by: Mitchell Rose
by: Mitchell Rose
Jan 28, 2021
Long-form features with house icon Tchami are hard to come by, but DJ-turned-interviewer Willy Joy recently hosted the future house maestro on his podcast Back To Back.
The 70-minute conversation begins with talk about Tchami’s come up with DJ Snake and Malaa during their teenage years and the early inspiration that he found in French hip-hop before he caught wind of Daft Punk and “Drop The Pressure,” which would decisively convert him to dance music. Eventually, Joy gets Tchami talking about his 2020 debut record Year Zero, which was named Dancing Astronaut’s Top Electronic Album of 2020:
“I didn’t think I would ever be able to make an album with this Tchami project, because [there were the] single days, and then came the EPs that did quite well, and the tracks that were not the main singles on the EPs received a lot of attention too, a lot of praise too. So I was like, maybe I can express myself more than the Tchami sound I’m known for and open the range of the sonic possibilities for me. Little by little came the day where I opened the folder of all my tracks and I said, ‘maybe I could do an album.’ That was it, there was no greater intention behind it. We found everything else later, the title, the artwork, but the primal intention was music.”
By his own admission, Tchami is a very secretive guy. Even his own parents didn’t hear Year Zero until its release day, the album maker said during his Back To Back guest slot.
While on the tour that preceded the LP, Tchami played several Year Zero inclusions without announcing them as such just to get the crowd’s honest reaction to the music. He went on to explain how some of the marquee collaborations on his debut came to be, including “Praise” with Gunna, which still came about, despite their inability to get in the studio together.
“We couldn’t see each other, but we had that friend in common, so I gave the beat to Danny and he played the beat to Gunna…I was not there, but he was texting me and I was always getting feedback, ‘what do you think of this, or that?’ So we tried to make it like [I was there], but I was not. I thought it came out really good…It felt like I was doing a remix honestly at some points. I had the basic track and he did his part, which was great I loved it, and then I kinda rebuilt the whole thing around it. “
Year Zero‘s feature list is as comprehensive as it gets, starring everyone from ZHU to rapidly blossoming vocalist HANA. However, the collaboration that made Tchami the most nervous was the LP’s closer, Todd Edwards.
“That was the first studio session I had in LA, and I wasn’t shaking but I was like, ‘oh, he’s Todd Edwards, I need to do my best to bring him the best beat…we need to make something legendary,’ but he picked the last beat that I played. I saw him click on that song, and was ‘damn, this is the right song, let’s do it right now…’ He wrote the whole song, and that was just an amazing connection in the studio. “
Tchami’s monumental 2020 was also marked by his extensive work on Lady Gaga‘s Chromatica, where he scored producer credits on four tracks, including the smash hit “Rain on Me” with Ariana Grande. Along with revealing that he and Lady Gaga had sent ideas to each other for years before Chromatica, Tchami described what it was like to work on someone else’s project versus his own.
“It’s easier, because you don’t have expectation; you are not going to bear the weight of the work at the end. I put everything Tchami aside and try to focus on what Martin can do for you today. That’s how I approach every collaboration when it’s not Tchami.”
Joy also took some time to discuss spirituality with Tchami. From his Confession label to the priest outfit that he characteristically dons when performing, Tchami and his work have always related to spirituality in some capacity.
“To me, it’s the connection from the ground to the sky and to what’s beyond, whatever you call it, it’s fine with me. The collar thing is I liked the outfit so let’s give it a shot. I was born and raised Catholic, but not really going to church. Baptized, but not going beyond that. To me, art is the special thing human beings are able to do that can transport you outside reality. Music is a part of this too. I just try to reach that state of mind every time I’m making a track. All the things that go after, mix, mastering, arranging, are only to help that feeling to be better. “
Throughout the rest of the podcast, Joy and Tchami discussed songwriting techniques and the importance of the groove, the future, and inspirations for founding Confession, and how the pandemic helped Tchami fix many unhealthy habits brought on from his relentless touring and work schedule. Listen to the full podcast below.
Featured image: Tchami/Instagram