Chris Michaels (Cryptochronica) set a goal in the beginning of 2019 to achieve Black Belt and release his EP on the Producer Dojo label. His hard work and 40+ hours per week in the studio has really paid off as his new EP “The Beginning is Near” will be released on the Producer Dojo label on October 25, 2019. Cryptochronica has been doing stellar work on the monthly cypher challenges and has been featured on Cypher 10 Jamaica, Cypher 11 Off The Grid, Cypher 13 Timer Beats, and Cypher 14 Festival Season. I am delighted to announce that Chris has earned his purple belt and is the Class of 808 Ninja of the Month!
Chris, tell us about your musical journey and how did it lead you to ill.gates, The Producer Dojo and the Class of 808?
My dad is a musician, he’s a fabulous piano player, so there was always a source of music in my house growing up. This honestly had the reverse effect on my development though; because my dad played music I took it for granted. It was sort of a background noise that I didn’t realize most people lived without, so it just didn’t seem special to my sheltered outlook at the time. That, coupled with the fact that all through elementary school all I had were phony music teachers, made me disinterested in music. That view was made even more pronounced when my parents forced me to take violin lessons- a double negative because that violin teacher was super strict and menacing and there is no better way to make a person hate music than to force them to screech out a bunch of scales on a super technical, highly-unpleasent-when-you’re-crap instrument like a violin.
I honestly didn’t develop an appreciation for music until high school, when I realized that other people found music prestigious and sexy. Ah, the power of peer pressure.
After high school I taught myself guitar with a hungry intensity that sidelined everything else. I dropped out of college, partied a lot and just played music. I played in some bands, put out a couple of indie rock records, and did the whole scene thing. After maturing a few years, I realized the limits of this approach, and went back to school. I’m glad I did, you go to college to learn how to learn, which proved to be helpful later.
What really engendered my love for music, though, was exposure to hallucinogens. All our senses are heightened tripping, but none moreso than hearing. Music on drugs is one of the most profound experiences there is, part psychological, part physical; it’s quasi-religious. Music exists at the juncture between physics and emotion, and on hallucinogens you can notice that relationship in really deep ways; The way sound fills you, occupies your body cavities, vibrates you, moves you to emotion… It’s almost sexual, you know?
I first heard of Ill.Gates at Bassnectar’s Freestyle Sessions. Dylan opened, and on stage he played a track that a student of his made. I think that was 2017. When I went home, I looked him up and found out about the Class of 808. A few months later I took the plunge.
Where are you from originally? Can you describe your life using only song titles?
I’m originally from Hawaii, the island of Oahu. My childhood is- like, literally- described in “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson. Total cliche, but what can I say? Jack Johnson is one of Hawaii’s 5 great exports: Surfing, Poke, “the Shaka,” Jack Johnson and Bruno Mars- you’re all welcome.
Adolescence would have to be “Permanent Holiday” by Mike Love. I was totally out to lunch as a kid. High school and my mid teens could be summed up by “Talking Shit about a Pretty Sunset” by Modest Mouse and “Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t” by Brand New. So edgy. Now, my entire adulthood is and ever will be “Music is the Drug” by our lord and savior, Bassnectar.
What made you want to become a music producer? What do you do when you are not producing music?
As is the case for so many of us, it was seeing Bassnectar that really made me want to learn production. I had seen electronic music before, and it was cool, but it wasn’t until I saw Bassnectar at an Electric Forest set that I really was awe-struck by the power of the machine. I was mystified. I had played music for a long time, and I knew how to actively listen to it, how to critically deconstruct it’s components. I got it, you know? But when I saw Bassnectar, he mesmerized me. I couldn’t follow the intricacies, or understand how sounds morphed into other sounds, or the way sequences dissolved and collapsed into one another. I didn’t understand how this thing could exist. So I had to learn. Immediately after that festival I got Ableton and started my journey. A few months later, I saw Bassnectar and Ill.Gates at Freestlye Sessions, and the rest is history.
When I’m not producing music I work out, play frisbee, read, travel as much as I can, and above all, spend time with my wonderful girlfriend.
Congratulations on your upcoming EP release on the Producer Dojo label. What was the experience like for you and do you have recommendations for others who may be interested in releasing on the label?
Thank you! Releasing a professional E.P. is hard. Making sure everything is up to professional standards, to Ill.Gates’ standards, is demanding, and oftentimes downright discouraging… but! It’s also SO satisfying once you get it.
It’s all about that final 2%. Getting the composition and the structure together is most of it… Making a groovy beat and laying out some melodic ideas, writing a drop, checker boarding, breakdown and outro, all that stuff is 70% of the track. Then Phase 2 and Phase 3 is the next 28% of the song, the transitioning, detailing, effects, and mixing, etc. But that last 2%? That last 2% took me as long as the other 98% combined, and that’s the difference between “Professional” and “Amateur”. That last 2% is the Soothing, and the Multiband Side-Chaining, and the reverbing, and the gluing, and the extra, extra detailing, and the most painful Puppy Killing you’ll ever do.
For any of y’all looking to do the E.P., I can’t recommend the process enough. That grueling journey will give you the full picture of what it takes to bust out a finished song. After that process, you will fully know what it is that makes a song professional. There is a clearly defined “Before E.P.” Era in my music and an “After E.P.” Era. I’m so glad I’m in the “A.E.P.” Era now, there’s no going back.
What is your Studio set up like and what are your top 5 favorite VST’s?
Ok, so this is a funny one. I’ve been travelling for the last year and a half, so my “studio” has been my laptop and some Bose Headphones in whatever space I could find, be it an airplane seat or a hostel common room. I lived in a car for 6 months in New Zealand, writing the E.P. in shotgun. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the studio makes the music, because that is patently untrue… That said, having some good studio equipment will ONLY benefit you. Now, I’m living in Seattle, I just got a pair of KRK Rockit 8 Generation 4s, that I love with all my being. Hearing the sub makes all the difference. I’ve also been using a friend’s Push 2 to tap out tons of melodies and chord progressions. As far as VSTs, my favorites for composition are NI Razor, Sonic Academy ANA 2, Soundtoys Echoboy, the Infected Mushroom Manipulator and Wavves Codex.
For mixing, I love Soothe, by OEKSound, the Oxford Inflator, by Sonnox, Lustrous Plates, from Liquidsonics, the Fabfilter series and the Slate Digital analog emulators.
What are your plans for your music (both near term and long term goals)?
Well, I want to ride my momentum and start touring in a serious way. It’s also really about time that I start to buckle down and focus on working with vocalists. Bangers are dope, but songs are immortal. I need to transform the ideas I have for lyrics and hooks into full tracks, and record them, in studio, with trained vocalists.
My long term goals are this: sustain myself and raise a family on an income solely derived from music, play a nighttime set at a music festival, do a festival circuit and, ultimately, be re-mixed by Bassnectar, and/or collab with/open for him. I can die happy after that.
What are the top 3 “game changing” lessons that you learned as a member of the Class of 808?
Oh, goodness gracious. There are so many. Top three? Well, I’d have to say that the concepts of PVRD and iterative sequencing are absolutely critical… As is “levelling,” and understanding the difference between horizontal and vertical composition.
If you could go back 10 years ago and advise your younger self of just 1 thing, what would that advice be?
Advice about music or about life? For music, I’d tell myself to start learning production right away. It’s all about sinking in the hours. I wish I could have been one of those kids who started producing at 10, so that they’re experts at like 15, 16. The CharlestheFirsts, and Disclosures.
Life advice? I’d tell myself (not that I’d even be able to appreciate it if I DID hear it from an older dude) that most things really aren’t worth the calories. Going out 6 nights a week, spending money (and time- precious, precious time) on beerpong, stressing over girlfriends, getting bent outta shape over “reputation,” all that stuff, just dismiss it. It’s distracting BS. Find and follow your Ikigai.
Or I’d just tell myself not to drive so fucking fast.
Do you ever experience writer’s block in the studio? How do you overcome it? How often do you make music?
So I don’t get writers block much, but when I do, I just turn my time into a nighttime sesh and work on making instruments, racks and layered samples instead of trying to compose. Your snare library can never be too big. Or else I’ll do the Arrangement Exercise, which is always a good use of time.
If I’m feeling like music is draining, tedious, or no longer fun, I’ll go exercise. Blood flow stirs the Muses.
My constant battle is forcing myself to stay off my phone- there is nothing worse for creativity than reading the news, or social media. I try to make music 40 hours + a week.
What are your favorite genres of music at the moment and who are your top 5 favorite artists right now?
So, I don’t have a favorite genre. Genres are moods, and one needs a different mood for different occasions: when we host elegant dinner parties, I listen to downtempo, or Leon Bridges, or Norah Jones, De-Phazz, Thievery Corp. that kind of thing. When it’s Sunday morning breakfast, nothing hits the spot like Jack Johnson. Tropical house makes for a great breakfast too, but it’s no Banana Pancakes. I love to exercise to Liquid DnB, or, Electroswing- Parov Stellar, that vibe. When It’s time to get turnt, I’ll put on Griz, Opiuo, Zeke’s Beats. Ultimately, my home is Bass music, but it’s good to get out of the house.
Favorite artists I’ve been listening too lately? Bassnectar, Nu:Logic, Turbo Suit, Emancipator and Rhye.
The new Hedflux and Vorso albums are scrumptious too.
If you met with a music producer that was on the fence about joining Producer Dojo what would you tell them?
Oh, easy. Joining the class of 808 was the SINGLE best decision I’ve made for my artistic development. It’s that simple. If you are really sincere about wanting to learn how to produce electronic music, there is no better avenue for learning- not just technique- but time management, how to network, how to have healthy thinking habits, how to practice efficiently, how to be a good student, what it means to be artful in your approach. The mentors are invaluable, trust them, they will challenge you to see outside of your mental constraints. Sometimes, that hurts. But that’s ok, that’s part of the growing process. And of course, Dylan is a master- by his definition- “One who has made every mistake in a given field.” Learn from his mistakes. Take the leap, treat yourself, you deserve it. What are you waiting for?
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Finally, all it takes is practice, friends. Happy producing!