Chicago DJ Karsten Sollors still bringing the beats – and launches his own record label

Mon. March 1, 2021 12:07 PM by Ross Forman

dj karsten sollors

photo credit // provided
Within a matter of weeks, his slate for 2020 was wiped out. DJ Karsten Sollors endured a “surreal and traumatic” stretch last March and April when his work schedule for the remainder of the year was cut.

The pandemic certainly hit DJs, such as Chicago resident Sollors.

So, he quickly transitioned to being resourceful, adapting to the unexpected situation, focusing on behind-the-scenes work. He has since been in the studio pumping out a ton of music, collaborating with a variety of artists and he recently launched his own record label project, Sollors Systems, which certainly has a load of moving parts to keep him busy.

Yes, there were many high points for Sollors in 2020.

In June, for instance, he was accepted into the Grammy Recording Academy as a voting member, which is “a massive honor,” he said. In September, he was booked last-minute to play an open-air event in Berlin, so he jumped on a plane to Germany, and ultimately spent 45 days in Europe.

“I also spent so much time in the studio that I have 12-15 tracks coming out this year alone and many more projects yet to be signed,” he said. “With all the extra time on my hands not touring (last year), I managed to do the groundwork necessary to launch my record label.  I also was on the cover of two magazines with some great interviews attached, (including one) based in London.”

Sollors, 37, who lives in Lakeview East and is married to Brian Rody, has been DJing for 20-plus years – and it’s been his main job for eight years. So yes, he missed the crowds, the traveling, and the energy that a late-night party brings.

“I remain hopeful that things will start to come back soon, and I’ll be able to pick back up again, performing live with renewed energy,” he said. “My radio show on UK-based Istreem is still going strong with monthly shows, and I’ve been playing some pretty large-scale live streams, so that has definitely helped.

“I’m a nomad by nature and always have lived my life as a sort of ‘citizen of the planet,’ so it’s been strange for me not to be moving around as (in the past).”

Sollors had a load of high-profile gigs set for 2020 that were wiped away by the pandemic, such as playing at E1 in London for X-MN, Revolver at Kit Kat Club in Berlin, Resist in Toronto, Black and Blue during IML weekend in Chicago, and more. He also had shows booked – and cancelled – in Paris, Costa Rica, Mexico City, Honduras, Pensacola, Omaha, Miami, New York City and, of course, here in Chicago.

His 2021 schedule is almost as busy, despite the pandemic.

Sollors, for instance, recently did a live stream for Farris Wheel Recordings x Dirtybird Records TV which was massive, with more than 20,000 tuned in a one point. “I have many releases coming out on Repopulate Mars, Stashed, Farris Wheel Recordings, Material Series as well as on my label, Sollors Systems,” he said.

In March, he is booked to play the closing party in Tulum for a new Pride festival that just launched. “Promoters are starting to reach out again who have mentioned options for Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and Nebraska,” he said. “Also, a lot of my gigs from 2020 were moved to 2021, so that is really promising, but we will have to see how 2021 progresses; things have been quite unpredictable.”

Sollors has spent hours upon hours in the studio over the past year, working on solo productions and many collaborations. “All the work on my label has been really rewarding; I’m really excited to share with everyone all of what I’ve been working on,” he said. “I’ve been home a lot, so spending time with my husband, enjoying time together. I have a great daily routine that involves self-care, fitness, work, food, and simple pleasures.

When asked about Sollors Systems, he said it is “an intentionally curated record label and lifestyle brand, bridging the gap between underground and commercially viable dance music, intersecting with conceptual gender-free streetwear,” he said.

Sollors Systems brings a “a wonderful network of globally thriving creatives with a spotlight on minority talent, an ethos that embodies founder, DJ + producer, inspired by nomadic living and based out of Chicago, the original home of house music,” he said.

Launching a record label, Sollors said, has been something he’s long wanted to do – and this felt like the right time.

“This (record label) is another expansion of my vision, both personally and professionally, and will allow me to support music and foster artists that I believe in,” he said.

Sollors Systems will feature such artists as Gettoblaster, Andre Salmon, Bodhi (Calagna), The More, Phineo, Basura Boyz (Steve Gerard and Nick Niice), Casmalia, and more.

“I’m signing new demos from artists every day and am really excited about what I have to bring to the table in the near future,” Sollors said. “Sollors Systems will be releasing music by artists from all over the world in the genres of house and techno. We also will have an intersection of limited-edition, conceptual streetwear that will be announced and available for purchase very soon.”

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