Mon 22 Sep 2014
Last week, The List Magazine interviewed German DJ and producer Chris Liebing in advance of his headline slot at the return of PRESSURE on Friday (26 September). Known as a DJ, producer, radio host and the driving force behind the CLR label, his sound has continuously evolved since his beginnings in the German club scene of the early 1990s, while remaining focused on a predominantly techno-oriented sound.
A technologically-literate and innovative producer and DJ, he has consistently embraced new developments in sound production and performance, last year giving a masterclass (see video below) to attendees at the London Electronic Arts Festival. Liebing heads up the CLR party this Friday at Pressure. Below, read the full, unedited text of his Q&A with The List, and find out about what’s next for CLR, the philosophy behind the label, the follow-up to his techno classic Evolution, and why Liebing loves the Glasgow crowds.
Your label CLR Records is an abbreviation of Create, Learn, Realise. That’s an admirable philosophy – how does your work as a producer and label head embody these three concepts?
This is not really hard to explain, because even before I changed the name from Chris Liebing Records to Create Learn Realize, I already though that creating, learning and realizing is what it´s all about. You create things, you learn from the creation and you realize what you can do better. Then you start creating again with this new knowledge and learn even more. This is how it goes, it´s all about experiencing things, learning and moving forward. So I really wanted to change the name of the label and take my own name out of it. I did not want to have my ego in there anymore. Actually I never really wanted it. The name CLR was kind of born from the necessity to find a new name for my label very quickly when I changed my distribution back in the days and could not take my former name ‘Audio’ with me. What I have learned about the new name is, that it’s not so much my philosophy but rather a description of what it is all about and what is happening all the time. It is what we are doing and what is fun to do – we create, we learn and we realize.
You’ve played Glasgow before, so you know the Pressure crowd already – what do you like about playing in the city, and what special treats or surprises do you have in store for us at September’s CLR Records Party?
I love the energy of this place and I love the energy of The Arches. It is an absolutely historical and very special location. And Glasgow is a great city. Obviously the weather is not going be so great. If you go to northern Europe around that time of the year, it really feels like the end of the summer. But it seems as if the people there deal very well with this and kind of turn it into a good thing. They just go out and party, they enjoy themselves and they enjoy the music and that’s what I really enjoy when I go there. I am constantly working on new ideas for my set and I always try to surprise myself as well as the people in the crowd. So we will definitely bring our sound and our best vibes to Glasgow and I am very much looking forward to that!
Your album Evolution was one of the classic techno records of all time – it celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. That record took a long time to conceptualise and make. Are you ever tempted to take on a big project like that again?
Wow, was it? Was it really one of the classic techno records of all time? Well thanks for the flowers, that’s really nice to hear! Yeah, I am very happy to take on a new challenge and I have been thinking about it for quite a while. I have not produced any music for three years now. I did some edits and remixes and worked a lot with other producers on mixing down their albums and singles, which was a lot of fun, but now I start to feel that I basically want to write chapter two of this Evolution album. This could even happen sooner than some might think.
You are bringing Tommy Four Seven to The Arches – what do you admire about his production, and his DJ skills?
I have always admired Tommy for his production skills, because he has this unconventional way of working. He abuses sounds so badly… If you ever study sound, you would probably learn that you can’t do those kind of things, but he just does it and that’s how he created his very own sound and vibe. As a DJ he is very versatile. He can play quite house-y, he can play quite broken-beat-y and he can play quite hard, so let’s just wait and let him surprise us with what he might have in store for us when he comes to The Arches.
As well as releasing on CLR Records, you have put out tracks and remixes on a clutch of other labels in recent years – who are your favourite labels to work with, and why?
One of the favorite labels I worked with was Novamute, simply because of the fact that it is a sub-label of Mute, which is the label of Depeche Mode, one of my favorite bands, amongst other great bands on Mute. And also because of Daniel Miller who is one of my role models when it comes to running a label, treating and taking care of artists and just being a humble, super-nice person. That’s why Novamute comes to my mind, but I really like to work with any label that is run by friends, like Pfirter‘s Mind Trip for example. I just released a track on his label with him, and this is what it is all about, sharing music and helping each other out.
With the success of big-room EDM / electro house, the big revival in house music in recent years, and the continuing popularity of bass music, what kind of shape do you think the techno community is in these days – is it in a healthier place than it was five years ago, and where do you see it in five years time?
I think that the whole techno thing is probably in one of the healthiest places it has ever been. I don’t understand why so many people criticize the EDM movement, commercial house and what else is out there. It’s music I personally dislike as well, I am not a big fan of commercial music, but we need this. We need this part of the music scene as much as anything else, because if this did not exist, who would we be? We could not define ourselves if it wasn’t for the others around us who do something different. We should be thankful that there are a lot of people doing different things, having different tastes. The more popular something gets, [the more] it will open doors for others. It’s all kind of connected, even if it does not necessarily belong together. There are always two sides of something, so you can’t just have one part of it.
You can’t only have ‘underground’ music, it’s impossible, and why would you want that? It is crazy to think that people condemn that and say that this is stupid and nonsense. Of course, for me personally, taste-wise, I don’t like it, but there are so many people out there enjoying this kind of music, who might one day listen to a good techno track and think, “Wow, this is something different,” and who might move on and move towards a less commercial approach to music. I respect the fact that there are all those different music scenes out there, because it’s basically just electronic music, which is interpreted in many different ways. And as I said, if this did not exist, who would we be and where would we be? Would we call ourselves ‘underground’ if there would be no commercial music? And then again, are we still ‘underground?’ That´s another question! Aren’t we all too professional by now after doing this for twenty years to call ourselves ‘underground?’ There is a whole big business behind these things and I think it is a matter of how you approach it, how you deal with it and how honest you are with yourself when you do something. I think that techno and electronic music in general are in a quite healthy state!
What projects are next for you, and for CLR Records?
The next album on CLR will surely be the new Terence Fixmer album, which I just signed. It is a fantastic album, I think one of the best works Terence has ever done so far, and he has done some amazing work already! Then there is a Brian Sanhaji album in the works for next year and there are numerous great singles coming up. There are still some amazing remixes coming up for the last Drumcell album and we are expecting a new Planetary Assault Systems release, who also remixed one of the Drumcell tracks – a remix I constantly play. Besides that there are a lot of great releases lined up for winter, so keep an eye on www.clr.net and you will find out. Thank you very much and goodbye!
Thank you Chris! We’ll see you at PRESSURE on Friday 26 September. Book your tickets now!