Interview by Jocelle Koh with Chriskris for Indiego Recess
Transcript by Grant Zeng
We interviewed Singaporean alt-R&B singer-songwriter and producer Chriskris on Indiego’s latest season of ‘Recess’ where we chatted about his influences as an artist, how he started by borrowing his sister’s guitar when she was out of town to hone his chops, and this new chapter for him as owner of label Closed Door Collective and as a performer on the up and up.
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Jocelle: Hi guys, I’m Jocelle I’m the founder of Asian Pop Weekly, and I’m also the host of Everywhere and Nowhere on Indiego. And today I’m here with our very special guest Chriskris. He is an amazing singer songwriter that I’m personally a big fan of so welcome. You’ve been making music for a while now since around 2019 Right? So can you tell me a little bit about like how you started on your music journey?
Chriskris: Okay, so I firstly I put my song like on SoundCloud in like, early 2019 with my with my homie Alvin, and he helped out with a song called Holdin’ Back, and then like I shared it to like, all my poly(technic) friends in class and everything. I think we can play for a lecture and something. And then eventually like Alvin like, he was really supportive, and eventually I put my song out on Spotify with two other songs, we made a tape at the end of the year. And yeah, from there, I just like, started making music with Alvin posting regularly and I was like, okay this is something that I really like doing, let me do more.
Jocelle: Did you study music when you were in Poly?
Chriskris: Oh yeah, I did like some sound engineering courses.
Jocelle: So even before that, technically, you were already creating your music?
Chriskris: Oh yeah, like, before that I like the way I go into production was because like, when I was 14, I saw this video of J. Cole producing on like a tour bus, and he was using the software called Logic Pro, which now I have. I used to produce on GarageBand. And eventually I remember like, I made like a beat on GarageBand everything, like, I made like so many beats just to convince my mom like, hey, this is something I want to do. Look, I’m good, please give me Logic Pro, please. And then I think eventually [after] enough pestering, you know, she had a little bit of faith and yeah, really helped out. I got my own production software, started producing, but even before that, I was like writing songs, or like trying to write songs. My attempt to writing songs, because when I was 13, my sister she went overseas, but she had acoustic guitar. And I was like, you know what, she’s not gonna. So you might as well you know, try something else and learn. Later. I think I went the usual route, you know, learn a couple Ed Sheeran songs here and there.
Jocelle: Yeah, like Ed Sheeran or like Jason Mraz.
Chriskris: Yeah. You know, it’s one of the two. Yeah, and that’s a progression, obviously it was J. Cole.
Jocelle: Very, very big jump, though. So would you say J. Cole is one of like the artists that really inspired you to start making music?
Chriskris: Yeah. For like, hip-hop/rap-wise, I think J. Cole was one of my inspirations. But for R&B wise, I would say like Smino, and Anderson Paak. I really love [Anderson’s] Malibu album. […] But yeah, I’m a pop music fan. I don’t know if you can tell.
Jocelle: I’ll ask you about your inspiration. Which artists are you inspired by?
Chriskris: Yeah so Anderson Paak and Smino, you know, and Omar Apollo, are one my few inspirations for R&B. Yeah, I mean, like, I guess there’s more inspirations. But I guess like, you know, there’s a lot of people that you listen to, but there’s a few people that you really try to be like, oh, I want to try, like, doing my songs sound similar to them?
Jocelle: Do they kind of make you challenge yourself?
Chriskris: Yeah, I think, like for Smino, I really love like, his vocal inflections and how dynamic his voice is. So like, I really try to, you know, learn how he does that and stuff. And like, Anderson Paak is all about the groove and soul. So, yeah.
Jocelle: Cool. I mean, I feel that you’ve definitely taken all these elements and like made it your own, but I wanted to know a little bit about what your creative process is like when you create when you bring a song together, because you produce it yourself, and you write everything yourself, right?
Chriskris: Yeah. So sometimes, I mean, there’s no one particular process I stick to, it’s just whatever comes naturally. Like, it might start off…like it used to be where I start off with, like a guitar progression or something. You know, I build up from that, like, I’ll record it and I’ll make a beat out of it. But lately, like maybe like, the past couple of months or past years, like it’s mostly been like, oh, if I have an idea or like, melody in my head, I’ll just record a voicemail. Maybe it’ll be useful in a couple of months or maybe useful, like for a certain beat I’ll make randomly. And, I mean, yeah, some of the songs that I’ve made have come from that. Or some of the songs will come from like, if I’m taking the bus, and then suddenly I have like, “oh you know, that’ll be a dope ass bar”, you know? Then I’ll write that down. like it not some, like corny, like, [eight months], shit where I’m on the bus with headphones and everything, nah. But it’s just like one or two lines, and I just, like, save it, and then I compile it, and then eventually, you know, I see, okay, maybe this flow or something will fit for the song, then I’ll just, you know, set it
Jocelle: Nice. Do you feel that it’s like it shows your progression as a musician and a songwriter as well? Because maybe in the past, you would need to refer to something in order to, like, spark your creativity? Or do you feel that it’s just a different way [or] mode of creating that you have now?
Chriskris: I think it’s a different mode of creating, because I don’t… I do not like to, what do you call it, restrict myself, like, oh, say, like, I’m going to start on this one, or this is the new one, I’m gonna try anything. It’s like, I’ve even like looked at like, certain, like, producer videos on YouTube and stuff and how they say like, oh, you know, maybe if you start off with your bass line, first, we start with drums first, because I used to start with guitar, then I was like, okay, let me try that. But most of the songs that I make that are, what they call it, that get fleshed out, and people tend to like, it’s the ones that like, naturally come to me is not like I’m forcing out a beat or anything. That’s what I would say.
Jocelle: Then what would you say? I mean, is a song that you are the most proud of in terms of songwriting-wise.
Chriskris: Songwriting-wise? Because I got a lot of songs, right? [laughs]
Jocelle: [laughs] I know. You can give a couple, but like, are there any songs that you’ve written that you’re like, “whoa, that came out of me?”
Chriskris: Oh, yeah. I think that feeling like for every musician is like, you know, when you start a project, and you hear the final product, right? And you’re like, what, how did I…. wait that’s dope. It’s almost like you can get addicted to the feeling of, you know, of the end product being like so satisfying, […] And I just see, like, come to see it come fruition is like dope as hell. But the songs I’m proud of, I will say, […]from my recent project, I would say like, songs like resemblance, and ICE-LEMON. But it’s not really to do with like, I guess, [for] example resemblance is not to do with mainly like, the writing or anything, but like, the fact that like sometimes you will re-record your vocals and everything but you do not want to lose like the emotion in your voice because it might become too repetitive. So I was really happy like I was able to capture my emotion without it, like you know, feeling forced when I when I recorded some parts or something like that. Another one is RUN, I really am proud of RUN because it’s like, one like my first attempt to like making like a really how you say, like a really like heavy like trumpet bouncy pop song. I don’t know how to describe it. But it’s just like a feeling that…. Like, I can picture myself like, even if I didn’t make this I could picture myself listening to this.
Jocelle: That’s a great feeling.
Chriskris: Yeah, that’s like, there’s like no feeling [like that]. Like okay, so maybe, hopefully people were like…I mean, some people were telling me they like that song. So yeah.
Jocelle: I feel that your feedback is always very, like, process oriented, like you are someone who really enjoys the process?
Chriskris: I really enjoy the process.
Jocelle: It’s not about the outcomes for you, but really more about the process when you think about like your favourite songs and stuff.
Chriskris: Yeah, because I think if I get fixated, if you get fixated too much on like, the expectation, it might ruin the process. You might not even get there and but like, let’s say you make a song, and it doesn’t go anywhere. There’ll be like certain elements or certain flows that you will come up [with], or melodies that you come up with in the song that you can, like, you know, mentally store for, like, for another song and be like, “Okay, no, this actually fits perfectly for this other song, I can save it still”. So I do enjoy the process, because… I don’t know. I don’t recall it ever [being], like, you know, everybody’s like, “Oh, it’s not about the destination is about the journey.”
Jocelle: [laughs] Motivational quote of the day.
Chriskris: Yeah, but it really is though, like, I think, yeah, expectations tend to like really hinder your, like, music making sessions. I feel.
Jocelle: And I feel that that’s maybe it’s like your secret to being able to put out so many great songs because, like, you’ve only been active since like, 2019 but when I was looking through your discography, I was like, oh, this guy is like, on the ball man. Would you say the creative process is like your motivation for creating frequently or like, is there something else that you motivates you?
Chriskris: I think that would be like the main thing because I mean, after like, I dropped Blank Canvas, I didn’t drop something for a while until, like, last week. Yeah. Like, not last week, like, like, 4FREE, it was the last thing I dropped. And it was, it was just a process of me like, okay, I was worried that, you know, I don’t want my music to sound too much of the same because I make it like the time periods between one song and the other was like, too short. So I wanted to like, you know, really experiment and try to broaden my sound. So I gave myself […] like six months or something. I’ll just like, hold up, stack up on demos and see which one, you know, I can like, you know, shift my sound to, or put out that I’m proud of, or try something new. So yeah, I mean, it’s really about the process, but I don’t think there’s really anything else that really like pushes me to make music. Besides being in love with music.
Jocelle: I’m also curious to know what is your next challenge? Because I feel like creatively, you’re like you said, you’re very into the creative process. But I feel that you have a handle on like, how you can create consistently, which, honestly, is a big struggle for a lot of artists. So for yourself, what do you see as your next big challenge, something that motivates you?
Chriskris: Okay, so this year, I, like started, like, doing the live performances and stuff. So I think my next step or something was to like, reimagine, or, like, re-arrange my songs for live performances, like, have a whole band and stuff and see how much I can expand on to that. Because I think, you know, especially with, like, you know, like, the band being like, like the live performance, like the ban being lifted, people can go for shows now and everything and you start seeing like, other artists have bands, like, oh my god, you start imagining that for yourself. Or you know what, it doesn’t hit the same if it’s just a playback on like the speaker compared to like, if it’s a band, like there’s a feeling that you know, you can’t get, and you start imagining like, oh, you know, it would be dope or not like, what, what if I have an actual trumpet player in the band? If I have actual saxophone player? What if I actually have somebody doing like a guitar solo, that’d crazy. So I think that will be like the most like the next most interesting thing I would want to try out. Just like, reimagining my songs for live settings and stuff.
Jocelle: Nice. Do you have any lives coming up?
Chriskris: Yeah, currently I am, I am. So like, I’m, what do you call it, getting the band together.
Jocelle: In the process.
Chriskris: Yeah. In the process. All right. So yeah.
Jocelle: So stay tuned.
Chriskris: Yeah, yes. Watch this space.
Jocelle: I’m also interested to know like, I mean, you’ve been you’re in Republic Poly, right?
Jocelle: And you’ve been in the music scene for some time now. You’re very engaged with like, the underground music coming up. Or do you have any artists locally that you really like?
Chriskris: How do I not be biased and like, put on like, people from my label?
Jocelle: You can, you can!
Chriskris: I will, I will! I was just trying to think like, oh, will they come off too biased?
Jocelle: Chriskris has a label called Closed Door Collective.
Chriskris: Yeah, Closed Door Collective. So I think, you know, one of my favourite artists or one of my people have been working with the longest, Tyas Iglesias, I think, you know, I mean, bro doesn’t release that often, but when he does everyone pays attention and so I realised, you know, and I think there’s a reason to it. I love that this also includes the like, like me and Shira, Fahmy, Tristan, […] And other favourite artists, I really want to work with this dude so much. This producer and artist, Fox. […] He’s like, sometimes I hear his production. I’m like, bro he’s not real bro, like he’s not, he’s like a myth. […] you see him working with like, you know, more hip hop artists and this is like, very interesting to me, when people like change, seeing producers change genres. Yeah, I think I went on a tangent a lot.
Jocelle: No, all good. I mean, you seem on track, you just have a lot of artists that you love.
Chriskris: Yeah, there’s definitely more, but, you know?
Jocelle: So many recommendations now. Awesome. I mean, let’s go back to you, yourself. I know you just released a track 4FREE?
Chriskris: 4FREE Free, yeah.
Jocelle: Can you tell us a bit about the story behind the track?
Chriskris: Okay, so I when I made the track I was really just like, like ourselves in that mode of like, oh, six months I wanna try something new, like new in terms of like, not just production, because I also, like I said, even though I like producing all my stuff, I think certain times, like even I think that when I talk I go off tangent, I might just get too overly involved. And I’m like, by the time I’ve ended the production, when it comes to the writing and stuff, I’ll be like, ugh, I think creatively, I’d be a bit exhausted. So I took this route of like, searching for like beats and stuff, and so I can just focus on the writing and the melodies only, and that’s what I did with 4FREE. So I got this beat, you know, and then I just like, okay, this is gonna sound headass as fuck, but it is a long story. So like I said, I got this beat for me to write. The beat, every beat I need to… has the bracket free.
Jocelle: Ahhh, like free.
Chriskris: I was just like well, I was downloading cause I was like okay, I like the beat then I was like okay, while I was downloading. I was like, I was just humming to myself, you know, like, I got this beat for free. Eventually, like, that’s what I mean like, there’s no direction and like, most of the time it’s like I hum out, and then I see where the words take me, you know? I think a lot of artists do that where it’s just like, you know, you hum out a melody and you just try to make words out the sounds, you know? And yeah, that’s how I came up with like the hook and then from there, I just naturally progressed like the verse and everything. So yeah.
Jocelle: That is very interesting by the sounds of it.
Chriskris: But the thing is, is like even though like I said, I take it like from, like the YouTube world, like the free word on the title of the YouTube video. Like you can still find a way to like relate it to like a real life thing or anything.
Jocelle: Just try so it makes sense everyone who is not you
Chriskris: Yeah, exactly. So like that’s what you have to do a lot, and it sounds insane, I sound clinically insane if I was like, got this beat for free. Yeah, I just sound crazy. So I’m like, yeah, I have to make it make sense.
Jocelle: So when you write the lyrics for your songs, does it always come from like, first you start with, like the songwriting and the melody, and then you just try and like, get what’s in and then make it sound normal, or are they from real life experiences?
Chriskris: Okay, so I think it thinks a bit of both because I will like, say, like, come up with a melody and then make words out of it. But like the words that I’m trying to decipher from the sounds I’m making, I think, obviously, subconsciously, I will try to relate it to like a real life experience. Because I think that’s naturally what you would think when you’re trying to decipher the words like stuff that makes sense to you. So I think it’s, I think it’s a combination. Like, I will try to attach the real life experiences while I’m figuring out what are the words that I’m trying to say when I when I come up with the melody.
Jocelle: Nice. All right, we are down to our last question, but I just wanted to know like, what do you have in store for yourself?
Chriskris: What I have in store?
Jocelle: Yeah, anything you want to share, any new projects you want to share? New releases?
Chriskris: Yeah, I’ve, got a lot of releases lined up for 2023. I’m very excited in terms of direction and yeah, everything like, I’m just I think just stay tuned, I don’t want to speak, I can’t speak much on it really. But yeah, it is very, I think it’s a new sound new era, I guess. New era Chriskris. But yeah, I think that’s about it.
Jocelle: Cool. Thank you so much for joining us today. Looking forward to your set after this.
Chriskris: You’re welcome, I’m very excited to perform.
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Disclaimer: This transcript has been edited for clarity purposes.
Watch indiego RECESS ft. Chriskris
Listen to Everywhere and Nowhere live on Indiego 9pm to 12am SGT every third Thursday of the month, and on demand anytime on Spotify and iTunes! Follow Chriskris on Instagram, or check out his music on Spotify or Soundcloud.