- Fri, 2007-06-15 08:28
Cristian Vogel is a composer and music producer, known for his experimental DJ and Live performances, studio composition and production. Born in Chile 1972 but growing up in the UK, he now lives and works in Barcelona.
Cristian has toured consistently since 1992 as a DJ and live performer, as a solo artist and also with Jamie Lidell as 'Super Collider'. Of late, he has been singing and playing guitar in his new band Night of the Brain. As a studio remixer, he has been invited to reinterpret songs by artists as diverse as Radiohead, Maximo Park, Thom Yorke, Juan Atkins and many others. Cristian Vogel's producer credits include albums for Chicks On Speed, Panico, Virüs, Las Perras del Infierno and others. As if that wasn't enough, Cristian Vogel has also been behind four independent record labels, Station 55 Records, Rise Robots Rise Records, Mosquito Records and Sleep Debt Records.
We caught up with Cristian Vogel to talk about Night Of The Brain, playing live in a band as opposed to as a DJ and his take on remixing.
“I Like Music because… it’s loud and quiet at the same time.” Cristian Vogel, Night Of The Brain
ILM: Your new album Wear This World Out is out now, released on June 4th. Can you tell us which of the tracks did you have the most fun laying down. Which one sticks out for you?
Cristian: Mmm, yeah. They were all fun to do and some of them came together in a lovely easy straight forward sort of way which is fun for someone who’s been making music for a long time. I like the song, Vicky The Tall, because it’s got some fun stories behind it and it was straightforward and was one of the last ones to go on. We’d actually finished the record and I had a crazy weekend and wrote the song really fast after that weekend and called everyone up and said, ‘we’ve got to record to it now!’ So everyone dropped everything, came over and it was almost like, ‘one two three four, let’s go…’ and we recorded it.
ILM: So I’m presuming the track is about someone called Vicky who’s tall?
Cristian: Yeah, it’s about something that happened at this arts do I was DJing at. It was an art installation and a 6ft transvestite called Vicky smashed it up and it was a really exciting and funny thing, so I tried to put it all into a song.
ILM: Can you describe the Christian Vogel (Night Of The Brain) process of writing and recording such good music?
Cristian: When you’re writing electronic instrumental music it’s kind of like a blank canvas; there aren’t any rules about what you can do, so it’s quite difficult in that respect to write good songs. With electronic music its better to write songs that have exciting sounds and a good beat. So this a major difference, because this stuff is all songs, they all have beginnings, choruses and things, so it’s pretty much trying to flesh out the ideas I have for songs, which tend to come from the songs first and flesh them out with the band so they’re playable by a band. In the past I’ve written music that was completely unperformable. With my band Super Collider that I was in with Jamie Liddell, we’d write stuff that was just unperformable so we’d have to start again from scratch in order to go out live. Whereas this time I thought, why don’t we make sure we can play it before we record it. So that was something that defined the studio sound; we wanted to have it pretty much played, rather than all chopped up and edited and sequenced together in impossible ways, and this has really influenced the song writing process for sure.
ILM: And how about remixing, you’ve done a lot of that too?
Cristian: Well, remixing is a strange thing. I don’t know what your views on it are. It’s always struck me as quite an odd thing to do, with strange motives. In the 90s it was all about trying to reach into the dance market for a band, and trying to put a dance beat behind a hit song. Whereas nowadays, Radiohead or Thom York will ask me to remix something and, clearly, they don’t want me to turn it into the house anthem for the summer. So I think Thom’s asked me to do that in the past because he likes to reinterpret his work. Have it reinterpreted in a way so that he can maybe learn something about it and the fans can appreciate the song from a different perspective, which I think is a pretty good thing, so with that in mind, the one I did for Maximo Park was a favourite and stays with me.
ILM: And it must be nice to, alongside making your own music, reinterpret somebody else’s?
Cristian: Yeah, it makes connections with people. I’m always surprised that guys like Radiohead or Maximo Park have been listening to my techno music for f***ing years. They’d call me up and say we love your beats and I always thought that was really strange, but now I realise that’s just like me, I also listen to lots of other types of music, not just the style of music that I like to make. I like to check out everything. With the band, I hope it doesn’t freak people out too much that I’m into doing songs and singing because, for me, it’s quite a natural organic thing.
ILM: You are showcasing at Sonar this year. What can fans expect from the show?
Cristian: Yeah, in 40 minutes or something, it’s a short set, so a fast run through. We’ve been playing quite a bit and have done a few shows in Brussels and Berlin and have rehearsed a lot, so they can expect to hear songs from the album but grown in a live context, which is how good songs should do and good bands should let the song just grow themselves, so the more you play them, the more colourful and energetic they might become, rather than just repeating the same old tunes off the album, you’d hope you can inject a new level of energy into it when you see it live. So that’s what he hope to do anyway.
ILM: You have toured A LOT over the years, what do you look forward to the most about playing live? Is it that evolving nature of songs or connecting with the audience?
Cristian: Playing on stage with a band and playing songs with an audience is one of the best experiences that a musician can have I think. It’s quite difficult and there can be quite emotional and turbulent times, but when you’re up there on stage and playing it’s really rewarding. I’ve found I’ve done a lot of DJing and it’s essentially an empty experience. On this level it’s not the same at all. You do much longer sets and you get more tired and people aren’t giving you back the same kind of energy, whereas when you play your songs live and you’re in a group dynamic and you know each other really well. People come to see a group of people they’re interested in and it’s like they’re doing something quite intimate and inviting you in. It’s important that there’s a good energy and good vibe y’know, rather than be the most technically proficient loudest bad ass bad in the universe, I’m not into that, I’m more interested in creating a good atmosphere and good energy, so people come to see a concert and enjoy it.
ILM: You’re very creative and the artwork for your album features a local artist. Will you always be interested in involving art and other creative areas in your work?
Cristian: Artwork is always a great reason to connect with other people. Artists need different outlets for their work, because it’s interesting for them, not just on a commercial level. Here’s my painting, it’s associated with this piece of music now, do I like it more or do I like it less? Y’know? And also I tend to work with artists who like to collaborate because we’re independent and there’s not budget involved, people who are interested in it when it’s not about the money, you can then work together to make an interesting product.
ILM: Is there a piece of software or hardware that you couldn’t live without?
Cristian: My flying ukelele, which is a white flying v. The flying uke. That’s the latest edition and if you took it from me I’d be sad, and some electronic instruments I’ve had for a really long time that have been part of my life for some time. And, more recently, my guitar. Although I’m not giving it too much love, and treating it a bit bad.
ILM: Loads of people are using the internet these days and getting their music out there before even getting a record deal. How has the internet effected you and your music?
Cristian: It’s been good to get some quite raw ideas out straight away, although a lot of artists don’t like putting unfinished products out there. But I like doing it because it gives some momentum to your original idea and makes you want to improve it straight away. Sometimes I used to do live broadcasts from the studio during the creation of stuff, and some people were tuning in to that to hear the process of being creative and recording; kind of like hanging round a studio, but online. So bringing the creative edge closer to the people who are going to be enjoying and consuming it; the internet helps on that level.
The other cool thing is the public are a lot less anonymous than they were before. Before you’d put a record out and the record label would tell me you’d sold x many thousand records and you’d think: Who bought that? Who are these people? But now you get a tangible sense of who they are. Through last.fm and stuff I’ve got quite a good idea of who is interested in the music I’m making, their faces and names, so it’s less inpersonal.
ILM: You have a huge wealth of experience, you must have learnt a lot about music and the music industry so far. Have you got any advice for young producers/songwriters/Dj’s/bands looking to come into music industry?
Cristian: Just to get it clear from the start what they want out of it. It’s unlikely to make a living from music, not many people do. I’m barely scraping by myself and I’ve been doing it for 15 years and other people who get successful enough, it doesn’t last very long. So its important to focus on what you want out of your music; if you just want to get a CD out at some shows, that’s perfectly all right and something to aim for. That’s fun to share your music with others.
ILM: What are the future plans for Night Of The Brain?
Cristian: We’ve missed most of the festivals except Sonar. So we’ll take a break until autumn and play this album out; in the meantime I’m writing some new material. It’s an itch I can’t scratch, making music.
ILM: What’s the best and worst thing about Barcelona (where you’re now living)?
Cristian: I like my studio and that I’ve been able to set one up here. There’s a relaxed ambition here in Barcelona. People do have ambition to do big things and be great but it’s not the same as in London or LA, it’s not as cut throat as some of the other cities; people aren’t scrabbling to get to the top, they’re just interested in doing good quality stuff and exploring different artforms and music forms. This suits me, it’s much more relaxed.
The worst thing is lack of trees. There aren’t any big parks, although we do have the beaches. Sometimes you go to Berlin and see a massive park with loads of trees and you think ‘oh, we don’t have that’.
ILM: Jazz is a science. Discuss.
Cristian: Well if you want to study jazz it can become quite scientific and mathematical. It’s strange though that jazz has become so academic and institutionalised, which may happen with rock n roll one day, the mathematics of rock n roll. You know… there’s only one number that’s important… number one! [laughs].