Chris Mitchell hails from Tampa, but his original productions alongside running the respected Vanguard Sound and Anunnaki Cartel labels with Amir Alexander have placed him on an international scale. Indeed, Orlando is happy for the chance to host him before he departs on a European tour spanning six different countries and completing stops in all the major hubs like London, Paris, and Berlin.
We decided to have a chat with him before his send off. Aside from his own labels, Chris has also released on New York’s techno platform Plan B and Patrice Scott’s Detroit driven deep house imprint Sistrum Recordings — both held in high reguards by critics and dance floors alike. Uncompromising, conscious, and determined to make his mark, Chris is certainly a reflection of our own values at Open House Conspiracy.
Vanguard Sound is very militant in its aesthetic and ideas. Does this stem from your hip-hop background and groups like Public Enemy, NWA, etc?
Yes, in a lot of ways it does. Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions were my favorite groups, well, there were a few others like EPMD, Tribe, etc., but I think Public Enemy and BDP, overall, were my favorites. Class/race/social issues are usually on my mind as well so it is an extension of that. Amir and I have had several long phone conversations about these issues. We often agree though that a lot of the messages that resonate with us are in many of these hip hop records.
Does class warfare play into the current music industry? Is it different from the old industry establishments?
I think class warfare is inescapable so it applies to every facet of life. I think, if you look at the current climate of music, certain DJs, producers, etc., appeal to certain crowds and some do to others. If you look at the distribution of wealth in the music industry, it goes to the top. All of these download services pay the artist very little for digital downloads while corporations like Spotify make millions.
What are you fighting for?
I’m here to do things the way I want to see them done. It goes back to trying to at least partially be an example of what I want to see. I still fall short in some areas, but that is what keeps us going, no?
Are you the one who makes all the videos for the Vanguard Sound releases? Are you a visual person or does the music end up evoking most of the creativity?
Amir and I both do them. I’m a little bit visual, I did some photography work before, but I knew I had to focus on one discipline so, of course, I chose music. I’m still very much a patron of photography though. Every once in awhile I will go out and take some pictures when I feel like it, but it’s nice to be able to just appreciate it.
Paint us a picture of what the future electronic music parties in space will be like.
A ship that can go at some kind of crazy warp speed to the Andromeda galaxy so as to have a nice backdrop. Extraterrestrials with some crazy ass synthesizers doing a live PA and, of course, amazing sound.
Which planet will be home to your studio?
Nibiru, of course.
How do you think the average person interacts with music? Is there a way to change this?
I just think a large number of people don’t want to spend too much time looking for music, movies, literature, etc., so they kind of just go with what they know, so to speak. I think the best anyone can do to change anything is be the change. I just try to keep supporting what I feel and continue to promote our movement.
The popular narrative for house music is that in its past it acted as a refuge and bastion of social progress away from the constrictions and segmentation of everyday life — a playground for diversity and creativity. With the recent burst of electronic music to much greater (and mostly unaware) audiences, has gentrification taken its place?
Absolutely, I am still appalled when I detect racist or homophobic attitudes from people who are supposed to be a part of underground dance music. I want to cue up the classic record “U Ain’t Really House.”
What do you think about the possibility that there are cultures out there still lagging behind the rest of the developed world that have within them the untapped resources to start a movement like house or techno, when the access to technology catches up?
I think it’s amazing and I hope to help be a part of helping people everywhere find a voice. Personally speaking, one of the greatest fringe benefits to DJing is being able to travel the world and I am consciously trying to go to as many places as possible. Europe is wonderful and it’s, of course, the place to be in many regards for parties, etc., but I really want to explore the entire world as well.
Is there anything about your childhood or adolescence that makes sense in hindsight as to why you are on the artist path you are now?
You will have to ask Hamza Solim the answer to this, he is an excellent selector and DJ who lives in Istanbul. He knows the story that goes something like: at 3 days old, Chris Mitchell was already completing studio sessions for the likes of Walter Gibbons, Tom Moulton, and Giorgio Moroder using his mattel record player and an old tape recorder his father left in the garage one day. I knew from about age 16 that I wanted to work in music. At first I thought as a recording engineer, but then I figured out that what I really wanted to do was produce.
KDJ has a rant about how it doesn’t make sense when vinyl label owners play digitally or with laptops because they’re selling records, not Apple computers. Your label and sets have been vinyl only, is this motivated by more than a business decision?
Yes, I play vinyl for a lot of reasons. Mainly because that is what I like to do and also, of course, because I am in the business of selling records. I’m in the business of selling records because I want to keep vinyl around, just like so many others who are doing what I’m doing. I love having a tangible item to share with people.
The RIAA is using loud music torture to get sensitive information out of you, what are they playing?
I can’t answer this in case they find me…