Around the world in 80 labels: Tronic – Christian Smith

Our next imprint of note is led by an true figurehead of European electronic music. A gentleman who’s behind an organisation that’s had a strong year release wise, and as such deserves recognition in our long running series.

Which isn’t to say Tronic didn’t kick off 2011 with a solid reputation for merging techno and house into a sound that’s grounded in the former, but frequently maintains accents in tune with the latter. After all, the man at the top, Christian Smith, has been heading up the organisation for no less than 18 years now, albeit with a 24 month gap and a relaunch in 2009.

Disregarding the hiatus though what was once a fledgeling label has grown over time into a leading light of techno that regularly bodes well with non-purists. Mistress Barbara, Vince Watson, Ignition Technician, Paul Mac, Phil Kieran, Umek, Marko Nastic, Wehbba, Trancesetters, Psycatron, Marco Bailey, Carl Craig, and, of course, Smith himself (both solo and with esteemed partner in crime John Selway) have all made appearances. And that really is but a handful of the worthwhile artists we could have namechecked here. Clearly the pleasure is all ours then, and as such it’s only appropriate to immediately hand things over to the Swedish resident of Brazil in question.

Tronic – Brazil – Christian Smith

Describe your imprint’s output.

I like to release a cross-section of music from within what can best be described as techno and tech house. This does range from groovier tracks that help a DJ build a vibe through to more melodic, ‘end of night’ tunes which are designed to blow people away. When I DJ I like to play a long set. The music on Tronic reflects my personal taste so that’s where the inspiration for the range of music we release comes from.

What would you say makes it different?  

I believe all you can do as a record label is try to be as consistent as possible. Whether people like it or buy it is pretty much out of my hands. What I do have control over though is making sure we release music that has a chance to get noticed, written by talented producers and that our releases happen at regular intervals in the year so fans know to expect our releases.  So all in all, I would say that in addition to the range of music we release, the next most obvious characteristic of Tronic is our consistency.

What is it that makes you keep looking for new talent to expose? 

We were all new producers once, and so as well as wanting to be able to give new talent its chance I think as someone who has been around for a while it is inspiring to surround yourself with new ideas and approaches. Especially with music production being so computer based now, the pace at which technology changes and influences how music can be made is really fast. The younger guys are always better at keeping up with the changes so it’s good to have them around to learn off.

What’s the label’s pinnacle achievement so far? 

Tough question… I think the most pleasing achievement of the label’s recent history is how we have managed to make a comeback after taking a break from releasing for two years. Just like technology, the music business changes fast and two years is a long time. Fans forget labels if they become dormant and move on to the next new thing.

This was the biggest challenge with re-launching the label, as I had to start thinking like a new label and resist relying on what had gone before. Within the successful re-launch there have been many highlights though. On a personal note it has to be being able to release my remixes of old tracks I loved like Carl Craig’s At Les, Laurent Garnier’s Flashback and Underworld’s Dark & Long. They were all dreams come true!

If people were going to hear one release from your camp, what would you prefer it to be? 

WOW… it’s so difficult to pick one but if we are talking about the label’s entire history it would have to be a track I made with my long-time production partner, John Selway called Move!. The track was originally released in 1999 as part of the first ever EP on Carl Cox’s Intec label. Obviously it was such an honor to be signed to Carl’s label never mind be the first release but that record just kept getting bigger and bigger.

It was licensed to one of Sasha’s Global Underground mixes which was a really big deal back then as that CD sold hundreds of thousands of copies all over the world so it really did a lot for me in terms exposing my work to a global audience. I guess you could call it my lucky record as we got some remixes done of Move! when I re-launched Tronic in 2009 and it really set us up for the success we have had.

All being well, skip forward five years, where would you like things to be?

Hmmm… I would like to think that Tronic will still be going strong in five years time but I do wonder what role record labels will be playing in the music business in the future. We put a lot of effort, time and money into Tronic in order to operate at the level we have been and while it is a profitable label it is not really a good business model.

There are lots of up front costs and you generally have to wait months to get paid by the retailers and distributors so it is easy to see why the traditional role of a record label is under threat. That said, I can’t see myself giving up any time soon so let’s see what the future holds!

Recent stops 

Spain – Vitalik – Ryan O’Gormon

USA – Ellum – Maceo Plex