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Christian Smith Interview -

Reported by Olly @ Trackitdown on November 6, 2006

“I do what I love and am super happy with my career. Sure, some of the friends I graduated with are millionaires now, but at what cost? Working 16 hours a day crunching numbers on spreadsheets and not having time for anything else. I make a good living doing what I love and am very grateful for this.”

Swedish techno producer Christian Smith first made a name for himself in the mid 90s playing US raves in New York and Baltimore when he was studying to be a merchant banker at college in Washington DC, though the two worlds rarely collided.

: “It had very little, if any compatibility.

“I basically lived in two different worlds, the music world and the university world and there was very little, if any compatibility between the two,” he recalls. “But I enjoyed both very much and am very happy to have completed my university degrees. You never know what will happen with the DJing so it’s always good to have something to fall back on.”

Returning to Sweden after graduation to pursue a Masters degree in economics and finance, he soon made his mind up, however, with dance floors rather than dealing rooms catching his attention.

“A few of my records became really big and I got offers to travel to Australia, Japan and all over Europe. This became hard to juggle and eventually I had to decide what I wanted to do full time with my life; become an investment banker or DJ full time and travel the world,” says Christian, “The choice was easy.”

10 years on he remains firmly in the top echelon of international techno DJs and looks set to cement his status with his upcoming mix compilation Ekspozicia 05: Tronic Treatment, which comes out on Matrix-Music shortly.

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff) your online biog says you regard your first mix ever mix CD Tronic Treatment in 1997 as being a major turning point in your career’: how much do you view this one as having the same potential?

Christian Smith: “The philosophy behind this mix CD is exactly the same as my very first Tonic Treatment mix I released in 2001.  I basically compressed all the styles I currently play within one CD with a smooth progression, and I think I succeeded. But will this CD be a turning point in my career? I don’t think so. Mix CDs these days are not as important as they used to be because people download sets all the time. However, I think that this mix is different than most actually live sets I have, so its worthwhile checking out.”

Skrufff: How long did you spend programming and planning it?

Christian Smith: “It was a natural flow really. I started out with minimal and it progressed into acid house, some electro house and ended with funky techno. As I mentioned before, for me the flow is very important. And above all I tried to do a mix that is fun to listen to from beginning to end.”

Skrufff: You’ve included Robotman’s early 90s track Do Da Do: how much do you see dance music as now starting to recycle itself?

Christian Smith: “I don’t consider using a classic track on a new mix as recycling. I think its good to include some classics because the new generations of clubbers don’t know these tracks even though they are amazing and stand the test of time. I always include some classics in my DJ sets because those tunes have tons of personality. Of course, new music has this as well, but mixing it up a little works great for me and always gets good crowd reactions.”

Skrufff: In country’s like Brazil the techno scene seems to have shrunk a little: what’s your assessment of the techno scene in general?

Christian Smith: “That’s an interesting statement from you, I don’t know who told you that the techno scene has gone down in Brazil. I have a Brazilian girlfriend so now I actually spend a lot of time there doing gigs and just enjoying the country. The scene there is very big actually, they have festivals like Creamfields, Skol Beats, Nokia Trends; the list goes on. They also have many good clubs. Usually I do between 5 and 6 gigs over two weekends when I go there. Anyway, from a global perspective, I think the techno scene is growing, because techno has got much softer and is mixing with many genres such as progressive and house. And don’t forget that minimal is part of techno. But the classic hard tribal techno scene has shrunk a lot, of course. But that’s obvious because no-one is making this music anymore and techno is about thinking forward and changing. So what is happening now is only good. Some countries where techno/minimal etc is huge are: Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Japan, so there are many markets where techno is still in full demand. I was just in Singapore and Malaysia last weekend and the gigs were wicked.”

Skrufff: You were well known for using 3 turntables throughout the 90s, now that seemingly everyone is using CD decks or Ableton, is 3 deck virtuosity still as important?

Christian Smith: “Not really. Technology is great when you take advantage of it. I always have the new Pioneer DJM800 mixer is in my contract for my gigs now, because the effects are great. Also you can loop with CD players, you don’t need a computer to take advantage of the most of the effects. For me watching someone DJ with abelton is not very much fun. Its cool to see DJs actually work the decks and mix.”

Skrufff: You attended Washington business school in the mid 90s, was your original plan to be a merchant banker?

Christian Smith: “I wanted to go to an international university and study something that could be applied to many different industries, so I decided to study international business and finance. At any rate, an education is something no one can take away from you. I am very glad to have completed this even though I am now an artist that does not really need my skills as a number cruncher.”

Skrufff: Did you have to turn many gigs down or sacrifice trying to be a grade A student?

Christian Smith: “I wish I was a grade A student. I was a good student but not at the top of my class. I did, however, manage to get accepted to Stockholm School of Economics’s Masters program which is extremely selective.”

Skrufff: Downloading is changing the entire music business: how has that affected your label business? (Todd terry told us recently he now makes his money off DJing?)

Christian Smith: “That’s funny. I never made much money on music production. I guess in the good times I could have survived on those monies, but it was always the DJ fees that were more substantial to me as well as for most DJs in this industry. Todd Terry is an exception. He made pop house remixes for major record labels and made good money with it. I always worked for smaller independent labels so it’s very different.”

Skrufff: You cancelled 3 gigs recently due to flu- your first ever cancellations: how easy is it to stay healthy?

Christian Smith: “Sadly I do get ill a few times a year, it’s the nature of the job. If you take more than 150,000 miles of flying a year you spend a lot of time in planes, have to deal a lot with jetlag, climate changes- and the drinks at the parties don’t help either. But I never miss gigs generally. I even do my gigs when I’m ill. It’s not like a normal job where you can call in sick and still get paid. No gig  - no fee. But a few months ago I had a very bad virus and decided flying all the way to North America do three shows and flying straight back would not be a good way to get well. So I opted to cancel for once and look out for my health. Thankfully I very rarely get this ill.”

Skrufff: How easy is it to avoid overdoing the partying and developing bad habits long term?

Christian Smith: “For me this is not really an issue because I don’t do drugs or smoke. I drink, but not excessively. Just sometimes it gets rough if you have three or four shows in one weekend and don’t catch much sleep between flights and gigs. This is what we DJs are getting paid for. Not having fun behind the decks, but dealing with delayed flights, sleep deprivation and being away from home a lot. But it’s all well worth it.”

Skrufff: A whole new wave of Swedish producers such as John Dahlback and Steve Angello are breaking big now; why is Sweden so conducive to people making dance music?

Christian Smith: “Oddly Sweden has always had many successful music producers such as bands like Abba, Roxette and The Cardigans and this obviously filters down to electronic music producers as well. I don’t really know why there are so many successful Swedish producers. Maybe it’s the long boring winters and the lack of a good clubbing scene.”

Skrufff: Do you see yourself at some point stepping aside and going back to pure business?

Christian Smith: “Nah. Not in the foreseeable future. I love what I do and am very happy continuing doing it. It’s a very competitive industry, but if you stay on the ball, make good records, deliver rocking sets everything should be stay fine.”

Christian Smith’s compilation Ekspozicia 05: Tronic Treatment is out shortly on Matrix-Music shortly.

http://www.matrix-music.com

http://www.djchristiansmith.com

 

Jonty Skrufff (JontySkrufff.com)