WIth his latest single 'Talking To Myself' out now on the legendary FFR, we figured it was high time this fast-rising Danish producer talked to us...
Danish producer Christian Nielsen first emereged onto the scene at the start of the current decade, with release on labels such as UM Records, Play It Down and Neurotraxx Deluxe under the name Chris Minus. For the past five years, though, he's taken to using his real name, under which he's produced a string of well-received house and techno releases for the likes of Kompakt, Noir Music, Stereo Productions, Kling Klong and Toolroom.
Though his own work spans a range of styles, there's often a strong progressive/melodic feel to it. But it's informed, too, by his love of classic US house – he cites the likes of Kerri Chandler, Larry Heard, Moodymann and Charles Webster as key influences. His latest single Talking To Myself dropped on legendary UK label FFRR a few weeks ago, which seemed as good a reason as any to find out more about the Copenhagen native's career to date, and his plans for the future.
Here's what he told us...
Can you start by giving us a bit of background on how you got into making and playing electronic music in the first place?
"I got into electronic music pretty late in my life. I wasn’t raised on electronic music or anything like that. I wish I was, because that would have been a better story.
"When I turned 18, I started going out a lot and the dream at that time was to become a bartender and then one day maybe have my own place. So I got a job as a busboy at a dive bar where they made amazing cocktails and played rare groove, soul and stuff like that. After a while, I asked the owner if I could become a bartender and he said 'No, you’re too short'. Before I could respond, he'd gone over to the resident DJ who was playing at the time, and called me over. Five minutes later I had become the DJ’s apprentice.
"So I followed him around to all his gigs for quite a while, until I actually was allowed to play on my own. Tony was his name: he taught me everything he knew about music, and from that I learned about guys like Kerri Chandler, Charles Webster and DJ Spinna. A few years later my friend Robin, who produced music at the time, told me that if I wanted to have more gigs, I had to produce my own tunes and edits. He even came up with my first alias, Chris Minus. I still think I owe him a bottle of vodka for that!"
To my ears there's a definite 'progressive' slant to your music – how do you describe it?
"I would call it melodic! Ha ha. But yes, on some of my tracks, there is definitely a progressive slant to them. So when I make tracks it’s all about grooves and hooks. If you’ve got those two down, you’re pretty much halfway there."
Your online biography has you still working in an office by day. Is that still true, and if so how do you manage the demands of a full-time job AND a music career, and would you like make music as a full-time career if you could?
"Yes, this is still true. Obviously, there is a dream of doing this full time, but there’s no rush. There is no doubt that time is something I don’t have a lot of. Family, job and music all take up a lot of time, but when it comes to music it’s all about being focused and spending my time wisely.
"For example, I’ve kept my studio set-up super simple for years now, just so I can always make a track when I’m inspired, anywhere at any time. I always have my laptop and small MIDI keyboard with me, and often make tracks during my lunch break. I’ve been doing this for years so it works for me at the moment. Will it work for me in the future? Who knows?"
Your latest release, Talking To Myself, comes on FFRR – a label with a rich dance music heritage, even if it's been a bit quiet in recent years. How did that come about – and were you aware of that legacy when you signed the track?
"I produced Talking To Myself earlier this year and felt pretty good about it from the get-go, but none of the normal labels I worked with were hooked on the track. I imagine the whole crossover vibe to it was a bit too much. Nonetheless, I sent it out to a few people, including Annie Mac who played it two weekends in a row on Radio 1. After that, I was approached by several labels who wanted the track, and in the end it went to FFRR, who were definitely more hooked on the track than the others.
"For me, it was about finding a label who would give it a nice home, and I felt that FFRR fit the bill. I was well aware of who FFRR was and what it stood for. To be honest, I’m very proud that I’ve contributed to the label."
You've released on several other much-respected labels, including the likes of Noir, Kling Klong, Play It Down and Kompakt. Are you not tempted to go down the 'own label' route?
"Oh yeah, for sure. I love the idea of having my own platform where I can decide what I want to put out, but it takes a lot of time and work and as I said, time is not something I have a large amount of."
You collaborated with Skream on Sleep Walking earlier this year. Tell us a bit about that experience, and how it came about…
"I’ve been connected to the label and Skream for some time now, and it just felt like the right time to ask him. We actually just started by sending different ideas and unfinished tracks back and forth, until we found something we could both connect on. We came together on the track Sleep Walking in the end. The whole thing was an amazing experience for me, and I’m super proud to be able to put my name with a legend like Skream. I am forever grateful for that!"
… and are there any more high-profile collabs in the pipeline?
"There are things in the making, but nothing I can tell you any more about right now. Things like this take time, and everybody needs to be comfortable with it."
If people want to hear you DJing, where can they do so in the next month or two?
"Besides some local gigs in Denmark, my next gig will be at Klein, Istanbul in Turkey which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve never played in Istanbul but I’ve heard great things!"
Finally, what else is going on in Christian Nielsen's world right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"Well, I have some upcoming releases on Of Unsound Mind and Exploited in 2019 that are confirmed. Besides that, there are loads of different things in the works. I’m also hoping to do a few more remixes in 2019, and hopefully start working on a second album."
Words: Russell Deeks
Talking To Myself is out now on FFRR