CLR... In The Groove - Chris Liebing: Three Golden Rules Of Running A Label

Words by: Dave Jenkins
Posted: 30/7/13 8

CLR... In The GrooveLiebing has long since been regarded as a bona fide techno bastion. With a career that spans over two decades, he’s battled to remain relevant, rising to every challenge the fast-paced music industry presents. What’s more, he’s developed a pretty inspiring philosophy along the way. To understand his deep-minded point-of-view look at his brand CLR. Once a vehicle for his own ego, it’s now a much bigger entity; and sounds all the better for it.

Create, Learn, Realise... Why the switch from Chris Liebing Records?
I was growing really tired of having my own name in the name of the label! CLR was evolving into something much more open for other musical influences and it didn’t make sense to brand all of this with my name. Earlier the label was more or less just a platform to release tracks of myself and some friends of mine. Those days are obviously over and the label has become something much bigger and much more exiting. That’s why I chose to take out my ego and give it this new meaning, which stands for everything I have been doing and living in my professional life so far and what I keep on doing and living now.

What's the most recent thing you've created?
I think the most recent thing that I have created together with a really nice crowd was the last three hours at a recent Cocoon after-hour on Ibiza, where I played until midnight. It was really good fun.

What's the most recent thing you've learned?
One of the most recent things I have learned is definitely that you carry with yourself certain limits you might not even notice yourself unless you are open enough to let people tell you or to let yourself experience the difference. It´s pretty good to let go of limits, especially when it comes to music. To go beyond and experiment with new sounds, new things and grow in the process. It’s something you tend to forget sometimes. I have learned to be more aware of what’s going on and what kind of limits I set myself.

CLR Podcast 230 – Chris LiebingWhat's the most recent thing you've realised?
Well, it´s basically what I already answered in the last question. I learned and I realised that you have to be on your toes, look around and be aware of things that creep into your life and limit you. Fear limits you. Fear of failure, fear of being ridiculed, fear of not being good enough for others or for yourself. Losing this fear is one big step in the right direction. That´s how we continue to create, to learn and to realise things.

Does it feel like 14 years of CLR?
On the one hand it feels much longer, as I also add my Audio time to CLR. I don´t make a difference between those two labels because I just had to change the name. I started Audio in '96, so we’re in the seventeenth year now. Then again, looking back, it doesn’t really feel that long. The past twenty years have gone by in fast motion, a lot of things have happened, a lot of people came and went and a lot of music came and went. I gathered some amazing experiences but I still feel as if I’m right at the beginning.

Give me a highlight...
It is now! It´s incredible that you have moments when you can see everything so clear, everything you have done wrong in the past and things that worked out right for you. In those moments you realise that things – no matter how they worked out for you – always made sense and had a purpose. You can learn out of that and try to understand more, or you just run against the walls repeatedly until you somehow either learn or you stop trying to learn. Right now is a magical time. I feel that there is a new start for loads of things, musically, on the production front and in the whole techno world. It´s very exciting!

CLR... In The Groove
How about a lowlight?
Around 2003-5 I was feeling a little lost. I was trapped between the hard techno DJs and the minimal movement that made everything sound like bleeps and plops. For me it didn’t have much of a soul but I really enjoyed the slower beats. I had to find my new way. Those times were pretty hard: I didn’t want to play certain gigs as they would put me in a certain direction and I couldn’t play other gigs as I was considered too hard or not suitable. Those years meant finding a new direction for many people, a new orientation of what’s happening and where it’s going. Looking back it was necessary: I am very happy about where I am now.

Give me your three 'golden rules' of running a label…
Rule number one: Be open-minded. Don’t limit yourself to a certain style of music that you think you have to release and then refrain from releasing something you might really like because people might not understand it. Just run it and release whatever you want to have on the label!

Rule number two: Take very good care of your artists. They give you something that’s very personal and needs to be treated right and with respect. Sometimes music lies around for a long time until it gets released, you must communicate this clearly. Be there for them and make them feel what it´s all about – releasing good music with respect for its creation.

Rule number three: Don´t release just for the sake of releasing. Really think about your releases and if they would be worth being released on vinyl. And if they are not, are they really worth being a digital-only release? Or should we save the world from another random release that doesn’t really make much sense? Those are important questions. I don’t think a label is only successful if it has a large quantity of releases. Try to find things that touch you and have a unique story. Focus on the kind of music that means something to you.

Also produce things that come from your heart and not things that you think might fit the label. You never know what a label manager thinks is good, so you should never try to produce anything to satisfy the taste of someone...What's the best way to get signed to CLR?
Really try to understand what the label and the philosophy is about. Listen to the music we release and don’t just send me random music. Sometimes I listen to demos that are so far away from what we are doing, but are marked with “this is my new EP for CLR – please check it out”. No. Don’t waste an A&R or label-manager’s time, sending them music that obviously doesn’t fit the label. Try to get to know the people on the label. Go to the parties, understand the way how everybody deals with the music and plays it. Make them interested in what you are doing by being around, spreading your vibe and your music. Then your music might actually get heard and people might get interested in what you are doing.

Also produce things that come from your heart and not things that you think might fit the label. You never know what a label manager thinks is good, so you should never try to produce anything to satisfy the taste of someone.

How many demos do you get on a weekly basis?
I get loads! I collect them all and I pass them on to our music people who listen to the demos, sort out the random music and just give me the relevant stuff. I believe that the music always finds its way, and if there is a possible release of an unknown producer on the way to CLR I trust that it will somehow get through to us. That’s how I approach things. I don’t get to listen to all the demos I receive and I have to apologise to those people who send or give me demos, but I have them here. Sometimes it just takes a little longer, but I definitely try my best!

Is it difficult to find time on the release schedule for your own material?
No, that’s the beauty of having your own label; you can completely change your release schedule in order to fit your own releases. But you have to have your own releases in the first place.

I work for other artists as a producer/engineer, helping them with their productions or mixdowns, giving advice about how an album should sound. That’s been so much fun for me over the past two years that I haven’t been working on music myself. I don´t have those kind of problems right now.

Please big up your most recent signees...
Let me tell you about two of them… Firstly Rebekah. So far she is the only girl on the CLR artist roster, but definitely the one with the hardest music! But even though it’s quite industrial and strong at points, it still has this funk and groove which we all like. We are very happy to have Rebekah on board.

It’s all about the package you want to give to the people. You don´t just want to release music, you want to give the people the whole experience...Another one is Drumcell, and I am very happy to release his album by the end of August. It is an absolutely amazing debut album you can’t really pin down to a certain style. It has all kinds of influences but it’s definitely techno. Brian Sanhaji and I put a lot of work into the mixing and the mastering and we’re very happy with the final product. I hope that everybody is looking forward to getting a copy, we’d be really happy if people bought it as most of the money goes to the artist and the whole production. Drumcell and Rebekah, next to all the other great artists on the roster, are the most recent new members and I am very happy about them!

Are there any CLR releases that you think should have enjoyed more success than they did?
Yeah. The Emptyset release had an amazing Ripperton Remix, but when we released it, most people were still very much looking for the harder techno styles when it came to CLR. We have very much managed to widen our spectrum and convinced people that some quite energetic and darker melancholic music does not have to be necessarily hard and fast. I think it’s an outstanding house track that would have been way more successful on any other label, but who knows…. Maybe because of this interview people will begin to get a feel for it?

How important are the global CLR events for the success of the label?
It’s all about the package you want to give to the people. You don´t just want to release music, you want to give the people the whole experience. We are working on this. It’s a learning experience to create a night that not only offers the whole label philosophy musically but also visually and decoratively.

Also, just as it is extremely important to have a certain kind of style and vibe with the releases, you must also have this with your events. Label events are also important for individual artists that are connected to the label; we take care of them and make sure that they have a good environment to play in.

What's been your all-time favourite event?
One of my all-time favourite event is probably Time Warp, as it is very special every year and also kind of marks the start of the summer season. It is the weekend when everyone meets and has an amazing time together. Everyone hangs out for a long time at the event itself, listens to other artists and gets new ideas for the summer to come.

Tell us about your activities on the island this summer!
Well I play for Cocoon about four or five times. I will probably play one or the other after-hours as well. It also looks as if I would be playing for the closing of Amnesia, the club itself. I am having a great time on Ibiza this year. I have also been visiting other parties of friends like Used + Abused with Loco Dice every Thursday. I’ve already been there four times this summer, having a lot of fun with everyone. Apart from that I will just see what the island brings to me, kick back and lay in the sun. I think one of the greatest activities on the island is having your feet in the sand, looking at the blue sky, occasionally having a swim in the ocean, thinking about some good nights you had and good nights that are coming up on the island. It´s a great energy and I love it.

Started: 1999
CLR Shop:
Last FM:

CLR068MP3 - Brian Sanhaji - Daria EP
CLR067MP3 - Rebekah - Cycles EP
CLRCD012 - Traversable Wormhole - Traversable Wormhole Vol 6 - 10 LP (Mixed by Adam X)
CLRDA005MP3 - Various Artists – CLR & Chris Liebing Present “RECONNECTED 03” Mixed By Rebekah

CLRCD013 - Drumcell - Sleep Complex LP - Release date: 30.08.13
Next CLR Showcase

Chris Liebing Next Ibiza Shows
Monday 05th August - Cocoon @ Amnesia
Monday 26th August - Cocoon @ Amnesia

Chris Liebing Online
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