CHRIS LIEBING: THE TECHNO ALCHEMIST

Explore the world of underground techno
Every weekend, people all over the world gather in abandoned warehouses, forgotten bunkers, and smoke-filled clubs. They come together en masse for one thing: To lose themselves on the dance floor for hours without end. This is their church – and the master of ceremonies, the shaman who guides them on their journey, is the DJ.

One of the high priests of Techno is Chris Liebing. The Frankfurt, Germany, native has been moving audiences all over the globe for more than 20 years. To him, it’s not about playing hit after hit. He would rather take his audiences to another dimension.

“Nothing against drops and good moments, but you want to get the crowd into such a different world that they forget where they are, they forget what they wanted, they forget the motivation of why they wanted to go out in the first place, and they find themselves like, ‘What just happened? What was that?’”

THE SPIRIT OF TECHNO

Join Chris backstage as he explains why it’s not about the drop.
In underground techno, drops are limited. Instead, the DJ moves the crowd through tension and release, telling a sonic story through his record selection and the contrasts between the sounds.

“I wanna create this carpet of sound, this kind of vibe where people really lose themselves over a long period of time. And that's the point. It's not really like instant gratification.”

He might start with a hard track to warm up the crowd. As their pulses heighten, a steady, pounding bass drum carries them deep into a trance. Next he sends sharply snared breakbeats, instantly moving into something more funky and smoked out. Bass rolls through the crowd like waves, bouncing their bodies around and filling the room.

“It creates a certain vibe without many interruptions, no interruptions, or interruptions that you choose to have because you want to control the flow or change the mood.”

Without warning, the DJ cuts the lows, adding a little tension by withholding the beloved beat. Anticipation rises as sirens and metallic squeels swirl overhead. Expectant whistles cut through the crowd. All of a sudden, the beat drops back in. The crowd roars in unison, dancing even harder.

A HYBRID SETUP

Get an inside look at the gear Chris uses to make his layers of sound.
“I think choosing the right tunes in the moment is the primary skill of a DJ. It’s super basic but super important. Now it's less about the tracks. Now it's more about how they are put on the dance floor.”

Sensing that the crowd is ready for a real workout, he spins a chaotic tornado of percussion, throwing bodies violently around the room for another 40 minutes – but just before they plunge too deep into the abyss, he slowly fades bright synths through the fog, surrounding them with a loving glow. Heads high and hands up as if in prayer, the crowd returns back to earth with all their demons exorcised. They’ve danced themselves clean.

“You might enter the club with your own problems – work issues, problems at home, whatever. And you might try to solve your problems in different ways, for example, alcohol or other substances. Or you can come onto the dancefloor, let everything go, and work it out through the music.”

This is the world of underground dance music. And like church, it happens every weekend.

IN THE BOOTH

Go behind the decks for an intimate 2-hour set at Fuse in Brussels.

CHRIS’S SETUP:

Chris’s setup is based around MASCHINE and TRAKTOR PRO 2 software running on one computer – synced with Ableton Link. The audio runs from an Orion Antelope Soundcard through a PLAYdifferently MODEL 1 Mixer, with two Allen & Heath Xone K2 Controllers controlling TRAKTOR. To play live drum hits and add additional percussion and sounds, he uses MASCHINE MIKRO. Additionally, he uses MASCHINE JAM to adjust the volume on individual sounds, tweak performance effects, and step sequence additional elements.

Stay up to date with Chris on Facebook and Instagram.

IN THE VIDEO