I missed Christian Smith when he recently came through Boston, so it was great to catch him in Detroit during Movement. With a top-selling record label and weekly radio show, in addition to touring left and right, he’s got a lot going on. Read through our conversation to hear his thoughts on the Europe vs. US techno festival scene, advice for starting a label, and how he curates lineups for his parties.
You’re playing soon, at 7pm? When did you get in and where’d you come here from?
► I was in Ibiza on Thursday, then New York for one night and I am here today.
You stopped there for a studio session with John Selway. Anything good come out of that?
► Very good, I’m gonna play them today.
And you’ve played Movement before.
► I haven’t been here in many years, maybe eight years. It’a long overdue.
I’m sure you’ve seen a million techno festivals in Europe, and not many in the US.
► I think [Movement] is actually the only [US] one I would say. Some other festivals like EDC book a handful of techno DJs out of like 200, but this one is predominately techno and it’s great North America has something of this nature.
Do you notice a difference in the crowd at this type of festival in Europe versus here?
► Europe has had the music longer, so it’s much bigger so people are more educated as a result of that. The music festivals in Europe are much more concentrated stylistically; you have a lot of techno here at Movement, but you also have Claude VonStroke and Wu Tang Clan to mix things up. I think that’s great, but in Europe, you have a lot of techno-only festivals like Awakenings and Time Warp. I like North America; I play more and more here and I’m very happy this scene is growing overall.
You lived in New York for a bit. Were you playing at that time?
► Yeah. I do around 120 gigs per year and back then when i lived in New York i did exactly half.
And that was in the early 2000s.
► The early 2000s, when techno was quite big and then it totally disappeared around 2008 and then in the last two to three years it’s been coming back really strong. I think that has to do with the popularity of EDM going downhill and the kids eventually getting their own taste and developing and graduating onto other styles of music.
I’ve seen a ton of buzz around your label, Tronic, recently.
► I do Tronic branded events all over the world, and it’s going very strong. I always do Tronic parties during Sonar in Spain as well as ADE in Amsterdam and also Tokyo, Buenos Aires, London… the list gets on.
Do you curate those lineups yourself?
What are you looking for when selecting artists?
► I always try to book a few names that people know. Obviously, you still need to sell tickets and do well for the party, but at the same time, I also book a few up-and-coming artists because it’s very important. One of the main reasons I do these parties is so I can help the up-and-coming artists because it’s very difficult to get a booking at one of the big clubs or festivals if you don’t have a big name.
How are you finding these newer artists? Are they submitting music to you?
► Normally those new artists are artists I’ve signed for the label who have done a couple releases already on Tronic. The more I work with them, the more I support them.
What advice do you have for somebody who’d like to start a label?
► Before you start your own label, I suggest you try to release music on other people’s labels because if your music is not good enough to be signed on other labels, then most likely if you just start your own label, it’s not going to do well. You need to first gather experience with other record companies and once you’ve done that, you’ve had five maybe 10 releases, then you can think about starting your own label. You have to work your ass off. You have to be really organized, you’ve gotta get public relations, good mastering for your tracks, good scheduling, and you need to have a regular release schedule. I would suggest two releases per month. It’s a lot of factors that have to really glue together for a label to succeed these days. Tronic is the number three top-selling techno label in the world and I don’t make much money, so this means that probably 95% of all other labels loose money. It’s a really difficult business.
You’ve certainly got a ton going on.
► I’m busy, I’m not gonna lie. I also have a weekly radio show called Tronic Radio, so I have my label, I have my radio show, I produce music, I tour like a mofo all around the world, and I have two kids, a family.
How old are your kids? Are they into your music?
► My daughter is three and my son is eight. My son likes techno. I ask him, “What music do you like?” and he says, “Techno.’ He knows the deal.
You can keep up with Christian’s tour dates here, and make sure to keep an ear out for his compilation remix pack, Synergy (Remixed), scheduled for June 25.
In fact, next up is the Tronic showcase this Friday 6/15 at Sonia OFF Week in Barcelona featuring Christian Smith, Deborah De Luca, Fatima Hajji, Pig&Dan, and Rob Hes. More info here.