Label Mates: Christian Smith / Tronic

Swedish DJ, producer, label boss and techno veteran Christian Smith has been releasing records on his Tronic imprint for almost 25 years, with names like Adana Twins, Loco & Jam, Drunken Kong, Guy J, Rob Hess, Oliver Deutschmann and Shall Ocin appearing on the label in 2018 alone.

Next week will see the release of the Synergy Remixes from Smith’s 2017 collaboration project. We caught up with him to find out about the early days of Tronic, how he made his mark and what the future might hold for the influential stable. Read on to find out more.

Tronic first launched in 1994, tell us about the hustle of putting out your first releases?

I started Tronic in 1994. I was at university in Washington DC. I had released a few records before, but wanted my own label where I could release housy techno. This was many years before the term ‘tech-house’ was coined. My distributer told me that doing a label that’s between hard techno and house would not work. I guess, time proved otherwise.

And what is your typical day to day regarding the label, do you manage it yourself or is there a team behind the curtain?

For the first ten years Tronic’s release schedule was irregular and it was not properly managed. I was lucky that I had some big releases during that time and the label got a good reputation, but it could have been much better. Now I have a full-time label manager helping me with running the label day to day.

I still spend a lot of time on it myself, as I get around 100 demos a week, and personally choose every track that gets signed. I feel that if I let someone else do this that the label will lose its identity. I also have a PR person helping with my own releases and press. I basically spend 3-4 hours a day on label related things.

What is the hardest role managing a label that people might not know about?

Quality control. It’s easy to sign something because he or she is a friend, and you give preference. I have made this mistake a few times and have always regretted it afterwards. Also, I get sent so much music, and a lot of it is really good, so it’s tough to keep up the direction and vision. You want to have your regular artists release but at the same time make space for new ones. It’s all about balance, and so far it’s been working out fine.

You have put out some physical releases, how have you found the transition to the digital age?

I remember when one of the founders of Beatport approaching me in the early 2000’s asking me to submit the Tronic catalog. I didn’t do it because I was too lazy to convert the DAT takes to wav files and upload them. Eventually I joined of course, once I had people help me run the label.

The vinyl days where good fun, and music had a much longer shelf life. I still do a couple of vinyl releases a year, but I don’t really care about the purists that feel they are better or cooler because the play ’vinyl only’ sets. At the end of the day what matters is the music played no matter if it’s analog or digital.

And we live in a time when there are thousands of new tracks coming out everyday, what has been the key to keeping Tronic above water in a sea of mediocre music?

The fact that Tronic has a big profile and gets lots of exposure on Beatport obviously helps a lot. Also, my strict quality control helps. It’s flattering to see the labels that sign the music that I decline. But, of course I make mistakes. Actually, I make mistakes all the time, but this is ok. Nobody is perfect.

I’m not in the business just to make money and be high in charts. The most important thing is to be passionate about the music. If I would just care about making money I would have continued my old career as an investment banker.

What record on your label are you most proud to have put out?

There are so many. We are at catalog number 281 now! I think some of my best remix work came out on Tronic, like the remix I did of ‘At Les’ for Carl Craig, or Underworld ‘Dark&Long’. As for singles I have fond memories of Bryan Zentz’s early releases and Wehbba’s first album. More recently the releases of 2pole and Drunken Kong have stood out for me in particular.

And who can we expect music from on Tronic in the near future?

Some of the regular names as well as many new names. I feel that as a successful label we have the responsibility to give the new producers a chance to break through.

Lastly, where do you see the label in a few years time?

If it continues the way it does now, I’m happy. Inevitably everything will shift towards streaming, so it will be interesting to see how things develop.

Christian Smith – Synergy (Remixed) is available on the 25th June with remixes from Jam El Mar, Shall Ocin, Oliver Deutschmann and more.