Warriors Talk and Play
Ahead of the Sound Warrior 005 album release, Jenifa Mayanja gets some insight from Sound Warrior,
artist, producer and live performer Cherushii on where it all began and where it’s going.
Cherushii’s music will be featured on the Sound Warrior 005 album. Her music can be found on the record label 100%silk.
JM: Could you elaborate on your production name and how it came about
Cherushii: If you spell my name, Chelsea, in Japanese letters, it’s spelled Che-Ru-Shi-i. A Japanese friend called me this when I was a young teenager, and I liked the way it sounded. I’ve been using Cherushii off and on since I was 15 or so.
JM:What is the first piece of gear you owned?
Cherushii:As a child I a had a couple different Casio keyboards, but the first “real” gear that I owned was a TR-606, an SH-101, and a Tascam four track recorder.
JM: When you started making music was there an expectation that it would lead to performing it live?
Cherushii:I’ve been making music my whole life, and as a kid I wasn’t really thinking about an audience, or where my musical experiments would lead. But when I was around 19, I turned my energy towards playing live dance music. So yes, once I started focusing on techno and house, I was doing it with the intention of playing it live. I performed live at raves for several years before I actually recorded or produced any tracks for other people to listen to outside of a live context.
JM:Performing live can be exciting but also fraught with unexpected challenges. What are some things you do to prepare yourself mentally to deal with these unexpected challenges and also on a technical level to make sure you minimize these dramas?
Cherushii:It sounds like a cliche, but the best defense is always practice. The more you perform, the more you understand how things work in a live context, and will know how to react to potential problems. It also helps to keep in mind that any mistakes you might make are probably not going to be perceived by the audience, so there’s no need to stress about imperfect transitions or missed cues. The worst thing that can happen is that the music stops for some reason, and I’ve had that happen several times – someone stepped on my power supply once, or another time a fuse blew and knocked out all the power on stage. Just stay calm and do what you can to get things working again. It’s only an emergency if you make it one. Few gigs are make-or-break career points, so I don’t worry too much if things don’t go perfectly every time. That’s the beauty of live performance anyway, it’s spontaneous and real.
JM:Any advice to give to live performers starting out on how to tailor your music for a live performance to not only entertain fans but to hold attention of maybe people not familiar with the music of the artist performing
Cherushii: Something to remember is that no matter how cool your setup might be, just the fact that you’re playing live isn’t necessarily going to make your music engaging to a dancefloor. Think of yourself as filling the same role as a DJ. If the crowd isn’t reacting to what you’re doing, try changing directions, just like a DJ would. If they are really into what you’re doing, do more of that. The key is to be flexible. If you have a 47.5 minute set of tracks that must be played in a certain order, it might be harder to engage an audience, as you don’t have the ability to move with them. Of course it’s different for someone playing live ambient music or other music that is not dancefloor-oriented. If you’re playing in club alongside DJs, it will benefit you to think like a DJ.
JM: What have been some of your favorite places to perform live recently and why?
Cherushii: I always enjoy playing in my hometown of San Francisco, we have a really vibrant club scene here at the moment. The best sound system I’ve played on has probably been at Smart Bar in Chicago. It’s the only place I’ve ever played where the sound engineer asked me to give him more bass! In Hamburg, I loved playing at the Golden Pudel. It’s a small, dark, no-frills club that looks like a gingerbread house from the outside. There’s something inexplicably special about the vibe there. I played on a Tuesday night to a packed house, at a party that went until 8am. The crowd stayed with me for a 2.5 hour live set, and the club let me drink all the champagne I wanted. It doesn’t get much better!
JM: As the conversation around women in the music industry getting their due increases, have you found any personal effect on your career in a positive or negative sense?
Cherushii: Luckily, as more and more women are getting involved in electronic music, I don’t stand out quite as much anymore, and that’s a good thing. For a long time, I was used to being the only woman in most of my music scene activities, and while at times that can make you feel special, generally it’s a little depressing. Overall, the increased conversation about women in music has been positive, and many issues have been brought to light that were seldom discussed before: the lack of women on festival/club lineups, the boys’ club mentality of the dance music scene which shuts women out, etc. But I have to admit, I do dream of a day when we don’t have to talk about it anymore. I don’t think that’s going to be any time soon.
JM:We are pretty excited that you will appear on Sound Warrior 005 with two productions. Your sound mixes quite a few strains of house music. melodic but edgy, smooth but pumpier. As a producer i have found myself go through a metamorphosis with a sound over time. Has your sound evolved since you started making music?
Cherushii: My sound has grown and evolved with me as I’ve gotten older, but much of my taste has stayed the same. I’ve had a big fetish for classic rave music and vintage house since I started digging into dance music history years ago, and that hasn’t really gone away. The biggest change is that my increased technical ability allows me to convey my musical ideas much more fluidly. I’m basically making the music now that I wished I could make when I was 18, but didn’t know how to.
You can find out more about Cherushii and buy her music on Bandcamp: