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Internationally celebrated DJ and Producer Karsten Sollors on getting his start and early inspiration..

There’s a rich and scared history shared between gay folks and House music. When we were forced to go and party underground, it was the music that kept us dancing and gyrating to a deep bassline. One mixer who truly represents what House music is all about is Chicago-dweller and Sound-Bar resident Karsten Sollors. He’s firmly established himself as one of the city’s premier players, committing himself to the throbbing sounds that found their roots in the windy city. At the end of this month, he’s landing with an exclusive set at fresh new Sunday rave club X-MN, which is taking over infamous East London party place E1 London on the 28th of March. A few days before he flies over, we caught up with him to get the low-down on his life, his music and what we can expect from is upcoming set.

Growing up in Canada, when did creating music come into your life?

I started DJing when I was 14 years old after going to my first rave back in ’98. I bought a basic set up with 2 technics 1200s and mixer and started collecting records and playing in my bedroom. I never consider it to be a career choice for myself at that time I just did it because it gave me so much pleasure. I loved sharing music with my friends, playing house parties and small gigs around where I lived. It wasn’t until later in my life that I was randomly asked to DJ with a friend (Skylar Love) at a place called 1181 in Vancouver Canada where the career of it really kicked off. That one night completely changed the course of my life.  The owner at the time (Jenn Mickey) asked me to come back to play again as soon as they had an opening and within a month or so offered me a full-time residency; which lead to more and more gigs and kind of snowballed from there.

Who were the early influences that convinced you that music was what you wanted to do?

Early on I was heavily influenced by people like Frankie Knuckles, David Morales, Pete Tong, Craig David, Judge Jules, Roger Sanchez, Gene Farris, Joey Beltram, DJ Icey, Krafty Kutz, Frankie Bones, Aphrodite, Superchumbo, DJ Hype and so many more. Genres across the board from Drum n Bass, Breaks, Hard House, Uk Garage, House and techno. I actually started DJing with Breaks and Drum n Bass and progressively moved over to the broad genre of House when I started DJ and producing as a profession. 

When did you land in Chicago? What inspired the move?

I moved to Chicago 5 years ago and, to be honest, I didn’t know much about the city apart from its rich history of electronic music and really music in general.  I have great respect for Chicago. Fate brought me here as I met my husband Brian who’s lived here all his life,  initially I moved here to be with him not really knowing how important it was going to end up being career-wise as well. 

Chicago is widely-held as the birthplace of House music. What is it about House music and its history that you found so appealing?

As a creative, I’m deeply inspired by my surroundings. Chicago is a special place that is full of history and talent. Being able to surround myself with that has really brought out the best in me. I’m constantly striving to learn, and grow and evolve; I’ve just been so fortunate with the friends and colleagues that I have made here who so graciously welcomed me into the Chicago underground. House music has always been with me since I was a young raver, I feel like electronic music in general really saved me when I was growing up.  It was, and raves were, a sanctuary for me at a time in my development that was quite difficult. At any given party I’m playing I’m actively trying to create pure moments of joy and shift vibrations to the highest possible frequency.

X-MNWhat’s your process of getting a set together for a club night?

Every Friday is typically when all my favourite labels send out their new releases,  so firstly I start with music hunting and shopping. I do this every week and typically bring in anywhere from 15-30 new tracks. I never plan any sets, I actually never even know what track I will start with until I’m in the DJ booth and queuing up. I like to get to the party a little early and go onto the dance floor and feel the vibe of the crowd, get a sense of where they are at, this helps me intuitively start selecting. It’s all freestyle and on the fly, I really never know what is going to happen and that keeps things very exciting.

Gays love their House music. Do you feel a difference in attitude when playing for an LGBT+ crowd?

We sure do yes! House music started and was created in the LGBTQ+ community, so I believe we are all naturally connected to it and its history. House music is a universal language and that brings people together. There is definitely a certain type of freedom that comes within an all LGBTQ+ crowd that is like no other when we are letting loose with each other and expressing ourselves to the fullest, there is magic.  It is magic!

You’re coming to London for X-MN at the end of this month. What do you think of London?

I am and I’m thrilled to be part of what the X-MN party is striving to do with the ethos behind their brand. This will actually be my first time playing in London and I couldn’t be happier that I’m working with this amazing team of likeminded individuals to bring London this special new party. I love London and have been many times, I even have a monthly radio show based out of London on Data Transmission called ’Sollors Systems’ the 4th Thursday of every month at midnight. In previous years I also had a show on the LGBTQ+ run London based ‘This Is Electric’. It is actually one of my favourite cities in the world and for good reason – it’s one of the best!

Us Brits have a reputation for being quite uptight. Think your set will be able to loosen us up a little?

I mean, I can’t speak to that as I have never really experienced that uptightness. I’ve been so openly received on every visit. When I’m DJing I truly love what I am doing, I dance and I move around a lot, and I like to engage with the dancers and the crowd. I hope by me letting loose up there gives anyone who’s feeling uptight permission to let loose themselves cause, after all, that’s really what this is all about.

Lastly, what can folks expect from your special set at X-MN?

The X-MN ethos is really about uplifting the spirit of the community and bringing the best vibes, and that’s what I plan on doing. Firstly I have a lot of unreleased originals of my own that I’m excited to share in which nobody has really heard yet. I also have a few that I’m finishing up at the moment and will debut at the party. I like to harness the old school and bring it with a modern twist, which I find has been consistent with people’s feedback to me over the years after hearing me play. Apart from this, expect music that will make us come together on a Sunday afternoon dance, smile and sweat. Thank you so much for having me, I absolutely can’t wait to see everyone!

 X-MN at E1 London, Wapping E1W 2BB on Sunday 28th March has since been cancelled due to the pandemic. 



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