Q&A with Konrad Black, Playing at Glass This Saturday

Categories: Q&A
In the murky underworld of minimal techno, Todd Shillington a.k.a. Konrad Black has made a name for himself through perseverance and continuous innovation. A highly sought-after producer and remixer, this Vancouver native now operates out of the seminal Berlin scene and his Wagon Repair label has emerged as a global touchpoint for cutting-edge new techno. His performance this Saturday night at the Glass "Black Valentine" party comes on the first leg of his debut 2009 US tour and coincides with his new March release for the Berlin Watergate mix series.

We had a chance to catch up with Black, asked him about his artistic development, production M.O. and what the future holds.

New Times: You are known for your atmospheric yet bass-driven signature sound with roots in drum and bass. Tell us how you first got into music production. How did you transition from those roots to your more techno-based current style? Were there specific influences or inspirations?

Konrad Black: I first got into the production end of this business simply by wanted to be closer to the music... same reason why one starts DJing. I wanted to create as well as play the music. It's a logical progression. Just as was my musical progression. I have always been into the same kind of sound... whether it be the RZA or DJ Premier in hip hop, Ed Rush and Optical, Dillinja and Lemon D, Photek in Drum and Bass, or Maurizio, Plastikman et al in Techno. There has always been a common denominator in the sound that has carried me through different genres.

NT: Rumor has it that you are an avid lover of analog owning a formidable hardware studio where you produce all your music. Do you strictly use only analog equipment for production, and if so, why? How do you feel about software-based music production tools and what (if any) part do they play in your work?

KB: I am a big fan of analog synths and outboard gear, but I'm not totally adverse to digital equipment. I just personally prefer the sound of analog keyboards, and definitely specific ones are good for specific sounds. I use certain keyboards more for basslines, and others for atmospherics. There are a lot of good software synths out there as well, especially if you run them through a nice high-end limiter or compressor.

NT: In 2005 you relocated from your native Vancouver to Berlin. What drew you to Berlin? What exactly is it about that city that has made it the current capital of techno and cutting-edge electronic dance music?

KB: I actually moved in Halloween 2005. I didn't intend on moving there initially, but was in Europe for a 3 month tour, and was based in Berlin during the week. While in Berlin, I had other expats such as Troy Pierce and Magda remind me of what I would be going back to in Vancouver vs. what was going on in Europe. That was enough for me right then and there to decide to stay!

NT: You have already had opportunities to play for American audiences in NYC and LA before this debut 2009 US tour. How does the experience compare to playing for audiences in Europe?

KB: Hmmm... I've found it really depends on the city. Also, in Europe you often have experiences with clubs that are quite underground yet larger in capacity, and that go quite late. This brings a whole new element to the experience, and in North America you don't find so many late late clubs. But again, my experiences in LA and New York have been amazing as well. So in the end it really depends on what audience you have for the evening!

NT: Your current US tour coincides with taking the reigns of the Watergate mix series, with WATERGATE03 - KONRAD BLACK set to be released March 2009. Tell us how you got involved with that project and what it's all about.

KB: Well, I play at Watergate in Berlin quite regularly so they have asked me to head up the next CD in their mix series. It will be the 3rd in their series, the first by Onur Ozer, second was Sascha Funke and mine will be the third. It's an honor to be asked and I look forward to it's release.

NT: Your are known for your keen interest in visual art, having designed and produced all the artwork for your Wagon Repair releases. How did you get into visual art and what are your influences and inspirations?

KB: An interest in art in general, aural, visual, whichever it may be, has been with me as long as I can remember. I mean they are all tied together in one way or another. As far as visual influences go, I love the work of Glenn Brown, Jörg Immendorff, Joseph Beuys... the list could go on and on. All these artists, in my mind, like I mentioned earlier about there being a common sound to the different producers and genres that I'm into, these artists all have something aesthetically similar that ties in with that sound and feeling that I'm interested, and vice versa.

NT: What does the future have in store for Konrad Black and the Wagon Repair label?

KB: Well, I'm currently working on my album, and more releases from Cobblestone Jazz, Modern Deep Left Quartet, The Mole, Mike Shannon... more weird deepness to hit the dance floors and the headphones for 2009!

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