Bookmark and Share

Christian Smith’s Total Techno Departure -

Reported by Tristan Ingram on April 29, 2008

“John (Selway) was surfing the net and stumbled across a plug-in that produces a sound that makes you believe that it goes up and up and never stops. As soon as we checked it out we both knew that we would have to buy this plug-in right away and devote an entire track to it.”

Layering a seemingly endless rising acid sound over a 10 minute French Kiss style groove, Christian Smith and John Selway’s new track Total Departure presents a new template for simplicity, to the apparent delight of superstar DJs everywhere.

“People have used this effect before in tracks, but I think we are the first ones to purely build a track around it and give this effect our full attention,” Christian continues, “And judging from the feedback we have been getting so far from DJs ranging from Digweed to Hawtin, I think we succeeded.”

Conceding it’s unusually repetitive, the Swedish techno star stresses they’ve done everything they possibly could to liven it up with ‘fat mini moog basslines, tight percussion and constant builds’.

“We always put a lot of emphasis on our arrangements and look at our tracks as something that should never get boring if played from beginning to end,” he insists, “So many techno tracks just bore the hell out of me after three minutes.”

In fact, the love-it-or-hate-it track is likely to provoke exactly that reaction from more than a few DJs ((Skrufff note: we hate it!) though with additional support from more big name spinners including Steve Lawler, Sander Kleinenburg, Felix Da Housecat and Deep Dish, the masses are likely to follow. 

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You’re living in Barcelona: how much has your life- and career changed since moving there?

Christian Smith: “When I lived in New York five year prior to moving to Barcelona I was basically commuting to Europe two or three times a month for my gigs. It was very tough on the body and I was constantly jetlagged. Then at one point I said to myself, OK enough of this, I'm moving back to Europe. I decided on Barcelona because it’s a beautiful city, relaxed, and has a good scene. The major difference now is that instead of flying 10 hours to my gigs it’s now 2 hours or less and no jetlag. Although I have to say that I don't spend as much time in Barcelona as I'd like. I also spend a good amount of time in Sao Paulo, Brazil where I recently got an apartment. And with all the international touring I end up spending less than 6 months a year in Barcelona.”

Skrufff: How easy was it to settle in? what were some of the biggest obstacles you faced? (how friendly are/ were locals/ neighbours?)

Christian Smith: “The single biggest obstacle was getting a proper internet connection installed. It took over a month and they made simple things very bureaucratic and needlessly complicated. Other than that everything was fairly simple and smooth. I expected things to be more slow as it’s a southern European City, but I was pleasantly surprised most things work very efficiently. OK I do have some old moody neighbors that like to complain every time they see me, but that’s just the way I think they know how to communicate, I guess. A few weeks ago I returned from a 6 week Asia/Australia tour and I had two big bags that I was carrying up the stairs, and my neighbour was screaming at me just because I was carrying some luggage up the stairs. I hope when I get old that I will not get that intolerant. Ha ha ha. Anyways, for the moment I'm very happy living in Brazil and Spain.”

Skrufff: Many Spanish are moving to Berlin with Spain becoming so expensive: do you see yourself moving at some point in the future? (either to Berlin- or back to Sweden?)

Christian Smith: “That’ a very good question. You are definitely right about Spain becoming costlier. I remember visiting Spain five years ago and things being dirt cheap; not anymore. If you want to get a nice 130sqm apartment it will cost you about one million euros. Moving to Berlin is a very "Bandwagon" thing to do right now, but I do like the city. I spent lots of my childhood in Germany due to my father being a pilot for Lufthansa. So I am fluent in German and would have no problem fitting in. But for the time being I'm happy with my current situation with Sao Paulo and Barcelona. So let’s see, maybe when the Berlin hype goes down and the minimal guys are growing their hair again I’ll move there.”

Skrufff: How are you treated when you return to Sweden: as a national hero?

Christian Smith: “It’s quite the opposite actually. I do have some very good friends there like Adam Beyer or Joel Mull, but I never was very well known in Sweden. When I lived there during my studies I DJed almost every weekend in other countries. The scene for underground electronic music is very small in Sweden. The police even have a devoted team of people called the Rave Commission to make sure nothing rave related ever happens. I have heard that even at some private garden parties they have shown up and shut it down. Its pretty sad. Also, for your information, there are no direct flights to Ibiza in summertime. I am not sure if this has something to do with the country trying to control its people, but it’s rather strange if you ask me.”

Skrufff: Are you still in touch with any people from your investment banking/ college days: what do they think of your career: how have they all done, have many made millions?

Christian Smith: “They all think it’s cool and are happy for me that I had the balls to go for what I really wanted to do in life. Most of my college mates do have normal jobs in investment banking, work long hours, and make loads of money. And yes I do have some friends that have made millions, but I am not jealous in the least bit. Of course, it’s nice to be able to buy a nice house, and drive a Porsche etc, but all this comes at a big cost which is time. The world of investment banking is really tough and I hated working 70-90 hours per week and being surrounded by people that I had very little in common with. So all I can say is that I am extremely grateful that I can make a living playing and producing music.”

Skrufff: What impact is this worldwide recession having on the international
DJ world?

Christian Smith: “I’m not sure where you get your economics data from, but there is no current world recession. A few countries such as the USA are about to get into a recession, but the rest of the world seems to be doing all right. But I understand what you are asking. It’s a very good question, because many professional DJs just wok in markets where they can make the most money. Of course this is important to do, but what is also very important is to maintain an international profile. I have often turned down gigs that offered double my fee so that I can work my profile in other places that I normally don't play in. I love being able to travel all over and hear people’s stories and learn about new cultures. I have a few mates that just played in one market a lot and when that market fell (for example the raves in North America after September 11 2001) 70% of their bookings suddenly disappeared. And subsequently they had to get normal jobs to pay the bills etc. Another way to avoid this is to release lots of music as this also promotes your name globally. I try to be as international as possible while releasing quality records on a regular basis.”

Skrufff: Are you a DJ who dances?

Christian Smith: “I used to dance a lot when I went clubbing but in the past years I have not been clubbing that much because of my own hectic DJ schedule. But when I do go clubbing it’s extremely rare that I like the music enough to go on the floor and lose myself. The last time I danced for a longer period of time was when I heard Laurent Garnier doing a small gig in Sao Paulo last year. I tend to dance when I DJ as well, though I’m not sure if this counts.”

Skrufff: How do you feel about DJ requests? Have you ever been seriously unsettled: or harassed in the booth?

Christian Smith: “This happens all the time. And I’ve finally found a polite way of saying ‘leave me alone’. I just say; ‘I'm sorry I don't have that track’. On the very rare occasion when a proper request comes in and I have the track and like it, and it fits into my set musically, I will play it. I have no problem with that. But unfortunately 99% of the requests that we DJs get are for some bad commercial songs. I remember when I played in Las Vegas several people asked me to play Britney Spears and I was totally shocked. This was a big popular club where where many famous DJs play. I am just glad that I am not
dependent on Las Vegas to pay my bills.”

Skrufff: Have you ever been arrested: or had problems when travelling as a DJ?

Christian Smith: “No. I have never had any problems with the law and don't do drugs. I do drink, but not when I fly.  Also one thing I always do is dress well when I travel so I don't look like a DJ, but more like a businessman. This helps a lot when going through customs. Also now that I am playing digitally, I do not have metal record cases anymore.”

Skrufff: How important is image for DJing these days: how much attention do
 ou put into what you wear when performing?

Christian Smith: “To some DJs it’s super important. For me it’s not really that much of an issue. I do like to dress well and do go shopping. And yes it’s important to dress up a bit. But what is more important to me is that I deliver a rocking set and play good music. Image etc is more important for photoshoots and glam interviews. I'm not a model, I'm a DJ”.

Total Departure is out on Adam Beyer’s Drumcode label shortly.

Jonty Skrufff (