Berlin-Based DJ/Producer Cinthie has undeniable underground credentials. As the label owner of the always on-point 803 Crystal Grooves, its sub-label Collective Cuts, plus the renowned record store Elevate, she has become of the most respected figures in contemporary House music. A longstanding fan of the genre – with a particular love for all things 90s underground House – her recent productions have been played non-stop here at Toolroom HQ.
We were delighted to get the chance to speak to Cinthie about her journey as a producer, her route into the industry, and her role as the owner of a busy and successful independent record store.
Cinthie, thanks so much for taking time to do an interview with us today! Firstly, how are you, and where in the world are you right now?
Thanks so much for having me. I’m doing great, and I’m currently at home in Berlin.
Talk to us about your incredible studio! What’s your favourite piece of hardware you own?
My studio is my little playground where I spent most of my time during lockdown. I used to work for Ableton and still use the software to record or for remixes. For my own material I use mostly hardware and my favourite piece is my 909. I love drum machines but the 909 I know inside out, and it’s always so easy so slam a quick drum loop over an idea (or under ?!)
How long have you spent building and creating this studio space?
When I started producing around 21 years ago I always dreamed about a studio like I have now but I never thought I would ever have something like this.
As I said before, I used to work for Ableton and was doing everything with my computer but felt like I needed to move forward or do something different. After visiting some friends like Cab Drivers or Leo Pol in their studio, I found it easier to jam with maschines and decided to slowly build my own hardware studio.
I found a nice new room and got it planned by one of my friends who builds studios for artists etc as his daily job. I built a lot of the bassabsorbers myself but the rest was a bit too advanced for me and my friend built them for me. Just when I finished building the room like 4/5 years ago, my old landlord told me they were gonna knock down the building. Well thank you, I said and I was obviously super angry but luckily I found the exact same room (thanks to the GDR government who only made 5 different types of buildings ) and moved all my stuff back in.
One of my best friends is an absolute studio pro and he also does all the content for Electronic Beats and has a long history in building studios, he has helped me to wire everything. Thank god… because there are way too many options to wire the stuff and get everything in sync.
My new studio exists for almost 2 years now and I’m not planning to move anytime soon!
Do you prefer to produce tracks mostly out of the box?
Yes I prefer to produce them out of the box. Only remixes I do half and half or fully with the computer. I’m also a big fan of the Arturia collection, especially when I’m travelling and want to make music.
We’ve had your debut album ‘Skylines – City Lights’ on repeat at Toolroom HQ! What were some of your inspirations and influences behind the album? How long did the album take to create? Why did you feel like the now is right time to release it?
It took me over two years to create it.
I always wanted to release and album but never thought I would get to the point where I would be able to release one. I stockpiled a lot of trax and then took the best ones imho to put on the album. My album is pretty much a collection of all my influences of Djing for more than 20 years. There is some Chicago house, some UK Garage, a Disco House tune, some breaks, some new disco stuff etc etc.
Last year I thought it was the right time to release it because it felt right. Unfortunately Covid cancelled my album tour but still it feels like people took more time to listen to music carefully and buy more records… So besides all the mess it was still the right time.
What’s your approach to making music? Do you plan it, or let ideas flow in the studio?
I always go to the studio with a plan or an idea and then see where it takes me. But sometimes I also only fiddle around with my gear. For example: I find a nice tutorial and learn something new and record a few sketches and then I make something out of it. I always like to know how things work and from time to time it s important to sit down with only one piece of gear and try to learn in inside out.
Talk to us about Elevate in Berlin, your very own record store. What does running the store entail day to day?
Elevate is the place where I spent second most of my time during lockdown.
Luckily the store is right next door from where I live. First I thought I had to close it down cause I wasn’t sure if people would still buy records but as I said before, people are listening to music more carefully and since I had more time to take care of the shop and buying new records etc, the store is getting stronger and better and gave me the opportunity to share music with people in a different way.
We have a very, very good following on our Elevate instagram page where we always share the snippets of new releases and people love it. At the moment I’m mostly wrapping up orders everyday, but I just found some nice help for that and I can again concentrate more on digging and buying new stuff.
There’s truly something so special about buying a record and there must be a real sense of community in the store, brining music lovers together in the area, what’s the atmosphere like in there?
Oh yes, the atmosphere is really really good at the store! Everyone is super friendly and nice. I saw a lot of friendships starting there which makes me really happy. Also there are more and more girls coming and buying music.
The community is fantastic and I have a lot of frequent buyers. The shop itself looks a bit like my living room, it s very cozy, a bit chaotic but It has a lot of charm I believe.
Have you ever had any parties in the store, or do you plan on doing any?
Yes I did have some parties in there, mostly for the shops and my birthday which always takes place end of July. I also build a second floor in the cellar with access through the front room where I offer selected second hand stuff and it almost looks like a small room in a club. I will definitely throw some parties in there once it s allowed again. Next week we start slowly with a little outdoor happening with some free drinks.
What’s the best thing about running a record shop?
To buy all the records you want, get the first and even pay a reduced price hahah
Why do you think record stores are important?
Record stores are really, really, really important. You meet likeminded people, or real people in general. In times where everything seems to happen online, I think it’s nice to keep places like this because you learn how to interact with people. Also with those you might not be on the same wavelength with – You can talk about music and create friendships or nice business connections happen. Like artist meets a label owner and releases some music on the label.
What were / are some of your favourite shops to buy records in Berlin?
There are a lot of nice places. It really depens what kind of music you are looking for, but I personally digged a lot at Spacehall, Blackround12, Mitte Music etc
What was the first record you ever bought?
I’m not 100% sure anymore but it was definitely and old Touche record from 1994. Must have been a 51 days release (by Dobre and Ramez) or a Tata Box Inhibitors.
What era of music excites you the most and why?
I still like the 90’s mostly cause the stuff is so authentic, raw, full of energy and vibes – it reminds me of my younger self starting to go out.
What makes Berlin so special for you?
Berlin has always been special because of the history, the war and the fall of the wall and its abandoned houses. It has been such a big playground for us in the 90’s… And until now it sill is very special because you can be who you wanna be. It’s very open and loyal here.
What advice would you give budding DJs and producers?
Give yourself a bit of time to craft your skills rather than rushing into a quick career you might regret after. The faster the way up the faster the way down.
And lastly, what is the rest of 2021 look like for you?
It’s looking super duper mega nice. Just started to play my first small gigs again, shop is going phenomenally well, I got lots of remix work to do at the studio, I will release a lot of my own tracks on some of my favourite labels etc. I think I’ll stay busy for the rest of the year. Let’s see if I can convince my workaholic inner self to at least take a week off for some holidays.