The Chicago-based dance music historian is at the top of his game.
Art by Harry Gassel
Like most of the world's best DJs, Chrissy has a soft spot for the past. At Smart Bar, the hallowed hall where the Chicago-based artist has been a resident for the last three years, he's often captained a dancefloor whose booking focus pays homage to the queer roots of disco and classic house, while keeping a foot firmly tapping into the future-facing sounds.
As a producer, he's followed suit, as one of the first to play footwork outside of the US under the past guise of Chrissy Murderbot. After nixing the "murderbot" around 2012 to make tracks solely as Chrissy, he's honed in on a ethos of making effective dancefloor tracks that blend classic disco, floor filling house, and dashes of Hi-NRG and acidic Italo. Chrissy mixed a bit of all those past descriptors with tinges of glittery-pop earlier this year with the help Hawley, a singer and fellow Kansas native with whom he released Chrissy & Hawley on The Nite Owl Diner label he runs with Alex Burkat.
Currently, in addition to the strenuous workload mentioned above, the artist has been focusing on a new effort: The Nite Owl Diner's new sister label Cool Ranch. In addition to being the best Doritos flavor (feel free to @ me), the label is a space for Chrissy to expand on what he calls "fun, disco-ey Chicago house. He kicked the label off with the likes of "We Ain't Goin Nowhere," an ecstatic filter-disco-house jam that doesn't take itself too seriously but also could rescue just about any dancefloor you set it off in. Number two on the label is on the way, and is keeping up with similar, lovable themes.
Busier than ever, Chrissy is next up on our THUMP Mix series with an hour of tracks that find him in fine form. We also had a chat with the artist about nostalgia, his new music, and a recent after-hours experience in Portland that didn't quite feel real.
THUMP: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
Chrissy: Rip it off Soundcloud and put it on a USB drive (make the filename something like "jackin_banger_1644MASTER.mp3") and go to the coolest nightclub wherever you live and hand the USB drive to the DJ and be like "hi will you pleeeease play my new track it just got signed to [pick a record label you think will impress the DJ] and it would work really well with your set, trust me" and then when they put it on it's like "SIKE it's this other guy's mix neener neener!!!" Extra points if I'm the DJ you pull that trick on!
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
Every mix I have ever done is pink or purple, except for the rainbow colored ones (and a yellow one I did during my happy hardcore years).
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
I really just wanted to show my personality and who I am and the music I am passionate about, you know?
Do you have a favorite moment on the mix?
I like the part in the middle where it slows down and Erasure comes in. I know it's not like "cool" or whatever to drop some obvious pop tune in the middle of a mixtape without even beat-matching it, but anyone who doesn't think "Chains of Love" is the banger to end all bangers is a joyless grouch who probably wouldn't like me anyway so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Tell mw a bit about the new Cool Ranch label. How does it differ from what you've put out over the years with Alex Burkat at Nite Owl Diner? Can you share what's coming up on the label?
Cool Ranch is really just an outlet for some fun, disco-ey Chicago house that I've been working on. Alex and I like to keep The Nite Owl Diner as a space for other artists besides just ourselves, so it made sense to start a separate thing for this series of my own singles. Alex hasn't actually done a release on Nite Owl Diner yet, so the next Nite Owl record is gonna be his EP (finally!), and the third Cool Ranch single will be two tracks from me, plus remixes from Nautiluss and Paul Johnson (!!!!!!).
Both your tracks and mixes seem to toy with nostalgia in interesting ways. How do you think nostalgia fits into today's dance music scene? Does there seem to be a larger focus on dipping into the past now versus different years in your opinion?
I think nostalgia has always been a big component of our dance music culture. Look at how many 1970s disco acts referenced the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age, or how Bobby Orlando or The B-52s were playing on 1950s beach party vibes in the 1980s, or how '90s rave and jungle producers used samples of reggae, or soul, or even children's TV shows to evoke certain moods in their records. To me, the name of the game is knowing and respecting that history while also looking forward and building on it to do cool new futuristic stuff.
You've long been associated with Chicago and Smart Bar. How has your relationship to those places changed as you've traveled the world and achieved different success on a larger scale?
Chicago is amazing. I wasn't raised here (I moved here about 10 years ago), but it's definitely the place where I became an adult, and being here has done a lot to develop my skills as a DJ and performer. I've been a resident DJ at Smart Bar for about 3 years now, and I think my relationship with it is similar to the other residents who tour a lot; basically we all adore the place, and we play whenever they have an opening for us that fits with our schedule.
What have been some of your more surreal moments as an artist as of late?
Recently I was playing an after hours in Portland at some sort of quasi-legal sex club and it was like 6AM and a guy got up on all fours on the DJ table and right as I'm about to be like "Hey, get off my table mister I'm tryna work here!" his friend stuck a butt plug in him like six inches from away my face. The surreal part is that it was a shape of butt plug I had never even seen before!
What's next for you?
More Cool Ranch releases, more Nite Owl Diner releases, trying to finalize details for a European tour in October, and hopefully Asia in November. Hopefully more shows everywhere!
Chrissy - "Nothing" [Cool Ranch]
Change - "Angel in My Pocket" [Warner Bros]
Ferrara - "Love Attack (Alkalino Edit)" [unreleased]
Lemmy Ashton - "Amsterdam" [Take No Credit]
3rd Nation - "I Believe (Nice & Stoned Mix)" [EastWest]
Garrett David - "FRXS Medley" [Residual Recordings]
The S Man - "Time to Stop (Chrissy Edit)" [Hard Times The Label]
QX-1 - "Let's Work That Muthafucka (Chrissy Edit)" [Rhythm Beat]
Vin Sol - "Zone" [Club Lonely]
Blake Baxter - "Brothers Gonna Work it Out (Black Planet)" [Logic]
Karen Anderson - "I Work Hard to Love You (Jeremy's Allnew Midday Mix") [BBE]
Chrissy - "Can't Get Me Down (Duke Slammer Dub)" [Cool Ranch]
Auntie Flo - "Dance Ritual II (Lipelis Dream Dance Mix)" [Highlife]
Orbital - "Belfast" [FFRR]
Erasure - "Chains of Love" [Mute]
The Flics - "Take It Easy (Chrissy Edit)" [Tanga Label]
Terrence Parker - "What I Say Goes (Disco Mix)" [Groovement]
Boris Dlugosch & Cassara - "Traveller" [Running Back]
Hawkeye - "Born (Markus Nikolai Edit)" [white]
Chrissy - "And You Know It (Nautiluss Remix)" [Cool Ranch]
2 Bad Mice - "Hold it Down" [Movin Shadow]
E-Dancer - "Pump the Move" [KMS]
Violet - "Cloud 9" [Naive]
Lil Mark & Carolyn Harding - "Movin' On (Lil' Mark's Dub Version II)" [LMR]
Club Ice - "Looking For Someone" [Black Market International]
Looky Looky - "Crotch Rocket" [Dark Entries]
Tata Vega - "Why Can't We See" (Acappella) [white]