Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
What jam sessions are to musicians, CDR is for beat makers. It’s where producers of various styles and genres go to interact with other music makers, develop their sonic skills, make connections and boost their artistic confidence. Started by producer and DJ Tony Nwachukwu of Attica Blues fame, the bi-monthly Sunday session in East London’s Plastic People has been used as a launch pad by music talent for over 10 years.
CDR London invites producers to submit their unfinished tracks to have them played on Plastic People’s state-of-the-art soundsystem, enabling them to assess their own works-in-progress and gauge audience reactions. This has proved useful for many well-known talents. Early in their careers, SBTRKT, Floating Points and Maya Jane Coles have used the intimate CDR sessions to help shape their productions and extend their network before launching their careers on the international stage. Renowned tracks as Bullion’s Get Familiar and Simbad’s Soul Fever were tested out at CDR long before they were released. CDR is also a place for music makers to form collaborations; it was on the dark dance floor of Plastic People that the co-founders of record labels Eglo Records and Don’t Be Afraid first met and forged creative partnerships.
In recent years, the CDR ethos has gone global, including a one-off event in Tel Aviv and a tour in India. Since 2011, CDR Copenhagen and Berlin have also been hosting bi-monthly events; CDR Berlin, in particular, regularly features lectures and workshops with established names as Dixon, Thomas Fehlmann, and Brandt Brauer Frick.
Modeselektor at CDR Berlin
CDR’s latest and most exciting project to date is with Croatia’s Dimensions Festival, giving producers a chance to release their tracks on a compilation, get their hands on festival tickets, and land a gig at the Dimensions-CDR boat party this September.
I caught up with CDR’s founder Tony Nwachukwu, to find out more about the philosophy behind CDR and its innovative projects.
How did you first come up with the idea of CDR?
I came up with the concept for CDR (Create, Define, Release) in 2002. I was DJing at a warehouse party in Old Street, in the middle of a “you’re gonna hear these no matter what” selection. The tracks I played were in varying states of completion, but I still managed to hold the dance floor. It dawned on me that I was the only one who knew each track’s level of completion. And I thought it would be interesting to explore an event where everyone could listen to each other’s uncompleted tracks. My idea was to create a platform where the focus is on music ideas in development. This has spawned into a framework that includes Archive (a DJ set of tracks submitted at previous sessions); Open CDR submissions on or before a specific session; and Works and Inspirations (DJ sets or performances by producers and labels).
“At CDR I hope to create experiences that develop a mindset amongst music producers that promotes innovation and risk-taking. It’s about taking one’s craft to the next level – away from playlists and hype.” – Tony Nwachukwu
What is it that you are trying to achieve with CDR?
At CDR I hope to create experiences that develop a mindset and culture amongst music producers, creatives, artists and fans that promotes innovation and risk-taking. It’s about the pursuit of taking one’s craft to the next level – away from playlists, charts and social media hype. We want to carry and encourage these ways of being through key stages in music making – create, define and release.
What would you tell people to expect from a CDR night?
CDR is a venture that can help producers define who they are amongst like minds, striving to take their music production and listening to the next level.
For people who don’t make music, it’s an exciting place to hear quality tracks “in the making” in their early stages of development, long before they are officially released.
And CDR is free. There’s no charge on the door when you come to a CDR session. This is possible only because of, and thanks to, a commitment of like-minded partners and venues.
How did CDR Berlin & CDR Copenhagen come about?
Both of these sessions came about after discussions with friends living and working in those cities and a mutual desire to extend the reach and embed the ethos beyond the UK confines. Over the years we’ve produced one-off sessions across Europe and projects in the past, including the Freeness and a CDR residency in the East Midlands. But there is something really special about working with like minds, armed with knowledge of old, but exploring new pastures.
The Berlin sessions have been particularly exciting to see grow. On the CDR website we have a collection of videos of talks with different artists. Danke to Theo Parrish, Henrik Schwarz, A Guy Called Gerald and all the guests who’ve attended!
You’ve seen and heard a number of producers and their works come through CDR over the last 10 years. How do you feel the musical landscape changed?
The landscape has indeed changed, a lot of which has been documented extensively. Significant changes are more social than musical – the access and role music plays in people’s lives, how music is more commodified than ever. Styles, tempos and such have always varied. Cycles and trends come and go – quality, creativity and innovation rise to the top. At CDR, people have always focused on the latter.
“Cycles and trends come and go – quality, creativity and innovation rise to the top. At CDR, people have always focused on the latter.” – Tony Nwachukwu
What’s in store for CDR in the near future?
We have plenty in the works – two notable mentions are the roll out of more CDR sessions in different cities across the country. Also, our Tod Dockstader remix project is in its release stage. (Many thanks to Dummy for its part in spreading the word.) We’ve chosen our favourite submissions and we will soon be releasing a digital album and vinyl EP featuring the best re-interpretations.
We’re also continuing our bi-weekly show on NTS Radio playing a selection of music heard and developing at CDR sessions, and then some. Just keep monitoring the CDR online channels for updates. There’s always new projects and collaborations emerging!
Can you talk a bit about the new project with Dimensions Festival?
Sure! We have the pleasure of working with Dimensions Festival this year hosting production workshops and a CDR session and boat party. We are also working on Dimension Sounds – Soundtrack to the Festival 2013. The project invites producers to create a track to a specific theme outlined in our brief. Our favourite 14 will be released on a digital & vinyl compilation album via Bleep. We also have some goodies up for grabs including a couple of tickets to the festival and a bunch of hardware and software! The track that stands out most will get the producer two tickets to Dimensions Festival and a DJ set or live performance on the CDR boat party.
What piece of advice would you give to a producer who is just starting a career in music making and is still finding their sound?
It’s a fantastic journey of self-indulgence stacked with creative, financial and emotional highs and subs, so learn to listen whilst focusing on crafting your sound, relationships and networks.