Christian S. has been making crowds dance and producing intriguing tracks for a long time, alongside the Cómeme team. His music juggles harmoniously between different styles and pitches, his sound is never boring and always manages to make one’s legs start dancing to the rhythm. He’s recently been to Romania, and we got to know Christian better and talk to him not only about music, but also about his other passion – visual arts. We’re happy to welcome yet another member of the Cómeme family in this week’s feeder insider.
Keywords: Cologne, DJ, Cómeme, visual art, house, dance music
This is what feeder would like to know about you:
(please, fill in the blanks…)
Music and visuals go together like… since this is also part of my profession I find it hard or inadequate to answer this question with a catchy phrase and without repeating something super obvious. But I am tempted to write something silly like Gin & Juice (seeing Snoop Dog and Dr Dre…) but I’d rather recommend the wonderful and inspiring archive of my good friend Prof. Dr. Heike Sperling: visualmusicarchive.org. Find out for yourself.
My tools of the trade are… two turntables and a mixer.
I daydream about… future music.
Home is where… I can be with my family and friends.
Loved ones taught me that… I am not alone.
My favorite beverage is… old fashioned.
A quirk of mine… record shopping.
If I were a color, it would be… green.
A few words to describe my musical style… in love with dance music from the past, present and future.
3 tracks which are the perfect soundtrack for a road trip…
Kool and the Gang – Summer Madness
Sylvester – I Need Somebody To Love Tonight
Lucio Battisti – Ancora Tu
Ana Moca-Grama: Hello, Christian, it’s lovely that we get to talk to you. First things first: I think it would be interesting to hear about the genres you’ve explored and the changes that occurred over the years – where did you begin, what influenced you, where are you now in terms of style & sound?
Christian S: I think it was around ‘91 or ‘92 when I heard a very raw techno track on the German radio which blew me away. After that I was hooked and began searching for more music like this. So for a year or so it was all techno. Then someone showed me House music. To be specific: a Nervous compilation with tracks like “Can’t stop dancing” or “My love”. This opened a whole new world for me, with all the US dance music (from soul, disco, Philly to house and Detroit techno). We still went to techno clubs but even more often – almost every weekend – to a certain house club in Cologne called “IZ”. The hosts on Fridays were Michael Mayer (who later founded Kompakt) and Tobias Thomas and on Saturdays Hans Nieswandt and Eric D’clark (who were together with Justus Köhncke “Whirlpool”). Those were the mid nineties and Cologne had a very open and varied electronic music in general. So all of this was an important influence to me and it never stopped.
Later, after 2000, through travels to South Africa or South America and the internet I got to know a kind of world dance music with styles like Kwaito, Cumbia, Champeta, Kuduro and at the same time rediscovered and listened intensely to a lot of old mixes from the eighties (for example Larry Levan, Ron Hardy, Daniel Baldelli, Beppe Loda… ) which were very free and unbound. That was another important influence.
In all of this music there is a musical freedom and a certain vibe, feeling and energy which resonate and that’s what I love.
AMG: You have been collaborating with Matias Aguayo ever since the mid `90s, when you used to throw the “Lost” parties together, in Cologne. One might say you grew up together in the context of the local electronic music scene. In all these years, what were the milestones you reached along Aguayo and Cómeme?
CS: I don’t think much in “milestones”. I am very thankful for the time we spent together in the past and I am looking forward for the things to come. Cómeme is kind of a collective/family and I love meeting the others from all over the world, collaborating, playing, or just dancing with them. For me it was of course important to be encouraged (mainly by Matias) to actually produce more music and then having my first tracks like “Jagos”or “The power of now” released. Thanks to Cómeme nowadays I am very happy to have the opportunity to travel to a lot of amazing places – like for example most recently Bucharest.
AMG: You also do the artwork for most of Cómeme releases, posters, photography and more. You might be best known for your music, but you have quite an impressive portfolio when it comes to visual arts. When and how did you discover this passion, and in what ways does the visual influence the music (and vice versa)? What are the differences between these two areas when it comes to creating and how do you manage to translate sound into images?
CS: My good friend Sarah Szczesny is doing the actual artwork and collages for the releases and we work together on a lot of Cómeme projects. But ever since I heard this first techno track around 1992 I’ve been making graphic design for music. Back then we started throwing small private parties and we wanted to have flyers. So that’s when I really started to do graphics.
I think in both areas it is necessary to have one (only one) strong idea. In the beginning you have a lot of inspiration, drafts, and tracks but then you have to reduce it to get something for which you can use the German word “gestalt”.
In actually translating sound to imagery I found it helpful to actually write down the things you hear in form of an alternative notation. Listen carefully and write down the sound without the conventional notation system but with anything you like. (like in this 1971 example from Roman Haubenstock Ramati.
AMG: How do you usually approach the creative processes of putting up together a mix and producing a track? What are your habits, quirks and preferences when it comes to work?
CS: I select the records for a mix the same way I pack my record bag for a gig. I imagine the mood and vibe I want for the mix or I try to imagine which mood or vibe the party will have. In the end I have a couple of vinyls and some digital tracks and I don’t know what will happen. When I produce a track I often think before beginning what kind of vibe or effect I want it to create on the dance floor. Then I go on a journey with the machines…
AMG: What do you feel are the greatest differences between dj’ing in the ‘90s as opposed to nowadays? Did you perceive any significant shifts in style, preferences, public perception when it comes to music?
CS: Besides all the technical aspects, digitization, the internet etc. … I think house and techno is still more or less anonymous music. There is so much new music coming out and “old” music to be discovered. You don’t have to play “hits” to have a great night. I believe that hasn’t changed and I am happy about that.
AMG: Speaking of the public, did you notice any differences in how the crowd reacts to your music depending on where you are? How much does geography influence preferences, in today’s context of multiculturalism and the internet?
CS: I think dance music has become super multicultural. I assume in many places around the world you can be lucky and meet people with a similar love or passion for subculture/ underground dance music.
AMG: You’ve recently visited Romania and played music at De.Kolectiv. How was the show, did you enjoy the experience?
CS: I really enjoyed that event. I liked the versatile line-up and listening to quite different music throughout the night. It is quite obvious that the people from De.Kolectiv are creating something special. The crowd was great and I enjoyed playing an early morning set. I definitely would love to come back.
AMG: What are your plans for the near future? Where do you see yourself in five years?
CS: More love, more music, less ego, less plans.
AMG: Finally, tell us something you truly believe in, something that you encountered in your life that shifted your perspective. (be it regarding music, arts or life)
CS: Keep it simple.
AMG: Peace and love, Christian!