- Words Jake Gunay
- Photography Mark Peaced
Channel Tres's experimental and high tempo sounds are guaranteed to get you off your seat. We spoke about everything from remixing old school to feeling like an icon.
The uprising talent of producer, DJ, and musician, Channel Tres, is introducing a range and fusion of different musical influences from his home state of Compton.
Stylistic grooves and funky electric dance tracks have allowed Channel’s music to gain worldwide recognition. His first two singles “Controller” and “Jet Black” were loved on streaming platforms and gained radio play from stations ranging from L.A. to Ireland. To top it all off, he gained the admiration of Sir Elton John himself along the way.
Channel Tres’ music has since featured on adverts for Apple Music, gameplay in GTA, and soundtracks for a variety of prestigious movies and TV shows. Another element to Channel Tres’s music is his ability to remix and feature on songs. He has remixed, produced, and released a number of well-known tunes, such as Aaron Childs’s “Tangerine”, “The End” by DMAs, “Gimme Love” by Joji, and most recently, “Impact”, with Robyn and SG Lewis.
This wasn’t the first time Channel and SG had collaborated – they’d previously teamed up when SG remixed Tres’s “Sexy Black Timberlake”.
However, Channel’s most noticeable remix comes in the form of Tyler, the Creator’s hit song “EARFQUAKE”. A classy and relaxing remix that changes the way you hear the song; Tyler’s distant vocals flow from side to side as we still feel the impact of the words. Releasing echoes of melancholy with the repetitious lyrical content of “Don’t leave/ It’s my fault”, followed by a soothing saxophone solo which takes you on a smooth, yet energetic, musical journey.
The release of this particular tune is significant because it is the first remix Tyler himself has allowed to be officially released on streaming platforms.
On an almost-constant roll, Channel Tres has recently released the single “Weedman”, a song which showcases his lyrical side; the exploration of a character who is met with sorrow as he reminisces on the circumstances he was met with, being a Black man living in America during the continuously testing times of drug legalisation. As weed becomes more socially and politically accepted, those who suffered the fate of the law at that time are still facing those consequences to this day.
Channel Tres continues to grow and bless us with music during testing times; his latest single “Skate Depot” is a musically pleasing and self-reflective tune that fits the theme for his upcoming mixtape, ‘I Can’t Go Outside’. We caught up with Channel Tres to discuss his success so far, his influences and what is yet to come.
In order for a remix to fit your style, what elements of a song do you change?
I take out everything and just use the vocals. I remix it old school, like how they used to do remixes in the 90s where the song sounds completely different. I hear the record in the way that I envision it, maybe take something that is really inspiring in the record and put my take on it, just put my flare on it. I try to challenge myself to remove everything and remake the whole song.
You’ve got fans in Elton John and Tyler, the Creator; how does it feel to hear your music is loved by icons of the industry?
It makes me feel like an icon, or I’m on my way to becoming an icon. And it gives me great validation. When you’re coming up and you’re trying to get into a craft or a job, it helps a lot when you get validated by the top people in your field. I was already kind of confident, but it helped me validate what I needed to keep going. I mean, I would have kept going either way, but you know, it’s just a good sign. And hopefully, my name is big enough one day, that I can do that for other people.
When you first started making music, who were you making it for? Were you just creating what you wanted, or did you have an audience in mind? Has this changed over time as you’ve become more well known?
When I first started making music it was just out of pure joy. Just being a kid and really being enamored with it. Music was always like magic. I would look at a keyboard or a drum machine or anything music-related, and it would just stand out to me. I couldn’t sleep if I didn’t have it or if I couldn’t do it. I’ve always made music to challenge myself and to challenge my skills, and what I can do, and I kind of let the people decide from there. I know that people like a certain side of me or they might like something in a certain song, and so I take that into account when I’m working on music sometimes. But it just depends on the day and what record I’m working on.
Your remix of “EARFQUAKE” is the only remix Tyler, the Creator has officially approved! Can we expect a collaboration with Tyler in the near future?
I love what he does, I think he loves what I do, so someday it will happen.
You’ve toured with some amazing artists –like Robyn, Childish Gambino and Vince Staples – what’s the fondest memory you have from these experiences?
While I was on tour with Childish Gambino, I got to do my own run in Australia, playing my little shows, selling out 1,000-cap rooms. Opening for Childish Gambino, he was playing arenas and that was a really great thing for me to experience too, because I’ve followed his career for a long time, and for me to get an opportunity to open up for him while he’s experiencing the fruits of his work from all these years, it was great and it really inspired me. With Robyn, taking me to Maddison Square Garden and playing in that type of venue when I didn’t have a big following yet, I had only put out one EP, it made me feel like she had this belief in me and a belief in my music that I could play something like that. It was just kind of surreal and really impacted my life and gave me new dreams and new goals.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Have these shifted over the years?
They change monthly, weekly, they change a lot. Right now, my biggest influences are Leon Vynehall, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Prince. Flying Lotus really influenced the record too. I’m leaning a lot more on my Jazzy side with this one.
As well as your songs appearing in Apple Music adverts, you also have a track on Grand Theft Auto. Are you much of a gamer in your spare time?
I play NBA 2K, I just bought a PlayStation while I was on tour, I got kind of bored, and so I just bought one. I’m an old school gamer, I grew up on Nintendo, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!, Nintendo 64, and stuff. It’s been part of my life for a long time. I remember when I got my first Game Boy I was freaking out. I used to ditch elementary school and go to my friend’s house just so we could try to beat a level. That’s how addicted I was to Pokémon.
“Skate Depot” is the first single from your upcoming mixtape, ‘I Can’t Go Outside’. What’s the story behind the song?
“Skate Depot” is about a skating rink in Cerritos that I got my first job at (called Skate Depot) and I used to go a lot when I was a kid. A lot of people from Compton would go when we were kids, it was something in my childhood that was just always there. When I realized that they tore it down, I drove over there one day a while ago and it was pretty gentrified. They turned it into an electronic store or something. I was kind of like, damn… and that gave me the thought to write a song about how music can take you back to a lot of memories. “Skate Depot” the idea, the concept, came from me missing the skating rink, and then me not being on tour, and having to pick up different things while I’m stuck in the house. I bought some skates – I was never a good skater as you can see from the video – but it was just about trying new things. That’s why the cover of “I Can’t Go Outside” with my face in a banana leaf is like, you do weird shit when you’re stuck in the house. In quarantine, I can create moments and experiences for myself, so that I don’t just do the same thing every day.
What can we expect from ‘I Can’t Go Outside’? How does it differ from your previous work?
Before COVID happened, I’d been on the road for five years. And this is one of the first projects that I made in a long time where I’m just in one place. So, it’s really self-reflective and my self-consciousness is coming forward and I’m allowing it to talk more. I don’t know if you can tell the way I’m rockin’ my shit but it’s like you get normal Channel a little bit in there, but there’s some other songs where you don’t really get me, you get maybe a rap version of me, an MC version of me, you get a jazzier side of me, and that’s just me allowing myself to freestyle from my room. It’s me trying to put through music what my sub-conscious feels like, at that moment. Because I had to face a lot of problems and a lot of things that were easier to avoid being on the road. That’s hurt, that’s joy, that’s pain, this is really me trying to put a stamp on what those moments felt like for me.
Is there anything you’ve learned over the course of your career that you feel would be useful advice to aspiring artists?
Be yourself. Most of us probably won’t make it, but just enjoy it. You’re richer than you really think you are. You don’t have to have all this stuff to feel good about yourself, because when you get it, your problems are still there. Just find what you really want to do and do it for the love of it – and then the money will come. I learned that shit from Dave Chapelle.