In the murky underworld of minimal techno, Todd Shillington a.k.a. Konrad Black has made a name for himself through perseverance and continuous innovation. A highly sought-after producer and remixer, this Vancouver native now operates out of the seminal Berlin scene and his Wagon Repair label has emerged as a global touchpoint for cutting-edge new techno. His performance this Saturday night at the Glass "Black Valentine" party comes on the first leg of his debut 2009 US tour and coincides with his new March release for the Berlin Watergate mix series.
We had a chance to catch up with Black, asked him about his artistic development, production M.O. and what the future holds.
New Times: You are known for your atmospheric yet bass-driven
signature sound with roots in drum and bass. Tell us how you first got
into music production. How did you transition from those roots to your
more techno-based current style? Were there specific influences or
Konrad Black: I first got into the production end of this business simply by
wanted to be closer to the music... same reason why one starts DJing. I
wanted to create as well as play the music. It's a logical progression.
Just as was my musical progression. I have always been into the same
kind of sound... whether it be the RZA or DJ Premier in hip hop, Ed
Rush and Optical, Dillinja and Lemon D, Photek in Drum and Bass, or
Maurizio, Plastikman et al in Techno. There has always been a common
denominator in the sound that has carried me through different genres.
Rumor has it that you are an avid lover of analog owning a formidable
hardware studio where you produce all your music. Do you strictly use
only analog equipment for production, and if so, why? How do you feel
about software-based music production tools and what (if any) part do
they play in your work?
KB: I am a big fan of analog synths
and outboard gear, but I'm not totally adverse to digital equipment. I
just personally prefer the sound of analog keyboards, and definitely
specific ones are good for specific sounds. I
use certain keyboards more for basslines, and others for atmospherics.
There are a lot of good software synths out there as well, especially
if you run them through a nice high-end limiter or compressor.
In 2005 you relocated from your native Vancouver to Berlin. What drew
you to Berlin? What exactly is it about that city that has made it the
current capital of techno and cutting-edge electronic dance music?
KB: I actually moved in Halloween 2005. I didn't intend on
moving there initially, but was in Europe for a 3 month tour, and was
based in Berlin during the week. While in Berlin, I had other expats
such as Troy Pierce and Magda remind me of what I would be going back
to in Vancouver vs. what was going on in Europe. That was enough for me
right then and there to decide to stay!
You have already had opportunities to play for American audiences in
NYC and LA before this debut 2009 US tour. How does the experience
compare to playing for audiences in Europe?
KB: Hmmm... I've found it really depends on the city. Also, in
Europe you often have experiences with clubs that are quite underground
yet larger in capacity, and that go quite late. This brings a
whole new element to the experience, and in North America you don't
find so many late late clubs. But again, my experiences in LA and New
York have been amazing as well. So in the end it really depends on what
audience you have for the evening!
Your current US tour coincides with taking the reigns of the Watergate
mix series, with WATERGATE03 - KONRAD BLACK set to be released March
2009. Tell us how you got involved with that project and what it's all
KB: Well, I play at Watergate in Berlin quite
regularly so they have asked me to head up the next CD in their mix
series. It will be the 3rd in their series, the first by Onur Ozer,
second was Sascha Funke and mine will be the third. It's an honor to be
asked and I look forward to it's release.
NT: Your are known
for your keen interest in visual art, having designed and produced all
the artwork for your Wagon Repair releases. How did you get into visual
art and what are your influences and inspirations?
KB: An interest in art in general, aural, visual, whichever it may
be, has been with me as long as I can remember. I mean they are all
tied together in one way or another. As far as visual influences go, I
love the work of Glenn Brown, Jörg Immendorff, Joseph
Beuys... the list could go on and on. All these artists, in my mind,
like I mentioned earlier about there being a common sound to the
different producers and genres that I'm into, these artists all have
something aesthetically similar that ties in with that sound and
feeling that I'm interested, and vice versa.
NT: What does the future have in store for Konrad Black and the Wagon Repair label?
KB: Well, I'm currently working on my album, and more releases
from Cobblestone Jazz, Modern Deep Left Quartet, The Mole, Mike
Shannon... more weird deepness to hit the dance floors and the headphones for 2009!