In a 2018 interview with NPR, Channel Tres was asked whether he was ready to celebrate following his prolifically devoured debut single, Controller. Putting the success of his first and second tracks down to a “good rookie year,” Channel Tres admitted that all he wanted to do was “work hard.”
Since then, he’s released a critically-acclaimed debut EP, had the pleasure of Facetiming — and meeting — Sir Elton John, toured emphatically, and has taken his show from the intimacies of small clubs and theatres to arenas and festivals. And while the last twelve months have seen Channel Tres emerge as a symbol of LA’s genre-bending avant-garde, he remains as humble as ever — and now, might just have something to celebrate.
doingbird sat down with Channel Tres while he was in Sydney to talk about his Australian shows and what we can expect next.
You just played Splendour in the Grass. How was it?
It was amazing. We played at like one-thirty — the way the crowd showed up, it was just crazy, man. As soon as I got on stage, the energy was just crazy. And I always love when there’s kids in the audience. And there were dudes on other dudes’ shoulders. You know, just kids just going crazy. It was just special — it was really special. It was a special moment. It gives me anxiety just thinking about it, because it was just so good.
Would you say that it’s one of the bigger shows you’ve played so far?
Yeah. If not the biggest. Yeah, I think Splendour was the biggest. It may not look big when you’re doing it, but when you look back at the videos, it’s like holy shit.
How have you found breaking in to the industry so rapidly?
It wasn’t rapid. It looks rapid now, because I’ve been working at this for a long time. But really, it wasn’t rapid.
You were a songwriter for a long time, right?
Yeah, and a producer. And I had bands that I was in through college. I used to play in front of ten people — five people. I mean, I was always working on it. And then, kinda when I put out Controller, that was when the universe decided it was time. And now I can handle all the things that are coming my way better than I would’ve been able to back when… I mean, yeah, it’s rapid, but it’s good.
What has been the wildest moment since the release of Controller?
Elton John. Elton John Facetiming me. I met him and shit, and it was great. He took me to his show and shit. And you see the history. There’s a lot of history, you know. He’s one of the only ones we have left — him, Paul McCartney, Iggy Pop… You know. But it’s just cool. It gave me confirmation — it gave me a lot of confirmation.
Obviously you have a lot of Detroit House influences — how did you come to it?
It was when I was in college in my room. Soulection came out and, at the time, they were doing a lot of house shit. And that kind of just picked up the tempo for me. And then, I just naturally just started making house beats and stuff like that. I was listening to a lot of Flume, Future Bass, and stuff like that. A bunch of stuff inspired me, and I just wanted to change it up. I thought I was stuck making trap records, and then I just started making beats. I started doing these house sets. After I heard Passionfruit, and I heard that Moodymann sample — I discovered Moodymann— I was like, fuck. That was it.
And then you were DJ’ing after that?
Yeah, I was DJ’ing, and then I met DUCKWRTH. I started DJ’ing for him; producing for him and travelling with him. I learned a lot from him — just about being an artist and stuff. At the same time, I was working on my stuff on the side. And then, after I put out Controller, I was like, alright, it’s time for me to build my brand.
Do you think about that a lot — Channel Tres as a brand?
Yeah, I have to. Because that’s what’s going to be around after I’m gone, you know? And I want to do more with it — I’m working on it. You know, I want to do stuff with the community, and to help my family. I’m trying to figure out how to monopolise on the opportunity. So, if I can do it off my name, it’s chill.
Coming from a songwriting background, how did you find transitioning into being an artist?
Well yeah, sometimes it’s hard. I collaborate with a lot of different songwriters and producers. Because it just makes the songwriting and everything more fun, but it’s all coming from me. I have people around me to get the ideas better. So that was hard at first, because you want to take all the credit and be like, “That’s me! I did everything on my own.” But you know, all the legendary records were a collaborative effort. Prince was good, but I’m sure even he got help. Sure, the story’s cooler if you’re like, “Yeah, I did everything by myself.” But, you know…
How much did you feel the shift when Controller was released?
Yeah, I come from a tough background — driving around, getting angry and being drunk, and doing dumb shit. So when all that happened, I was like, oh shit, I want to travel the world and shit. I don’t want to get arrested doing dumb shit and fuck it all up. It made me be more accountable for everything I do — the way I treat people, the way I treat myself, and yeah. It made me look at myself with more self-love and respect.
In a recent interview with NPR, you said that you weren’t ready to celebrate yet. Do you feel like you’re ready to celebrate now?
I mean, I celebrate. This shit is fun for me — doing the shows is celebrating. When you say to people, “Yeah, we’re going to be playing to 20,000 people in an arena — that’ll be us one day.” And everyone’s like “Hell yeah!” — that feels good. That’s celebrating. You know, and my mom being proud, and my uncles being big fans, and people I grew up with becoming fans — it just feels good.
What can we look out for next?
I’ve just dropped Black Moses featuring JPEGMAFIA. It’s a song, and it’s half-time, but it’s still good — kinda of like Jet Black. Yeah, and then the [Black Moses] EP — I’m working on the next one, and more shows and more merch. I’m just creating a world around it so it can be something.
Channel Tre’s Black Moses EP is available to stream now.