Chris Liebing's not a fan of "ultra-commercial" EDM, but it stirs interest in the underground

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Recognized as one of the most important and influential figures in underground dance music today, Frankfurt's Chris Liebing is a DJ, producer, label-boss and the charismatic host of the popular weekly CLR Podcast. A longtime player in the international club and party scene, Liebing has seen his status rise considerably thanks to the current fashionability of electronic dance music in the United States -- although he remains a devout believer in underground techno and one of the most respected names in the business. We traded emails with the techno luminary in advance of his first-ever performance in Denver this Friday night at NORAD Dance Bar.

See also: Chris Liebing at NORAD, 11/16/12 (Friday)

Westword: You've been a champion of techno since the 1990s. How do you feel about the style's rise in popularity in recent years, as well as the explosion of commercial dance-music (especially in the United States)?

Chris Liebing: I believe that everybody has a different taste of music, and even though I am not a fan of the ultra-commercial -- what [Americans] call "EDM" -- I believe that it pulls a lot of people into the electronic-music world and produces quite some interest in deeper and more underground styles. I appreciate everybody coming out to a techno party, checking out what the vibe is about, and then hopefully enjoying it. So, I think, all in all, it's great to see a lot of different styles evolving. The more styles, the bigger the choice, and the more people will be happy to find and listen to their favorite kind of electronic dance-music.

As the head of CLR, what are you and the label looking for?

I am not really looking for demos. Of course, there are demos coming my way, and when they sound interesting, I contact these people and try to explain what we are looking for at the moment. [But] I am more the kind of A&R who looks out for what's happening and what's interesting in the music world. It's more about the vibe and the mood of the moment. I don't really have a long-term plan when it comes to the music policy of CLR; it's more about how I feel and where I want to take it at this very moment, but it also does not necessarily have to happen exactly that way. It's quite open, that's why I could not tell anyone, you have to send this or that and it's going to be released. It depends on a lot of different factors.

What can we expect to hear from CLR between now and the end of the year?

We are very happy about the recent release of Monoloc's debut album, Drift, and there are some great remixes coming up. We are also still releasing remixes of the MOTOR album, which came out in March, so there is some great music out. There is a Terence Fixmer release coming up, a new Lucy release coming up, the new Traversable Wormhole series (Vol. 6-10) coming up, and I am currently working on a compilation with various artists, which all contribute exclusive tracks.

Do you (personally) have any upcoming releases you can tell us about?

No, at the moment I don't have any releases coming up since I have concentrated on mixing down the albums and tracks of other artists. Basically I executively produced other people and not really produced myself. I haven´t worked on my own music in a year now and I will see when that will come back, but I am not forcing myself.

What can you tell us about your new label, CLRX?

The new label, CLRX, is basically the platform for all things that are not explicitly techno, but come from a slightly different angle. It's a more open platform, and MOTOR is the perfect example. So if there are more demos coming in with an industrial, rock-based electronic-music vibe, those are the potential candidates to be released on CLRX.

I know you've been a longtime proponent of the various advances in music performance technology, such as Ableton and Traktor, which have reshaped the art of deejaying over the past several years. What are some of your thoughts on that, and can you tell us about your current deejaying setup?

There is great video on DJTechtools.com, a San Francisco-based website, where I completely explain my whole setup. I believe that the current technology really gives us a chance to play and express ourselves much more in a way we actually want to, without being limited or restricted by technical possibilities.

What gear are you using in the studio?

The most important thing is my monitoring, which is a pair of PMC MB2 speakers on custom-made stands with very good amplifying and a custom-made Hot House subwoofer with a Hot House 1000 amp. This is the most important part of my studio I need for listening to the music. Regarding any other gear to create sound, I mostly use Ableton.

Who are some of the producers who've really been doing it for you lately?

Oh, there are many. Psyk, for example, a Spanish producer who has been doing some really good music lately. Then the label Token Records has a lot of great producers out there. And obviously if you check out CLR, there are some great producers on there, as well. And of course there is Rebekah; there is so much music I play of Rebekah right now. There really is a lot of great music around at the moment.

This will be your first-ever performance in Denver, and you rarely perform in the United States (except in the biggest cities). Why is that?

Well, that's my first appearance in Denver, which is great, as I heard so much about this city, and you are very close to the mountains. I love to ski, and even though this time I obviously don't have time to go skiing, I hope that people will enjoy my set, and that it will give me the opportunity to come back for a longer stay next time.

I have been traveling to the United States in the past fifteen years on a quite regular basis, but I must say that over the last few years there has been much more demand on this side. I am traveling to the U.S. already every second month right now, to the East Coast, the West Coast, and, as you can see, for the first time, to Denver now. So I can see that there is an increase in the demand of this kind of music.

What can we expect from you Friday night in Denver?

Oh, I hope that you can expect a banging night of good, full-on, bass-heavy techno that is going to move everyone and that everybody will have a lot of fun. That's the goal, to have a lot of fun together, and I will surely do my best to provide this.

Chris Liebing, with Daegon and Deciprocal, 9 p.m. November 16, NORAD Dance Bar, 821 22nd Street, $20-$25, 303-297-7884..

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