IXclusive: An Honest Conversation with Chad Valley
Chillwave, a genre defined by its simple melodic lines and heavy effects processing, is gaining a respectful amount of popularity as more people are looking for music to relax to. This kind of music that serves to help unwind as the day draws to an end. Hugo Manuel AKA Chad Valley, is a producer of chillwave music. You may have heard of his track "Shell Suite" featured in Warm Bodies over the last year. Having worked with other musicians like TEED, Twin Shadows, and El Perro Del Mar, he's gained quite a following of his own. Chad Valley is actually his own side project as he also functions as a member of Jonquil with four other bandmates.
Prior to the concert, I had the incredible fortune of conversing with him. Instantly, I could sense that his beach-like production reflected more than his musical taste. It was a projection of his equally laidback charisma. We had covered various topics ranging from the start of his career, drugs, music, and his touring experiences. There was such a natural ease and honesty to the conversation that, had it not been for the fact that that he needed to perform, it would've been another night at a bar.
His performance was a perfect match for a Sunday evening. Talking to him, you wouldn't think such a deep voice could reach notes borderlining soprano, but, on stage, with his keyboard and drum pad, it just seemed to worked. He structured a set around many of his collaborations, including a personal favourite "Evening Surrender", which was his mid-set slow-down.
IX: How did you get into music? I read your Tumblr and, apparently, you used to sell paint. So how did you jump from paint to music?
C.V: I don’t think there’s any link between selling paint and doing music, but that was my parents’ business. They owned a family business and I was in the shop selling paint, which is great. I did that and I would just go home and write music as a pasttime, just as a thing to do. I treated it as a hobby, but I also had ambitions to be touring and such. I didn’t really think it was possible. I would send music to blogs and, then, get emails from bigger journalists, then booking agents, managers, etc.
IX: I’ve heard you’re really picky with who does your remixes. Why is that?
C.V: It’s just cuz you never really want someone to mess with your music and make it sound bad. I mean, it’s really disheartening when you hear someone has remixed you and it sounds awful. Then, you go, “Aw, my voice is on this terrible piece of music”. I’m sure there are songs I’ve remixed/remixes I’ve done where people just don’t use them.
IX: Have people told you that they didn’t like your remixes?
C.V: I’ve been paid for remixes and they weren’t put out. One band I can name is CSS. It was very early on in my career and they paid me loads of money. I thought I did a really good job and they said upfront, “We’re not gonna use this”. It would’ve sucked if I didn’t get paid, but I got paid so I was like,"Well, screw it”.
IX: Your music is more LA-like, chill, off-the-beach, which is very different from Euro-pop and many British indie bands. What influences you?
C.V: A lot of the current music I like is mostly American or Canadian. I don’t think there’s much that I’m interested in from England at the moment. It’s getting better. I’d say, three years ago, when I started Chad Valley, there was no one doing anything like me and I realize that may be why people are picking up on me. I think British music is going through a lot of changes right now - there’s a lot of good stuff coming out.
IX: Did you anticipate the reception for “Shell Suite” (from Warm Bodies)?
C.V: No, not really. I didn’t think much of it. I remember getting an email and my manager telling me on the phone that there was a movie that wanted to use my song and I was like “okay”. It was about a year before the film came out that I had first heard of it. Then I started seeing buses in London go past with posters all over it and I was like, “Oh shit, this is actually gonna be a big movie”. Then, all these kids were talking on Twitter about my song. It’s crazy. Since then, I think my profile has been bigger than it ever has been. Hopefully, they’ll make a Warm Bodies 2 and I’ll be featured on that, too.
IX: What are you listening to right now?
C.V: I’ve been listening to Style Council, which is this really old English band. It’s a really, really weird band because they’re jazzy-pop. There’s a song, “Long Hot Summer”, which is amazing. Just listened to the new MGMT album. I love it when a band does something that’s a little bit unexpected. I want a band to change pretty radically after every album. Why do the same thing twice? Chilly Gonzales. I came across, on Youtube, a concert he did with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and it’s just the most amazing thing. It’s more about the banter between the songs. He’s like a stand-up comedian. I was in stitches when I was watching that.
IX: When you’re recording in the studio, it’s late at night, and you’re hungry but too tired to make any food, is there any go-to snack?
C.V: My studio is at home, but I would normally just go out and get something. There are plenty of 24-hour places near me. I live between a Turkish and a Jewish neighbourhood, which is pretty interesting. Turkish food is amazing. There’s this thing called a lahmacun (pronounced: la-ma-jun), which is a rolled-up piece of flat bread with meat paste cooked on it. It’s the best thing. That’s my go-to “oh-shit-I-forgot-to-make-dinner” food.
IX: What’s your best and worst concert experience?
C.V: Best - I played a festival in Hong Kong. It was on the coast of Kowloon, which is a beautiful bay. I was basically looking over the whole of Hong Kong and I played at sunset. There were 500 kids just going crazy, it was magical.
Worst - With Jonquil, we played in a shopping centre for Subaru. They were doing some promotional thing and we played and it was really awful. I don’t mind saying that was the worst concert ever, but we just got paid loads of money for it. It was also in Milton Keynes, which (in England) is known for being the worst place. So, it’s just adding insult to injury, but totally worth the money.
IX: A lot of people think drugs plays a large role in music production and appreciation. Do drugs play a role in your production?
C.V: I smoke weed when I’m writing, a lot. I think that really helps in terms of creativity. It varies from person to person. In terms of writing, weed is great. I would never want to write doing anything else. If I just sat around with a group of friends, I would just say “I’m gonna go” and go to the studio. As for MDMA, I’ve known friends to use it. In terms of music appreciation, music sounds great when you’re fucked up. I’ve seen some pretty dark sides of drugs, not personally, evenso I’m not gonna endorse it. It’s not always cool, kids.
IX: You have mentioned that you would love to work with Bjork, vocally. Is there anyone you want to produce with?
C.V: Yeah, for sure. My last album (Young Hunger), I had a producer and it was great, it was what I wanted to do at the time. For the album that I’m working on right now, I’m pretty keen on doing it all by myself. I’m not a trained producer, I’ve just been learning as I go along. I just didn’t on the last album because I wanted it to sound like money. The next album, I want it to sound like it was done on a tape machine in someone’s basement. I want it to sound homemade, organic. Having said that, I would jump at the chance to work with Ben Allen. He produced the last two Washed Out albums and some hip-hop stuff as well. He deals with bass really well, which is something I don’t really know how to do.
IX: What do you think of the current state of music? (For example, the most recent Daft Punk album.)
C.V: I love the Daft Punk album. It’s one of the best things - it’s ridiculous. I dislike the reaction that a lot of people have given it. I guess I’m lucky because I didn’t really like Daft Punk before. I’ve danced to their songs and such, but I wasn’t a fan. So when I heard it I was like, “Oh, this isn’t anything like Daft Punk”. For me, that was great. The campaign, I thought, was kind of really gross. I didn’t like the way it was shoved down my throat. It was too much publicity, too much press. I didn’t want to listen to “Get Lucky”. It’s fantastic, but it was just overplayed. It drove me crazy. When I finally heard it (the album), I was like, “Oh fuck, this is so good”.
IX: Favourite song off the album?
C.V: “Touch”. It’s the really long one. I can’t remember who the singer is, it’s an old guy, I think he’s a songwriter (Paul Williams). It’s got this jazzy ragtime bit in the middle and the bit at the end sounds like The Flaming Lips. It’s just a crazy song. I love that. The fact that they can do that on a big major label with a huge budget, I thought it was really cool.
He rounded out the intimate set with two dedications to his parents, who surprised him by coming to the show all the way from Oxford, playing "Shell Suite" and "My Girl" as the night came to its untimely close.