Tronic label-boss Christian Smith returns to Global Vibe Radio to deliver a hard-hitting mix of peak-time, driving techno.
Although born in Stockholm, Christian spent most of his childhood years in Frankfurt, Germany which no doubt played an unexpected role in determining his musical tastes from a young age. After spending time in the US studying, Christian moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil playing the best clubs in the city and surrounding regions, where he still loves to play today and continues to have a very big following.
Tronic is nearing their 400th release and also has a weekly show which is now syndicated to over 100 stations worldwide, and is fast approaching the 500th episode.
Hi Christian, thank you so much for the mix mate! It’s a pleasure to have you back on Global Vibe Radio. What kind of mix can listeners expect this time around?
This mix starts out a bit more melodic than usual., and then progresses into more driving style. I always liked the Detroit techno, and never forget the music that inspired me to get into this business. The nice thing with doing mixes at home is that you can include tracks that you usually do not get a chance to play at gigs. I always had a wide spectrum of taste and enjoy playing longer sets as well.
Is it a representation of what you’d be playing out at a gig at the moment?
I would say so. Maybe the second half is more my usual “gig” style, but it really depends on the show. To me there is nothing more boring than to listen to a dj that plays the same style for 5 hours. I come from a generation where it was expected to take the clubbers on a musical journey, and to take risks. it’s really easy to play a 2 hour prime time gig at a sold out venue, but i feel you can tell the true talent of a dj when he or she plays a long set and has to work the crowd from beginning to end.
Talking about gigs… any on the horizon yet?
FINALLY!!! My last gig was March 8th 2020 in Argentina. I had have some offers last summer and this winter, but I felt that it would have been very irresponsible and setting a wrong example. So I have been very patient, recording loads of music, and doing regular streams. But of course the streams cannot and will never replace the fun and adrenaline you get playing in a sweaty dark venue! Right now I have a few gigs confirmed in Europe July onwards, and am planning a three week USA tour starting middle of September.
How has it been not touring for months? How have you coped mentally with the massive change in lifestyle?
I really enjoyed it at first. When you are a touring dj, its tough because you never know when your career will go down. So I have never really taken any long breaks since I started touring in the late ’90s. The max I ever took off was 3 weeks in a row, after the birth of my first child. Three days after the birth of my second child I was already on tour again. I’m not selfish, but the scene is very unforgiving and if you don’t constantly engage with your fans in some way, you will be forgotten very fast. With respect to mental health, I’ve been doing loads of sports, and seeing my family all the time, so that kept me sane. I’m really excited that the scene is slowly bouncing back and that soon I can start complaining about taking so many flights again! (laughs)
I know you’ve kept busy with the excellent Tronic live streams, every Thursday like clockwork! How beneficial have those been to you while being away from gigs?
I started the stream around four months into all the lockdowns started. Everybody and and their mother was streaming at first and the market was very saturated, but as soon as people saw their numbers drop, most of them stopped streaming. So i saw an opportunity, made a big effort with my team to present a nicely varied line up every week. To my surprise I can say that I have reached about 10 times more people with my streams than doing my usual 100 gigs a year in 20+ countries. Doing these streams are a pain in the ass, and I feel uncomfortable pretending being happy while recording them. Especially when you are all by yourself. But I feel it’s a necessary evil, and has to be done to maintain global profile while the gigs are put on hold worldwide. Also, by doing all these streams i’m more up to date than ever before with my music so i will be totally prepared once I have my first gig July 31st at a Puur Festival in Holland.
Do you foresee live streams to continue for you and the industry once gigs come back in full swing?
I think that a lot of busy artists will stop streaming regularly, because it simply is too much work flying around the world, and then worrying about streams during the little time you have at home. I tell you, it’s much easier to play a normal gig than to prepare, mix, and produce a stream. I, however, will not stop. We will keep on doing our weekly Tronic Thursday stream, because I feel that it’s a great way to keep in touch with your fans that cannot necessarily go to your events. We all have to adapt and embrace technology!
I love the variety of artists you have featured on these live stream lineups, a proper representation of the Tronic sound and both its quality and range. Did you get to discover any new artists in the process?
I have never been a purist, and I think one of the reasons why I have been so passionate about Tronic throughout all these years. I do exactly as I feel and I try not to follow trends. Of course you always get influenced by whatever is currently going on around your scene, but generally I have always released music that i would play in my sets no matter of its groovy, melodic, or harder edged techno. I even release electro now as well on Tronic. We have a few electro projects a year now as well. For me it’s all about doing what i’m passionate about, and the same goes for the streams. Mostly Tronic artists but also many cool other acts you would not expect!
You have kept the Tronic flag flying for so many years, and the label has been home to so many great artists over the years. Let’s backtrack a bit… I would love to know what was going through the mind of a younger Christian Smith when you started the label and what you wanted to accomplish with it.
When I started the label I wanted to have an outlet for my housey techno music. Music that both house and techno DJs could play. This was long before the term “Tech House” existed, and it really was “Housey Techno” a style that I still like. The label was run very unprofessionally, but I had some luck early on with a few releases that everyone from Jeff Mills to Danny Tenaglia played. Since then the label grew a lot and we also do loads of Tronic branded events worldwide. Everywhere from Tokyo to London and Detroit. I also had a full Tronic season in Ibiza in 2019. Everything was all set and looking great for 2020 but then the pandemic kicked in and we will not be doing another full season in Ibiza until 2022 now. As for the label we will soon reach our 400th release. That is a milestone that I am very proud of.
How has your mindset changed as a label owner since, and what are the goals with Tronic now?
It hasn’t. It’s still just about the music for me. This mindset has also worked against me because had I joined the ‘business techno’ train I would have obviously sold more music and maybe gotten more high paying gigs, but this is not a long term solution for me. I have managed to be successful and happy with my career for over 20 years and intend to continue this without much compromise.
After so many years Tronic is synonymous with Christian Smith, and vice versa. Would you say your goals as an artist are parallel to those of the label, or do you have any of your own that are separate from it?
I think that I have different goals than many of the artists that release on the label. Many of the artists release on Tronic because they respect the past of the label, but also because they can get a good profile fast, and hopefully get booked at our events. I hope they also enjoy working with myself and my team. I put a lot of emphasis on new talent. Maybe more than I should, but this boils down to me being passionate and trying to push forward and taking risks. It’s very satisfying to see that artists that you predominantly pushed make it to become big international artists. There is no prefect way of running a label and I hope that most of the artists are as happy with us. The only thing I expect in return is loyalty.
By the way, we were expecting you here in LA for a Tronic night alongside our brothers at INCOGNITO but then COVID happened. When do you think we can see you back in LA again?
Late Sept-mid October. Fingers crossed we can make it happen! I really enjoy playing on the west coast and just love these underground warehouse events that Incognito and 6AM put on in Los Angeles! Not many places have underground events in this world. It’s really special, and I was very inspired after the last time I played there.
What other projects, not related to music this time, are you working on these days?
To be honest between doing a decent amount of sports, even though one might not be able to see it (laughs), producing music, and running Tronic there is not much extra time left. I am working very hard to maintain my profile so that when the scene opens full up again that I will be busy as before.
Can you walk us through a typical day in the life of Christian Smith? What pastimes and activities do you do outside of the studio (and touring)?
My life during the pandemic is a bit more organized than when I’m constantly touring. I get up at around 7.30, take my kids to school, go to the gym, do emails, eat, listen to demos, new promos etc, make some calls, then pick up the kids, and wind down for the rest of the day. I tend to get around 8 hours of sleep right now, which is amazing! As for music, I only make music twice a week because I feel it gives me a good balance not to burn out creatively. It works for me. But once the touring is back on I try to do whatever i can, whenever i can.
What is your favorite meal?
Sushi Katsu, in Yokohama, Japan. A simply divine small restaurant. I make sure to go there every time that I’m in Tokyo.
What is your favorite country to visit for pleasure? (gigs don’t count, even if they are pleasure!)
Sweden. Even though I’m Swedish I never really spent much time living there as i grew up mostly in Germany. I try to go and visit my mom twice a year and always make sure to go for at least one week in summer. It’s a beautiful country, but can have rough weather especially in winter. Other countries I really enjoy visiting are Argentina, Brazil and Japan.
Is there still a country or city you’d like to visit someday that you have not yet been to?
Ha! Good question. I have been fortunate to visit many countries globally. On average I fly around five times around the world a year. So I get around. But ironically I still have never been to Rome, Italy. I must have played 30+ gigs around Italy, but for some reason still never made it to Rome!
And what about for gigs: what’s the one dream location, club, venue or festival you still hope to perform at someday?
Any party that has a passionate crowd and powerful system is good for me. As for festivals I still never played at Coachellla and it looks amazing. But I can honestly say that I’m happy the way things are for me. I’m just grateful being able doing what I love for a living.
Thank you Chris!