A Chat w/ Chrissy Murderbot

I’ve been a Miami resident for almost 22 years. It’s a city with a very distinct musical footprint, spanning from Latin American movements like salsa, merengue, bachata, reggaetton, etc, and really thug rap bubbles located within the city’s impoverished area. And there’s also Miami bass, or booty bass, Booty house, which is a ghetto house-influence 808 electro genre that is sorta like the city’s main street sound. To the people that live here: it’s common knowledge and it’s a part of our ingrained musical pride. If your DJ set is ever going to shit, pepper in some 69 Boyz tracks and the crowd will go nuts.

And I think it’s interesting that as I popped on Chrissy Murderbot’s Women’s Studies EP, a bass-oriented party record about ladies of all types, Luther Campbell a.k.a. Uncle Luke (member of 2 Live Crew) is mid-way into his Miami-Dade mayoral race. We have here a former member of 2 Live Crew, a booty bass group that preached a fun, but borderline misogynistic rhetoric, striving to be taken seriously as an active member of the community and entering a political arena that will have to shove-aside his past music catalogue to run the city’s socio-economic infrastructure.

And then we have Chrissy, a guy from the mid-west whose mission statement consists of music, partying, women, partying, bass, partying and having fun. So he’s pretty much Uncle Luke circa-1992 with a less-concentrated creative booty bass output, and an emphasis on more bass styles. The Luke statement is a bit out-there but I think he’s getting down to what this music started out as: hip-shaking bangers. His record Women’s Studies was released by Planet Mu and I was able to speak to him about his music, which sprawls from juke, footwork, ghetto house, bassline and dancehall. He’s already had more than 15 records released under his moniker, off his own label Sleazetone, as well as Dead Homies and Planet Mu.

Here’s a video he made with footwork producer DJ Spinn, to give you an idea.

Chrissy Murderbot ft. DJ Spinn – Bussin Down from Jon Sands on Vimeo.

Where Were U in 02′: So let’s start off with what’s your real name, where are you from and what’s the story behind your name?
Chrissy Murderbot: My real name is Chris Shively. I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, which is a medium-sized city in the Midwest. Kind of a boring place when I was living there, but it definitely could’ve been worse. As for my DJ name, a lot of DJs and producers have names that are trying to prove how tough they are or something–DJ Badman or DJ Gunslinger or whatever–I kinda wanted a name that poked fun at that a little bit. And everybody has called me Chrissy since I was a kid (similar to Billy or Tommy or whatever), so it seemed like a good pairing to show I wasn’t serious.

W: In a couple of words, I guess, describe your music and what you’re going for, in terms of sound?
CM: Fun, bass-heavy party anthems.

W:So, juke, ghetto house and footwork are all pretty niche sounds with really specific underground scenes. What drew you to them?
CM: I like a LOT of music, but I really grew up with jungle, rave, & classic house. I’m drawn to anything fast with huge bass (due to the jungle in me), and I’m drawn to anything descending from house (due to the Midwest in me). So Juke–a descendant of house that’s really fast and has loads of bass–is kind of tailor-made for my personal tastes.

W: And was the Chicago footwork scene (Rashad, Spinn, etc) welcoming to you when you started participating more in the type of music they make?
CM: Yes and No. A lot of important people and big names have been very welcoming and supportive (for instance, I’ve collaborated or got remixes from Spinn, Rashad, Gant-Man, etc.), but Chicago also has a lot of random drama so there’s always gonna be somebody trying to spoil the party. I think the fact that I don’t really pretend to be a footwork insider has helped a lot. I have ties to that scene but really I’m off in the corner working on my own thing, and I think people respect that more than somebody jumping on the bandwagon and trying to be a “footwork” artist or whatever.

W: What kind of drama did you come across when acclimating to the scene? I’d imagine it’d be a bit difficult being a white male entering a scene or community that’s predominantly black. Was that not an issue for you when making this music, or were some people a bit taken a back by it?
CM: Chicago has a LOT of drama, but I try to stay out of it. Regardless of what you look like or where you came from, people will be suspicious of an outsider, but people also tend not to drag outsiders into every petty little conflict, so being an outsider has its pros and cons. I’m just doing my own thing, and whoever appreciates that appreciates that, you know?

W: You throw a party in Chicago where you showcase the type of genres you draw from in your music. Tell me a bit more about it. Where is it held? How long have you been doing the party?
CM: For a few months I threw a party focused on Chicago bass music called Loose Squares. It was kind of an attempt to expose Chicagoans (especially people on the North Side) to music that was happening in their back yards and going unnoticed. It happened at Beauty Bar in Chicago, and it was a lot of fun! I wouldn’t really say it focused on ALL the genres I draw from–I definitely felt constrained in a way that I couldn’t play disco or jungle or deep house, for instance. For that reason, and the difficultly of managing the night while I’m on tour, I’ve decided to put that one on hiatus for the time being. I’m also involved in a super-underground party crew called Trustus, which is doing BIG THINGS in the deep house / techno world. If you’re in Chicago I highly recommend you find our next party.

W: Tell me a bit more about Trustus? Where is it held and what exactly is the party striving to accomplish?
CM: Trustus happens in a lot of different places–we’re always looking for fun new locations (admittedly I never really have time for the location scouting side of things and the other members of the crew are a lot better / more active). We’re just trying to throw really fun parties, really.

W:What’s the crowd like at a Trustus night? Who comes out to the parties?
CM: The crowd at Trustus is usually a bunch of freaks, really. My big goal in every party I’m involved with is to really mix up the crowd–get white kids, black kids, hispanic kids, young people, older people, straight people, gay people, boys, girls, people from different neighborhoods, all in the same party together. I think we do a pretty good job of that with the Trustus events. The nights usually start around midnight and go until it’s bright outside, and things can get pretty hairy. It’s delightful.

W:You know I’m actually very fond of the fact that you’re about mixing different communities in one venue to listen to all types of music; It can really move a sound into so many different directions. What are your thoughts on that notion?
CM: Haha I try not to overthink it. I just want the freedom to play stuff I like at a party–and if you do that, make it fun, and build word of mouth, then eventually the right kind of open-minded people are going to show up.

W: How did you hook up w/ Planet Mu for Women’s Studies/Bussin Down?
CM: I met Mike Paradinas at Bang Face Weekender a year ago, right when things were being finalized for Bangs & Works and that first string of footwork releases on Mu. He originally wanted some help hunting down some of the dudes in the footwork scene that he’d heard tracks from but couldn’t actually find. I wasn’t much help in that respect, but we started trading some other material and the end result was that he picked up “Bussin Down” 12″, Women’s Studies, and DJ Spinn’s “Man I Do It” EP. The Planet Mu guys (Mike, Marcus, Tom) have been great every step of the way, and I’ve really enjoyed working with them.

W: Tell me a bit about Women’s Studies. What drew you to call it that?
Every track on the album is about girls in some way or another. It’s got a lot of juvenile booty music themes in it, and kind of fits into that whole tradition of Miami Bass and Ghettotech and Juke. For years, that whole cluster of genres has been plagued by the debate of where to draw the line when talking about women–some DJs play songs that are just despicably misogynistic, and other DJs play tunes that are racy but all in good fun (and still some people will get upset about it). I wanted to call it something that kinda poked fun at that ongoing debate, and made it clear that this was a fun party record, you know?

W: Something I noticed with Women’s Studies, and your catalogue in general, is that you don’t really make a specific type of genre/bpm-range. You have a juke, house, dancehall, garage and bassline track all throughout the album. And it’s kinda like you’re into all aspects of the rave. How important is it to for you to explore everything?
CM: I love everything, and I really hate being pigeonholed (as you might have noticed)! I don’t set out saying “ok, let’s cram a bunch of everything into this next album”…I just make tunes I like and the album comes out with a bunch of different styles on it. I think they all still sound like ME at the end of the day.

W: You’re currently touring– where are you touring? Are you doing DJ sets or live sets?
CM: I’m writing this from London–just got back from Bang Face Weekender. I have recently been all over the UK, as well as in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. The next two weeks will bring me to New York, Vermont, Northern California, and Chicago. I play DJ sets with Serato.

W:Are you a DJ that spins according to how the crowd reacts, or do you just go in and play whatever you want no matter what the reaction?
I play my sets according to how the crowd is reacting, how the night is structured, and what I personally want to do. If I am booked to play jungle (for instance), I will start out with jungle, and probably play a fair amount of jungle with other things worked in based on how much I want to broaden the horizons of this particular batch of jungle kids. If they aren’t responding to anything but jungle, I’ll pull it in and stick with that. If they respond well to juke or Miami Bass or bashment, then I might only play a set that’s 25% jungle. It’s all about maintaining that balance between being true to yourself and pushing your art forward, while still giving a good time to the hundreds of people who paid money to see you, so they leave with fond memories of the experience.

W: Here in Miami, it’s tough to get people to move unless you’re playing like really aggressive dubstep. Let’s say you come to Miami, what would your set sound like?
CM: Juke. Ghetto House. House Classics. Miami Bass. Bashment. Perhaps some Merengue. I do try to tailor my sets to the local audiences and play some things that will give them easy entry points to the rest of the set (for instance, my sets in Venezuela are a lot different than my sets in Belgium).

W: You’ve released stuff off of your own label. Tell me a bit about the label and some the catalogue?
CM: I’ve put out a lot of stuff over the years…right now I’m really pushing two labels: Sleazetone, which is more on the house music end of things, and Loose Squares, which is a booty music / bass music project. We’ve got upcoming releases by James Braun on Sleazetone, and by myself and DJ Lil’Tal on Loose Squares. It’s gonna be big!

W: What’s next for you: music-wise and touring-wise?
CM: Keep doing exactly what I’m doing, but do it bigger, better, for more people, and for more money 🙂

W:You know I think it’s very interesting that you mention “for more money”, because I feel like like DJs and producers have a hard time publicly saying they’re trying to make money, especially in the dubstep realm, because I guess they don’t want to lose the romanticism of the “just-in-it-for-the-music” mentality. But you seem pretty outspoken about doing it for both. What are your thoughts on that and the whole idea of making money in a small, predominantly creative-driven scene?
CM: I grew up without a lot of money, and I know what it’s like to be broke. Any musician who says they are only in it for the music is either lying or has some sort of alternative income source that I don’t have access to. I’d love to be an independently wealthy gazillionaire who has the luxury of never worrying about money, but music is my day-job–it’s how I eat. I take music VERY seriously, and my first priority will always be the artistic/creative side of things. I would never sacrifice my art or do something I didn’t believe in for a payout, but if I can stay true to what I do, build a larger audience with my music, and use that larger audience to convince promoters, labels, etc. to pay me more money for my work, then why not?

Women’s Studies is out now off of Planet Mu

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