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Stereo Six: CHNNLL Kicks Out Some of His All-Time Favourite Records

CHNNLL, aka Chris Davidson, is gaining momentum as an artist and today the alternative pop performer reflects on six of his favourite records.



CHNNLL, photo by Orel Chollette
CHNNLL, photo by Orel Chollette

Hard work and dedication have paid off, and now CHNNLL is ready to “kick it” into high gear with some brand-new music. CHNNLL, the recording alias of Chris Davidson, recently released his new single “Kick It.” It’s a preview of the sound and style upcoming on his new EP, which he spent much of 2023 hard at work on.

Davidson is a Chicago-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. He has been honing his craft for many years now, artfully combining emotional subject matter and bold melodies. As a mostly DIY artist, Davidson has done quite well for himself, with his songs collectively passing the one million stream mark. He first introduced CHNNLL in 2018 with the self-titled CHNNLL EP. His full-length debut, The Test, followed in 2021.

Most of Davidson’s forthcoming EP was recorded throughout 2023 at Steve Albini’s studio. He received some key contributions to the EP from engineer Drew Brown and fellow artists Joey Waronker, Zac Rae, and Gabe Noel. Davidson views music as a gift that keeps on giving. It’s something that can help through the worst of times. His hope is that his music will connect with you, help you navigate through problems, or connect you with a special time in your life. If he’s able to help garner that reaction from you, the listener, he’s doing his job.

Joining us today is Davidson for our latest Stereo Six. He chooses for us six very musically diverse albums that have had a profound effect on him as an artist.

“Below are the six most influential albums of my musical journey so far, but I wouldn’t say that they directly influenced my upcoming EP.”

1. NOFX – Punk In Drublic (1994, Epitaph)

“I’m listening to this right now, and I honestly don’t think I have since my early teens. I remember exactly where I was riding my skateboard listening to this album on a Walkman. Yes… a Walkman. Before this album, my parents bought me Hootie and the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View and Aerosmith’s Big Ones. They were fine, but this was the first album I bought on my own and the one that started me on my path to listening to my own music and playing the drums. Most of the musical discovery in my younger years, as it does for many, came from what my friends were listening to, and I love and miss that communal type of music consumption.

“I discovered this album towards the end of elementary school – around 9 or 10 years old. At school, I had a friend, Jamie Black, who was really into punk music. He came from a musical family and played the electric guitar, which was all very exciting to me. He eventually asked me if I played an instrument, and I said piano. I had never played, or let alone touched a piano, but I just blurted out that I could.

“So, one weekend, I went to Jamie’s house to ‘jam.’ Both his dad and brother played music, so there was a set up in the garage with drums, amps, guitars, that sweet musty rehearsal room smell and… a keyboard. Jamie strapped on is guitar and I sat down at the keyboard, and it was immediately evident that I did not know how to play piano. I think he was relieved because piano is not very punk rock anyway. So he showed me an instructional drum video his brother owned of how to play a basic drumbeat. I leaned it, and we played all afternoon. It was such an amazing feeling playing the drums along to an electric guitar and… I was hooked.

“After we played for hours, we snuck into his brother’s room while he wasn’t home, and I saw all the band posters he had on the wall and the tapes, CDs, and records he had. It included Green Day, The Decedents, The Bouncing Souls, and eventually my favourite… NOFX. His room was very cool. From this point on, I was a music fan. And not only was I listening, but I also got heavily into the drums. Jamie and I started our first band and called it Medicine.

“Looking back, I feel so lucky to have latched onto something I was so passionate about so early on. Music has been a big part of my life and has helped me through a lot.”

Left to right: Chris/CHNNLL, Jamie and Tim

Left to right: Chris/CHNNLL, Jamie and Tim

2. John Coltrane – Live at the Village Vanguard (1962, Impulse! Records)

“Somewhere around my second year of college, I had my CD book full of what I was listening to. Bands like Nirvana, Metallica, TOOL, Wu-Tang, Tribe Called Quest, Led Zeppelin, etc… I had listened to them to death and needed something new. As a drummer and a musician, I also felt like I wanted to express myself more through my instrument and I wanted to learn more about music theory. My roommate was heavily into old blues musicians and jazz greats like, Robert Johnson and John Coltrane.

“Once I heard Live At The Village Vanguard, I fell in love with Coltrane and more importantly the drummer, Elvin Jones. This was the type of expression I was looking for on the drums. It was heavy, and delicate at the same time. There was so much freedom and power behind Elvin’s playing. I was so interested in what he was doing and for the next decade I was immersed in jazz.

“It was around this time that I also started playing piano and guitar. Piano really started as a vehicle to understand music theory, but grew into another way to express myself and served as songwriting tool. Learning guitar was more for fun and it was interesting to have an instrument that I didn’t understand as well as piano in terms of theory. So it became less about the chord progression and more about the melody and lyrics when writing songs.

“After discovering Coltrane, I added a bunch more musicians to my CD book like Miles Davis, Ornette Colman, Pharoah Sanders, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Bill Evans. Aside from Elvin Jones my favourite jazz drummers are Tony Williams and Eric Harland. My favourite song off this album is the opening track, ‘Spiritual.’”

Artwork for the albums CHNNLL lists in this Stereo Six

Artwork for the albums CHNNLL lists in this Stereo Six

3. The Beatles – Revolver (1966, Parlophone, Capital)

“Later in college, my girlfriend’s dad discovered I had never really listened to the Beatles and was appalled. So he burned a massive amount of Beatles music for me, and Revolver really stuck out. It was in my car CD player that whole summer. Man… I’m really dating myself with all these CD and tape references! I’m on Spotify now, I swear.

“‘Good Day Sunshine’ was and is still my favourite song off the record. I finally dug into the Beatles, and the music felt so accessible in a way, like there was something for everyone in those records. I really liked the way that all the songs on various records of theirs can be stylistically different, but also maintain a connecting sound or theme, which is their sound. They took chances with silly songs, country eques songs, rock songs… There are so many great songwriting examples and things that they were reaching for.

“The Beatles were influenced by the R&B, country, folk, rock and blues music of the day, and you can tell. They copied those things in a way, but they also undeniably made it their own thing. It showed me that it’s ok to sound like your influences, but it’s how you spin them into your own unique voice and perspective that makes it ‘your thing.’ That was very freeing as I started to learn how to write my own music, to not be afraid to ‘copy’ other artists to learn and not be afraid to let your influences show. Sometimes you just can’t help it.”

4. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007, XL Recordings)

“Speaking of letting influences show, you may not hear it, but they’re perhaps the biggest influence on my music. I love Radiohead… so much. I always come back to this album because I think it’s one of, if not their best album. For me, it’s so interesting instrumentally, sonically, and on top of that the songs themselves are very strong. Everything about this band felt so different than anything else I had been listening to. And because I was transitioning out of the jazz world and venturing more into songwriting, this album was very influential and came at the right time for that transition.

“The best artists take chances, and I love how this band has navigated their career and how they’ve all grown as artist. I also really love Thom Yorke’s solo work and his new band with Johnny, The Smile, but the love all started from Radiohead. It’s hard to name a favourite song off this album, but ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ is pretty great.”

5. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy (2011, 4AD)

“I started listening to St. Vincent at the very beginning of creating CHNNLL in 2016. This album really influenced the sounds and arrangement approaches that I was trying at the time. I think I generally love this album because Anni Clarke is an excellent guitar player, can write great songs, and can package that all into a cool performance. Anni Clarke constantly reinvents her sound and her image, which is something I really admire. I wish I could work like that and make a concept album, but that’s just not how I put it together, so I love to watch her do it.

“Favourite tracks off this album are ‘Surgeon’ and ‘Dilettante.’ I love the drum sounds on this record, and I’m pretty sure that there’s not one crash cymbal hit throughout the entire record. Pretty cool. The guitar sounds are also always unique to her on all her records.

“Just as NOFX’s album takes me back to my childhood, this record takes me back to New York in my early 20s; traveling on the subway and LIRR to teach kids music.”

6. Mac Miller – Swimming (2018, REMember Music)

“Great artist with a lot to say, and I think this album was his best. My two favourite songs are the second and third tracks on the album, ‘Hurt Feelings’ and ‘What’s The Use?’ After those two, I always listen all the way through the record. It’s so great front-to-back.

“I also feel the instrumentation Mac put together, and his vocals make it not just another rap album. The coolest thing that Mac did, aside from great lyrics/rhymes, was the soul, R&B, and jazz influence, combined with his rap style. He ventured into this sound in previous albums, but I feel like he really hit the mark on Swimming. And Thundercat’s bass playing is great, as always, as well as everyone else on the album. Honestly, I love all the sonic choices and how much of his personality resonated through all of his albums.

“In general, I feel jealous of rappers because they get to use so many more lyrics than I use in my genre (laughs). They have that much more time to get their point across and more chances to play with the words. It’s just a totally different style of writing music that I’ve always loved and admired. As a drummer first, I’m big on rhythm, and I guess that I also just love the rhythm in the lyrics and all the wordplay that can happen. It’s inspiring to listen to things outside of what I do, and Mac Miller is very inspiring to me.”

CHNNLL “Kick It” single artwork, by havsum.pudding

CHNNLL “Kick It” single artwork, by havsum.pudding

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