Awakenings Easter Thursday
Thu Apr 9
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, Plus 8, R&S and Music Man. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of dance music's loosely defined early nineties status, Smiths first record 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 globe. 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 deck 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 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. Its 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 wasnt 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 new found success In the late 90's, 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 favourite new places to play in. On a recent South East Asia tour, successful dates were achieved in South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Singapore. 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. Its 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. Currently based in New York, Christian still plays regularly at festivals like Creamfields (UK, Argentina, Ireland and Poland), Dance Valley (Holland) and I Love Techno (Belgium), Exit (Serbia) and not forgetting clubs like Bugged Out, Pressure @ Arches, and Fabric, London. Christian loves the music policy at Fabric, feels it is great to see such a big club pioneering such an underground sound. Smith also finds the time to run the increasingly popular weekly Tronic Treatment night in New York. Taking place every Monday at the tiny 200 capacity Sullivan Room venue, the night has already played host to Derrick May, Richie Hawtin and Sven Vath who have all rocked it. Tronic Treatment kicks against the cult of the superstar DJ. It has also had Derrick Carter, Junior Sanchez and Felix Da Housecat play at Tronic Treatment, it is not just techno people that go to Tronic Treatment. Christian Smith's combination of talent, passion for music and hard work has seen his profile as both a DJ and producer grow in recent years and this looks setto continue. Bringing his funky fusion of house and techno to a worldwide audience, Christian believes that he's still only at the beginning. Whatever his next move, rest assured that Christian Smiths name will remain synonymous with funky, forward thinking dance music.