Compton-house artist Channel Tres has stepped into his truest form of self this year after spending the course of the pandemic fully understanding his vision as an artist. Tackling the tidal wave of emotions that comes with being human, he has rebranded his artistry and music as an act of liberation and protest against what “culture” really represents. Culture being just as much the shirt on your shoulders, the shoes on your feet, and the act of reckless rebellion you partook in as a teenager, all placed firmly within the art that you create. Channel Tres’ next chapter forward examines this with a fine-tooth comb, his forthcoming EP Real Cultural Shit acting as a direct effort towards making a historical footprint, that his younger self would have celebrated and resonated with.
After coming to terms with the idea that wearing your emotions is a sign of humanity rather than weakness, Channel has allowed himself to divulge into the act of feeling things out, and has done incredibly so on his latest single 6am. A bumping house track, that details wanting to forget your troubles and dance until the early hours of the morning, his forthcoming EP has placed him on a firm, upwards trajectory that he has no plan on faltering. Whilst on a national tour alongside Flume, we caught up with the Compton artist to discuss tour highlights, the rising popularity of house music, and the act of feeling.
I remember seeing you live for the first time in 2018, just down the road from here in Sydney. Are you keen to be back touring out these ways?
Yeah, it’s been fun. The crowds here are always amazing. It’s great to get back to travelling.
Apart from your own tour, you’re here touring with Flume, who is kind of Australia’s pride and joy when it comes to pioneering dance and electronic music. How’s it been to tour alongside him?
It’s cool; he’s one of my friends. We hang out in LA, and he’s been in the game for a long time. So it’s always good to be around people that are seasoned. His shows are amazing, too, so it’s nice to watch and experience somebody who’s actually from here and knows a lot about music and stuff like that. We had dinner yesterday, it’s cool.
What has been the highlight so far?
The highlight is always the performance and having a chance for people to discover my music and, you know, the chance to showcase how I’ve grown since the last time I’ve been here.
And have you noticed an immediate difference in the way the crowds interact with you here?
They’re a little bit more wild, maybe because I’m opening for Flume. But I’m gonna say it how y’all say it, I reckon, a lot of people don’t really know me, yet still, I don’t feel like an opener. It just feels like everyone is getting into it for the sake of having a good time.
You had a DJ set at a club in Sydney too, how do you prepare for that as opposed to performing as Channel Tres?
I have a bunch of friends who are DJs, and I’m always watching different sets. So you just kind of prepare records that get the crowd moving. Or, I might have played my favourite songs at the time. And then I might play some unreleased stuff to expose people to something. But the crowd was really great. They’re very receptive. I actually had a great time.
What’s the song that you play to get the people pumped and to up the ante a bit?
Me and Honey Dijon made a song called ‘Show Me Love’. Usually when I play that it gets kinda crazy. And then I have a remix of ‘Controller’ that my friend Walker & Royce did. And also that DJ set was my first time testing out ‘6am’ for a set, so it was nice.
Speaking of Honey Dijon, I know that she’s an OG in the house music scene. How did that collaboration come about?
They reached out during the pandemic, and I just ended up recording some stuff. I run into her a lot while DJing or at different places. So it was nice to finally do that; the people at Defected Records are like family to me so it was nice.
I know that you’re sitting on a forthcoming EP called Real Cultural Shit, which is described as your most authentic work yet, and kind of an introduction to Compton house. What can you tell us about the processes going into making that album?
Going into that one, it was a lot of just figuring out different technology and different things, song structures. I wanted to kind of keep going from where I started, where I first came out in 2018. When the pandemic hit, the way I made music kind of changed because I was in the house. I wasn’t really experiencing people that much. So my project was “I can’t go outside”, but it was more like a stream-of-consciousness type of record. And just authentically what I was going through at that time, so this one is like, more geared toward shows and just getting the crowd moving. Just is reflective of where I was some months ago.
And that title, Real Cultural Shit, was that just kind of like a no-brainer when you were forming the music? Where you’re like, there’s no underlying message to it; this is what it is?
Yeah. I mean, it was something I was saying in the studio recording. I was just saying that shit all the time. And what that means to me, is just, you know, being Black and from America, I don’t really fucking know where I’m from. I know I’m from Compton, California, but like, created cultures, within our community and stuff like that. My friends and I wore Chucks all the time skateboarding; we wore Pro Club t-shirts, skinny jeans, whatever. That was our culture, you know. And so, I was just kind of going into how I was a kid, and how I’m still the same way now.
And your first single off the EP ‘6am’ is a massive club thumper, which you described as a happy song. I read that you don’t usually allow yourself to make happy songs. Why is that?
I think as a Black male, going into some of those emotions, you’re taught to be hard or be non-emotional. I was a very emotional kid growing up, so there were a lot of feelings that I was always holding in. And I think that as an adult now, I need to embrace every emotion I have, because being bottled up, it’s not good for anybody. So I think that it was just one of those things of, if you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it? When are you gonna let your true self come out? And I’m a human—I’m everything; I’m happy. I’m sad, mad, and a lot of emotions. But it’s nice to capture a happy feeling on a record and let it be that, whether people call it corny or call it whatever, you know, it’s just what I was feeling at that moment with that song.
I also feel the sentiments within ‘6am’ are relatable to everyone because everyone faces the struggles of the every day, and then wanting to do nothing but dance it all away. Would that song be imperative to how you would want to rest of the album to speak to people?
I don’t really worry about the translation. I just put my emotions in there. And, you know, it’s open to interpretation for however people want to hear it. Once I put it out, it’s not mine anymore.
I feel like house music, especially this year, has been put under a bit of a microscope because of its incorporation into popular artists’ music, Drake and Beyoncé, for example. What do you think that incorporation into popular music kind of does for the scope of house music in general?
I mean, I’ve been listening to it for years, since my early 20s. I think it’s cool for the people that don’t know about it, and now, maybe be more accepting towards it and not just categorise it as this type of person’s music. I think that’s cool. I’m happy that people are experimenting and getting into different things, hence the name Real Cultural Shit. That’s all of our shit.
Do you think that there are many misconceptions about house music?
It being called “white people music” sometimes. But that shit freed a lot of people, you know, gay people, minorities, a lot of shit going on in Chicago; it actually freed a lot of people, you know. And it helped me kind of come into myself, you know, just going to drag shows or queer clubs; that’s where I found myself. And that’s where I learned to love dance music and learned to love music in general, because the vibe is really crazy there. In raves, and different things like that. Once I got past what I thought it was, I really got to understand what it was. It helped me just not care what people think about me or accept myself for who I am.
And it’s led you to collaborations with names like JPEGMAFIA, Tyler the Creator, Shygirl and Mura Masa. How has it felt to be able to work with those artists and share music with them?
It’s good. You always want to be around some of the best people that do it. And so I’m happy that my journey has led me to just be around great artists that I admire, that I look up to, that I can pull things from. It’s just confirmation of the journey that I’m on. Like okay, maybe I am in the right direction, and I’m with my peers. So it’s cool.
Who is someone you would want to collaborate with in the future?
An OG! I guess then, to close, as we’re coming to the end of 2022, how has this year impacted you as both an artist and a person?This year, I really took rehearsal seriously, and kinda learned how to create a personality on stage. Like I’ve started wearing costumes and these gloves that make me into a different person on stage. And then really drilling a dance move or the show into me, and hanging out with my dancers, my team, and making it a team effort. And also, seeing myself as an athlete in the way that I prepare for things, I think that really helped me out. For 2023, I’m going to start the year in hibernation, just manifesting and practicing some things that I want to incorporate into my show and into myself as an artist to make it better. I think this year was just big for me just to learn how to perform again because I was out for like, a year. So I think it was kind of just starting back where I left off, but with a better mindset and a better way to go about things, and moving to things more calmly and not taking everything so seriously. But accepting it.
Follow Channel Tres here for more, and stream the new single 6am now.