Everyone’s favorite house music insurgent is back. Today, Channel Tres announces his debut album, Real Cultural Shit, out this fall via Godmode. And with his latest project, he envisions a new future for dance music, one rooted in harder, grittier, techno-inspired beats. Tres calls this new sound “Compton house.” In contrast to traditional house, which features a typical tempo of 120 bpm, Tres’ devised “Compton House” is a melodious blend of Chicago house and Detroit techno with a zing of West Coast rap. By blurring the conventional lines that divide the three genres, Tres forges a path of his own–and, if this is what this new way sounds like, count us in.
Not only does the album reflect a sonic shift in the artist, but also a personal shift, too. Tres shares that during the pandemic he looked inward, taking his own self-care more seriously. Along with getting sober and working out in the gym, he began the process of rediscovering himself and his interests. Ultimately all these months of working, reading, and being curious culminated in Real Cultural Shit.
“I feel like I know who I am more at this point in my life and what I want to contribute to the world in music,” he shares from Ludlow House in New York City. Tres is in town for Governors Ball, where he performed fan favorites (“Topdown,” “Skate Depot”) along with new songs from this album (“6 am,” which he shared he was the most excited for). As we catch him between his flight and performance, he tells us his day has been pretty chill. Other than a brief workout, he’s spent the day listening to Todd Edwards and exploring the city.
“New York is always great,” he shares. “I’m always surprised to be here and that they like my sh*t. But, you can definitely get lost in the shuffle here. I’ve been here and been lost, so it’s nice to have people that I know.”
To celebrate the debut album announcement (and also tease the rest of the project), Tres dropped “Acid in My Blood,” a few weeks ago and “Just Can’t Get Enough,” today. The latter embodies the glam and decadence of the decade while honoring the legends of the past. In this song, Tres samples Teddy Pendergrass, paying homage to the late R&B icon’s legacy while bringing his sound to a new generation. Like the rest of his discography, “Just Can’t Get Enough” is undeniably groovy. His seductive, eccentric beats draw you in while his candid lyrics encourage you to stay.
“I hope it does for people what it’s supposed to,” Tres says of the album. “I’m not really in control. The only time I’m in control is when I’m creating it. I just put my all into it and am happy with the product. I’m always surprised at the reactions because I set no expectations.”
Along with “Acid in My Blood” and “Just Can’t Get Enough,” Tres also released “Ganzfeld Experiment,” which will be part of his debut project. This track is special to the artist as it features a new songwriting process he’s never tried before. Inspired by the Ganzfeld Experiment, from which it earns its namesake, the song was formed from random word combinations the artist was reading. Also known as the “Burroughs cut-up technique,” Tres explains that he put different words from books and articles he was reading into a stimulator. From there, Tres did his thing and freestyle the rest–inspired by the unusual and often ludicrous word combinations that came out (some include “moon dog” and “rice cloud,” the artist shares). The resulting three-minute-long track is nothing short of fascinating.
And as the artist expands his musical canon with this explosive album, he also gears up for his largest North American headline tour to date. Following his Governors Ball performance, the musician is set to come back to NYC to perform at Brooklyn Steel as well as make stops at Los Angeles’ The Fonda and Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse this fall.
After more questions and a few more stories about the album creation process, we wrapped up our conversation. When asked what was next for the burgeoning musician, he laughed and said, “I want to take some improv classes. I want to see what different art forms I can get into–all of that will contribute to the music and make it better.”
For more about the Compton-native’s roots, musician inspirations, and electric performance at Gov Ball, read below.
VMAN: Thanks for being with us! What have you been up to today?
CHANNEL TRES: I was just listening to Todd Edwards.
VMAN: Nice, how’s New York been?
CT: Good, I worked out and took a little jog.
VMAN: And are you excited for your Governors Ball performance tomorrow?
CT: Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s like the Coachella of the East. I think this is my first festival in New York. I’m pretty excited because I think Gov Ball is a big deal.
VMAN: What song or songs are you most excited to see the crowd’s reaction to?
CT: I got this new song called “6 am,” so I’ve been testing it out.
VMAN: Can you describe the energy of New York City?
CT: New York is always great. I’m always surprised to be here and that they like my sh*t. They’re cool. As the birthplace of hip hop, if you make it here, you can make it anywhere. But, you can definitely get lost in the shuffle here. I’ve been here and been lost, so it’s nice to have people that I know.
VMAN: And congratulations on your new album, Real Cultural Shit. What was the songwriting process for this album? Was it different from previous works you’ve released?
CT: This one is different. I’m sober. I started working out a lot and taking some time to see what’s been going on in my life over the past few years. I feel like I’m more focused. I feel like I know who I am more at this point in my life and what I want to contribute to the world in music. I take it more seriously. Not that I haven’t before, but before it was like, “Is this really happening?” type of energy. Now it’s like, “Oh, this is happening” so I’m more focused.
VMAN: And how do songs usually come to you?
CT: I write songs when we get into the studio, but a lot of the work has been coming internally as I changed my lifestyle. It’s scheduled times that we use the studio and I write, jot down some ideas and then come back to them. But lately, I’ve been focused on living.
VMAN: In one song already released from the album, “Acid in My Blood,” you explore a lot of darker themes. Can you go into that song and some of its influences?
CT: Definitely something techno. I was listening to the godfather of techno, [Juan Atkins], and he’s really good at drums and stuff like that. In the song, I was detailing an experience I had when I was getting f*cked up a lot. So I sing, “acid in my blood, I might get packed out.” “Packed out” is a term from the hood saying you might get jumped by some people if you’re in the wrong area or if you’re on the wrong block. So what I was saying was when I’m putting these chemicals and drugs in my system, I might end up in the wrong situation.
VMAN: And in general, how do you tackle translating experiences into lyrics, melodies, and ultimately songs?
CT: A lot of it is experimentation, just making songs that feels right. For “Acid in My Blood,” I started that song in New York. I was on tour, and I was going through this breakup, walking through New York being sad and sh*t. I was kind of in that mode when I wrote it. I was drinking Hennessy in the studio and was like, “Y’all I might get myself in a dangerous situation.” So it was kind of like art imitating life at that point.
VMAN: Also, you put a lot of thought into the structure of your songs – I read that “Ganzfeld Experiment” was written partly using the Burroughs cut-up technique. Can you explain this technique to me?
CT: I was reading about the Ganzfeld experiment, which is when they take your senses away—sensory deprivation tanks and sh*t like that. I like to read, and when you’re in the studio you just start experimenting. I was reading books, articles and different things. So the way I came up with the song is by putting the article I was reading in the simulator and it created sentences. I just read those words off the sheet and freestyled the lyrics. All these wonky sentences and weird words like “moon dog” and “rice cloud” came out.
VMAN: And why did you decide to apply it to that song?
CT: I just wanted to try it out.
VMAN: What do you hope your music does? Are there any specific messages you want to send with it?
CT: I hope it does for people what it’s supposed to. I’m not really in control. The only time I’m in control is when I’m creating it. And then when it goes out, that’s what it does. I just put my all into it and am happy with the product. I’m always surprised at the reactions because I set no expectations. Different songs mean different things to different people, so it’s whatever people want.
VMAN: What’s changed since your earlier projects?
CT: I’ve definitely evolved as a person. I have more confidence in myself, and I feel like every project helps me get closer to the person I want to be at the time. These days, I’m also more focused. I’m aware. I’m sober. I’m serious about my career. Not that I wasn’t serious back then, I was just trying sh*t out, experimenting.
VMAN: Yeah, figuring stuff out. Now, you’ve honed in a little more. So besides the album, what’s next for you?
CT: I want to do bigger shows, and try out different stage productions and things. I’m in vocal lessons again so I’m learning about different things I can do with my voice. I’m looking forward to collaborating with different people and producing for people. I want to be a well-rounded person, not having music be the only thing. I also want to take some improv classes [laughs]. I want to see what different art forms I can get into–all of that will contribute to the music and make it better.
VMAN: What do you love most about what you do?
CT: I love entertaining. I love making people dance and feel good.