Fundamentally Chris Cee
Reported by Adam Symbiosis
Submitted 12-09-06 01:27
DJ or photographer, producer or promoter. There are many sides to Chris Cee. Known just as much for his Norqs as for getting asked if he’s got any RnB, I brought him round and chowed down while he brought the fundamentals into focus for me.
Kicking off his online life with HF by becoming the brains behind the Harderfaster calendar for 2005, Chris has since then been a diverse but involved member of our little community. “It was a conscious decision to get people to know who I was, a look I’m here thing. Well that’s how it was at the end. Initially it was just a flippant comment that turned into a lot of people wanting to do it and get involved and some how I became the person who ran it, I don’t know how. I guess I’m the type of person you give a task and I’ll see it through to the end and that was the calendar. I had no intentions of doing as much or being as involved as I was, but it was a bit of fun. It literally rolled and rolled. I’m immensely proud of it though, how it evolved from that idea to a finished product in the shops. I wouldn’t do it again on my own; I think I’d like to have a team of people around me.”
But who is Chris Cee? “Music wise? A very varied character, you’ll catch me listening to anything from The Beatles to Paul Van Dyk and all genres in between.” He’s not a Dolly Parton fan, though: “I’ve been known to listen to classical music when I’m in the mood.” Starting his musical life at 18 months with his head stuck firmly inside the subwoofer, it was his brothers and sisters that would nudge along and develop his tastes. “Because they were all older than me, one would be listening to the latest pop track like Duran Duran, then the other sister would be listing to the most occult weird music, like Marilyn Manson then my brother would be listening to Bob Marley. There was a real eclectic mix within the house, you’d walk around the house and just hear music all round. My mum on the other hand was never into anything that was mainstream. The groups she talks about I’d never heard of, none of them have stood the test of time.”
“One hit wonders?” I suggested, to which he agreed and this now reflects in the music he buys and plays. “If I buy a track now I won’t go and buy their second track. I don’t really care about names or who it is. I just care about the song.”
Hearing the elements in the tracks rather than the music as a whole helps with his DJing as well. “I love the way people go oh, that’s a brand new song, and I’ll say no that’s a sample from something. I might not be able to name it but I’ll be able to know it’s there and when I’m buying I’m always looking out for something that’s just a little bit different but you’ve got to be commercially aware and play something that will prick peoples ears up.”
There must be something in the genes as well. His grandmother had a singing contract as a young lady, that was ripped up (in the more traditional days) by his grandfather. As we went back through his family history it became more and more apparent he came from a long line of entertainers with organ players, singers, circus entertainers, dancers all in the family ranks. On top of this entertainment background there’s the duality to Chris Cee. Something you might say that gives him an extra edge. You won’t just see him playing in your club, smashing up with ‘that something a little different’.
I joked about this a while ago, of him being a cheesy pub dj, but in truth it’s another string in his bow, a way of testing out some tracks on fresh and uncynical ears, but does he still get asked to play some RnB? “When I’m in a club, I don’t play with my head down; you have to watch the crowd. If I think it needs it then I’ll drop a more commercial track. On the flipside, if I’m at the bar and I’m playing commercial music but all the other bars are playing all the same music then I’ll slip in some brand new tracks. Invariably it works because you’re sandwiching them between known tracks. Both sides of the coin keep me versatile on the decks.”
The commercialism runs deeper than just working at the bar though. Chris started off on the road as a mobile dj — “I just wanted to do something” — playing to birthdays and weddings, but I was disappointed to hear no bar mitzvahs. “More and more I was playing to 18 and 21st birthdays and became quite specialised in that. In ’96 I went out to Ibiza after winning a competition in Birmingham. I auditioned for 15 minutes drove back, then the day before my 21st birthday I was told I’d won and that I was going out to Ibiza.”
Working out there in bars and clubs for one organisation, he split his time playing 8 till 12 in a bar, then 12 till 6 in a club, with 2 nights off in 6 months. It was hard work of course, though there are people that would kill to be in that position and in any case it helped as he still finds himself with this split. After his return he kept on the bar scene around the country. “About 6 years ago, we approached a new bar in Chelmsford which was called Broadwalk at the time to dj there. The guy took us on to do one night and loved us. The guy who had done the Friday night was rubbish, too underground for the scene, so he moved us onto that as well and we ended up doing both Friday and Saturday night at this bar for 10 months, pulling punters left right and centre.” After being sold to Lloyds the bar kept them on, then dropped them, then brought them back, usually dependant on the new managers coming and going, but now he’s still going strong there every Saturday.
It wasn’t long though before Chris decided to move into London to gain some experience here, setting up another promotion in Archway called Fundamental with Alan Banks. “We were pulling in 300 people for the night, we broke even on the first party and we always invested back into the party, the next one we made bigger and better, hired more lights. We were doing that for 5 or 6 months and they even asked us to dj there, but they needed promotions there and in the end it was turned into a strip club.”
Fundamental then took a bit of a back seat as Chris pushed another party called Norq. A HF Sunday favourite at the now defunct Southside Bar, it had a good vibe with lots of people talking about it. “We tried to be different, have a theme every party, buy props to put on the tables.” It certainly reminded me of lazy Sunday afternoons playing Ludo and talking to some of the Norqettes. “I don’t know where they came from! They sort of just appeared through people just supporting us.” As he talked it was obvious there was some sadness that the party wasn’t running anymore but that old adage, one door closing is another one opening, holds true here as well, releasing him into his current state of affairs.
Sleeping on a bed of four leaf clovers must do wonders as another fantastic opportunity came along. “Mainly through association, Paul Jack of Party Proactive had heard of Norq and our dealings and knew that I was running parties. I had spoken to him a few times about djing when I had been up to his party, and then he said instead of djing, why don’t you run a room. I was quite honest and said I didn’t know how it would go as Turnmills is a big jump from Southside Bar. I was honest and open with him and he went away to think. Within a week he’d rung me up and said go for it.”
The first party was in the VIP room and it ended up being packed solid with an appearance from Tall Paul to boot. Following up from that they’ve just completed another jam packed party this time in T3, or the back room to the uninitiated, and they’re already in negotiations to do more next year. “The good thing about Fundamental is it doesn’t have a genre, it isn’t a breaks party or a house party or a trance party, Fundamental is just a party. The Fundamental things we did at The Cave was house building up to trance which worked a dream and we like to keep things open.”
The Fundamental following doesn’t seem to mind what the genre is though, the same people come but that’s a good thing in these days of over-specialisation and sub-sub-genres of music. I fully agreed with Chris that it’s good to push the boundaries. It might be a cliché, but he told me that they like to educate and entertain and if more people were like that then just imagine all the great parties you could go to. “We’ve had dancers, extra lighting, VJs, props, things like that, so we’re not just about music, we don’t try and limit ourselves.” With Alan in charge of the technical side for the Proactive links ups, they not trying to overshadow the main party, just keeping the vibe subtle and suited to the sounds of the mixed up djs, while staying minded of the music in the other rooms
With some big link ups on the horizon things are looking up for Chris. He also got an assistant at the Saturday parties coming in the form of Alexander Lee, which means he’s been able to bring himself away and play at other parties. In any case it means the money keeps rolling in to be ploughed straight back into the other parties. Are we then seeing the start of a Chris Cee franchising revolution? “I really want to put Fundamental on the map, first and foremost. We’ve lost money in the past, but we’ve put it down to experience and we’ve been ale to work around that. I’d like to do more appearances in London but I don’t want to be playing every Friday and Saturday night. I’d like to keep a bit of exclusivity. I’m going up to Manchester and to Bristol, so as well I’m branching out of London.”
They’ve also been looking at bringing Fundamental to those outside of London and just get the brand name out there. “It also depends very much where me and Alan are in our DJ careers. I’m getting no younger, Alan is very ambitious and if I want to step back while he moves forward, I don’t know. We’re the best of friends and we’ve said if the promotion gets in the way of the friendship, then the promotion will end, or one of us will take it over while the other will go off and do something else.”
Losing associates over promoting has affected Chris like it would anyone else and really he’s leant not to do that anymore. “We’ll be going strong by the end of next year and we’d like to be bigger of course, maybe even have our own parties in London and something up north. There’s so much going on in London every weekend, whereas once you start travelling away, there are so many more niche markets with clubbers who are really up for it. Look at Cream, Garlands, Goodgreef, Miss Moneypenny’s. We’d definitely like to do something.”
We went back to talking about his music and in depth on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, a most inspired choice for a Christmas present one year, and this brought us round to a love for band music. After visiting a party a while ago I found djs playing band music but just not mixing the tracks together. Was there then any tracks like this sneaking its way into Chris’ music? “It’s hard. There’s nothing worse for me then taking a really good band song and changing it into a dance track, with the vocals and the riff and everything, there’s just no point. Definitely though there is some good tracks, I just bought one with a Chilli Peppers riff in and nothing else, just a small sample and that will work well in both the pub or a club and there are a few other tracks I’ve picked up over my time.”
You’ll also find in his sets and mixes, tracks that have been re-edited and remixed by Chris, small tweaks here and there, a different bassline. “All djs would love to produce, but you have to be very dedicated. You have to have a lot of time to invest in it. The tracks I’ve done have just been for fun, just to learn a little bit. I will do more but they are more for my personal use. A couple of tracks I’ve bought, great tracks, but just too slow, so I’ll pitch them up on Cubase, make them a bit tougher. Now also with my CDJs I try and do it live, which makes it more that little bit personal. More me.”
We finished the interview talking about playing on Saturday nights. “I may if I have to do the occasional shout out or even a happy birthday, but nothing too major, we’re quite high up and out of the way so people have to work really hard to get us to do stuff.” There’s no requests these days though, but I did get an answer to my earlier question. “We used to have a phone that people could text requests to, usually along the lines of, ‘can you play something decent’ or — I could have thrown the phone people’s heads — ‘can you play some RnB?!’”
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Other Features By Adam Symbiosis:
Godskitchen Xmas Party: Reviewed
The Big Chill: Reviewed
Tiësto at Victoria Park: Reviewed
Lilly Allen: Reviewed
Digital Society May 2009: Reviewed
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.