Filed under: Interview
Chilean born British raised techno experimentalist Cristian Vogel, is about to release his tenth album to date, twelfth if you include the two with ‘ Super Collider’ a musical collaboration with Jamie Liddell; but this latest release ‘Station 55’ turns a corner for Vogel.
“I think half the album features collaborations and all of the album is song based, I wouldn’t really call it a techno album….it is not a rejection of techno or anything like that, more of a progression of this”.
Recently gracing the turntables along with Stewart Walker at Daikanyama’s club Unit for a one off night celebrating the work of major influential dance music label Tresor; HIgher- Frequency got the chance to sit down with the innovative producer to chat about the forthcoming release, being experimental and antagonistic and ‘moments of clarity’. Read on.
Interview by Mark Oxley
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : This is not your first trip to Japan is it ?
Cristian Vogel : No I think I have been here about 5 times…..
HRFQ : How do you like it ?
Cristian : Well every time I get a different experience, though I always stay in the same hotel, ha ha… but I always enjoy it, it is a long way to come, but it is important.
HRFQ : Do you usually do it along with other trips in Asia, or just one off trips ?
Cristian : Sometimes it works out good. One time I did a whole pacific rim tour, I did New Zealand, Australia and Japan. But this time for example, I have just come out here for the one concert.
HRFQ : So does that mean just 2 days here ?
Cristian : Well I got here this morning and i go back on Sunday morning,
HRFQ : And we are on Friday, now……….Amazing.
Cristian : Well thats how important I think it is that i am prepared to do that. And i am also very busy right now promoting my new album, so, so much to do and then to come to Japan………
HRFQ : When did they book you for it, because it is not listed on your web site as you are coming over ?
Cristian : No, it wasn’t confirmed for various reasons, there were various things happening around it, but in the end, at the last minute I just got on a plane and came here.
HRFQ : Well thanks alot !
Cristian : Ha ha, well I am happy being able to talk to some press at least because it is important, but it was a ‘ad hoc’ as they say.
HRFQ : Listening to some of your tracks, they do appear to be on the Darker side of Techno, experimental, when you play live do you assume the same approach or do you take a different view of things.
Cristian : Do you mean presenting music like when I am DJing or do you mean creating the music live ?
HRFQ : Djing.
Cristian : Well, first and foremost I am a producer, and I used to perform live with machines and then back in the early nineties you were treated like such shit as a live act, that it was damaging the equipment and it was really stressful so I decided to take up DJing. And I have been DJing non stop for eleven years now. So if you are asking me about DJing I would say there is an element of being very open and responsive to the audience. And so very much a lot of feeling that is in the music comes from the audience.
HRFQ : So how experimental does that become ?
Cristian : mmm…well exactly, sometimes I tend to go really experimental and antagonistic, if the audience are also giving me that (vibe). If I don’t feel comfortable with it, sometimes I’m trying to find a place for us all on the dance floor, sometimes I find people walk away and they feel like that was a really awkward experimental set, but on the whole I don’t try and do that. I know some DJ’s who try and do that, but I want everyone to have a good time. An elevated musical experience is what i want to deliver and this does involve breaking some rules, but it does mean that if you are breaking them or bending them then the audience is with you on that. I they say “come on push it, push it push it…….go on push it more, push it more go on break it……” then you do it, they are like “Whoooaaaaa” , then you are away !! That is when I am most happy.
HRFQ : It must be great.
Cristian : Yeah wicked. But recently I have started playing live with my synthesizers and drum machines and actual real equipment on stage, it’s a different type of thing.
HRFQ : Is that what you used to do before ?
Cristian : yeah, back then, many moons ago. I have come back to it now because of the equipment has finally gotten sturdy enough to do that.
HRFQ : You bring it all over with you ?
Cristian : Yeah I usually bring it with me in bags and suitcases and things. But that experience is more like Jazz, if you know what I mean. It is very improvisational. It is necessary that the audience give you feedback and make you feel comfortable so you can give them……what ever they want to do. Breakdance…..ha ha.
HRFQ : Do you use any other software ? I mean when you are producing?
Cristian : Well when I producing, I use a whole different universe of information technology. On stage you have to have something that is reliable and isn’t going to break in the middle of your most important moment. And at the moment I find that this particular software is doing a good thing. But what it does do is, it helps me open doors very fast. I used to take a couple of boxes or a bag but now i have access to a whole shelf full of stuff. And my musical inspirations and resources, as you can imagine, are very wide. And it means with this sort of digital system, if the audience is ready and if they are elastic enough we can really go places, and I am very excited about that.
HRFQ : Sounds good man. For fans in Japan who may not be that familiar with your music, can you – in a nutshell- map out the major points of your career ? Those moments when you thought, ‘yeah’, ‘I’m going somewhere, things are happening’.
Cristian : What alcoholics term ‘moments of clarity’ ! ha ha You are asking me to remember the moments of clarity over the last 15 years. Well, I mean I think for music fans in Japan, if they are interested in lil’ old me, ‘cos I am not that important really, but if they wanted to spend a week researching me the best thing to do is to go through each vinyl that I made, – ‘cos I made a lot of records- , or at least go through the albums. And each album marks clearly the technology I was able to use at that time, what was being made and my personal ideas and beliefs and philosophies. I mean I tend to use those albums myself, almost like a diary. I mean sometimes i look back and think what the fuck was that about, what was going on when I made that. And sometimes, for sure, I can reminisce about what was on an album, but from a third party point of view you can look at a record and go ‘thats really interesting’. And I think for any artist not just me, if you go back and listen to the first album, and compare to the last album then you listen to them both I think that is a really good way of enjoying an artist. Thats what i would suggest. If you have been lucky enough to go to some of my live gigs and DJ gigs, then maybe some people collect live gigs on the internet that could be interesting also to listen to. Something from 1993, 1995 and now.
HRFQ : You don’t do post them on the net yourself do you ?
Cristian : No I don’t. But I know people collect them, like stamps.
HRFQ : You have been talking about ‘way back’ and you have been doing it a while, what were your original influences and what kept you going ?
Cristian : I can’t remember my original influences very well, it was a long time ago. But what has kept me going is the genuine good spirit and good community around the music that I make, techno music you know. I think I am a ‘people person’ I like to meet people and at the beginning people would come, young people and I would get to know them a little bit and then they would disappear maybe for a few years and then a few years later I would meet their younger brother or sister, and I am still there !! Everybody keeps coming and going and I am still there !!! But really I like the warmth and the community of this type of club culture. And that is why I try to keep things experimental, and heavier and darker. Because to me that is the key to the good people. Because I think the plastic fashion orientated stuff, people tend to come get into it for a little while and then disappear for ever!! You know you never get to know them, meet their family I like to keep things quite ‘rootsy’.
HRFQ : You mentioned you have always played techno, but we were reading on the web and in a few magazines that there was a time in the Uk, when Techno took a back seat to almost everything else. And we read about playing to low crowds, what was going through your mind at the time ?
Cristian : What was going through my mind…….Well “I have to leave this country man and go and live in Barcelona where it is all kicking off” So yeah I left England, not just because of the bad response to the music but I felt that in the late-mid nineties that the dance music scene was so dominated and influenced by the media. That it was almost like some kind of oppression you know. People were being told what to think, and I thought politically that was really bad and i couldn’t take it anymore and I had to leave.
HRFQ : You are about to release a new album Station 55 on Novamute, hows everything with that ?
Cristian : Yes, I must talk about my new album. Well it is my tenth album, my tenth solo album, I made two with SuperCollider a band I was in. And you know they say, it is your ‘breaking’ first album, your ‘difficult’ second album, your ‘awkward’ third album…….the tenth one…….God knows! In the meantime I thought that I was working so much in production with other bands – and I still do now as a producer – I felt it was difficult to make a solo album again. Where you have to start with nothing, think of the idea, think if the music, think of the sounds, write the music, write the songs, write the lyrics, mix it, produce it……….It was so difficult that I made an invitation to people that i admire and friends of mine, not famous people but friends of mine and I said ‘look, can you help me make my new album’. Would you like to contribute sounds, ideas, words, images anything at all to this project. And I gave it a working title which at the time the working title was ‘I walked all night’. I don’t know why and then I sent that to everyone. But then the working title changed to ‘typewriter of the dead’ and then I sent that to everyone. And then stuff and ideas would come back and they would stimulate me and then i made the album. And then the final title emerged form all that which is Station 55. So actually I think half the album features collaborations and all of the album is song based I wouldn’t really call it a techno album, although there is some techno on there because thats where I come from. You know it is not a rejection of techno or anything like that. More a progression of this.
HRFQ : Quite different from what you have done before ?
Cristian : I see it as different because it has different vocalists and song structures. But if you look at my first album and my last one, maybe it’s not so different. I will leave it up to you. It is launched at the end of June probably in Japan in July. There is a 12inch single too, which is only on Vinyl, so your readers have to try and find it ‘cos it is only on vinyl so they have to go and leave the computers and go into the shop. But the single is worth it, there are two singles and I decided to do a B-side so there are no remixes. I just made B-sides in the old fashioned way as part of the atmosphere of the album.
HRFQ : And is that going to be your policy in the future, not to hand it out for remixes ?
Cristian : Maybe, I quite liked that idea. You know at the end of making an album there are always a few songs that don’t fit on the album so what do you do with them ? I like the idea of the B-side. So thats good. I think you will be able to order it on line too, from Mute Records.
HRFQ : You have “rise robots rise records” is that solely for the Super Collider projects ?
Cristian : No, it was an album project and an alternative music project, but due to mashimations in the music industry, which no-one was aware of, Europe’s biggest distributor EFA went bust, about a year and a half ago- suddenly, they didn’t tell anyone – and many labels collapsed, many labels important to the industry went down because the distributor went down. We survived just about. We got our stock back, so we are still selling our stock but we had to stop making records with this label (rise robots rise records) so we had to stop pressing for a while. The project Supercollider, for the reasons that I am me and Jamie is Jamie, and Jamie has gone in a kind of soul music direction and I have gone in my direction we are now going like this. Opposite directions. There is no way we are going to be able to collide for the time being, so that is on hold for a while. I know a lot of people are still keen to hear more Collider but he is based in Berlin and I am based in Barcelona so I can’t see much happening for a while. Maybe there is something coming out soon, in a year, because we made some tracks and we want to get them out.
HRFQ : Great, well thanks for your time. That was great thanks alot.
Cristian : Thank you.
End of the interview
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