The chips were in when Irish DJ, Cromby, real name Chris McCormick, decided to relocate to Berlin in order to carve out a name for himself. Four years later, after early performances at clubs like Chalet and Renate, through organising his own parties and advancing to regular at Berghain’s Panorama Bar, the gamble has well and truly paid off. Though, rather than good fortune, his success can be put down to artistry, perseverance and a raw party-spirit, which combined with his knack for tune selection results in throbbing, foot-blistering sets. With influences from techno, house and electro, Cromby has also demonstrated great prowess as a producer, releasing a string of highly rated, bass-driven EPs on talent-cultivating labels such as Sulta Selects Silver Service, Feel My Bicep and Unknown To The Unknown. Ahead of the Belfast-born producer’s February 29 set at Panorama Bar, his fifth appearance since his debut in 2015, we caught up with Cromby to learn about his inspirations and last year’s legendary Berghain performance that outshone the main room.
What’s the biggest difference living in Berlin versus London?
Trying to be creative in London is crippling. Working all the time to afford your rent, travelling two hours to get to and from work, being priced out of a studio. It’s been a long old grind getting here, but the last year or two I’ve been able to do music full time.
A lot of Irish DJs are making it Berlin right now. Why do you think so many gravitate towards the city?
In Northern Ireland there is a history of oppression. Even though it was more the generation before, I think something psychological stems from that. Here, you’re allowed to break out of that mindset and there are a lot more opportunities night-life-wise, which is a big, big draw. Back home, night life is being stifled. Venues are being shut down all over the place. It’s a race against the bar closing to get smashed. Whereas here it’s a bit more chill. The scene is respected so people show respect to each other.
You once organised and played at a party called Waffles at Griessmuehle with fellow Irish DJs Sally C and Brame & Hamo. How do you feel about the venue closing down?
It’s always really fun organising your own parties. We just treated it like a house party. A load of mates, all day Sunday, having fun. That’s the right ethos for me. Griessmuehle had its own unique vibe, especially at Cocktail d’Amore. That had some charm. It’s a really big shame that investors are squeezing out places like that, but hopefully it gives a bit of room for something new to pop up.
Do you feel a responsibility to help protect the scene that has embraced you so much?
Yeah of course, it’s up to everyone to do their bit. Individually we’re not much, but collectively, as a force, we can make a difference by putting pressure on the government and local councils especially. There needs to be systems in place to protect the culture.
You like to enjoy yourself on both sides of the turntables. Do you find inspiration when you go out partying?
There are so many great artists all over the city, it’s hard to go out and not get inspired. Sometimes I hear new stuff, but obviously you’re hardly gonna be sitting there on Shazam (laughs). But it’s nice to be influenced by new sounds and then use that creatively.
I read that you prefer using hardware over digital when producing. Is that still the case?
I’ve kind of switched it up a little bit. I used to use an MPC to sequence all my synthesisers, record it, arrange and mix down. But more recently I’ve changed it up. Ableton is the main brain now, giving me a hybrid best of both worlds; analogue equipment with modern day flexibility. It speeds up the whole process.
Do you think about the kind of sound you want before you start jamming?
I go in with a blank canvas. Whenever I have it in my head that I want to make a track like this or that, it turns out shite. So I try and just let it flow. If it’s happening, it’s happening really quick and I can get the basis of track down in an hour or two.
What influenced you musically in the beginning?
I got the bug early on and would listen to trance and some cheesier house stuff. From the age of sixteen I started going to Shine regularly, climbing through windows and cutting in fire escapes. Getting in by any means possible! (laughs) It was a good education. I got to listen to a little bit of everything, seeing the likes of Dave Clarke and Lau influenced me a lot. Even the residents in Belfast like Timmy Stuart. It changed my world big time.
You’re a regular at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and a highly anticipated name on the bill wherever you go. Tell me about how you got here.
When I was younger, I used to watch YouTube videos of people playing the big clubs around Europe. I thought, fuck yeah, I wouldn’t mind doing that some day. I binned off school when I was 17 or 18 and decided I was going to be a DJ. So, when I got to play in places like Robert Johnson in Frankfurt it was amazing. The sound system is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. It’s magical when the sun comes up in the morning through the doors on either side of the DJ booth. There were a few ups and downs along the way. When I first moved to London, in the beginning, I was like, this is fucking tough. There’s no money to go out, so I wasn’t meeting anyone. But I made sure I stuck to the plan, because I knew what I wanted to do. I played a lot in an abandoned pawn shop, where you just turned up with a bag of records, waited for your turn to get on and then played for as long as you wanted. After that I played pretty often at the London Loft Party underground events. I was still collecting records and making some stuff, but I wasn’t fully devoting my time to music. It was more working round the clock, just trying to survive. That was the tipping point for making the move to Berlin.
Your set at Panorama Bar in September will go down in the club’s history. Tell us about that one.
It’s quite a free environment and people are very clued into their music. If you play for a long time, you can really stretch your wings and take people on a wee journey. I got to around 8am, the normal closing time for Panorama Bar and it was still really busy. They asked me if I would keep on playing until around 1.30pm because they wanted to close Berghain. I was a bit shocked, because It doesn’t happen often (Berghain closing before Panorama Bar). I had already played my whole set and brought it right down by this point, but I knew everyone would be coming up from the Berghain. I thought, fuck it, let’s go harder and try and keep everyone in there. Next thing you know, it was like peak time, midday Sunday again. The atmosphere was proper electric. I could feel a surge of energy running through me.
DJ Cromby | Panorama Bar, Berghain. Feb 29.