Exclusive: We dive into the world of Chambray

Berlin based producer Chambray has been one of our favorite artists, and a regular favorite for us at The Playground. We recently sat down with him in time for his upcoming Ministry of Sound performance to learn more about the enigmatic Berlin artist.

Hi, André, thank you for taking time to chat with us.

Hey, guys, likewise. Thanks for the interview request!

How are you? What have you been up to this past week?

I’m, good thanks. Over these past few weeks I have been working on several projects and preparing tracks for my upcoming LP. Tracks with DJ Haus and Duke Dumont are in the pipeline too.

Who/what were your musical influences growing up? Can you share a pivotal moment when you decided to pursue it as a career/lifestyle/passion?

Well, first of all I have to say that I’́m not the type of guy who has a “hero” like Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie and so on. I never felt inspired, or was a big fan of all these guys. They just did what they wanted to do, and that’s the only thing that impresses me. I am more influenced by my surroundings. For example, my brother, who is twelve years older than me, was listening to a lot of techno music when we were living at our parents’ place, in the early days, so I was more inspired by genres instead of a precise artist. During my youth I was listening to Techno, House, and Indie music. Later, I discovered ghetto house and different sub genres from Africa, all of which are still very important to me. In general, I feel attached to every kind of music that sounds positive and rhythmic. I just never got THAT mixture of sounds from an artist, so I started making my own stuff from pretty early on. After several projects of experimenting with different sounds and styles, I finally found find my sound through Chambray.

You recently played at Boiler Room’s “Play Differently” series in Berlin, which debuted Richie Hawtin’s new piece of DJ kit. Do you believe in a DJ paradigm of vinyl or digital; does it matter?

My impression is that most of the DJ ́s out there collecting vinyls for private use instead of playing vinyls in the club etc. It’s def much easier in these days to prepare an USB stick instead of carrying 1-2 heavy trolleys of vinyls to every show. Of course, the quality of a Vinyl is def better in my opinion; sounds are much warmer and more organic as a mp3. In my case, I prefer to play only digital because most of the tracks that I prepare for shows are not available on 12 inch AND I wanna to ensure the high quality of my tracks (especially when I play through a big sound system). Soo, vinyl or digital; the up and down debate will continue, as it has for years.

I’m curious what happens with these two formats in the future.

What is a style/genre of music that people would not expect you to be into?

I’m pretty attached to all kinds of music from Africa. Listening to it always gives me a positive feeling, and it gives me fresh inspiration to create new music.

The physical element of DJing is often overlooked. What pre-show rituals do you have that ensure you are on top form throughout a set?

I just go into the club one hour before I play, in order to get into the vibe of the party.

When performing, would you rather open or close a night?

Definitely close a night.

What recent show – whether it was the crowd, the venue, the sound system, etc – has far and away exceeded your expectations?

Hm, hard to say. Each gig I’ve that I have played has been super fun. To name one would be “Toffler” in Rotterdam (NL). The party was not that crowded, but I was more impressed with the venue itself – like, they built a club in an unused subway station. Pretty cool!

Berlin seems to be a breeding ground for talented musicians, especially within electronic music. Do you find the music scene in Berlin more conducive to meaningful collaboration or prone to an oversaturation of mediocre artistry?

My experience is that people in Berlin can be pretty harsh and, sometimes, also very mean in judging you. Most of the artists I see who get stuck and/or lose their interest in what they are doing can usually relate that back to the useless feedback they get from people etc. Of course, it depends what type of person you are.

Artists who just seek to make a number one hit in order to earn tons of money get stuck pretty fast in Berlin. In my case, I produced only at my place for myself for many years without showing something to anybody, even to my friends or family; I don’t seek feedback about things I do from my heart. I mean, I was employed, and I used creating music just to keep the balance of my inner self, so without expecting anything from anybody, I still feel very comfortable with myself.

I’ve always found the vocal aspect of your songs to be very compelling; they serve as lyrical stepping stones that draw out and rely on other production elements, rather than overshadowing them. Moreover, they work well in conjunction with the relentless “bounce” that your music boasts. Which aspect of your sound do you feel defines the tone of your music at the moment?

Actually, people from all over like telling me what defines my sound. Some of them saying it ́s the mixing of my drums; others say that it is the sampling structure of my track; and so on. When I was doing my first EP, “RUB”, I noticed, during the process, that I couldn’t compare any of those tracks with any tracks that I listened to from other artists. I found no similarity with other material, and that was the first moment, after several years of experimenting, that I felt 100% comfortable and complete with what I was doing.

Your “Evenue” EP came out just under a month ago. What was the production process like, and how did it differ from your “Rub” EP?

I think it’s cool to experiment and develop with sounds. For me, it could be boring – if I produce an another “RUB” EP. In relation to the “EVENUE EP”, I was just in the mood to do something with house stabs. I experimented a lot, and wanted to do something that stands out from other house tracks out there. I had lot of fun doing that, and I’m still very satisfied with the result.

What aspect of Ultramajic drew you to the label? What do you feel is the label’s biggest strength?

In my opinion, I would say it’s the “Mystic“. When I discovered the label three years ago, I can remember I was flashed from the artworks and the music, which looked and sounded very fresh to me. In fact, it was exactly because everything felt “new” to me that, without knowing anything about the background of the label, I was attached from the beginning. Back then, I had some demo trax; I sent them to the label right after falling in love with it. I have to admit that I never expected to get a response from the label. Luckily, after exchanging a few e-mails, I was sitting with the label-owner, Jimmy Edgar, in a cupcake shop in Berlin, talking about an upcoming release.

Ultramajic places a strong emphasis on its label’s artwork. In today’s social media obsessed society, what role do you feel visual aesthetics play in an artist/label’s branding?

Visuals were always important; it gives the “product“ a face. With the help of social media, in these days, it has just reached another level. I’m sure that when things are popping up and looking fresh, people are getting interested by things that they are not used to seeing. Ultramajic is a good example of a forward thinking collective who has the courage, in these times, to create something new – instead of continuing with something which people are used to.

Any final plugs for upcoming shows or influential artists to keep an eye on?

I’m gonna play in London on May 28th at the Ministry Of Sound alongside Jimmy Edgar and so on. Excited!

Thanks Chambray! Tickets for the May 28th show can be found here.

By Austin Bell

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