Music and Cinema go well together. It's a fact. Take Trainspotting for example, soundtrack and picture are dependent upon each other. Then rememberTele/visions with our friend Nick Rattigan, now Current Joy? Third Outing discovered CHUCK, a talented musician film maker who's merging the lot. Film, Hip Hop, Electronic and Indie Pop. Whatsup CHUCK!
3rd: Whatsup CHUCK! It's great to speak to you. One Night New York. It's experimental Hip Hop. I'm hearing Childish Gambino, C.R.E.A.M, Slick Rick. How do you go from that to a Dance Trip Hop record and then to Happy New Years Babe, a songwriters album. They could have come from 3 different artists?
CHUCK: Well the Hip Hop album sort of started as a joke really. My friend and I told some people at a party that we were making a mix tape and we were surprised by the enthusiastic response we got, so we decided it would be funny if we actually did it. I've been listening to Hip Hop since I was 11 or so, but never really considered making my own. In the winter of 2014 I was struggling with HNYB. I was being very particular about the production and the writing and the performances, but I had reached a point where I was fighting my lack of free time and mental stamina. Making a song is sort of like a race between your recording speed and your enthusiasm about the track. If you can make it quickly, you can capture the energy and excitement that you get when you write something you think is good, but once you lose that spark, it straight up becomes really hard work. But making Hip Hop is way easier and more fun because those songs can come together so quickly. And I was able to get friends involved.
Even though the process is so different I actually think all my music clearly comes from the same artist, my sense of humour can certainly be ratcheted up for the Hip Hop, but to me a song like Detroit explores the same themes with the same personality as a song like Goodbye Forever. Influence wise I'm first and foremost trying to emulate Kanye when I rap, especially on a song like Greek; I love how he's sort of an emotional pinball bouncing between 'I'm gonna break all the shit in this room right now I hate you' to ' I love you baby please don't leave' and he's funny while doing it. His production has also always been the wave. And he's someone who has proven that music is becoming less and less about genres. I think he'd argue that most music is mashing all those styles up anyways. As long as your personality and world view is there you can make whatever kind of music you want in today's world. It's no longer all about your geographical origin, race, social class or culture.
3rd: But there's a real innocence in Happy New Years Babe, don't you find? For me it's almost like a blast back to the past of your first record People. Are you pleased with it's reception, how it sounds, is it a return to the original song writing you?
CHUCK: I'm really happy with how the album turned out! Making a record by myself is fun, because I get to make all the decisions, but it's also like running a one man company, because I have to make all the decisions. I wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered around 30 songs over a two and a half year period, scheduled other musicians in on sessions, had multiple false starts on the album artwork, spent thousands of dollars on equipment, mixing, mastering, digital distribution. It's hard to compare a process like that to how I made People, because those songs were written and recorded for nothing with nothing and I pieced the cover together with glue and a few newspapers. I think the heart of the song writing is the same, but now when I make an album I'm sort of building a little town of short stories to express my ideas. I'm not writing in the first person about myself as much any more. I've learned a lot about song writing from working with and watching my friend Danny Bateman (from the bands Frogs and Uncles) his songs are like short films with vivid imagery, fun wordplay and emotional impact. On HNYB I was really trying to emulate his style in a lot of ways, but on People songs just sort of came out of me without that level of thought.
3rd: Many of your songs begin spoken word, or are situational before the music begins. What is that style?
CHUCK: My main craft is film making and video editing, so narrative structure, pacing and story are very important to me. I worked closely with Heba Kadry, who mastered the record, with the timings and track cut points to really frame the songs like an imaginary movie soundtrack. For example, if you look at Bushwick Girl and Blondie, they sort of tell a little chunk of the story to me in my own weird way. You have the roar of the L train, the protagonist is whisked away to Williamsburg, where he goes to the Union Pool and meets a girl and dances and gets drunk and maybe goes home with her, then you hear him hungover at a Deli ordering a bacon egg and cheese the morning after, existentially depressed, empty inside, which is followed by a sort of sad reflective song about a lost lover that almost sounds like it's being performed to him while he eats the sandwich in the deli by like a little mariachi band or something. In my mind I connected those two songs, which were written years apart, to tell that story with the little intros and outros. It's just sort of instinctual for me to do that.
3rd: The album People and I quote. 'This album was written and recorded in a hot sweat in a small apartment while on unemployment for three weeks. I made the album artwork on the fourth of July when I was stuck in my apartment with no one to hang out with'. Do you think this is your most honest work?
CHUCK: People has always gotten a nice response for it's sort of naive charm; it was before I became an overworked, jaded New Yorker which has informed a lot of my writing since. I was 22 and just had moved to the city and wrote the songs with a lot of input from a large group of like 5-7 smart ass friends I was living with in this tiny apartment, so there's a bunch of really nice memories for me when I hear it. I recorded the album in my room mates closet on a built in MacBook pro microphone with just an acoustic guitar and I think, for better or worse, it shows. On a song like Bodies it feels intimate in a great Alex G/Elliott Smith way, but on a song like Movies I don't think the aesthetic does the writing justice. I've thought about re-recording some of the songs at some point, but haven't taken a serious stab at it yet.
3rd: Happy New Year Babe is a different style again, the music and recording progressed; it clearly has references to different girls, Laura, Phoebe, the list does on. Is it your love album?
CHUCK: I think Happy New Years Babe is really about the ups and downs of working through a direction-less stage in your life, some of which is romantically related, but I wouldn't say it's an album about love. It's a break up record about me breaking up with me, kind of. A particular girl inspired some of the music like UWS and Blondie, but overall the album is about the joy, nostalgia and desperation of truly accepting that you can't keep being who you've been up until this point. It's about saying goodbye to the way you used to live your life and turning over a new leaf. Let's Make Out was like a stepping stone on the path to the realization, a lot of those tracks are about escapism, unhappiness, substance abuse. I wasn't in love with anyone when I wrote the songs for either record really. I was very lonely.
3rd: As a man of film then, there must be a soundtrack you would love to write, huh?
CHUCK: I've actually never seen the whole movie, but the first thing that comes to mind is that Colour Blind by Counting Crows in Cruel Expectations. That song is perfect for that though, so maybe not. It would be fun to try Romeo + Juliet, that has a lot of really sexy visuals in it and had some awesome music like Angel by Gavin Friday, which I'm now realising sounds like a Blood Orange track. I don't know why I'm thinking of all female centric movies. How about The Matrix? I could realistically pull that off it's just a bunch of acid house music. I could do that in like a week.
3rd: You need to get into the soundtrack business CHUCK! Tell us a story which defines who CHUCK is?
CHUCK: I recorded the album Art in a tiny bedroom in Fort Greene that was probably like 10 feet by 8 feet and there was a very loud, unhappy family on the other side of my wall that HATED my music. The father of the family would pound on my wall and scream threats to me on a daily basis while I was trying to write songs and track guitars and vocals. Sometimes it was funny, like when he said 'Hey Willie Nelson - no one wants to hear that shit' but other times it wasn't so funny, like when he threatened to wait outside my building with a knife so he could stab me.
3rd: Wow, a mad man! You've just been in Japan too. Asian tour?
CHUCK: I wish I could've played a show there, but I was actually just on vacation for two weeks with a friend I grew up with. I highly recommend going if you can afford it, they have huge arcades where you can smoke cigarettes and play 3D zombie shooting games, the women are gorgeous, the food is delicious and staying in a 'ryokan' by Mt. Fuji was the most luxurious thing I have ever done in my life. Google it. Culturally the trip made me hate America and love America at the same time. We have diversity and swag, but we're also incredible selfish and broken. The Japanese aren't perfect, but they at least seem to have respect for each other and their public space. It took me about 60 seconds to witness a girl getting violently hollered at and someone throwing trash on the ground when I got back to Brooklyn. I imagine it's a grass is greener type scenario tho.
3rd: So CHUCK our time comes to an end. You've done the Hip Hop. You've done the dance Trip Hop. You've now been the singer songwriter. What's next for CHUCK?
CHUCK: My goal is to start practicing, playing and making music with other humans! I've spent years in this sort of Daniel Johnston/wannabe crazy genius recording in a room by himself role and I'm tired of it. I wanna change how music interacts with my life. I don't want it to be this digital, solitary, introspective, emotionally draining thing, I want it to be fun and social, so I'm planning to record some new songs with my friend Lou (The Mayberries) this summer. I've been obsessed with bands like Alex G, Quarterbacks, Girlpool, and LVL Up, the "Bandcamp" genre as I refer to it, for the last year or so, whatever I write next will probably sound like that.
3rd: It's been a pleasure. Finally, the Third favourite question...what's your desert island drink?
CHUCK: Patron on the rocks because like most anxious people with too much time on their hands I went gluten free for a year and I read somewhere Tequila was gluten free so I got hooked on the stuff and now it's my drink of choice.
Follow for the review: Whatsup CHUCK! But What Would Kanye Think.