20 juni 2015

Christian Smith

Born in Stockholm, the DJ/producer has spent the last decade working relentlessly to bring his amalgamation of funky house and tribal techno to a global platform. Although Swedish by birth, Christian spent much of his youth in Frankfurt, Germany,where his father was stationed as a pilot, and this turn fate played an unexpected role in determining his musical tastes.

It was the early eighties and the music at the time was early electro, soul, funk and late disco music. Groups like The SOS Band, Newcleus, funk bands like Cameo and tracks like Fade To Grey by Visage had a huge influence on Christian. Although his older brother and sister would bring home the dj mix tapes from the big clubs, with music from the pre house days. This is what Christian turned on to.

By the time Christian had turned fourteen, he looked old enough to get into the clubs himself and became, by his own admission, "a manic train spotter." Frequenting Sven Vaths Dorian Grey residency, this club had a big effect on Christian. He went to the clubs for the music and to check out the DJ's. If Dorian Grey was Smiths introduction to the realms of electronic music, then it would be his experiences in another of dance music's capital cities that would help mould and solidify Christians deeply entrenched love for club music.

Moving to New York in 1989, Christian discovered that, running parallel to its high profile house community, the city that never sleeps also had a thriving techno scene. All the early techno clubs had started in New York, with Joey Beltram at The Limelight and soon afterwards Jeff Mills.

After finishing high school in 1992, Christian moved to Washington DC to study international business at university and, in his spare time started DJing. He never dreamt DJing would become his career. Smith nonetheless started playing at big raves in Washington and Baltimore, spinning to audiences of between 500 and 3,000 people. Lets not forget, this was the early nineties, and his choice of music was somewhat different to his trademark funky techno and house fusion, as it was the hard trance and techno days. He was playing tracks on labels like Harthouse, R&S and Music Man.

Unsurprisingly, given the nature of dance music's loosely defined early nineties status, Smiths first record Overdose as Neuromancer, came out on in 1992 on a label called Music Now, only for the imprint to release a follow up record by none other than BTs Embrace The Future. Back then Christian was already making house infused techno, probably less structured and not as well produced as nowadays.

Indeed, Christians earliest DJing experiences also played a definitive role in his future work, as he first met regular collaborator John Selway in 1993. Selway, who was playing the same rave circuit as Christian at this time was also working in New Yorks renowned Satellite Records store, the place where Smith, who was still based in Washington, would order his tunes from. John and Christian connected musically and therefore decided to hook up and make some tracks and the Smith and Selway sound was born.

In 1994, Christian set up the Tronic label, and, despite releasing three well-received records, put the label on hold until three years later, in 1997. Christian put the label on hold, as he was still a full time university student in Washington. By '97 he felt really inspired by DJing and the music that this prompted him to get working seriously with his label TRONIC. However, on completing his studies, Christian started to go to New York more frequently to collaborate with John Selway. Subsequently putting out collaborative EPs on Dave Angels Rotation label and Primate, Smiths own 1997 release, Goldrush the fourth release on Tronic also caused a serious reaction, this was the point everything took off. Tronic became a popular label and Goldrush got licensed all over the place. It was a really hard disco house tune that DJs like Sneak picked up on and it was also the first time a lot of people reacted to one of his releases. DJs like Carl Cox and Dave Angel, people who were my idols in the early days really supported it. It did so well that every month Christian had to press up more copies!

Back in Stockholm, Smith noticed that the demand for his tightly mixed, three decks DJing had increased and was booked to play all over Europe and beyond. In an interesting parallel development to Christians heightened profile, the latter part of the nineties saw Swedish producers like Adam Beyer, Joel Mull and Cari Lekebusch also attain an international following. From 1997 to 1999, the Swedish sound was really hyped. Christian comes from a different background, from a funk and soul background. A point Christian feels strongly about, and is quick to detach himself from any notions of purism. Adamant that he was listening to house before techno, he also points out that, way back in 1994, when he set up Tronic, he encountered some resistance from his distributors because he wanted to release material that was somewhere in between house and techno. The distributors advised to produce/release house or techno as it would sell better, but something in between wasn’t going to work," Christian feels that history has proved him right. As much as Christian dislikes the term, Tronic was one of the first tech-house labels, music that house and techno DJs could play; Christian calls his style housey techno!

Despite his newfound success, Christian didn't rest on his laurels, and, for rest of the nineties, he focused on DJing, producing and remixing as much as possible. Releasing more EPs on Tronic, Intec and Primevil, the Swedish DJ says that though one of his releases, Vanguard caught the attention and support of BBC Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong, he had to keep working as hard as ever. The really big crossover records like Move!, on Intec and the releases on labels like Rotation and Intec opened up his work to a lot of people.

While there's no doubt that Christians distinctive work injected a much-needed sense of funk back into techno, he made it accessible to a wider audience. His DJing is of an exceptionally high standard; Smiths willingness to travel to literally every country in the globe has been another determining factor in his ascendance.

Christian very much enjoys Asia and Eastern Europe as his favorite new places to play in. On a recent South East Asia tour, successful dates were achieved in South Korea, Kuala Lumpur and Ministry Of Sound in Bangkok. Japan is a place were Christian has a large following due to the rocking sets at Womb in Tokyo.

While Smiths releases ensured his bookings continued to soar, the Swedish DJ/producer identifies the release of his first major mix CD, Tronic Treatment as another turning point in his career. Weighing in at twenty eight tracks and recorded live in Australia on three decks, the smooth mix moves from funky house through to dubby, rolling tech-house, into pulsating techno. In fact, as things get faster, his selection becomes more varied, with the brooding electro of Umeks Zeta Reticula, the dark bass powered tones of Adam Beyers Remainings and Deetrons A1 before ending with the deep, Detroit stylings of James Ruskins mix of Metier. It’s one of the most compelling, hand raising, foot stamping interpretations of modern house and techno of recent years, and its no surprise that Christians profile was raised by the mix. His sense of diversity and unwillingness to adhere to one dimension is an ethic Christian believes is inherent in the worlds finest DJs. Christian was most inspired by Carl Cox and Laurent Garnier. Although both DJ’s are quite different what Christian saw in Carl was the ability to mix continuously between three turntables, and create that musical fusion.

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