Today I open up a new section of that blog : the interview section ! As you can guess, it will feature artist/producer/DJ/… interviews I’ll do over the years.
Those interview will provide you information on who your favorite artists are, but also on how their musical journey went on and what the realities of todays music business are.
Our first guest – DJ Crillo Aka Christian Eriksson from Gothenburg, Sweden (An artist I reviewed here) – answered a few of my question in a long but very interesting and insightful interview that covers his musical journey and the journey the music scene went through from the 90s to the present times.
So fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride…
Artist / project name / handle :
So let’s start this interview… Could you talk a little about you ? Who are you ?
I’m a quite positive person, I smile a lot, this makes it quite easy for me to connect with people. I am also a bit spiritual… and sensitive. I have a powerful internal drive that makes things happen, I hardly never ever slow down. I do believe in the relationship between people, people gives me energy and motivation.
I’ve loved music since I was a little boy. I started playing on my first keyboard when I was 4 years old. My mother was dating a guy who was a pioneer of synthesizers… He was the distributor of the famous PPG synth in Scandinavia. The first synth of its kind. He had at least 10 different synthesizers in his house. When I got to visit his studio for the very first time, 6-year-old, this experience lit a fire within me… this experience started a journey…
How did you get involved in the music scene ? When did it happen ?
I met with Magpie (Magnus Liljengren) in high school, we became best friends the first time we met. We were of the play music for the next 10-15 years together, in different musical projects and genres before we split up doing things on our own. We started 1987 by playing instrumental synth pop and we managed to sell over 500 cassettes at our school.
I met Black Snake (Milton Hebbert Watson) in the 90s for the first time. He was doing one of his great “toasts” on a track I was producing for artist named Innervision. We immediately became friends talking about everything from love to music.
Black snake live on TV
Black Snake then joined a Europop band together with me and Magpie, Johan B and Kim Kärnfalk called X-RAY. Black Snake and me always had a very special spiritual connection. We work really good together, with great respect for each person characteristics and capabilities. He’s extremely quick, sometimes I send him an idea and responds back with a set of vocal takes within a day, really amazing.
Do you see your production only as a hobby, a potential future career or is it already your career (i.e. you can make a living out of it) ? What’s your vision on this issue ? What advice would you give to a newcomer on this subject ?
During the 90s music was my life. Producing and composing was my identity. But it was always tough to earn any serious money, so I worked in a musical store to manage and be able to pay the rent. But the dream and vision was always clear. I never became reach and famous on my music, but I have met with fabulous peoples and had the chance to experience amazing things I ‘d never had a chance to if I had not been doing music.
It is probably worth much more than money can buy … such as we are under water festival in Stockholm where I go the change to meet the Spice Girls and also got to play with George Clinton’s & the P-Funk Allstar Band. We got to play for 10,000 people in the royal garden. Memories that I will always carry with me the rest of my life.
But when I met up with Black Snake and Magpie again for a couple of years ago, we started a new journey, and we have to see where it takes us… 🙂
Clinton, wow ! BTW, the music environment of the 90s – where record sales drove everything – changed due to the recording industry crisis (driven, according to them, by online piracy). How did you go through that episode ?
It was tough, I had to take on other normal jobs and I did also work as an touring musician. I never had the luck to have a hit or other great success of that kind. The record companies were looking for products quite ready to sell. In the end of the 90’s all the boy bands had great success. We were never a ready to sell concept. I think we never had the change to connect with the right people with the cool contacts. I lived in Gothenburg, I town with tons of Rock N Roll bands… not many RnB, Dance music artist back then… the pop music scene was quite small in comparison to Stockholm.
Are you signed to a label/labels ? If yes, tell us how did you get noticed by the label’s executives and in what the label helped you in your musical career
I have been signed with a RnB Soul /Rap band called OLC (Raymond Gustavsson, Björn Holmberg, Björn Starfeldt & Carl-Fredrik Corneliusson). We signed with a big record label called BMG, and we were promised the universe and more… but it never really took off..
Soo these days with digital distribution and all, we manage to distribute our music by our self. We should however be open for connecting with management or a record label for collaboration.
How did you, back then, got that contract with BMG ? How did they – or not – develop you & your career as OLC ?
We release one single 1996 called SWING, and we got great review from the press and all. Our A&R (Peter Swartling) promised to release an album and to push our music to Luc Besson (famous Film Maker). We then work the album for a year. We recorded and produced 10 songs, some of them were really really good. When we met with the record company again they found one song that was very different more of a RAP song… they told if we did 9 more like that they sponsor us with 1 million… But we felt, hell no… we been working so hard with the album and we loved the songs we had recorded. We went back home, very sad and depressed. Then the phone rang, it was a famous produced and composer Anders Bagge who called to say that He wanted to met with us, he loved the music. So we continued to work with him for another year recording in is big studion in Stockholm. However, we had bad luck, as he decided to ditch us for another similar project that he felt was better…
How would you describe your style ? Why did you choose to express your creativity through that music style ?
DJ CRILLO & Black Snake stands for creativity, we do what we feel from within our self. Of course, one hopes that someone out there in the world enjoy and understand our work and music. The style is a mixture of pop, electro, house with Caribbean accents… but we will continue to develop and get better.
What artists inspire you ? Tell us who and why, how you discovered them, everything…
I’m always impressed with music that sound good and that are properly mixed, with an interesting sound, vocals or performance. Melodies are very important, that what you hear starts some sort of reaction within you. Music is a passion, I like so many different artist and genres, but to mentions some artist: Seal’s music is always great with a god pop-soul touch. There are some fantastic performing artists like Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake. When it comes down to electronic music, I think that I became very influenced by Denniz Pop‘s sound in the 90s it completely changed the music for many years to come. I frequently listen to: Sonny Alven, Marcus Schulz, Will Young, Michael McDonald, Medina, Laleh, Diplo, Zedd, Seven Lions, Faithless, Dua Lipa, Setsuna, MNEK, EDX… Many times when working you are very impressed with the sound quality of other artists as with Otto Knows and Axwell Λ Ingrosso.
What elements OUTSIDE THE MUSIC WORLD inspire you for your creation ?
Meeting people, relationships, life stories and the beautiful ocean. I remember coming back from London very inspired to make a remix of Hillforts Sons – Alone, a track I produced of couple of years ago. The visit to London really inspired me to make something more “club:ish” than before.
Your own mood and feelings will also effect what music you creating at the moment.
Do you consider yourself more (or only) as a producer or a DJ ? Why ?
I’m a producer, most of all, I make things happen, an orchestrator and project leader … I connect different elements to each other, performers, songwriters and musical landscapes. It’s great fun being a DJ sometimes, you learn a lot of what works or not.
As a producer, in what environment are you working ? What is your equipment ? Your DAW ? Your go-to plugins ? Tell the world everything about the technical side of your artistic work.
Many things have changed since I started with electronic music in the 80s using an Atari computer connected via MIDI to +15 synths, mixer and outboard effects.
Now days all you need is a very power computer and a DAW, the rest is up to you. I used to work in Reason because of the workflow and the amazing groove mixer, but as Reason is limited to using their own plugin I moved to Logic Pro X a couple of years ago. The most important part of all is your listening, your monitor and headphones. I very recent came in contact with a company called Sonarworks who makes a calibration plugin/software for your monitor and headphones… and I must say it’s best investment I ever did… All my recent mixes translate so much better now. I still send them away for mastering to Wired Masters in the UK, Kevin is really good. He has mastered our two lasts tracks: Smiling Dreams and On the wall (in my mind).
Why don’t you master your songs yourself ? Plugins like Ozone make this possible nowadays ?
When I been working for long time with a track producing and mixing, I think it’s good to have a 2nd opinion on the mix. Also they are experts on Mastering and they give the extra touch to the music. Ozone is great, for me it’s easier to Master other artists work as I will then to that with a fresh ear.
You said your mother was dating the distributor of the PPG wave while you were a kid… Do you nowadays prefer hardware or software synths ? And what about that famous PPG wave synth ?
I used to have many analog and digital hardware synths. I think I had like 30 different models. The plugins do not sound as good as hardware gear but they are extremely convenient. We’ll see in the future if I will buy me some nice synths for that extra feel. PPG was very special as it contained sampled waveforms, the start for a new type of synths that could sound like both analog and digital gear.
Doing great music is one aspect of the game, but what about the marketing part ? How do you get people to listen to your productions ? How do you market your art… and yourself ?
With new technology you are able to reach people all around the world. Social media is very important and so is also Soundcloud. Soundcloud is great and unique as it’s possible to communicate with other artists and fan’s. I also use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN in order to distribute music and stories to friends and fans.
The big dream is to be played on national radio, but it is almost impossible. We have tried everything, sending them candy, calling them… they won’t play the song. I wish they did…
Any idea why ? Have you got feedback from them ? Did you try being played in smaller radios first ?
They receive many songs every week, they do not have time to listen to every track. The record companies and publishers pay radio station in order to get the music played (editor’s note : this system is known as Payola).
What is your relationship to fame ? Do you seek it ? Do you wanna remain somewhat hidden ? What is your relationship to the concept of having a public image ? Are you more Justin Bieber or Daft Punk ?
I think that most of us doing music wants to be recognized as an artist, composer, performed or producer. I do not seek fame at all, but if it appears I will take it from there. I think that Daft Punk is doing a really smart marketing trick by hiding within the helmets and creating a secret icon. We have not done so with any of our projects, but many succeed by creating an image like that.
Do you also do live performances (whether instrumental, vocal or DJing) ?
Yes, we do. We will bring both synths and a DJ-kit. Black Snake will then sing and perform live on the music back track. Works really well as you still can control the length of the song you perform with the DJ-kit.
What are your plans for the future ? Your dreams also…
My biggest dream is to be played on radio or TV, or if a famous artists discover our music… to make a cover or a remix. I still think my passion to music will take me to new places and the possibility to meet with new interesting people.
Do you have advices for young (or less young ? 😉 ), aspiring producers who’ld like to make it in that activity / business ?
Dream big, keep om practicing and do the music you like and use all the new digital channels to spread it to the world. You will never ever know what will happen. By every release and encounters with listeners you will learn new things and get new ideas… never stop dreaming and never stop trying to be different.
Thanks Christian for taking this interview, and for providing us with insightful answers. Keep up the good work with your mate Black Snake and may the force be with you !