Few would have thought that Stockholm, proud home to pop idols like Abba, would eventually become one of world's most productive bases for underground techno. Many early rave enthusiasts knew Sweden only for its euro-dance act Leila K; but in the background producers like The Source Experience (Robert Leiner) were bringing the standard of Swedish electronic music in a more serious direction via pioneering labels of the early nineties like R&S. Emerging at this time also, and soon orchestrating a Stockholm techno explosion through his advanced beatmaking and spaced out sound design, was a young Cari Lekebusch - a man who has since built up one of the largest and most impressive discographies in the history of the genre. Taking time out from unpacking boxes at his new home as well rewiring his studio setup, Cari kindly answered some questions for us in advance of his '90s techno themed set in Dublin this coming Sunday:
Where would you originally trace your interest or discovery of techno - Detroit, Chicago, the European sound?
C: My first WOW experiences were around 8 years of age, and mainly from electronic sound scapes. Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Ralph Lundsten but also James Brown for examples. This lead onwards through Breakdancing, and the sounds of Electro/Hip-Hop. Around that time I also started to experiment with creating my own tracks, that could be somewhat categorized into early Electro/Techno. And soon after started collect vinyl seriously, Chicago, New York, Detroit, European styles of House and Techno.
Can you describe the kind of influence Robert Leiner had on your early career?
C: Yes Robert was very handy with the machines; I always tried to listen carefully back then when I had the chances to be in the same studio as him. Back then it was much harder to get tutorial help and advice. Its not like having a nice chill afternoon with tea watching manuals and tutorials on YouTube :D
From your early releases, the Fred material perhaps stands out most. Would you agree? And what made you end the project in the end?
C: Yes you’re right the Fred projects are quite defined in sound and purpose. Lot of it is in Tim Taylor’s taste/pick of tracks, but towards the end of that story I started to create tracks with the Fred character in mind as well of course. The thing with pseudonyms kinda died out a bit in the 2000-2010. It doesn’t make that much sense trying to fight your way through the artist mega population jungle of today with 10 small scissors. Better have one huge very reliable well-made machete. CHOP! CHOP! like vegetables =D
Speaking of Freds, do you miss the presence of prominent guys from that time like Freddie Fresh in techno today?
C: Wow yes Freddie made some super Techno tracks, I still play some of them - and hey! Who knows - eventually cats come back to the house to drink some milk - if it tasted good that is :D
Whatever happened to Dan Zamani do you know? His discogs entries seem to end at the end of the nineties.
C: Ah yes Dan Zamani, well I’d love to be able to tell you something but I haven’t spoken to him since 1995 I think =S So I have no clue what so ever =/
Following the first era of trance and trance-influenced techno in Europe, next came the ‘Swedish sound’. Can you shed some light on what started it?
C : I still try to figure out what would define the "Swedish sound" LOL. My own productions used to vary a lot especially back in those days. I did an Electro track on the Sunday, Monday a Deep House track with Alexi Delano, Tuesday a Techno roller Drumcode with Adam Beyer, etc.
Many associate you solely with this hard, looped techno sound of the mid-late nineties. Is/was this frustrating considering the wide range of music you have actually made?
C: Yes I guess it’s all a matter of what tracks get the most attention, nowadays I’ve "learned" and I’m aiming towards a more balanced out type of sound in my releases. Focusing more towards one type of sound - at least for a MUCH longer time period. It’s no use trying to race ahead too much, since there are no witnesses to see you cross the finish line LOL
Running label operations from a young age, did you find that you had to learn about business very fast, and did you have much help from people around you?
C: Mostly learning the hard way sadly, I would have chosen many other routings if I had the knowledge of at least 10 years on the scene. I’ve had some much appreciated help from only a very few people, but in this case I don’t think its how many, but rather how much each "put into it" so to speak :)
You must have been annoyed when you had to change your label name from Hybrid to H-Productions. With more money, could you have won in court? Or was it like that?
C: I haven’t got the slightest clue about that. The only thing I wanted to do is continue making tracks, tons of records and tour non-stop. So changing to H-Productions from Hybrid Productions was easy. Gotta stay flexible, would be dreadful to realize your survival would depend upon a brand name o.O
Distributors are often either heroes or villains. What are/were Prime Distribution to you?
C: I would say both hero and villain in this case.
Running Sentinel appeared to be a good business move for you all in Sweden. Did it work out as you hoped it would?
C: Well Sentinel was a vinyl distributor only, and it was towards the "end" period of the vinyl market - when we realized it was not going to be much more vinyl for that long is when I started to take that company down.
What kinds of changes have taken place in your studio over the last, say, 5 years?
C: Hmmm good question. More inboard Computer software etc. I combine analog and digital nowadays and slowly start to find a good balance where I’m satisfied with what comes out. A bigger and badder sound card, and more attention to acoustics in the work room for better monitoring. But most of the changes have been taking place inside my head =D Which I think is where it’s at mainly, not in the studio gear. Needless to say though, it’s very important during the creation process.
Presumably some newer machines have taken over from much of your classic gear too. Any pieces of recent year equipment that you have found particularly useful or important?
C: I use a mix of digital and analog ... I still route lots of stuff through my outboard gear towards the end and during post production. New toys are usually always software based or some sort of controller unit :) I think I have to join a design team and build a machine or 2, because I usually only find 2 out of 20 functions interesting. Manufacturers of music machinery are usually always aiming for a large customer base, hence all the orthodox stuff in there slowing the evolution down for Techno producers especially.
With many still yearning the rawness of older techno, do you ever feel like revisiting or reworking any of the styles that you used to make?
C: Absolutely I do that now and then, but usually I rework them with today's tools and mind. Trying to make it sound exactly the same like it did back then would probably not be my first choice of studio session.
Have you thought of releasing more electro again?
C: Yes I will probably release some more Electro type of sounds in the future, I'm 99% sure of that =) It will probably be various types of Electro blended into an album project, and I would utilize full vocals on some tracks even.
You’ve recently converted a lot of your vinyl collection to digital. Did it take long?
C: I only digitalize tracks from vinyl whenever I need them. Doing that with the whole collection would be to much work yes :)
Does that mean that you’re ditching vinyl or just making yourself more adaptable?
C: Yes for me it's to stay in the main focus of the standards on the scene. Adapt myself to the use of new ways and technology. I still have my Technics turntables at home, but they just can't compete with using CD players in clubs and on events. No more mistakes, sub bass feedback, or jumping stylus so you get more bass to the people and don't have to stand totally still during your DJ set. I can sort my records better creating a more refined experience in arrangement and have a bigger range of tracks. Of course with CD & Digital you'll need to watch out so you get good quality files or you'll lose ALOT! Vinyl tends to "sound" better compared to many digital releases because of the mastering. People that master vinyl usually have quite significant knowledge of how to make stuff sound better that they did before :) Then of course there's a whole debate around the warmness, analogness of sound carriers, agents, vibrations, materials and take it to the moon and mars. BUT compare the situation between a perfect mastered track, put it on vinyl and on CD/DIGI, then compare its usability and sound in the club.
Finally, what is in store for Dublin when you play here on May 2nd?
C: I have a really good sound demonstration on my soundcloud page. Set is called Techno Archeology and is a pilot of a DJ mix CD project I will start later on in 2010.
Many thanks to Cari for his answers. Witness him rocking the walls of Andrew's Lane Theatre for his first Dublin appearance since The Kitchen in 2001!
Cari Lekebusch Myspace
Cari Lekebusch Website