Chuck Sutton’s creative process is as intriguing as his music.
Chuck Sutton is a Drexel University student who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. He describes both areas as “nice and quiet, with their fair share of activities and sense of community, right next to major cities to experience more of the hustle-and-bustle environment.” It’s in that peaceful space that Chuck produces his music that’s both familiar and, simultaneously, years ahead of its time. In an interview, he shared insights into his experimental process.
How do you describe your music?
I’m happy to say it’s hard to describe my music; not only do I personally have a hard time, but I’ve noticed that when I ask a close friend to describe my music to someone before they listen, they think long and hard before choosing their words as well. The closest I’ve gotten to an accurate articulation is by saying my music is a blend of accessible rhythms with unique underground sounds and unorthodox arrangement choices. This ranges from when I make trap music to house, jazz, and everything in between.
It’s such a unique, fun experience listening to your songs! Who are your biggest musical influences?
My first wave of music influences started with Skrillex and a lot of dubstep producers, focusing on the syncopated arrangement and vocal manipulation. Then came the wave of Mr. Carmack, Stööki Sound, Hudson Mohawke, and everyone who contributed to the strange world of early EDM trap. Then my ears found their way to Swindail, Montell2099, Sam Gellaitry, Monte Booker, and all of the artists who took the lush “Soulection”-esque sounds of SoundCloud and combined them with hard-hitting drums to create this wonderful icy-hot effect. Now it’s just a lot of my friends like VALENTINE, chromonicci, ehiorobo, Rob Araujo, and so many more.
When did you know you wanted to make music, and how have you developed your skills?
Interestingly enough, my transition from playing with production to knowing I wanted to produce for a living was such a steady journey that I don’t remember the exact transitioning point. When I first opened Ableton, I didn’t even realize it was a music program. I was just following along with this tutorial. One day I discovered a piano instrument and understood there was more to the program than vocal chopping. After messing around, I made a terrible song, yet when I showed my friends at school, they all said, “I don’t normally listen to this kind of music, but I really like this,” which was my first taste of linking perspectives between what I found cool and what others could find familiar. I guess the career ideas started when more and more SoundCloud producers started popping off in the large-scale music industry, and I started to sense that the sounds my friends and I have been working on are on the trajectory of what the mainstream music scene will get to in a couple of years.
A weird thing I do to develop my skills is I listen to my own music a lot, old and new. Not in a “haha, I’m cool” way (unless it’s one of those days). Typically I listen to my own stuff and analyze my own music. That way I really think about any abstract thought processes I had and reinforce my understanding of the unique things I bring to production. I know a lot of producers go to samples. I try to choose different samples for every song and see if I can process them in a way to where they all execute the same task (i.e. trying to use different source kick sounds but have them all slap the same way, different vocals but see if they can evoke the same emotion when played in succession, etc.). Also, practice as often as you can—if not every day, then for hours on end without trying to “make a song.” If the song is meant to be, then it happens. For the most part, I just try new things out and see where they lead.
What are the greatest challenges and rewards of your craft?
The greatest challenge for me is always trying to create songs with concepts and sounds I haven’t heard before. I’m not a big fan of churning out sonically identical tracks; maybe a borrowed concept every once in a while of a thematic style, but I try to make sure each song stands as its own color palette, expression, and feel.
The greatest reward has been seeing results I’ve been dreaming of for years: people recognizing me as an artist, artists I look up to showing appreciation for my music, playing my music at shows and watching people enjoy themselves, and any validation in the mainstream music industry. Of course external validation is not necessary to know you’re growing as an artist, but after finding confidence in your sound, it’s an indescribable feeling to get signs that the passion you pour your all into has an external value. The self-confidence should always stem from the internal belief that you like what you’re doing; then worry about blending it with trends to gather larger audiences.
Aside from music, what are your everyday inspirations?
The people around me and the people who support me are my inspirations. Whether I’ve known them for 10 minutes or 10 years, all it takes is one conversation to get one idea that starts a whole chapter of your life, and I’m always actively looking for those moments.
Before we go, is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
One thing I would like my readers to know: it’s okay to have weaknesses, and to play into them. They can come back and be your strengths. I’m so terrible at complex synth sound design that I started manipulating audio sample-style, which has integrated its way into my tool belt as one of my most valuable workflows. I used to be afraid of adding kicks and sub to my tracks, so I started making tracks where I would add them last, and it really helped me accentuate syncopation and rhythm quite similarly to some of my idols. For the longest time I didn’t have a microphone, so I’d vocal chop a cappellas, and now that I’ve gotten a stronger voice and access to more equipment I’ve found myself manipulating my own voice a lot. What can feel like a weakness in the moment can always turn around and be your biggest strength when you learn more about what makes your approach yours. Bonus pro tip: never delete old projects. Sometimes I’m working on a really great track that’s too empty and needs more going on, and then I remember I have like four or five tracks I never finished with solid percussion/vocal/drum/fx ideas that I can use as scrap. I think of it as my own little graveyard.