Christopher Norman has spent the last three years under the pseudo name “Retrobyte”, offering roles as singer, songwriter and producer.
During that time, Chris has had the rare opportunity of being protégé to Gabriel and Dresden and working with many other well established artists and labels.
This interview with the esteemed musician on music, life, and his recipe for success, marks the latest release on Curvve Recordings with his remix of Gareth Emery’s ‘More Than Anything.’
How did you come up with the name “Retrobyte”?
I hate to disappoint, but there’s really not a cool story to go along with it—it just popped in my head back when I was in high school and I let it stick.
I’m making the slow (and painful) transition back to my real name and I’m starting to wish I didn’t have an alias in the first place!
Were you involved in any music classes in high school?
I started doing piano when I was 6 or 7, and that led to playing in band in school.
I also went to an arts high school for two years and did piano there as well.
Who were your biggest musical influences?
Growing up I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson and Queen, and my parents both loved folkier stuff too.
In recent history some big influences have been Jamie Lidell, Basement Jaxx, Ozgur Can, Feist, Gabriel & Dresden (of course), Robyn’s new record is fantastic…just too many to list!
What was it like working with Gabriel and Dresden? Was there any one thing that you learned from them that you feel is most important?
Working with them was a dream come true.
I guess the most invaluable thing I’ve gotten from them is direction and knowledge in the industry—it’s really difficult to know if you’re going in the right direction, and they remain a great compass to this day.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out at producing?
As trite as it sounds, keep at it and don’t get frustrated if your productions don’t immediately sound like hits—it takes a while to get up to snuff.
And don’t let anybody tell you that you need a specific piece of kit or software—try things out and see what works for YOU, then go from there.
Do you experiment with different sounds?
A lot of people don’t know that dance music is actually a small part of what I do musically.
I play guitar, I sing, I write. I’ve been working on loads of non-dance stuff—now it’s just a matter of what I’m going to do with it!
I’ve actually been really getting into dubstep lately and have been trying my hand at that—it’s proven to be a pretty interesting learning experience.
I do use an 808 tom at LEAST once in every track though. See if you can find ‘em!
When you first heard “more than anything” was there anything in particular that excited you about the song?
When Gareth first came to me and asked me to take a listen, the very first thing I noticed was the vocal—I’m a sucker for a good, catchy male vocal.
His material is also always incredibly well-produced, so that got my attention off the bat as well.
How did you originally envision yourself remixing it? Did you have a particular sound in mind? Or does it just come as go?
As anyone who has been in my studio in the past year knows, this song took me AGES to remix.
I tried every single genre and went through my entire bag of tricks and nothing clicked.
I must have gone through at least 10 different versions before I got to one that actually worked.
This is probably the longest I’ve ever spent on a remix.
From when I got the remix pack to when I turned it in, it was probably about eight months.
Is there anything that you feel sets this remix apart from your other productions?
This is definitely on the progressive / trance side of the tracks on my resume—usually I try to avoid that word and style like the plague but this one needed to be a bit more anthem-ish.
It kind of brought that out in me.
Which of your songs or remixes have given you the greatest satisfaction and why?
I did a remix of Jose Amnesia & Jennifer Rene’s song ‘Wouldn’t Change a Thing’ last year, that’s probably one of my favorite ones to date.
I put a lot of love into that mix—did backup vocals and played guitar and everything—and it’s one of the few productions I’ve done that I (for lack of a better term) just wouldn’t change a thing on.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Aside from music making, schooling, and the day job, I do a lot of cooking and baking.
I’d eventually like to start a home mail order business for my baked goods and write a cookbook.
What are you currently working on now? Any upcoming gigs or projects?
I’m actually finishing my degree in the fall, so until I graduate I’m just focusing on production and songwriting.
I’ll play a gig here and there, but no traveling or intense schedules.
I’m doing a lot of production work with my good friend and fellow DJ Anthony Attalla, and we have a lot of stuff filtering out in the next couple of months.
I have a few tricks up my sleeve, too, so stay tuned!
Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
My first original track (in over a year), ‘Otherside’ with Topher Jones, comes out July 14th on Black Hole.
We’ve got some great remixes on the project (Patrik Bjorkman’s beats the original, I think) so check them out when they come out.
I also just finished a cover of Martin Gore’s ‘Compulsion’ and posted it up for free download on my MySpace page: myspace.com/retrobyte