Topic Brilliantly Reimagines Dance Music Classic 'Kernkraft400'
Tobias Topic, commonly known just as Topic, has repeatedly proved excellence in melodic programming. He grew up in the small town of Solingen near Dusseldorf, where electronic music has yet to make its claim. Coming up around hip-hop and pop music, Topic first fell in love with electronic music watching the Tomorrowland 2012 after movie. A moment that converted him and thousands of viewers worldwide into electronic music fans.
The Croatian-German artist’s debut release, “Light It Up,” combined the pop-forward vocals of Jona Selle with big room house, and when he released it to his then-fledgling YouTube channel, it quickly racked up over one million plays.
He followed the rousing success of his debut single up with his debut album Miles which incredibly charted both at home in Germany and Australia. It wasn’t lost on him that this kind of success is uncommon for a new artist. But for someone so steeped in online culture, it was a blessing he took in stride. He credits his success to early relationships he formed with fellow YouTube-loving musicians.
Topic’s rousing success has continued at breakneck speed. In 2016 he signed a recording contract with Sony ATV. In 2018 he received a Teen Choice Award for his single “Perfect” with Ally Brooke. And in 2019, he cemented his star power with “Breaking Me,” a track that charted across Europe and even dominated the charts in the US for several weeks.
Beyond his ability to craft compelling melodic toplines and infectious pop-leaning beats, his dark and bouncing basslines are loveable dance floor fillers. Even when he’s remixing hits like “Kernkraft 400” or “9PM (Till I Come),” or “For An Angel,” he’s found a way to reinvigorate them in a way that brilliantly finds the middle ground between underground and mainstream.
First, let’s talk about the new release, “Kernkraft 400 (A Better Day)”. What pushed you to use this sample in the track, and how did you approach it as a producer to ensure you paid it homage while giving your fresh take on it?
I am usually not thinking too much when I take a sample like we also did in “Your Love (9 PM).“ It was kind of easy with those two samples because both didn’t have vocals. If you put vocals in it, it’s already very different. That’s why I just go with the flow, put in what I like, and put my sound in it.
You started teaching yourself music production around 2008. Luckily this was right at the turning point of internet accessibility, so you were likely able to teach yourself primarily. When did you discover electronic music?
It was good that the internet was there already and that we had websites like Myspace or MyOwnMusic.com where you could upload your beats and songs and get feedback from people. So that helped. I discovered electronic music a little bit later because, in the beginning, I was only making hip-hop. Electronic music came around 2012/2013.
Did you always have a passion for creating music?
I didn’t always have the passion to create music. The passion came when I started in 2008 when I discovered Logic. I thought it was incredible to sit on your laptop and create songs.
Can you give us insight into those early years before you released a track? What was the grind like from teaching yourself how to use Logic to releasing an actual song almost six years later?
I was already releasing songs before but not under my name. I had a little home studio, and I invited rappers. I made the beats for them and recorded them. We released the songs on Myspace or other websites. Some of them made mixtapes, put them on CD, and gave them to friends. Then six years later, in 2014, there was my switch to dance music. I liked it so much, and I just thought it was cool to release music under my name to try it. The first single, “Light it Up, “ performed pretty well. It had like 250,000 clicks in the first week!
Germany has such a rich culture of electronic music, although I don’t think that Dusseldorf or Solingen are places we would typically associate with having a club scene. Was there much electronic music locally?
No, in Solingen or Düsseldorf, it’s mostly hip-hop music in clubs or commercial music. I discovered electronic dance music over the internet, and the Tomorrowland after-movie 2012 also did a lot for me. I started to like dance music a lot because of that.
You’ve spoken before about the genre/style of your music. It feels like a disservice to describe anyone’s music as EDM. You’ve often talked about the focus on melancholy in your tracks. How would you define your sound, and do you hope to experiment going forward with any other genres?
I like to call my sound ‘melancholic dance music’ because I always liked melancholic songs or sad songs, but I also like dance music. When you make dance music, you can’t make ballads, so I like to mix those two, so you can cry and dance at the same time.
“Breaking Me” with A7S has made such a massive impact. Over 1 billion streams! Did you guys sense when you made it that it would be huge, or did this one take you by surprise?
Yes, it definitely took us by surprise! We had a feeling that the song was different, and we liked it more than other songs that we did. But having almost one billion streams on a song on Spotify and almost five billion globally is insane, and no one could’ve ever imagined that.
Early in your career, you released the full-length album, Miles. As someone who has had so much success with singles, why did you want to drop a full album?
I wanted to drop a full album because everyone was dropping albums back then, including the artists I always produced. Even AVICII, Tiësto, the big names dropped albums, so I thought it’s usually the way to do it. I always enjoyed making albums for other artists. But unfortunately, albums these days are not the way to go. I hope to do an album again in the future.
What does the next chapter of music look like for Topic?
I’d like to release an album, maybe next year. And I’d also like to get more into underground releases and music that completes my set.
Do you have any vision for your live show? For example, would you ever try incorporating live vocals or any performance to go alongside your music?
Right now, I am focusing on myself and making my set great without any additional performers on stage. Still, I can imagine one day having a band on stage and live elements in it. I would love to have singers on stage.
Do you have any pieces of hardware or software plug-ins that you go to regularly?
The only hardware I use is the Moog sub37, that’s being used in almost all my releases lately.
Any advice for upcoming producers on how to break through?
I think it’s very important to have a consistent release plan, always release new music, and post stuff on social media. Unfortunately, you have to use TikTok a lot these days and be present all the time.