Minimalism In Music Production w. Christian Nielsen
In this episode of ‘Behind The Beat’ by Nim Sound we are talking to Danish dj and producer Christian Nielsen amongst thing about family life, minimalism and his dj career.
Being an experienced gentleman of the electronic music industry, with more than 10 years in the business and releases on labels like Mark Knights ‘Tool Room Records’, Jesse Rose’ ‘Play It Down’ and BBC Radio 1 legend, Pete Tongs label ‘FFRR’. I am certain that after listening to this episode you will have learned a few tricks of the trade.
In this very first episode of Behind The Beat, we talk with Christian Nielsen about how he manages to balance a prosperous music career with a regular ‘9-5’-job, a girlfriend and two young sons. We chatted with him about recently signing with a management agency and what benefits this has had to him. We dove into his minimalist approach to producing music and how this has helped him stay creative and productive.
We hope you will enjoy this very first episode, thank you for listening.
Questions from the listeners
Kasper Stub (Intro): Christian Nielsen is definitely no stranger to the music industry. He has released tracks on Mark Knights ‘Toolroom records’ on ‘Kompakt’, on Pete tongs, ‘FFFR’ label and on Jesse Rose’s ‘Play it down’ just to mention a few, so I think it is a safe bet to say that he will be the next big thing out of Denmark. In today’s conversation we had a chat about how he balances a prosperous music career with a nine to five job, a girlfriend, a son, and another one on the way. We talked about him recently signing with a management agency and what benefits and what benefits this has had to him. We dove into his a minimalist approach to reducing music and how this has helped him to stay productive.
Kasper Stub: I think two years ago, you called me up one summer and you had this idea about doing a behind the scenes of Christian Nielsen. Telling your story I remember you told me that nobody really like saw it coming with you having a music career. It was way more your brother? So my question is how did you go and become a musician with a promising career?
Christian Nielsen: If we go back to the beginning, I used to play lots of sports, like badminton.
I was a badminton player and I used to play from, I was nine until I think, 19 or 20, and it was tournaments every weekend – My life was focused around sports.
Growing up it was more my brother who used to play, he used to play the bass. I don’t know if he doesn’t play the bass anymore, but he used to be the musician in the family. My dad used to play the drums a bit, so we always had instruments laying around the house. But it was my brother who was portrayed as the musician. I was never, it was never a subject mentioned to me and being creative or have anything to do with music.
I only think the only person who actually realised that I had any potential at all was my music teacher in school. I used to go down to the basement and play the drums so I could, you know, hold a solid beat and do fills and everything. Nobody really realised that I could do this besides him. So he would always, every time there was a big show at school, invite me to come and play for them. Because at that time nobody was really doing music. Nobody was playing the drums. So I would play for the eighth graders and I was in third grade so he was the only one who was pushing me to do more music.
Furthermore I used to play the piano when I was small – but it was never – it was an old lady who used to teach me and she was like old, old! Like she’s still alive today and she must be like 120 years old! She was really nice, but you know, it was classical music and I hated classical music at that time. You’re 10 years old, you don’t want to listen to Beethoven. You want to play something a bit more upbeat. I remember a funny story, she called me once and said, you know, when you come I’m not going to be able to play with you. You have to just play and I will sit next to you. I said what happened? I broke both my arms. She fell down the stairs and when I came to her house for tutoring lessons, she had both arms in casts with metal rod sticking out and she still wanted to teach me how to play piano. She was dedicated! She realized that I really liked playing and I liked playing chords. So she was pushing me into that direction.
But family wise and through friends it was always sports.
When I got older it was more, you have to go to the business school and do marketing.
I was a big fan of adverts and big campaigns and stuff like that. I would make my own mock up campaigns and the meanwhile I was listening to music.
I used to make mixtapes from the radio with my cassette player. I used to record Basement Jaxx and then I would wait until the next song came on. Nobody really knew I did this and all the money I earned, I would go buy weird and obscure albums. I just went to the store and the guys at the music store knew me. I was like, I want to hear something new. I did this when I was 13 and 14 before I went to badminton training and nobody really realised that it was because I was digging the production.
I was listening to the beats or the bass and how things were put together. I didn’t know what compression was at that time. I didn’t know what mixing or filtering was. But it was very natural for me to listen to music in a different way than my peers. I would always bring like weird shit to school. It was like “hey guys, check this out” and they would look at me like I was a fucking idiot. It was not because I didn’t like pop music. To this day I love pop music. I appreciate good pop music.
I can listen to a Spice Girls track and say, I don’t like what’s going on, but I can appreciate the for what it is. I can appreciate listening to a Bruno Mars track and say, this is amazing. This is good pop music, it’s well produced.
At school I would always try and become the Dj guy. Put on music at the parties, but nobody ever stopped and said, maybe you should try and do something with this. It wasn’t until I moved out and into the city.
But again, it was going to business school and trying to figure out what am I going to use all this, theoretical stuff for. I was learning all these, you know, financial theories. Like this is really interesting, and I honestly thought it was super boring.
I worked since I was 15. I’ve always worked trying to find ways to make money. That was my thing. I was working all kinds of odd jobs like telemarketer, I was cleaning, I was doing everything I could to make money. I didn’t use it for anything, I bought stupid shit, but it was just the whole idea of making money. So naturally everybody thought, go to business school.
I got a job at a nightclub called Lux at that time. it was a mainstream club and Morten Breum and Henri Matisse was playing there at the time – all these guys who are still in the scene today.
I was a busboy waiting tables and I loved it!
I loved being a part of that scene and meeting people, it was great. I got a job next door, there was a cocktail bar, and the bartender was making amazing cocktails and I was like – you know what, I want to do that! He looked at me and said, you’re too small. All the bottles are too high up, you can’t reach them.
I said, all right, what can I do, I want to work here.
He said you can go up to Tony. He’s the DJ. We all know that you love music, you bring music yourself to put on before he comes in. So you might as well give it a shot.
I went up to him, he said, you know what, I’ll take you in and help you out getting started with Dj’ing.
After that everything just took baby steps. I started dj’ing and then my friend Robin, told me that if you want more gigs you have to produce music. So I looked at my old Macbook computer and there was Garage band installed so I just started pushing buttons and made some tracks… That’s pretty much how I got into it.
Kasper Stub: So when was this? Like how many years ago was this?
Christian Nielsen: It must’ve been like 2007 or something like that. But I didn’t release anything until like 2008 or 2009, maybe a bit later.
Kasper Stub: Do you remember getting your first track signed?
Christian Nielsen: I was playing with, at DFM – which was like this online radio in Denmark.
A lot of the dj’s around that time used to play on there. I was playing on there as well and I played some of my own tunes. One of the guys in the chat room, was like: “Hey, you got some dope tracks! Can I sign them?” And was like: “okay – sure” and I sent him the tracks and a few months later he released them. Some Colombian label… never heard of them again.
Kasper Stub: So are they still out there?
Christian Nielsen: Yeah, they are still out there somewhere, under Chris Minus.
Kasper Stub: Yeah, you’ve gone under a different moniker right, Chris Minus. When and why did you decide to change from ‘Chris Minus’ to ‘Christian Nielsen’?
Christian Nielsen: I went under the Chris Minus moniker for quite a long time. I don’t remember the exact time I made the change. I signed some tracks to Jesse Rose’s ‘Play it down’ and it went really well. So I was like: “Hey Jesse, I want to be part of the label and I want to make more tunes”.
He was like: “Alright, we can do that – but you have to change your name” – and I’m like, why?
First of all, at that time ‘Minus’, which is Richie Hawtin’s label was pretty big.
So everybody thought I was a part of the minus label, and then he asked me, are you playing anywhere under the Chris minus name? Have you achieved anything with it?
Not anything besides local stuff – So I said, all right, You know what, let’s give it a shot!
Then he released my tunes as Christian Nielsen and it went really well. So since then I’ve gone under the Christian Nielsen moniker.
But some of the guys from back then still call me ‘Minus’ when they see me. It was my persona for such a long time. So they still go ‘Hey, Minus, what’s up?’ – It’s so weird to hear it now.
Kasper Stub: I remember Oliver told me – Oliver, the other half of Nim Sound – I remember he told me that you played alongside Rune Rk, better know as Kölch, at a galla party.
That’s the first time he heard you play and we’ve had a laugh about it when you played a Beat Me. Thinking, holy shit, he’s going to be the next big thing out of Denmark and he played at a high school galla party!
Christian Nielsen: Yeah, I used to play some weird shit as ‘Chris Minus’ and one of them was with Rune RK. There was a lot of odd jobs, you know I warmed up for Basement Jaxx as Chris minus and lots of different names and I’ve played at all these weird things, locally. Such as weddings and shit like that.
I mean don’t get me wrong, weddings are great – you know, if you’re a wedding DJ, props to you, that’s hard work!
I’ve played at like cafés and stuff like that. They put up a booth in a restaurant and they you have to play. It’s terrible! But i’ve done it and the guys who do it today, you know what, good for you man – It’s hard work!
Kasper Stub: Yeah, I got respect for mainstream dj’s and people playing at weddings, cafés and those types of events – I mean – I got a lot of respect for them because, I’ve done that as well. That’s how I got started and it nearly killed me. I played the mainstream jobs, Friday and Saturday, eight hours, weekend after weekend. Instead of getting up on a Monday morning thinking ‘Oh my God, I got to play on Saturday, I can’t wait for it’ I was like ‘Ah fuck man! I have to play on Saturday!’.
Christian Nielsen: Exactly! I guess there are some people who really love it and you know what – That’s good!
For me i just felt it was so hard work! But the thing is playing in bars, cafés, restaurants and callas and God knows what, you really do learn a lot of stuff.
When I got to play abroad, you play for two hours – That’s nothing!
I used to play for 10 hours. Now the problem is, how do I get all the tracks I want to play down to only two hours – it’s so difficult as well!
Every time I’m done playing a two hour set, I think to myself, ‘Damn it!’.
I should have played that track – Why did I play that track? It would have gone off! But short sets are just part of the scene at the moment. You just play for two hours or two and a half, three if you’re lucky, if you’re really lucky.
Kasper Stub: Do you think that it’s a good or a bad thing that they’re no longer these marathon sets?
Christian Nielsen: I have to be positive about it. So I’ll say that I’m happy it’s like that because when you actually see larger names, or myself, play a five hour set – which isn’t that long to be honest – it sort of become a thing.
I think it’s a great thing is it’s a great thing when a big Dj will make it a thing to play eight hours straight. I would love to hear a big djs played for eight hours straight. I probably don’t want to hear every dj play for eight hours straight
Take a guy like Scream, he’ll do this. Like his tour where he starts the night and ends tonight.
I would like to hear that – but do I want to hear every DJ on the top 100 do that?
Some of them are probably really good at two hour set and they’ll give you a one hell of a party! Another good thing about it is that you have the warm up dj’s, who tend to be local dj’s, they get a chance to play alongside larger names.
I guess it’s a positive thing. I think it’s too easy to say it’s a negative thing – It’s too easy.
Kasper Stub: So you have this budding music career… You have a girlfriend, a son and another son on the way. You also have a regular 9-5 job… How the fuck do you find time to make music?
Christian Nielsen: planning, planning, planning and a very understanding girlfriend – a very understanding girlfriend!
So she knew me from way back. We’ve been together for like, what now? It’s nine years… nine years or maybe eight – Oh Gosh, she’s going to kill me!
Kasper Stub: Just don’t show her this!
Christian Nielsen: No! But she knew from the beginning that I wanted to do this. So it’s always been a very natural thing for me to produce music. That’s what it’s like.
There’s some things that go hand in hand with it. So one thing is planning, you really have to plan your shit. You have to plan your day.
Like the nine to five job, it’s there. You can’t plan around that, and I like my day job.
It gives me the freedom to produce whatever I want, and it gives me the opportunity to turn down gigs I really don’t want to play, whatever the reason.
I’m not financially dependent on every single gig I get offered – I can do whatever I want.
The other part is, I have a studio set up that can fit in my backpack.
Kasper Stub: Oh, so you produce a lot on the go?
Christian Nielsen: Yeah, I produce pretty much only on the go. I produce at work in my lunch break.
Kasper Stub: What kind of gear do you use to produce to keep it minimal?
Christian Nielsen: It’s the same setup everywhere. I have my laptop, my headphones and my mouse.
Sometimes I’ll bring my midi keyboard, small mini keyboard from Akai – That’s it!
Kasper Stub: Oh, okay. Less is more I guess.
Christian Nielsen: I have a studio with speakers. But I only use my speakers to do mixing so I have an idea of where the bass is in the spectrum and stuff like that. But I’ve mixed down tracks that are assigned to big labels on headphones. The ones you’re wearing actually.
So when I see other guys say ‘Oh, what kind of speakers do I need to produce better?’
It has nothing to do with that!
It’s all about what you have and do you know your equipment.
I know exactly how my tunes have to sound in those headphones (points to Kaspers headphones).
I know where my kick drum has to go. I look at the frequencies in my DAW, but I know how it sounds in my headphones. So they are my reference.
I was thinking about getting a studio for a while, but if I have an idea, I want to put it in on paper now. That’s why I bring my laptop to work sometimes. If I finished my lunch before everyone else, I go and open my laptop and produce… I produced today on my lunch break.
Kasper Stub: I wouldn’t be able to do that because I get so caught up. I completely forget time and then three hours after, I think to myself, I should probably do something else now.
Christian Nielsen: I guess cause I’ve been doing it for so many years, I can switch it on and switch it off. I know exactly when I put my head phones on, I zone out and as soon as I see that time has gone past what it’s supposed to, I just take my headphones off and I’m done.
I work really great under pressure in that sense.
If I have studio time for two hours, I’ll do shit for one hour and 45 minutes, and the last 15 minutes I can produce a full track. It’s so stupid. It’s not very smart, but that’s how it works for me.
Kasper Stub: Yeah, that is kind of stupid but if that’s how it goes. If it works, it works.
I mean that’s one thing I think a lot of upcoming producers need to know – if it works, it works.
You don’t have to look at bigger names and try to adapt exactly their production techniques. If it works for you, it works for you. That’s fine.
Christian Nielsen: The way I see it, it’s building good habits. So when you turn the computer on, like turn off the Wifi. That’s one thing. Yeah, just switch it off. It’s okay.
My habit is if I’m producing, I’ll have something on the TV, you know, some Netflix.
Just in the background, so I can see it. That’s my thing. I need something to distract me. Like I’ll sit and produce and just look over.
I used to always have Lord Of The Rings going. I have no idea why!
Kasper Stub: So how many times have you seen Lord Of The Rings by now?
Christian Nielsen: Way to many times – I can quote that movie from now until that this interview is done!
“My precious” (does a Gollum impression), I mean I’ll go for it, I will go for it!
Kasper Stub: So besides being a Lord Of The Rings nerd, you recently you recently signed with a management – Why? What benefits does it have?
Christian Nielsen: I’m not sure if I have the correct answer for you. It’s fairly new and It’s called ‘Proper Spicy’ just to give a shout out to the management. So I’ve never had management before. One thing is having a booking agent to make sure that you get some gigs.
Kasper Stub: You’ve had that before?
Christian Nielsen: Yes, I still have that and that makes sense to me. So having a management… The question is like from an upcoming producer like ‘what does management mean’ and I wouldn’t even know how to really explain that to you what that is. It’s probably different for me to another person. For me, again as you mentioned, I have a 9 to 5 job, I have a family and everything. So there are a lot of things that I can’t do. I don’t have time there’s just not enough time in the world for me to do that. So from a management standpoint they’ll say: “okay give me an idea of where you want to go, what you want to do and we’ll help you get there and you focus on what you do which is produce music”. Now so for me, I’ll just feed tracks to our little Soundcloud page that I have with my management and they will look at the tracks and say ‘okay these three go good together’ and they will help me get in contact with some labels, or if they have a label they think is interesting. They’ll look at stuff like your social media and see if everything’s okay. Does everything look up to date? Does it look cool enough? Does it represent what you are trying to portray. So stuff like that, but I guess it’s not the same for everyone because some artists need help in other directions than what I would need. Like, to you know, get in contact with people you probably would never be in contact with. It’s kind of like having, for me, it’s like a personal assistant.
Kasper Stub: Was it you reaching out to them or did they reach out to you? How do you get signed to a management bureau and when do you need it?
Christian Nielsen: I would not be able to tell you that because that would be different for everyone. I needed to get a hold of a music lawyer for a project and she helped me out and it was great. I live in Denmark. We are in Denmark right now, so when you’re dealing with labels that are abroad like in the UK, you can’t have a local lawyer because the law is different in different countries. So when you are in the UK you need a lawyer from the UK. So I got a hold of her and she was actually the one who said ‘you might need a management to help you out with some of these things.’. I was like okay, do you know someone and then she said yes, I know these two guys they could probably help me. So I met with them at ADE, Amsterdam music event, and you know, we just hit it off and they understood where I wanted to go and I understood where they were, what they wanted to do and what they could do and that’s pretty much where we are today. But when you need, it I don’t know. I guess you’ll need it, you’ll know, they will contact you when you need it.
Kasper Stub: Okay, I’ve been wondering about that for a little time now. What exactly it is that a management does, and when do you know that you need it and all that. I got a little smarter from this.
Christian Nielsen: It’s a different management for me, is probably not the same job they do for Kölsch or Scream or for Nina Kraviz. They all do different things, they all try to work for the artist in the way the artist want to move ahead and guide them. I call them personal assistance plus, plus, plus.
Kasper Stub: Personal assistance plus, plus, plus… Alright…
You sent me some stems way back, I think like a year ago of a track called ‘Talking To Myself’. You released that track on your own and now it’s been released on none other than Pete Tong’s FFRR label. How is it working with these massive labels like FFRR
Christian Nielsen: So that actually goes back to the question with the lawyer. That was when I needed a lawyer. So this it happened exactly how you explained it. So I released it myself first and, you know, I was like, I just wanted to put it out I like the track and then suddenly, you know, labels start asking about the track because they can see it’s not signed on a big major label. So suddenly, because it gets played on BBC, they react to it and they started, you know, ‘Hey, Christian, we want to use this track. We want to do something with the track’ and I have no idea what to answer, major labels. It’s a, it’s a totally different game. So I was like, oh, my God, what do I do here? So I actually wrote to like a few people on Facebook, hey, I know you’ve done something with major labels before – What do I need? And they’re all like, you need a lawyer! Oh okay… Who? Because I’m in Denmark, so I just can’t, flip the telephone book and find a lawyer, so I have to find someone that the other guys have been using and they helped me deal with it. And realistically, the way it worked for me was they came to me and said, do you want to do something on the label I said, sure and then the lawyer comes in with the management. I didn’t have management at that time. It would have been the management to say ‘Okay we’ll take it from here’ and they will do all the negotiations and everything and they’ll come back to me and say, this is what the label wants to do and do you want to do it? Yes or no, and then I say, let’s see. I said, no, I wanted to do it differently. Go back, try, and work for what I want. Okay, another perfect example where the lawyer and management actually comes in because I don’t know what rules are in the UK.
Kasper Stub: No, of course not you’re a Danish musician.
Christian Nielsen: Exactly! They can throw in a contract on ten pages and I don’t understand what it says… I have no idea, but like I was trying to read it and I thought I knew what I was reading and then when I got a lawyer, she was like… no!
Kasper Stub: That’s not how it works (Laughing)
Christian Nielsen: That’s not how it works, buddy. All right, Okay, All right. I misunderstood that then. Help me, please, please. (Laughing)
Kasper Stub: But it’s just interesting you first released on a Colombian label, a Brazilian label and released your first tracks… How do you move from releasing on an unknown Colombian label to releasing on Toolroom records, on Compact? I mean, what do you need in order to go from upcoming to release on these established label?
Christian Nielsen: So one thing is that, there’s the part of it of an artist development that’s purely organic. Like when you go from the Colombian label to at one point, suddenly it’s not organic anymore. You start releasing tracks on small labels, the small labels they send promos out to bigger names. The bigger names recognize who you are and they ask you to do something for their label. It just builds organically. For me, it was I got signed to ‘Play it down’ and Jesse Rose knows everyone in the business. So as soon as you release on Jesse’ label, other names that are the same size as Jesse and bigger are going to recognize your name and then suddenly they ask you, do you want to do a remix and then you just sort of build it. At one point, you know, suddenly it’s not organic anymore. Then you start thinking, what labels can I release on, like Kompakt was organic for me. I was just producing and again, if you listen to my tunes, I don’t produce one kind of sound. I’ll produce all kinds and that’s because that’s what I want to do. That’s what I like, I can, I like listening to Kompakt music and I like listening to FFRR music and when I sit down and produce I have no control over what’s going to happen. I just produce till I know it sounds dope. Then afterwards, I’ll look at it and say, okay, this is Kompakt, this is Toolroom, this is Defected or this is Selador or whatever, you know. At one point it is not organic anymore, when you have a management that it’s not organic anymore, then they’re going to push it into other directions and push it into a more professional development. So I guess, you know, the tip is just try to produce and just building it up slowly, release one track, release on one label then release on another one. My biggest tip, if I can give anyone a tip, is when you first release on a small label, make sure to get the promo sheet with all the names that have given you feedback and then reach out to them. ‘Thanks for giving me feedback on that track really appreciate it’ and then hopefully if it’s a great track, they’ll say or you can say, hey, can I sign on your label? Do you want me to do a remix? You have to do that yourself. You know, in the beginning, you have to do some of that work yourself.
Kasper Stub: To do the groundwork.
Christian Nielsen: Exactly some guys just burst into the atmosphere and yet…
Kasper Stub: But that’s like the one percent!
Christian Nielsen: Exactly, they, like everyone else, has been grinding – everybody grinds you know.
Kasper Stub: I think there’s sort of this common misconception that it just happens overnight. You know, it might look like that when you get one hit, and it just blows up. It might look like it just happened overnight, definitely, but it’s like you’ve been producing since 2007 and it didn’t happen overnight.
Christian Nielsen: No, it didn’t and it’s the same when you look at, when you speak with people say ‘oh this guy is just so crazy on Facebook and Instagram’. He’s just so nuts It is so natural when they get that big. There’s definitely some, like, persona going on there, but everything is controlled you know, you have the management, you have a PR agent, you have everything, it is professional. There’s nobody in the top 100 Resident Advisor that.
Kasper Stub: No, tha’s just; Let’s see what happens.
Christian Nielsen: Yeah that doesn’t happen. They’ll say, let’s see what happens. But I would put my career on it, no, I wouldn’t do that. I would bet something that that probably doesn’t happen.
Kasper Stub: No, they have a team behind, definitely.
Christian Nielsen: It’s super professional. I mean, you go to ADE and look who’s there and you meet people. “Oh, I’m this guy’s management” and you’re like “whaaat?! he has management”. Some people you don’t even imagine have management or a PR agent. You just think it’s them doing everything and it’s just not.
Kasper Stub: I think it takes away, and that might be like what my opinion of management is. They take away everything else and just lets the artist focus on the music.
Christian Nielsen: I guess like, let’s take someone like, I hope I don’t say anything wrong but like, let’s take Seth, Seth Troxler that are a super huge personality in the business. I could imagine his management, when he finally got a management at whatever point, they looked at him and said, okay, your personality is really strong. We’re just going to let you go with that but we’re just going to help you use that personality to get more attention on yourself. Now, you know if you keep making music and keep playing, amazing sets will make everything fit together into one solid product. I could imagine, you know, because it’s not like Swedish House Mafia where it’s really, probably even like, that’s a fricking product! You know what I mean?
Kasper Stub: that’s a massive machinery!
Christian Nielsen: Exactly! Take, like, Fisher. You know, it blew up! There’s definitely some management team and PR agent going on there. But he is who he is, and they just you know, exploit that part of him.
Kasper Stub: Actually, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about, because you have this amazing ability, to create these the 909 rides and hats that have this certain air them. This just might get a little bit nerdy, but How do you do it? Because I’ve tried to like do it myself, but to be honest it sounds like shit.
Christian Nielsen: Ok, so for the open hats I have one sample.
Kasper Stub: You have one sample, like in your library…?
Christian Nielsen: I’ve been looking through all my samples and, I hope I don’t offend any producers, but I’ve been trying to rip off, like if there’s like a break where there’s only an open hi-hat I’d try to see if I can take it out of the track and put it into, you know, my system and see if I can use that. So today, I have like four open hats, I have five rides, like samples that I would always go back to and then, I would probably you know, put some compressors on it or something just to make it feel like a little bit more. So like the rides, I do something very simple I use ‘S1’ from Waves. It’s an imager to give it more space. I put that on top of it and just widened the shit out of it, so it’s always in the background.
Kasper Stub: Is it that simple?
Christian Nielsen: It’s that simple.
Kasper Stub: … Fuck me.
Christian Nielsen: Again, it’s about, like the references you know, you find your thing. Like for the last 20 tracks, I have probably used three different kicks.
Kasper Stub: So you don’t have that many samples in the library.
Christian Nielsen: No, not when it comes to the basics.
Kasper Stub: Do you think this sort of minimalist approach to samples, Do you think that that helps you generate your sound or generate like a certain vibe?
Christian Nielsen: Well I have never thought of it, but I think I’ve done it that way, mostly because, as we spoke of before, sometimes I only have 30 minutes to make a track because I’ll open it up at work. I can’t spend time trying to figure out the ‘perfect kick’ so I have my five kicks that I just like. Okay, this fits with the bass – because the bass and the kick have to match. Is it a long kick or is it a short kick? okay this bass is, you know, a really fat base. I’ll probably use a short kick and then I’ll put that on it and I just, you know, I know exactly what kick I need to use. So when I have like longer sessions, you know, in my studio, where I can get really nerdy? I’ll probably add another kick to my library of basics. You know that kick that really dope and then I’ll add one more. But if it works, it works, you know. I have one kick that I’ve used for a lot of tracks on like for example, the Kompakt release ‘Hard Times’… I EQ’ed the shit out of that kick! But I knew that the foundation of that kick was so solid and I decided sounded so good in my speakers. It’s like OK, I need to take the high end off more so It gets a little bit more muffled and then I just used it. Because normally I hear like upcomings “oh, we can’t really get the kick to work”, spend a week, get your five kicks that fits the type of tracks you make and stick with it. You know just try and work with that, and if you don’t feel it works, find some new kicks. Need a different open hi-hat, go find something that sounds good to you and then just, you know, put it in a little folder. You always have your, I have my folder called is called VIP’s. So I have VIP kicks, VIP snares and claps. I love claps! I have a hard time doing snares, snares… It’s too weird for me.
Kasper Stub: It is the same thing for me.
Christian Nielsen: It can sounds so stupid and I go ‘ah screw it’… and rides and then a few percs (ie. percussion), but that’s pretty much it, I keep it fairly basic.
Kasper Stub: Do you have the same minimalist approach to synthesizers and like, I don’t know if you use presets in your synthesizers?
Christian Nielsen: A few, a few, I again, I’ve… My computer is from 2012 so I can’t update anymore.
Kasper Stub: Have you ever thought about getting a new computer?
Christian Nielsen: I did actually! I went to the computer guy who’s like, “this is like one of the last cool Macbooks or Apple computers. Do not sell this one, I will update the shit out of it every time you need me to, but do not sell it do not get a new one!” Im like ‘okay’… And the whole point is I am not very technical. If you put me in a room with 20 hardware synths I wouldn’t know what to do. I’ll play chords for you, but all that shit, I don’t know what to do with it. I keep it very simple I use Ace from UA, It’s like a VST or AU or whatever you call it, and I’ve pretty much used that for like 5 years. I haven’t done anything besides that and Kontakt 5, Maybe, I’ve used to like sample synths, sounds like Leads.
Kasper Stub: Like for me, I’m beginning to dive into more of a minimalist approach to producing music because I think sometimes it can be a bit stifling having like gigabytes upon gigabytes upon gigabytes of presets and samples and shit. I have 20 different VSTs. so it can be sort of stifling a little bit and for me, I’m starting to, you know, figure out like, how can I do a very minimalist approach towards this. Have you produced any of your samples yourself? Like been sitting with a like a synthesizer and produced kick drums, for example?
Christian Nielsen: No, I don’t have time for that shit. I have a rule for myself that if I can listen, you know, if I have half an hour, I’ll do like an 8 bar loop. And if I can listen to it for more than five minutes I’ll save it and I’ll go to the next project. Then I can always go back to it because I know the groove or the ideas really good, but I would never sit with one track, like an 8 bar loop, and just like “arg this synth doesn’t work for me” If it doesn’t work for me, it’s not going to work for me.
Kasper Stub: I remember talking to Pleasurekraft about two years ago and I asked him like, what’s the best advice you can give for upcoming producers and producers in general and he, and I thought it was something like “well, you’re going to have this VST. You got to have this or that” and it was fairly simple actually, It was ‘recognize when an idea is shit and throw it away’.
Christian Nielsen: I would completely agree.
Kasper Stub: And I really, really like that because it helped me, like to go back into a lot of my tracks and be like. This is not going to work, It’s a shit idea.
Christian Nielsen: I mean, that’s exactly my point.
Kasper Stub: Throw it away that might be wonderful in your head, but it doesn’t work in real life.
Christian Nielsen: It’s the same when building the track. When you if you got that 8 bar loop, that’s just like, oh, this is good shit. If you build it and like, okay, it’s three minutes long now, it’s not long enough and it’s kind of boring now. So get rid of it, It’s not going to work put it in the folder.
I have a folder with like shit I want to work on. I’m not going to throw it away because now you should definitely bounce the stems and my, you know I’m a hoarder. You know, I’m just going to, it’s going to stay there I’m never going to look at it. Let’s be honest I’m never going to go into that folder.
Kasper Stub: No, I have a folder like that and I have tracks from like 2010. I’m never going to look at it, not really, I should probably delete it, nut, I can’t get myself to do no you created it.
Christian Nielsen: So again, I guess the minimal, you know, way of looking at it was not something I did intentionally, but more, It was a necessity. You know, I would love to be able to sit all day for eight hours and find the perfect hi-hat. But at the end of the day who gives a shit? Who’s going to listen and say ‘that hi-hat in that track is bullshit that’s terrible!’ well somebody probably might but that person who thinks that hi-hat is shit is probably not going to like my tracks anyway.
Kasper Stub: It’s the same thing with the whole like reissue of 808 from Roland and the whole Behringer out doing their reissue of mocks of like 909s and 808s and all those vintage synths and like, all these synth experts comes out and all the like “Oh, it doesn’t exactly sound like an 808” but there’s like, the main thing here is, in my opinion, is that you don’t really want it to sound like an 808 because it’s been used a million fucking times.
Christian Nielsen: And again, if KINK plays with it and makes it sound dope well, it then fine, I’m going for it – I vouch for that.
Kasper Stub: This is club music as well, so, I mean, if you’re standing in front of a loud system and you’re having a party, the time of you life, you’re not really going to be like “hey that doesn’t sound like… that sounds like the Behringer version!”.
Christian Nielsen: And a shit track made out of 808s or 909s is still a shit track. If it’s a dope track you made out of 909s well, good shit then, It’s not the 909 that made it dope, you made it dope! If some 13 year old made it in Ableton or in Fruity Loops, if he made a dope track and thne he made a dope track, then I don’t care if it’s in Fruity Loops or whatever – It does matter to me. It matters what what came out of your idea and if that’s dope, that’s is dope.
Kasper Stub: All right, Christian. I think we are almost through… Well, that’s a lie, but we’re running out of time sure. I still have a lot of questions.! You’re going to have to come back some other day. I can’t really say that this is a tradition since this is the very first episode.
Christian Nielsen: We’ll makes traditions.
Kasper Stub: Yes, Hopefully this will become a tradition. But I have three quick questions for you and you have to answer them as quick as you can.
Christian Nielsen: Okay go!
Kasper Stub: What is your favorite plugin at the moment and why?
Christian Nielsen: Isotope Ozone and why? Because it is super easy! Super easy and you can make boring loops sound amazing pretty quickly. Just pressing some presets.
Kasper Stub: Wonderful! What did you wish you knew back when you first got started in the music industry?
Christian Nielsen: I have no idea.
Kasper Stub: You have no idea?
Christian Nielsen: I actually have no idea. There are things I would do differently, but nothing I would you know… I wouldn’t do anything differently. This is the path, This is the way I got here by and everything is… I don’t think I would be able to do anything differently if I knew something else. I probably, maybe wouldn’t have released some tracks. But on the other hand, I know some people like some of the tracks that I am not so fond of anymore and that’s just a positive thing.
Kasper Stub: That is actually, I haven’t thought about that, but it is actually a very deep question.
Christian Nielsen: It is, I have no idea.
Kasper Stub: It’s a hard question.
Christian Nielsen: I wouldn’t, if somebody told me something from the beginning, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I’ve always had lots of help from like Noir or Jesse and they gave me all the advice I needed. There was one advice from Jesse was that always stuck with me ‘Don’t be an asshole.’
Kasper Stub: That’s brilliant advice – don’t be an asshole!
Christian Nielsen: But I’ve never been an asshole so I was like, OK, fine, whatever.
Kasper Stub: It comes natural to you.
Christian Nielsen: Exactly! Just be a complete dick all the time. Oh, that’s what’s wrong! That’s okay, it makes sense, all right.
Kasper Stub: That’s actually sort of the third question as well… What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? It doesn’t have to be music related.
Christian Nielsen: Best piece of advice… I’m not sure where I got this from, maybe my father? He told me ‘everyone has a story to tell. You just have to take the time to listen.’
Kasper Stub: That’s wonderful advice. Your dad is a smart man.
Christian Nielsen: I think it was him, I’m pretty sure it was him.
Kasper Stub: We’re going to credit your dad.
Christian Nielsen: Let’s do that, but I’ve always stuck with it. Especially when you go play gigs where you don’t know anyone. Well if you just, you know, listen to people and talk with them, everybody has a story. Sometimes it’s a good story, sometimes it’s a shit story and shit stories need to be listened to, too.
Kasper Stub: Sometimes you’re going to listen to shit stories but for the most part, I think that most people have an interesting story.
Christian Nielsen: Nah but like a shit story as in a negative story. It could be like, you know, a really depressing story. Like, Holy shit! It’s 3 o’clock at night, I’m pretty drunk, but if you want to tell me your depressing story, well, let’s go for it. You know, you really need to talk about it, so let’s go. I guess it’s like, everything is online, especially when you’re like doing music, like me. In Copenhagen, there’s a lot of people who are interested in our music and what we do from abroad. You know, it’s really important when you actually get to meet them. You have to take time to listen and talk to people and hear what they, have to say and the questions they ask.
Kasper Stub: That’s a good answer… I think that’s about it. Can you let people know where they can hook up with you online?
Christian Nielsen: Yeah, I probably don’t remember all the correct.
Kasper Stub: We’re going to link in the description.
Christian Nielsen: Excellent! They’re all down here. Down here (Points to the different cameras)
Kasper Stub: We’re going to link in the description and everything.
Christian Nielsen: They can link up with me on Facebook at my page there and on Soundcloud and Instagram.
Kasper Stub: Those are the primary, what about Twitter? Do you use Twitter?
Christian Nielsen: I honestly don’t use it, I just mostly use it to look at other DJ’s complain. I don’t get it. It’s not very Danish, Twitter you know, like the only Danish people on Twitter are politicians and so they complain a lot too.
Kasper Stub: Does politician do anything else?
Christian Nielsen: Exactly! I think I’ve only used it to complain to like businesses, that’s all.
Kasper Stub: So do you have like a dedicated twitter for that or do you
Christian Nielsen: No I complain via the official Christian Nielsen – Turkish Airlines they got shit from me on Twitter! It didn’t work, but whatever I was like, okay, everyone else does it so I can do it ‘you guys suck, suck my balls.’ – I didn’t write that, but it was something close to that.
Kasper Stub: All right, Christian, thank you so much for coming.
Christian Nielsen: Thank you for having me.
Kasper Stub: It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Christian Nielsen: Likewise. the pleasure.
Kasper Stub (wrap up/outro): I really enjoyed my conversation with Christian Nielsen. He is such a genuine, nice guy and he has this rare ability to make you feel comfortable in his presence. I really enjoyed his take on accidentally creating a minimalist approach to producing and how this has helped him create more tracks, and stay more productive. I really do think that this has also helped him shape his own style and sound. That’s it for today, thank you for tuning in and watching and listening. It is truly appreciated and remember to keep at it and stay passionate. I will see you when I see you – Bye!