FYI Chris interview: Rye Wax, dodgy builders & a dystopian festival

Those that are familiar with the aural landscape of SE15 will know that FYI Chris occupy a central position within it. The duo have been producing bangers for a number of years in South London, nestled firmly within Bradley Zero’s Rhythm Section label discography.

Real names Chris Coupe and Chris Watson, FYI Chris work at the revered Rye Wax venue and record store in Peckham. Since 2015, their output has been a varied supply of chalky house music tinted with jazz as well as darker sounds via their own label West Friends. What is clear with the pair is that their music has developed as the years have passed, incorporating new sonic complexities and asking fresh questions.

In this same vain, FYI Chris today release their debut EP on leftfield Bristol imprint Black Acre Records. The release, which is titled Black Dragon Loop, is comprised of three genre-bending offerings that touch on elements of post-punk, psychedelia and more rugged forms of instrumentation.

We sat down with FYI Chris to dig a little deeper into life south of the river.

DJ and artist duo FYI Chris
Credit: Brynley Davies

Hey guys, first and foremost — how are you? How has 2020 been for you?

No complaints really, it had its ups and downs. We have both stayed safe and well, and so have our families. Less DJing and less studio time together but we’ve still tried to keep busy. We had just about finished an LP as the first lockdown set in. I think it gave us some time to reflect/listen back and make the final few changes on the whole project as the world slowed down. It’s nice to have music out again.

For those who don’t know, tell us briefly how FYI Chris came about. As Northerners, what drew you to London in the first place?

Coupe: The name was not very well thought out, but it was inspired by a dodgy builder who dug a hole out of our mate’s wall while they were having their boiler replaced. He decided to leave this massive hole in the kitchen wall uncovered overnight without telling anyone. We came in to find the new draft arrangement and noticed he had just written his name in a ballpoint pen on the wall “FYI BARRY” and his mobile number. It was a bold move and had a ring to it. Joking about it, we thought we would run with it. 

I’m not really sure why I wanted to be in London anymore. I was from a very sleepy, rural part of the North Yorkshire Moors.  My mum moved near London when I was around 16, and it was a toss-up between Bristol and London for uni. I ended up in London on clearing.

Watson: I just found a course at Southbank doing music and sonic media, started by Gonnie Rietveld of Quando Quango and swiss army knife at the Hacienda. Growing up in Macclesfield, I was pretty buzzed for it. It definitely had a lot to do with wanting to hear the London sounds I love as regularly as possible. Maybe be able to go to FWD>>, see Plastic People, go to Fabric – to be honest all of the clubs, all these places I’d read about. Just meet good music people and fingers crossed, get a job. 

Chris Watson’s music course at Southbank was started by Gonnie Rietveld of Quando Quango

Your breakthrough ‘No Hurry / Juliette’ came out in 2015 — what, if anything, has changed in relation to your production in the subsequent five years? Your approach to it? New equipment? New inspirations? Changing context?

Definitely the equipment changes the process. The first few tracks are 100% recorded with the MPC2000, tweaking then recording pretty much whole-takes out. Now, there’s much more in the signal chain. Lots of guitar pedals, the beloved stage echo on send, plus more synths that have kinda rotated around with other mates’ stuff. We just started to multi-track in Ableton more, sync stuff up together – just always trying new things out if we can. 

FYI Chris’ breakthrough release on Church Records

This brings us to your latest EP, Black Dragon Loop – the three tracks cover a diversity of genres and sounds, seemingly digging into the deeper and murkier possibilities of multi-instrumentation. Is this exploration into post-punk and wiggy psychedelia a reflection of our current times? 

Coupe: We are both big fans of a lot of Post-Punk/Rock/Psychedelia/Funk/Hip-Hop/Pop. Listening sessions and afters hour playlists are always a very diverse affair. I think this is where our diversity comes from. Both DJs before producers, we approach our EPs like mixtapes – trying to intro people to new parts of our sound each time. 

Watson: It definitely feels like a throwback to other collectively uncertain times right now, which I guess must bleed into some music in certain ways, even if subconsciously. 

The duo’s new track and music video ‘Black Dragon Loop’

Who did you work with when putting Black Dragon Loop together? Are there people who played a part in taking it in the direction it ended up going in? 

Coupe: Sion Pugh – a very close friend and collaborator. Sion often comes to jams with banks of samples he has prepared in advance. He used to play shows at Rye Wax under the name Black Dragon Consortium/Amelioration – some of our favourite shows in the basement. This tune was grown out of an evening of drinking and smoking on the MPC and delving into Sion’s sample bank. 

When you put your releases on Rhythm Section & Church alongside the music coming out on your own imprint West Friends, you cover the smoother, comfier areas of electronic music as well as the darker, grittier sides. Is this wide reach a reflection of both of your tastes? How much does what you listen to affect what you create?

Coupe: Hugely – kind of in the mixtape spirit again. I think personally I’m always listening for ideas and techniques in the world around me: music/film/new. And if they chi with me, I want to see how I can express that. It’s very subtle, especially in the dance stuff we do. But it seeps in somewhere. 

Watson: Also working in record shops (and distribution) just makes it impossible to ignore the threads of similarity between sounds, interpretations and genres and carry that over into production. I think a lot of shared percy’s of ours are when artists are making something a bit different.

Credit: Brynley Davies

How influential has working at Rye Wax been for both of you? What’s it like to be amidst such a diverse and talented pool of creators and collectors?

Coupe: It’s the perfect community for a creator really – first off when you have new releases coming through the shop, it’s a buzz just to go through them all and hear them. But also the community, chat and interactions you get around that. Pre-COVID, with parties running around us as well, it was a great way to put everything you’re making and DJing into context and gives you loads of scope to experiment. 

Watson: It’s just been a mad place with the best crew. Some of the best nights, some of the wildest ones and some really tough Sunday shifts! The shop has introduced me to so many top people and lifelong friends, as well as artists, labels, sounds and music that I’ll cherish forever. We’re currently trying to plan for reopening – a way off yet though what with the world ending. We’ll be back, though! 

FYI Chris playing at Rye Wax for a Bannoffee Pies Records event

I actually saw you play a slammin’ set in Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s back in 2016 — which venues and countries do you miss playing at the most? Do you remember any particularly outrageous club experiences over the years?

Coupe: That Sneaky’s party was very fun! We love it up there. Big up Matt B and all the Sneaky’s crew! Last year Toy Tonics asked us to play an old bunker that used to be used by the Himmler/ The Stasi in Berlin. It was this cavernous basement space packed with dancers. Less Techno, more Funk which was a pleasant switch up for and it meant the party was very loose. Cosmic/go where you wanna kind of thing. 

Watson: Yeah I’m still pissed off I missed the flight for that one haha…

FYI Chris’ debut Boiler Room set

If you could curate a stage at a utopian (or dystopian) festival, what would it be called and which 5 acts would you pick to play on it?

Arts & Kraftwerk – the four members of Kraftwerk are joined by Neil Buchanan exploring papier mache techniques in 3D.

You can listen and buy FYI Chris’ new EP ‘Black Dragon Loop’ via Bandcamp:

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