Christian Schwanz aka Cee is a multifaceted individual known for his work as a music producer, crafting and performing his own brand of raw bass heavy music; as an educator, conducting music production workshops; and also for his work supporting the music community around him in various roles. In Addition to being an Ableton Certified Trainer, he’s also involved with Ableton officially looking into activities in the Asia-Pacific region. We got in touch with Cee to find out more about his journey.
Childhood musical adventures & influences
Classical music played a major role in Christian’s upbringing. Although he didn’t pick up a musical instrument until later in his teenage years, he used to sing as part of a choir which he thoroughly enjoyed. He puts it as “a feeling of many voices forming a wall of sound”. His first ever record was ‘Greatest Hits’ by Simon & Garfunkel. Interestingly enough, he humours about the stark contrast it bears to the kind of music he currently makes. He also cites his older brother Steffen as an inspiration for forward thinking music; he would travel to berlin and have sleepovers at his brother’s squat house and on one such occasion, he reminisces waking up one morning to the eerie intro of ‘Frustration’ by Soft Cell, and how it struck a chord with him.
Getting into Electronic Music Production
By the age 16, he was part of his school band and one of his band members had the EMU sampler controlled by the Atari. Although his friend wasn’t keen on teaching, it didn’t stop Christian from being inspired by the sounds and focused on learning how to make music more seriously. In early 2000’s he chanced upon Ableton’s nascent Live version 1, through a tech savvy friend who wasn’t particularly into making music. Up until then Christian was producing music with Steinberg’s Cubase. On using Live, he understood the power and convenience of it. The very first version he used on stage was Live 2.1 in 2003 and later on in a US tour with an old project “Al-Haca”. Cut to the present, he’s still a big-time user of Ableton Live.
Music making – of style & substance
His music has been termed as “eclectic electronic bass music” in recent times. While there is something about the raw and heavy bass sound he loves, Christian doesn’t like to stick to any single genre. His Dj set often relays across multiple styles but are connected by the tempo and the rawness. Most of his music production happens within Live, making use of the tools natively available. He incorporates a few analog instruments he enjoys including some Korg units and a Sherman Filterbank. His Live sets tend to be exploratory in nature, much like adventuring through a jungle (the jungles of Berembun Rainforest), he says, “I like to test the audience a little every time I play. I am also learning every time I play and pushing boundaries is not just a cool thing to say for me.”
Giving back to the Scene
Christian’s experience teaching Ableton Live music production goes back a long way. He started conducting workshops in between his performance tours as his way of sharing his passion with the community around him. He never saw himself becoming a teacher, even though he comes from a family of teachers. He was associated with the Ableton team right from the early days, when the team was much smaller. He recalls his Ableton Trainer Certification Experience as the “hardest thing I ever did’’. He has been conducting workshops around Asia where the focus topics would vary. He designs his workshops to have a larger chunk of knowledge for beginners while adding enough substance for the experienced participants.
For a good while he also founded and managed ‘Detour Asia’ a Booking Agency supporting artists like Daedelus, HVOB, PHON.O etc. The goal was help out friends and associated artists by giving them a proper representation and support in Asia. Recenty Christian has collaborated with his friend Munbir from Wild City & Magnetic Fields Festival to start a new artist agency called Vital.
Shifting bases – jungle dwelling & its Influence on his music
As his wife was from Malaysia, he had to make a very drastic move. “I just followed my heart… I had pretty much no money in my pocket and a one way ticket (…to Kuala Lumpur)” Within a year they moved to ‘the Dusun’ – a tiny Jungle Resort owned by his wife’s family. He built a studio there to tap into the sounds of the rainforest. “..the jungle never shuts up” he says. An example of these influences making its way into his music can be heard in his EP ‘diversions 01’
diversions 01 by CEE, released 18 August 2016 1. Pilunja feat Najwa Mahiaddin & reesh9000 2. Every Day feat Vandetta 3. Night Falls feat Sound Traveler 4.
Recent Music Collaborations
Christian met a talented Kuala Lumpur based Dj/multi-instrumentalist Darren Ashley, soon after a gig where he watched Darren perform. Within a short time, the duo decided to write music together under the name Bass Sekolah meaning ‘School of Bass’. The name interestingly is a play on words on the Malay term ‘Bas Sekolah’ which means School Bus. The Project lasted for two years and was quite a fruitful run for the Duo in Malaysia with hits like ‘The Lighthouse’. The music can be described as a tapestry of intense yet minimal percussive sounds bouncing off bass and melodic elements on top of which Darren’s vocals ride seamlessly.
Soundlab – 10 artists, 14 countries, 10 days
Christian has been part of orchestrating Soundlab – a one of a kind musical initiative, featuring 14 artists from 11 countries across South East Asia, Australia & Europe, collaborating in the heart of the tropical jungle. The sessions took place across 10 days in the Dusun, which Christian helped manage. This was a joint effort by Goethe-Institut, Detour Asia, Border Movement, Ableton and Red Bull Music Academy coming through in full support. He calls the whole experience “a dream come true”, with a multicultural blend of artists making music using a number of analog and digital gears at their disposal along with a live instruments. All this with the jungle at the backdrop playing a myriad of sounds permeating through the recordings. They turned the whole experience into a compilation as well as a documentary.
On India & the indie music scene
Given his trips to India so far on various occasions, Christian leaves no exception in expressing love for the country. He feels the creativity comes alive in the food, people, arts and culture. The Indie music scene here embodies these aspects and while things have not been easy, he feels the community is only getting stronger.
Brand Specialist for Ableton
Given his long-running association with Ableton, Christian always wanted to work for the music technology giant. He feels fortunate for the recent opportunity at their Tokyo office as a Brand Specialist. He mainly works towards community building and education projects in the Asia – Pacific. He’s also been busy with the Ableton University Tour which provides music technology exposure to schools through Ableton Certified Trainers.
We had the opportunity to catch up with him during the Ableton Live 10 Launch tour we co-organised for Bangalore, and again during his recent visit towards community building. “India is always on my radar and I am looking forward to more inspiring projects. I am sure we will see each other very soon again”.