Exclusive interview with DJ/Producer The Checkup

Berlin-based The Checkup is synonymous with energetic house sounds of old and new, maintaining a soulful outlook and positive storytelling in his DJ sets, both of which he has received global acknowledgment for. While traveling around the world, he finds himself on a never-ending search for rare 90s house records to uncover gems of the past. The last few years were notably the finest year to date as he toured South America multiple times, in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica. He is also a regular of European hotspots like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, and Tbilisi, and is a very established figure in Berlin where he plays Sisyphos, Watergate, About Blank, and Wilde Renate to name a few. His dynamic US house-influenced sound has also seen him showcase his music on legendary labels such as Snatch!, Nervous Records, Large Music, Madhouse, Toy Tonics, Meta, and Twirl to name a few. The Checkup continues to propel stellar sounds on his own Heattraxx for the last 10 years, a project which has seen him sign the likes of Riva Starr, K’Alexi Shelby, Dam Swindle, Demuir, Manda Moor, Ale Castro, Demarkus Lewis, Lolu Menayed, Dj Merci, Nat Wendelli to name a few. On a day-to-day basis, he holds down the fort at Beatport as the Vice President of Global Curation and the House curator, a nod of approval for his impeccable taste within the genre and closely related vibes. It is no surprise that in recent years The Checkup has received love and support from some of the most inspiring artists within the scene time and time again.

Thanks for joining us here at Haus Mag The Checkup, we’ve been enjoying your new collaborative EP with DJ Merci and Mona Lee on Kerri Chandler’s Kaoz Theory. For those yet to hear it could you tell us a little about this project, how it sounds, when and where it was made?

Thanks a lot for having me and creating this interview. I am very happy to present it in collaboration with my producing partner on this project, the very talented DJ Merci as well as our incredible singer Mona Lee. I met Mona Lee in Amsterdam 2 years ago and we quickly realised we spoke the same language in terms of music and had the same taste and aspirations in our music careers. We mentioned we would make some music together one day. I mentioned it to DJ Merci and we decided to write some music with Mona Lee in mind for the vocals. After producing the tracks we invited her to the studio in Berlin and we recorded everything. She wrote the lyrics from scratch and recorded the vocals in record time. It was incredible, and an instant match. 

How was this made, what were some of the pieces of equipment used to produce the record? Are there any go to synths that you use regularly in your productions?

The instrumental groove was made on the MPC2000XL, and the Bass was on the Roland SH-101. The keys were made on the Nord Electro and everything was then arranged into Ableton. We then recorded Mona Lee on a little DIY setup as we were not super equipped to actually welcome in the singer (vocal booth urgently needed 😛 ). Usually the go-to synths in studio are the OB6, SH101, Juno106 and definitely using the MPC2000XL, MPC3000 and SP1200. We have been working a lot with these. Some great arturia and Korg VSTs are go-tos as well. 

What’s next on the agenda for The Checkup, any major tour dates planned, future releases or anything else notable you’d like to share for the foreseeable future? 

I’m super excited to play around Europe this summer, with clubs like Studio 338 in London, Barbarella’s in Croatia, Watergate in Berlin, La Terraza in Barcelona and Chinois in Ibiza for the Kaoz Theory night, to name a few. Some very exciting release plans with DJ Steaw’s House Puff (Collab with DJ Merci) and Darius Syrosian’s Moxy Musik (Collab with Ale Castro). I will also be releasing on my own Heattraxx later this year. 

Beyond this EP you’re also running the label Heattraxx, could you tell us a bit about this. The vibe of the label, what you’ve done with it over the years and where you see the future of it going?

I never thought I’d have a record label, and let alone celebrate its 10th year this year. It’s pretty crazy, with more than 60 releases already! The vibe of the label was very focused on deep house at the beginning but now I’m moving towards more energetic House music venturing in many different shades. I’ve been fortunate to work with incredible artists over the years and am very excited with the new releases incoming this year. I’ve been working with some legends of the game like K Alexi Shelby, Riva Starr, Jerome Sydenham, Robert Owens and it’s an honour they would trust me and my humble imprint. We are starting our Heattraxx Label Showcases and the first one will be at Watergate in Berlin in June, and it will definitely be a huge milestone for the label 🙂 We are planning to have 1 or 2 vinyls a year hopefully as well as continuing release once or twice a month digitally with the core Heattraxx artists. 

How did this collaboration with DJ Merci and Mona Lee come around, how did you connect with these artists and what about them drew you to make this collaborative release? 

I got super fortunate to meet DJ Merci through my good friend Ale Castro and it was in instant match. We’ve already release 3 EPs together and we are working on more than 12 new tracks that we created in the last month or so. We are on a roll, we really have a great synergy together and this is only the beginning. It’s really exciting to find someone with the same passion but most importantly, the INSANE work ethic and dedication to make music every second of every day. We are super stoked to have Mona Lee on the team too and we have actually another release coming together and definitely will keep doing things together. We all love House and we all complement each other very well, all bringing a nice angle and knowledge. Doing this in a team, like a family, keeps us even more motivated. 

You’re living In Berlin, a key hub for electronic music in the world. Can you offer some tips for people visiting, maybe some key clubs to check out, places to buy records, places to eat or anything else you’d recommend?

I would go to Sisyphos for the Wintergarten, or Heidegluhen, Watergate and obviously, the famous Panorama Bar. A club I’ve been really liking as well lately is Oxi, they are throwing amazing house parties and have a sick sound system! There are some great record stores too to visit like Elevate Records or Audio In and Oye Records to name a few. Food-wise, I’d definitely recommend some good Döner Kebabs, an absolute classic must 🙂 I usually cook at home so don’t go out to eat too much, but I regularly go to 1990 FD Vegan in Friedrishain. 

Can you share with us a hot tip for a favourite record of yours right now? 

I’d say any St. David or DJ Steaw records that came out recently are absolute must buys! 

And lastly a classic record you think everyone needs to hear? 

Steve Silk Hurley The World is Love. It never gets old and is an absolute banger. 

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