Happy new year everyone. 2019 is in full effect, which means new music, new interviews, and new exclusive content with your favorite artists. Since day one, Lights/Out has stood for all things underground and cutting edge, and what better way to kick things off than with our first premiere of the year? This week, we head to Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, where our guest CTRLS has been laying down some of the finest hard minimal techno around. His upcoming EP Klarysn, out soon on Freddy K's Key imprint, comprises of 4 warehouse weapons, to which we proudly present the first track on the EP, "C5."
Punchy drums, a simple and sharp lead, and tight percussion are the name of the game, and this track would work perfectly either early on in a set to indicate shit is about to get real, or really late at night when everyone is in a higher dimension and you need to take it down a notch without losing the vibe or energy. To get a better understanding of his process, we sat down with CTRLS for an inside look into the making "C5," the scene in Copenhagen, and keeping yourself grounded when things are going well.
Hi Troels, thanks for sitting with us today. I want to start by asking how you're doing so far in 2019, and how the last 6 months of your life have been. Anything exciting recently?
Hello! I’ve been good thanks. 2018 brought a whole bunch of changes, both to local and international scenes so I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the new landscape. It’s been a bit daunting finding my place amidst all the rearranging but as we moved into winter things started clicking into place. I’ve always resisted moving to Berlin or any other hotspots and this has become very rewarding as Copenhagen has been positively bubbling as the world keeps getting smaller.
I have to admit, Denmark doesn't quite strike me as a place for high energy techno. What was it like growing up in Copenhagen? Did the city have an impact on your vision of techno?
I actually grew up in the suburbs and found it pretty difficult to even find the music I was interested in. I just took in what was fed to me from radio and television and what I could find in record stores and this sparked my full-on love for electronic dance music. This new wave of faster and trancier styles is completely unprecedented here and I’m pretty sure its a reaction to the, shall we say, tranquil image the city enjoys. I think it’s great that new things are happening and I’m of the opinion that the Copenhagen scene is as good and vibrant as it’s ever been.
Your project CTRLS was founded in 2012. How long prior, if at all, had you been producing before starting CTRLS? Who were some of your earliest influences?
I’ve been making music since I was able to, from age of 14, starting with happy hardcore and Eurodance. I pretty quickly turned to drum n' bass so I wasn’t all that interested in techno but more artists like DJ Fury, Optical, Kemal & Rob Data, Photek, Klute and djs like Slipmatt, Billy Bunter, Randall, and Grooverider. Jeff Mills did not escape my attention though and I’ve been a big fan of his sets since the late 90s.
Your latest EP, Klarsyn, is hard minimal techno at its finest. In my opinion, the simplicity of the entire package is what makes it. It seems like nowadays everyone is trying to pack too much in. How many tracks were used in each of these records?
Thank you! I do really like to keep it fairly direct when I write music. I don’t tend to deconstruct my own material much either so we’re looking at simple setups like 2-3 synths, a drum machine and a bunch of effects in the computer.
Speaking of which, what are some of the tools you used in the making of this EP? Anything new you've recently added to your studio setup?
I’m really enjoying having synths outside the computer and doing all my effects and mixing in the digital realm. Right now I’m working mostly with my Ambika synth and LXR drum machine but my Kurzweil k2000 got some use too on this EP too. I did also lean quite heavily on VST synths again (mostly u-he and Ableton instruments) just because of the huge flexibility and sound design potential, and because they’re sort of part of the DNA of the CTRLS project. They might not sound as great as the hardware but it feels like I can make almost make any sound and that’s exciting. Plugins are making leaps and bounds lately and my favorite addition is SpecOps by Unfiltered Audio, that got a ton of use last year. I’m also really into the Fabfilter Pro-R reverb, extremely flexible and very forward thinking.
How exactly did Klarysn come to be on Freddy K's Key label? Were you a fan previously? If so, what were some of your favorite past releases?
I just like the general attitude and approach he has. Alessio had been getting a lot of attention for his high paced sets in Copenhagen, and they were right up my street. Fast, funky and dancey. At the same time I’d been working with his booking agency last year so when he asked for an EP everything made sense and I went for it.
Seeing as we are about halfway through the first month of the year, which is crazy to think about, I'm curious if you have any big plans or goals this year? Perhaps not just musically, but as a person in general. Anything you care to share?
It’s a brave new world out there for sure! My life has always been so intertwined with music that it gets kinda tricky imagining doing anything else. Luckily I do have a pretty vivid imagination and the visual side of, well everything, is starting to pull at me more and more. Fashion and art, and particularly digital visuals are something I want to look into deeper this year.
One last question before we go. In all of your experience, what is the single most important piece of advice you can give a new artist, just starting out on their journey?
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” It’s a massive cliche but so so powerful. Growth and learning is the essence of what we do and there’s probably always a side to things you hadn’t considered or seen through the way others might be able to. I’d love to see less self-centered echo chamber arguments and more open discussion this year. And for the love of all things good: please don’t get so caught up in the career hype that you start losing friends. They very well might not be there when you decide to see some sense again and it’s hard to spot the signs, especially when things are going well for you.