A DJ since the age of 13, Chrissy Murderbot has been influenced by and been a part of the evolution of Chicago's dance music scene, with over 400 remixes for artists like Delorean, Warrior Queen, Johnny Moog and Waxmaster on his resume. Fresh from a string of performances at SXSW, Murderbot talked with Indies And The Underground about the meaning behind the title of his new album Women's Studies, set for release in May, the Windy City's musical legacy and why cooking fried chicken before a show is never a good idea.
How did you first get into deejaying/music?
It was like 1990/1991, I was 8 years old, house music and rave music were blowing up into the mainstream for the first time, and my 18-year-old big sis was bringing a lot of this music back to the house. That was my first experience with electronic dance music, and I fell in love on the spot. 5 years later I was a 13 year old rave kid DJing at parties in Kansas City, and it's all pretty much evolved from there.
What other DJs/producers influenced your style? How did they influence you?
SO MUCH STUFF. Obviously I'm very influenced by juke music, and by classic chicago house (especially the SONGWRITERS like Jamie Principle, who crafted real pop tunes as opposed to just tracks). My production style, sound palette, and approach to rhythm are VERY heavily influenced by mid-90s jungle artists like DJ Krome & Mr. Time, DJ Dextrous, Remarc, 4Hero, etc. Finally, my songwriting and ideas about pop song structure are really informed by synthy Quebecois disco, UK Synth-Pop, New Jack Swing, and Dancehall: think Lime-meets-New Order-meets-Cutty Ranks-meets-Bell Biv Devoe.
What do you remember about your first DJ gig?
It was a NYE rave in Kansas City and I was 13 years old. Just the night before I had burnt the hell out of my hand in a failed attempt at making fried chicken, so that complicated things. I strolled into the club with my right hand all bandaged up like a wild animal had gotten hold of it, and the promoter was like "are you gonna be ok to play?". My set was early in the night so not many people were there yet, but I imagine that the ones who were there all thought "WHO is this underage kid, and what's the deal with his gimpy hand?" I managed somehow, though...
How would you describe the sound/vibe of Chicago juke and footwork to someone?
Juke is basically just a raw, uptempo form of house music, with a lot of big booming bass and a fair amount of dirty lyrics for the dancefloor. Juke is what you play at the dance party to get all the girls and guys dancing on each other. Footwork is kind of a sub-genre of juke: it's the stuff that is a little faster, without as much of the four-on-the-floor thump-thump-thump-thump bass drum like you'd hear in house music--the rhythms are a little more sideways. Footwork music is more specifically for footwork dancers dancing at footwork battles. Obviously there's a huge overlap between what you can play at the juke party and at the footwork battle, but then there are a lot of tracks that work in one setting but wouldn't work in the other.
How do you think the city of Chicago influenced you as a musician, producer etc.?
Chicago is the whole reason I'm doing this. Chicago is the whole reason ANYBODY's doing this, in fact. This is the city where electronic dance music as we know it was invented; this entire industry wouldn't even exist if people like Frankie, Jamie, Farley, Ron Hardy, Steve Silk Hurley, etc. hadn't paved the way. Furthermore, it's really inspiring to work with today's Chicago talents: people like DJ Spinn, Gant-Man, DJ Rashad, etc. I'm always drawing inspiration from Chicago artists, and doing my best to put new ideas back into that system.
How would you compare the music scene/musical climate of Chicago to other cities?
Chicago is a lot like London--a million things going on at once, and almost all of them are paving the way for everybody else. Chicago and London are really unparalleled in that way--nowhere else (save maybe Berlin or Bristol) manages to put out as much new music, or to change the rules of the game as often.
You've done tons of remixes for acts like Delorean, Lemonade and Warrior Queen. What's your typical process of remixing another person's track?
They send me the track, I listen to it a LOT for a few days, then go around town humming it. Usually the song in my head kinda just morphs in my mind into something new until I have a firm, structured idea in my head for a new song based on the source material., I go home, put that song together, work out all the kinks, and there's the remix!
Which current mainstream hits would you love to remix?
Whatever George Michael's about to release.
In what ways does creating an original song differ from doing a remix?
Basically my approach to a remix is that I am making a new track based on elements of the original. The song you're remixing is the initial seed that your ideas develop from, whereas with an original song that seed is a melody in your head or a rhythm you come up with or something like that. The actual process is pretty similar--I guess it's just a matter of where the beginning concept comes from.
The video for "Bussin Down" is hilarious with the Super Nintendo and Street Fighter II references. How'd you come with the concept?
I was trying to come up with a way to showcase footwork outside of the camcorder-at-a-footwork-battle style vids that you see on YouTube...something that took the idea and put it in a new context without making it "fake" or "diluted" or anything. Video games just jumped out at me as a really perfect fit.
Do video games influence your sound the way they do other dance genres (i.e chiptune, 8 bit)?
Not as much as those genres, but I guess anybody who grew up in the 80s and 90s and likes electronic music is influenced by video games whether they consciously recognize it or not. I sampled Yoshi from Super Mario World in a track in 2009, but other than that and this video I don't have a lot of overt video-gamey material incorporated into my work.
Does the album's title Women's Studies have any specific meaning?
The album is all about women, and it contains a lot of pretty heavily objectifying booty music tropes...a lot of "get on the floor and shake your big booty" kind of music. I think it's very clever and self-aware though--sexually objectifying (towards women and men alike) without ever being mean-spirited or misogynistic. Just hyper-sexual juvenile party music. I wanted the title of the album to reflect that: this album is filthy and objectifying and sophomoric, but it's in on the joke. Hence Women's Studies.
What can people expect from the album?
What can fans expect from you next?
EVEN MORE AWESOMENESS PROBABLY.