Chronixx Shares His Chronology
Larson Sutton | July 14, 2017
No newcomer has gripped the reggae world in recent years quite like Chronixx. His debut EP, Hooked on Chronixx, came as a free download in 2011, followed by another EP, 2014’s smash, Dread and Terrible. Now, he readies his first LP, Chronology, set for release in July, as well as prepping for a subsequent fall amphitheater tour with Nas and Ms. Lauryn Hill. We spoke to Chronixx a few weeks ahead of the album’s drop, covering a range of topics including the sources and inspirations for his songwriting and the influence of spirituality on his life and work.
A lot of your songs speak to deep thoughts and ideas. Is music a big enough platform for your creative expression?
I don’t think it’s the only one. It doesn’t matter much how big or how small. However a person lives, they’re not going to live on music alone. Life is a thing that takes many different forms: from song to artwork to video to a film to clothes and culture and food; everything. Music is just one aspect of culture, not culture itself. We are a cultural people, a spiritual people. True spirituality will live in all ways.
Is Chronology essentially the story of you?
Almost every song. Not in terms of telling people every word of my life’s story, but it’s an opportunity for different people to feel what you are feeling. Music is one way we can all feel something that is unseen, when we are all feeling the same things.
Do you worry about being misinterpreted?
I don’t worry about it. I know that a lot of people experience it. It varies. It depends on the inside of the person.
You toured a lot for Dread and Terrible. Did those years on the road affect how this album was written and made?
Yes, the music grew a lot on this project because I expended a lot of time. You have projects that you can plan in one week. Go to the studio for seven days and play seven songs. That music is created with energy that was generated over a shorter period of time, as opposed to a record that takes three years. Not three years because it was hard, but three years because that is how the time presented itself. I can spend more time on an album that takes four weeks to produce than I do on an album that takes three years to produce if I stay in the studio for 18 hours a day.
So why now?
It felt like the opportunity presented itself. Here is an opportunity to do an album the way you have always wanted to do it; with the right people in the right studio. Here is your dream right in front of you. Do you want it or not? I pick it like fruit off of a tree. I want to eat it now.
People really wanted to hear what you had to say next. Did you feel pressure to make this record?
I feel like what people really want is good music, good music, and good music. People consume good music in various different ways. It’s tremendous how much an artist can do and how far an artist can reach over a short period of time. I’ve always felt like what I have to do is create good music for people. That’s what they need. Most people want good songs to sing that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
What for you is the difference between a collection of songs and an album?
I’m still learning the art of making an album. If I really knew how to make an album, in theory, and had the experience or practice of how to, I would’ve been making albums every week. (Laughs.) Because I love music.I don’t really know the art of making an album and that is something I want to learn organically. I don’t feel like I should’ve gone and studied, like someone who goes to medical school. I feel like it’s something I need to practice and practice based on realized experience.
Is that part of how you construct your songs?
What a song is really is a vibe. It’s a vibration, like, literally, that’s what a song is. If you go to the greatest scientists, they won’t disagree. When you first receive the vibe you treasure it in a way other people might not be able to perceive it.
Could you give me an example?
The vibe is the sound of a chirping bird. The person sitting beside it might be able to hear the chirp, but he might not identify that as a song. You know as a songwriter or a musician you might hear the song in what the bird is saying. On your own, you look deeper into that song and stretch out the vibrations, stretch out the waveform far and wide, so you can find the verse and chorus. With that song you can do anything. You can put it on a beat that is made by a different producer who heard a different song. Or you can go make a song for it. Or what you might have found in the bird’s chirping is a higher pattern, or a bass line, and in that lies the potential of a whole album or a whole catalog of music. It’s an infinite kind of thing. You try and fit that inspiration, that feeling, that vibe into a couple of minutes or seconds of a track, and you try to record it. Which is trying to put it down into history so people can come and be inspired by it throughout time.
This is happening all the time?
Songs come to me every second. So much that I can’t sing every song that I am given. That is not possible, and that is something I live with.
Beyond reggae, I hear a lot of soul and R&B influences, even tonally a bit like Michael Jackson. Would you say that’s fair?
Very possible. Sometimes people (of) totally different (genres) don’t realize they’re the same. We can’t hide from it. We all sing the same because we are all the same people. I listened to Michael Jackson heavily, especially as a child. I used to try and dance like him. As I grew up I was drawn to different music from around the world. But I grew up listening to Motown music. That was the American music I listened to; mainly gospel and soul. I spent a lot of time as a child learning gospel music for the choir. So, you can call a lot of names. If you listen to the album, you’ll end up calling a lot of names.
Another influence, as you’ve alluded to, is spirituality. What role does that play in your life and music?
Spirituality is everything. It is within the culture of the people, within the DNA. It is something you live and practice. The more you practice it, the more you learn and understand it. Spirituality is not a theoretic kind of thing. It is interwoven into life, itself. You have to live to understand it. You have to practice it. Everything we practice has a spiritual nature, a spiritual origin. Every song I sing. I’m not a musician by theory. As a child I felt naturally I communicated well through music. As I grow up I live it and I try to experience and practice it. Spirituality is of the same; it’s something we have to live.
Do you identify with a particular religion or religious group?
Ras Tafari Haile Selassie is who we identify as our guide for life. One of so many great guides. That is a fundamental of spirituality; to be guided by what resonates as the truth. That is what Selassie teaches. He is more of an exemplary kind of guide. I don’t really associate myself with any religious group. I am a musician and I feel like to truly live and practice music, to immerse in human life, I can’t really compromise my humanity to be a part of any (religion). This is the last generation of nationalism and all of these things. These things cannot be forced onto people. Naturally, people don’t think like that anymore.
Think like what?
People don’t think in Christian language or Islam language anymore. People are people now being born able to look at reality and tell what is there from what is not there. A lot of youths who are religious are being forced into it. Naturally, they don’t want to go to church. They feel like they don’t need to go and watch what we are given as church. They don’t feel they have to go to that to be spiritual; to have a deep connection or relationship with the source of everything.