TMG is pleased to present another introspective artist interview. This time featuring Kristachuwan, the electronic, ambient, funk, jazz, experimental multi-media artist from Buffalo, New York!
Kristachuwan is the moniker for electronic musician and producer, Chris Svoboda. At 29 he has had the pleasure of touring the East Coast the past year with performance artist Lesionread. In past years, he has opened shows for bands like Phantogram and Future Islands. Chris also creates video art for his shows and has done live video mixing for performances including, Lesionread, Ay Fast, Neon Indian, and Holy Fuck.
Chris uses Ableton Live alongside a microKORG synth, pedals and saxophone to create a sound described as such by local Buffalo Blog, Buffablog :
“[Kristachuwan] illustrates his range in rendering moods that fall in the supernatural realm, and ultimately the leave the listener eager to hear what the rest of the album has in store… Glitchy drum sequences, ambiguous vocal samples, are airy mallets are cleverly combined, giving the listener a vague sense of being on an amusement park ride themed around dark sorcery.”
Let’s check out some of his music below!
Here’s his music video for “Zebra (St. Sophia)”, a huge, melodic jazz & electric journey! Amazing visual production by Chris as well!
Here’s his song “Seeing Eyes (Will Not Be)”, an incredibly funky ambient journey through the clouds!
**NOW HERE’S OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH KRISTACHUWAN**
1. What’s your bands name? Where did the name come from?
Kristachuwan: Kristachuwan was a nickname that was developed while performing in my old band Cinnamon Aluminum( say that ten times fast haha). We were intergalactic funk musicians from the 8th Dimension of 9.
2. The Yellow Collar Collective is all about the daily grind musicians go through to perfect their craft, what has been your biggest struggle and accomplishment as a musician?
The biggest struggle I’ve faced as a musician is finding my niche in a scene. I’ve always been into cross-genres and many different types of music, and you don’t want to box yourself into one ideas. I’ve always been interested in musicians who continue to develop their style, and try to bring something unique to the table.
Even more so for me, is having to choose an artistic medium. I’m a painter, illustrator, animator, designer, film-maker, and musician ( let’s just go with media-artist haha). So for me to choose one thing and follow that, seems foolish. Which is why I make my own video art to project on stage, and continue to work on visual art alongside the music.
My biggest accomplishment would have to be breaking out of Buffalo, NY and touring. Nothing quite like playing to a new audience every night. After playing in bands for about 10 years (everything from synth-pop/industrial to avant-garde jazz), you need to take that next step and expand your reach as an artist. This summer tour all over the West has made it possible for me to do the entire country next time around, and that’s something I never would have imagined if I were still playing in a band in my own town.
3. What other instruments can you and your fellow band members play?
I’m a solo artist, but I’ve been playing saxophone and improvising since I was about 12 (I’m 29 now). But I also can play piano/keyboards, and I use drum machines and sequencers to sample and create beats.
4. Why’d you start making music and why specifically did you choose your genre?
I started making music because it just seemed to be something I was good at real early on. Especially when i started improvising, then things really took off. I couldn’t just play the same jazz standards without adding new sections to the songs. So I thought, “Why not start making your own tunes?” I used to write sheet music for the songs, but when it came to writing out each part, and finding a band to perform them, it seemed to make more sense to get into electronic music composition. As far as choosing a genre, I always loved jazz, hip-hop and electro beats, so I naturally tried to start putting all of those elements together. The last few years, I think I’ve finally found a way to make that fit.
5. Do you have any memorable musical experiences that have shaped who you guys are?
I actually had a really bad memorable experience from way back when I was about 13. I was at a jazz festival and had just won an award for best sax solo. I was walking up the stage to receive the award and I tripped and fell on the stage. The entire audience burst into laughter, and as I looked up, Bramford Marsalis ( great jazz saxophonist), who was presenting the award, was laughing in my face. Kind of shaped the way I approach performing, in that comedy in music is extremely important. You can’t take yourself too seriously. Once I understood humor in music, a got really into Zappa and how he approached writing. Early Hip-Hop has elements of humor in it too.
6. Have you ever released any albums or are working on any now? Any special projects?
That is something I’ve been doing the whole time. I’ve put out 3 full albums as Kristachuwan, and a couple EPs as well. My first album, available on my website and youtube, is a video album I put out in 2012 called Pterodactyl Fish. I’ve realized that was a bit ambitious for a first LP, but it set the bar for everything I’ve been creating since.
I just keep making new stuff, and if I’m playing out, I have to keep things fresh and new for the audience( and myself). Seeing Eyes (will not be) is my newest EP, and it’s focused on funk-house beats mixed with jazz improv and old Doo-Wop record samples. I’ve moved away from MIDI sounds the past few years, and now everything is a field-recording sample, or a vinyl rip. The goal was to create electronic music that had an organic feel to it. Biomorphic music.
7. Do you collaborate with other artists? Inside and outside your genre?
Collaboration is key to a healthy music scene. I’ve made beats, music videos, experimental noise jams, and installation art with the artists and musicians in Buffalo. I’ve also tracked sax parts and solos for jazz groups, rock bands, and DJs. It’s always great to work with new artists. You both bring something unique to the table, and you always learn something new from each experience.
8. What venues and events have you performed at in the past five years? Which has been your favorite?
In the last 5 years, I’ve performed all over the North East and now the West. So most of America, just need to pass through the South at some point. Lots of small art venues, CO-OP houses, basement shows, and bars. One event that really stands out in my mind was performing at Peep Show in Buffalo back in 2013. This is a fundrasier for Squeaky Wheel ( a local media arts collective), and I was able to perform on an old theatre stage in a 4 story building. Every room, stairwell, and even the sides of the building had visual art and installations running. Basically all the new-media artists in the city pilling into one building and having a ton of fun.
More recently I did a show in the old 150ft tall grain silos of Buffalo. it was part of a big event, features all types of music. But just to play in this giant room as listen to all your samples and textures bouncing off the concrete is very surreal. Didn’t even have to use any reverb effects hahaha. I’d say it’s a draw between those 2 events so far.
9. How do you acquire shows and promote yourself? Do you have any recommendations for other artists?
Booking is difficult for a musician because it’s just as time consuming as performing and writing. I made a nice website for myself and I’m on social media, so sending my info out isn’t difficult. The hard part seems to be making the right connections. I find that contacting bands that have similar styles is much easier than cold-calling venues. They know their town, and they know what kind of show you want. That way things can work for them too, and you can host them when they come to your city. DIY websites are extremely helpful as well. I used dodiy.org for most of the tour this summer.
Having a manager would help if you don’t have time, but it needs to be someone who understands what you’re trying to do, and what you’re saying with your sound. People can get you gigs that you don’t fit on at all if you just go with someone who is experienced.
10. Do you have any mottos?
I was always a fan of “ Be the change you want to see” (Gandhi i believe). It’s helped me look at my life (work, music, relationships), and evaluate my present situation every 6 months or so. If I’m unhappy with something, I change it. Things are much more exciting if they’re constantly.
11. What artists inspire you?
I’ve always been inspired the classic electronic bands like Aphex Twin, Chemical Brothers, Autechre, Orbital, etc. But I’ve got huge ties to jazz roots, with Clifford Brown, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis (obviously), Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock. I was real into rock too when I was younger. I dig on Radiohead, Mogwai, My Blood Valentine, and Pavement. All those almost ambient noise groups. Recently everything coming out on Brainfeeder has been mind-blowing. They are doing what I want to hear in electronic music (which has never really happened before). Again, I love organic- sounding electronic music.
As far as visual art goes, I love the surreal filmmaker like Tarkovsky, and Alejandro Jodorowsky. Maya Daren is a big influence on my art as well. The biggest filmmaker that’s contemporary is David Lynch. He taps into that subconscious realm that is so important in explaining complex human emotions. The symbols we use to describe these emotions (words I mean), don’t even come close to scratching the surface of the feelings they bring up. I’m also really into painters like Francis Bacon, Max Ernst, James Jean, and Chuck Close. anything from the abstract-expressionist era is great too.
12. What’s next for your band?
I plan on touring the Northeast again in November, and then I’m working on a new EP and music video to put out in 2016. Most likely be doing a whole national tour with my buddy Lesionread in the fall of 2016. He and I have toured together for the past 3 years, and it gets better every time we do it.
13. What do you do when you’re not listening to or making music?
If I’m not making music, I’m usually drawing or working on some form of visual art. I’m a freelance artist by trade, so I’m often swamped with other people’s ideas. So I’ll relax and flesh out some visual ideas, and then stop that and switch over to my music. It’s kind of a juggling act between all the art forms. I’m always working on something.
14. What’s your favorite song right now?
That’s a difficult question. I’ve been listening to a lot of funk and soul lately, but I’d have to say the song that’s been stuck in my head during the summer tour was King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar. It has that James Brown/ Old School Funk vibe I’ve been diggin’ on lately.
“…bringing to mind the expansive work of producer Flying Lotus. Similar to the Los Angeles artist, Kristachuwan brings progressive ideas to styles like jazz, funk, and soul in an attempt to put past sounds in a modern context. ”
Huge thank you to Kristachuwan for taking his time to do this interview for all of us!
Check out more of Kristachuwan and his music through the links below!