Dec 04, 2013
interview
Christian Smith

A principal visionary among the global techno community, Sweden native Christian Smith has led an eloquent legacy at the helm of his globally respected Tronic imprint. As the lucrative label overseer prepares to celebrate his brand’s 20-year milestone, he joins us for an intimate discussion to profile his wide-ranging musical exploits.

Christian Smith - Get It Done (Original Mix) [Tronic]
LessThan3: Let’s start with a formal introduction to your longstanding label, Tronic. How old were you at the time of its inception?
Christian: I was 21 years old when I started the label.
LessThan3: How did you originally devise the name for it?
Christian: I got the name from an old KMS record called Tronik House.
LessThan3: Did you set a long-term goal for the project?
Christian: My vision was to release music that both house and techno DJs could play in all their sets. This was long before the term “tech house” even existed. My distributor was very hesitant at first with taking on a label that was neither house nor techno, but when Tronic’s fourth record came out and sold over 10,000 records, they became very confident.
LessThan3: If you had to spell out a mission statement, what would that be?
Christian: A simplified mission statement would be: “To release music with an open mind, and lay out content that I would play in my DJ sets”. The goal was never to make loads of money with it, but rather release records that I’m very passionate about. I think this is why it’s still around 20 years onwards, and still very respected in the industry.
LessThan3: As a label owner, can you elaborate on some of your responsibilities?
Christian: I have a great team that helps me run the label. I would never be able to run my label professionally, do my weekly radio show, and do three gigs a week simultaneously, so a good team is imperative for success. I do, however, go through every track and sign everything myself. If I didn’t keep up this responsibility, the label would lose its vision and identity.
LessThan3: What characteristics do you seek out in the artists that you sign?
Christian: I usually look for artists that do not release too much on many other labels–particularly producers that have their own trademark sound. There are so many copycats out there; I’m not interested in signing music that you hear on 20+ other labels. There have been quite a few cases where I turned down a huge track because I either did not like the artist’s attitude, or the music was too unoriginal for my taste.
LessThan3: I presume Tronic’s initial releases back in 1994 sounded quite different than those of modern day, right?
Christian: The original release was actually full-on techno. It wasn’t until Tronic’s third release that I properly decided how I wanted the label to evolve. Of course, the music changes all the time, but I think when someone picks up a Tronic track, he or she will know that it’s usually something fairly balanced between house and techno, with a good amount of energy.
LessThan3: Throughout the years, which of the label’s releases have been the most successful?
Christian: Goldrush–A track that I wrote with Jean Phillippe Aviance back in 1998. We must have done over ten different represses for this release. There were around 12,000 vinyl copies circulating in the end, and that was long before Beatport even existed. Then there was my “Tronic Treatment” remix for Carl Craig’s At Les. Besides reaching #1 in the Beatport techno chart, it was also one of 2010’s highest selling vinyl releases. Lastly, my early 2012 original Get It Done. I made this track with Richie Hawtin in mind, but he declined to release it on M_nus. When it reached the #1 spot at Beatport, I sent Richie an email with the link–his answer: “Nobody is perfect.”
LessThan3: Which of your own productions are you especially proud of?
Christian: That’s a tough one, especially as Tronic alone has over 130 releases. I really enjoyed a double pack that John Selway and I made called the Vanguard EP. But there are also several other tracks that I’m very proud of, especially the ones that cross over different genres. My remixes of Underworld, Laurent Garnier, and Carl Craig were all very special to me as well. It’s not often that you hear DJs such as Richie Hawtin, Danny Tenaglia, and Sasha play the same track. I am proud to say that this has happened quite a few times in my career.
LessThan3: What plans do you have for the label in upcoming months?
Christian: 2014 will mark Tronic’s 20-year anniversary. I will do around 20-30 gigs to celebrate this big milestone, everywhere from Japan, to Argentina, to the US, and all over Europe. I love what I do and I’m very appreciative that people buy my music and want to hear me play all around the world. See you all in 2014!
Airplay enabled