On the Trail with Christoph Andersson
It's not often you see a young hip-hop music producer in his twenties posting photos of Burgundy and Beaujolais on social media, but after realizing that Christoph Andersson loved French pinot noir (and loved getting it from K&L), I knew he was a guy I wanted to talk to. Starting out in New Orleans as a teen-aged DJ, Andersson was pegged early on by rising star and current Billboard chart-topping artist G-Eazy as a producer for an upcoming project. After the success they found together, Christoph is now living in Venice, working with the next generation of pop stars, building on the hip-hop foundation he's already created. While it's always fun to see someone precocious reach the top early on in their career, as a wine professional it's even more exciting to see someone of Christoph's age and standing making the case for Beaujolais. I caught up with him in LA recently and we talked about the matter.
David: I noticed on your Instagram page there are a few recent photos of you drinking Beaujolais. That's not a beverage I often see artists in their mid-20s touting on social media. How did you get into wine?
Christoph: I first got into wine in high school on a trip to Europe with my friends. I grew up in New Orleans which is a serious drinking town. We were drinking at a very early age so by the time I was eighteen I was pretty much over Coors Light. I went to Europe and I had my first glass of Grande Dame Champagne-I think it was the 2004 vintage-and it was kind of a holy shit moment. Wine was serious! Wine could taste so special and so different from anything else I had ever had. So I got into Champagne before red wine really. The next summer I went back to Europe and was sitting at some tiny bistro in the middle of nowhere that I'd never be able to find again and we were with a family friend. He pulled out a bottle of Lapierre Morgon. I was so hyped on it. It was light and refreshing, but at the same time it had these mineral and herbaceous undertones. At the time I couldn't quite put my finger on why I liked it so much, but I've been obsessed with Beaujolais ever since.
David: That's a pretty serious wine to start with, so no wonder you got hooked! That's like the king of Beaujolais. Where did you go from there?
Christoph: I went through all the different crus and most of the major producers after that. And I started really diving into good Burgundy, which is still my passion today. In fact, just the other day I stopped in the middle of a vocal take with a singer so that I could put the winning bid on a bottle of 2001 Corton at the K&L wine auctions! I'm all over your website.
David: That's amazing to me considering your age. French wine has never seemed too stuffy or sophisticated to you? I was drinking jug wine in my early twenties.
Christoph: I've always hated the notion that the finer things in life have to be associated with old, stuffy people. I didn't want to have a shitty beer just because that's what was expected of me at twenty. I always want something that tastes really good. I was brought up in a German family where food and wine was a big part of our daily life, so I never understood the idea that drinking good wine meant you were also a pretentious asshole. You shouldn't have to feel like a snob because you spent more than twenty bucks for a bottle of wine. It's OK to care about what you're drinking.
David: What's interesting, however, is that—in my experience—people who tend to focus on the inner beauty of a wine, or the inherent qualities let's say, do so with such a ferocity that they often shun aesthetics in general. It's the philosophy that the liquid matters more than the bottle. What I love about you though is that you have a serious sense of fashion! Your publicity photos consist of both Burgundy bottles and stylish clothes. That's a rare find these days: people who are interested in both pop culture and Cru Beaujolais!
Christoph: (laughs) Yeah, it is a bit of a bizarre combination. But I've always liked things that look and taste good. I don't separate the two. I want to wear cool stuff, I don't want to look like I just walked out of L.L. Bean, but at the same time I like to geek out about fermentation and where wine grapes come from. I like to talk about food and eating well. All around the board, I like people who give a shit about what they do and that might mean music, or food, or clothes, or wine. I'm attracted to people who are passionate about what they do.
David: You're very passionate about music from what I can tell. You started as a DJ in New Orleans doing electronic music, but now you're becoming a serious player in the world of hip-hop production. How did that all come about?
Christoph: I grew up playing instruments. My parents bought me a guitar when I was nine months old. My entire family was musical. My grandfather was an opera conductor, my dad's a guitar player, so I grew up playing music and writing songs. When I got to high school I started making electronic music because that's what I was into at the time and was DJing and touring by myself for a while, but I really missed the collaborative process of writing a song, not just laying down a beat. During college I became good friends with a rap artist named G-Eazy, who back then wasn't nearly as famous as he is now.
David: That's all changed now. He's a pretty big deal these days! Where did you guys go to school?
Christoph: At Loyola University in New Orleans. At the time he knew I was getting frustrated with DJing and that I was interested in doing something else, so his manager reached out to me and said we're doing a two week tour, would I be interested in opening for G with a twenty minute DJ set? Of course, while we were on the road we'd be free to collaborate and try to put some new music together. G was still producing a lot of his own music at the time, but he was interested in doing something a bit darker, weirder, and edgier. So we did that little two week tour in a van together and that led to me going on tour with him for the next two years. The work we did during that time became his album These Things Happen which came out in the summer of 2014. But even before we'd turned in the masters of that album to the label we started working on demos for the new album When It's Dark Out, which just came out. So it's been kind of a crazy whirlwind.
David: Did you ever think becoming a hip-hop producer was in your future?
Christoph: I always wanted to move into working with different artists and producing different types of music, but this entire experience happened naturally. It wasn't intentional at all. It's opened a lot of doors for me now, that's for sure.
David: What's it like being on the road for two straight years?
Christoph: It's tough. You have to kinda acclimate to this dysfunctional daily schedule. You wake up at noon everyday in a tiny little bunk that you can't fully sit up in on a tour bus with ten other dudes and you don't what city you're in. You're most likely hungover because the only way you can fall asleep on a moving bus at 3 AM is by passing out. It's amazing at times. You see the country and the world in such a different perspective. I've been to just about every state at this point and seen all these cities and towns that I would have never visited otherwise. I treasure those memories, but after a while it's exhausting.
David: It must be tough to maintain any sort of routine.
Christoph: Totally. You can't eat right, you can't sleep right. The thing I ended up missing the most was being able to cook a meal with my family and relax. There are times when you think to yourself: this is the best thing ever! But it can be like eating too much chocolate cake. The first few bites are amazing, but if you eat the whole thing you start to feel sick. You think: if I even have to look at another piece of cake I'm going to die! I try not to be on the road as much these days. I'm based out of Venice now which makes things easier.
David: What would you drink when you were on the road with the guys?
Christoph: Well, as you know my tastes were a bit different. The first thing I would do each morning was Google where the closest bakery, grocery, and wine stores in every town. When you're some place like Lawrence, Kansas, however, it can get a bit tough. I usually drank only wine and usually all red because there wasn't much space in the tiny fridge for whites. I'd have a stash in the back of all these Beaujolais and Burgundy bottles! Usually any time we would get to a city with a decent wine shop, I would stock up while I had the chance. The best bottle I can remember drinking on the road was a 2006 Clos St. Denis after a show driving somewhere in the midwest.
David: And you were able to find those wines while out on the road?
Christoph: Yeah, but you have to drink out of plastic glasses because when the bus shakes your expensive Riedel Sommelier glasses will roll off the table and shatter into a million pieces. It was a bit weird to drink Grand Cru Burgundy out of a plastic cup, but so be it.
David: That's high-low fashion, baby! There's something redeeming about doing that from time to time. It's like proof that you don't take yourself too seriously.
Christoph: It also allows you to focus completely on the beverage. You think: I don't care about the white table cloth, I don't care about the glass or the setting, it's about what's in my cup right here. That's the focus.
David: Now that you're not on road as much are you working on new projects?
Christoph: I'm working on a lot more pop stuff. Some younger, weirder stuff. I love hip-hop music, but I didn't grow up as hip-hop head. I sort of got thrown into this world, which—don't get me wrong—I absolutely love, but I also missed writing pop songs. I missed picking up a guitar and writing, not worrying about how loud the sub bass is-that kind of stuff.
David: Are you in demand now with the huge success of G-Eazy? Are managers calling for you to come work with their artists?
Christoph: Yes, but I also have a great management team and publishers who keep my calendar as full as possible, and who are always introducing me to new projects I might not have known about. I'm also working on a solo project that I'm really excited about.
David: I read an interview you did a few years back where you cited Tears for Fears and other 80s new wave, new romantic pop acts as your biggest influences. It really warms my heart when kids who were born in the 90s discover a genuine love of that time period. Did that come from your parents?
Christoph: Oh my God, they're absolutely one of my favorite bands ever. Yes, it came from my parents. They brought me up on Tears for Fears, the Blue Nile, David Sylvian, Japan, Talking Heads, all that stuff. My dad is as passionate as anyone I know about music. He's a geneticist, actually, so he's just as passionate about medicine. My parents have introduced me to all kinds of music. They're probably my biggest musical influences, actually. Late 70s, early 80s music—I try to sneak some of those influences into anything that I do.
David: You and I like the exact same music and the exact same wines, but even at 36 I have trouble finding people my age who care about Tears for Fears and Beaujolais. How many people do you come across that share the same interests as you?
Christoph: (laughs) Not many. I don't know many people my age who like to drink wine as much as I do. I push hard to get my friends to drink wine with me a lot. Sometimes it works, but at other times they say: "Dude, shut the fuck up with this wine stuff!" I feel like an old soul a lot of the time, but that's fine. I'm OK with that.
David: Who's someone you wish you could drink wine with? Anyone in the music industry?
Christoph: I knew you were going to ask me that question and I still don't have a good answer! The obvious answer is to drink something like an old bottle of Petrus or DRC with Ernest Hemingway, of course.
David: From what you've said, it sounds like your family is who you really enjoy drinking with.
Christoph: Honestly, what I realized after being on the road for so long is that I definitely associate drinking wine with being home. It became a reminder of family and togetherness, which only increased its importance to me. When I'm home in New Orleans I'll go to my parents' house almost every night and we'll open a good bottle, cook food, and just sit around talking. That's probably where I'm happiest in life.