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Friday 04th, March 2005
Chris Liebing (2005)

If you ask any techno fanatic who is Chris Liebing they will tell you he is one of the hottest techno djs around who has been at the forefront of the scene for quite some time but ask most trance fans and they will probably tell you he is one of the newer djs to hit the dance scene. They couldn’t be any more wrong! Chris Liebing has been making waves in the techno scene since the early nineties and it is only recently that he has spread his influence and music style into other scenes. In the trance scene, he has pulled a lot of new fans and support through his successful club night, “Meganite Combinazione” in Ibiza where he teamed up with trance superstar Mauro Picotto last summer. This along with releases such as his remix of “Realistic - Infernal Machine” on Paul van Dyk’s Vandit label, has allowed him to expand his music coverage into the trance audience, opening their eyes to the world of techno and showing them that there is more depth to it than many people think.

Chris Liebing first became interested in dance music back in the early nineties, where he was put in charge of the music at the old school parties in his home town of Frankfurt. In 1991 he had his first residency where he played a variety of styles including hip hop, soul and house and it didn’t take long for him to realize djing is what he wanted to do. So in 1993, he converted to techno and opened his own club also playing at a number of clubs, many times filling in for other djs who did not show up, giving him the opportunity to showcase his skills in some of the best clubs in Germany at that time. In 1995 he hooked up with his current production partner Andre Walter, set up a studio together and started up his first record label a year later. In 1999, he started his club night “Es Ist Freitagaaabend” (translated ‘It is Friday night’) at the U60311 in Frankfurt which in currently in its sixth year running, joined the Cocoon Agency and started the CLR record label. In 2002 he decided for CLR to manage his bookings and a year later his debut album “Evolution” was released with much success. After a string of awards won in Germany and many releases later, his most significant achievement to date came in November 2004 when he was voted number 23 in the DJ Mag Top 100 poll, jumping 65 places, making him the highest climber in the polls history – quite an achievement indeed! This was more than enough reason to talk with Chris so Trance.Nu contributor Lisa caught up with him in Sydney to talk about his placing in the poll, the success of his night in Ibiza, his views on the digital vs. vinyl debate, his upcoming releases and much much more!

Trance.Nu: For those that aren’t familiar with your music, can you tell us a bit about the style of music you play?

I play a variety of electronic music that sort of has in common that it has a certain energy in it. I don’t like cheesy music or cheaply produced music and I think you can hear the difference when you listen to it. I wouldn’t call it groovy tribal techno or anything like it, I like parts of the tribal techno, I like parts of very groovy housey sounds, I like parts of minimal stuff and I try to include that in all my sets to make it energetic.

Trance.Nu: You run five different record labels (Evolution, CLR, CL Retry, CLAU, Stigmata). Can you tell our about what each label represents?

Initially I started making record labels to in order to release my own things, it was the easiest way to do in Germany back in 1995. And in 1999 I sort of evolved into the stage where I knew what I wanted to do seriously with labels and I started the root label CLR and the sublabels, CLAU which is more an industrial vibe, Stigmata where I have more of the hard techno vibe, and CL Retry where I have all the remixes of the CLR label. And I have more or less releases depending on how much is coming in, I never really schedule something in order to fulfill something. I more or less go when I have something nice I release it, if there is nothing, then there might not have a release for a year.

Trance.Nu: I would like to congratulate you on your #23 placing last year on the DJ Mag top 100 poll which made you the highest climber in the polls history jumping 65 places! What was your initial reaction when you heard the announcement?

Of course I was happy, very very happy and since I was invited to play at that dj top 100 release party, we already knew there was a little surprise and we already figured where could it be. They invited me to play at the dj party in London it I was already curious that everybody told me, and actually Carl Cox was calling me and he’s like “Chris, I think your in the top ten, because they only invite people to play there who are in the top ten!” (in deep voice). And I was like I don’t believe it, and I didn’t believe it at all so I was really happy to rise and I think it was due to the summer in Ibiza where I got to play to a lot of different people and I’m really happy cause I think its due to the djing and it’s a good reward and good feedback from the people.

Trance.Nu: You teamed up with trance master Mauro Picotto at Meganite Combinazione in Ibiza last summer which was a huge success and I hear you will be continuing the night in 2005. Can you tell me how it all came about?

That is again another really good combination which is going on and I heard about Mauro of course in his old trance days and musically I’m very open minded but my taste is sort of like I listen to everything but what I play is a different thing, like it really needs to fit my taste, and what Mauro used to do in the beginning is not really my taste. But I got to know Mauro a little bit more because he turned into more of a techno dj and we ended up playing together on some events and I was really interested in what he was playing at that time. I was surprised how nice of a techno dj he was and so we ended up playing more events since 2003 together and got to know each other a little bit better so end of 2003 he asked me “Chris, I’m looking into doing a night in Ibiza, would you maybe want to join me on that?” And I was like Mauro, you’re a funny guy, I like your style, yeah lets do it!” And I felt the combination of it cause he comes from the trance scene and he pulls a lot of trance audience and I come from sort of an underground scene and pull a lot of that audience and we were thinking that’s a good combination. And it ended up it got proved last summer on Ibiza, we had a successful summer and we had a lot of people from different scenes coming in together who were probably on the dance floor looking at each other thinking who are you? But they got along with each other and the music sort of did the rest of it. So I think we have pulled in a lot of new people from both sides and we opened up their minds that there is more to a trance scene or more to a techno scene. Everybody enjoyed themselves and it became very popular and we are going to do this again now in 2005 on Ibiza, every Wednesday at Privilege. Mauro is a really funny guy and you can have a really good party with and I think it’s a really good combination again to open up and include a lot of new people and I think that’s very essential for the trance scene and its very very essential for the techno scene.

Trance.Nu: As you know, the Tresor club, which is an institution in Berlin has finally decided to close its doors after 14 years. What was your reaction to this and do you think it will affect the local scene?

I told you about the big history with playing there in 1996 at the love parade, and really spontaneously being asked to come back to Tresor and it has been next to the Omen one of my favourite clubs in Germany to play at in the old time but its closing down now and its ok as it doesn’t change anything in the techno world in Germany now because its not that influential anymore and it had its day and its still nice but its good that it closes down with dignity and room now for new things so maybe a new Tresor will open.

Trance.Nu: I know that techno has always been one of the most thriving dance scenes in Germany. Is this still the case now?

It is still definitely the sole scene, if you look at the polls in German magazines, techno is always in the very first place. But you have to include a lot of different styles of techno like the minimal techno which is coming from most of the Cologne area which is Compact Distributions, who have started a lot of really nice things with minimal techno. Trance is not very big anymore, techno has been spreading out so much with a lot of variety but I do believe there is not that much need for trance, but then again a person like Paul van Dyk who comes across with trance in a really good way, in a high quality way and its now actually getting a lot more response in Germany because he’s always been always known world wide as one of the biggest djs but not in Germany because in Germany he’s never really been big. He’s been big in the middle of the 90s but he’s been concentrating outside of Germany, so within Germany since techno is so big Paul was always like treated as “who’s Paul? like yeah if he’s playing you know” We always knew that he was very big outside but now he’s getting the recognition I think he deserves also in Germany.

Trance.Nu: Your club night “Es Ist Freitagaaabend” at the U60311 will continue on in 2005 for its 6th year running. Tell us how the night is going and do you have any big plans for this year?

I started that in 1999 and its in its sixth year right now, and in the beginning we had twelve nights and now have we cut it down to four nights in the coming year in 2005 but its due to a lot of things I do internationally and I want to keep it very special with special guests. It’s a Friday night vibe, people go out on Friday night they want to get loose and loose all their sorrow of the whole week and I think that’s what music is for you know they should go out and loose themselves in music and that’s what I want to provide them with and that’s why I simply call it “its Friday night” there’s not much more to it and it should stay simple like it is and I only do this in Frankfurt, its the source its where it comes from but I do it on Friday nights in other cities as well now and I even started to do it internationally.

Trance.Nu: There was a massive reaction after the closure of your radio show Pitch Control. Have you decided whether you will continue with it in the future or perhaps start a new radio project?

I love doing radio, and I’ve done it for many years and it’s a great medium, its always nice not to know how many people are listening even if its two people listening or if its ten thousand people listening your sort of intimate with the listeners, you know you can say something and you know someone is listening on the other side. It’s a really nice medium and I really really love it and I miss that show and we have some offers to do a new show now on a different radio station and we are just sorting things out because the time schedule doesn’t allow weekly shows, so we may be looking into monthly shows but then additionally an internet radio show so its spread out a little bit further so maybe I’m going to start a new show but there is nothing definite.

Trance.Nu: You are an avid supporter of Stanton Final Scratch. What do you think of the product as a whole and how it will affect the future of vinyl?

Since I started djing with Final Scratch a few years ago actually Richie Hawtin introduced me to Final Scratch and he was like telling me “Chris get this, this is the future” and at the beginning I was like “Ah Richie, I like my vinyls, I don’t know!” But then I actually got my vinyls stolen in one event and I got most of them back but that was one incident that showed me maybe it would be smart to use Final Scratch. Digital tracks you can copy, your vinyls you cannot and vinyl means a lot to me so right now I treat it the way like I still buy a lot of vinyls but I record them, I keep them at home. I take the best ones with me for my third turntable action cause Final Scratch is only for two turntables and I always have a lot of variety, a lot to choose from that and I think we are sort of in a transition time where the digital music comes across and there’s a lot of illegal things going on but as I said I think we will look back in 10 or 15 years and say “Yeah that was the transition time, and now its sorted out, people are willing to pay like a dollar for a track and in order to get the best version of the track, the original version, its very first one worldwide, its like anyone in Australia can download it, in South America there’s no time difference anymore so everybody is at the same level and I think all the good news for it and Final Scratch makes it possible to play these tracks and really vinyl fans like myself will always buy the vinyl. But for me there is no conflict in being a vinyl fan and playing with Final Scratch so I think there is a big future and with Final Scratch 2 we have the second generation now which builds on the first generation which I think was still a test version, a toy version where we were using it in order to find out the negative sides of it the problems we have. So number 2 I think is the start of the real digital djing.

Trance.Nu: Production wise, you have been working with Speedy J to release Collabs 300 in November 2004 and more recently Collabs 301 last month. I understand there is a complete album scheduled for November 2005. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

When Speedy J asked me the first time to do a Collabs with him I was really happy because I’ve always been sort of a Speedy J fan of his music and his productions and I got to know him as I was asking him to do a remix for me for CLRetry number 2 that was at that time and he did an amazing remix which was really selling loads of copies and I booked him for one night in the U60311 club to play live and we got to know each other and we instantly sort of became friends so that was nice and a couple of years later he asked me to do the Collabs with him. So I came to Rotterdam to visit his studio, and he has a fantastic studio, he’s an amazing artist, he’s a genius in the studio and as we were starting to work, because we work on two different levels sort of – like genius in the studio and I’m sort of not such a big genius, I more work out of my feeling. I know my programs, and I know my tools that I work with but he knows everything and I just know my things so from him I learn so much more but this came together quite well, like we added up really nicely. And even on our first recording session the week I was there we saw that there was more potential so we decided to meet again and do a 301 and as we were did the 301 we already were sitting there like, “Well Jochem, (that’s his real name Jochem Paap) maybe we should work on an album, we have a good combination going on”. So we are currently working on an album, we have it sort of half way finished and once I come back from my Australian tour I’m gonna go to Rotterdam for another week, so we can sit together for another week and we are looking into an album release in November on Nova Mute or October on Nova Mute, and along to that we are probably gonna do a tour where we have a new concept of life and djing together, which we have done before two times now one in Detroit, one in Rotterdam, we are working on it and it might take us even to Australia and it’s a really interesting concept, its sort of a new thing and I can honestly say that being a dj a long time now I can honestly say it’s a new experience.

Trance.Nu: When will we see the second chapter of the Stigmata collection being released?

The Stigmata the first chapter, I basically finished this compilation I’ve done with putting all 44 tracks on one cd and right now Andre, my partner and me we are working on the second chapter. But it’s been really really difficult because the first chapter was very successful for its unique sound and we’ve managed to keep the certain sound through 10 releases, like we stayed close to a certain sound in so many releases. I’m not being too similar with each release, and of course it’s a really big task now to come up with a new good sound for the next chapter. We are really working on it and we are almost there and I think this year we will have the first release of the second chapter.

Trance.Nu: Tell me about your production studio. What kind of setup do you use to create your music?

Since about 1995, when I got into producing music, I hooked up together with a partner called Andre Walter. We share a studio from that time, 10 years now and we’ve built up that studio in a really nice way and as we started up we basically, I had a little equipment in the beginning because my first attempts in producing music were quite like lets do a drum loop and see what happens and Andre was already into producing quite a while before so I learnt from him and we threw our equipment together in the studio and we always filled up on analog equipment and then later a lot of digital new stuff. So then again it was a good combination between the two of us because I was more in the software side he was more in the hardware side, so me more in the digital and him more in the analogue and we built up a really nice studio, working a lot with Logic, and lately with Ableton and a lot of analogue stuff as well like I believe combining the best out of both worlds of the analogue and the digital. And now since last year October I have built up my second own little studio near my house in Frankfurt where I mostly use sort of digital stuff and I believe first of all a studio should have a good sound like my main thing in order to be confident to produce good sounding music and good quality sounding music and I concentrate right now in working together with Ableton and Native Instruments which is two software companies basing in Berlin, which both do amazing new software I can only recommend to anyone and Native Instruments and is also basically doing the Final Scratch 2 together with Stanton so it all comes together quite nicely and I’m building a second studio right now in order to being able to produce even more.

Trance.Nu: I hear you have an interest in fusing rock elements with techno. Could you elaborate on this and give us an example?

I’ve actually never really talked about it, someone in Australia picked it up, because two years ago or three years ago White Stripes released the Seven Nation Army. I heard that track and thought, “Yeah that’s techno, that’s what I want to do!” Because I also came out of the rock style of music and I was like I can fuse these two things so I did a bootleg of it which got sort of really popular and then I started using more and more elements of rock music and metal music like little samples blending into my techno tracks cause I believe that like certain sort of rock music has the same sort of energy that I want to provoke in my techno music its just forward and it’s a little more aggressive but still positive thinking energy. And I think you can fuse these two things and I’m still very in the beginning of it and definitely look forward to the future to do some more of these things.

Trance.Nu: Have you got any advice or tips for our readers who are aspiring producers or djs?

It’s a very good time right now to start producing music because like 10 years ago you had to invest a lot of money in hardware equipment in order to get some sort of music running. Today you can download demo versions or even shareware versions of music software producing programs where you can do your first steps and you can find out if you’re really sort of talented or if you’re willing to do more. So you don’t really have to spend money to find out if it’s really your thing to do and once you decide it’s your thing to do you can move on by getting into more professional programs like Ableton and its easy to do with your home computer right now with a set of headphones. So go for that and also don’t leap in too much into what other people are doing and don’t believe any hypes of what magazines are trying to make you think what is big and try to copy that. More like find out for yourself what your style is. Look into what music you like to listen to and then maybe start creating what you like yourself and then getting into finding your own style.

Trance.Nu: What do you like to do when relaxing away from djing?

Well I don’t have much time when I get home from gigs I just like to lay on my couch, hang loose with a funky cigarette, I’m a non smoker, but I only smoke funky cigarettes, which sort of loosen me up, I like to read books and simply watch television sometimes and if I have more time I love to go skiing, I used to be a big ski bum in the early nineties when I have to go skiing and I like to do sports in general so that’s where I spend my spare time.

Trance.Nu: What does 2005 hold for Chris Liebing?

I think 2004 has been a really good year for me, I was really happy on how it turned out and in 2005 my goals is to have a really good summer together with Mauro in Ibiza, a successful summer in order to have a lot of good times with a lot of people as possible. To provide people with a good sort of music to have good fun with I look into getting into more technical detail going in my djing life, like I wanna add as many good things which make my djing sound more unique. I hope I’m going to finish a really good album with Speedy J together. I want to start working on my second own album, which I hope to release in 2006 and I have I think a lot of gigs coming up which are all over the world and I’m really looking forward to doing it.

Special thanks goes out to Chris Liebing for taking the time from his busy schedule to chat with Trance.Nu. Also thanks to Nicole and Tina at CLR for setting up the interview!

For more info on Chris Liebing check out his website at http://www.cl-rec.com

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