Music for the soul: an interview with Chambray

Chambray, aka André Rost, is a Berlin-based producer, the first Berlin-based producer to sign with Jimmy Edgar’s esteemed Ultramajic imprint. After originally working in the fashion industry for a number of years, a chance demo EP sent to Edgar back in 2014 turned into his debut EP ‘YUU’.

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This was followed by a string of infectious and diverse EPs, which have gained Chambray a devout following and a Boiler Room spot back in May. The techno wunderkind’s signature style bridges the gap between a range of genres. Rost’s inclusive approach to music is rooted in his techno upbringing, mother’s love for African music and his later discovery of Ghetto House. He condenses these influences into his own distinctive brand of dance music on EPs like ‘Rub’ and ‘Work That’, and now again on his debut album.

His debut LP ‘Reliev’ is out 11. 11. Surrounded by a swarm of hype, the tracks from this hotly anticipated album are already gaining traction after being released on Soundcloud and will, no doubt, be a staple in top DJ sets and the beatport charts.

KALTBLUT sat down with Chambray, and a particularly well-behaved baby pug, at a Friedrichshain café for a chat about his dream of scoring a fashion show, not paying attention to critics and why he wouldn’t remix Justin Bieber.

KALTBLUT: Why did you pick the name Chambray?
Chambray: It’s related to my experience of working in the fashion industry for 14 years. It’s a fabric, cotton, but it looks like denim. I liked the name from the beginning. The funny thing is when I play in France they think of it differently. In French, it’s a diss. They think I’m making fun of myself. I only found that out after playing there.

KALTBLUT: Who designed ‘Reliev’s album artwork?
Chambray: I’m a part of Ultramajic. It’s run by Jimmy Edgar and Pilar Zeta, who also create exclusive artwork for each release. I create something, an EP or an LP. I give my work a story and then we talk about that. Based on that conversation, they make the artwork. The album isn’t spelt right, but I picked that spelling because it looks better. I also picked the theme of relief because I went through some hard times while making the album. This music helped me a lot. It gave me a relief from my thoughts. It relieved all the bad things that were going on. Jimmy and Pilar had the idea of the cover being meditative, the stones on the front symbolising balance. They made it in one day. It’s really cool. I think when you have something in your mind you have to do it quick. They did it all on the computer. All you need now is a macbook and a good program, and skills, of course.

KALTBLUT: You’ve spoken briefly about music as a healing process, how does music help you when you’re going through a negative period?
Chambray: I went through a bad time before, everything was shit. I’m fine now, but I needed at least 6 months. During that time, in the first month, I didn’t produce anything because I didn’t have any ideas. My music is based on positive vibes. It’s like when you have a bad letter waiting in your mailbox. You know it’s there. It’s on your mind even if you can’t see it. When all my thoughts are bad, I can’t produce anything. If I have a deadline, I have to extend it or say no. I can’t make music during bad times. My music is positive. I’m a big fan of African music. The rhythms in my tracks are bossa nova and staccato. The rhythm reflects the positivity. It makes me happy. It heals. I was playing Boiler Room with Richie Hawtin and others, back in May maybe, and I had no new tracks finished. I had no idea what I was doing. From May, nobody knew what I was doing. The label asked me if I wanted to release something and I said I’d try. I had this Boiler Room gig in Berlin and so I made one track for the gig, and opened with it. This track ‘Yousme’ is actually the first track on the album. The album started with that track. Then I went through track-by-track building ‘Reliev’ up.

KALTBLUT: Patric Fallon gave a negative review of your EP ‘Work That’ for Resident Advisor, how much do you pay attention to reviews that your music receives?
Chambray: Nothing, especially not to Resident Advisor. I discovered this pretty early on, in their other reviews with artists, and their rating system. The problem with that ‘Work That’ review is I got the impression he had just listened to the previews. But it was actually a nice promotion, even with the bad review. Fans of Ultramajic and my music saw it, and the response in the comments and on Twitter was much more positive. Even bad promotion is good promotion. I don’t take it too personally. When my album gets promotion from blogs and magazines it’s totally cool. I think it’s for the kids out there. They need a rating. They’re getting influenced by ratings. If it’s 4.0 from 5 they think, I have to buy this, I have to listen to it. Premieres are very important to me. They help to spread my music to a different crowd. If I post something on my page it’s only my followers who will see it. Premieres are really good these days, from Mixmag or Vice.

KALTBLUT: ‘Qt Wit Da Bty’ is a highlight from the album, how did it come together?
Chambray: Everything that was recorded on the album was recorded with friends. Then I play around with the vocals, putting an effect on them, pitching them up or down. The guy from ‘Qt Wit Da Bty’ is originally from Amsterdam but he has family in the US, in Detroit, and travels a lot, so it has that Detroit/Chicago influence. My brother and me grew up listening to a lot of techno music. I was also influenced by African music, by bossa nova. We heard my mum playing it a lot in the kitchen. Then later I got in touch with Ghetto House and Chicago. I think these things are a big part of my music. I actually got the idea for Qt Wit Da Bty’s name from my girlfriend. It’s actually a nickname for her. I had the idea for the track, and I was in touch with this guy from Amsterdam. I told him I had some vocals and asked if he wanted to contribute something. He sent me one recording from the US and it was perfect. I created different variations on the words, sampling them and cutting them to put on the track. It’s the first time I’ve made this kind of Ghetto House track. Duke Dumont said I should make a video, along with Alex (Boys Noize). I think it’s a good track to reach out to a wider audience. It’s easy to sing.

KALTBLUT: Do you prefer to collaborate with people you already know on a release?
Chambray: Every time I have a good time with someone, I can see myself working with them. I’m always in touch with people I collaborate with, by email, Whatsapp, or Facebook. I don’t see collaborations as just business. If I get a good vibe from someone then why not? Luckily, I get to work with most of my best friends. We’ve all got the same aims. I like talking with people. You gain knowledge, about other countries, cities, and how it is to live there. When I’m in Glasgow we talk about the people from the city. It’s interesting. When you get the chance to go to places, you should at least get to know the people there.

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KALTBLUT: You debuted on Ultramajic back in 2014, how did you come to be on the label?
Chambray. Jimmy (Edgar)’s place was right near mine. I wrote him an email, the usual “here’s my demo” stuff you do as a newcomer. A few days later he responded and said it’s fucking amazing, let’s do an EP together. It was super quick. The offer was for 5 years. I have a 5-year exclusive contract with Ultramajic, so I don’t release on other labels during that time. Remixes and collaborations are fine. The label looked fresh and I liked the artwork, so I felt comfortable from the beginning. Before you sign to a label, you’re hunting and you want to release lots of different things on different labels, but it’s not worth it. It’s way better to grow with a label, than release 20 EPs on 20 labels. You miss out on the connection. I know that newcomers think it’s cool to do that. Of course, most people don’t get the chance to even sign to a label. I was super happy. The guys at the label know that I appreciate it. You can work at your own pace on the label, which I like. Before I started working as Chambray I was working on a variety of projects, and that was important in order to know what I wanted to do. It’s 10 years of experimenting. I wasn’t that successful, there were things here and there. Finally I knew precisely what I wanted to do.

KALTBLUT: Has being based in Berlin helped your musical career?
Chambray: Not at all. To be honest, it would be the same in Barcelona or in New York or Sydney. I got onto my label via email, so I could have been anywhere. I went for a coffee with Jimmy (Edgar) but that was it. It’s about luck, and timing. During this period of time they were looking for a new artist. You don’t need Berlin for the contacts. People think that they have to move to Berlin to get connected. It’s a big misunderstanding. I moved to Berlin for different reasons, for fashion, for experience. Berlin is actually really hard for newcomers who want to play DJ sets in these clubs. The conditions can be shit. It’s much better in Paris or London or Moscow. You get good expenses. It’s more adventurist in Berlin. You have to do things by yourself. It all depends on the club. Berghain treats you really well. Some clubs just don’t have the same care package you’d receive elsewhere. The promoters here are jaded. That’s the problem in Berlin. It’s the same in fashion. They’re jaded about everything. Promoters complain so much. You don’t get that much money. It’s too much.

KALTBLUT: Where are your favourite destinations to play?
Chambray: It’s hard to say. France in general is great. It’s super different to Germany. Every country has its unique vibe, its own way of dancing, different ways of getting wired. In Berlin it’s quieter. They’re more reserved. In the UK they’re crazier, in a positive way. They don’t give a shit about people say. They stay true to themselves. They don’t hide anything. I like it. It’s similar in France. You have lots of youngsters there. Most of the guys in the audience are in their mid-20s. French people go harder than Germans, or British people. Of course it depends on the music. In France they need their music hard, hard techno etc. In the UK it’s more House music, mixed with techno. Berlin is difficult. Berghain is great. I think 10% of the audience are Germans and the rest are from elsewhere, so you can’t say that it’s German. It’s a mixture of people, which is good. It helps.

KALTBLUT: What is your opinion on remixes?
Chambray: In general people think, especially newcomers, that if they get the chance to remix something big like Depeche Mode they’ll get big as fuck. It’s not true. People recognise you by your name. They just see Justin Biebers name on the track. They don’t keep your name in their mind. It’s not worth it. I prefer to release original EPs. The only reason I do remixes is when the conditions are good, they might have good promotion behind the track. If you’re releasing remixes every week it just doesn’t work. If there was more money for remixes then you would think twice, but it’s also about the artist you’re remixing being compatible with your music.

KALTBLUT: What do you have planned once ‘Reliev’ is released?
Chambray: I have so many ideas actually. It depends on my energy, and it’s also about time. I’ve never done a video for a track before. So maybe ‘Qt Wit Da Bty’. Videos you can think about later, after the release date. Maybe I’ll find a filmmaker, something cool. If I’m doing something, I want to do something fresh. When it’s not fresh, I don’t do it. I’m jaded with the amount of ways there are to make the same film. Sex sells, for example. You’re just watching the video, you’re not listening to the music. Nobody really knows what’s happening after the album release. It was great after the release of the last EP, a lot of promotion, big DJs playing the tracks all weekend, people shazaming your songs, beatport charts. It helps a lot with getting gigs. I’m actually already working on the next EP. It doesn’t feel like work to me. It could be 2 months or 6 months. It’s up to me when I release something. 2 EPs a year works well for me, and the rest is remixes. I’m comfortable not having too many releases out there, but having the right kind of releases. I know people who release so much, and it becomes too much to follow. It’s a dream of mine to make music for a fashion show. It’s a big aim for me in life, for an email to drop into my inbox from a huge fashion company. That’s top of my list.

‘Reliev’ is out 11. 11 on Ultramajic.

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Contact

soundcloud.com/iamchambray
www.facebook.com/iamchambray/
twitter.com/iamchambray
www.tailored-communication.com/artists/chambray
www.ultramajic.com/artists/chambray-1/
www.residentadvisor.net/dj/chambray
www.beatport.com/artist/chambray/269701

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