my album and then two months after that is Wehbba. So I try to encourage my artists to make albums so they can grow musically aswell.

And perhaps once you’re not aiming for the peak time tracks you might come out with something just as suitable for the dance floor but a little different?

100 percent, you can do deeper stuff, you can do more musical stuff. And I try to give them complete freedom aswell artistically. I don’t tell them “hey this needs to be this, this and this”. You know I try make sure they know “you’re a tronic artist you do what you think is best.

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