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A Conversation with Channel Tres

Posted in News on June 15, 2022
Photo: Clare Gillen

Fresh off two incredible performances at Coachella Music Festival in Indio, CA, Channel Tres has been having quite the moment. Hailing from Compton, Channel developed his love of music at an early age, experiencing a wide selection of musical styles as a child. Having since realized his ambition to become a music creator himself, Channel has already released a string of club classics such as “Controller” and “Topdown,” dazzling audiences with high-level collaborations and unforgettable live performances, including a set this month at NYC’s iconic Governor’s Ball Music Festival. Recently, BMI’s Nia Aglipay & David Streit caught up with Channel Tres to discuss his recent tour, musical inspirations, and creative philosophy, among other things.

Hey Channel, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us! We’re big fans and would love to get more insight on your music and overall artistry. Everyone has their own creative process, where does yours start when diving into a new project?

It usually starts with some internal inventory, see what’s going on with myself. Maybe see what experiences I’ve had, or what things are popping up within that. It also depends on what I’m listening to and influenced by in the current moment.

Your music has been described as blending the drive of Detroit techno and the slinky smooth grooves of Chicago house with the snarl of West Coast rap. How was your music taste influenced by where you grew up in Compton, CA and what were you listening to back then?

My musical influence came from going to church and just being around musicians. In my mom’s house, it was more rap and R&B. In my great grandmother’s house, it was more Gospel music and old hymns, Motown, and Marvin Gaye and different quartet groups. At my grandmother’s house, she played smooth jazz and Herbie Hancock, maybe some John Coltrane. Personally, Kanye was a big influence, and so was OutKast. I really liked music from down south, I was a big Nelly fan as a kid. Ice Cube and Doctor Dre were always in the streets and the anthems of the west coast- DJ Quick- were culture.

We read that August 08 of 88 Rising is a childhood friend of yours and has been instrumental in connecting you with other artists at the start of your career bringing you along for studio sessions. When did you first meet each other, and did you ever make music together as kids?

I’m a year older than him. I was in the seventh grade and he was in the sixth grade. We met in middle school; I was the drummer for the school band. One morning, someone was playing my drums in the band room. They were really good and I was like, “Who’s that?” It was August, and we built up the friendship from there. We were the two nerds in the school that were always in the band room. I had a drum set that I set up in my garage that my great grandmother got for me. He would ride his bike to my house, and we would just jam out. That was the foundation of our relationship. We started skateboarding and dancing just being the weird kids in the neighborhood. That relationship continues to this day.

Your list of collaborations is pretty extensive. You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in hip-hop like Tyler, the Creator and JPEGMAFIA, as well as massive dance artists like Duke Dumont, SG Lewis, and TOKiMONTSA, to name a few. How do these collaborations and ideas come to fruition? And do you have a favorite person/artist you’ve worked with so far?

Those connections just come through being available mentally and creatively. Vic (Wainstein) who’s a great engineer, one of Tyler’s engineers, has worked with the late, great Mac Miller and a bunch of other people. I would just send him some beats and he would play them for people. Maybe my management might be like, “Hey they want to work together?” and I’ll pull up. August was one of the ones that took me to a bunch of sessions where I got to work with Wale and do different things. It comes from being available and just having beats ready. A lot of it comes naturally, it’s not something I plan. I kind of just show up and work with whatever comes across my radar.

Last year was the first time you were back on stage after a while. You got to join Thundercat in the fall for his North American leg of the “It Is What It Is” tour. Any crazy stories from your time on the road that you could share?

That was a really dope dream come true. Thundercat’s music has helped me through a lot of things in life, and his music is soothing whenever I’m sad or going through a tough time. It’s got me through lot of breakups. During that time, I was struggling coming out of the COVID fog. He was a great influence on me to make the decision to switch some things in my life. Musically it was beautiful, a lot of stories about Mac Miller, a lot of stories about his upbringing, Leon Ware. Being around musical geniuses, his band, being able to have close moments, and he’s a funny dude. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. It really healed some things and made me focus on music in the right way. I think the universe does things sometimes to push you in the right direction. And I think that’s what it was - A nudge for me to get my head back on straight.

You’re fresh off the Coachella stage having played both weekends in the desert. Knowing that people come from all over the world to see Coachella’s legendary artists and performances, how would you say this festival spot differed from other performances? Was it extra special as an LA native being on one of the world’s premiere festivals?

It was definitely a dream come true and definitely the start of a new chapter in my live performances. It let me know that manifestation is real. I went to Coachella in 2016 I stayed on the grounds that night and I remember in the middle of the night at 4 in the morning at the silent disco just saying, “I’m gonna f__king play Coachella one day” and people were looking at me crazy. Channel Tres wasn’t even born yet and I knew that I was going to be there, I met my current manager there and it was a crazy slip of energy. It inspired me to want more in life and manifest more. Six years later, I’m on the stage and performing in front of a big crowd at 4pm. I just saw myself as the person I’ve always wanted to be. The work started on the Thundercat tour and when I got home, I just got in training and started dancing, started studying and it just came to fruition. It let me know that you can really get what’s for you. It felt right to be up there, it felt right to be there. It felt like this is what I’m supposed to do, so it was a great moment of clarity for me. I hope the people really enjoyed it and it felt like a blessing.

What’s the biggest difference between the Channel Tres live performance vs one of your DJ sets? Is there one performance style you prefer over the other and why?

I see the live performance as a way for me to be out of my body and my head and to encourage people to dance and move and be free; to really enjoy the music. I feel like dancing is lacking. People should just try to move their body. Sometimes you just have to move. I use the live show to cultivate that in my own life and try to give that energy out to other people. It’s a way for me to see my songs come to life with movement and production things. The DJ set is when I get into my moody man personality. Stuff that I listen to or stuff that I know is gonna make people move. Taking songs and mashing them with other songs and changing the pitch of it. It connects me to the roots of house music and warehouse and that space. I love Carl Cox and Omar S. I love watching people Shazam something at a party. I don’t really take requests like just listen to the story; I’m telling you a story with the music right now. You need to submit to the grooves. I’m more prone not to play your request because I might have gotten to it and you wouldn’t have heard the transition, you know, just chill. DJing is just a way for me to do what I want to do, inviting people into my mind. It’s a “take it or leave it” attitude, you know? It’s my free time to play what I like to play.

Color, community, and dance all play a big role in your visuals from your music videos to onstage performances. Is that inspiration pulled from anything in particular?

Yeah, I grew up in church, in the black church. I was with my great grandparents all the time so you have to come. My thing was that I got into the arts. We used to do plays and write songs, put on things for Easter and Christmas or for the summer. In school, I was a drama kid and I grew up playing with my cousins in the backyard. We would play hopscotch and double Dutch and there as always music involved. It’s just something that comes with my culture and the way I grew up. It’s just a part of me. The arts give me an outlet and gave me room to have fun.

During the pandemic, you launched your own label called Art For Their Own Good. Can you talk a little about what the catalyst for creating this label was? How important was it for you to create that space and release your third EP “I can’t go outside” that way? What was the biggest lesson you’ve learned putting that project out?

I created that label when I was 18 and during covid, it was hard. I didn’t want to take any deals and sometimes it’s a lot. You know you don’t want to take anything early and I’m still developing. I just wanted my own freedom and I was still learning the ropes on how to put a project together, how to get features, how to sit with the engineer, and how much budget I need to have the studio for the amount of time to create it and package it. I really wanted to take charge on my own and learn the ins and outs of it for myself. It was a way for me to study and learn all the aspects of the music business and not just the musical part. You know, what goes on behind the scenes. I had a set budget that I was given, and I used that to make the project. I did some of the work at home, I did some of the work at a studio, I started working on the project and I didn’t even know I was working on the project because I was making music and cranking out ideas. It just came together. My boy did strings for it, and I used that as a time to pull together resources and be well rounded

This year you’ve already put out an EP called “refresh” and followed that up with two other tracks “Acid In My Blood” and “Ganzfeld Experiment” along with their instrumental versions. You also teased a new song with Ty Dolla $ign during your Coachella set so we can say it’s safe to assume there are more projects waiting to be released in 2022, right?

My goal is to finish the album this year, but you can’t really put a time on that because I’m just working. I have some more singles coming and my fall tour. I’m just going with the flow and rolling stuff out. I did other features and other things so I’m just cooking.

Where do you see the future of the dance genre, and music in general, going?

I don’t know, honestly. I think there was a time when dance music became something weird or corny, and you see when dancing is corny, weird stuff starts to happen. But I think we need to continue to make people dance and continue to hold dance music to a higher regard and don’t let it become corny or let people think it’s corny because it’s too important. When people don’t dance, they think too much. I consider myself a Black star which we don’t really have. We like to watch people move their hips and be free and be themselves like Lenny Kravitz, Prince, Michael Jackson. People that made us go “Wow!” and you just want to watch them. We need to get people dancing and I’ve seen it happen over the last couple years and I’m happy to be a part of that. My favorite artists don’t make me think too much, they make me move, that’s my opinion.

And lastly, what is the best advice you’ve received, and do you have any words of wisdom for those first starting out?

The best advice is today, this too shall pass and just go follow your dreams. Find what you like to do and just do that. Don’t try to do something that you don’t feel like you’re not supposed to be doing.