To a less than ardent follower of the scene, it may seem like Denmark’s Noir — or René Kristensen, as his wife calls him — burst through to the big-time overnight. But that’s far from the truth, because his varied discography dates back to 2005, two years before he started his label, Noir Music. Now, six years on from that, said label’s back catalogue is quite literally bulging in every direction, with more than 50 EPs, compilations and 12”s released since inauguration.
Though it was motoring along nicely for the first few years, a few things transpired in 2011 that were to start both label and boss on a brand new and much grander trajectory. “It’s been one big journey, but I think up until 2011 I was depending too much on other companies to help me with label distribution and marketing,” René remembers. “But then I took over everything. I learnt to do it all myself and at the same time I started doing my podcast, Noir Recommends, and was finishing up ‘Around’ ready for release.”
What that meant was that Noir was no longer in the hands of other people — he could release what he wanted, when he wanted, and as often as he wanted. The man, basically, is a workaholic, and since then has continued to release a steady stream of club-ready house — both digitally and on vinyl — that dips into everything from disco to pop, garage to tech, and has given a leg-up to some now well-known names including Finnebassen, Hot Since 82 and Nice7.
Driven purely by the music that excites him rather than out of any desire to nurture a family ethos at the label, Noir Music is a stylistically ever-evolving outlet. “It’s very simple; I don’t have any big secrets,” he says. “When I get demos and promos, I put them on shuffle on my iPod and go for a run or to the gym. I can’t see the titles; I can only hear the music with my ears, so sometimes I get really surprised by great demos. I try not to be blinded by names, remixes, labels, and just use my ears. As you can see, I have released a lot of new talent and built some great names, and I’m very happy with that.“
Of course, one of the biggest releases on the label — and in fact one of the biggest releases of recent years — was the aforementioned ‘Around’ track, produced with cohort Haze. But alas, as you will well know if you’ve been to just about any party in Ibiza in the last couple of years, it was a certain Solomun remix that did most damage. Might that be a sore point for the original creators?
“The original version of 'Around' had lots of layers and was a full journey, something you can listen to for years to come,” Noir tells DJ Mag. “I wanted Solomon to do something simple so it was better for the club. I could instantly hear that he would make a great remix of it, so I asked him to strip it down and do something really simple. I’m really happy about it because I am the label owner behind the track; I'm the A&R, so it was my decision to ask Solomon to do the remix. So for me that is as big a satisfaction as anything.”
Far from cashing in on said track’s success and churning out endless soundalikes in its wake, though, Noir moved on quickly. “Last summer, Noir Music was very popular because the place I was in with releases from Finebassen, Hot Since 82, Nice 7 — people really seemed to be into all that. But my ears are very impatient; I get tired of one style very quickly. So I am already moving on from that because soon enough people have had enough.
Right now, the deep house tracks that sound like slowed-down electro with pitched-down vocals from hip-hop or r&b are beginning to be a big turn-off for me. There was so much last year it was overkill, so even though Noir had some popular releases carrying that sound, I don’t sign tracks just because they are popular — I just sign what I like.”
It’s that approach that Noir has taken with his entry into Defected’s long-running and much-lauded 'In The House' compilation series. His two-disc effort, out now, is a wide-ranging affair that takes in the diverse offerings of Nina Kraviz, Disclosure, dOP and Maya Jane Coles with grace and coherence. More than once there are three tracks playing at once, testament to the fact that 37-year-old Noir was a DJ long before he began producing.
It all started for him, like it did with many, through the mixtapes of a friend’s older brother, where the sounds of Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa urged a young Noir to start buying records even before he owned a deck. Then came the UK’s acid house revolution. “That’s my first memory of really feeling this stuff,” he remembers of the 303 squelches he was hearing through the radio from British stations.
It was enough to kick-start the youths of the day into starting their own parties in Denmark, and from that point on Noir has forever had his head in electronic music.
“I’ve known Simon [Dunmore, Defected chief] for ages. We had been talking for years but when I did ‘Around’, him and his people started approaching me to get it licensed to their label. I was very protective in the beginning but after several meetings and a fair contract that left me in charge, I agreed to let them re-release it. Then, as soon as they asked me to do this compilation I said yes because I really like the brand, and many great people have done it in the past.”
Reporting that there were no restrictions or prescriptions placed on him when recording the mix, Noir also describes himself as “very spontaneous” when on the decks, both at home and in the club.
“I let the crowd inspire me,” he says. “It’s the same when I do any mixtapes or my Noir Recommends podcast. I just started with a couple of tracks I really liked and had no real plan after that, I just started mixing! Soon I realised I was playing my favourites rather than obvious hits or secret exclusives, just keeping it nice and deep.”
It’s an approach that has worked and ensures the mix will stand the test of time, as well as being one of the reasons DJ Mag have lined him up to play our Winter Music Conference party at the Delano Hotel in Miami. Incredibly, it will be the first time he has played Stateside for a number of years owing to protracted visa issues. He did land there two years ago, but after long interviews at Chicago customs he was sent back to whence he came with tail between legs. “They got really hillbilly on me,” he recalls. “I was there for five hours before two men with guns escorted me back on to the plane. They even gave my passport to the stewardess and said, ‘Don’t let him have this until he lands’. It was terrible.”
Reports are good for the visa this time, though, and Noir is already looking ahead to the gig. “I will play the set I feel will fit the club,” he says. “Sometimes it’s all underground and new, sometimes it’s all classics, sometimes I play a mix of everything, it really depends. During longer sets I like to do all of that and really explore.”
One thing to note for Noir fans is that he is not averse to requests. “When people come up with a phone asking me to play something, I like it,” he says, somewhat unusually for a DJ. “It’s good that they are fans, and sometimes the suggestions I get are actually good ones for that time!”
As for the future, you won’t be surprised to hear that there is much on the horizon for Noir, on top of his gruelling and ongoing touring schedule and regular Noir Recommends podcast. As well as a new remix of a DJ Sneak and Riva Starr track due to land during WMC (“like with all remixes, I’ve taken the original’s vocal and basically written new music for the rest of it”), there are more brand new names soon to arrive on the label, including a chap named Forest with a soon to be released track, ‘Marlon Brando’.
“I wrote him minute for minute, second for second, what I would put in and take out and how I would arrange it,” he outlines. “That’s how I am with music – I’m a perfectionist. Even when my artists release for other labels, they send me music to see what I think and get my advice.”
Further proof, then, that Noir is not only a workaholic, but also a perfectionist.
Noir's Top Time-Killing Tools
“When you travel almost every weekend, and sometimes for a long period of time between gigs around the globe, then you quickly find out that you need something to kill time with.”
Games: “When travelling, I have found myself spending a lot of time on very simple games. And when I say simple, I mean simple — games like Tetris, Flow Free, Unblock Me, Sudoku and BubbleXplode.”
Reading: “I recently read and learned a lot about mastering and which tools to use to improve my sound. I think every producer evolves over the years and you are only as good as your last record, so I try to get better all the time by reading magazines like Future Music, MusicTech etc.”
TV Series: “Nothing better than following a TV series — you almost can’t wait to get on the next flight, just to see what happens next. I have killed a lot of time with Fringe, Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad and in 2013 I plan to catch up on Madmen, The Wire, Arrested Development.”
Music: “While travelling, I catch up on the artist albums I don’t really have time to dive into during the weekdays. Right now I can’t wait to get new albums from Depeche Mode, David Bowie and Suede. Lately I have been enjoying albums from Burial, Bat For Lashes, Jessie Ware and Frank Ocean.”