Ask anyone with a taste for techno to rhyme off a few legendary names, and Chris Liebing’s will invariably be in that number. Hailing from the small German town of Giessen, Chris began DJing in 1990, with an eclectic, yet contemporary approach, mixing hip-hip, house and pop. Within 4 years, he established Spinclub and founded a label, Soap Records. A move to nearby Frankfurt provided him with the opportunity to become more deeply immersed in the world of techno, and he became a name of respected repute behind the decks at Omen. He also established CLR, a record label, events company, and radio station that has become synonymous with hard-hitting, cutting edge techno that appeals to purists and novices alike, with releases and performances from techno luminaries like Dave Clarke, Adam Beyer, Ben Klock, Perc, and Marcel Dettmann.
Chris’ hectic summer schedule will see him traverse Europe, North America, South America and will finish on the Med, with the spectacular Ark festival. Taking place at the end of August, the festival is a grand statement of decadence. As promoters the world over continually search for fresher and more inventive ways of throwing parties, the options for clubbers are becoming all the more dizzyingly exciting.
The Ark is one such option. A Mediterranean cruise liner with performances from some of the best and most legendary DJs on the planet – including 2MANYDJS, Sven Vath, Cassius, Felix Da Housecat, Roger Sanchez, Masters at Work, and many, many more – departing from Barcelona and stopping at Marseille, Ibiza, before returning to the Catalan capital, this is a testament to how far dance music has come. And if you grow tired of all that dancing, you can avail of the myriad options available on board, like basketball, rock climbing, cinema, yoga and stand-up comedy.
We chat to Chris about his career, and what promises to be a truly spectacular weekend on the high seas.
Hi, Chris. The Ark looks like it will be an incredible experience, and the organisers truly have pulled out all the stops. It’s a tremendous lineup, not to mention everything else that is taking place. How much are you looking forward it?
Very much, because it’s a whole different idea of party and I love being on the ocean. It’s pretty amazing to be on the ocean, hang out, party, chill out and do whatever – I’m all up for that.
Techno is in continually rude health, and has seen many genres come and go. Why do you think this is?
I believe that Techno is somehow the basis for everything, it’s the foundation for all kinds of little genres that pop up here and there. I mean I understand Techno to be a genre that is stripped down to it’s core, somehow it’s minimized to maximize. It’s basic rhythm with interesting sounds that does not ask for any hype. It has always been in the background and it will always be in the background. You could say it’s kind of like with Soul and Funk. Soul and Funk are always somehow in the background of Hip Hop music. Things like this, it’s a basic foundation.
When you began DJing, you had quite an eclectic style, before settling on the robotic rhythms and textures of techno. What was the main influence for this?
The main influence to play different styles? Or to end up settling into the rhythms and textures of Techno? I’ll basically answer both ways. In the years when I started DJing there was not a lot of Techno around and I was somewhere between 14 and 16, starting to play at little house parties that we threw, so you played anything there was. My goal was just to create a good night for the people and have them dancing and jumping around. As soon as I got more into electronic music, I found out that I can create this kind of vibe that I wanna create so much better with Techno. And of course I also liked it even better. I just like to have music around that is not that obvious, that is a little bit more deep, so that you can explore more, as opposed to having it already right in your face. And using this to entertain people and to give them a good time, that’s on the one side the challenge,
on the other side the great thing.
You’re an extremely busy man. Do you attribute your health and energy to your vegan diet?
Absolutely, 100%, I am vegan for almost seven years now and that is the biggest life-changing experience that I have had besides having my children. It just goes on the list as number three. The energy that I have because my body does not have to deal with the bad stuff in the food, like dairy products or animal proteins. And since I don’t put any animal protein into my body anymore, I have way more energy, I am less sick and I don’t need as much sleep. It’s perfectly tailored for a DJ I guess, basically for everyone on the planet.
I’m not really sure, I mean there is a lot of people that I would like to work with, but I base this more on what’s happening at the moment, what’s going on, what’s coming out of a working process or out of a flow when you work on a record. That might as well be Martin Gore, I am not sure, at some point. I’m not sure if he wants to, but yeah I mean I am not a fan of anything I would say, I have never really been a fan of anything, but there is one thing that kind of was and still is the soundtrack of my life, and that is Depeche Mode. That is the music that Martin L Gore has written and is writing and that is partly also written by Dave Gahan and sung by the beautiful voice of Dave Gahan. It has just followed my life completely. They are around for almost thirty-five years and that’s about the time that I am listening to music, I think. It has always been there, so of course it was a huge honour for me. Not only to have him on my podcast, I actually released a record with him on my label in 2010 – by Motor. Now I was even asked to remix Depeche Mode. It’s the single “Going Backwards”, which will be released soon or maybe by the time the interview is released it’s already out. There is more news on that side, which I can’t tell you right now, but I am actually working together with quite a lot of really good people at the moment on my next album, which is almost finished and soon out, hopefully – this year maybe. And there are a lot of dreams that are coming true right now, I have to tell you that.
Fabric closed temporarily, and with the closure of many others, do you think that this keeps club owners and promoters on their toes and always having to be ready with new ideas, and is this constant state of flux healthy for dance music?
I think promoters are more or less on their toes, because of stupid laws and regulations that the governments and city councils come up with. It’s not so much that clubs have to figure out what’s new and how to attract people. If you have a great sound system, if you have a great room and you have great booking, in the right location, I don’t really think that you have to always come up with new ideas. You really have to fight for your right to be open, because other people don’t like people to go out at night and party. And I think it’s time that we really fight for that right even more. Closings like this just tell us all that there are still other people making the rules for my life, for your life. And these rules are maybe not in our interest most of the time. I for example never understood the closing hours. Who the hell is telling me when I can go out and when I should stay at home? I don’t get it. I wanna be dancing at six in the morning if I feel like it. There is still a lot of work to do.
What city or club do you always look forward to coming back to?
Oh there are many cities. I have some favourite cities in the world, that’s Rome, that’s New York, that’s Los Angeles, but I am always happy to go to new places as well. I am always happy to go to Italy to play for example. I am always happy and excited to go to New York, but of course there is all kinds of amazing tours that you do. That’s the beauty of this DJ job, it gets you to so many different places and of course there are loads of places that I would love to come back to. There are so many beautiful places on this planet, but if I would have to name three, I would say Rome, New York and Los Angeles.
Your tracks are known for their raw, mechanised rhythms and percussive inflections. Do you prefer manipulating drum machine and synth sounds, or do you like using found (self-recorded) sounds? Or indeed is it a mixture of both?
I have a mixture of both, but for this album I have been working on, I have actually only manipulated drum machines and synth sounds. There was not so much sampling going on. Actually no sampling at all for this album, so it is solely produced with drum machines and analogue synthesizers. It was kind of the approach, I didn’t really think too much about it. I tried to use
what comes to mind. The most important thing is, that when it comes out of the speaker it needs to sound the way I wanted it to sound like and that’s mostly the big work.
What are the tunes that you would consider as timeless classics?
The first one that comes to my mind is ‘Timeless Attitude’ by Secret Cinema. There is the beautiful original and there are beautiful remixes out. I will probably constantly play this track, it never really leaves my bag. There are loads of timeless classics, just check out the Eye Q catalogue of the old days. Or check out Lazonby ‘Sacred Circles’, another all time classic that I always love to play and sometimes I still drop it at the end of a night. That’s the beauty of Techno, we have quite a history already, with the past 25 years of amazing music that has been coming out. But I am also still looking for the next all-time classic that comes out.
Who have you seen lately that you think has a bright future in techno?
That is a good question. I think Marco Faraone from Italy is one guy who brings in the right attitude and produces great music, but there are many others too. Yarky – I am not sure how you spell that, but it’s the guy who also releases on Nina Kraviz‘ label. He does quite some interesting stuff and there are so many young talents out there. My advise to them is: don’t look left and right, do your thing, believe in what you are doing and have the ambition and discipline to do it. You really need to have a lot of ambition and discipline in that business in order to pull through, so good luck to everyone. And once more, I am very much looking forward to come on the boat!