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Label of the month: Tronic

24 years of Christian Smith's techno label

2018 May 23     
2 Bit Thugs

Tronic take over Eden in Ibiza tonight, in association with Terminal 4

Christian Smith's Tronic should need little introduction to most iDJ readers... after all, the label has been bringing you its distinct brand of techno for nearly a quarter of a century now. But with a takeover at Eden tonight and a new label comp Synergy (Remixed) coming on 25 June, now seemed like a good time to take a look back at its long and illustrious history.

Originally based in Washington DC, where Swedish native Smith was living at the time, Tronic made its debut with Galactica's Osaka EP in 1994. But it wasn't until a couple of years later, after Smith had moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, that the label got underway properly, with early releases from the likes of Bryan Zentz and Misstress Barbara soon establishing the sound for which the label would become known: defiantly dancefloor-friendly techno and tech-house with da funk in full effect, with occasional nods to straight-up house and with abstract chinstroking kept strictly to a minimum.

Some 20-odd years on, the label's discography has expanded to feature some 260 releases from the likes of Laurent Garnier, Carl Craig, Umek, Dosem, Jay Lumen, Wehbba, Underworld, Marc Romboy, Bushwacka!, Marco Bailey, Dave Angel, Steve Mac, Pig & Dan, Coyu, Mauro Picotto and other big names from across the techno, house and tech-house spectrum - making it one of the best-selling techno labels on the planet, according to Beatport. Now relocated to Mallorca, Spain, the Tronic empire also includes worldwide events and a long-running radio show that's syndicated to over 100 stations globally, and that's rapidly approaching its 300th episode.

Messrs Smith and Lumen will be flying the Tronic flag at Eden tonight alongside London techno promoters Terminal 4, and as we say there's the Synergy (Remixed) comp to look forward to next month. But first, here's what Mr Smith had to tell us about his record label...


When was the label set up, and why?

"I started Tronic in 1994, while I was at university in Washington DC. I wanted to have a label where I could release house-y techno. At the time, my distributor told me this would never work, because house and techno DJs didn't really mix and play each other's music. But I was right, and history proved it."

The Tronic entry on Discogs describes you as a "pumping, tribal, house-y techno label". Is that description accurate, would you say - or how would you describe Tronic's music policy?

"That was the description from 1994, ha ha ha! Making a note to get the wording on that one fixed. But the essence is still the same, Tronic is an open-minded house and techno label, not afraid to take some risks along the way.

"The biggest criteria for me is to play the music we release in my sets. If I don’t end up playing it, I’m unlikely to sign it! I think this is one of the main reasons why Tronic has done well throughout the years - because I follow my gut feeling rather than trends."

How many people are employed by/involved in running the label?

"Full time, just myself and my label manager. But we have a bunch of other people working on a project basis for us, and we also have an exclusive designer working in-house."

You've got your 25th anniversary coming up next year… that must feel like quite an achievement?

"I don’t think about it in that way - I just feel privileged to be doing what I love for a living. It's been a wild ride, and the label's definitely had some ups and downs, but that’s all part of the game. Right now, I have a very good team, and the label runs very well. If it continues the way it’s going at the moment, then I’ll be really happy."

You went away for a couple of years in the mid-00s... what happened there, and what was the impetus for reviving the label?

"Well, I never went away personally: I always did around 100-120 gigs a year and I never had a year where I didn't release several records. But with regards to Tronic, I took a small break because within just three years, I had two distributors go bankrupt on me and I lost a ton of money each time. So I decided to just release on other artists' labels for a while and continue my heavy touring.

"Then once I got my energy back and found some good people to help me run the label, I started it again. I pride myself in saying that Tronic is very professionally run."

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice on running a label, based on all that you've learned, what would it be?

"I would have built the brand earlier and put more energy into doing label events. I really enjoy doing Tronic-branded parties as it gives me an opportunity to help the newer talent on the label.

"I also would have worked harder. Back when I started, it was all very easy and natural - I made a few records a year and had a jam-packed touring schedule around the world. I’m very busy now, of course, but it requires so much more work to stay relevant and in-demand than it did when I started out in this business."

You're playing the Terminal 4 opening party at Eden in Ibiza, tell us about your relationship with them…

"They approached me to do a Tronic party for them, and I liked that they gave me full freedom on the line-up. You've got IMS Ibiza going on at the same time so the island is busy, and it’s the official opening event of Eden. So I am really looking forward to it - it should be rocking!"

Words: Russell Deeks

Tronic co-host the Eden opening party in Ibiza with Terminal 4 tonight (23 May). Synergy (Remixed) is out on 25 June.

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Tags: Tronic, Christian Smith, techno, Eden, Terminal 4, Bryan Zentz, Misstress Barbara, Laurent Garnier, Carl Craig, Umek, Dosem, Jay Lumen, Wehbba, Underworld, Marc Romboy, Bushwacka!, Marco Bailey, Dave Angel, Steve Mac, Pig & Dan, Coyu, Mauro Picotto, Beatport, Sao Paulo