The Pursuit of Happiness with Chris Liebing
Chris Liebing lives and breathes techno. From his legendary marathon sets, to his productions and live set to the running of his label, the man is undoubtedly committed to his art. Thus when we were granted the chance to grab a word with the kick drum loving German we jumped at the chance to pick his brains on all things electronic.
So Chris, If I could take you back to the beginning and ask you what first drew you to electronic music and where was your first gig? what do you think has changed about the scene since your involvement?
I remember my first gig very well as I organized it myself. I had already been a DJ for a while, but I played all kinds of styles before I got into Techno music in the beginning of the 90s – like `91, `92, `93 – and it wasn´t before `94 that I could finally play a full night of Techno and House – it lot of ‘Strictly Rhythm’ back then. It was in a club I opened myself in a little town outside Frankfurt and it was called “Spinclub”. The purpose to open this club was basically to hire myself as a DJ so I could play the music that I liked, which I wasn’t able to play before at other clubs where I played all sorts of music to have all sorts of people dancing. But with this knowledge of DJ-ing I wanted to dive into Techno only – and that’s what happened.
Now your name is synonymous with your label CLR, how did the transition come about from artist to label boss? What new challenges did this present?
The transition from artist to label boss was totally fluent. Right away in `95 I actually participated in the founding of a label called Soap Records. Back then I was not really the label boss. We were three or four guys and I was one of them. I thought that it’s all one thing – I thought if you want to play electronic music you also want to get your idea of music out, so you need a platform to release it. It seemed natural to me, and of course producing my own music also seemed natural to me. So that’s how it happened. There were not really new challenges that came along with that, I just spent way more time in the studio, which was a lot of fun. Other people maybe went out to have drinks with friends and started an amazing social life, which I sort of never did. I enjoyed myself sitting with friends in the studio, making music, listening to music, trying to find new releases and so on.
Do you feel a greater responsibility now as a label boss that your imprint should represent your own philosophies and beliefs?
I don’t feel a greater responsibility now as a label boss, because my label represents my own philosophy and beliefs – it’s not something that I have to chase or watch out for – it’s just something that happens. I don’t really put much effort in this, it’s just rolling on. There are a lot of people who are as excited about it as I am and the influences come from everywhere. It’s not only me who is forming this philosophy, it’s formed by all of the people who are working together and who share this. It’s not that I am the originator, it just sort of came about and I couldn’t really tell you how and why. I think the most important factor is, that I did not stop it from happening. On the one hand you could say that I did not consciously do it, but on the other hand I definitely did not consciously stop it from happening.
What would you change about electronic music scene if you could?
What would I change about the electronic music scene if I could? Nothing – I wouldn’t change a thing, because that would put me in the position of being somehow responsible for the electronic music scene, just because I wanted it in a certain way. I think it’s great as it is, because everybody can express their own ideas. There are people in there for money only, there are people in there for the underground only, there are people in there for a mixture of both, there are people in there for all sorts of reasons and I think that’s great. It’s a positive exchange and it should not be any different. Even though I probably hate a lot of electronic music which is out there, because I just think it sounds like crap, it doesn’t mean that I hate the people who do it or think that these people are crap – no, no, no, everybody shall do whatever they feel like doing, because that’s the great thing about electronic music – it’s so global, it does not have any borders and I like that.
Could you tell us about the processes that you go through when creating new music? Is there a formula you adhere to or a looser organic process? There has been a massive resurgence in analogue equipment being used, do you think this will stifle the rise of younger digital producers?
Well, the first piece of gear I got my hands on was probably an MS20, because I started to produce with a friend together back in `95 and that was one of the synths he owned – amongst other really nice things like a Juno 106 for example, obviously a 303, a 909, 808 – we had all these nice things in the studio back in the days. I actually still have them – not the exact same machines, but new ones as I believe that it’s just excellent, timeless gear. For me, making music is always a struggle – until I get to the moment when it just comes out of me. I actually believe that to a certain extent it even has to be a struggle. I never had the feeling that I am in the studio and everything I do is just great. I am still trying to find this moment when I am doing the kind of music I am totally happy with, and maybe this unfulfilled feeling is also part of the passion behind it. One thing I knew pretty early, was that whatever kind of music I am going to do, I will not copy anything, instead I will do whatever I feel like doing. I was totally convinced from the beginning on, that just doing something that was popular is not the way I want to go. I wanted to produce what I think is great for playing out and what suits my soul – and I am still trying to find that.
Can you tell us about more about CLR X?
CLRX is the sub-label specially created for let’s say more “out there electronic music”, for example check out the MOTOR album. I am curious about what will come next – that’s all I can tell you right now.
So your coming to London soon for a 6hr set, do you enjoy playing these longer sets and how do you prepare for them? Do you prepare differently depending on which city your in? Anything we might see in London but not Paris, Rome or Berlin or the other way round?
Yeah, I am definitely looking forward to coming to London again and to playing a 6hr set. I really enjoy playing longer sets, and sometimes after 6 hours I just really, really enjoy it and it feels so good that I could go on for another 6 hours. This is something that sometimes happens at Berghain in Berlin where a set can easily end up being 13 hours long. But this so much depends on the people on the dancefloor, how deep they want to go, how much they are expecting, if they are just letting go or if you can make them let go after a while – that is basically the challenge. I don’t necessarily prepare any different for a long set than I prepare for any other set, as my setup allows me to be kind of prepared at any moment. There is always enough material on my computers to make music, so I don’t have to sit down and think about what to play in a long set. I just have to be in the right mind-set, so preparing for this kind of gigs would rather mean to have a good meal and have some good rest before, and if this is not possible, then I still have to take care to be in a good state of mind and be positive about what I am doing, enjoy it, don’t push too hard and just let go and let it flow. I grew up playing long sets, my DJ school was the Omen in Frankfurt, the legendary club where I was fortunate to hold a residency in the last four years it was open. As a resident DJ I had to play long sets in the morning as the guest DJs would sometimes not want to play longer than two hours, so you warmed up for them and then you took it down for them and that was a great DJ school. In Germany we are kind of used to playing long sets. It’s a different scene or a different idea from what it used to be in England. I remember when I came to England for the first time, everybody was playing one or two hours sets and I was like – what’s that all about?! I know this has changed now, but in Germany the DJ was never really that important. Of course there was music in the clubs, but there was normally this one guy playing for six or seven hours because there were no other DJs around, and that’s how you got used to playing long sets. And I also don’t prepare differently depending on which city I am going to play. How could I prepare for something I don’t know how it will end up looking like? You may know the club, but then you don’t know the people who will come, the mood, the atmosphere, what the guy before you will play, what’s happening, how you will feel yourself – no, there is nothing you can prepare for that – you just have to be naturally prepared and then react to the situation you are facing when you get there I guess. There are definitely things you might see in London and not in Paris, Rome or Berlin, or you’ll see things happening in Berlin that will definitely not happen in Paris. The great thing is, that there are always things happening over the course of a night that trigger ideas. And than you just put one of those ideas in action, or you combine it with an idea you had in another city months before. You might remember what you did back then and you might pull out an old track that worked great with another one and create something completely new – things like that just happen. There are always new and unexpected things happening and this keeps me exited about playing. I always wonder when a band releases an album and then they tour maybe in 30 different stadiums worldwide, always playing the same setlist – how can they remain excited about what they are doing? Obviously they can, there are great bands out there which can make it interesting every night again, but I am happy that I don’t have to do that, I am happy that I can just do whatever I feel like in that very moment.
What does the future hold for Chris Liebing? Do you have any ambitions outside of music that you’d like to pursue?
I’d like to pursue happiness. That’s basically it. I don’t have big plans regarding what will happen with me. I am pretty happy right now in respect of how my musical career is going, how the label is growing, how the agency is growing and how everyone is having fun. There are automatically new opportunities coming up, as you are doing something that you enjoy. The main thing is that you don’t step in the way of those things that are happening because you think you have to. I think “pursuit of happiness” pretty much sums it up for me.
Catch Chris in London at Closer at Secret a London Location on Saturday 23rd February for a 6 hour set. For more information and tickets visit http://londonwarehouseevents.co.uk/closer-chris-liebing-6-hours/