The next instalment of our In Conversation series comes from one of the most electrifying and forward thinking artists in techno right now, Chontane. The Berlin based artist is running hot off the back of an archaic EP on SHDW & Obscure Shape’s imprint Mutual Rytm, and it seems the writing is on the wall for an apocryphal story of glory for Chontane.
The foreseen narrative for a young artist in any creative discipline is one of trial, tribulation, and an amalgamation of god awful compositions that makes you wince when you think back to your early bodies of work. However, some exceptional artists break this mould and burst out of the shadow’s with an exemplary back-catalogue of noteworthy material. One artist that has been sculpting a formidable oeuvre of genre dismantling music is Berlin’s own Chontane.
Growing up in Berlin, Chontane was quickly introduced to the gritty sounds of techno from various cavernous corners of Germany’s unhinged capital city. It seem’s cliche that city seem’s to live and breathe techno, but Chontane is modern day example of young DJ & producer who has been educated in the chambered basements & warehouses of Berlin’s techno scene. The young and fascinated teenager found himself stammering into various clubs, parties & bars around the city, soaking in as much information as possible and cultivating himself in the culture of electronic music. The proof is in the pudding when you listen to Chontane’s early releases on distinguished label’s such as ARTS & THEM. These early encounters with Chontane’s music give a real sense of maturity, apprehension & flair, as well as acting as poignant introduction to a future luminary of the techno world.
Chontane has now established himself as a force to be reckoned with as he flaunts his skills both in the booth and in the studio on some of the biggest stages and labels within techno’s infinite environment. The young producer has landed himself on plodded label such as Arts Collective, Mutual Rytm, Voltage, REKIDS & more. Chontane’s current work is a bi-product of a rough neck style of grind in the studio, and a creative mind that pays to respect to expansive history of hard hitting & experimental electronic music. Chontane’s kaleidoscopic approach to music production leads listeners into a deep & sinuous world of gripping electronic music, while maintaining a defined sound that rolls in polychromatic flavour.
We spoke to Chontane about his Sycamore EP on Mutual Rytm, life in Berlin, production techniques, future projects and more.
I wanted to congratulate you on your recent release on SHDW & Obscure Shape’s imprint Mutual Rytm. This is a hugely impressive body of work, and the rapport around the release has been exceptional. How are you feeling to have the tracks finally released?
Thank you for the congratulations and the kind words! I’m more than happy to have these tracks released on Mutual Rytm. I’m super happy with the result and also feel that they perfectly fit to the sound and vision of the Label. It is definitely the work I’m most happy with.
The EP seem’s to capture your signature sound at its most thrilling; pounding, funky, dubby, soulful and deep. Can you give us an insight into a day in the life with Chontane in the studio?
It really depends on the mood and feeling of the day. Sometimes I spend hours recording just my Synths, my Analog Rytm, sequencing, tweeking and processing the synths through my hardware effects. After that, I listen to the recordings on another day and safe the good parts. The next days I edit the recording and start building tracks. But there are also days where I just sit with my laptop and building a track from scratch using samples, Plugin Instruments and Effects. If the flow is right, I can build a track in half an hour. I just need to finalise and mix it afterwards, but the main arrangement and concept is set.
The ‘Sycamore’ EP on Mutual Rytm has a very distinct techno flavour, and the production level is extremely high grade. One thing that struck me is that you seem to have an impeccable ability for finding the sweet spots in subsonic frequencies. Can you shares some tips on how you create these carefully crafted low-end grooves?
It’s primarily a question of eq’ing and listening carefully. I separate the Kick and drum percussion from the sub-bass in the frequency spectrum. For drums, I use my Analog Rytm and samples which I edit and build grooves in Ableton and for sub bass lines I use my Summit, or sinus tones and 808 bass one-shots which I edit with amplifiers, saturators and eq’ing. Side-chaining and building a good baseline sequence in the piano roll is really important in my opinion.
The EP seem’s to evoke a certain amount of nostalgia upon listening, and reminds me of some classic Sterac and Bryan Zentz releases. The tracks seem to have a certain amount of warmth and character that ooze the analogue sound. What is your studio looking like at the moment?
My Studio is in my apartment. Last summer I built and applied many acoustic panels with one of my best friends, which really helped me with my mixdowns and masterings. I’m working with a Midas Venice 320 console, a Revox A77 tape machine and a couple outboard effects and an analog filter bank for processing. I mainly use my Novation Summit, Waldorf Blofeld, O-Coast and Samples for Synths, FX Sounds and Drones. Everything goes recorded through my Midas console into my Macbook. My two patch bays are giving me the possibility to be flexible and connect everything as I want, and I have by now found processes that I can flow well with.
Your music seem’s to blur the lines between house, techno, electro and breaks. What are you listening to at the moment asides from techno?
I’m a huge fan of film music. I very carefully listen to soundtracks when I’m watching Netflix or going to a movie. It inspires me a lot. Also, IDM, ambient and breakbeat music like provided by Ilian Tape by Skee Mask and Stenny and WARP is outstanding! Besides that I love listening to alternative/indie/psychedelic rock like Tame Impala, Connan Moccasin,Mac DeMarco and King Lizard & The Lizard Wizard. Old-school hip-hop and boom bap is also really great to get out of the daily dose of techno.
Growing up in Berlin, you must have been exposed to techno music and culture at very young age. When did you first stumble across techno?
Growing up in Berlin was definitely a key point for me beginning to listen to techno. I came in contact very quickly with people who were producing or playing techno, and I started going out to clubs at a young age of 16 using a fake ID. I also started producing electronic music at the age of 16 with Apple’s native music production program called Garage Band.
You started playing in Berlin clubs at the tender age of 19 and held down a residency at the Krach nights in Humboldthain around this time. How did you find stepping up to such a high pressure environment at such a young age?
I think growing up in Berlin is a special thing. Back in the day, I was going out a lot, not only in clubs, but also house parties, festivals and a cool place which sadly doesn’t exist anymore called Tacheles. I got confronted with electronic music through meeting different people, visiting different venues and of course because I started making my own music and DJing at the age of 17. It was exciting and if you love what you do, you do it with passion and I’m always giving 100%. Of course, there are also negative sides of this environment that seem difficult or burden you, but the positive outweighs them.
Looking back at your debut show in Tresor in 2018. How much did that mean to you?
It was definitely a special gig for me. The booth, the monitoring and the vibe in the club was something special! This club has a big and important history and influenced me and my taste of music a lot. I hope to return there someday!
You’ve achieved many milestones for a young techno producer. What’s next on the techno bucket list for Chontane?
For me, it’s important to keep on creating good music and having fun in the studio. I had a bit of a struggle the last months with it as I wasn’t really happy with what I produced. I’m slowly coming back to my confidence and slowly getting my fun back in the studio. So it’s definitely my goal to do a lot of good music and at some point launching my own label. It’s important not to lose yourself. Some producers and DJs might have the feeling they have to rush, but they don’t have to. Good things take time.
2022 has been a colossal year in terms of releases for you, nailing down EP on numerous elite techno imprints. Have you got much music lined up for 2023?
I haven’t planned too much for now. I’m currently working on my second Mutual Rytm EP. There are also some VAs lineup up for next year, but for now, I’m slowly finding myself in the studio again. I needed some time to get new inspiration and new ways in my workflow, but I am very excited for what is to come.