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Tuesday 27th, February 2007
Nic Chagall

A year ago, this very website said Nic Chagall is a name that people would not recognise quickly, but fast forward a year and there is no escaping him. This is due to the soar away success of the anthemic ‘What You Need’ on High Contrast. An intelligent fusion of rock and trance, backed by three additional mixes by Chagall in a broad range of styles, this is dominating dancefloors the world over. Behind the alias is experienced German DJ/producer Claus Terhoeven, responsible for many a trance hit but most well known as being one half of Cosmic Gate with Stephan Bossi. After building a reputation as hard trance masters they returned last year with a very different, much more matured sound. In an interview with trance.nu, he discusses what influenced him to move away from the old style sound and what the future holds for both his solo career and Cosmic Gate.

t.nu: Hi Nic, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with trance.nu, how are things in sunny Germany?

NC: Sunny Germany? Would love to get some sun back here! But I’m doing very well, thanks. Although I have a lot of work right now, I found a good way to do business and have time for my family as well!

t.nu: You’re currently riding high on the success of your current single, that is shaping up to be one of the anthems of 2007, ‘What You Need’. Did you go into the studio with the intentions of making a big rock-trance anthem?

NC: No, not really. This idea developed during the production, while I was working on the original. First I made a demo with the guitar melody and a proggy backing, but then after hearing these amazing vocals from Elliot combined with the guitar, I had the idea to give the whole song a rocky / acoustic feel. I sent it over to my record company and they also seemed to love it!

t.nu: Where did you draw inspiration from in the making of the track?

NC: Besides my passion for electronic music, I’m also a huge fan of rock bands like The Killers, Keane and Coldplay. So it wasn’t far away to combine these different styles. The pads and guitar/piano-melodies in a lot of these tracks are made for trance music!

t.nu: The four very difference mixes are getting plays from DJs across the board, you must be pleased with the success of the track.

NC: Yeah, for sure I am! It was the first time that I did so many mixes for one track by myself. My record company Be Yourself really began to smile when I sent over the fourth mix. But it’s also representative of my DJ sets, I like so many different types of trance music that I wanted to do all these mixes. And so I am even happier now that they got plays from a wide range of DJs!

t.nu: Do you think this rock-influenced trance sound is going to continue building this year? Can you see yourself making more tracks in this style for example?

NC: I’m sure that this will continue… for example the remixes from Jacques Lu Cont that he did for acts like The Killers or Depeche Mode shows how interesting this combination is. And this is what I like so much about electronic music right now. All types seems to be mixed up… there are no borders anymore… there are so many tracks that combine trance, electro, progressive and techno and of course rock. I love this and in my opinion make the productions and DJ-sets more interesting. So I’m sure that you can expect more of this from me as well!

t.nu: Your DJ alias is Nic Chagall, what made you choose that?

NC: I thought Claus Terhoeven doesn’t sound too good!

t.nu: Most of us know you as one half of Cosmic Gate with Bossi, but you are making a huge push out on your solo career, how do you think the two will balance out in the future?

NC: I think that this will be no problem. You know, when I’m doing my solo productions, it’s only my ideas and influence and when we do Cosmic Gate, it’s a product of the two of us with different influences. So there will always be a difference and I think, they won’t cross in a negative way.

t.nu: As in your solo work, your last album saw a very different Cosmic Gate – gone were the big hard trance riffs. Bossi has pushed in an electro house direction, so are we mainly seeing your influence here?

NC: No, it’s always the two of us. The electro project that Bossi is doing with another producer is a side project and has nothing to do with his love for “trance music”. The sound of Cosmic Gate will always develop. In our opinion it would be really, really bad if you didn’t move forward. There was no point where we said, lets change the sound… it’s a process, that will hopefully continue!

t.nu: Do you feel you and Bossi moving in different musical directions on the solo front may mean the end of Cosmic Gate?

NC: I don’t know what will be in 10 years, but so far we both have the same view of how Cosmic Gate should sound.

t.nu: Has your new style crossed over into your sets and do you have any trouble from promoters expecting to hear your old style hard trance sound?

NC: Yeah, it’s definitely in my DJ sets. I play a wide range of “trance”, with influences of progressive, electro and techno. But it also can be different, if I play a set as Nic Chagall from Cosmic Gate or just as Nic Chagall, or if I play in a small club or a big rave. But my impression is, that most people who love music are really open minded and happy to hear new stuff rather than listening to the same for 10 years.

t.nu: How is the German trance scene at the moment and how different is it playing there to the rest of the world? For example, you can be on the same line-up as what we would view as less ‘credible’ artists such as Special D or Axel Coon (ex-Scooter).

NC: The problem in Germany is that the word “trance” has been abused to music that has nothing to do with it. So in the big room clubs they call some nights “trance night” and play for example “hands up” commercial music. So you really have to be careful, where to play! But we still have a lot of good quality DJs and producers that are building a new scene. And so the trance scene seems to grow again!

t.nu: You’ve had a hugely prolific production career under many alias, which productions are you most proud of?

NC: That’s always hard to say! Maybe it’s like having many kids… you like them all! But for sure Nic Chagall and Cosmic Gate are the most important ones for me.

t.nu: Are there any that you look back on and go… what were we thinking?

NC: It’s funny from time to time, when you listen to your old stuff! It’s unbelievable, your sound and quality change without recognizing it. You don’t know that you change anything, but you do. But I don’t think… man, what did I do. That’s what I felt at that time, so…

t.nu: You have a young daughter… is she a trance fan yet?

NC: Yes, my studio is in the basement of my house and the whole day the door opens again and again and my daughter is visiting me and then, when she listens to the music she’s headbanging! But as she is 2 1/2 years only, she’s more into kids-music… so far!

t.nu: Do you find it difficult being away from your family while you are touring?

NC: Yeah, absolutely… it was already hard, when it was only my wife and me. But now with our daughter of course it’s even harder. But that’s the job and as my studio is at home, I can see them a lot… so, I don’t wanna complain!

t.nu: We would like to thank you again for your time and all the best for the coming year!

NC: It was a pleasure and thanks for the interview!

A special thanks to J for her help in this interview - you rock!

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