Name: Boot Slap
Members: Christian Witt & Takis Kouretsidis
Interviewee: Christian Witt
Nationality: German, Greek
Current Release: Fade Into You on Perplex Music
Recommendations: Whoo, you mean, I have to pick two? Let’s see. Right now, I am totally into Pop Art. And there is this illustrator, Kimiya Justus, whose work really gets me. It’s very colorful and also pretty weird. You might wanna check her out: www.kjpur.com is where the magic happens. Secondly - please don’t laugh about me, I would like to share my fandom for the whole Star Wars universe. I love its complexity: It’s about family, about internal enlightenment, about the confrontation between good and evil. As a teenager, I used to read the books - I normally only read non-fiction books. I watched the movies at least a hundred times - and I still love them. I even designed my own start-template in Ableton in a Star Wars mood. My childhood dream was to become a starship pilot. Well, this obviously didn’t come true but when I am at my studio at night, with all the buttons and glowing little lights, I sometimes feel like I am steering a ship through outer space exploring new worlds. Do I get a third one? No? Then I'll say: Thanks a lot for having me.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Boot Slap, check out their facebook profile or the site of their new label Perplex.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Well, I am a child of the German Reunification. I grew up in East Berlin - and after the fall of the wall in 1989, there was this unique spirit of freedom that had really seized the whole city. This feeling that everything was possible really influenced my early adolescence. As a teenager, graffiti was my life. And then, the evolving techno scene kind of sucked me in. I spent a lot of time in legendary Berlin clubs like Bunker, WMF, Casino, Cookies and - last but not least - E-Werk/Planet. I quickly developed the urge to make music myself. I think, I was about 18 to 20 years old when I took my first steps into producing.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
In the beginning, I just wanted to make the music that I was listening to when going out. It was all about finding out how to create the sounds from a technical perspective. My friends Kiki and Siopis were already making tunes professionally and they showed me a way in. And as I am a perfectionist, I wanted to understand everything from scratch. It took me years to get all the different aspects of producing, technically as well as creatively - and the learning never stops. From there I was able to translate the ideas in my head into actual music.
In the learning process, emulating others surely plays a big role. I mean, that’s how children learn - they see something and try to do it. If they fail, they try again. For me, it’s still important to listen to different artists and different musical genres to broaden my perspective. It’s all about inspiration! Today, I am trying to combine classical house and techno approaches with more contemporary ones.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
For me, the greatest challenge is to say: This is it, it’s finished. But I am getting better at it. I found out that most of the time, the first idea is the best one and that I should stick to it. Too much alterations of the original often lead nowhere. If the basic idea needs to be changed profoundly, it probably wasn’t good in the first place.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was in Berlin Mitte, close to Hackescher Markt. It was in the building where all the bpitch control artists had their studios and offices. I shared the studio with Kiki and Siopis and the set-up was pretty basic: We just had a laptop and Yamaha NS-10 speakers. Back then, the three of us only used the software Fruity Loops. And we had a couch. Obviously, the set-up had to evolve because that was nothing. For years, I tried to develop a certain sound just using software. But in the end, I understood that this is not possible and that using hardware is the only way to create the sound that I am looking for. Today, my studio is part of the Riverside Studios community in Kreuzberg. The core of my current production is a DSI Pro 2 for Bass and Lead sounds, a DSI OB-6 for Chords, Pads and Strings, a Roland JP-8080 to get some of that classic 90s sounds. And for drums, I am using Ableton Push2 and Elektron Digitakt – all of this is routed via a classic 90s Mackie 16 channel mixer and Elektron Analog Heat. For inside the box mixing, I use Softube Console 1 which emulates the classic SSL 4000E Console.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I am very open towards new technology if it contributes to putting the creativity in the foreground, if it helps to concentrate on the music. Technology should always be seen as the helping hand, not the center of music production. Good examples would be the deep integration of Ableton Push 2 in the Ableton software. Or the intelligent EQ „Gullfoss“ from soundtheory. They really simplify the technical side of producing and helped me improve my workflow. For me, although being a perfectionist at heart, the human part is that slight imperfection that is essential for music that triggers emotions. Machines can’t do that. At least not yet.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Well, it lies in the nature of producing electronic music that technology is a big part of it. From my perspective, it’s necessary to completely master the technical side in order to excel composition-wise. I can only let myself fall into the music when I don’t have to think about how it works. You have to know your tools down to the last details.That’s the only way to achieve good results quickly. For me, I learned the most while collaborating with other artists who were a little bit better than me. Besides that, watching online tutorials on YouTube and reading books, especially about mixing, were also important sources of knowledge for me.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
As I mentioned in the question above, collabs are pretty vital for my creative process. It’s all about exchanging ideas and skills. Jamming is a good way to see how other producers work. The exchange with others gives me the opportunity to gain a different perspective on production and most of the time, I really learn something new. And of course, it is always helpful to just show my work to other musicians. Listening to the tracks and talking about them often gives me an insight about what is good already and what still needs improvement in a particular arrangement. Being in a studio community like Riverside makes that easy. There is always someone with whom I can share ideas and opinions. It’s a mutual exchange.