We had the pleasure to talk to Chris Ellis aka Chemtrailz, whom we discovered through Coyu’s remix contest held last year.
He recently released ‘All Is Not Lost’, the first EP on his newly-launched label Terra Novae. Chris’s talent, determination, and philosophy speak for himself and this is definitely not the last time we hear about his work.
Hi Chris! Tell us where do you come from? What was the music scene like back home?
I grew up in Austin Texas and later moved to Southern California in my mid 20’s. Everyone knows about the LA scene so I’ll say a bit about Austin here. The younger music culture in the southern states has been centered around gangsta rap and hip hop music for most of my lifetime, but Austin was always a shelter for a small and growing rave scene- even as far back as Electric Daisy Carnival Austin 2002. Throughout the past 10 years of dance music growth in the states, the taste has typically trailed behind the rest of the world by a few years, but tech house and techno are growing fast with California camps like Desert Hearts and Dirty Bird leading the charge and ravers slowly being reintroduced to the darker and harder sounds. Barbuto and Sara Landry have been doing a great job carrying the black techno flag in Austin the past few years and the sound is growing slowly but surely. Up until the pandemic, I played most of my parties in my second home LA, but the future definitely looks promising for techno throughout the States in the midterm future.
What is your relationship with music, where does your passion come from?
I’ve been an aspiring musician since I was a toddler. My childhood nickname was Bachy, short for Johann Sebastian Bach, because I was always glued to my toy piano and Casio sampler keyboard (1989-1993ish). I first wanted to become a producer and DJ listening to rap like Timbaland, DJ Screw, Swisha House and Bone Thugs when I was around 12 years old in the late 90’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the support to pursue my passions at a young age, so it wasn’t until after college at the University of Texas and taking control of my own future and finances that I was able to begin pursuing a production career around age 23/24. Fortunately, I was introduced to the rave in college, so once I started audio school after college I had the right mindset going in.
If not doing music, where do you shelter yourself, what are your favorite things to do?
Since I moved back to Texas from SoCal my main hideout has been in my studio outside of Austin, so basically my home has been in the studio as of lately. I’m also a professional horticulturist and consultant, so I have a garden to tend and escape to at my home studio when the outside world gets hectic. I’m lucky as I still get to spend plenty of time on the west coast for my day job, so I spend whatever spare time I can snowboarding. Snowboarding is my second love behind the rave.
Was it always techno or have you gone across various genres?
Before traveling to Europe to discover dub and drum & bass in Amsterdam (2006ish) I was introduced to trance in college house raves 2004/05. Trance was always close to me in my sound journey. My first all-night massive was an ATB rave in Austin during the Ecstasy era.
When I finished audio school in 2011 my first few releases were minimal techno with some trancy progressive elements. In 2012 I won a remix contest for Todd Terry with a trancy tech house track with latin vibes. Under various aliases I released more progressive, a few attempts at deep trance, and finally psytrance before coming back to my techno roots in 2017 and launching my Chemtrailz alias. I still have a lot of love for deep hypnotic atmospheres and mesmerizing builds; but the trance combination with deep, dark, harder rolling techno beats really brings the sound together for me.
What do you prefer, studio time or gigs?
I’m a studio rat at heart, but for the past few years, I’ve really been loving any and every opportunity I get to play out. I feel a big part of my purpose is not just production but performing the frequencies I transmit, so I truly enjoy every moment of performance. If I had to choose I’d say I enjoy both equally as well. The studio is the fun work while gigs are the payoff. I love it all!
‘All my tracks are produced at 432hz to penetrate barriers and are loaded with solfeggio frequencies for healing purposes, but these are just the simple technical aspects that merely support the actual function of my work.’
You’ve just recently launched your own label Terra Novae. Congratulations! How was the journey? It’s something that you meditated a lot or did the idea come up just recently?
Thank you so much! It’s been a journey. I’ve been making long-term plans to launch my own label for some time, but in meditation during the August 2020 Lionsgate portal, I surprisingly received confirmation that it was already time. Shortly after the name Terra Novae just came to me.
Although I’ve landed some cool releases on some awesome labels, I’ve always had an extremely tough time finding a home for the majority of my productions. I’d like to think that my sound is just too different or unique to really fit with my favorite techno labels, but whatever the case I felt like the time had finally come to establish a home for my unique sound. So far the reception has been great with some awesome and unexpected support, so I am quite excited to see what the future brings!
Tell our readers what music you would like to receive, what’s the Terra Novae sound?
The Terra Novae sounds is what I’d like to think of as a blueprint for a deep, hypnotic, darker techno sound fitting for this new age that our planet is entering. I want this sound to embrace change as well as act as a transmission for higher dimensional frequencies translated into deep rave vibrations.
Non-professionally I’m an internal alchemist and I am here to provide another small but relevant catalyst to humanity’s transition into higher realms of consciousness. All my tracks are produced at 432hz to penetrate barriers and are loaded with solfeggio frequencies for healing purposes, but these are just the simple technical aspects that merely support the actual function of my work. I also hope to find more producers with a similar awareness in the near future that will help complement Terra Novae’s sound.
All Is Not Lost is the beginning of a journey on a new evolutionary branch of techno music.
All Is Not Lost, for This Is New Earth.
Favorite place to play?
LA warehouses and desert parties- bar none. These are the home base for the majority of my techno rave family and where I developed my sound. Of anywhere I’ve played I never felt more at home than in the SoCal underground scene. Awesome clubs and fancy sound systems come and go, but the LA underground is always there for me when I need them. The SoCal rave scene is also very high vibrational in many pockets and circles, so the crowds are almost always fully receptive to what I have to show them. So much love for the LA underground…
Favorite piece of gear?
My MacBook and Ableton are the heart of my sound. They are the central circuit to all my production so nothing beats it. But besides my mac, midi controller, and hard drive, I can’t happily finish a track without my UAD satellite. I do like playing with some outboard gear and recording new samples, but my UAD plugins are a vital component to my signal chain and sound. Studer and Ampex tape, API channel strip, 1176 and 670 compressors- these are my favorite tools in my mixdown and mastering sessions.
The favorite artist you would love to share the stage with?
Oh, there’s so many…. Charlotte De Witte has been a longtime favorite of mine. Fatima Hajji is a master at working the crowd. I’ve been a fan of hers for many years- since her hard house days. I would love to play a crowd with her on the bill and humbly complement her energy. Alignment is a more recent favorite of mine. I love how he can take hard hypnotic sounds and translate them for a broader audience. I wouldn’t mind playing a festival with Will Atkinson on the bill, or a warehouse party with I Hate Models. Closing out a John Askew retro techno set would be really cool. Shlomo is killin it for me the past year or so. Non-Reversible is also another new favorite of mine. Any party at all with Slam or the Soma camp would be a dream. Also I hope one day I might make it into the Exhale camp. I love Amelie and everything she and her team have been doing for techno music. Although my sound is a bit harder than it used to be, Umek and Carl Cox would also be awesome to closeout for. They’ve both been longtime inspirations of mine. Of course I can’t forget the big cat Coyu. He has always been a part of my inspiration since the earlier Suara tech house days. I also wouldn’t mind dropping a psytrance & higher bpm techno set alongside my favorite full-on artists Ovnimoon and Mad Maxx.
Ultimate advice for young producers?
Don’t listen to me or anyone else except for pointers and ideas. Take only what resonates with you. Everyone’s journey is unique.
If you are supposed to make it big you will feel it, but at the same time you will only make it if you don’t give up. Cross your fingers for a sooner breakthrough, but don’t expect your sound to begin reaching its full potential until around the 10th year in the studio. If you can’t produce for 10 years without losing your vision then you likely crave stardom and partying more than you enjoy creating music. Create what you like, then take a few years altering your sound ever so slightly to get in the door. Invest in yourself to get in the door because no one cares about your career but you. Once you are in the door, make space in your life to let your creativity flow. Also, again, don’t just listen to me. Do what you feel you must do.
Lastly, but most importantly impo: I highly recommend adopting or developing a meditation practice to help keep you sane and focused throughout your journey.
Dream plan for 2021?:)
Let’s bring back the tour! (*fingers crossed*) I would love to make my move to Europe to tour full time this year, but if that isn’t possible I plan to lay the groundwork needed to make this happen in the near future. Touring full-time has been a longtime dream of mine and I am doing whatever I can to make this dream a reality. I hope to see you in your city soon!