Chris Nord was born 1980 in Salzburg, Austria. He describes his style as a float between Deep House, Tech House and Techno all spiced with an organic and dirty touch. Chris’s early passion for music started with little Casio and Yamaha keyboards as a child and later on was fascinated playing the drums of his older brother. This was not the best instrument for family harmony but brought the groove into his life.
Chris regularly attended clubs and rave parties around Austria and Germany in 94/95 and from that moment knew he wanted to get in touch with house and techno music. In 95 he got his first couple of records, two plastic belt-driven turntables and a cheap Numark mixer just to start fooling around at home and made a bunch of more or less cool mixtapes and organised his first small parties in a venue around the corner. Style was mostly a mix of house, acid and techno. From then on he organised a series of parties in one of Salzburg’s most legendary venues at that time (Cave Club) also turning his hand to making his first beats in Fruity Loops in the later 90s.
UK Editor Simon Huxtable went to find out more…
Hi Chris and congratulations on winning the Decoded Magazine Mix of the Month competition. How are you today?
Thanks a lot, actually doing very good! And thanks as well for choosing my mix – it’s really an honour. Big ups also to all the other applicants, there are lot of extremely good artists out there!
Tell us about growing up in Austria. Who were your musical heroes and what was the dance scene like in Salzburg?
Besides the known classics like Mozart, Wiener Schnitzel and beautiful mountains, it’s also quite fine simply growing up and living in the middle of Austria. I actually do love urban life but never really felt ready for living at a major city. Salzburg, in my opinion, had quite a cool and eclectic dance and electronic scene till the late 90s. There were a lot of mid-size rave parties with good lineups and also some clubs (especially Cave Club was quite well known around). There were also a couple of nice little record shops where I spent a lot of time in my early years in the scene.
Later on (beginning of the 2000s) the scene experienced kind of a mix up between mainstream and underground, which is not always the best harmony as you can imagine. So I took a break from the music itself – I did not really find my space there and my job was also quite demanding of my time. Music was never only one single direction for me. I grew up with a lot of different musical styles and musicians, and even as a child I mostly preferred sounds with certain electronic parts and patterns. Maybe these patterns are also one reason I like Jazz (not really the standards, but more the modern and acid variations of it) like E.S.T., Avishai Cohen etc.
After I got in touch with the more electronic side of music, I could never totally decide on only one genre, so House and Techno (and the gap in between) were always present. House with it’s early US producers: Frankie Knuckles, Kenny Dope, Josh Wink but also European house with masterminds such as Daft Punk, Ian Pooley, Laurent Garnier just to name a few. On the Techno side, I always looked up to the Detroit pioneers Kevin Sanderson, Derrick May and Juan Atkins. But of course, also Cristian Vogel, Wolfgang Voigt (with all his monikers), Cari Lekebusch, Chris Liebing and Dave Clarke showed me the way. And not to forget the first time I heard all-time hero Carl Cox playing a three deck set – that was simply breathtaking energy.
Like many DJs, you began to learn to DJ with belt drive decks and a cheap mixer. No doubt that caused frustration at the time, but do you think that perseverance has made you a better DJ?
Haha, so true! It was actually frustrating rather often, especially when recording mixtapes or playing live when you had 45 minutes of OK stuff and then the bastard needle jumped because of dust or the pitch just didn’t want to get back in beat! Or carrying 3 tonnes of records and two turntables around for a gig. But besides that it was always inspiring and exciting to dig in the crates in the record shops around Austria, Germany and London sometimes. This certain connection with the black discs definitely tightened my passion for the sound, and vinyl is more tangible and valuable than a digital file as well. However, I would be lying to say it’s not way easier carrying just a USB stick and a pair of headphones for a gig!
But first of all, it depends on the love and passion for this (or every other) kind of music that makes you a better DJ or musician. And of course, the feedback of a dance floor full of moving bodies and happy faces – having a good time was always the goal for me. And people can feel it when you do something with passion I believe. I heard sets done by young guys with just a little digital controller creating an extremely nice atmosphere and mood. I personally will never become a big fan of the famous Sync button, but when it boosts someone’s creative output, why not? Technology is always evolving, so should the mind for using it. I only use rekordbox to analyse key and waveform and sort my music to USB – never liked to carry around my MacBook to a gig as you could end up using it as an expensive drinks tray if you know what I mean.
We understand you attended raves all over Germany and Austria in the mid-90s. What were these events like? Was there a cross section of nationalities like at festivals these days?
That was a cool time! We were quite a lot on the road back then. Sleep? Not at all! But we preferred the more intimate ones (not Mayday or the other main bangers at this time) because they were more open minded for my opinion. Parties like Danube Rave in Linz, Gasometer in Vienna, Rave City, Nachtwerk and Kunstpark in Munich to name a few. They always brought a cool mix of different genres and moods in really stunning locations. Nowadays you would call it festival which did of course, change over the years; a lot of large ones are much more a business than a passion. But attention does bring a lot of variety of nationalities for sure which is cool. But at the end of the day, I’d always prefer playing at an intimate club atmosphere than a festival.
You may have seen the violent reaction of crowds at Peru’s Creamfields recently where Tiesto failed to play. Were they wrong to react in the way they did?
It’s not easy to answer that clearly because I don’t know what exactly happened backstage. But when personal safety can’t be guaranteed I definitely understand Tiesto wanting to leave the area. There must have been a very aggressive mood around already, otherwise, things like that normally do not happen. Of course, the people paid entry, but aggressive reactions on changes like the crowd had there (why the hell glass bottles on a festival at all??) must also be a signal for the organisers to find a solution! Fortunately, this is an exception so far and not common.
Tell us about your own parties at Cave Club?
We were young and needed the money. Well, money was definitely not a reason at all … haha! Together with a couple of friends and owners of my favourite record shop in town, we had one and a half years of really cool and funny events, standing behind the decks the first times was very exciting and instructive for me. Playing together with some cool acts from Austria, Germany and even England (can’t remember the names). Even Westbam joined us once. But we were young and had a lot to learn – there are always decisions to make: party and long nights or some real life and earning real money. For buying more records!
These days we understand you’ve just started a residency at the Klangkörper Club Lounge. Can you talk us through how that opportunity came along and your thoughts on life as a resident DJ?
Yeah, but it’s not that big thing like regularly playing in a club. It’s more an open-air summer music project at a lakeside – but with a very high standard of acts and sets. Really enjoyed the summers so far. Was simply by playing a set at a friend’s birthday party – one of his guests is kind of a promoter which can’t be a full-time job in Austria I think (!) and had the idea for the lounge and actually liked my style. That was the simple way it happened. I would really love to get the opportunity of a night residency in a club – simply because my range of sound can be relatively wide and I have a lot of stories to tell. From organic house and deep house for warm up, warm and groovey Tech House for keeping it grooving and leading to Techno with my certain dirty but solid touch. I also do prefer longer sets than only like 1.5 hours where you have to pack a lot of stuff in and afterwards think of all the tracks you did not have the chance to play. The club scene in Austria and also Salzburg is on a good way at the moment so we’ll see what happens.
Most DJs these days have at least a small understanding of producing. But we understand you’ve been making your own music since the 90s on Fruity Loops. After a long gap in your career, you began you make new material in 2009. How’s it been going? You mention it was easier starting this time.
I always aspired to build my own sounds and tracks and tried to find my signature. It never felt like a must besides DJing; it was always a real want. So I started to fool around with the first versions of FL in 98/99. I collected and sampled a large amount of different bits and sounds from everywhere (magazines, CDs, vinyl) and stuck some of my first tracks together. Some of the ideas aren’t that bad, but I never released anything. That’s the main problem even today – I don’t believe in the quality of my own work.
I love creating so I would never give up and technology these days (and of course internet) made it a lot easier to learn how to produce and create quality in sound. I chose Logic Pro as my main DAW because in my job as a graphic designer I’m used to work on a Mac and Logic is good value for money. You don’t necessarily need a lot of hardware these days: A good computer, a quality audio interface, a pair of good studio monitors and some kind of midi-input-device and you can play the game. But also the room acoustics and the possible volume is an important section – there I would definitely need some more improvements …
The studio must be a lot different these days. Anything you’ve bought recently you’d like to tell us about?
Soft Synths and DAWs are getting better and more powerful and also offer a very flexible workflow. I got an original Roland SH-101 – great piece of hardware and really fun to get lost in the sounds. This synth brought me deeper into this analogue kind of sound the last time. I’d consider buying a Korg Minilougue or an Roland System-1 the near future, and maybe a NI Maschine (especially for drums) will find it’s way on my (way too small!) desk. My dream would be an original Moog or one of the Dave Smith series but all that is not affordable at the moment.
In the beginning, it was wise for me to invest in different soft synths (like Sylenth, Massive etc.), EQs and mastering tools. You can learn a lot of the principles of synths and tools and find the particular sounds that make your signature. And not to forget you need to have some equipment to deliver Mixes of the Month!! In my case, I decided to get a Pioneer XDJ-R1 (unfortunately that was just before the XDJ-RX was announced). But anyways, I’m quite happy with it, and you can just pick the USB stick and plug it into a club setup. It was important for me not to need a laptop.
Any releases this year?
I got a tonne of unfinished and another tonne of nearly finished or even finished tracks on my hard drives. Mainly, I’m missing the courage to send tracks to labels. On the other hand, it’s my limited time and I always had the feeling, my work it’s not good enough compared to all the other tracks out there which sound way better and fatter than my stuff … So far, my tracks and edits are only getting played in my own sets and on Soundcloud. But who knows …
Well, it’s been wonderful to chat, we wish you every success in the future. Is there anything in closing you’d like to add?
Thanks to you guys running this great magazine and making the effort with all this! It’s really a great opportunity for artists like us!
01// DkA – Roller Coaster
02// Andre Crom – Estiu
03// Marco Resmann – Sun
04// Martin Landsky – Under The Bridge
05// Ray Kajioka – Strike
06// Christian Nielsen – On My Mind
07// Matador – Back To Bass (Paco Osuna Remix)
08// Johannes Heil – By Night Part Four
09// dubspeeka – Pretty Liar
10// Christian Smith – Turn The Lights (Nick Curly Remix)
11// Moonwalk – Meteora
12// Manuel Tur – Lagunesie