Chris Liebing on EDM in America: "It'd Be Cool if People Got Into More Underground Styles"
There is EDM and then there is electronic dance music.
What's the difference? The former has been co-opted by the U.S. media to describe any electronic music that's popular these days -- from Swedish House Mafia to David Guetta to Skrillex -- with little, if any, distinction between acts.
But if you are looking to find the up-and-coming, you're going to have dig a little deeper into the European dance music scene, which thanks to Winter Music Conference and Miami Music Week, will be out in full-force at Miami-area nightclubs.
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Take Chris Liebing and his label CLR Records, for example. The German DJ-producer has cultivated a strong techno following with a carefully curated slew of releases and an artist roster -- which includes Tommy Four Seven, Radio Slave, and Monoloc -- that would make any other dance music label envious. Adding to the prestige is CLR's highly successful, 250,000-subscriber podcast, which Liebing uses to showcase the best in underground techno.
So go ahead and enjoy Swedish House Mafia's last hurrah, but make sure to further your dance music education at CLR's events Friday at the National Hotel during the day and then Space at night. (Let's call it a 24-hour techno seminar.)
Crossfade touched base with Liebing on the popularity of the CLR podcast, on the U.S. EDM scene, and how putting on a night and day event will effect the mood of his set.
Crossfade: Your podcast is popular with techno fans everywhere. How do you go about selecting the artists highlighted on the podcasts?
Chris Liebing: I try to get a good variety of all kinds of different shades of electronic music which fall under the definition of techno I have in my head. Obviously, all of them are very well-respected artists, some of them already established, others are new, up-and-coming talents I find out about and I am excited to give them a platform. Then we also feature some legends, which is also very exciting. All in all, it should be a good mixture of well-established and up-and-coming artists, and usually we schedule the podcasts in a way that the artists can promote a new release, an album or a compilation, so that it´s beneficial for all sides.
Do you think the podcasts have helped popularize CLR?
Yes, you can say so, but it was not really the intention. I had done weekly radio shows for a very long time before we decided to do a weekly podcast as well, and we never imagined it would become so popular so quickly amongst techno lovers on the whole planet.
Why did you rename CLR to "Create Learn Realize"?
I renamed CLR to "Create Learn Realize" because I wanted to get rid of my ego in the name of the label and open it up to all kinds of new artists and tendencies. In the beginning of CLR, my release policy was extremely one-dimensional. It was like, let's release tracks that I play at peak time. That was my sole purpose of having a label and I was thinking in a very functional way. I was not looking much to my left and to my right, I just thought that I want to release whatever I enjoy playing, especially at peak time. This has definitely changed very much over the course of the last four or five years. My former idea of the label has slowly changed into the approach that it just has to be interesting music, no matter if I can even play it in any of my sets or not. It has to strike me in one way or another, then I am happy to release it. This new attitude led to the great variety of releases we currently have on CLR. Now I get introduced to really amazing music I would have never looked out for in the past and I can suddenly just go and release it. That´s really fun, and running the label together with my great team is really a lot of fun anyway.
How would you compare the U.S. techno scene to what's happening in other parts of the world?
Everything that happens in the U.S. is much bigger and in some way more colorful. There is a whole lot of excitement about electronic dance music, which you call EDM. In Europe we don't really call it like that. In the States it has become popular on such a big scale in a commercial sense, which was never really the case in Europe. Now this basically comes across to Europe as well, even though the European underground scene is still much stronger. Anyways, I do believe that all the current interest in electronic dance music in the States also helps the little underground branches of this scene to become more popular. In other parts of the world, those branches of underground music are still much stronger than in the U.S., but there the interest is definitely rising as well.