New tracks that DJs should know about.
Los Angeles-based DJ/producer/entrepreneur Whiiite aka Chris White is a rare breed. Between co-founding the influential Control party at Hollywood’s legendary Avalon nightclub, to producing remixes supported by the likes of Skrillex, Chuckie, DJ Felli Fel, Vice, MAKJ, and Blasterjaxx, the Pennsylvania native still finds time to perform around the country and run a branding agency. We recently stopped by Whiiite’s loft-style home in Los Angeles’ Studio City neighborhood to learn more about his inspiring story and plans for the future.
Who is Whiiite and what’s his mission?
Whiiite is two things: my DJ/producer alias and a graphic novel character that I created with the help of my crew. A lot of the musicians that I loved growing up had a deeper concept around their music. Groups like The Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails, and Gorillaz gave fans more. We’re trying to do a similar thing with Whiiite by having a character and storyline. He’s the hero of the story and the characters and events in the story are scored with dance music.
You moved to California in the early 2000s to study film. Why did you ditch that plan to become a producer?
Some people discover what they want to do in life early on and other people find it in their 60s — it can happen at any moment. I tried a lot of different creative activities during my first couple years in California: filmmaking, acting, DJing (in my bedroom), illustrating, and fashion design. I had my hands in different places while I was in film school but I got a buzz during my first DJ gig. The more I DJed, the more I realized the happiness that I got from DJing was greater than that of film. I liked both mediums though because with film, you’re telling a story and influencing people. I feel that DJing is very similar but I liked how the response was immediate. A lot of my friends would work on a film for a couple years before it came out but I was able connect with the crowd in the moment with my sets.
Did your parents flip out when you quit?
Absolutely, I was only 16 units shy of my bachelor’s degree when I quit. I come from a very small town in Pennsylvania and to them DJs were just guys that played weddings and bar mitzvahs. I was close to getting my degree so they were worried and definitely voiced their opinion. [laughs]
What inspired you to start DJing?
I was at home one night watching TV and a documentary about turntablism came on called Scratch. The movie tells the story of how scratching and turntablism developed and features guys like Grandmaster Flash, Mix Master Mike, QBert, Craze, Klever, Z-Trip, and Melo D. I was already a student of music and a fan of hip-hop but this was definitely an inspiration. Within a week of watching that movie I went out and bought 1200s. DJ AM was also a major inspiration to me. He was creative with the typical top 40 setting and inspired DJs to do the same. I loved the blending he did and I wanted to do the same but with electro and indie because those styles were starting to get big in Los Angeles at the time. As far as sound, French artists on Ed Bangers Records like Justice and Mr. Oizo led me into production.
Is it true Skrillex taught you how to produce?
My manager Ryan Jaso knew Sonny from childhood and they would hang out at this party we were doing in Los Angeles called Control. One day, Jaso was like, “Sonny is doing these remixes for major labels like Interscope. He’s remixing some really cool artists. I know you’re starting to produce so you should go hang with him.” And funny enough, it turned out that Skrillex lived across the street from me. I brought over my computer to his studio and for the next couple months we hung out and he showed me how to do stuff. He took me under his wing as a mentor and helped me produce my first remixes for Interscope.
Your remix of Luniz’s classic “I Got 5 On It” with ETC!ETC! got a lot of love. Was it a turning point in your career?
I think it was, yeah. There’s many moments as you’re climbing the ranks but hearing my remix on LA radio stations like KIIS FM and Power 106 was significant to me. I would also get texts from friends saying they heard it at a festival in Sweden or a club in Australia. ETC!ETC! and I loved the original track and it was really fun giving it that festival-style flip.
Why did you start Control?
Back in 2005, I was a resident at Avalon in Hollywood and they were booking artists like Katy Perry, LMFAO and Mickey Avalon (before they got big). I would DJ in between their performances. Eventually, Avalon wanted to start booking bands and asked if I had any recommendations. That’s when my manager Ryan Jaso and I took over the night and rebranded it. The first year was tough but eventually we figured out the sound we were going for. There was a lot of good music coming out at the time but we weren’t hearing it in clubs on the west coast so our goal was to put on shows with those DJs. We didn’t consider ourselves typical promoters: we just loved music and wanted to do a weekly party that was different and represented our taste.
How has running a weekly party changed your career?
A lot of producers don’t go out very much and sometimes that can be a bad thing because you spend so much time in the studio that you’re not connected with the world. I’m blessed because every week if I’m not touring I get to hear fresh music and DJs. It inspires me to come home and write.
You also have a branding company, right?
Yes, I have a branding company called The Cult Creatives that specializes in DJs, bands and nightlife. It was formed out of necessity to support myself. I’ve always felt that building a brand can be tough for both up-and-coming and established artists. It can be especially tough if it’s just yourself or you and your manager because most of the focus is on making music. There’s so many different creative assets needed and dealing with multiple companies can sometimes lead to an incohesive identity. We built a team of designers, illustrators, photographers, stage designers, fabricators and marketing people to help build brands as one unified idea.
Is it true you work with MAKJ?
I’ve known MAKJ for years — he’s actually my roommate. I was good friends with the owner of a music school called Icon Collective in LA and we linked up while MAK was studying there. I was so into what he was doing with his originals and mashups that Sam Hiller and I introduced him to my management company and now he’s part of the family.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m producing like crazy — 80% of my time is spent in the studio. I look at music like a fashion designer looks at clothes: each season is going to be different. It has its own vibe and collection and right now I’m in the season of hip-hop. [smiles]
Any words of advice for aspiring DJ and producers?
The most important thing in not only producing music, but in life, is knowing exactly what you want. I think a lot of people are just happy making music but don’t have much direction. I also think it’s important to be result-orientated because goals can be missed but results happen no matter what. All of the guys I know who are successful have laser focus. Also, part of being result-orientated is asking the right questions. Questions drive our life: we ask them from the time we wake up to when we go to bed. Questions can either be empowering or disempowering. You’ll only come up with negative answers if you ask, “why doesn’t my song sound good?” However, you’ll receive empowering answers if you ask, “how can I make my song better?” It’s crazy how the universe will work it out.
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