Photo by Jeremy Danger
On December 2, a fire at the Oakland venue and artist collective Ghost Ship during a showcase for the Los Angeles electronic label 100% Silk tragically took the lives of 36 people in attendance, including the beloved producer and DJ Chelsea Faith. Many in the community and in connected DIY scenes around the country are mourning the loss of the talented producer and their friend. Maria Minerva, a songwriter and producer who has also released music on 100% Silk, was a close friend and collaborator of the musician best known as Cherushii—here, she reflects on the music and memories Faith has left behind.—Colin Joyce
Chelsea Faith—aka the incredibly talented producer Cherushii—was one of the 36 victims of the fire at the Oakland DIY space Ghost Ship. She was also one of my closest friends. Words aren't enough to talk about the tragedy, so we must talk about her life and legacy instead.
Chelsea was one of the original San Francisco ravers, representing the Mission District before it was taken over by PayPal employees. When Chelsea signed to 100% Silk the music the label put out was often referred to as "hipster house." Founder Britt Brown remembers talking about that title with Chelsea and she asked—in all seriousness—"what is this genre?" All she had ever known was house and techno music. Chelsea just wanted to get her tracks out there. As collaborators, we were both obsessed with the many sub-genres of electronic music and this fascination with history was the premise of our personal friendship and professional partnership. I wouldn't say we were very similar people—she was much kinder —but what was similar was that we both dreamed ourselves out of our suburban, peripheral existences. We used dance music as a vessel for dreams of a better life.
Chelsea was born in 1983 in Marin County, California, just outside of San Francisco. She got into dance music at the age of 14 and moved to San Francisco after high school. She started putting on and performing at raves shortly after. Many of you might have seen the "techno lover starter kit" memes floating around the Internet that make fun of people who just recently discovered dance music, Berlin, and Berghain etc., trying to be oh-so-cool, even though two years ago they were listening to Goo Goo Dolls. But according to her Facebook, Chelsea has been officially working as Cherushii since 1997, and I believe that.
Chelsea at Tresor Berlin in 2002. Photo via Facebook/Courtesy of the author.
Chelsea playing live in Oakland in 2007. Photo via Facebook/Courtesy of the author.
As she continued making music, Chelsea was incredibly prolific. In just three years, she put out several EPs and singles, and a beautifully evergreen electronica album titled Memory of Water. The influences on that album range from Japanese culture to Aphex Twin and it also includes our collaboration "Thin Line." Her EPs, though, are meant for the dance floor. Chelsea effortlessly mixed acid house with balearic, and her "Far Away So Close" EP was my absolute favorite, but there's so much more. Chelsea worked on music every day.
She had had side jobs—like most musicians do—but she never complained. Music was her absolute top priority. She had this old school approach to music-making; it wasn't about the ego, it was about the tracks—quality and quantity. Historically, dance music was always about the music, not personalities. The emergence of the superstar DJ and internet PR machines are recent developments that have changed our culture's relationship to dance music culture. Chelsea knew it was in her best interest to play by the rules and participate in the social media popularity contest, but shooting beautiful promotional photos was more of a chore for her.
What I admired most about Chelsea was the fact that she never told others how they should live their lives, but she knew how she wanted to live hers. She was a long-time vegetarian, but never made a comment about someone else's eating habits. She was heavily into gear and would always bring two 80-pound suitcases full of equipment to play a random Tuesday night show. When I showed up with a MacBook and basically did karaoke, she never made fun of me for being such a crappy performer. It's not rare in the electronic music world for gearheads to get on their "analog high horse" comments, but Chelsea didn't care. She understood that music can come from a variety of sources.
Disco and house—two of the genres most dear to Chelsea—were considered "low class" for a long time because of white patriarchy. Both of these styles emerged from black gay culture and were therefore anti-establishment. We would always talk about that with Chelsea. I don't remember if she ever called herself a feminist, but I know for a fact that she embodied it. She was so able, so good at her craft, so knowledgeable. We toured together through the West coast and the midwest in 2013 and came across many sound guys who would try to "help" her during sound check. Chelsea never said anything but when the dudes saw her elaborate set-up, they would normally quietly back off without making any further comments. On another occasion, I remember showing up at the Satellite in LA and being asked "where the band was." We giggled so hard.
Cherushii was underrated, criminally. I never understood why the music media didn't give her the recognition she deserved, but I have some theories; Chelsea never participated in academic circles. Her music wasn't techno for galleries. She didn't live in Europe, except for a brief stint in Berlin. The music industry loves overnight successes and fresh faces, and she had been in the game for 10+ years. But Chelsea understood that dance music was on the rise (again) in America and instead of being bitter, she was hopeful that this would also mean more listeners for her. Chelsea said yes to everything, and she was playing bigger and better shows and never stopped producing. I will be listening to her music from here to eternity (she fucking loved Moroder btw), as I know thousands of other electronic music fans will. I adore you Chelsea Faith. Rest in power, dear friend.
Chelsea Faith's family has set up a YouCaring page in her name.