GET TO KNOW: Cristoph
Kicking off the brand new series '8-track' on Hot Since 82's Knee Deep In Sound imprint, is Newcastle born and bred, Cristoph. The Geordie has risen through the ranks over the past couple of years with his hypnotic, trance sound that lies between techno and house. Releasing on Viva Music and Truesoul this year and with ever growing demand for his DJ sets around the globe, things are only going to rocket up for him due to the quality of his latest offering entitled 8-track, due out late October, which is his best work to date! Cristoph's keen to take us on a journey and we're keen to follow...
2014 was your breakthrough year, before then can you tell us how your life worked musically? Did you always plan to pursue your music career fully?
I guess its always been my dream. When you’re not involved in the industry you don’t understand the ins and outs of everything, so I guess when you’re like 10/11/12 years of age and you’re DJing in your bedroom, all you ever imagine is that you go out to play in a club or at a festival and that’s what you imagine the whole industry is. As you get older and you understand that in order to get to a certain level nowadays, you predominately have to make some music. It’s very rare that you will see a DJ just get to the top because of his DJ skills, I mean the only one I can think of recently is Jackmaster, everybody else seems to be putting records out there. I know the likes of Carl Cox, Pete Tong have come through but they’re old school you know what I mean and the whole industry has changed. So I mean once I started to go a bit older I realised that that was what I was going to have to do. At first I was just happy playing the clubs in town and just making little in-roads that way starting to play around the country and then getting abroad. In order to get into the next step and really climb the ladder, I knew that it was production that basically I had to start learning instead of sitting in clubs DJ-ing
Is music your sole, full time job now?
It is, yeah. I’m lucky enough to say that it is.
I think I quit my full time job maybe a year ago or 18 months ago maximum. I was basically just working for the family and taking so much time off and i just felt like I was taking the mick out of my them, you know. They were letting me do whatever and I was still picking up a wage for someone that was working full time when literally I was working two days a week and still doing nothing. I was very lucky to have had an understanding family, if i didn’t work for my family things could have been very very different.
Over your production career how long was it before you found your sound? Did you dapple in different genres?
Yeah when I first started off I went under the name of CJ Costigan, which is my name. I was making a more progressive sound but I think I was trying to be a bit like Prydz, I wasn’t actually being true to myself. I wasn’t fully happy with the records I was putting out, I mean it got signed really really quickly which was quite surprising I don’t think it was even six months after making full tracks that they started getting signed really really quickly which was surprising. As I say I was never really happy and then I wrote a track called ‘Waal’ which came out on Big H EP, it was then that I started thinking about writing music that you’re feeling… that you believe in and where your heads at when you go into the studio. Things just went from there really and slowly but surely I made in-roads. Then I started to go into the more melodic part which is where my real feelings lie, I think earlier on it was just imperative to get some good tech-house releases out there because that was the big thing and then get established and go from there. That was my little game plan.
Your EP on DFTD that featured Guffaz was the turning point for you. How did life change for you around that moment?
I sent the track onto Hot Since 82, I just hit him up on Twitter and he responded lucky enough, he was into the track straight away. Daley then asked for everything that I’d ever made and it went from there. When I was DJing in Newcastle when I was a resident at some clubs up here he messaged me saying that he just played it at the Subliminal pool party in Miami at the winter Music Conference and I think it was on Be-At.TV, I went on there to have a look and instantly saw people commenting about the record. It was a really surreal moment to see people from around the world talking about something that I had made in my spare bedroom in my house in Longbenton, Newcastle. From then, management’s came calling and it just starting going on from then, people wanted to book me and labels wanted to release [my] music, as you say it did start to change. I never really look at it like that, I’ve got long term goals and I concentrate on them, I try not to get side tracked on what’s happening, or what could happen or what has happened, its just what I want to happen and what I need to do to make that happen.
It is fitting that Hot Since 82 and yourself work together with your similar sounds. Did Daley’s deep house sound influence yours at any point?
I’ll be truthful mate, it did massively. I think what Daley’s done has changed the the game in certain ways, his productions are just amazing. He blended deep house baselines with a more progressive, melodic parts, like the synths, some of the Arps and stuff like that that he used were so refreshing to hear and it really caught my hear. I instantly thought if this starts getting big, its something which I’m into, then maybe I can start doing my own little version of it. Try and create my own sound out of other peoples and Daley was one of the ones that I really take influences from, I mean I think he’s one of the best producers out there, I really do.
Naming tracks is something some artists find the hardest bit about making music and some don’t think twice about it - which one do you lean towards? Can you tell us about how the names came about for these eight tracks that feature in your upcoming 8-track series on Hot Since 82s Knee Deep In Sound?
A lot of my tracks, early doors, like Waal, Guffaz, Big H, VMC, Ev’s Groove are all named after friends or family members. So Guffaz was a guy who rented a room from me at my house and he's a close friend, each time I would go to the studio and write a new track I would just name it after one of the lads. That’s the way I wrote music and thats the way I named it. To be honest with you I find naming music one of the hardest parts of the process.
Once Knee Deep In Sound came to me and offered me the project it really gripped me. It came at such a strange point, at the start of this year I was considering stepping away from the whole music industry as a whole. I felt like I was kind of falling out of love with it and I didn’t have the same drive and determination. I had quite a turbulent year last year with my Dad passing away so I think that all added to it. I wasn’t focusing properly. I then spoke to the guys at Knee Deep In Sound and they offered me this project and it instantly got me thinking and really interested in the industry again. I said my idea would be to write a journey how I would play a set, maybe start a bit deeper, then go through and sit it down in the middle and then pick it up and end it on something euphoric. Because it’s such a personal project, I then had a think about how I would name each track and I went back to the guys at Knee Deep In Sound, I said that it tells my story musically and I want each track name to tell my story as well. So every track name is to do with a feeling I’ve had within the industry. So ‘Rapture,’ which is to do with the joy of getting music signed and breaking through; ‘The Enemy Within,’ I always put myself down and try and make myself do better, so there’s always a voice within me telling me I can do more; ’Closer’ is another one where you feel you’re closer to reaching goals; ‘Alone’ you’re very lonely in the industry at times, you’re travelling around the world on your own, you’re stuck in airports for hours on your own. So, each track has a little insight into the feelings that I’ve had within the industry and the two years I’ve been out there.
You always nail the vocals that feature in your productions - can you tell us a bit about the vocals and vocalists that feature in 8-track LP?
The vocalist on ‘Closer’ is a guy called Jinadu. Now I first heard him on a track called ‘Distractions.’ I heard it in a Dixon set from 2014 in Mexico i think it was. I was instantly hooked on his voice, he sounds like Sting and I just kept on listening to the record over and over again, it was something I would have on in my car, listen to it on my i-pod when I was travelling around, I was just hooked on his voice. Then one day I decided to actually have a look for him on SoundCloud and I came across a Simon Jinadu so I decided to have a look on his page and low and behold it was him. I inboxed him on SoundCloud and he got back to me and we had a few conversations and I was saying how I really wanted to work with him. He was interested in doing it so I wrote the instrumental and sent it down and he wrote some lyrics and sent them back up and I fitted them into the track the way I wanted them to fit and put the effects on that I wanted and thats basically how that track was written. The other one, ‘Alone’, the vocals for that are from someone called Fem, I think, but it was all to do with Defected handing me a batch of vocals just to have a mess around with and I just cut this part of a track and it seemed to fit well. It’s kind of a whole new vocal as such but it kind of fits well with the baseline of the record. I don’t know if she wants her name on the tracks so I don’t know if I’m meant to be telling you who the vocalist is to be honest. The rest of them are just samples that I’ve cut up and things.
Seeing as this was your first album release did you find yourself spending more time perfecting the productions?
I always just go in and write what I’m feeling. I knew exactly how I wanted the album to flow. Basically I had a written ‘Closer’ and ‘Alone’ before the offer for the album had come in. Daley had already flagged them for Knee Deep In Sound, I’m sure he said his girlfriend loved one of them and stuff and we would talk quite a bit about them. He was always saying where do you get your vocals from and I was kind of saying, I could ask you the same question! So two were already made and which left me with six and I just knew how I wanted it to flow so I was going in and writing certain tracks for certain areas of the album. I never sat back and tried to perfect one because I always find if I start going back to tracks a couple of days later, I either overcomplicate it or strip it right down. I’ve got this kind of work flow, which is, I go in, I write something and if it doesn’t end up being very good then thats the end of it, I don’t sit on it for too long, because I find you can get too wrapped up in a track and six months down the line you’re still working on a track and you’re trying to perfect certain things. I’m not into that way of work, I know a lot of artists are, but I work in a different fashion really, I just think, move onto the next project.
Recently you said how you set about compiling this 8-track series by ‘structuring a set and then writing a track for each part of that set’ and that your sets are about going on journey. Listening to the tracks in this upcoming release it sounds like you’ve certainly done that. Off the top of your head can you name some albums or even artists that have really stood out for you? How they’ve laid out their music over a fuller release like this one and shared a similar ideology to yours to create a journey?
I guess the whole journey and that type of influence [comes] from the likes of Sasha, John Digweed, and Eric Prydz. Now I know Eric Prydz’s first album was a bit more dance friendly than the second one but they’re still layered and constructed in a way that takes the listener on a journey and thats exactly how I like it. I think its to do with the whole progressive house scene, I think thats where I may lie, but the old school version of progressive house, not what you would see on Beatport nowadays. I just take it from there. I would say Eric Prydz’s albums go on a pretty similar journey, they’ll take the listener through a tougher area and then back into melodic. I listen to their sets, rather than peoples albums and plan my sets or writing this album they way I would do my sets or see their sets. Solomon is another one, he tends to take you on a journey, a bit deeper, then go into the tech-house and techno and then end on a track that you will remember, whether its a big vocal or a classic. That type of set or albums really appeal to me rather than just the norm.
You also said that you’ve tried to go more melodic with your productions because since you’ve toured around the world it’s opened your eyes to a much bigger market in tech house that isn’t targeting the UK crowd. By that, do you mean that it has influenced your taste and therefore changed it, or that you would like to appeal globally with your sound so then have modified your sound?
It’s a bit of both really. I think underneath everything I do believe that its the melodic and darker side of the music which grips me on a night out, so I’m all into big breakdowns. You know when you’re standing in the middle of a crowd and there is a euphoric emotional breakdown and the lights are perfect, it could be some sort of big strobe which will just hold a white light and things like that. I’ve always seemed to be attracted to that and that’s what sticks in my mind when I go clubbing. Now when you start playing around the world you’ll see that, even in Europe [such as] Holland, Germany, Watergate in Berlin, they’re open to a wider variety of music which is perfect for, as I keep saying, the journey. I think that the Tech-House, everything seems to be arranged the same, it seems to have two breakdowns, a big snare roller or something like that and don’t get me wrong they’re great productions, but I think some of it does sound quite similar and that doesn’t bode well when you’re trying to go on a journey in your sets. If you’re playing an hour of music that just sounds the same then, it doesn’t really go well, so thats why the melodic side of things, each track individually will take the listener on a journey, so once you put them altogether its just an extended journey. When you go even further away [from home] like South America, its huge on the more progressive scene, the melodic scene and it really opens your eyes to a lot more than what you see in the UK. I think slowly but surely the UK will start to become more into the more melodic things, I really do. I don’t think it’s just going to be stuck in this tech house scene, I think things will evolve, it always seems to do that. Everything peaks and troughs, it goes round in cycles really doesn’t it.
You certainly treat your online followers well; this year you’ve started to upload regular charts onto SoundCloud featuring tracks you’re feeling and of course with your ’12 Days of Cristoph’ series which is when you give away an array of Christmas goodies, all productions offered out as a free download. What’s your opinion on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify? You could say it would seem that you’re happy to follow the way in which the music industry is going which ultimately leaves the artist with less income from their productions…
I have been asked in the past about illegal downloading and I really shouldn't say but, I’m not really that bothered about it. I’m not in this industry for the money, I’m in it because its what I love and its what I enjoy. I feel very lucky to be able to go to work each day or each weekend and do something that I’m like fully in love with. I don’t think there are many people in the world that can actually say that. I know that the streaming services open your name to worldwide markets, if everything just by purchase or something like that your name won’t go as far, I really believe that. So I’m all out for pushing your name out there, getting your name on as many people’s lips as you can and if that’s through streaming or illegal downloads or whatever then fair enough. It doesn’t really affect me or bother me in the slightest mate to be honest.
With your calendar only getting busier and busier - how do you go about tracking down new music for your sets? Do you get a lot sent or is it you surfing the web…
Yeah I get sent quite a bit by up and coming producers and some of the music that I get sent really is good and I wish them all the best. I’ve been fortunate enough to land into some good promo pools at the minute so I’m getting some really good promos through which I’m happy I’m receiving, can’t complain about that! So your sets always standout. With me wanting to be a bit different to the next DJ I do do a lot of digging on the likes of Beatport, Traxsource and really have a shop about to find music which I enjoy which I think will work in my sets, but I also think will be received well by the audience. Its not just sitting there and looking at the top ten or looking at what everyone else is playing, you want to stand out. I try and write maybe one track a week so I’ve always got something new to play on the weekend. It has decreased to about two/three a month from about four/five a month but, I’m still happy about putting out two/three tracks a month which I can put into my sets and play. You know, one of them might be lucky enough to grab a lot of people’s attention and they may start asking what it is. I enjoy keeping things a bit different and if I don’t write a track for myself I’ll try and do an edit of a track which makes people ask who’s edit that is and things like that. I do try and keep things different that way as well.
Can you name 6 artists you would choose to perform with you at your stage at a festival?
Hot Since 82
Any up and coming artists you tip?
I don’t know if they’re up and coming but I really like… I think it may be a girl called Lonya, could be a guy, could be a girl. [Lonya] had some releases on the likes of Sudbeats and Chapter 24, I really like some of their music. It’s really really good, I’m really into it. I don’t know how long he or she has been out there, I’m just really into some of the music that their putting out in this moment in time.
Reading about your story it does come across that you’re your typical UK devoted raver/music lover that is fast rising to no doubt become a force to be reckoned with in electronic music globally . What advice would you give budding producers to reach that next level in their career?
I would just say always be true to yourself. Have your goals, set your goals and do everything you can to reach those goals. Don’t ever get disheartened at a rejection, take people’s advice on board. I’ve seen a lot of people kind of argue with others who are bigger in the industry that don’t believe that their track is good and that just doesn’t do you any favours as people do talk. I just think, go out there, be yourself, enjoy everything and be very friendly. I mean the industry is a really friendly place but, if you are arrogant or anything like that or come across a bit arsey then you’ll not go as far as maybe you should do because attitude does go a long way and I think it does in life as a whole. If you’re that type of person I don’t think many people will want to associate with you.
Thanks a lot for your time Chris.
Anytime mate, not a problem at all!