Chris Fortier on Balance and Bedrock
by Damon Fonooni
photos courtesy of Alanna Davis
Chris Fortier is a name that is synonymous traditionally with the Florida, but now with the nation's club scene. Lunar got a chance to speak with Chris via e-mail during a slight break in his ultra-busy travel schedule, and he had plenty to say.
Lunar: What differences do you feel between your old headquarters in Florida and your new headquarters in New York? How do the typical clubbers differ, and how do the overall opinions of electronic music and the club scene differ?
Chris Fortier: The most important difference is much of the heart of the music industry is located in New York. If you need to see someone about anything, you can do it really easily. You also run into people out and about. And lots of deals are done off those encounters and meetings. There is a definite pulse to the city and what is happening in music. You really feel like a part of it. The electricity of the city helps with creativity and drive. If we were all still in Orlando, we would be the only ones doing what we do. In New York there are so many people in the industry here to feed off and work with. The people here are relatively the same. There is a stronger work ethic here because you need it to survive, but generally the people are similar to the way they appreciate the music. In fact, there are so many people from Florida here, it is like Florida had a transplant in Manhattan.
Lunar: You went on with Jimmy van Malleghem, also a staple in the Florida club scene at the same time as you, to setup the Balance Promotion AgencyA record pool and a DJ booking/management agency. Why the decision to setup Balance, and who do you feel was instrumental in helping that dream to be realized?
Chris Fortier: The need for us to create Balance is simply to help push the music and the scene. It would have been easy to sit back and just DJ wherever, but we wanted to see things grow and move to the next level and the next level. The agency was an extension of setting up Sasha and John Digweed's Northern Exposure Tour in 1996. It grew from that and DJs slowly were added. By the time we knew it we had an agency. The record pool, which is my part of the company, was set up in the sincere effort to push the music further and get it into places that weren't hearing good music regularly. We were already getting promos, but there were many good DJs that weren't and labels weren't getting strong promotion in the USA either. We came up with an idea to help the labels and help good DJs progress. The company's success has a lot to do with Jimmy and my reputation as DJs and producers. For the pool, if I already didn't have a relationship with many labels, they would have never taken the idea seriously. It was a real struggle in the beginning to get records. But when the labels started seeing the results, the word spread and spread.
Lunar: At the present time, would you consider yourself to still be at the forefront of Balance or would you say that you have stepped back?
Chris Fortier: I am still involved in every decision the record pool has. I deal with the labels and searching out the records still everyday. The day-to-day operation of shipping the records to DJs and collecting feedback is handled by someone who works for me, but everything goes through me. We have a great team together that makes everything happen.
Lunar: Well, Chris, there has been so much hype for your latest workthe third installment of the Bedrock compilations, which you mixed. How do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with it?
Chris Fortier: I am really happy with it. I took a lot of time to put the album together. I really listened to so much music trying to find the best flow and progression I could. I don't think I could have made it better.
Lunar: What is your opinion on how a mix CD should be arranged and made? Do you feel that the CD should try and emulate and capture a night with Chris Fortier behind the music, or do you feel that the DJ should approach the mix CD with a home listening environment in mind?
Chris Fortier: I can't really speak for everyone, but in my case, I was trying to make the best mix I could. One that flowed from start to finish. One where you wouldn't fast forward to another track. One that you could get lost in the music and groove before you realized it was nearly over. I hoped it would be able to stand the test of many listens. I wanted this CD to be representative of what I am about and the music I play. Hopefully, (to) be good for any occasion. I wanted to make a CD that was in itself a piece of music.
Lunar: Looking through the track selection, I noticed that there is a Meat Katie as well as a Jay Tripwire track. This is a different sound then what would be expected from you. How do you feel that you have progressed or changed in this area?
Chris Fortier: I don't think it is too unexpected. Anyone who knows me and has heard me play more than once knows that I play a lot of different sounds. Sure, Jay Tripwire and Meat Katie aren't typical Progressive House artists, but that for me is what Progressive isplaying tracks that work together and create atmosphere no matter that style or genre. I don't confine myself to what others think my music is. I play records that go together in a set and that many times means outside the box of what others think.
Lunar: I also noticed that there is an original track of your own, but instead of being under the Fade moniker with your partner Neil Kolo, it is a solo track under your own name. Why did you decide to write and produce alone?
Chris Fortier: The main reason is that I live in New York and Neil lives in Orlando still. I have always wanted to do my own tracks, but because of the success of our Fade work, there was never time. Moving to New York has forced me to make tracks of my own if I want to make music at all. We are still doing Fade stuff, but it is difficult to juggle the schedule to make it work right. Doing tracks on my own has been very great for me. Now I can do anything I want with music and really get all my ideas out. And beyond this it means that Neil and I can be more productive when we are together.
Lunar: On the production tip, what hardware and/or software do you have in your studio, and which do you feel is the most powerful as far as rhythmical and musical equipment are concerned?
Chris Fortier: Right now I use Pro Tools. It is something that I started using late last year. I have one keyboard that I write stuff on and then record it to audio and then use audio plug-ins to tweak the sound. Using audio is a brand new thing for me. Neil and I never used audio on any of our tracks before. So there has been a definite learning curve involved, but I am enjoying it a lot. It really gives me unlimited approaches to sounds. The computer and software are really powerful, but the most powerful thing in a studio is your imagination.
Lunar: Are you currently a resident anywhere? If so, how do you feel the following is? If not, do you plan to start any residencies or would you prefer to travel from gig to gig?
Chris Fortier: I have a residency in London at Prologue, which is at The Cross. The Cross is my favorite club in the UK. It is perfect size. The crowd is amazing, the atmosphere is brilliant. It gets better every month. I don't have one in America since Twilo shut down. I may start another residency in the city here, but that won't be till later in the year. I do wish I could get one place in New York for a residency, but it would have to be right. I don't want to do something without a lot of effort and preparation. So for now, I am traveling every weekend. It is really good for me because it keeps things fresh. I get to see a lot of different places and can really see the music growing.
Lunar: What is your opinion on Atlanta's dance music and club scene?
Chris Fortier: I have always liked Atlanta. it is a cool city and the people are great. I really like the stuff that Gene Carbonell is doing with his Seks nights; he is really helping the scene there grow. There is a great Deep House scene to that is still underground. If the people there can work more closely together, I think Atlanta will grow into one of the top 5 cities in the USA to play.
Lunar: Now that many DJ's are turning their sights on America for the future of dance music, what cities or area of the country do you feel are going to be the figureheads for dance music? Do you think that the attempt by the government to suppress clubs and raves will achieve anything?
Chris Fortier: There are so many smaller cities where the scene is taking off. Right now Los Angeles is the best place, I think. It has taken over where New York was a few years ago. Places like Houston and Denver are really great. Even Kansas City has been a really good place for me. It is all about foundations that a scene is built on. If the initial foundation is built by people who care about the music and it integrity, than the scene will grow and flourish. It is spreading to every corner of the country. I don't think that the attempted stoppage of parties and clubs will last much longer. As the music grows, there will be more understanding, especially when bigger, more powerful companies are getting involved with tours. City governments are going to have a tougher time pulling the stuff they pull (on smaller rave promoters) on someone like Clear Channel. We, as young people, need to get out there and make our votes count. And make sure politicians know that there is a serious and mature side to clubbing and Dance Music.
Lunar: You also have a record labelFade Records. Do you still oversee that whole operation? What was your goal in creating Fade Records?
Chris Fortier: Yes, I take care of everything. I plan to hire someone to manage the label over the next couple months, but it is tough to find the right person. I currently have a distribution deal in the UK, so that helps. But as far as finding tracks, signing them, promoting them and dealing with all things business, it is me. The goal of the label originally was to release our own Fade material, but once we signed our own album deal with another label, that all changed. The label took a back seat for a few years. About 2 years ago, I started focusing on it again. Trying to give an outlet to the many new talents out there. I just want to find cool and interesting records to put out. I don't want to put out the same record over and over. We look for unique tracks and artists with individuality. That doesn't always translate to sales, but that is not what is all about for me.
Lunar: What can we expect from Fade Records in the future? Any big secretive news that you can tell us about?
Chris Fortier: We have a new Steve Porter single coming this summer. It will be his biggest track, for sure. It is really big right now for the few people that already have it. It is called "Nordica." There are also a few things that I included on my Bedrock CD coming soon, too. The next few releases are:
Chris Fortier: It is really hard to predict where things are going. I think we are moving out of the really dark, deep and slow sound. I think things will still be deep with a groove, but the tempos are increasing and there is a bit more musicalness coming back. A bit more melody. There are definitely more vocal tracks out there now too.
Lunar: If there were one piece of advice that you could give an aspiring DJ/producer, what would it be? And what mistakes in the music industry did you make that you felt you learned significant lessons from?
Chris Fortier: As I said, it is hard to foresee the future, but one thing that producers should be doing is experimenting with sounds. Don't just try to emulate a track you heard. Try incorporating all your influences into music. This is how we are going to keep moving forward. Don't be afraid to experiment. This goes for DJing as well. Through experimentation, DJs can discover their own style. Be versatile as well. Be able to play a proper warm up and a proper main set, but know the difference between the two. Starting out, you will have to do a lot of warm up or early sets. if you play them properly, you will get more chances to play and that is valuable experience that you need. Be patient and polite and courteous.
Special thanks goes to Alanna Davis for her assistance in arranging the interview.
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