“I’m just getting started”: Seeing the “LIGHT” with Christopher Port
Multi-instrumentalist, producer, fashion designer and artist CHRISTOPHER PORT is clearly a man of many talents. Whether it be creating his own, genre-blending electronic music, performing with BIG SCARY or #1 DADS, designing his own fashion line or mixing and producing for others, his meticulous and free-flowing creative approach to his work means he’s always impressive, always evolving and always thrilling to watch with whatever new move he makes.
From his debut EP, Vetement, back in 2016 to now with the second and final piece in his EVERYTHING IN QUOTES series, his music has always been progressive, intricate, and at times unpredictable with its sonically diverse range of sounds and arrangements. Just last year, he shared the first of his series with “DARK”, a flawlessly rich sonic tapestry of deep, dark and heavy electronic music that showcased such a strong vision in just four songs, it quickly became one of my favourite records of the year. Now, just over six months since its companion’s release comes “LIGHT”. Again, over four tracks, Port takes the listener on an exquisitely detailed journey, injecting club influences and harnessing the euphoria, brightness, and (simply put) lightness of his work to create another sprawl of unpredictable dance tracks.
Along with each EP also came a fashion line to further amplify the EP’s core themes. Where “DARK” had meticulously hand-crafted tops with painstaking attention to detail, “LIGHT” had an edited range of spray jackets, taking one concept and using its foundations to create something else entirely. This is the root message of “LIGHT”, and ultimately Port‘s work. While he’s an original artist, he is not about to deny taking influence and inspiration and building upon it to create something else entirely. Claiming “the age of being precious about intellectual property is over,” Port shines a light on the advantages of a free creativity -one not stifled by rules or constraints- to really develop and push art into spaces or forms that wouldn’t have been possible without shedding the suffocating notion of “Who did it first?” Instead, Port took influence from the likes of VIRGIL ABLOH, and has emerged with two expertly crafted EPs that show just how talented he truly is.
Speaking with Christopher Port ahead of the release of “LIGHT”, I couldn’t help but feel that, while he has released some outstanding music so far, he truly is only just getting started. As he continues to develop and push his creativity further, all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
The EP is out this Friday, how are you feeling about it all?
Good! It’s exciting, it sort of feels like it’s been a long time coming but it really hasn’t. I feel very lucky that it’s all happened reasonably quickly from when I first created the music and that it’s now coming out. It feels really good.
You had the first part last year and now six months onwards, the second half. Has the process of releasing two companion pieces differed from how you’d previously approached creating music?
Not really, I mean I guess the only difference would be I had the eye to do a second path of it almost. When I finished the “DARK” EP, I knew I wanted to do a companion to it which I guess would be different to how I’ve done stuff before where I just finished a body of work and it is what it is. Having finished “DARK” influenced what I ended up choosing to be on the “LIGHT” EP perhaps, maybe to mirror it in some way or take some queues from it.
It’s definitely “lighter” in terms of sound which is what you were trying to do to make it the companion piece of the “DARK” EP. At the same time, it’s quite clubby which -for me personally- is a bit surprising at first because I just associate “club music” with being dark and dingy and heavy. Why do you think it turned out this way with the club element in the mix now?
Sure! It was just how the tunes came out. I wasn’t really planning on making two club tracks, or more lighter ones, or more down-tempo ones. It just sort of came out that way. I very rarely set out and say, “I’m going to make a club track now!” Or, “I’m going to make a down-tempo track now!” It tends to just come from whatever the first sounds are that I have when I’m making something really. With those club tracks, it’s usually a tempo range that I hear in my head and that’s what I go with. I’m not so much thinking about what the actual sounds will be, it’s more just a combination of the tempo range that I have in my head or that I’m feeling at the time with samples or sounds I get first of all, whether that’s a Juno sound or a synth sample. It just comes from that really.
With the clubby thing, with this whole EVERYTHING IN QUOTES thing, it’s from Virgil Abloh talking about trying to put irony in things and taking things out of context. I think there is that perception sometimes with club music that sometimes in Australia, if it’s club music it’s gotta be “dark” in quotes. For me, club music has so many shades of different emotions from dark to light and everything in between. I get so much out of club music so it feeds into it all as a concept in a way.
It still maintains that ambiguity which is always in your music in some way, and even if you’ve got a euphoric moment or a darker moment, you’re still not explicitly saying, “This is this type of song and this is how it should feel.” You seem to always keep it open to the listener, so I wanted to know why that was so important to you to include in the various ways you do?
It’s interesting. My favourite music and my favourite club music always has that element. One moment you can feel it’s a kind of heavier, weighty, emotional thing or something that’s a bit more light and free. I like music that can live in different contexts, like if it’s played in a club, depending on the time its played and what came before it and after it. Those are the sort of tunes I look for or I really enjoy when I’m out. If I’m out at club night or something, if I hear tunes that sort of have this ambiguity or sort of have this emotion to it but it’s not really strong either way, it communicates really clearly sure, but it doesn’t really jam the emotion down your throat, you know? There’s no big rises or drops, it’s not really about that; it’s more about these moments that make your ears go, “Oh, what’s that?” Or think different things.
Back to your inspiration from Virgil Abloh, you said in an interview you think “the age of being precious about intellectual property is over” and we can really see that in just about every medium now: People are taking influence and inspiration from others and just doing what already exists but building on it. Do you think as people continue to embrace this, we’ll see more creativity than ever before because people won’t be stifled by those “precious” notions of intellectual property?
Oh, 100%! I love that. I love seeing people do that on all levels, within fashion or music. When I’m sitting down and making something, I just want whatever I’m doing in that moment to just get me excited. I don’t want to be thinking about, “Oh no, this sounds like this” or “This could be perceived as this, what are people going to think?” It just kills your creativity in the water straight away, it just kills it. I just think, what would be possible if people were free of that completely and were able to just make what they make in that moment and if creativity in a general sense was just way more open-source and more collaborative. Not in a direct way like, “Hey I’m in studio and I’m collaborating with someone,” but more like I make this thing, someone over the other side of the world hears it and gets inspired and makes something not similar but inspired by it and is free and not worried about sounding like my tune or someone else’s tune. Just letting go and making things and letting things develop from there as opposed to… I don’t know, I think sometimes people can get way, way, way precious and spend more of their time policing the internet to make sure no one is ripping them off. What’s the point of that?
In a way, if you’re too concerned about that kind of thing, it’s kind of hindering you fully embracing the influence or inspiration and I think what you’ve done with these EPs is you’ve completely embraced your influences and because of that you’re able to create something really personal to you but you’ve also fully embraced it and taken it on.
Yeah, totally! And that’s not to say I’m not for originality. That’s the thing, I’ve thought about it to the point where I don’t want people to assume I’m all about sampling and not making your own sounds. That’s not what I’m about. I’m about yes, originality of course (obviously), but I think originality can come from embracing your influences and creating and throwing them all out there and not being scared of them. I’ve seen people and I’ve heard music that is so self-conscious about being original and I think that’s the worst thing for artists to think about really, in a way. It’s weird but I think stressing out about originality-I don’t want to sound like anyone else, sure, but that will come naturally over time. Really, in this grand scheme of things, I’m just getting started with this whole thing. There’s no point beating yourself up not sounding original on your first few gos. Whatever! Just make it, put it out and find people that like it, get together and make more stuff and continue your journey. You’ve gotta start somewhere.
It sounds like all of this really comes down to if you’re true to who you are instead of worrying about what people are thinking, the songs or the creation will come. I think that’s what this particular EP is, it’s a reflection of who you are and the world around you. But, in saying that, finding out who you are can be really difficult so do you think that by discovering who you are and having that idea of what you’re about now has liberated you to take these creative paths and opportunities in your solo career?
Yeah! It’s definitely given me confidence. Whenever I feel like something is good or is getting me excited, I’m starting to trust myself a bit more. That’s a daily struggle in a way, but having great people around me that are really supportive and tell it to me straight with things. It’s been really good. I’m slowly getting there. It’s hard to quantify who you are or what your sound is but I think there’s certain things that I can pinpoint within what I do that are really important to me and my take on those sort of things is slightly different and that’s my sound and who I am in a way.
Looking at your fashion line now, the jackets are so sick. I love them! Can you tell me a bit about these jackets and how they came to be?
Oh, thank you! Well the last line of tops we did for “DARK”, those tops were all handmade from start to finish. Hand designed, all from scratch. There was no template, there was no starting point. It was quite a bit more labour intensive and took a bit more time and work. That amount of work for that concept, I felt it wasn’t so much “dark” but it was heavy. It was weighty, it was more like a couture sort of thing where it was made from scratch. With this line of jackets, I wanted it to be light. I wanted it to be quicker, more fun and not so serious. I got these generic spray jackets which could be whatever, they could be anything. I wanted to put more of an edit on them, more recontextualise them; make them my own, make them apart of what I do and what I like and give them a slight twist in a way. It’s more streetwear. There’s a huge scene of people getting streetwear brands and cutting out the logos and editing them. Vetements, the Parisian label, is really big for that – they take a Juicy Couture pant and put a Champion logo on it or something. They reimagine brands in a way, so that was more of the concept with these jackets.
It ties into what we were talking about before about building upon existing art and creating something new from that.
Taking what’s already there and putting your own twist on it.
I wanted to talk to you about your labels, both Pieater and Future Classic. I really love those labels, and I think the beauty of being on an independent label means it kind of serves more as a family or a community rather than a business and I guess that’s what you might’ve been touching on before about the people around you who support you. I wondered if having those two communities or families on your side has allowed you the creative freedom of where you’re at now and allowed you to get to where you are?
Yeah, that’s pretty much it! You said it! [Laughs]. I started out with Pieater and I was playing in Pieater bands before that playing drums for #1 Dads, Big Scary, Airling, and I sort of developed those friendships with everyone on that label and the managers, Tom and Jo, and got to know them really well. Eventually when I was making music, I showed them the EP and they wanted to put it out which is great. It’s just so great, that relationship. Over time, I met the FC guys and got chatting to them and hanging out and I just saw them quite a bit really organically because they’re nice guys and fun to hang out with when I was in Sydney. I don’t know, it just progressed. We kept saying we’d love to do something with each other but I didn’t really know what that would look like and just over time, we talked about it more and more and it became more of a reality. Over about nine months or a year, we kept talking and figured out all the details and we just thought, “Let’s put a record out together.” Again, really organic and natural and just came out of a friendship with those guys. Now it just feels like a bigger family!
Because it’s so organic, I can imagine it makes things like creating and releasing music a lot easier as well because you’ve just got your mates helping you out.
Yeah, totally! It really feels like that. It’s a bigger family and there’s more people on emails these days, but that can only be a good thing really. More hands and more help is always good.
Looking forward now, this series is now completed. Can we expect a fully fledged fashion line from you down the line?
[Laughs] We’ll see! We’ll see what happens. I’m always making stuff and keeping my brain and my creativity hovering around lots of things. There’s things I’ve been getting into and different little pockets of different bits of creativity that I want to go down so we’ll see what kind of form that takes. I don’t even really know at the moment. One benefit of getting music put out reasonably quickly is the rate of which you’re releasing music is more or less on par with my creativity at the moment which is great. It feels really good because it’s a direct line like, “Here’s where I’m at!” straight away. This wasn’t a year ago or two years ago, this was made really recently. I really like that. I’ll take some time and find out what I want to do and let things come out naturally and organically and see where it takes me I guess.
EVERYTHING IN QUOTES “LIGHT” is out now via Pieater/Future Classic.
Catch Christopher Port at the below dates:
September 15 – The Workers Club – Melbourne (TIX)
September 21 – Otto’s House Party (World Bar) – Sydney (TIX AT DOOR)
September 22 – The End – Brisbane (FREE)
Interview by Emma Jones