They don’t get much more imposing or omnipotent on the global stage than our interview guest this week. Chris Liebing has institutionalised a prescence that’s reinforced his own idenity whilst forging a dynasty of ocular emmisions ultimately leading to the success of the imprint CLR. Create, Learn, Realise – apt, surely. If we were to traverse the past decade of the label’s back catelogue it would require it’s own extensive volume of commentary. The congealed modesty and attitude that compliments the successes is an achievement in itself.
This coming weekend his Australian tour kicks off and the foot soldiers that envelope every performance will be endorsing what’s likely to be a chaotic few days. Sydney and Melbourne preceed Brisbane which will be the stage where the LGM crew will host the final leg. The full itinerary and rundown of the touring and CLR release schedule over the coming summer in Europe is ominously residing on the frontier, regardless of it’s immensity. The CLR broadcasts should summarise it accurately.
Kn: Let’s start by talking a little about CLRX. A brave new world in techno appears to be opening up and, once again, CLR is leading the charge. How has the reception been for your new ‘MOTOR’ project and how did this all come about? Will we start to see a new chapter open up with your own productions?
CL: Well, not necessarily my own productions. I am always open to new ideas and other artists’ productions as long as I like them. The whole MOTOR thing has been received very well. Maybe the core CLR fans haven’t really paid too much attention to it so far, but a lot of new fans have come to check out CLR, which is a great thing. You know I am a kid of the 80s, so I am very into all the artists who are featured on the album, like for example Martin L. Gore, Gary Numan and Douglas McCarthy from Nitzer Ebb. It’s great to give the core CLR fans a little bit of the story behind everything and show the connection between the 80s and 90s Techno and today, and MOTOR made this possible. There are obviously a lot of new connections coming up and we get demos sent, so I will see what happens with CLRX and just go with the flow.
Kn: CLR have taken the lead on numerous occasions in both marketing and creative pursuits. In particular, a very impressive strategy has been CLR’s frequent ‘digital sale’ of hand-picked EP’s, and even full Albums, for the ridiculously low price of 1 € each. How effective do you feel these experiments have been for both CLR’s sales and the message it delivers to music consumers in a market saturated by both choice and piracy? Do you feel labels could do more to develop relationships with consumers to foster a stronger sense of value in supporting artists by purchasing their music?
CL: I don’t really know. The 1 € strategy is also aimed at people who have just become fans of CLR and don’t have much of our back catalogue. That’s a great chance for them to get ahold of the back catalogue without paying insane amounts of money for it, by having direct access to the source. That’s one of the reasons for it. When it comes to music I don’t really see the correlation between the money you pay for something and how much it is worth to you. Today a lot of people say that music is worth nothing anymore and in the early days, when I had an album in my hand I paid 20 DM for, I felt so much different about it as when a friend today gives me a USB stick with some music. And I ask myself why? Isn’t it the music you listen to, that takes you somewhere else and not the material product around it? Is it the right approach if you really want to see and have the material thing around it? Of course I understand that people want to have the material product in their shelf or on their desk, and this is also what it should lead to. We are trying to create very special material objects to sell, like a really special 12” picture disc for the Planetary Assault Systems remix of MOTOR’s Man made Machine, which you will be able to buy, but when it comes to an mp3 I don’t see a material value to it. You can copy it a million times and it is still the same mp3. How can you put a value to an mp3? You can’t, but you can listen to it very much and it might give you a certain feeling, and why and how should I put this into a currency? I believe if you really like an artist’s music, pay respect by buying his album as a CD or vinyl, buy his music online or buy some merchandise of the artist or go to his gigs or concerts. There are many ways to show respect and support, and it’s actually a whole new concept of valuing an artist’s work.
Kn: With a career spanning 20+ years, life on the road must surely have taught you many tricks about survival and even a few lessons. Even doing something you love, suffering from sleep deprivation must surely take its toll. How do manage to keep your immune system strong and your mind engaged and motivated whilst managing such a busy profile?
CL: I try not to think about it. Sometimes my immune system actually does take a toll and I get sick, but I guess I would only make it worse by thinking about how bad it is to be sick than just accepting that I am sick at this moment. If there is something I learned on all my travels and everything I do, it’s that the more you think about a situation, the situation tends to get worse than it actually is. You can always feel everywhere and anytime at peace if you don’t label a situation as being bad. Of course a lack of sleep is not nice, but constantly complaining about it in your mind only makes it worse.
Kn: Your productions have a consistent, polished, functional edge with an unmistakable feeling that drives the listener forward. When you write Techno, are you simply aiming for functional dancefloor grooves or do you have a story you trying to tell? What are you trying to say to the listener? Could you talk us through the message behind the monster that is “Auf Und Ab”?
CL: Honestly, I am never really happy with what I produce. I know it’s very functional, because I know what works on the dancefloor, but I also know that I am still lacking some of the emotion I might be able to put in when I am djing. I am still not really able to put the same emotion into my productions. I am still trying to learn this and the future will tell if I will succeed. What I generally try to do with my productions or my dj sets is to take the listener onto a journey that takes him out of his mind.
Kn: Any funny studio habits or ‘must-haves’ you’ve developed over the years? Odd snack times, good coffee, fresh socks, incense or comfy chairs; what gets you in the ‘zone’ and helps to keep you there?
CL: My sound system in my studio is definitely one of my biggest crazinesses. I pay a lot of attention to my sound system, the sub-woofers, the speakers, the stands, the cabling and a comfy chair is obviously great to have and helpful indeed. Other than that I don’t really have any habits, they always keep changing. We have a little studio complex with other friends in a big flat and we sometimes start cooking in the middle of the night, but our common habits keep changing as well.
Kn: Australian crowds have been anticipating your return for many years. What can we expect from you this time round and what type of show will you be bringing to our shores?
CL: I can’t really tell you, as this is something I never plan. I am looking forward to see the crowd and to see how the party is going, to see what’s happening, and then I will decide what I am going to do. Something will come out of the speakers and I hope it will be appropriate for this moment and we will all have a lot of fun together.
Kn: What effect has the last five years had on you personally? Where are you headed to from here, Chris?
CL: I don’t really know where I am headed, but I have definitely learned a lot of things and one of them is to “be” more and to “do” less. I am not sure what the future brings.
Saturday 9th Jun. Sydney, Chinese Laundry
Sunday 10th Jun. Melbourne, Brown Alley (Day)
Sunday 10th Jun. Brisbane, Woodland (Night)