Dubby and Warm with Kenneth Christiansen

Danish label Echocord has become synonymous with a sound of Techno that’s entrenched in the subterranean layers of Dub, slowly churning away at simple repetitive motifs that swell with the restrained feeling of an attentive dance floor. The sound of Echocord is subtle, biding its time, avoiding any fleeting ostentatious impulses for the sake of a rounded apathetic experience. Throughout the label’s discography you’d never encounter the rise of a presumptuous break-down nor the existence of and impetuous build-up. The music takes place in more than just the moment, preferring rather the extended investment from an attentive listener. At the core of the label and its axiom stands Kenneth Christiansen, a DJ, producer, club-promoter and label boss, that personifies everything Echocord is today. His skills behind the decks have taken him everywhere from Sonar to Panorama Bar and his next stop is Jæger where the soon-to-be 15 year old label, will host a very special showcase in our basement. Luke Hess will be joining Christiansen for this event with a live show, with cuts from his album, Light and Dark on Echocord, bound to make an appearance at some point in the night. Christiansen, although also a producer, most notably as part of Pattern Repeat, will take to the booth for this event, bringing the sound of the label to Jæger through new and old material, featuring artists like Mike Dehnert and Mikkel Metal. It was the latter artist that inspired Christiansen to establish Echocord in the first place, and the sound of dub in Techno that set it part from many of the other Techno labels cropping up around 2002. It’s remained an institution in Europe and alongside Christiansen’s club endeavour, Culture Box, it has become a bastion for electronic music in the Danish capital. Echocord’s biography is well known today, but when we got the opportunity to ask its distinguished creator some questions, we sent off the email post-haste.

You started the label with the purpose of releasing music from Mikkel Metal initially. What was it about his sound that encompassed what you wanted from a label?

When I started Echocord I was working in a record shop in Copenhagen receiving many demoes form the local talent. I have always been a big fan of what came out of Berlin in the 90’s, the new dubby minimal sound, from labels like Din, Elektro Musik Department, Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, Scape etc. I wanted to release electronic music that has that deep dubby warm feeling, but still powerful. So when I heard material from Mikkel, and already had the good distribution contact at Kompakt in Cologne, it was the time to start.

There’s has always been a strong dub focus from the label. How has it influenced the label, and what was the connection between this style of Techno and Copenhagen when you started the label?

Yes, it has always been about Dub. Today, after all these years, you can still always here the dubby elements in all the releases, but it can also be more for the dance floor, or go in other directions as well. There was not really any connection with Copenhagen at that time, but we already knew a lot of the producers in Berlin and the Hardwax Crew.

The label is celebrating 15 years this year. How have you experienced it developing from those first releases?

It has all changed a lot over the years. The electronic scene is much, much bigger and there are many many more labels. But for my label (s) I think it got bigger again like 5 years ago – the more dubby kind of music got bigger again. I also started the sublabel Echocord Colour for more Techno orientated stuff, and it got some extra attention overall.

Tell us a bit about culture box, and how it might influence the label and your work as a DJ.

Culture Box is my main job. I run it with Loke Busch, and there’s a nice crew around us. I use most of the time booking the music program – it’s a big job. It hasn’t really influenced the label or my DJing that much.

You’ve never donned the producer cap as a solo artist and your music as part of Pattern Repeat has never branded the Echocord badge. Why is that, and do you find it’s important to retain that distinction between label boss and artist? 

Hmm good question. The first release we did actually was released on Echocord Colour, and it includes a Ben Klock Remix. My partner and good friend Dennis aka Resoe and I thought that it would be good to have this platform for our Pattern Repeat stuff, so we started the label also. We will continue releasing on that, but also try other labels, we will do something on Tresor Berlin soon.

You’ll be playing a set at Jæger. How much of the label boss influences your sets and how does that change with an Echocord showcase? 

Yes, I’m looking forward to play at Jæger, especially to do an Echocord Show there with my friend Luke Hess from Detroit. We play Concrete in Paris the day after, so its gonna be a great weekend. Of course I always play some Echocord tunes in my sets, and try out new stuff, and when it is a showcase I think it’s very naturally to represent the sound even more.

Yes, you’re bringing Luke Hess along with you. It seems that Echocord is very much a family affair, with the same artists always returning to the label. How did the label’s relationship with Mr Hess take shape? 

Yes, well, I have known Luke for many years now. We got in contact long ago, I heard his early stuff on FXHE and I was blown away! He did some remixes, and then he wanted to do an album, and that was a very big thing for me. He also did a lot of releases on Echocord Colour. We have been playing together for many years now, all over Europe and in Detroit and New York. Luke is definitely like a brother to me, he is the most amazing guy. You can say Echocord is a family affair. I really like to invite artists back to release and to play at shows. Of course, we also have new artists releasing music on the label, and already this year Arovane and Tomas Rubeck are in.

What was it about Luke’s music that particularly stood out for you and how did uphold the motto of Echocord do you think?

I really like his warm deep sound, the Detroit elements, there’s so much “music in the music”. It’s perfect for Echocord.

Listening to Light in the Dark in the context of the latest release from Mikkel Metal (Resemblance), you can hear obvious similarities, but yet each artist has his own signature. What makes Luke Hess so unique amongst the other artists on the label?

I really think many of the artists are very unique. Mikkel is really one of a kind, you can always hear when it’s him, and it’s a little bit the same with Luke.

You mentioned earlier that the label today has developed with more focus on the dance floor. How much of that development is influenced by the artists and is it something you witnessed develop in your work as a DJ too?  

Well, the sublabel Echocord Colour is very much about the dance floor. But yes the artists usually produce more dance floor minded music, I like that as well, especially when you can have both on an EP or album.

You must have some highlights through the discography of the label. Which of these will you most definitely be including in your set on Friday? 

On Friday I think I will focus on the newer stuff, plus the unreleased new stuff coming up. After summer when we do the “15 years with Echocord” tour/shows, I will focus more on the entire catalogue.

You’ve obviously seen Luke Hess’ live show. What can we expect from him?

You can expect a very warm, dubby, sexy, powerfull, erotic trip.

Will he be featuring any future Echocord material in his live set?

See that’s a good question. I hope so. I know he’s finishing his new track for the “15 years with Echocord” compilation and I haven’t heard that track yet. Well, let’s see.

And will you be featuring any new music from the label in your set? 

Yes I will play some brand new stuff from Arovane, Tomas Rubeck and Mike Dehnert plus some surprises.