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Ten Minutes With Channel Tres

The Compton producer on Childish Gambino, tennis, religion, and everything in between.

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Channel Tres arrives to our interview with two dancers and his manager. They’re at ease with each other, but I get the feeling Channel is at ease with everyone. He doesn’t take off his sunglasses, asks around for a cigarette and orders a black coffee. When the coffee arrives, I watch as he pours in cream and four sugars. Today is an exception because he doesn’t drink coffee, not really.

It’s mid-July when I meet Channel and this year he’s already released three singles, ‘Blood On My Hands’, featuring Smino, ‘Brilliant Nigga’, a track with a spine-tingling flute trill, and ‘Sexy Black Timberlake’, a single with a bassline reminiscent of sticky early mornings in the club. As far as live shows go, his energetic, dance focused performances have bolstered him to open his year playing III Points festival in Miami, followed by Madison Square Garden alongside Robyn and Kindness.

Now, Channel is in Australia supporting Childish Gambino on his Splendour Sideshows. The night before, they played a sold out Rod Laver Arena. I ask how tour is going so far and one of his dancers recounts that they’ve been pinballing across the country: from Sydney then to Melbourne followed by Byron for Splendour In The Grass then New Zealand. Then back to Sydney for the last of Childish’s sideshows. All within a week. I ask if he’s tired, to which Channel answers in his nonchalant Compton accent, “I’m never tired.”

For someone who’s always on and never tired, there’s one Achilles’s heel, above all others, that distracts him from the grind—pussy.

What’s the last thing that shocked you?
Being on tour with Childish Gamino.

What’s being on tour with Childish Gambino like?
It’s very inspiring.

I followed his journey, for a long time. And I never thought that I’d be in this position. It’s inspiring to see, because last time I saw him in 2013, the crowd was decent. But last night he filled a whole fucking arena.

What was it like playing a stadium?
It was good—it was my second time this year.

So Madison Square Garden was your first…
Yeah. It was crazy. It was fun playing the second time because I learned from the other time. It’s really big and the sound travels so you don’t hear people that closely. And I’m opening too, so people don’t know me. So it was crazy. It’s not intimate. It’s different. It’s a lot more staged.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do?
When I’m not working?

Are you always working?
Yeah, kinda. In my head. I like to watch movies.

What kind of movies do you like to watch?
I like dramedies. And dark comedies.

What’s the last movie you watched?
The Circle, with Tom Hanks.

I love Tom Hanks.
That movie’s fucked up though. It’s got Emma Watson in it too.

Hermione Granger, baby! You like Harry Potter?
[Assumes a faux British accent] Yeah, Harry Potter. Yes. I love Harry Potter.

Your ‘Topdown’ video, 88 Rising published it. How do you know those guys?
I have a friend named August [08], and he signed to them. And they just became my friends. They like my music, I like what they do. I just needed a little boost. So they posted it for me.

What were you like as a kid?
Shit. I liked playing drums, playing music. Regular shit, running the streets, fighting, getting in trouble.

Did you have a bike?
Yeah, I had a bike.

What kind of bike? What did it look like?
I had a Huffy. And it had flames on it. It was fire. We used to put the ramps on the street, used to put the bricks on the street and jump those ramps.

You ever broken a bone?

Really? What’s the worst injury you’ve had?
I punched some glass by accident, and then the glass cut into my skin. It almost hit a nerve but it didn’t. But I don’t have any feeling in my [index finger].

How do you start a set when you DJ?
I usually start with a statement, maybe some Bobby Womack. Depending how I’m feeling.

Like what?
Like, ‘Lift Yourself’—you know that Kanye song? I like to start with old samples that are tight, and then I go into the set. 

I know you got into music through church. Are you still spiritual or religious?
I’m not religious at all. I’m spiritual.

In what way?
I just believe in love, peace. I believe in following your spirit, the imagery, the vibes. Positivity. 

You read The Secret. Do you manifest?
Yeah. All the time. 

What’s your house like?
I got a nice house. I got some people in there, a studio in there. Some video games, too. It’s a nice house. A nice crib.

What’s the last video you played?
[NBA] 2k19. In the year 2k19! I like playing my player. I like basketball.

Did you used to play? Are you any good?
Yeah. And shit I guess so. I didn’t play in a team or anything, I just played in the park.

I have a friend who likes Red Dead Redemption. You ever played that?
Nah. But a lot of people tell me—I might pick it up.

It’s cowboys and shit.
Yeah, I love that shit. I grew up on Westerns.

What’s your favourite Western?
Um, Tombstones. That’s my movie.

You like John Wayne?

He’s white. He just represents the white man. I’m more of a Shaft kinda guy. 

I get that. You’re a Gemini. When’s your birthday?
May 26.

Mine’s June 15.
You’re a Gemini too?

What’s your other personality?

I get really angry.
Oh shit.

What’s yours?
I’m reclusive.

Are you an introvert?
Yeah. I think so.

Do you prefer to write music in your studio or elsewhere? How does a song come together?
A song comes together all kinds of ways, but I’d rather finish it in the studio—to get a good sound with a good mic. But, I’ll write anywhere. I’ve got voice memos. I just like being in the studio to make the idea come to life.

On your Instagram you said you’re still broke. Well, are you?
Um… I was being sarcastic. 

Is everyone taking it really seriously?
I think so. I don’t know. I pay my bills. I’m really sarcastic on Instagram.

You can’t take that shit too seriously.
It’s Instagram. I mean, I’m broke compared to other people. But I’m living, I’m surviving. 

What’s the last TV show you watched?
Fresh Prince. That’s my show.

Do you watch whole seasons?
Nah, just one episode.

There’s so much Fresh Prince…
I’ve seen all of them already. I know all of them by heart.

Do you still buy albums? Or do you stream?
I stream, but I buy vinyls.

What’s the last vinyl you bought?
I bought Barry White Love On The Minute Orchestra.

When you buy vinyls, do you go in and just grab whatever? Or do you go in with a set idea?
I like going in, picking up things. 

How do you choose?
I choose it like, if the cover looks tight and then I read the credits. If there’s somebody I know on there, I’ll google it to see if I need to listen to it. I like learning.

What’s your favourite vinyl store, back home?
I don’t have one currently. I’m still searching. Peanut Butter Wolf has this cool store, but I haven’t been yet. I usually just go to thrift stores. Art sales.

How would you describe your personality?
Depends on the day—you know I’m a Gemini. But I try to make people happy, make them feel comfortable. [He is distracted by a ping-pong table]

Do you play ping-pong? Do you play tennis?
Nah man, tennis is really hard.

For more on Channel Tres, follow him here

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